Bridge cameras offer a number of useful features which appeal to users looking for an all in one camera. They are suitable in all sorts of scenarios, from wildlife photography to travel photography.
There are of course many different bridge cameras on the market, offering a range of features across a variety of price points.
In this guide, I’m going to share everything you need to know about bridge cameras so that you can choose the best bridge camera for you. I’ll answer the questions you might have about bridge cameras and share what to look for when shopping for a bridge camera.
I’m also going to list and review the best bridge cameras on the market today, with options to suit all budgets. Whether you are looking for a bridge camera for wildlife, low light or travel photography, this post will help you decide.
All the content in this post is based on my experiences as a professional photographer. I’ve been taking photos for over thirty years and used a huge range of cameras in that time. I also teach photography at my online photography course. I’m happy to answer any questions you have – just pop them in the comments at the end of the post. Now, let’s get started by answering some questions you might have.
Table of Contents
Common Questions about Bridge Cameras
Before I get into camera specifications and individual camera recommendations, I just want to go over some common questions I hear about bridge cameras.
What is a Bridge Camera?
A bridge camera is a type of camera which has more features than most compact cameras, also known as point-and-shoot cameras, but isn’t generally as feature filled and complex as an interchangeable lens camera like a digital single lens reflex (DSLR) or mirrorless camera.
It’s known as a bridge camera because it acts as a sort of bridge between a point and shoot camera and a more feature-rich camera like a DSLR.
Essentially, a bridge camera fills a gap in the market for those looking for a camera which offers the same kind of manual controls and zoom capability as you might expect from a DSLR with a telephoto lens, but in an all in one package that is easy to use, like a point-and-shoot camera. Bridge cameras are particularly popular for birding, general wildlife and as an all round travel camera, but are suited to all types of photography.
Bridge cameras are generally smaller than a full fledged DSLR camera with a lens attached, although they look quite similar. They are larger than point-and-shoot cameras.
A bridge camera may also be called a superzoom camera, in reference to the huge zooms that these cameras often have. In fact, the zoom on some bridge cameras is far more than what you could achieve even with a specialist telephoto lens on a high-end DSLR or mirrorless camera. More on this on the section below on zoom.
Whilst the term bridge camera is likely to stick around for a while, superzoom cameras are actually in a class of their own, rather than being a bridge to something else.
Is a Bridge Camera Right for Me?
A bridge camera is a great choice if you are looking for an all in one camera with a long zoom that will take good photos.
Bridge cameras are available at a range of prices, are easy to use, and offer a step up in shooting capabilities compared to smartphone cameras and most compact cameras.
You don’t need to worry about changing lenses like you do with a mirrorless or DSLR camera. The lens that is built in to a bridge camera is meant to be versatile, and ideal for all kinds of situations. This means you can get wide angle shots of a landscape or building, or zoom in to a far away detail or animal, without having to carry around a bag of lenses.
If you are looking for a camera that will fit in your pocket, then a bridge camera wouldn’t be the best option – instead check out our compact camera recommendations for some ideas.
Is a Bridge Camera Good for Travel Photography?
When it comes to travel photography specifically, a bridge camera is a great option as it is suitable for a range of different types of photography situations with just one lens. When we travel, weight is often an issue and packing a mirrorless or DSLR camera with a range of lenses isn’t always a practical choice.
A bridge camera is a particularly popular option for folks going on wildlife focused trips, such as a wildlife safari or birdwatching trip. The long zoom means you can get photos of far away subjects, without having the huge weight of a dedicated lens and DSLR setup.
As an example, my parents recently went on a bird watching trip to India, and for them a bridge camera was the perfect tool at a reasonable price point. The long zoom meant they could get great shots of wildlife and birds, whilst the wide angle meant that they could still capture the lovely landscapes and other scenes.
They also had their compact camera they could slip in their pocket, but the bridge camera allowed them to get more close-up shots and have more manual controls when they needed.
They didn’t want to fiddle with changing lenses whilst in dusty and often moving situations, and they needed a long zoom, so a bridge camera was a great choice for them. I used some of the photos in this post from trips overseas to give examples of what a bridge camera can do.
Bridge Camera vs Smartphone
Compared to a smartphone, a bridge camera is a lot larger. The shape of a bridge camera, as you can see from the photos, is more like how you might imagine a traditional camera to look, so it won’t fit into your pocket.
Most smartphone cameras either have no zoom, or very limited zoom capabilities. A bridge camera features a long zoom, as well as more manual controls that a smartphone. This means that getting clear photos of further away subjects will be a lot easier with a bridge camera.
