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bridge camera photography for dummies
Buying a camera today is a real long term investment and not to be taken lightly. You will either grow to love and nurture your camera or quickly decide you have made the wrong choice for you. Think of the major brands available like Canon, Sony, Nikon etc and you quickly realise what a difficult choice it could be.
That’s where we come in. Here at Bridge Camera Photography We will do our absolute best to give you up to date, honest opinions about the top bridge cameras available today. How they differ, who they fit best, what type of photographer will gain most from their advanced features and mostly, how existing buyers and users have rated them over time.
Of course choosing a camera from all the feature packed models available today can be overwhelming. We totally understand. Do I need a longer focal length or a larger aperture? Is frames per second important? What about video capability.
We have gone through these dilemmas ourselves and it is our opinion that the opinion of buyers themselves and users of bridge cameras, has to be one of the main areas to investigate when trying to choose the best cameras.
Here at Bridge Camera Photography we will try to help you do just that. We’ve put in the research to make your decision easier. We’ve read hundreds of reviews to make sure you’re getting the best bridge camera for your needs.
Why Choose A Bridge Camera?
The bridge camera was initially designed to fill the gap between compacts and DSLRs, hence the term bridge. They were designed to offer the feel and handling similarities of their larger more professional cousins, together with more of the key features of the Digital SLR, while retaining the ‘point and shoot’ simplicity of compact cameras.
Filling this middle ground this new genre of digital camera would appeal to both beginner and the more dedicated enthusiast.
The good thing is that while they do offer the safety net of a basic ‘point and shoot’ mode they also allow the beginner to experiment. The enthusiast can also test his versatility and talent as a photographer with the many manual options on offer.
Top benefits of bridge cameras are:
- Huge zoom range
- Excellent Handling
- Electronic Viewfinder like a DSLR
- Large 1″ sensor now available on some models
- Manual controls
- Improved picture quality
Models can range from under £100 for a more basic point and shoot camera to upwards of £600 for top high spec cameras in this category.
The Leading Bridge Camera Brands
Bridge cameras are a bridge between easy to use, straightforward point and shoot cameras and DSLR or SLR cameras which are sophisticated but expensive and require more expertise.
A bridge camera is light enough to carry around, cheap enough to afford, simple enough to master and has enough settings and controls to keep a photographer’s portfolio lively and interesting. But which bridge camera brand is the best? It depends on what your looking for.
The popular Brands which manufacture Bridge Cameras are:
Of these the top 5 big producers are Panasonic, Canon, Nikon, Sony and Fujifilm with a wide range of models available from each of them. You can read more about all of these top camera makers, what makes them market leaders and what they have to offer on our brands page here.
Most Highly Rated Bridge Cameras
Based on my research, I have created a table below showing six of the most highly rated bridge cameras available in 2017,
|Camera||Image||No Of Reviews||Average Rating||Estimated Price|
|Canon SX60 HS||16||4.5||£300|
What should you look for in a Bridge Camera?
Sensor size: Until more recently most bridge cameras have had the smaller 1/2.3inch light sensor giving a lesser image quality than we are used to with a DLSR. The newest additions though have moved up to a 1inch image sensor for increased quality (at increased cost as well). Remember to balance out the need for image quality with the flexibility of all of the other variables in play. Finding the right balance means you won’t pay more than you need to for your new camera.
Zoom range: Because this method uses the optics in the lens of the camera rather than a computerised zoom the image is almost distortion free and therefore much better for enlargements. Make sure you compare like with like. Digital zoom can lose picture quality at maximum range, so the figures quoted give a general comparison.
Remember to check the optical zoom length as this is looked on by professionals as a more realistic reading. 30x zoom is often common, but some bridge cameras can extend to 63x. No surprise then that some have been labelled ‘superzoom’ cameras. All this without the need for interchangeable lenses.
At the other end of the spectrum the wide angle lens setting provides opportunity for macro photography of plants, insects and whatever your imagination sets before you.
