They are no longer as big, heavy and unwieldy as they are said to be.
This is especially true for models without a mirror.
We're talking about system cameras, the big sisters of smartphones and digital cameras.
Sure: cell phone cameras are getting better and better and the smartphone is always at hand.
But even the most powerful smartphones cannot match the comparatively huge sensors and bright lenses.
If you need or want more quality, you have to orient yourself towards system cameras.
But for beginners, the subject is rather bulky.
The body as a system camera basis
So first of all the most important terms at a glance: System cameras are cameras with interchangeable lenses.
If you remove the lens, the housing remains, the so-called body.
On the one hand there are digital single-lens reflex cameras (DSLR) with an optical viewfinder.
On the other hand, there are digital system cameras without mirrors that are more compact, lighter and are becoming increasingly popular.
They too usually have a viewfinder, but in which there is a high-resolution mini-monitor that shows the live image from the sensor.
The term system camera is often used explicitly for such devices as a distinction to the single-lens reflex cameras.
But DSLRs are also part of the system cameras.
You can see it: the mirrorless system camera (r.) Is much slimmer than the SLR camera (l.)
The lens you choose determines what you can photograph: Long focal lengths, given in millimeters, bring objects close, for example.
The light intensity determines how well snapshots can be captured in low light.
It can be read from the maximum aperture (f): the smaller the number, the more bright it is.
Otherwise, system cameras differ mainly in their sensor format.
So-called full-frame cameras have the largest sensor and thus the largest area for recording image information.
The smaller formats APS-C and Micro Four Thirds are also widespread.
When to switch to a system camera is worthwhile
"Most smartphone photographers will not need a system camera," believes Markus Bautsch, photo expert at Stiftung Warentest.
As long as you only view, edit and send your pictures on your mobile phone, you hardly notice any differences in quality.
However, when it comes to distant subjects such as wild animals or sporting events or taking pictures in low light, the smartphone reaches its limits.
A DSLR and lens are available from around 350 euros.
"They are simply built and not designed for durability," says Bautsch, but that is enough to try out.
“Often there are simple standard zooms.” These are lenses that cover the most frequently required focal length range, between 18 and 50 millimeters.
For mirrorless system cameras, prices start at around 400 euros.
Models without a viewfinder are a bit cheaper here, but you can only see the targeted motif via the display, which is slightly reflective.
What shimmers green there is the camera sensor.
It is many times larger for system cameras than for smartphones
You should also check whether the selected camera model is only compatible with lenses of the same brand or also with other manufacturers.
“Tamron and Sigma are often a cheap alternative,” says Bautsch.
Used system cameras and lenses also often offer a good price-performance ratio.
The photographer and photo trainer Matthias Halthof from Halle an der Saale recommends paying attention to the number of releases that can be seen in the camera menu.
“It shouldn't be more than 15,000.” A starter set including a photo bag, memory card and replacement battery costs around 600 to 700 euros.
Willing to learn photography
Those who already know that they want to delve deeper into photography not only need a slightly larger budget, but also the will to learn.
"It is a misconception that you only need a camera for 600 euros and then it takes good pictures," says Halthof, who also offers courses.
When choosing a camera system, you should keep in mind that body and standard zoom are usually not enough.
“The lens collection can be worth many times the camera housing,” says product tester Markus Bautsch, who is himself a passionate photographer.
And you can't just screw a branded lens onto every camera.
Become a camera specialist
If you want to become a specialist in one area, you should also adapt your equipment accordingly.
"For portrait photography, the sensor should be larger than the APS-C," advises Matthias Halthof.
For animal and sports photography, the number of pictures in series shots is crucial.
And architecture and landscape photography, on the other hand, hardly works without a tripod.
You can get good models from around 100 euros.
And the same applies to serial recordings as to filming with system cameras: fast memory cards are required.
Anyone planning larger film or video projects should know one thing.
“Most cameras record a maximum of 30 minutes,” explains Markus Bautsch.
You should pay attention to this when buying if you cannot live with this limitation.
When choosing a camera system, you should keep in mind that body and standard zoom are usually not enough