Bridge cameras fill that gap between slim, auto-everything compacts and bulky, complex DSLRs. Also known as ‘super-zooms’, they tend to come with integrated (i.e. non-detachable) zoom lenses that go from mega-wide to ultra-long.
A bridge camera is a great choice, but with hundreds of models available it can be tough to figure out which is the best camera for you.
So to help you out we’ve picked out the 10 best bridge cameras in 2017.
If you know what type of bridge camera you are after, or have a budget in mind, then use the links below. Otherwise, read on!
Best Budget Bridge Camera
The Canon SX530 HS is a PowerShot series camera with a superzoom lens. The lens offers a focal length range of 24 – 1200mm (in 35mm format equivalent). The lens has a versatile focusing range from infinity all the way to 5cm. This is thus very suitable for the purpose of shooting macro subjects like flowers and stuff.
At such high optical zooms keeping the camera stable while hand-holding can be a real challenge. Without image stabilization this is impossible. The Canon SX530 HS has a built-in image stabilization system that takes care of the image shake and blurring.
The built-in image stabilization has three different modes. Normal IS will correct issues with hand-shake when shooting normal subjects. There is a Panning mode which kicks in when shooting subjects that are moving in the focusing plane. The third is the Macro or the Hybrid IS mode which kicks in when the subject is extremely close by.
Plus, the camera has a tripod mode which will automatically deactivate lens image stabilization which becomes redundant and often a nuisance when shooting on a tripod.
The camera is built around a 16 megapixel 1/2.3″ HS CMOS sensor and image processing is powered by DIGIC 4+ image processor. Together these form the Canon HS system.
The HS system is a low light technology that produces cleaner image in low light conditions.
The Canon SX530 HS can shoot video at full HD and at 30 fps. Additionally, the camera has an ISO range of 3200 and a continuous burst speed of 10 fps. This is a strong contender for the title of the best budget bridge camera.
- 50x optical zoom (24 – 1200mm in 35mm parlance)
- Full HD video recording at a frame rate of 30 fps
- Built-in Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity
- Lens features an intelligent IS image stabilization system with three different modes
- 10 fps continuous shooting
- Rear LCD screen has a very low resolution of 461k-dots
Best Bridge Camera Under £200
The Sony DSCH300 is an entry level bridge camera from the Sony stable. This one comes with a 20.1 megapixel Super HAD CCD sensor. CCD sensors tend to be a bit more power hogging compared to CMOS systems and this is one of the downsides of the camera.
However, on the bright side the DSCH300 has a powerful 35x zoom lens. This one has a 35mm format equivalent optical reach of 25 – 875mm. That is enough for a bird perched on a tree some 75 meters away or a signboard that is 100 meters away.
The lens does come with Optical SteadyShot image stabilization. This is imperative for hand holding the camera when shooting at the tele end of its lens’ optical zoom reach.
Being a compact camera has its perks because the lens is versatile. It is a capable macro lens with a minimum focusing distance of 1cm when shooting in wide mode.
The shooting mode dial is simplistic. There are a few options including Program and Manual. The video mode on the camera supports 720p HD at a maximum frame rate of 30 fps only.
In our opinion this is just a basic budget bridge camera with basic shooting features. There is a built-in flash. ISO range of 80 – 3200.
An entry level bridge camera with basic shooting features. The Super HAD CCD sensor actually has a better sensitivity than compared to traditional CCD sensors. If you are looking for a long zoom with image stabilization, decent video with built-in flash, the Sony DSCH300 is a good option to look at.
- 20.1 megapixel Super HAD CCD Sensor
- 35x optical zoom 35mm format equivalent of 25 – 875mm
- Optical SteadyShot image stabilization system
- 720p HD video recording only
- Maximum aperture range of f/3.4 to f/6.5
- Built-in flash
- 3” rear LCD screen has a resolution of only 461k-dots
Best Bridge Camera Under £300
The Pentax X-5 is built around a 16 megapixels BSI-CMOS sensor. BSI (backside-illuminated) have the wiring at the back of the sensor chip. This leave a lot of room on the top side (the side that gathers light). Evidently this produces cleaner images even in low light situations.
Native ISO range of the camera is 100 – 6400. Pentax uses the sensor-shift type image stabilization system.
The biggest USP of small sensor bridge cameras is the large focal length. The Pentax X-5 has a built-in lens that offers a 35mm format equivalent focal range of 22.3 – 580mm. That is not as huge as some of the other systems that we have discussed but should be enough for most everyday shooting requirements.
Full HD video recording is possible on the camera at a frame rate of 30 fps. While that is standard, we would have loved to see a stereo mic at least. The built-in mic on the Pentax X-5 records only mono quality sound.
The rear LCD screen has a size of 3”. However, the resolution of the sensor is only 460k-dots. That is kind of low considering some of the cameras that we have listed here. In addition, there is an electronic viewfinder with a resolution of 230k-dots.
In an array of medium range bridge cameras the Pentax X-5 stands out as an unlikely winner. It has many good features going its way. The full HD video recording, electronic viewfinder, stereo mic, tilting rear LCD and the built-in image stabilization makes it the best bridge camera under £300.
