A bridge camera is a bit like a dslr but without interchangeable lenses and smaller so more portable
Tech Radar up first
Sometimes you don’t want to lug around a DSLR and an assortment of lenses – you want one camera and one lens that does it all.
This means a feature set that cherry picks the best that a typical DSLR has to offer, including manual control and preferably the ability to shoot in raw format as well as JPEG, along with a lens that offers a very broad focal range, so it won’t matter that it can’t be swapped.
Enter the superzoom camera, also known as an ultra zoom or bridge camera – so called because it bridges the gap between a point and shoot compact and an all bells and whistles DSLR, in terms of handling and feature set, at least.
For this reason, superzooms tend to closely resemble DSLRs in terms of look, build and – to an extent – handling, but feature smaller image sensors and, partly because of this, afford physically smaller lenses.
While not a replacement for a DSLR then, the advantage here is that the cameras can offer a very broad focal range; one that, if you were to try and achieve similar with a DSLR, would make for a prohibitively expensive and awkwardly unwieldy combo.
The larger physical size of a bridge camera or superzoom when compared with a snapshot camera may deter some, but there’s a lot more creative versatility here in terms of framing choices. A case in point: many models also offer tilt and swivel LCD screens as well as optical or electronic viewfinders. Again, with a bridge camera there is more choice and more options for the photo enthusiast.
So if you are after one jack-of-all-trades digital camera – either instead of a DSLR, or perhaps as a less expensive back up – and you value convenience and flexibility as much as image quality and pixel count, then a bridge or superzoom camera could be your ideal companion. So here we’re shining the spotlight on the best of some recent releases.
Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-HX300
Specs: 20.4MP 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor, 50x zoom with 24-1200mm (equivalent) focal length, 1080p video
Best compact camera 2013It’s very nearly brilliant
There’s a lot to love about the Sony. It has a class-leading 20.4Mp image resolution, a fast 10fps burst rate, generous 30-1/4000th-of-a-second shutter-speed range and a big 50x zoom range (24-1200mm equivalent).
It has clever tricks too. For example, as well as a two-speed powered zoom lever by the shutter button, you can also adjust the zoom and focus settings via a control ring on the lens barrel. This alternative zoom method is still motor-controlled but enables greater precision in adjustments.
Further highlights include a high-res 921k pixel LCD that also boasts a tilt facility.
It’s good for shooting from very high or low perspectives, either holding the camera above your head or for shooting from ground level without getting muddy knees. However, unlike some Sony tilt screens, it doesn’t flip over completely to help with self-portraits.
In other areas, the Sony comes up a bit short. It does have an electronic viewfinder but the unspecified resolution seems pretty poor, on a par with the Canon and Panasonic cameras.
A more surprising shortcoming, given the otherwise advanced collection of creative shooting modes and high-end features, is that ‘stills capture’ is a JPEG-only affair, without the ability to shoot in raw. There’s also no hot shoe, so you’re stuck with the fairly minimal power of the pop-up flash.
Back on the plus side, handling is very good overall, with a high-quality build and quick access to plentiful shooting parameters.
Impressive in most areas, performance benefits from effective autofocus and metering even in tricky conditions.
The optical stabilizer matches those of other cameras in the group, giving consistently sharp handheld images under decent lighting, even at very long zoom settings.
The only real upset is that image noise can be very noticeable in low-light shots, even at the lower end of the ISO range.
Fuji FinePix HS50 EXR
Specs: 16MP 1/2-inch EXR CMOS II sensor, 42x optical zoom with 24-1000mm (equivalent) focal length, 1080p video
Best compact camera 2013It’s a bit of a whopper
Compared with some competitors in the group, the Fujifilm is a real hunk of a camera. It’s got a big, beefy body and, unlike some, the lens doesn’t retract when the camera is switched off.
Big isn’t necessarily bad, however, and the camera feels wonderfully natural with superb handling. It can’t quite match the leaders in the group for outright zoom range, but the 42x lens still gives the equivalent of a mighty 24-1000mm span of focal lengths.
Not only does the Fujifilm have an electronic viewfinder, but it’s of considerably better quality than any of the other cameras on test, with a super-sharp 920k pixel display. Composition and manual focusing are all the easier for it.
