How we test bridge cameras
By Ryan Shaw
Discover how we test bridge cameras to find the best models that take superb photos and videos. Only first-class cameras earn our Best Buy award.
Watch the video above to find out what it takes for a bridge camera to earn our illustrious Which? Best Buy recommendation, and how a Best Buy camera could make a real difference to your photos.
Which? conducts around 450 tests per camera and ensures every bridge camera goes through the exact same tests, combining assessments from image-quality experts with rigorous technical lab tests. Our expert knowledge will help you avoid inferior image quality and cameras with useless features.
Our reviews answer the most crucial questions about bridge cameras:
- How good is the photo quality?
- How easy is the camera to use?
- Can I see what I need to in the monitor or viewfinder?
- Will its features help me take better photos?
- What is the video quality like, and what about the sound?
- How powerful is the built-in flash?
- Should I buy it?
Head straight to our bridge camera reviews to find out which cameras provide the best-quality photos.
How good is the photo quality?
As with all digital cameras, photo quality is paramount – we expect the best of the best. We take photos in a range of conditions, including in bright outdoor natural light, indoors and in low light. And we try the camera with different settings, at both its wide-angle and telephoto settings, and using the camera in both automatic and manual modes.
All of these tests help us differentiate the cameras you can rely on to take sharp, well-balanced photos in any situation from those that will let you down as soon as the light levels drop. Our Best Buy bridge cameras produce great photos whether you’re shooting inside or outside, in sunlight, twilight or under artificial light.
How easy is the camera to use?
We don’t expect every bridge camera to be a novice photographer’s dream, but we do expect them to have quick and intuitive controls, well-placed buttons and dials, a comfortable grip for steady shooting, logical menus and a good range of features. If those features make it easier for less experienced photographers to take good photos, all the better.
We also look at how easy it is to insert a memory card or change the batteries, and we measure how fast the camera is to start up and how quickly the shutter reacts when you press the shutter release button. Is it quick enough to make sure that you get the shot you want, and is there enough feedback to know when you have your subject in focus and ready to shoot? We also time how quickly it can rattle off a burst of shots, so that you don’t miss the perfect fast action or wildlife photo.
Can I see what I need to in the monitor or viewfinder?
Some bridge cameras come with an electronic viewfinder for framing your shot, but most still rely on an LCD screen to compose or review photos, and change settings. We check both carefully to see whether they provide the clarity, field of view and detail you need to help you capture your photos and make creative decisions.
We also assess both the screen and viewfinder in low light and bright sunlight, plus a different range of angles for reflectiveness, to ensure that our Best Buy bridge cameras can be used in any situation, no matter the light source.
Will its features help me take better photos?
We don’t take the manufacturer’s word for it about advanced features. We test face-detection features to see whether they will actually help you take well-exposed and focused portrait shots. We also test image stabilisation, putting the camera on a vibrating platform and running the same test 900 times to see how the camera copes with the shakiest of hands. In addition, we try continuous shooting or burst modes to see how many photos the camera can take in one burst.
What is the video quality like, and what about the sound?
With some bridge cameras featuring 4K video recording, more people are capturing high-definition video with their camera than a traditional camcorder. We set each bridge camera to shoot video of two different scenes at a range of quality settings, looking for whether it can capture fine detail and colour in clothing or objects, while checking how well it handles fast movement. We pan the camera around to see whether the picture holds up, or becomes jerky and glitchy.
We also assess and rate the audio captured by the built-in microphone, listening carefully to see whether any noise is picked up from the auto-focus or the buttons, and whether the sound is clear and rich or dull and muted.
How powerful is the flash?
Where a bridge camera has a built-in flash we put it through a workout to see how well it adjusts its brightness for different conditions, so that you don’t end up with shiny looking skin in portraits or underexposed photos when you shoot inside. We also take a photograph at different distances, from close up to over 10m away, to see how the flash behaves at different ranges. Does it go too bright close up, or does it lose its power when at a distance? Do any unwanted reflections from it creep into the shot?
75%The score a bridge camera needs to earn Best Buy status.
Should I buy it?
Which? tests approximately 60 digital cameras a year and puts each model through a series of meticulous tests. These are designed to be both rigorous and repeatable, so you can trust in the quality of your next camera.
All the assessments described above contribute to a total test score, so that we can identify the best cameras from the worst and compare the different models. We focus on image quality, ease of use, video and audio, viewfinder and monitor and flash, and don’t take price into account. The total score breaks down as follows:
- 45% image quality
- 30% ease of use
- 10% video and audio
- 10% viewfinder and monitor
- 5% flash
A bridge camera needs to score 75% or above in our tests to earn a Best Buy recommendation. Models that score 45% or less are labelled a Don't Buy as a warning to avoid them.