If you want to pursue wildlife or action photography you will need a much stronger zoom than you will if your passion is portraiture. Be sure to check your requirements before buying.
Portability: Try carrying around the lenses needed for an SLR to give up to 60x zoom and you would need an assistant with at least two tripods. This is one of the key areas where the bridge camera concept wins hands down over SLR cameras. While it may not fit in your pocket, you can certainly carry it around your neck with ease ready for whatever comes along.
These cameras do vary a lot in size and weight (from as little as 400g to around 900g) so knowing your requirements will help narrow down the choices available to you.
Screen size and type: Most top cameras come with a 3 inch screen making composure of your pictures a treat. The screen may be either fixed, tiltable or articulated (swivels on all axes) so you can choose the best fit for your style of photography. Some screens may have touchscreen capability.
Viewfinder: An optical viewfinder can be really helpful. How many times have you been unable to see your digital LCD screen in bright light and just had to guess and hope you were framing the picture as you intended. Some of the more advanced bridge cameras include a sensor that detects when the camera has been lifted to your eye. It activates the eye level viewfinder and turns off the LCD screen to both preserve battery and remove distraction. This is very useful for fast action or reaction shots.
Maximum aperture: For low light shooting and for shooting images with a shallow depth of field, you’ll want something which offers a wide maximum aperture.
Manual control: Compact cameras do all the work for you and leave very little to your own creativity. The manual controls available on nearly all bridge cameras allow control of aperture, shutter speed, ISO, depth of field and more. This gives you the same kind of control as using a DSLR. If your type of photography requires it, you should look for cameras with more of these advanced features.
Video Quality: HD quality video (720p) comes as the minimum standard where video recording is possible. A good range of models now offer Full HD recording (1020p) while the elite Panasonic FZ1000 leads the way and records at an impressive 4K. This is 4x full HD and a quality level just recently available in high end TVs.
You may also like to read out tips on how to use a bridge camera here.
Here are my top 5 personal choices based on the research I have carried out.
Top 5 Bridge Cameras- My Choice
1. Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000EB Bridge Camera
The main features are: Screen: 3in | Zoom: 25-400mm | Sensor: 20.1MP 1in | Weight: 831g | Video: Full HD 4K
This model was launched in July 2014 as direct competition to the market leader, the Sony RX10. While there are a number of similarities, as both are top high spec cameras, there are also some subtle and some major differences.
Panasonic have used the FZ1000 to introduce 4K Video and Full HD 60P/50P video recording capability to the bridge camera sector, originally only available in the DSLR models. The zoom gives a very generous 25-400mm range for better close ups and in partnership with the 20.1 MP 1-inch sensor results in amazing detail. Even at longest zoom range you can achieve premium image quality.
This camera can not only replace all your DSLR kit without compromise, but you could also leave your camcorder at home. The only limitation being a 29min 59sec maximum in 4K video recording.
This is right at the top of the range and now available at a reduced price of around £575. It still proves to be a very popular choice and with almost 60 reviews has maintained an exceptional average rating of 4.8 out of 5. This is highest in its class.
A reviewer on Amazon states ‘the difference between 4K recording and 1080p is massive… it’s quite shocking in fact.’ and ‘It’s an absolutely amazing camera to use’.
R Edwards states that it is ‘worth the extra price for the larger sensor.’
One of the few negative points referred to the camera being bulkier and heavier than other models. On the plus side this helps stabilize the unit when using the longer zoom range.
This camera is a highly recommended favourite and will continue to be for years to come.
2. Sony Cybershot RX10
The main features are- Screen: 3in | Zoom: 24-200mm | Sensor: 20.2MP 1in | Weight 813g | Video: Full HD
The Sony is a very well respected and rated camera by users and critics alike. Still viewed by many as the benchmark for bridge cameras because of it’s excellent quality features it strangely has less than 50 buyer reviews at Amazon. It does show a high approval rating over a period of time with an average 4.5 out of 5 stars which we would expect from the Sony brand. The average price has fallen recently to under £550 – to stay in line with the Panasonic camera above.
