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Bridge Camera Buying Guide 2021
What to consider when buying a bridge camera
Bridge cameras were designed to bridge the gap between compact cameras and DSLRs, offering a similar user experience and level of manual control. They are essentially a compact camera with a larger body and zoom, offering more advanced features and manual controls.
If you’re looking for a camera with the simplicity of a compact camera that offers a little more scope and creativity without the cost of a DSLR then a bridge camera is the one for you.
Physical appearance: bridge cameras look similar to DSLRs with a similar handgrip and comparable size and arrangement of buttons. The lens on a bridge camera is non-removable, and if there’s a viewfinder it will be electronic rather than optical.
Sensors: a bridge camera has a smaller sensor than a DSLR, roughly the same size as a compact camera with a similar image quality. The size of the sensor and the density of the pixels on it determine the camera’s image quality.
Lenses: a key benefit of a bridge camera is its lens, which vastly exceeds in range in comparison to a DSLR camera. They generally offer a 20x zoom range up to a huge 50x zoom range.
Viewing and composing: to compose an image with a bridge camera users must use the LCD screen or viewfinder (electronic viewfinder or EVF). Some LCD screens are made for shooting at different angles and self-portraits. An EVF can provide a more accurate representation of exposure, white balance and shooting data but the resolution isn’t as good as a viewfinder.
Features: many models have a mode dial and direct buttons, for example ISO and white balance, and most can shoot in raw. HD video is generally a standard feature. Some more modern bridge cameras now offer Wi-Fi that will connect to a smartphone, and geo-tagging, which will record where your photos were taken. Wi-Fi can also be used to upload your images to a phone or PC. Bridge cameras have long zooms usually controlled by a switch on the camera itself and most have a flash.
Other: bridge cameras are bigger than compact cameras, and have a decent grip and lens. They offer more control. Compared with a DSLR bridge cameras are slightly smaller and lighter, and offer a greater zoom. Smaller sensors mean that the bridge camera may struggle in low light with higher ISOs and creating shallow depth of field may be more difficult to achieve. Bridge cameras use auto-focus so it will be more difficult to photograph fact-action.
Bridge cameras are usually sold as a superzoom camera or a high-end digital compact.
Superzoom: because a bridge camera can boast a huge zoom range often they will be sold as a ‘superzoom camera’.
Pros: Superzoom bridge cameras offer the style and control of a DSLR with a huge optical zoom, from 20x to 50x. Functionally they operate like a DSLR, with full manual controls and provide more scope with their powerful zoom lens. They are also a lot cheaper than a DSLR.
Cons: they have smaller sensors meaning images taken in low light might not be as good. They are bigger than a compact camera, which means they will not fit into a pocket.
User: perfect for someone who is looking for an all-in-one camera with more control, without the cost of a DSLR.
High-end digital compact camera: also known as the compact bridge camera. These cameras are smaller than a standard digital camera and offer more manual control. Their zoom range is higher than a standard compact camera, but in comparison to a superzoom bridge camera they fall a lot shorter.
Pros: they have scene modes and automatic settings, alongside some of the manual controls on a DSLR.
Cons: they don’t always have a viewfinder so this means that it is more difficult to frame an image and access any of the settings. Most of the controls are accessed via a menu rather than exterior dials or buttons, and they are unable to take a rapid succession of images.
User: perfect for someone who is looking for better quality images in comparison to a standard compact camera, and for someone who would like a camera with more advanced controls, which is small and easy to carry around with you.