A bridge camera will also have a larger sensor than a smartphone camera, so it will perform better in low light. As it’s a dedicated camera, the battery life will also usually be better than your smartphone, as you’ll use your smartphone for many other tasks over the day.
Bridge Camera vs Compact Camera
Bridge cameras and compact cameras have quite a lot in common, but also some key differences. There can also be a bit of a blurry line between a small bridge camera and a large compact camera, leading some bridge cameras to be labelled as compact cameras.
First, the similarities. The sensor size is usually similar in both bridge cameras and compact cameras. Lower priced compact cameras and bridge cameras come with a 1/2.3 inch sensor, whilst more premium bridge and compact cameras come with a larger 1 inch sensor. More on sensor size and how it impacts your images further on in this guide.
In addition, both compact and bridge cameras are all in one units, meaning you can’t change the lens.
In terms of differences, the main difference is the size. A bridge camera looks more like a small DSLR, with a protruding lens and hand grip, and is larger than a compact camera. Compact cameras are shaped more like a large pack of playing cards, meaning they can be kept in your pocket or easily slipped into a purse or bag.
Most bridge cameras come with a range of manual controls, whilst only more premium compact cameras have manual controls.
Most bridge cameras support the RAW file format for photography, whilst only premium compact cameras have manual controls.
The biggest difference between a compact camera and a bridge camera though is the zoom capability. Bridge cameras are physically larger, meaning they can fit a much larger zoom. Whilst some compact cameras do have longer zooms, a bridge camera can fit a higher quality long zoom, perfect for capturing far away subjects.
Bridge Camera vs Mirrorless Camera
In many ways, bridge cameras were the precursors to mirrorless cameras. A bridge camera has no mirror inside as you find on a DSLR, meaning that like a mirrorless camera, there is no optical viewfinder.
Bridge cameras are also a similar size to mirrorless cameras, although both types of camera come in a range of sizes.
The main difference between a mirrorless camera and a bridge camera is that you can change out the lenses on a mirrorless camera. Since mirrorless cameras have interchangeable lenses, they allow you a great deal more flexibility and choice with your camera setup.
However, if you want a very long zoom, you will likely want to stick with a bridge camera as even high-end mirrorless cameras with long zoom lenses can’t match the zoom on some bridge cameras.
The other main difference is sensor size. Mirrorless cameras have larger sensors than bridge cameras. A bridge camera will have either a 1/2.3 inch sensor or a 1 inch sensor, whilst a consumer mirrorless camera will generally either have an APS-C sized sensor or a full frame sensor.
Mirrorless camera sensors are larger, offering better performance especially in lower light situations.
Other than these two differences however, bridge and mirrorless cameras are fairly similar in terms of controls and features, with both usually offering full manual controls and RAW support.
Bridge Camera vs DSLR
Bridge cameras were originally launched as a sort of stepping stone to DSLR cameras. The intention was to offer some of the same features that you would find in a DSLR camera, whilst still being easy to use like a compact camera.
There are therefore a number of similarities between a bridge camera and a DSLR, as well as some key differences.
The similarities are that most bridge cameras offer fairly similar controls to a DSLR, in that you have a range of shooting modes, from manual to fully automatic. You can adjust the key settings, like shutter speed, ISO, and aperture or you can set it to Auto and use it like a point-and-shoot if you wish.
The shape and size is also similar, with most bridge cameras being similar in shape to a small DSLR with a regular lens attached. On average, bridge cameras are smaller and less heavy that a DSLR with a lens attached, although of course there are always exceptions to this rule.
There are of course some differences. First, you can’t change the lens on a bridge camera, like you can on a DSLR. So you are limited to the capability of the attached lens.
A bridge camera also has no mirror inside, which means that there is no optical viewfinder. Instead, what you see when you hold your eye to the viewfinder is a small electronic display, the same as you will find on a mirrorless camera.
This electronic display will vary in quality depending on the specific bridge camera, and powering this display uses the battery. As a result, the battery life on a bridge camera is usually lower than that of a DSLR. DSLR cameras generally have the best battery life of any camera type.
Finally, DSLR cameras have larger sensors than bridge cameras. This is the same as with mirrorless cameras. A bridge camera will have either a 1/2.3″ sensor or a 1 inch sensor, whilst a consumer DSLR camera will either have an APS-C sized sensor or a full frame sensor.
Advantages of a Bridge Camera
A bridge camera has a number of features that make it popular as a travel camera, which we’ll go through now.
First, most bridge cameras offer impressive zoom capabilities, usually at least a 40x optical zoom. Some go much higher – all the way up to over 120x optical zoom! To get an equivalent optical zoom on a DSLR or mirrorless camera you’d need a 3000mm lens!