Along with a plethora of basic and advanced shooting modes, both raw and JPEG quality options are available.
Battery life is similarly impressive, with 500 shots available from a full charge, where most competing cameras only last for about 300 shots.
There’s no power zoom facility but, in practice, the smooth and precise manual zoom and focus rings on the lens enable greater precision, without the constant danger of overshooting the mark and having to yo-yo back and forth. Like only the Canon in this group, the LCD is fully articulated so gives a complete range of pivot functions.
Autofocus is a bit special; the hybrid phase/contrast system doing better than the contrast-detection systems of competing cameras to track moving targets.
Continuing the speed theme, there’s a fast 11fps drive rate available, which increases to 16fps if you limit yourself to medium-sized JPEG capture.
In the standard sensitivity range of ISO 100-3200, noise is well controlled and there’s excellent retention of fine detail, even at very high ISO settings. Ultra-high sensitivities of up to ISO 12800 are available in expanded mode, if needed.
Nikon Coolpix L820
Specs: 16.79MP 1/2.3-inch back illuminated CMOS sensor, 30x zoom with 22.5-675mm (equivalent) focal length, 1080p video
Best compact camera 2013It’s more of a point-and-shoot bridge camera
Photographers who use Nikon SLRs are usually rewarded with a wealth of shooting options and customisable functions, available through almost-endless scrolling menus.
The L820 is an entirely different proposition and really quite basic in operation.
You don’t have to be eagle-eyed to spot the lack of a shooting mode dial and, indeed, there are no aperture-priority, shutter-priority or metered manual modes.
Instead, you’re limited to ‘auto’, ‘easy auto’, ‘smart portrait’, and a number of scene modes and filter options. If you like being in control, it can feel a bit limiting. For example, the only way to get a shutter speed slower than one second is to switch to the ‘fireworks’ scene mode. At the other end of the scale, shutter speed tops out at just 1/1500th of a second.
Sensitivity only reaches ISO 1600 in the standard range, and ISO 3200 in expanded mode.
Other areas which might be disappointing for accomplished photographers are the lack of a viewfinder or hot shoe and the absence of raw capture.
On the plus side, the Nikon is very compact, helped by the retracting lens which tucks away when the camera is switched off. Then again, the 30x zoom range is the smallest in the group.
With an effective 22.5-675mm focal length range, it’s quite generous at the wide-angle end, but loses out for long telephoto shooting. Zooming itself can be a bit hit and miss. Unlike the Canon, Panasonic and Sony cameras, there’s just a single-speed (and reasonably fast) power-zoom mechanism which can make precise adjustments a real frustration.
The Nikon redeems itself somewhat when it comes to image quality, which is generally very good even under dull lighting conditions.
Autofocus isn’t particularly rapid but it copes better in tricky conditions than Nikon’s high-end Coolpix P7700 compact camera, which we reviewed back in issue 139.
Canon PowerShot SX50 HS
Specs: 12.1MP 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor, 50x zoom with 24-1200mm (equivalent) focal length, 1080p video
Best compact camera 2013Small but powerful and feature-packed
Slightly smaller and lighter than competing cameras that also feature an electronic viewfinder, the Canon nevertheless boasts a 50x zoom lens, equivalent to 24-1200mm in range.
As one of Canon’s ‘HS’ series cameras, it’s intended to give good performance in low lighting conditions, which is why its image resolution is relatively modest. As such, the camera is fitted with a 12.1MP image sensor, whereas most others in the group are between 16MP and 20.4MP.
The shooting mode dial is packed with wide-ranging scene modes, a full complement of PASM shooting modes, special effects aplenty and two user-defined custom settings. Further direct access controls around the back make it quick and easy to get to important shooting parameters.
Further attractions include a fully articulated LCD screen and a hot shoe for mounting an optional flashgun.
Ultimately, it really does feel like a ‘proper’ camera. By contrast, the low-resolution electronic viewfinder is a bit lacking in clarity.
With the immense telephoto reach on offer, one nice touch is the pair of buttons on the side of the lens barrel. These enable you to instantly zoom out if you lose a target at extremely long focal lengths, reacquire it, then zoom back in again to take the shot.
