(and why they're still a viable choice).
A Quick Note
This website helps me support my family. Articles like this one
exist only through the support of readers like you, when you purchase
your cameras through the links on here. Much appreciated!
In This Article:
What Is a Bridge Camera
Early Bridge Cameras
Should You Get One?
Bridge Camera For Weddings
Best Make & Model
What Is A Bridge Camera?
long-time photographers got into digital when the "DSLR" was still a
massively-overpriced foray into impending obsolescence.
Back then you'd have to spend like five grand on the thing, and by the next year
the pictures would look awful compared to what was out there.
The solution many photographers chose, especially when they weren't made of
money, was to buy a bridge camera.
This was the "bridge" between a point-and-shoot and a DSLR. No interchangeable lenses, but the
"super zoom" capability was great. Unlike its point & shoot cousins, the bridge camera also
had fully-manual mode, which is important to any pro or advanced
Above: The Fuji S7000 was a major achievement in bridge cameras.
It was so good that even today, people still look for them.
The sensor is small and rather noisy, but it can still make nice pictures,
and for macro it's still my favorite.
Early Bridge Cameras
I remember the first real bridge camera, because a friend of mine
bought one. It was a Nikon Coolpix, the 5700, which had 4.9
megapixels (that was a lot for 2002!).
He thought that camera was pretty great, but for some reason I had an aversion to Nikon digital cameras of any
kind. Actually, here's why. My reasoning was that Nikon
35mm film cameras were so good that Nikon had no business making these
digital things. Seeing a hunk of computer with the name "Nikon"
on it was actually kind of off-putting. (I don't have this aversion to Nikon DSLR's, though, but I used to.)
The Coolpix 5700 was expensive, too. There was no way I was going to pay $1,100 for that.
So I looked around for a while and became convinced that the Fuji
cameras were as good if not better. Maybe that was partly because I wanted to get into
digital without that "Nikon" connotation. And so, not long after that, I
acquired my own first "bridge camera", a Finepix S602 Zoom (3.1
megapixels). Back then it wasn't cheap, but it still cost a lot
less than those new-fangled DSLR's. It was also quite a bit less
expensive than that Nikon Coolpix I mentioned.
After my 602 on its tripod fell on a rock and broke the zoom mechanism, I got
a Finepix S7000. At 6.3 megapixels, I figured this was
probably all I'd ever need (actually it turned out that wasn't too
far off... 10 MP really is about all you need for most
things. Okay, actually 12.2.) The S7000 turned out to be a great camera. I really liked the fact that it
could take a zoom barrel shroud. To this you could fit a 55mm
filter. The shroud protected the zoom lens if you were to drop
the camera inadvertently.
What's even cooler about the S7000 is that if you shoot CCD-RAW, you
get 12-megapixel images. That's pretty incredible for a camera
announced way back in '03. (The CCD-RAW images look better
to me. Maybe that's because the camera has not pre-downsampled them. In JPG
mode you get images pre-shrunk to 6 MP.)
The Finepix S602 and the classic Finepix S7000 are long-discontinued,
but the bridge camera is still around. At first it might
not seem as attractive an option now that DSLR's have come down
in price, but the bridge camera can still be a good choice in 2013 and
onward. Why? Mainly, bridge cameras have optical "ultra zoom" capability that wouldn't be
cost-effective to offer in an interchangeable-lens DSLR.
The early bridge cameras had 4x or maybe 6x optical zoom, but today
they've gone way past 20x.
The more I think about the ultra-zoom feature, the more I realize what a good deal the bridge camera is if you photograph wildlife.
To get a good 500mm telephoto for a DSLR you'd have to shell out some
serious cash, yet most bridge cameras today offer at least 500mm
equivalent, and a couple are well north of 800mm.
Another nice thing about bridge cameras-- actually, a major thing-- is
that they never need a sensor cleaning. There's no mirror mechanism to
fling oil droplets onto the sensor. No dust can get in
there. You'll never lose the lens, because it stays attached to
the camera. You can just bring the camera with you and go take
Should You Get One?
A good bridge camera is like having a whole collection of lenses, and
it's a lot less expensive... so I'd say yes, it's definitely worth
Are there any major downsides to the bridge camera? The biggest one is the small sensor.
Those who predicted the downfall of bridge cameras rightly pointed out
that DSLR's with their bigger sensors were also more profitable because
of add-on gear, and thus there was no economic reason to put
a bigger sensor into a bridge camera. However, this didn't
make the bridge camera go away as many of us expected.