- 16 megapixel CMOS sensor with back-illuminated technology
- 26x optical zoom which is a 35mm format equivalent of 22.3 – 580mm
- 3” tilting rear LCD screen
- Native ISO range of 6400
- Dual shake-reduction system powered by the Pentax sensor-shift type image stabilization mechanism
- Electronic viewfinder
- Full HD video recording at 30 frames per second
- Weighs just 595 grams including the batteries and the memory card in slots
- The rear LCD screen has a resolution of only 460k-dots
- Microphone records mono sound
Best Bridge Camera Under £500
When you are spending almost 500 pounds for a bridge camera you would no doubt expect some of the best features that this segment has to offer. The Fujifilm FinePix HS50EXR does not disappoint in that regard.
The Fujifilm FinePix HS50EXR is built around a 16 megapixel EXR 1/2″ CMOS II sensor with a resolution of 16 megapixels. Image processing is powered by EXR processor II.
The fixed Fujinon lens has a 35mm optical equivalent zoom range of 24 – 1000mm. That should be enough for even a humming bird flying mid-air at a distance of 50 meters or more. The only drawback is the maximum aperture. It is f/5.6 at the tele end.
Among several good features there is a Focus Peak highlight feature that assists in manually focus accurately by highlighting the area where focus is acquired.
The camera has lens based image stabilization. Image stabilization is a must have for a long lens like this. This OIS system can compensate for
The Fujifilm FinePix HS50EXR is capable of shooting full HD videos at a frame rate of 60 fps. 60 fps is faster than what you need for the regular playback speed of 30 fps. These twice as many frames per second allow you to transform everyday moments into a fluid slow motion effect.
The Fujifilm FinePix HS50EXR is an excellent all round camera. Great optical zoom, image stabilization, video and still capabilities, manual shooting and RAW support. You couldn’t ask for more.
- 16 megapixels 1/2″ CMOS sensor
- 42x optical zoom (35mm format equivalent of 24-1000mm)
- Maximum aperture of f/2.8 –f/5.6
- Minimum focusing range of 7cm (wide macro)
- Native ISO range of 100 – 12800
- 11 fps continuous shooting speed (max 5 frames)
- Focus highlighter feature
- Option to connect external flash via the hotshoe
- Lens based image
- External mic provision
- Stat time of just 0.5 seconds and AF lock speed of 0.05 sec.
- RAW supported
- No Wi-Fi or other wireless connectivity options
- Weighs 810 grams. Bulky considering this is a bridge camera
Best Superzoom Bridge Camera
The Nikon Coolpix P900 is built around a 16 megapixel CMOS sensor with backlit illumination technology. This technology ensures that the camera has a better light gathering surface compared to traditional sensors where the wiring is at the top along with the photo-diodes that capture light.
The greatest USP of the camera is undoubtedly its fantastic optical zoom range of 24 – 2000mm. Considering that an 800mm lens costs more than £ 6500, you have yourself a clear winner in the P900.
The lens comes with dual-detect optical Vibration Reduction technology. This technology provides up to five stops of compensation. That effectively means that you can shoot at up to five stops slower shutter speed than what the meter indicates and yet still get away with a sharp image.
Video mode on the camera is a decent full HD at a frame rate of 60 fps. Built-in stereo mic records whatever is being spoken during filming. There is a decent continuous shooting speed on the Coolpix P900 as well. 7 fps at full resolution. However, that burst lasts for only 7 frames.
Another useful feature of the camera is its vari-angle TFT LCD screen. The screen has a resolution of 921k-dots and gives 100% screen coverage. The vari-angle flexibility allows the screen to be moved around to capture stills or videos from a very low angle or high over the head and even around corners.
By far the Nikon Coolpix P900 wins the race for the best superzoom bridge camera with its class leading 83x optical zoom range.
- 16 megapixel CMOS sensor with backlit illuminated technology
- EXPEED C2 image processing engine
- Electronic viewfinder
- Flipping rear LCD screen
- Dual detect optical VR system that works in both the optical zoom range as well as the extended digital zoom
- 35mm format equivalent optical zoom of 24 – 2000mm
- Full HD movies at 60p with built-in stereo mic
- Built-in Wi-Fi, NFC and GPS
- Auto and full manual exposure control
- Native ISO sensitivity of 100 – 6400
- Manual shooting controls
- Heavy considering this is a bridge camera
- Pricey considering that this is not a DSLR
Best Bridge Camera For Low Light Photography
The best bridge camera for low light photography must be able to capture a lot of light, even when there is not much to go around. Evidently, one of the requirements for that is that the sensor must be large. The largest sensor available in mirrorless systems is the 1”. Another requirement is that built-in lens should have a large wide aperture.
Despite a few choice available, and some latest and with smarter features, we have selected the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000 as the best bridge camera for low light photography.
The reasons are a few. First the maximum aperture range of the camera is f/2.8 to f/4. Sure you can’t shoot at f/2.8 at its tele end and sure it does not have a focal length that is very long, but you don’t need either. Even if you are using a full-frame DSLR, you don’t always shoot at 800mm. the longer you shoot over the more distortion your images are likely to have. Especially when shooting over hot and dry fields in the wild.
