What constitutes a digital camera? What properties does it need to be classified as a digital camera?

I tried finding out if there are other types of cameras except digital cameras. I could only find analog cameras. Is that all? Analog and digital?

Reason why I ask is when categorizing cameras, what other cameras can you buy and use besides digital cameras? In today's day and age is it all about digital cameras?

I found the product Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 Instant Camera on Amazon. Although it uses film, would it be classified as digital or analog?

  • \$\begingroup\$ The Fujifilm Instax cameras are dominated by digital electronics in order to operate the features, but they ultimately capture the image on film and are hence analog cameras (aka film cameras) \$\endgroup\$
    – Octopus
    Nov 7, 2016 at 19:53

2 Answers 2


To be classified as a digital camera, the device should have the following properties:


It should be possible capture the light present in a visual scene (note - it need not store, display or transmit this information - but one of these would be a bonus)


The captured information should be encoded in digital form when stored or transmitted.

These are quite loose definitions, so a lot of things could qualify as a digital camera. Many people sub-classify digital cameras depending on their other qualities (such as still/video, lens types, intended usages, etc...)

The camera you link to is an Analog camera - the information is not stored or transmitted digitally at any point during the process - the image is made directly onto a piece of film. Describing something as an Analog camera implies the captured information is stored/transmitted in an analog form - but it's possible that a camera would not store or transmit its data (at which point, you could consider it to be neither digital or analog - it would be mostly useless though).

  • \$\begingroup\$ I disagree on highly technical grounds: even though it's an unlikely design, a camera with discrete sampling (pixels) would probably be classified as "digital" even if the pixels' outputs were recorded in some analog fashion. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 7, 2016 at 12:27
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @CarlWitthoft - using dictionary definitions of digital - a camera would need to go further than simply using discrete sampling to be digital (it would have to represent this sampling in some binary form). However, it does lead to an interesting question about whether a camera which uses a digital sensor, but does not provide any access to a digital version of the image would be considered digital - however, I believe that in this case the definition would still hold as the "camera" component would still be digital (even if the end user wasn't exposed to this) \$\endgroup\$ Nov 7, 2016 at 12:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ How could a camera capture light without storing it? Are my lenses cameras by that definition? \$\endgroup\$
    – null
    Nov 7, 2016 at 17:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @null A camera could transmit the data without storing an image. To be a camera your lenses would have to project an image on to something (sensor, film or screen) \$\endgroup\$ Nov 7, 2016 at 17:36

What properties does it need to be classified as a digital camera?

A digital camera is one which records its image onto a sensor of some form, these days generally a CMOS sensor, although some CCD sensors are still in use. The other type of camera is a film camera which records onto silver halide film.

In today's day and age is it all about digital cameras?

De facto, yes. There are still some niche areas which are still done with film, but the vast, vast majority of photography is digital these days. (Even that linked answer is out of date - medium format photography is very much making the transition to digital these days).


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