What the camera companies probably figured instead is that you'll get a bridge camera,
then decide later you need a DSLR for its better low-light
However, neither camera truly makes the other one redundant. You'll still find yourself using both for different
situations. (It looks like the camera companies were pretty shrewd.)
We've seen that bridge cameras still have a couple of major advantages, and in some cases they can even stand in for a
DSLR. One more thing I like about bridge cameras is that you
don't get into "lens gluttony" as often happens to DSLR owners.
The bridge camera has one do-all lens, and that's it!
That "one lens" feature actually used to be a problem with the older bridge
cameras, but not for an obvious reason. You see, the older ones
had very poor low-light performance and no image stabilization, so you
to use a tripod for a lot of the shots.
If that tripod got knocked over while the
camera was turned on, the zoom assembly would get broken.
With an SLR you could just put on a different lens, but with a bridge camera
that was Game Over. At the very least it meant an expensive
repair before you could even use the camera again. Anyway, it's
not as likely to happen anymore, thanks to the image stabilization and
better high-ISO performance of newer bridge cameras. All the modern ones
can do well at ISO 400, not bad at 800, and they're at least passable
at 1600 (in a pinch).
Even with the rise of sub-$500 DSLR's, a bridge camera still makes a lot of
sense. You get a lot of focal length for the money, combined with a fast electronic viewfinder, reasonably good high-ISO performance (though not as good as a DSLR), and
usually a bundle of in-camera processing options.
Though I like film better
, it was a great
idea to put RAW capability in a bridge camera.
Here's a shot from 2012, made in CCD-RAW on the old Fuji
(a bridge camera introduced way back in 2003).
When I tried this same shot in JPG, it tone-banded from a little ol' saturation adjustment.
(I have a new article explaining what's so good about RAW
Bridge Camera For Weddings
There probably still exist pro wedding photographers today (2017), and they tend to use full-frame DSLR's for their work.
A bridge camera could make a good backup camera for this, especially if you got one with a 1" sensor.
Modern bridge cameras have high continuous-shooting rates, even higher than some DSLR's.
Keep in mind, as always, that a pro with a beginner camera will outperform a beginner with a pro camera.
With that said, today's bridge cameras are not beginner cameras at all; they are very powerful tools with a lot of
potential. Actually, even the older bridge cameras were aimed more at the advanced market; the average snapshot-taking
tourist doesn't want to deal with a bunch of controls (or at least that's what the camera companies have taught him). Because
of this, "auto" cameras have been popular since at least the Sixties (offhand I think it was '68. No, actually '67 or maybe even '66 with the first Electro 35.). The bridge camera may have "auto" modes, but the real reason to get one is its advanced (manual) features.
Anyway, the small sensor means image noise at high ISO, which is a
consideration, but then again the older DSLR's were kind of noisy, too.
Large prints (16x20 etc.) are easily within reach of today's bridge
cameras. Most of the other objections to pro use have been
overcome by technological advancements... except for one. The
smaller sensor means less bokeh
or background blurring. (Technically, bokeh is not the blurring
itself, but the "quality" of the blurring. I know this, yet I don't care. I call it "bokeh".)
This is one area where I'd solidly choose a DSLR (actually, I choose a film camera, but whatever). However,
every pro should have a backup, and as long as you're good with switching back and forth between two different sets of controls, then
the bridge camera can be a great backup for pro shoots.
Best Make & Model
This section is mostly historical for 2013-2015; some of the models listed here are not current production. (For something a bit more recent, try this article and this review.)
However, there isn't a whole lot that's changed in bridge cameras. That's because of hard limits imposed by physics, not technology. The resolution to be had from a 1/2.3" sensor actually maxed out around 2012, but there have been slight improvements in image processing, and of course features and usability.
I didn't put these in alphabetical order. Rather, they're in increasing order of
preference (but they're close, so consider it random if you want).
Nikon - the Coolpix P510 has no flash hotshoe.
Neither does the P500. Neither does the L810. Do you see a
pattern here? Too bad, because the P510 has the second most-powerful
optical zoom (42x), for a 35mm focal length equivalent of 1000mm.