The 1” High Sensitivity MOS sensor is capable of capturing a lot of light. This is handy when working in low light environments. Plus, the maximum aperture, at the tele end (400mm), is f/4. In camera ISO sensitivity is up to 12800. It can, however, be extended up to 25600.
For any tele-lens to be able to produce great images when used hand-held it needs to have some sort of image stabilization. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000 comes with a 5-axis hybrid image stabilization system that stabilizes any unintentional hand movement in 5 different axes.
A great low light camera with excellent overall performance. It may not have some of the best video features, except that it can shoot 4K, but for low light photography the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000 is a good camera to boot.
- 1” High Sensitivity MOS sensor with a resolution of 20.1 megapixel
- Leica DC Vario-Elmarit lens with a 35mm format equivalent focal range of 25 – 400mm
- Maximum aperture of f/2.8 – f/4
- 4K QFHD video at 30 fps
- 3” Free-Angle LCD monitor with a resolution of 921,000 dots.
- Built-in Wi-Fi and NFC
- Electronic viewfinder
- 12 fps continuous burst speed (7 fps with continuous AF)
- 5-axis hybrid image stabilization
- 50 fps continuous shooting speed
- Built-in Wi-Fi and NFC
- In camera 8 megapixel grabs from 4K movies
- LCD monitor does not have touchscreen properties
Best Bridge Camera For Wildlife Photography
This is an upgrade of the older Lumix DMC-FZ1000. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ2500 is powered by a 1” 20.1 megapixel High Sensitivity MOS sensor. The DMC-FZ2500 comes with built-in DCI 4K video capabilities. Frame rate is 24 fps.
The optical glass in front is a Leica DC Vario-Elmarit f/2.8 – 4.5 lens with a 20x optical zoom. In 35m format that is the equivalent of 24 – 480mm. The optical focal range of the lens is small compared to some of the other bridge systems that we have reviewed. However, 480mm is good enough for birding and wildlife.
Plus, the f/2.8 – 4.5 aperture is good enough for low light imagery.
The rear of the camera is dominated by a 3” 1.04m-dots free-angle (Panasonic’s version of vari-angle) LCD screen. The display has touchscreen properties. There’s also a 0.74x 2.3m-dots OELD electronic viewfinder.
If you love shooting videos and looking to explore professional features you’d love the Panasonic’s flat CINELIKE D and CINELIKE V picture profiles. These would give you professional level grading opportunities for your footages.
Plus, the camera also has the feature to output video over a HDMI connection with the professional 4:4:2 10-bit signal.
The reason why this is an excellent camera for shooting wildlife even though the focal length may be on the ‘shorter side’ is because of the impressive continuous shooting speed. Using the electronic shutter mechanism you can shoot at a maximum frame rate of 50 fps. Using the mechanical shutter you can sho0t at a speed of 12 fps.
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ2500 is a capable low light shooter. But its features are also equally good for the purpose of shooting excellent quality video work. The larger High Sensitivity MOS sensor helps produce clean imagery even in low light conditions.
The touchscreen LCD at the back helps in precise focusing. Plus, a bunch of video shooting features lets you capture stunning videos of your subjects in the most difficult of conditions. Some of these features like the 4K PHOTO modes helps you achieve better imagery. Not to mention the built-in high speed continuous still shooting.
- Built-in standard 4K video capabilities at 30 fps
- DCI 4K video recording at 24 fps
- Full HD videos at a maximum of 120 fps
- HDMI output using 4:2:2 10 bit
- 12 fps continuous burst rate using mechanical shutter
- 50 fps burst rate using electronic shutter
- Maximum aperture of f/2.8
- Instant switchover from 4K videos and 4K photography
- 9-blade aperture diaphragm of the lens
- 3.5mm microphone and headphone jacks
- Focal length range of 24 – 480mm is on the shorter side
- Bulky considering this is a bridge camera
Best DSLR Alternative
The best feature of a DSLR camera is its ability to change a lens to change the shooting perspective. It is also a major feature of a DSLR to be able to focus using a phase detection sensor. Of course DSLRs give full manual shooting abilities to photographers. This are the major feature that separate DSLRs from other camera systems.
A MILC has a couple of these features as well. Plus, these days the advent of on-chip phase detection system has narrowed down the focusing problems that plagued previous generation MILC systems. Yet DSLRs continue to enjoy a healthy demand.
Thus, a good bridge camera must have a versatile lens. Full manual controls, body based image stabilization plus body based aperture and focusing controls.
In our opinion the Sony Cyber-shot DSC RX10 III is the best DSLR alternative. It has a fast aperture range, decent optical zoom range, high resolution 1” sensor and fantastic continuous shooting speed. Apart from that the Sony Cyber-shot DSC RX10 III is also a capable video shooter.
If you are looking for DSLR like features, build quality, handling and performance, then you don’t have to look beyond the Sony Cyber-shot DSC RX10 III. It looks like a small sized DSLR. Has a similar build quality, a top LCD screen that kind of confirms the attempt to make it look like one.