Given that most DSLR and Mirrorless camera lenses top out at around 500 mm, with some options available at 800 mm, you can see straight away why many photographers prefer a bridge camera for shooting far away subjects. In particular, photographs of wildlife and shots of the moon are popular reasons to own a bridge camera.
In addition, lenses with longer focal lengths on DSLR or mirrorless cameras tend to be heavy and bulky affairs. A bridge camera in comparison is much lighter, more compact, and easier to travel with.
Let’s look at an example to see what I mean. The Sony RX10 IV which we feature below is a bridge camera with a 20-600mm lens. It weighs in at 1.1kg / 2.4lbs, which is on the heavy side for a bridge camera.
To get a similar magnification on a DSLR, you’d need to buy something like the Sigma 150-600mm, which weighs 2kg (4.4lbs) just by itself. It also doesn’t cover the entire range of the bridge camera, which also shoots wide. Plus you’ve still got to consider the weight of the DSLR camera body. Once you add in another wide angle lens and the camera body, you’re likely looking at a kit bag weighing over 4kg (9lbs).
The weight advantage of a bridge camera is pretty obvious I think.
Most bridge cameras also feature image stabilization, which isn’t yet always standard on other cameras. This is out of necessity because the super long zoom capability of bridge cameras are liable to exaggerate any minor movements.
To compensate for this, most bridge cameras come with some sort of image stabilization. Because the camera is an all in one unit, it is easier for the manufacturers to include this in the camera system.
Another advantages of a bridge camera are that they usually come with full manual controls, which means that you can take control over all the settings of the camera. This means you can adjust the camera to match the shot you want. This is a definite advantage over many point and shoot cameras, although more expensive point and shoot cameras do include manual features.
The majority of bridge cameras also let you shoot in RAW, so that when it comes to editing your photos, you have much greater control over the final image.
Finally, bridge cameras are for the most part more affordable than similarly specified DSLR or mirrorless cameras. However, as with all types of camera, bridge cameras come at a range of budgets depending on features and specifications.
Disadvantages of a Bridge Camera
Whilst bridge cameras have many advantages, they also have a number of disadvantages. Whether or not these matter to you will of course depend on what you are looking for in a camera.
The main disadvantage of a bridge camera is the size of the sensor. The sensor is the part of the camera which records the image as a digital file, and is the modern day equivalent of the roll of film on older cameras.
The physical size of the sensor directly impacts the capabilities of a camera. Larger sensors, such as those found in mirrorless and DSLR cameras, are able to capture more of the light in a scene, and so produce better images when there is less light available.
This means that in the evening, night time or indoors, generally a bridge camera will not produce images as good as a mirrorless camera or DSLR.
Smaller sensors allow manufacturers to put longer zooms into a camera, however they do not perform so well when there is less light available. Despite the larger physical size of a bridge camera compared to a point and shoot camera, the sensor sizes are the same.
Another issue with bridge cameras is that image quality usually falls off the more you zoom in. This is just a reality of physics, although for the price of a bridge camera compared to an equivalent DSLR setup, this is a compromise that most users are willing to make. The speed of the autofocus, which is linked to the quality of the image the sensor receives, can also slow down as you zoom in.
Overall, every camera system has some sort of compromise, be that weight, price, image quality, or features. The main thing is to decide what is important to you as a photographer, and find the camera system that works for you.
What to Look for when buying a Bridge Camera for Travel
Before we get into individual bridge camera recommendations, I wanted to share some key specifications and features to look out for when buying a bridge camera.
The goal with this section is to enable you to choose the right bridge camera for you based on your requirements, which may or may not end up being one of the options we recommend.
As mentioned above, the sensor in a camera is one of the most important components. The sensor reacts to the light that enters the camera, saving it as an image file that you can view later.
The size of the sensor inside a camera directly affects how the camera performs. Larger sensors can capture more light, and so allow for higher quality images when there is less light available.
It’s worth bearing in mind that a number of factors can affect how much light hits the camera sensor, including the width of the aperture in the lens and the speed of the shutter. You can read more about these two variables and how they affect the image in my guide to the exposure triangle.
Longer zoom lengths also tend to reduce the amount of light that hits the sensor.
There are of course advantages to a smaller sensor. A smaller sensor doesn’t need such a large lens, which is one reason why bridge cameras are able to fit such impressive zoom lenses into a relatively compact body. In addition, a smaller sensor will result in a smaller camera body in general.
