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Best Bridge Cameras 2013: Top 10 Ultra Zoom Bridge Cameras

If you want to travel light, but still want a sizeable lens range and plenty of versatility, a bridge camera could be right up your street.

On paper, bridge cameras are heaven sent. They offer all the features of a digital SLR (or a CSC for that matter), a vastly superior lens range and a lower price point – what’s not to like? But, of course, it isn’t quite that simple. Bridge cameras are designed to offer a stepping stone between a compact camera and a digital SLR and, as such, represent a degree of compromise with a foot firmly planted in both camps.

What is the good news?

Bridge cameras are all about offering photographers brilliant value for money. Compare the typical specification of a bridge camera and it will offer most of the metering modes, exposure overrides and picture capturing cleverness that you’ll find on a digital SLR. But you’ll also get a whopping zoom range that will enable you to capture everything from sweeping landscapes to timid wildlife. The same lens range on a DSLR or CSC would cost hundreds, and possibly thousands, of pounds.

That zoom lens can’t be changed, which is good news as it means you’re less likely to get dust creeping on to the sensor and spoiling your pictures. And don’t think that the lack of lens changing means less versatility.

Most bridge cameras will focus down to a few centimeters for frame-filling close-up shots and accept filters and converters to give you even more picture-taking options. Double-check this before you buy as some models may need adapters to attach these accessories.

In use, there’s something very liberating about having one camera that does everything. No difficult decisions about what to leave at home or take with you, bridge cameras allow you to simply concentrate on the picture taking.

And because they’re grown-up versions of compacts, pictures are typically composed on the rear LCD, which gives you a ‘live view’ of the scene, including showing the effect of any exposure alterations you might make.

What is the bad news?

Bridge cameras do have their limits and they’re mainly on a design level. Unlike a digital SLR, bridge cameras don’t feature internal mirrors so the viewfinder on a bridge is electronic, not optical; it’s a bit like looking at a tiny television when composing your images.

Electronic viewfinders (EVFs) have greatly improved of late, but they still have a ‘refresh’ rate, which makes them harder to track fast moving action with compared to a conventional optica viewfinder on a DSLR.

In order to get that zoom range into a relatively small camera, bridge models also employ smaller image sensors. They’re typically the same sized sensor as you’ll find in a compact camera, so ultimate image quality isn’t as high as a DSLR or CSC.

The zoom lenses are also optically very complex so a certain degree of processing is needed to be applied by the camera in order to reduce optical imperfections. Again, this may adversely affect image quality.

 

Finally, while there are plenty of overrides on a bridge camera, they aren’t as versatile as a DSLR or CSC. Not all bridge cameras have a Raw format, for example, plus the exposure modes may offer less control. Take aperture-priority (A or Av). On a DSLR, this mode will give a full range of apertures to choose from allowing you to tightly control what is and isn’t sharp in a picture (depth-of-field).

On a bridge camera, however, the range of aperture settings may be limited to just two or three. Plus, with the smaller sensor, it’s far harder to get results where the subject is sharp and the background is nicely blurred.

Design

Bridge cameras are chunky and comfortable to use. They’re a step up in bulk over a compact camera, but are easier to use as a result.

Lens

The real selling point of a bridge camera. The built-in zoom will enable you to tackle a huge variety of subjects, including close-ups. Higher priced models offer a range large enough to capture wildlife, too!

Viewfinder

Bridge cameras feature electronic viewfinders, which aren’t as bright as those in digital SLRs and make it harder to track fast moving subjects.

Features

There are typically plenty of features to get your teeth stuck into, but some can be a little limited compared to a digital SLR or a CSC. Check what’s on offer before you buy.

Compare the typical specification of a bridge camera and it will offer most of the picture- taking cleverness you’ll find on a digital SLR.

Top 10 Ultra Zoom Bridge Cameras

Olympus SP-810 UZ

One for the more price-conscious, the SP-810UZ offers a substantial saving over the other models here. Despite its price tag, however, it still has an impressive range of features including a wide ranging 36x optical zoom lens, 16 scene modes where the camera tailors settings to specific subjects and Magic Filters to add creative effects.