The superb handling and versatility of the lightweight magnesium alloy body together with a 24-200mm quality zoom and a constant max f/2.8 aperture at all ranges are the standout features among the many this camera possesses. This makes it a firm favourite with enthusiasts and DSLR owners.
Cakedestroyer said ‘this is an exceptional camera…for an experienced DSLR user you will not be disappointed. I highly recommend this camera.’
RJP said ‘The best and most versatile bridge camera I have ever used – Full marks to Sony.’
The main issue of disappointment with this model seems to be poor user documentation but even some real beginners were happy with results.
Several reviewers said that though the camera has a high price tag they were really glad they had decided to ‘go the extra’ and buy the Sony RX10.
This camera handles really well is highly recommended.
3. Canon Powershot SX60HS
The main features are: Screen 3in | Zoom 21-1365mm | Sensor 16.1mp 1/2.3in | Weight 650g | Video Full HD
Want to get up close? This model is equipped with a far-reaching 65x optical zoom lens so, whether you’re into action or travel shots, it’s got you covered. It feels very light for such a well featured camera (around 200grams lighter than the two above) and with 16.1 MP and full HD video recording the Canon SX60 HS pulls no punches when compared to a basic DSLR.
A favourite with Amazon users in the UK it scores an average 4.5 out of 5 in reviews received to date putting it in the ‘very satisfied’ bracket. It is in the mid price range for bridge cameras and is now available in the £300 price point.
Amazon Customer says ‘ This camera is nothing short of superb. …the optical zoom is excellent, even in low light.’ and Coffee Pot says ‘ Excellent bridge camera. …Worth paying that little bit extra for quality.’ Manos commented ‘ I also like the fact that it is very light and you can hold it in one hand.’
All in all a light, efficient and well styled camera with the familiar Canon feel. Definitely worth a look at the price.
4. Fujifilm Finepix HS50 EXR
The main features are: Screen 3in | Zoom 24-1000mm | Sensor 16MP | Weight 757g | Video Full HD
Boasting a 16MP sensor and bright 3inch TFT Vari-angel screen this model is set up to help you achieve photographic greatness. The newly developed Fujinon 42x optical zoom allows for Super Macro photography or close action shots all controlled by the inbuilt Image Stabilisation system. Handling is very comfortable and the camera is well balanced in the hand.
With a high-resolution electronic viewfinder (920k dots) you can frame those shots perfectly even in very bright light. Fuji have added an Advanced Filter function so you can choose from 8 different artistic filters to bring new creativity to your finished shots.
This is a very highly regarded camera by Amazon reviewers who score it 4.7 out of 5 stars on average.
Jon W commented ‘The feel and build quality are excellent….best buy ever.’ but also thought an additional battery was a good idea. GH said’Having made excuses for not hauling my bag out with me I am now back to enjoying my photography again.’ Surely that’s what it’s all about.
Disappointments related to poor battery life and the camera being heavier than expected, but now that I’ve told you!!.
This excellent Fuji camera should be available for £200-£220.
5. Pentax X5
The main features are: Screen 3in | Zoom 22-580mm | Sensor 16MP | Weight 508g | Video Full HD
The Pentax X5 is an amazing piece if kit for the price. First things first in that it can be had for around £175. The bad news is that it was launched back in 2012 and is now in very short supply – so you may have to buy used. These can be picked up for less than £100 from some sellers at Amazon in the UK
The camera sports a specification as good as many top cameras released more recently and for a much lower price – take a look. Full HD video (1080p) with a 26x optical zoom with electronic viewfinder and a large, tiltable, LCD monitor have made this a firm favourite with buyers. Powered by AA batteries you should never run short of power. It is also the lightest by far of the cameras reviewed here.
Buyers from Amazon who reviewed this model rated it a very strong 4.6 out of 5 stars on average over a lengthy period.
Gillian said ‘ the menu system..is probably the simplest I have ever come across’ and MJWaite remarked ‘Wow this is an amazing camera, especially for the price.’