- 20.1 megapixel EXMOR RS BSI CMOS sensor
- Image processing by BIONZ X image processor
- Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* f/2.4 – f/4 zoom lens with an optical range of 24- 600mm (35mm equivalent)
- 3” 1.228m-dot tilting rear LCD screen
- Electronic viewfinder with a resolution of 2.36m-dots
- Optical image stabilization
- UHD 4K video with 30p frame rate
- Full HD video capability at a frame rate 960 fps
- Maximum ISO of up to 12800
- 14 fps continuous shooting speed
- Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity
Best Large Sensor Bridge Camera
The Cyber-Shot DSC-RX10 III does not have the longest zoom among its peers. But it more than makes up for the lack of a long zoom with some other excellent features to be considered as the best large sensor bridge camera.
To start off the sensor on the Cyber-Shot DSC-RX10 III is a large 1” one. The sensor incorporates both the low-light tackling BSI and stacked architectures. This produces cleaner and more contrasting images, even in low light.
One of the other benefits of the stacked technology is the presence of a DRAM chip. This results in a much faster readout speed. Thanks to this DRAM chip and the upgraded BIONZ X processor, the Cyber-Shot DSC-RX10 III is capable of producing continuous burst speed of 14 fps.
Another plus point of the new sensor design and the upgraded processing engine is the in-camera 4K/UHD video shooting capability at a frame rate of 30 fps. If you don’t have need for very high resolution videos, and could do with just full HD, then the Cyber-Shot DSC-RX10 III is capable of shooting full HD at a frame rate of 960 fps.
At that frame rate it is possible to capture fantastic slow motion videos (recording the video at 960 frames per second and then playing it back in 30 fps).
May be not its greatest of features because a lot of its peers have a longer optical zoom reach, the Cyber-Shot DSC-RX10 III’s optical zoom extends from 24 – 600mm (on a 35mm format equivalence).
The other features include built-in Wi-Fi and NFC, extending the camera’s connectivity, a series of manual control rings and a weather sealed body.
The Cyber-Shot DSC-RX10 III is an expensive camera, make no mistake about it. But it’s a camera that you can use for pretty much everything. And for that matter take everywhere with you. If you are an occasional photographer you would not need another camera at all.
- 20.1 megapixel 1” EXMOR RS BSI CMOS sensor
- BIONZ X image processor
- Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* f/2.4 – 4 zoom lens
- 2.36m-dot OLED Tru-Finder EVF
- 3” rear tilting (Xtra Fine) LCD screen with a resolution of 1.228m-dots
- In-camera UHD 4K30 video, full HD 1080p at a frame rate of 960 fps.
- Continuous shooting speed of 14 fps
- Maximum ISO of 12800
- Wi-Fi and NFC
- SteadyShot image stabilization
- Weather sealed body
- Manual control rings
- Optical zoom of only 24 – 600mm (in 35mm format equivalent)
- Pricey for a bridge camera
- Bulky for a bridge camera
Best Overall Bridge Camera
The Sony Cyber-Shot DSC- RX10 III beats the likes of the Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ2500, the Canon PowerShot SX60 HS, the Nikon Coolpix P900 and the Sony Cyber-Shot DSC- RX10 to attain the position of the best overall bridge camera.
This has not been an easy choice to make. All the above cameras are excellent in their own rights. The Nikon Coolpix P900, e.g., has the longest optical zoom among the current crop of bridge cameras. The Canon PowerShot S60 HS is one of the best all round systems on display.
Similarly, the Panasonic DMC FZ2500 is one of the best overall camera systems. You can probably also through in the Panasonic FZ1000 in the mix as well as a reasonably priced and yet robust solution.
But the Sony Cyber-Shot DSC- RX10 III wins the race as the camera that has the best features, handling and performance. It, will however not win any brownie points because of its stiff entry point. But that said, this is a camera that is as complete as you can get in terms of features.
The only negative points about the Sony Cyber-Shot DSC- RX10 III are its high price point and the DSLR like weight. Weight and bulk, however, is a subject thing. For some photographers a heavier camera gives more stability, especially when hand-held. When mounted on a tripod that weight becomes inconsequential. But on the flip side the features of the camera far outweigh these minor disadvantages.
- Built around a 20.1 megapixel EXMOR RS BSI CMOS sensor
- Image processing is handled by BIONZ X image processing engine
- Built-in lens has an optical zoom range of 24 – 600mm (35mm format equivalent)
- Maximum aperture of the lens is f/2.4 – 4 (wide enough for great low light images)
- Body based image stabilization system
- 3” tilting screen with a resolution of 1.228m-dots
- Electronic viewfinder with a resolution of 2.36m – dots
- Built-in UHD /4K video recording at 30 fps
- Full HD video recording at 960 fps
- Wi-Fi and NFC recording
- 14 fps continuous shooting speed
- Pricing is pretty high for a bridge camera
- Bulky for a bridge camera
Last Year’s Top 5 Cameras
1. Nikon Coolpix L340
Before we dive into the 5 bridge cameras that topped our 2017 list, we’ll quickly give a shout to the Nikon Coolpix L340. Technically this is an older model, but you can still pick one up in a couple of places online.
