How to buy the best bridge camera
What is a bridge camera?
Bridge cameras bridge the gap between compact digital cameras and digital SLRs. Cheaper and easier to use than a digital SLR, they offer more advanced features and manual controls than you find on standard compact camera. They have versatile lenses with a powerful optical zoom capability – some models offer whooping zooms up to 50x.
This makes them a good choice for photographers who like the simplicity of a compact camera but want more scope in lens focal range and creative manual features without having to make the leap to a costly DSLR.
What makes a good bridge camera?
One of the best reasons to invest in a bridge camera is the generous range of features you'll be able to take advantage of. Bridge cameras have many more functions and settings than you'll find on a standard compact digital camera and these can help you take better photos.
- Image stabilisation - Whether you’re using a long zoom or taking pictures or shooting in low-light conditions, image-stabilisation stops hand-shake from spoiling your photos and keeps them sharp and blur-free.
- Wi-fi and geo-tagging - Some bridge cameras include a built-in GPS to record where your photos have been taken, while others connect to a smartphone using wi-fi and take the information from your smartphone’s GPS. Wi-fi can also be used to transfer pictures to your phone or PC, or to preview and even take photos using your phone’s screen.
- Burst rate - The burst rate is the camera’s ability to rattle off a series of shots quickly, usually described in how many frames it can take per second (eg 5fps, 7fps or 12fps). A fast burst rate can help when you’re taking action or wildlife shots, as you have more chance of capturing the perfect moment.
How much should I spend on a bridge camera?
You can find bridge cameras for under £150, but spending more will get you a larger or more capable sensor and a longer or more versatile zoom lens. Our Best Buy bridge cameras start at £200 and go up to £850.
What type of bridge camera should I buy?
Some bridge cameras are sold as ‘superzoom cameras’ because of their huge zoom range, while others are sold as high-end digital compacts.
Superzoom bridge cameras
Superzoom bridge cameras offer DSLR style and controls combined with a huge optical zoom, with the latest models offering up to 50x zoom. Most major camera brands offer superzoom cameras - including Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus and Panasonic.
Pros of superzoom bridge cameras:
- Superzoom bridge cameras share much of the functionality of DSLRs, including full manual controls, but their powerful zoom lens provide more scope than a standard DSLR kit lens. Cheaper than a DSLR, many superzoom bridge cameras are available for less than £300.
Cons of superzoom bridge cameras:
- Bulkier than a compact digital camera, you won’t be able to fit a superzoom in your pocket. Smaller sensors mean less impressive low-light pictures.
Superzoom bridge cameras verdict:
- Superzoom bridge cameras would suits anyone who wants an all-in-one camera with more control over their photos, without paying the extra cost for a DSLR.
Compact bridge cameras
Also known as high-end compact cameras, these are similar in shape to digital compacts cameras, but offer more manual control over exposure, aperture and other settings. Although most have higher optical zoom values than standard compact cameras, they can’t match those offered by superzoom bridge cameras.
Pros of compact bridge cameras:
- Compact bridge cameras provide all the benefits of a pocket-sized compact digital camera, although they’re not as slim as many models. They have scene modes and automatic settings to help with your photography, along with some, if not all, the manual controls of a DLSR. Image quality tends to be better than with a compact digital camera, as their slightly larger size houses larger image sensors.
Cons of compact bridge cameras:
- Many lack a viewfinder, relying instead on the rear LCD screen to frame a photo and provide access to settings. Their smaller body means many controls are accessed via menus rather than quick-access dials and buttons, and they can’t take a rapid succession of photos as quickly as a DSLR.
Verdict on compact bridge cameras:
- Compact bridge cameras would suit anyone looking for better quality photos and more advanced controls, in a small camera that’s easy to carry.