One reviewer was disappointed at the lack of a physical user manual verses an online version for convenience but this was a minor issue.
More recently a new buyer rated the X5 with 5 stars out of 5 – so it depends a lot on your expectations.
If you can get your hands on this model it will still compare favourably with more recent offerings – especially at the price.
Check for the best Pentax X5 price at Amazon UK
A replacement for the X5 has been released by Pentax. Check out the new Pentax XG-1 here.
Another camera just outside the top 5 is the Panasonic Lumix FZ200 which has also received critical acclaim.
* Bonus Choice – New in late 2015*
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ330EBK Bridge Camera
The main features are: Screen: 3in Touch Panel | Zoom: 25-600mm | Sensor: 12.1MP 1in | Weight: 691g | Video: Full HD 4K
This model was launched in July 2015 to compliment the Panasonic range of bridge cameras. While some see it as a direct replacement for the popular DMC-FZ200 model there again are some subtle and some major differences.
Panasonic have given the FZ330 the same 4K Video and Full HD 60P/50P video recording capability as originally developed in the top spec FZ1000. The zoom gives a very generous 25-600mm range for better close ups and building on the FZ200’s capability. The improved 1440k dot OLED viewfinder adds amazing clarity while the 12.1 MP 1-inch sensor results in crisp image detail.
The camera is currently available for under £450.
This camera, like the higher priced FZ1000 can not only replace all your DSLR kit without compromise, but you could forget the camcorder and leave it at home. Built in wi-fi and GPS add to the spec.
Panasonic continue to push the boundaries and squeeze more and more into their bridge cameras. As this camera is so new it has only 15 user reviews to date. Amazingly they have rated the FZ330EBK an outstanding maximum average star rating of 5 out of 5. It remains to be seen if this will be maintained over the long term.
You would, I think, be hard pushed to find a better camera for the price.
Best Bridge Cameras For Beginners
Choosing the best value bridge camera for a beginner is not as simple as it may seem.
There are three key areas to think about.
1.The beginner (because they are a beginner) needs their camera to be intuitive and able to produce great photos with minimal user input. If the process of taking photos is too complicated they will become discouraged or lose interest.
2. A good bridge camera for a beginner will have enough advanced features to allow for future development of their creative talents.
3. All the bells and whistles are not necessary to take excellent and highly satisfying photos. This is the precise reason bridge cameras are so popular -they allow the novice to reach a high standard very quickly and also grow into the more creative avenues if they so wish.
Although the cost of these cameras can begin from as little as around £80-£100 some of the most basic are little more than simple compact cameras in a DSLR-like shell. Very few advanced are present on some. Consider things like the inclusion of an Electronic Viewfinder, length of zoom and other important features. The Panasonic Lumix FZ72 is a very popular and well featured camera for the price, should your budget stretch to over £200. There are a number of models in the £100 – £200 bracket. Our buying guide may help you here.
As we have said, you know best what style or catagory of photography you wish to pursue, so I would rather not point you towards a certain camera. Rather, make use of the information and detailed bridge camera reviews we provide here on our site.
Beginners may find our article on how to use a bridge camera a useful starting point
To summarise, bridge cameras are an ideal buy for you if you like the convenience of a compact but want a camera that handles like a DSLR. It should appeal to you if you want a longer zoom range together with the option of loads more creativity from the myriad of manual functions on offer. Visit our buying guide here to help make sense of it all.
It’s for you to decide what is important in your next camera. Any type of photography requiring quality images at long focal lengths, like bird or nature photography, action shots, travel shots, etc points towards a bridge camera as a wise choice.
Obviously budget dictates what most people will buy. I am sure you are no different. There is no doubt that in my opinion the Panasonic FZ1000 is still the best of the bridge cameras we have reviewed in 2017, but it is also at the higher end of the price range. It is certainly good enough to beat several entry level DSLRs.
That said, I would not reject any of the others cameras mentioned above. They are all excellent in their own way and at their respective price levels offer great value for money.