Digital Bridge Camera Buying Guide

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Digital Bridge Camera Buying Guide

Bridge cameras bridge the divide between compact digital cameras and digital single lens reflex cameras, also known as digital SLRs or DSLRs. They are an excellent compromise for those wanting more manual control and versatility than a compact allows, but do not want or need the interchangeable lenses offered by a more expensive DSLR.

About Digital Bridge Cameras

Like compact digital cameras, and unlike DSLRs, bridge cameras have a fixed integrated lens. This has advantages and disadvantages. The main disadvantage is a loss of quality as bridge cameras cannot typically produce the high-quality shots obtainable with a dedicated long telephoto lens or other specialist lens. However, this also makes bridge cameras extremely convenient, especially while on the move or when portability is a key consideration. The sensor is also protected from dust and debris, unlike in DSLRs, where the sensor is exposed when changing lenses. Moreover, many bridge cameras have an excellent focal range, which does give them a large amount of versatility when it comes to different styles of photography. The zoom lens on cheaper bridge cameras is around 4x to 6x, while more expensive models may have a zoom of 20x. This is more powerful than found on most compacts and allows bridge cameras to be used for a variety of shots, from wide angle through to telephoto photography.
The image sensor on a bridge camera is usually larger than that of a compact camera but smaller than that of a DSLR. This means that the amount of detail captured is more than for a compact but less than for a DSLR. This is an especially important consideration when shooting at night or in other low light conditions. Bridge cameras often have a viewfinder, a feature not typically found in compact cameras. However, the viewfinder is not in line with the lens as in a DSLR so is not quite as accurate.
The size of bridge cameras varies, from those that resemble a compact camera to larger, bulkier models. Somewhat confusingly, some bridge cameras are known as compact bridge cameras. This simply means that they are more compact than standard bridge cameras, with a slim body shape more like that of standard compact cameras. Bridge cameras offer both automatic and manual controls, giving the convenience of compact cameras and the ability to control many settings manually as found in a DSLR.

Choosing a Digital Bridge Camera

When choosing a digital bridge camera, considerations involve the type of camera most appropriate and the various features offered by each.

Types of Bridge Camera

Besides standard bridge cameras, there are also models known as superzoom bridge cameras and compact bridge cameras.

Superzoom Bridge Cameras

Superzoom bridge cameras have more of the versatility and functionality offered by DSLRs, with excellent manual control capabilities and a powerful zoom lens that rivals that of a kit lens DSLR. The zoom may be up to 50x, which is far higher than that of a typical bridge camera. On some cameras, this zoom capability gives a range that extends from around 24 mm to 1200 mm. 24 mm is a wide angle focal length, almost an ultra-wide angle focal length, and 1200 mm is a very long telephoto focal length. However, superzoom bridge cameras are also bulkier than standard or compact bridge cameras. They typically have electronic viewfinders as opposed to optical viewfinders found on a DSLR, and another disadvantage with regards to both DSLRs and standard bridge cameras is their typically smaller image sensors. Superzoom bridge cameras can be surprisingly inexpensive, and are certainly not always more expensive than a compact bridge camera.

Compact Bridge Camera

Compact bridge cameras have almost the convenience and portability of a compact digital camera. They can potentially be carried in a pocket, though they tend to be a little larger than standard compact cameras. They also have the automatic controls of a compact as well as manual controls, though the manual controls are not usually as extensive as those on a DSLR. Image sensors are usually larger than those of both compacts and superzoom bridge cameras. Disadvantages include the lack of a viewfinder, having just an LCD screen, and the controls can be trickier to negotiate due to the smaller user interface.

Features of Bridge Cameras

Features to consider on a digital bridge camera include the zoom lens, resolution, manual controls, ISO range, viewfinder, image stabilisation, and size and weight.

Zoom lens

There is enormous variation when it comes to the optical zoom range of digital bridge cameras, so this is one of the first features to check out. Zoom range will affect the kind of shots possible with the camera, with cameras offering large zoom ranges able to handle a variety of shots from wide angle to telephoto. Zoom range can vary from around 4x all the way up to 50x, which is more than enough zoom to capture superb wildlife and sports images.



Resolution determines how greatly the image can be enlarged. Most bridge cameras offer more megapixels than compact cameras. Look out for a resolution around 16MP if images are to be enlarged to A4 size.


Manual controls

Bridge cameras offer far more in the way of manual controls than compact cameras, most offering an excellent balance between automatic and manual control capabilities. Shutter speed, aperture size, and ISO speed can all be adjusted as required.


ISO range

The ISO range of bridge cameras varies, so it is worth checking out, especially if the camera is to be used frequently in low light conditions. This is because ISO measures how much light can reach the image sensor, and therefore how detailed an image can be in dim light. A high ISO setting can negate the need for a flash and produce more balanced shots.



Not all bridge cameras, especially compact bridge cameras, have viewfinders. Superzooms have electronic viewfinders giving the same image as that found on an LCD screen. These can lack resolution, offering grainy images.


Image stabilisation

Because bridge cameras have a large zoom lens with the capacity for long telephoto focal lengths, image stabilisation is built into most bridge cameras. It can be worth reviewing individual models if this is an important feature.


Size and weight

Bridge cameras vary in their size and weight. Compact bridge cameras are a good choice for those wanting the portability of a compact digital camera. Other bridge cameras resemble a DSLR in body shape, though they are typically smaller and more lightweight.



Bridge digital cameras are digital cameras with some of features of compact digital cameras and some of the features of DSLRs. Like compacts, they have a fixed integrated lens. Like DSLRs, they have more options for manual controls. There are also specific types of bridge cameras, known as superzoom bridge cameras, which have extra powerful zooms to give them the capability of shooting focal lengths from wide angle to long telephoto. Compact bridge cameras have more of the shape and features of a standard compact digital camera. The range of options means there are bridge cameras to suit everyone from beginner to semi-professional. Important advantages of bridge cameras over compact digital cameras include typically larger image sensors and extended capacity for manual control. Larger sensors allow more light to be captured and result in better quality images, particularly in low light. ISO speed is also an indication of performance in low light conditions. Other features to consider on a bridge camera include its resolution, with 16MP generally sufficient for A4 prints, and image stabilisation. Image stabilisation is especially important for long telephoto shots. Finding the right bridge camera involves consideration of the various features as well as optical quality and budget. Many photographers find bridge cameras an excellent compromise between compact digital cameras and DSLRs.

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