And because it’s a little older, you’ll get a seriously good deal for a lot of camera. It’s by far the cheapest, quality bridge camera around, and the specs stand up pretty well. With 20MP, HD video shooting (720p) and a 28x optical zoom lens you can get a great little camera for starting out in photography for not a lot of money. Plus, it’s a Nikon. What’s not to like?!
So if you’re looking for a budget bridge camera, grab a Coolpix L340 before they run out!
Now let’s reveal the 5 best bridge cameras in 2017. We’ll dive a little deeper into each of these.
2. Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1000
Panasonic’s top of the range offering in the Bridge format could just be close enough to an entry-level DSLR in image quality and features to persuade you not to go that route.
Panasonic’s top of the range offering in the Bridge format could just be close enough to an entry-level DSLR in image quality and features to persuade you not to go that route. Yes, there are even smaller, lighter, more convenient cameras than this, but they also come with plenty of compromises. The DMC-FZ1000 might just offer the best of both worlds.
The FZ1000 features a 25-400mm zoom. Lens aperture varies as you zoom through the focal range, so the stated maximum aperture of f/2.8 is only achievable when zoomed to the widest setting. While this is pretty standard – especially with regards to this format of camera – there are other Bridge models out there that do not suffer from such a problem, so if you really can’t live with this restriction then you might want to move on to explore some of the alternative options below. Invariably though, the removal of this restriction will entail compromises in other departments.
The FZ1000’s video quality is excellent. Indeed, it was the first Bridge camera able to capture at a resolution of up to 4K. Whether you’ve got a monitor that’s sufficiently specced to appreciate the difference in quality that shooting 4K video brings is another matter entirely, but nonetheless the extra resolution is there for you should you ever need it.
There’s an external microphone jack for when the onboard mic proves insufficient. However there’s no headphone monitor plug unfortunately.
While we’re starting to see 1-inch-sized sensors on Bridge cameras more and more frequently of late, the 20-megapixel-producing sensor in this Panasonic is better than most and the FZ100 produces sharp images through the ISO range up until 800 – beyond which things start to become a little hazy (at least when examined up close). The camera will capture simultaneously in JPEG and RAW formats.
It’s also worth noting that, as the FZ1000 shoots video at 4K, you can easily extract pretty decent looking and reasonably-sized (8MB) stills from a move sequence. This can come in pretty hand in cases where you don’t want to risk missing an action shot but can’t totally trust your trigger finger to deliver on the instant.
The viewfinder is electronic, rather than optical. Purists might view this as a handicap, as it means you’re not shooting in ‘direct’ contact with the subject. Others will argue that it’s actually a plus because what you see is precisely what you’re capturing to disk. Likewise, some people may find the plastic body a little on the cheap side, others will love how lightweight this makes the camera. There’s clearly no pleasing everyone.
3. Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200
Very cheap, when compared with the other models we recommend here.
We should start by saying that the DMC-FZ200 is by now quite an old camera and has in fact already been superseded by the FZ300. Why do we review the FZ200 here, then, rather than it’s more modern sibling? Quite simply because it’s still a great camera that will give more recent releases a run for their money.
Oh, and because it can now be picked up for cheap. Very cheap, when compared with the other models we recommend here.
The FZ200 comes with a 25-600mm zoom lens that maintains a constant aperture of f/2.8 throughout the entire focal-range. On this front, then, the FZ200 is actually far superior to it’s newer, more expensive cousin, the FZ1000, that only offers a 2.8 aperture at its widest zoom setting. The lens barrel itself features controls to switch between auto and manual focus settings, and a second, zoom control that is somewhat smoother than the one on the camera body.
The FZ200 is capable of capturing 1080p HD movies at up to 60 fps. In good lighting these are of surprisingly high quality. However, be warned that although the lens can be zoomed while capturing video, both zoom and lens motors are somewhat noisy and will likely interfere with recordings made in quieter situations.
Well of course, there had to be a reason why this camera is now so much cheaper than other similiar Panasonic offerings, and clearly one of them is the fact that the FZ200 only produces 12-megapixel files on a 1/2.3-inch sensor. What this means is that, up close, and even at 100 ISO, you’re likely to see the kind of noise that with files shot on the FZ1000 or a similar camera would only start to become apparent at higher ISO settings.
So, how do the FZ1000 and FZ200 compare? Well, the FZ1000 wont allow you to shoot wide-open at longer zoom settings – likely necessitating an increase in ISO (and consequently noise) in order to counterbalance the loss of light. The result being that images shot hand-held, on a long focal length, in low lighting conditions will be somewhat noisy. Meanwhile, the FZ200 will permit shooting at f/2.8 even zoomed in to 600mm – allowing for a lower ISO to be selected – but will probably show just as much noise as the FZ1000 set on a higher ISO, due to the inferior sensor.
