Not a Bridge, but a Stepping Stone

Bridge cameras are hybrid cameras that are designed to encourage compact camera users to move towards using a “proper” SLR

Bridge camerasMany predicted bridge cameras would be wiped out by the rise of affordable DSLRs and compact system cameras, but the combination of immense optical zoom versatility and advanced features at an affordable price means that they still have a loyal following. The best bridge cameras now offer DSLR-like levels of control and fast, wide-aperture lenses, along with raw shooting and other useful extras such as Wi-Fi and articulated screens. Image quality didn’t used to be a bridge camera forte due to widespread use of small sensors. These days, however, there are models with much larger sensors that rival the image quality of DSLRs.

Bridge cameras are often marketed towards traveling and holidaying photographers because they offer the flexibility and quality you would expect from a DSLR without all the cumbersome kit. They are often tougher and cheaper than lower end DSLRs. Bridge cameras, also tend to offer more control than an ordinary point and shoot, many will offer full manual control. So they make a great stepping stone for novices who want a little more freedom, but are daunted by a full DSLR system, or enthusiasts who still want to control the elements of picture taking without the bulk and hassle of a DSLR system. Some may just like the feel. They are certainly more substantial than compact system cameras with chunky grips and DSLR-like buttons and dials.

Of course there are some downsides to using a bridge camera. Their sensors are usually smaller than those in DSLR or CSC. The small sensors allow the huge zoom range, but the pay off can be lack of detail and poorer performance in low light. Often bridge cameras will also have a narrow maximum aperture, even at the widest point of the lens and that aperture will narrow as the zoom lengthens.

Whilst Compact System Cameras can claim to combine the best attributes of compacts and SLRs, Bridge cameras tend to look heavy and chunky like SLRs but don’t have the advantage of being able to change lenses. Consequently, they often get a poor press, being neither one thing or the other. Whilst they are simple to use, they also offer the enthusiast the opportunity to expand their knowledge and skill-set. They can often be the camera of choice for those people who want higher quality than the ordinary compact can offer, some decent functions and options, and a reliable zoom.

For more information, check out our guide to Bridge Cameras. It lists the top ten Bridge Cameras available now, giving all the details….