If you're stuck on Nikon, get an entry-level Nikon DSLR instead of the
Coolpix. I think Nikon probably prefers it that way, because then
they can get you hooked on Nikon DSLR lenses. Canon's strategy
was smarter: you buy the SX50 which can take a Canon Speedlite,
then you later buy a Canon DSLR (which takes the same Speedlite), and
then you get hooked on Canon DSLR lenses. Canon
wins. (The thing is, after buying a good bridge camera, you may well find that you never need a DSLR.)
If you're big on bridge cameras but not Nikon in particular, then get a
Canon SX50 (see below, under "Canon", for more details).
I think either choice (a Nikon DSLR or a Canon SX50) would be better than
the Coolpix P510, depending on what you want to do with it.
That's just my opinion, and there are a lot of happy Nikon bridge
camera owners out there. UPDATE: reader Stewart B. from the UK reminds me that the Nikon
does have panoramic mode built-in, while the Canon requires you to
stitch the pictures together later. If landscapes and travel are your
primary reason for getting a bridge camera, this could swing the
decision toward the Nikon.
OK, let's be fair to Nikon. The P510 does have a custom user mode
("U" on the dial, just like the pro Nikon DSLR's.) And it could
be argued that the pop-up flash is enough for most uses, especially if
you hold a piece of white paper in front of it to diffuse it a
bit. Still, bounce flash opens up a whole new world of lighting
No flash hotshoe, so it's a no-go for me. I'm disappointed in Nikon for this, but they'd
rather have you buy their DSLR's and get hooked on expensive lenses...
anyway, I'd better mention the fact that the Nikon does have built-in
panoramic mode. Consider your primary uses for this camera,
and maybe that feature would be critical for you. (See also the
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 & FZ200, below).
I might add that the Coolpix P510 bridge camera does cost quite a bit less than the Nikon D3200 with kit lens.
makes the X-5, and the reason I didn't even mention it originally is
that I was not too thrilled by the fact that it has only two aperture
settings, and also because it lacks a flash hotshoe. I also don't
like the idea of "digital" image stabilization that they use on this
camera (actually, it's sensor shift augmented by some cheap digital
trickery; see below). Mainly it's the two aperture
settings, and the lack of hotshoe, for me at least.
(Just so you know, when a camera does something digitally, chances are
it's because they're being cheap. All the "digital shake
reduction" does is turn up the shutter speed by boosting the ISO
setting: a very cheesy way to do it. You could do that
manually on any camera. Talk about marketing-speak!
It really says "We didn't want to invest in a really good mechanical
shake reduction system." But... they at least have some on this
camera. It's a "hybrid".)
I decided to add this camera into the list of possibilities, though,
because a reader recently asked about it. The Pentax X-5 for the
money (currently well under $200) is certainly a passable choice if you don't care about pro
features. (All-black version available here; get the silver and black model here) To be sure, it will yield better pictures than the bridge cameras of just a few years ago (the X-5 is from 2012). It
also has that "DSLR" feel in your hand, and for about 200 bucks, that's
less than half the price of an entry level DSLR. I don't want to
down this camera, because it could be all you need for what you're
doing. This goes back to what any experienced photographer will
tell you: it's more a matter of operator skill than what kind of
camera you have. You could buy a Pentax X-5 and find it's
your favorite camera of the decade. Nothing wrong with that at
all (it's not my favorite camera, though).
Once you're looking in this price range, you might be tempted to get
the even cheaper Fuji S4500. If you're going to make it a contest
between these two cameras, I'd actually go for the X-5. The
Pentax has 1080p video resolution, whereas the S4500 is only 720.
Sony makes the 18.2-megapixel DSC-HX200V,
which has a "background blur" feature to simulate the bokeh that you'd
get from a real DSLR. When a superzoom is within the wide-angle
to short telephoto range, background blurring is normally
hard to achieve because of the small sensor... unless, of course, you
zoom in to a much longer focal length. Even there, bridge cameras
don't offer much bokeh, so a background-blur feature is highly significant.
The DSC-HX200V has no flash hotshoe. This would take it out of
the running for me, but maybe not for you. (By the way, don't use
older flash units on any digital camera unless you use a Wein Safe Sync. Otherwise you'll burn out the digital camera's flash circuitry!)
Sony now has the DSC-HX300/B (here),
which offers 50x optical zoom to compete with the Canon SX50. If
it weren't for the lack of flash hotshoe, the HX300 would be my favorite
choice. It has better autofocus than the HX200, and easier manual
focus as well. It allows for background blurring ("Background
Defocus", available through the SCN setting on the dial). It also
has a mode called "Intelligent Sweep Panorama", which allows you to create panoramic
shots by panning the camera. The HX300 also has a top shutter
speed of 1/4000th, compared to the Canon SX50's 1/1600th.