In short, if you’ll frequently be shooting hand-held, on a long focal length, in low lighting conditions, then there’s probably little difference between the final results to be attained by either of these two Panasonics. In all other conditions (i.e. even shooting on a tripod in low lighting conditions) the FZ1000’s image quality is going to be far superior to that of the FZ200. But then again, at several times the price of the FZ200, this is precisely what one would expect.
We need to be perfectly clear, then, that this is a small-sensor camera that produces only passable quality photographs at higher ISO settings. Having said this, images shot on the FZ200 using a low ISO aren’t half bad at all, and if you don’t need enormous files that will stand up to close scrutiny by pixel-picking pedants, this camera has plenty else to offer.
There are different burst-shooting rates depending on the quality of files the FZ200 produces and whether autofocus continuously adjusts as you shoot or just locks to the first setting and stays there while capturing subsequent frames. With focus continuously active and shooting in RAW format, the fastest the camera can manage is 5.5 fps (comparable to most entry-level DSLRs). However, if you’re happy to trade in image quality for speed, the FZ200 can capture at rates up to 60 fps at lower resolutions (that may seem like an astonishing rate, but bare in mind that in effect it’s just like shooting video).
Shooting modes include aperture and shutter priority modes, alongside manual, so you won’t be held back in this department at all. The FZ200’s viewfinder is electronic (although of superior quality to most) and the LCD flips out, however there is no automatic sensor when switching between EVF and LCD (selection is made manually by means of a dedicated button). As with the FZ1000, build-quality is somewhat plasticy. One other irritation is that access to the battery/card-slot is blocked when the camera is sitting on a tripod.
4. Canon Powershot SX60 HS
This is a good all-round camera that manages to strike a pretty convincing balance between long-zoom, reasonable image-quality, decent image-stabilisation and passable video capture.
This is a good all-round camera that manages to strike a pretty convincing balance between long-zoom, reasonable image-quality, decent image-stabilisation and passable video capture. Of course, it by no means excels at any of these features, but nonetheless does a respectable job on all fronts.
The SX60 HS comes with a 21-1,365mm zoom lens. While that’s a lot of zoom, it’s still not the widest range of focal-length available on a bridge camera (but seriously, other than nature photographers and sweaty-palmed men in raincoats, who really needs such a long lens?). With a widest aperture of f/3.4, going down to 6.5 at longer focal lengths, this is clearly not the fastest lens around either.
The SX60’s lens features Zoom Framing Assist, a feature that permits you to briefly zoom back out in order to recompose on a subject who might have wandered out of frame, before the lens quickly resets itself to the same focal-length you were at previously – whereupon you can continue shooting. Meanwhile, Framing Assist offers an extra degree of image stabilisation whilst zoomed in to longer focal lengths, allowing for greater ease in composing. Dedicated buttons for both of these features are located on the lens barrel itself.
The SX60 HS captures 1080p video at up to 60 frames per second. Although there’s some noticeable trailing and jerkiness when panning or capturing fast-moving subjects, video quality is pretty good and will even stand up to viewing on an HD monitor (as long as you don’t look too closely). Zooming while recording is fairly slow, however it’s also pretty silent, so will likely not be detected by the camera’s onboard mics unless you’re shooting in a sensory deprivation tank or somewhere similarly silent. In any case, there are external microphone and headphone jacks, should the desire to do so ever arise.
In upgrading from the SX50 HS to the SX60 HS an extra 4 megapixels of resolution were added to the SX-series’ arsenal, giving it a respectable 16 megapixels. it’s still only a 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor under the hood, so unlikely to give Panasonic’s FZ1000 or other 1-inch-sensor models much to worry about on the resolution front, however the SX60 HS’s image processor has been much improved for better performance in low-light. Capture is possible in both JPEG and RAW formats (or indeed both at the same time).
All the usual shooting modes are covered, from auto-everything through to full-manual. High-resolution burst-shooting rates vary from 3.4 fps with continuous focusing up to 6.4 fps with the focus locked to the position of the first frame.
Unlike some of the other recommendations under review here, the SX60 HS features internal Wi-Fi, so if this is of major importance to you then Canon’s offering definitely has an edge here.
The SX60 features an electronic viewfinder and a high-resolution, articulating LCD. Sadly, not only is there no sensor to automatically detect which of the two you are using at any one time, but the button that toggles between the two settings is not dedicated to this usage and involves scrolling through a number of options just to make this simple selection. This may not sound like such a big deal, but in practice can be very frustrating when shooting. Although it should be noted that, when folding the LCD back in, the camera will automatically switch to EVF mode, so this serves as a kind of work-around.
5. Sony RX10 II
Image quality is really the RX10 II’s selling point, and if this is also a priority for you then you might just have found the perfect match.
This isn’t the cheapest Bridge camera out there, and nor does it offer anywhere near as great a zoom range as many of its competitors, however image quality is really the RX10 II’s selling point, and if this is also a priority for you then you might just have found the perfect match. However, as bridge cameras go, it’s not particular slim, and its lens is pretty bulky, so if you think you can live with a camera the size of the RX10 II then might I suggest you also give an entry-level DSLR serious consideration too: it’s that big!
