Bridging the Gap: The Trade-Offs of Bridge Cameras

The other day I asked a pro photographer friend what he thought about bridge cameras. 

“What the heck is a bridge camera,” he asked, perplexed.  

Ok, ok, so maybe bridge cameras aren’t on his radar because bridge cameras are not generally viewed as professional cameras. Fair enough. Yet, at the same time, there certainly are shutterbugs out there for whom these cameras work well. 

Likely there are at least a few reading this right now with the same response as my pro friend, saying to themselves, “bridge cameras?” And still, others who are saying, “Kenton! Bridge cameras are my favorite, you best not diss!” 

That got me thinking it might be a fun discussion to talk briefly about what bridge cameras are, what sort of tradeoffs exist between a bridge and a DSLR/mirrorless setup, and then take a quick look at three of the leading models for 2020. 

What is a bridge camera?
Bridge Cameras are an intermediate ‘step’ between point-and-shoot and DSLR and mirrorless models. The cameras themselves look a bit more like an interchangeable lens camera and do provide the user with a bit more manual controls than a point-and-shoot. On the inside, however, bridge cameras more closely resemble point-and-shoot. The result is a camera that is smaller, simpler, and (usually) a less expensive overall investment than a DSLR, with limits on image quality. 

Tradeoffs
Let’s not beat around the proverbial “bush.” Image quality is the biggest tradeoff here. DSLR/mirrorless cameras are built with larger sensors and allow for interchangeable lenses to be utilized to create high-quality images, even in low light conditions. Meanwhile, bridge cameras will be equipped with a small (1” on the larger end) sensor. While that makes it possible for a bridge camera to have a compact, fixed, lens with an enormous focal range (think 24mm – 600+mm), the tradeoff is in image quality. Image quality is really important, and should not be treated lightly. If you are an aspiring photographer looking to create images and prints that stand out, you must consider image quality as being something worth the investment. Bridge cameras will do a decent job in some instances but simply compare to the potential of a DSLR/mirrorless setup.

DSLR/mirrorless kits will be larger, and more complex than bridge camera kits. When assembling a complete DSLR/mirrorless camera kit, one will likely have at least two to three lenses, in order to cover a wide focal range, to go along with a somewhat bulky (less so with mirrorless, but that is another conversation) camera body. With a bridge, your camera is pretty much it – no additional lenses to buy, store, and travel with. 

Price is always a consideration, too, as it should be. How much do you want to invest? Photography is a great hobby, a fantastic career, too, yet not everyone is interested in the same monetary commitments. Bridge cameras are typically cheaper than DSLR/mirrorless. Newer models are approaching, and in some cases surpassing, the initial cost of a DSLR model. However, with a bridge, you will not be spending more down the road on additional lenses. Sometimes cost is the beginning and the end of the “which camera should I buy” argument. 

Who are bridge cameras for?
Tough question to answer because as with many things in the world of photography, it is a personal choice. Look at your needs and wants, and even further, decide what your overall photographic goals are. 

Say you’ve come to love photography, but up until now you’ve grown that affection while shooting with either a simple point-and-shoot or even just the camera on your phone. You feel that it is time to ‘take it up a notch,’ yet, at the same time you aren’t sure about investing a ton of time, energy, and dollars into what can become a very expensive hobby. Maybe for you, the perfect camera is one that allows for some manual control, but at the same time remains a small overall kit, and still very simple to use.

Many reading this have likely moved on from this ‘intermediate’ camera, and are happily working with camera systems that offer more control and quite a bit more image quality, deeming those things more important to their photography than size and cost. This article is by no means meant to push anyone into anything. Those choices are for you and you alone. If you are thinking bridge cameras might be your jam, we’ve listed below three top models for 2020. 

Top 3 Bridge Cameras For 2020

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 IV
$1,598
Key Features
Sensor: 1-inch CMOS, 20.1MP | Lens: 24-600mm, f/2.4-4 | Monitor: 3-inch tilting touchscreen, 1.23m dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Continuous shooting: 24fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Intermediate/expert

Canon PowerShot SX70 HS
$549
Key Features
Sensor: 1/2.3-inch CMOS, 20.3MP | Lens: 21-1365mm-equivalent, f/3.4-6.5 | Monitor: 3-inch articulating, 922,000 dots | Viewfinder: EVF | Maximum continuous shooting rate: 10fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Beginner/enthusiast

Nikon Coolpix P900
$596
Key Features
Sensor: 1/2.3-inch CMOS, 16MP | Lens: 24-2000mm, f/2.8-6.5 | Monitor: 3-inch articulating, 921,000 dots | Viewfinder: Yes | Maximum continuous shooting rate: 7fps | Movies: 1080p | User level: Enthusiast

Kenton Krueger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kenton Krueger has spent the past several years guiding backpackers, hikers and photographers into the wild places of the American West such as Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier, Katmai, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Arches, Canyonlands National Parks, as well as internationally in Costa Rica & Brazil. In addition to backpacking and camping, his adventures include rock climbing, exploring the slot canyons of southern Utah, mountain biking, and bagging 14ers in Colorado’s San Juan Mountain Mountain Range. Kenton is a trail runner, former pilot, and spent roughly five years writing and photographing for the award-winning Omaha World-Herald newspaper, out of his hometown, Omaha, Nebraska. Kenton looks forward to utilizing his years of trip leading and guiding experience, combined with his passion and experience behind the lens, to provide memorable and unforgettable experiences at the wild places we will visit together.

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