Even more recently they introduced the HX400V/B (here) with 70x optical zoom and a flash hotshoe.
Resolution has been increased to 20.2 megapixels. At high
ISO it's a bit worse-looking due to smearing and
artifacts. Remarkably, though, the HS400 has noticeably sharper,
more detailed JPG's at ISO 80 than the HX300.... or even the Canon
SX50. This is mostly because of image processing. If you really pay attention, there's not actually more detail or image quality. But on first glance, it sure looks that way.
Since these companies are all working with the same basic 1/2.3" CMOS sensor, it's almost a zero-sum game. Canon, Sony, and Panasonic (and maybe Nikon) have pretty much hit the ceiling as far as the detail information that can be recorded with these sensors; but each one has their own processing methods, and you may like certain ones better.
I'd still get the SX50, partly because of its RAW image
capability. But you can't really go wrong with a Sony HX400, even if 20MP is a bit much for a small-sensor camera.
The Sony HX series has just about everything else right: optical image
stabilization; manual focus; slowest shutter speed 30 seconds; etc.,
etc. In fact the optical image stabilization on the Sony
is really good, maybe better than on any of the other bridge
cameras. The HX200, 300, and 400 have built-in panorama sweep
modes, competing with the Nikon and Panasonic offerings.
Sony Summary: For a traditional "small sensor" bridge camera, the Sony HX400 is actually quite good.
If you use the lowest ISO setting, its image quality is arguably better
than most other bridge cameras. And here are some
- Flash hotshoe
- RAW mode
- Wi-Fi & GPS
- You can download camera apps for it too
- Better image quality than the HX300 at lowest ISO
- Better image quality than most other bridge cameras at lowest ISO
Once again, lack of a hotshoe on the HX200 and 300 tells me to skip those; go for the HX400 instead. On the plus
side, the background blurring feature can be pretty handy for
simulating the "bokeh" you'd get with a DSLR. If you're all about
outdoor-daylight photos of people, this could be the camera for you.
Update: if you want one of the best bridge cameras made today in terms of image quality, consider the Sony RX10 III or the Panasonic FZ1000 (here's my 2018 review of this camera). They're not cheap, but these cameras have a sensor that's about four times the size of what's in nearly every other bridge camera. That means the RX10 and FZ1000 have much
better low-light performance, and the images are not as crunchy looking.
Just know that because of its larger sensor, they don't zoom as far. Then again, they're quite a bit better than the 5x to 6x
optical zoom that early bridge cameras had.
Panasonic has the Lumix DMC-FZ150 and the DMC-FZ200. Here are some of its features:
- f/2.8 to 5.2 lens (FZ150) or f/2.8 across entire range (FZ200)
- 12 megapixels
- 24x optical zoom (equiv. to 600mm on a 35mm camera)
- Flash hotshoe
- Very low shutter lag (about 0.1 second)
- Fast continuous-shooting mode
- 1080p HD video
- RAW mode
The fast response could make it one of the better bridge-camera choices for
weddings, events, and action sports if you don't want to get into a DSLR with
all its various and expensive add-on lenses. You can pick up the
DMC-FZ150 through this link.
High ISO performance on this model is not so great, but you can always get a
flash for it. For the DMC-FZ150, Vivitar makes a 4-AA bounce flash unit (available through this link).
Consider also that the ISO 800 performance on the DMZ-FZ150 is still
better than the ISO 200 performance on my old Fuji S7000.
The Panasonic is quite usable at 800, and even 1600 isn't that bad.
The Panasonic also offers optical image stabilization.
The newer DMC-FZ200 (available here)
has a couple improvements. The most significant one is that is
can do f/2.8 no matter how much you have it zoomed in. This is a big
deal, and not something you can do with a DSLR lens (at least none that
I know of in the affordable range... you'd have to spend big bucks and
get something like the Canon 70-200 f/2.8L). Medium- and long
zoom-telephoto lenses with f/2.8 get expensive when you buy them for a DSLR.
Another cool thing about
the FZ200 is that the camera will put panoramas together for you from
multiple shots. This normally requires special computer software
and some operator skill.
New: I finally got around to posting a full review of the FZ200. Read it here.