Lets be honest now, when compared to other Bridge cameras, the RX10 II is so seriously under-endowed that it likely feels uncomfortable using public bathrooms. However, as is well know, those with plenty to show can’t always be relied upon to perform, and not only does a compromise on zoom length invariably translate into greater image quality, but the RX10 II’s 24-200mm lens also has the advantage of retaining the same maximum aperture of f/2.8 throughout its entire focal-range. Size isn’t everything, and despite its diminutive stature this is undoubtedly a good lens.
At full HD and 4K, the RX10 II’s video quality is excellent. The camera’s DRAM chip and Bionz X processor combine to make for an ultra-fast shooting experience, allowing for 40x super slow-mo capture. Video quality is further improved by a new design of anti-distortion electronic shutter that is intended to avoid creating those bizarre stroboscopic video effects – such as very fast moving objects appearing frozen – that can occur with rolling shutter. Although it should be said that on this latter front Sony hasn’t been entirely successful, as some odd artifacts are still sometimes noticeable when panning quickly.
As noted, smaller zooms usually produce sharper images. Furthermore, in the case of Bridge cameras, they also permit the manufacturer to cram in a larger sensor. So, as far as image quality goes, the RX10 II is definitely a contender for the top spot within its category. Not only is there a 1-inch, 20.2 megapixel sensor, but this the first camera to feature the new Sony Exmor RS stacked sensor design.
All of this translates into very sharp images (although lets not get too carried away: this is still a Bridge camera, not a full-frame DLSR), especially when shooting RAW format. Conversely, there appears to be a fair amount of noise reduction being added to JPEGs on the RX10 II – resulting in cleaner but ultimately softer photos. Resolution is very close that of Panasonic’s FZ1000 (above) and although it can’t quite match the Panasonic on dynamic range, the RX10 II is close to that of Canon’s G3 X (below). However both the Panasonic and the Canon somewhat outperform Sony’s offering when it comes to noise levels.
The RX10 II’s LCD screen isn’t touch-sensitive and nor is it fully articulating, however it does at least fold out (either up or down). The viewfinder is very clear and bright, and thankfully Sony have included a sensor that knows when you switch between EVF and LCD. It’s also possible to customise the RX10 II’s controls a fair amount, making it a very user friendly piece of kit. Additionally, the RX10 II’s burst-rate is a very impressive 14 fps.
The RX10 II’s main competitors are really Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-FZ1000 and Canon’s G3 X. Each of these cameras offers a similiar level of resolution, however they both considerably outdo Sony’s offering with regards to zoom-length.
6. Canon G3 X
When it comes to striking a balance between zoom-length and image-quality you will not find better than this.
If the (relatively) short lens of Sony’s RX10 II (above) turns you off, yet you’re determined to get the best possible image quality out of your Bridge camera, then the Canon G3 X makes for a serious competitor. Panasonic’s FZ1000 perhaps beats it on resolution, but it too comes with a much shorter lens. So although some people may not be enamored of the G3 X’s boxy, functional design (and of course others may equally love it), when it comes to striking a balance between zoom-length and image-quality you will not find better than this. The only real let down is video functionality.
Of the three large-sensored Bridge models we look at here, at 24-600mm the Canon offers the longest focal length. Unfortunately, though, maximum aperture is not constant, but instead the lens gets progressively slower as you zoom through this range: starting from f/2.8 at the widest focal-length; f/4 at 50mm; f/5 85mm; and shutting down to f/5.6 at 200mm. Image sharpness remains surprisingly good throughout this entire range though and the only slight annoyance we encountered was in trying to make minor adjustments to the focal length, as the lens tends to jump a little too far each time.
Focusing is generally fast and smooth however – at least with slow moving targets under good lighting conditions – and, rather cleverly, various different parameters can be assigned to the G3 X’s focus ring. So, for example, when using autofocus, the ring can be set to instead control aperture. Of course, there are no click-stops, but the selected aperture can be clearly viewed on the LCD. Similiar to the Canon above, the G3 X also offers a framing-assist function.
Although sadly the G3 X lacks the 4K functionality offered by some of its competitors, it captures full HD video at up to 60fps. Unfortunately though, whereas the G3 X’s lens performs admirably when capturing one-shot stills, it doesn’t deal with continuous shooting too well – which of course it makes it less than ideal for movie usage. This means that although the G3 X’s video capabilities are by no means substandard, if video is your number one priority you’ll probably want to look elsewhere (such as to the Panasonic DMC-FZ1000 or Sony RX10 II, above).
The G3 X comes with a one-inch 20-megapixel sensor and exhibits an impressive dynamic range. It also performs well at high ISOs, thanks to its state-of-the-art DIGIC 6 processor. Indeed, when shooting in RAW format, images are noise-free up to and including ISO 800 and remain sharp well beyond this setting – even if noise does then start to become apparent.
The camera also offers top-notch, five-axis image stabilisation that really makes a difference when shooting at the zoom’s full extent. Capture is possible in both JPEG and RAW formats – either separately or simultaneously.
