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Choosing the Best Bridge Camera for Your Needs

If you wish to have a camera that has superzoom features (like the DSLRs) along with manual shooting options (like the point-and-shoot ones), then buying a bridge camera would be the best option. We, at Buzzle, give you some tips to choose the right bridge camera.
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Best bridge camera
Did You Know?
Sony Cyber-shot HX300, Fujifilm FinePix S9400W and S9200, and Canon PowerShot SX50 HS, among others, are bridge cameras with 50x optical zoom.

Bridge cameras fill the gap between single-lens reflex cameras and point-and-shoot cameras. These cameras look exactly like your DSLRs, but when you take a closer look at the lens, you will immediately spot the difference. A bridge camera doesn't have a removable lens, while the DSLR does. Also, the viewfinder (if present) will be electronic in bridge camera, and not optical like the DSLR.

These cameras are equipped to give you super zooming options and wide-angle lens shots, but with manual setting features. Depending on their weight, maximum zoom, and lens angle, bridge cameras are classified into two categories, namely superzoom bridge camera and high-end compact bridge camera. The important features of both these cameras are mentioned below. Depending on your needs, you can choose the right one.

Superzoom Bridge Camera

Weight 500 - 800 g
Resolution 10 - 18 MP
Wide-angle lens 23 - 28 mm
Max. Zoom 18 - 50x optical zoom
USP Close-up shots can be easily clicked

These bridge cameras are best suited for clicking landscape as well as close-up shots. Their zoom ranges exceed even 50x range, and the built-in lenses have a broad focal range. The high resolutions that these cameras offer can challenge any DSLR in the market. The typical resolution range of these cameras is 10 - 18 MP, which allows you to take prints (A3 and above) of the clicked photos.

High-end Compact Bridge Camera

Weight 200 - 500 g
Resolution 10 - 12 MP
Wide-angle lens 24 - 35 mm
Max. Zoom up to 7x optical zoom
USP Improved picture quality, compact size

These cameras are extremely compact in size and will easily fit into your pocket. The wide-angle capabilities of these cameras are good enough for macro photography. Their sensor sizes are bigger than the superzoom ones, thus, ensuring good-quality images. Generally, these cameras have an optical viewfinder, so you exactly know where your lens is pointing. Thus, you don't have to rely on LCD screens for the same.

Let us now see the important features of bridge cameras in detail.

Lenses

As mentioned earlier, you cannot change the lenses in a bridge camera. However, due to the zooming capabilities of this device, there is no need to look out for additional lenses. These cameras are equipped with wide-angle lenses, like 24 mm or 28 mm. Upon zooming the lens to the maximum limit, it extends to almost 1200 mm! It will be hard to find such a powerful lens with a modest price tag for DSLRs. These cameras offer focal lengths equivalent to 500 mm and 1000 mm.

Viewfinder

The superzoom bridge cameras lack the optical viewfinder; hence, users have to shoot with the help of the LCD screen or the electronic viewfinder (EVF). However, in most compact bridge cameras, the EVF feature is not present. So, you will have to rely on the LCD screen (use optical viewfinder, if available) to find out the exact position of the camera lens. Based on the image preview seen on the screen, users have to click the photograph. In DSLRs, a prism and mirror arrangement is used so as to provide the optical viewfinder option. Hence, when you look through the lens, you can see the exact area that will be captured when you click the photo.

However, the resolution of EVF is not as great as the optical viewfinder, and there is a time lag introduced while clicking pictures using superzoom cameras. The image can also be distorted when you make a sweeping movement quickly.

Sensor Size

The sensor size in bridge cameras is approximately the same as the one used in compact cameras. This means, it is much smaller than the SLR ones, and this explains the difference in image quality. The quality of images clicked using the bridge cameras is similar to point-and-shoot images. A typical bridge camera will have the sensor size as 15 mm diagonal or less. Thus, if you take A3 prints of your bridge camera pics, it is likely that the distortion will be clearly observed.

Size and Weight

The biggest advantage of bridge cameras is its size. Though the camera capabilities are similar to DSLRs, the former is much smaller in size and even light in weight. In most cheap bridge cameras, the camera body is made up of plastic, which further reduces its weight, but makes it less robust.

Manual Controls

The typical features on offer in a bridge camera are similar to that offered by entry-level DSLRs. Mode dial and direct buttons are available for selecting options like ISO, white balancing, shooting modes, aperture priority, etc. Most of these cameras capture pictures in the RAW format, which means that you can easily edit them by using any photo-edit software. As far as video recording is concerned, only a few of these cameras have an external mic input to record audio. However, given the advancements in technology, the latest bridge cameras have Wi-Fi, GPS, and geotagging options on offer. These cameras do offer a combination of manual controls and automatic modes. The face detection feature, which is available in many DSLRs, is an inbuilt feature in bridge cameras as well.

Accessories

You can attach external flash units and electronic viewfinders (in case they are absent) to the hot shoe that is present in many bridge cameras. Some of these cameras have a bayonet fitting for lens, which can be used to fit accessories like filters, close-up lenses, etc. Some models do have provision for the addition of remote shutter release.

Image Stabilization

Due to the compactness of point-and-shoot cameras, it becomes difficult to keep the camera steady while shooting pictures. Thus, bridge cameras are equipped with optical or sensor-shift stabilization techniques to reducing blurring.

Our Suggestion

If you are looking for a camera that offers high zoom capabilities, an electronic viewfinder, a medium price tag, and if you are not worried about the weight of the device, buy a superzoom bridge camera.

Buy a high-end compact bridge camera if you are looking for a lightweight device, with few auto functions, improved image quality, and limited zoom capabilities.

So, if you are a novice photograper, it is advised to buy bridge cameras instead of the heavily priced DSLRs. With some of the models offering face detection, Wi-Fi connectivity, and geotagging features, you are in for a great experience with bridge cameras.
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Published: March 14, 2014
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