Once we consider the external flash units from Panasonic (the DMW-FL360, etc), this is where I'd consider a different make of bridge camera (mainly the Canon).
A great camera with a so-so flash unit is frustrating at weddings and other events (ask
me how I know). Slow recharge times, low power, non-availability of certain
modes, etc.: these are things that could equal missed shots or
poor results. I would go for the Canon bridge camera because it
works with Canon Speedlites (see "Canon", below). Meanwhile the
Panasonic flash units are expensive, and they really don't have the
performance. That's too bad, because in every other
respect, the Panasonic bridge cameras have the right features for
wedding & event photography.
As a workaround, you might consider this flash
from Metz. It's fairly powerful, has fast recycle time, and it
swivels. If I were going to buy the FZ200 and use it
semi-seriously, I would definitely get that flash unit for it.
Update: Panasonic now has the DMC-FZ1000 (review here; available here), which has a 1" sensor like the Sony RX10. Again, we're looking at
about four times the sensor area of your typical bridge camera.
Image quality is superb. The FZ1000 has 4K video and 16x zoom
with an f/2.8 to f/4 lens.
The FZ200 could be a good choice for event photography, but I would
seek the aftermarket flash unit if you want to get the most out of it.
Meanwhile, the new FZ1000 is Panasonic's entry into the
large-sensor bridge camera market, competing with the Sony RX10.
The Panasonic's better zoom (16x) makes it a better choice if you
want the all-around, "does almost everything" camera. Like the
RX10, it's not cheap, but it has the performance. A one-inch
sensor is not as good as APS-C (which you'll find in many DSLR's), but
it's definitely better than the 1/2.3" sensors that are in other bridge
Fuji was the brand I wanted to like most in bridge cameras, and as far as I'm concerned it's still a top contender.
Just a heads-up, though: for advanced work, you might want to avoid the
Fuji SL300 (etc) and the Finepix S4500 (etc). These two series have no manual focus.
That really counts against them for any kind of pro or serious enthusiast-type use (although it
might not matter so much to the casual user).
If you're even thinking of pro or serious amateur use and want to use a
Fuji, stick with the HS-EXR series. These are the HS20EXR,
HS25EXR, and HS30EXR. They offer manual zoom (unusual!) and actually
look a lot like a DSLR.
The HS25EXR (used to be available through this link or this one),
is less money than a real DSLR. It's also a lot less than we had to pay for the early Fuji bridge cameras
($800...). The HS25EXR takes AA batteries,
which I see as a benefit because you can carry some Sanyo Eneloop rechargeables with
you. This is great for hiking where you can't get to a charger. The HS20/25 EXR's also have RAW capture mode, like the old S7000.
Then there's the HS30EXR (was available here).
It has RAW shooting mode, and it also has a much better electronic viewfinder than the
20 or 25EXR. However, the HS30EXR also has a lithium battery
instead of AA's. I actually see that as slightly counting against it, but
you might not. The improvements from the HS20/25 EXR to the HS30
aren't really that huge anyway.
Early in 2013, Fuji introduced the 16-megapixel HS35EXR
(available through this link) which currently sells for substantially less than
the HS30. The 35 has a slightly bigger sensor (1/2 inch) but pretty much everything
else is the same, except a lower burst-frame rate. I think I
would probably go for the HS35 if the choice came down to these two.
Introduced at the same time was the HS50EXR (available here).
It sports 42x optical zoom (the 35EXR has only 30x), a 16MP sensor, and
of course a flash hot shoe. Like the 35EXR it has a 1/2" EXR CMOS
sensor, and like the 35EXR it also has RAW mode.
All these HS-EXR models are compatible with Fuji's external TTL flash units, the
EF-20 and EF-42. The EF-20 flash is typically just over $100;
the EF-42 goes for roughly twice that. I'd get the EF-42 because it can do bounce flash. (Get yours here).
Fuji, the makers of Velvia, offers "Velvia" simulation modes on these
cameras. At first I thought that was pretty cool, but the more I
look at these and compare with real Velvia, the more I realize how much they can't
compare. Fuji still has a long way to go. A bridge-camera macro-capture of actual Velvia slides still looks way better than a "Velvia-mode" digital shot taken with one of these
cameras. In color photography, subtleties are everything, and the
digital camera companies still don't have it. If anyone will get
it perfectly right, it's probably going to be Fuji, but it's a long way
off. The real thing has some hard-to-quantify "X factor". (Check out some of my
film vs. digital articles, such as this one or this one.)