Shooting modes include Manual, Aperture priority, Shutter priority, Program and several auto, scene and special effects modes. Burst-rate is 6 fps.
Build-wise, this is a brick-like, sturdily-made camera that inspires a whole lot more confidence than any of the other models we’ve considered here. It also offers a degree of weatherproofing not normally found on cameras of this ilk. So although we haven’t had the opportunity to test the G3 X in the field over any considerable period of time, it clearly stands out as likely being the more durable of the five.
Whereas some might fret about the tendency of Bridge cameras to offer electronic viewfinders over optical ones, with the G3 X this isn’t even an issue, as there’s no viewfinder at all (although you can buy one separately and attach it via the hotshoe). Instead the G3 X boasts a pretty large (3.2-inch) high-resolution touch-screen. However, rather than allowing for vari-angle positioning, the LCD will only tilt in one direction. Finally, the G3 offers integrated Wi-Fi.
Which Is The Best Bridge Camera In 2017?
Panasonic’s FZ200 offers a much cheaper way into the Bridge format than any of the other cameras we’ve looked at here, but with inevitable compromise on several fronts. Meanwhile, the Canon Powershot SX60 HS offers a good all-round shooter that will satisfy the needs of most enthusiasts. However, those looking for maximum image quality from a Bridge camera would be advised to go with either Sony’s RX10 II, Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-FZ1000 or Canon’s G3 X (in no particular order). Precisely which one of the three you go for will largely come down to your own particular needs and, of course, current pricing.
However, having examined the best options currently available within the Bridge format, I feel it only right that I make clear my reservations about the format in general. Personally I think that a Bridge camera only becomes a serious option if you are looking for a long lens in a compact body that produces reasonable resolution photos for moderate outlay. If you can strike even one of these requisites off your list then you should probably be looking elsewhere, as there are definitely better and longer lenses; smaller and lighter bodies; cheaper formats; and cameras capable of producing higher quality images. On the other hand, as no other format offers all of these things in one single camera, Bridge cameras clearly have their place in the market.
However, as soon as you decide, for example, that an outrageously wide and long zoom lens isn’t actually going to be all that important for you in the end: well, forget the Bridge camera. Or, just as equally, if you really do need such a wide-range of focal-lengths but also require maximum image quality and are willing to pay for it (and pay heavily, as you’d need to buy several lenses, not just one, in order to cover such a zoom range on a DSLR), then don’t waste your time with these jacks-of-all-trades (and masters-of-none).
The bottom line is that images shot on a Bridge camera will not stand up to anywhere near the same degree of zooming, enlargement or cropping as will those produced using a DSLR. Nor will a Bridge camera offer anything close to the lightweight mobility of a compact camera. It will, however, provide you with way more zoom to swing than any other format can.
A Buyer's Guide
Not sure if a bridge camera is right for you? Let’s look at some of the main advantages (and disadvantages) of the format.
What Is A Bridge Camera?
Bridge cameras are designed to ‘bridge the gap’ between DSLR and compact cameras, with the aim of delivering the best of both worlds. You get the high quality sensor and manual control of a DSLR camera, combined with the easy to handle, lightweight body of a compact camera.back to menu ↑
Optical Zooms Which Far Surpass DSLR Cameras
Unlike DSLR cameras, bridge cameras have built in lenses which are capable of impressive optical zoom ranges. Some bridge cameras have optical zooms of upwards of 50x – a range which no DSLR lens is currently capable of reaching. This is why bridge cameras are sometimes referred to as super zoom cameras.back to menu ↑
Bridge cameras are also known as ‘mirrorless’ cameras (yes they have a lot of names). This is because unlike DSLR cameras, which use a mirror to reflect light from the lens directly into the viewfinder, bridge cameras have an electronic viewfinder.
While the disadvantage is that this means the photographer does not see the exact frame being captured by the lens, the advantage is that the electronic viewfinder generally provides a more accurate representation of exposure and white balance.back to menu ↑
Bridge cameras offer excellent image quality, which will be more than suitabe for most purposes.
However, that being said, the sensors contained in bridge cameras are generally smaller than even entry level DSLRs, so there is a small sacrifice to be made in resolution.
A bridge camera may be suitable for professional photographs printed at standard size, but if the aim is to enlarge images (say for posters), then a DSLR would be a better fit.back to menu ↑
Bridge Camera Features
Bridge cameras offer full control over all aspects of shooting.
Controls are generally the same as DSLR cameras – with a manual setting for controlling shutter speed, aperture, ISO etc, plus the usual automatic and default settings (landscape, close up etc).
Many high end bridge cameras offer Wi-FI and some also offer GPS.
Normally the zoom lens will be controlled by a toggle switch on the cameras body, rather than turning the lens as with a DSLR.back to menu ↑
Should You Buy A Bridge Camera?
If you are looking for a camera that will shoot high quality images, has exceptional optical zoom, and is easy to use/handle, then a bridge camera is a great choice.
If on the other hand, you are looking for the highest quality images possible, then you’ll probably want to go for a DSLR.
If you’re still unsure as to whether a Bridge camera is really for you then check out our Bridge vs DSLR comparison guide.