For normal operation of zoom, there’s a two-stage lever which enables both slow and fast action. The ability to shoot in raw mode as well as JPEG is another plus point for the Canon.
True to its low-light claims, image noise is well controlled and the longest available shutter speed is better than most, at 15 seconds.
Maximum burst rate is a bit pedestrian at 4.1fps (frames per second) but you can boost this to 13fps if you don’t need autofocus after the first shot in a sequence.
Sharpness is good throughout the zoom range and the optical image stabilizer works well.
This is from What Digital Camera
The Best Bridge Camera of 2013 – our pick of the very best bridge cameras currently on the market
Bridge cameras – P520
The bridge camera remains one of the most popular types of digital camera, owing to their huge zoom lenses, DSLR-esque handling and relatively compact proportions.
There are several factors to consider before buying a bridge camera, including whether in fact a bridge is right choice for your needs. If you’re uncertain we highly recommend you read our in-depth Guide to Bridge Cameras first, just be sure.
But if you’ve done that, or you’re already confident that a bridge camera is for you, then read our round up of the best bridge cameras of 2013…
Best bridge camera 2013 – Canon PowerShot SX50HS
Canon PowerShot SX50 HS
Street price: £360
Even though it’s by no means the biggest bridge camera on the market the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS it was the world’s first bridge camera to feature a 50x optical zoom, extending from 24mm to an impressive 1200mm.
Paired with Canon’s latest DIGIC 5 processor, the 12MP HS sensor is renowned for its high speed and good high ISO performance. The SX50 HS also offers a full tilt and swivel LCD screen, raw capture and a selection of 58 scene modes, while the hot-shoe allows for Canon EX Speedlite flash guns to be attached.
Best Bridge Camera for: Canon Compatibility
Read more on the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS
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Best bridge camera 2013 – Fujifilm HS50 EXR
Fujifilm FinePix HS50 EXR
Street price: £400
The Fujifilm HS50 EXR features the highly regarded EXR sensor technology, which can be optimised to provide High Resolution, Wide Dynamic Range or Low Noise, depending on the conditions. In this case it’s a 16MP chip that also incorporates an array of phase detect pixels to provide what Fujifilm claims is the fastest AF of any bridge camera in the world.
The manually operated 42x zoom lens goes from 24mm to 1000mm with a twist of the lens barrel. Additional features include a high resolution articulated LCD screen, a 1.44 million dot EVF, an impressive 11fps burst rate, full 1080p HD video, raw capture and a range of creative filters and film simulation modes.
Best Bridge Camera for: DSLR styling and operation
Read our full review of the Fujifilm HS50 EXR
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Best bridge camera 2013 – Nikon Coolpix P520
Nikon Coolpix P520
Street price: £350
The Nikon Coolpix P520 is one of the smaller bridge cameras of the group. Its 42x lens extends from 24mm to 1000mm, and uses lens-shift VR to minimize camera shake.
Image capture comes courtesy of an 18MP backlit CMOS sensor, while images are viewed on an impressive 3.2in 920k dot vari-angle screen. The P520 also boasts a GPS function through which images can be placed on a map using the supplied ViewNX software.
Although the P520 is a little more plasticky than some rivals this also helps make it quite a bit cheaper.
Best Bridge Camera for: Those with a premium on size
Read our full review of the Nikon Coolpix P520
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Best bridge camera 2013 – Panasonic Lumix FZ200
Panasonic Lumix FZ200
Street price: £400
The Panasonic Lumix FZ200 is the world’s first, and so far only, bridge camera to offer a constant f/2.8 aperture throughout its zoom range.
This is a huge benefit, enabling lower ISOs and/or faster shutter speeds to be used that other bridge cameras in the same conditions, and also affording potentially narrower depth of field. It’s a Leica lens too.
The only downside is that its zoom range is a relatively modest 24x, extending from 24mm to 600mm. The FZ200 also features Lightspeed AF for superfast focusing, 12fps burst shooting, a vari-angle LCD screen and high speed video shooting at 100fps.
Best Bridge Camera for: Wildlife and nature photography