There are two things I dislike about the newer Fuji bridge cameras. One is the image
stabilization, which is not optical but sensor-based.
Sensor-shift stabilization seems a poorer choice for a camera that
never has to change lenses. (On a DSLR it could actually be a
good thing.) The thing is, this is not a show-stopper. It's
tolerable. My old Finepix S7000 had no image stabilization at
all! The limitations of sensor-shift really start to become a
problem at longer zoom settings. (If you're using a tripod for
the maximum superzoom setting, you're supposed to turn off image
stabilization anyway, so...)
The other thing I slightly dislike is their choice of RAW format. It's a
proprietary file type (.RAF) that requires special software. The
free program S7Raw can open it, but on my system that won't run.
Another program, "rawtherapee", can handle the older .RAF files, but I
don't know if it will open the ones from the newer Fujis. (That's
because the older "RAF" files were actually CCD-RAW, but I don't think
the newer ones are. Will update when I get the chance to try
it.) Why camera companies insist on such odd file types, I have
no idea. (Yet another reason I prefer film). Anyway, you could
always shoot JPG instead and take the slight quality loss, but once you
discover the usefulness of RAW, it's hard to do without that.
As long as you can get S7Raw to run on your system, you'll have access
to RAW anyway.
One more downside I can think of. Like the SX50 (see
below), the HS30EXR has a rather annoying shutter-speed-limit
that prevents you from using higher ISO in combination with long
shutter times. In other words, it's no good for those award-winning Milky
Way shots you might have been planning. Then again, small sensors
get very noisy very quickly, so those ten-second shots are better left to a DSLR anyway.
And by the way, it's not the highest ISO that's best for this application, but 400 or
Fuji Summary: In their time, the HS35 and HS50 EXR's were strong contenders. The HS35EXR had only 60% of the zoom capability
of the SX50, but it also cost quite a bit less. The HS50EXR was
closer to the Canon in zoom capability (42X), but obviously it cost more than the
35EXR. The Canon SX50 was and still is the best of the bunch. (If panoramas are your thing,
the Fuji can do 360-degree panorama stitching in-camera, so consider
Summary: The HS50EXR is a great choice overall.
makes the SX40 HS and SX50 HS, and you might already know that I'm partial to Canon
digital cameras because of their nice color rendition.
The SX40 has no RAW mode (although there's a firmware hack called CHDK which can add
that feature if you want - may void warranty). The better SX50 supports RAW image capture, so that's what I'd get.
Here are a few other points of interest for the Canon SX50:
- In-camera effects including HDR, "tilt shift" and "toy camera"
- Better high-ISO performance than the SX150/SX160 or G12/G15 compact cameras.
- 1080px HD video
- optional "square format" composition
- Incredible 50x optical zoom! That's like a 1200mm lens on a 35mm camera!
(The SX40 has 35x optical zoom.)
You might still be able to get the older SX40 on Amazon, but like I said, I'd skip the SX40 and get the SX50 instead.
From time to time, the SX50 goes on sale. Its list price has been
lowered to $429 (as of May 2014), and you can usually get it even
cheaper than that on Amazon.
(Worth getting; I have an in-depth review of the SX50 here. See also my 2014 bridge camera comparison page.)
It might seem a tough choice whether to go for one of these bridge cameras, or whether to go for
something like the EOS Rebel T3 DSLR (review here).
That's because the DSLR has much better high-ISO performance.
They're both in the same price range. Thing is, the Canon bridge
cameras in particular offer unheard-of zoom capability.
Remember: to get anywhere near the versatility of a bridge
camera, you'd spend a mint on lenses for your DSLR. You'd also
need 3 camera bags to tote them all around. (You could always
pick up an Opteka for your DSLR, but look at the thing. That's not fitting in your mini camera bag!).
Bridge camera or DSLR? How about this. I know that some
well-heeled photographers will scoff at this, but I'm of the firm
opinion that operator skill is more important than how much your camera
costs. Here's what I'd do, to cover 99.9% the digital shots I'll
ever need to take: get an SX50 and a Canon Rebel T3 or perhaps a T3i.
Total cost: as low as $730 to $850... and you'll have two cameras
and still be in it for less than most photographers pay for one
DSLR. Then, save your money up later and get an L-series lens for
still can't believe how powerful the optical zoom is on the SX50.