It does lack DSLR- style exposure modes, though, and there’s no Raw file option.

  • 36X Ultra Wide Optical Zoom (24-864mm EQUIVALENT).
  • 720P HD Movie with HDMI Control
  • Magic Art Filters (Still & Movie)

Sony HX100V

Sitting on top of Sony’s range of bridge cameras, the HX100V offers a great range of functions and a 30x zoom range for true picture-taking versatility. Handy functions include a Sweep Panorama mode, 3D shooting and GPS tagging.

All this plus a 16.2-megapixel resolution, macro focusing down to just 1cm and a highly detailed three-inch rear LCD screen.

Panasonic FZ150

Packing a far reaching Leica-designed 25-600mm zoom range and a features list as long as your arm, this model replaced the FZ-100. Useful new functions include an articulated three-inch LCD screen, plus faster autofocusing speeds.

On top of that you also get a Raw file format, shooting at up to 12 frames per second and Full High Definition video capture.

Canon SX40 HS

The SX40 HS looks like a DSLR and it has a fair number of features from Canon DSLRs including the same image processor, exposure modes and an articulated rear LCD. The 35x optical zoom lens is controlled by a motor rather than manually so you may find precise framing slower, but the autofocusing system is fast and the impressive image stabilization will ensure sharp results, especially at the longer lens settings.

Fujifilm HS30EXR

The most prolific bridge camera manufacturer, Fujifilm certainly knows its onions when it comes to screwing together – versatile all-in-ones. This is the third model in the popular HS series and, as such, offers a fine spec coupled with a huge zoom range.

Internally, it uses a unique EXR sensor, which changes its behaviour according to the light to improve your picture hit rate.

Nikon COOLPIX P510

If it’s a wide zoom range you’re after, they don’t come any wider than this. The P510 boasts an impressive 25-1000mm optical zoom that puts almost any subject in reach. That lens also features Nikon’s ED (Extra Low Dispersion) glass for optimum results.

Other features include an HDR mode, GPS tagging, 3D shooting, a tillable three-inch LCD, plus the sensor uses backlighting technology for superior results in low light.

GE Power Pro X500

An excellent bridge camera (in-between point and shoot and DSLR camera) for $140 (which I believe is the mostinexpensive bridge camera of this quality out there) is a great buy! This camera is probably not going to satisfy those who insist on LeicaNikon or Canon performance.

The camera produces clean, high quality images with vibrant color and no annoying ‘shake’ that can oftentimes happen with a smaller point and shoot.

Pentax X-5

Within its compact, easy-to-carry body, the PENTAX X-5 features a high-magnification optical 26-times zoom lens offering a focal-length coverage from 22.3mm ultra-wide angle to 580mm super telephoto (in the 35mm format). Coupled with the 1cm Macro mode, which lets the photographer capture dramatic close-up images of a subject from just one centimeter away, it offers quick, effortless shooting in a wide range of photographic situations.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ47

The Lumix DMC-FZ47 packs a powerful optical zoom and attractive options including manual operation, adding full-HD video recording capability and the new Creative Control with Miniature Effect mode. The high quality lens unit of 25mm ultra wide-angle LEICA DC VARIO-ELMARIT lens with powerful 24x Optical Zoom newly features Panasonic’s Nano Surface Coating technology to minimize light reflection that causes ghost and flare.

The powerful 24x optical zoom (35mm camera equivalent:25-600mm) can be increased its power to 32x equivalent with the Intelligent Zoom function taking advantage of the Intelligent Resolution technology maintaining the picture quality even using digital zoom.

Fujifilm FinePix S4200

The Finepix S4200 is specifically designed for users who want maximum reach without compromising image quality or convenience. Featuring high-quality 24x Fujinon optical zoom lens, the S4200 offers advanced features in compact, robust, easy to use body.

In addition, the S4200 also offers key performance improvements in speed and functionality to ensure photographers have all they need to capture high quality images in a wide range of shooting conditions. 

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