Birders love this camera because you can zoom in on a bird way off in a
distant tree and actually get a frame-filling closeup. The SX50
is also great for photographing larger animals where you wouldn't want
to get trampled by being too close.
For event photography with the SX50, consider a bounce flash. If you
can budget it, skip the two entry-level flash models and go with the 430 EXII at least. It
may seem pricey if you're used to $40-$50 flash units, but it has the
power and it can interact fully with the camera's menus. Get your 430 EXII through this link.
The nice thing is that if you do eventually go for a Canon DSLR, this flash will
work with it. If you think you'll need to trigger off-camera flashes with TTL, save up and get the 600 EX-RT or a used 580EX II.
I would also get the Lensmate 58mm filter adapter (available through their website). Or, get the slightly lower-cost Goja 58mm adapter
that comes bundled with a UV filter.
Just take note that the SX50, like many other bridge cameras today,
does not take AA batteries. Also, unlike the Nikon P510 and the
Lumix DMC-FZ, the Canon also lacks built-in panorama stitching.
Just something to consider here. (By the way, some of these kinds
of features can be introduced later with firmware upgrades. Not
that they will, but I'm just sayin'.)
Another thing some might dislike is that at slow shutter speeds (one second or longer), the camera cannot
utilize any of the higher ISO settings. You're stuck at the lowest ISO here (couldn't
they at least have done 400?). Canon engineers probably
figured that one second and longer is strictly tripod territory anyway. The
superzooms in general will noise up at high ISO; all the more
with long exposure times. However, the one place where high(ish) ISO
is absolutely necessary while using a tripod is when you're
photographing the night sky. Low ISO means much longer shutter
times, which will give streaks or star trails. If you want those
nice, National Geographic-type
shots of the Milky Way where the stars are points of light, this camera
isn't going to do it. (If towns and cities don't start mitigating
their light pollution, you're not going to be able to see the Milky Way
anyhow...) Aside from that, the SX50 is a winner.
Canon also makes the cheaper SX510. Here's why I much prefer the SX50.
I really like bridge cameras, and I know I'm not the only one.
If I had to choose one right now, it would be the Canon SX50 without a
doubt. I now have a full review of the SX50, and here's a gallery. (Please purchase your SX50 directly through this link and help keep my website on-line. Thanks!)
Now that the Fuji HS50EXR seems to be discontinued, my second choice in a bridge camera is the Panasonic FZ200; review here.
As long as you know what features you require and choose accordingly, you could do well with almost any of
the bridge camera models available today.
For any pro or advanced amateur, there are certain features that are really important. Here's what I look for:
- Manual and Aperture-Priority modes
- Manual Focus
- Flash Hot Shoe
- Reasonably low shutter lag (0.3 second or better)
- RAW mode (actually, I might even call this a must-have, because I do a lot of landscapes.)
- Continuous Shooting Mode (7 fps or better)
- 30x or better Optical Zoom
Initially, these criteria steered me toward the Canon, and they still
do. But now, what about the newer offerings from Sony et al?
When I first wrote this article, Sony's top superzoom was 30x.
Then the HX300/B offered 50x to compete with the Canon. The
HX300 has no flash hotshoe, but the brand-new HX400/B
does. The HX400 also has 70x zoom. As I said, the HX400 is
a great choice, except that it lacks RAW capture mode.
For more info in a comparison form, see also my new article here.
I've also mentioned the newer 1"-sensor bridge cameras. In terms of image quality, the Sony RX10
and Panasonic FZ1000 are going to surpass any of the other choices,
simply because of their bigger sensors. Worth it? Well,
sure, if you want a does-it-all camera that never has to change lenses.
(Get your RX10 via this link, or your FZ1000 through this one, and help keep my website going.)
Just know that they don't zoom as far as their smaller-sensor counterparts.
Bridge cameras today are in the same price range as entry- or mid-level DSLR's, but the extra-long focal
lengths and other features allow the bridge camera to stand on its
own. Bridge cameras have evolved into their own permanent
In terms of price vs. quality, I'd still get the Canon SX50 and
feel confident that it's the best overall for the money. The Panasonic FZ200 is another great choice, and the Sony HX400 would be my third pick.
The Sony RX10 and
Panasonic FZ1000 beat everything at all ISO, but they're more expensive and also lack the zoom reach.
This concludes our look at bridge cameras. Thanks for reading,
and I hope you've enjoyed this article or found it helpful. You
can really help me out if you use the links to buy your camera gear or
just about anything else you can think of.
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