When it comes to bridge cameras, you have two choices of sensor size, 1/2.3″, and 1″. These sizes relate to the area of the sensor. A 1/2.3″ sensor is around 6mm wide and 5mm high, while a 1″ sensor is around 13mm wide and 9mm high.
This means that the 1″ sensor actually has an area of around four times that of a 1/2.3″ sensor, meaning it will have better performance in lower light. However, it will also need a physically larger lens and camera body to accommodate it. So there are pros and cons to both sensor sizes, depending on your needs.
When it comes to buying a bridge camera, the larger sensor sizes are generally found in the more premium and expensive models, whilst the smaller sensor size is found in the lower priced models. It’s also worth bearing in mind that the really long zoom options are only possible with the smaller sensor sizes—more on this in the section on zoom lengths below.
Here’s an image of various sensor sizes to compare. From this you’ll see that the full frame sensor is much larger, and in fact offers an area 30 times that of a 1/2.3″ sensor!
A camera sensor is made up of light sensitive pixels, and each sensor has a fixed number of pixels. This number of pixels is usually denoted as megapixels, with “mega” meaning million.
A 12 megapixel camera sensor, for example, has 12 million pixels. Assuming a 4:3 aspect ratio, this means that image files will be 4000 pixels wide and 3000 pixels high. If you multiply the height and width, you get the total number, meaning that image files produced by the camera will have 12 million pixels.
For most social media or website use, any file size over 12 megapixels will do. For print sizes up to A3, 20 megapixels will suffice. It’s only when you want to start printing much larger images or if you plan to crop your images a lot that you need larger megapixel counts. With most bridge cameras, the zoom should be sufficient that cropping won’t be too necessary.
The number of megapixels in a camera sensor also affects its performance. For the equivalent sized sensor, a lower number of megapixels actually means that each pixel is larger, and therefore can capture more light. This is why in recent years many smartphone manufacturers have settled on 12MP as a good amount – it offers large enough images for most uses, whilst still offering reasonable low light performance.
Much higher megapixel counts are generally unnecessary in anything but high-end full frame cameras, where professionals need them for large format printing or extreme cropping. When purchasing a bridge camera, I would suggest looking for a megapixel range between 12 and 20.
Optical Zoom / Focal Length
Now for the really interesting feature of bridge cameras—the zoom capabilities they provide.
In photography terms a lens has a specification which is known as a focal length. This is measured in mm. The bigger the focal length in mm, the greater the magnification. The smaller the focal length, the lower the magnification.
If a lens is a “zoom” lens, this means that you can change the magnification from one focal length to another. For example, a 24mm – 70mm zoom lens can shoot at a relatively wide angle 24mm through to slightly magnified 70mm.
For reference, on a camera with a full frame sensor, a 50mm focal length is approximately equal to human vision. If you look through a DSLR full frame camera with a 50mm lens, the scene would appear the same as if you were not using the camera. If you “zoom out” to less than 50mm, the scene would seem further away, whilst if you “zoom in” to great than 50mm, the scene would appear closer.
Because focal lengths are not necessarily obvious to everyone, cameras with fixed lenses often use what is known as an optical zoom specification instead.
It is very important to understand this system, because it can be confusing and lead to incorrect assumptions about optical zoom when comparing cameras.
The optical zoom is the difference between the widest focal length and the narrowest focal length.
For example, the Nikon Coolpix P1000 has a 24mm – 3000mm lens. If you divide 3000 by 24, you get 125. So this lens has a 125x optical zoom.
It’s important to realise that this doesn’t mean that the lens makes objects 125x larger than your eye sees them. Instead, it means that the difference between the smallest focal length and the longest focal length is a multiplication of 125.
If you are interested in comparing the maximum magnification on different cameras, look at the maximum focal length equivalent of the lens. I have this listed for every camera I recommend.
As an example, the Panasonic Lumix FZ80 has a focal length of 20mm-1200mm (60x optical zoom), whilst the Sony Cybershot HX400V has a focal length of 24mm – 1200mm (50x optical zoom).
As you can see, both cameras actually offer the same magnification at the 1200mm end, so if you fully zoomed in on both, it would produce the same results in terms of magnification.
However, if you simply compared the optical zoom number of 60x vs 50x, you might think that the FZ80 has better magnification.
Instead, it just offers a slightly wider angle when zoomed out, so you can get more in the shot at the wide angle end.
If you want to convert focal length to actual magnification, 1x magnification is equivalent to approximately 50mm. So 100mm is 2x magnification, 150mm is 3x magnification and so on. Simply divide the maximum focal length by 50 to get the magnification. As a point of reference, a good pair of binoculars will usually have a magnification in the range of 8x – 12x.
One of the reasons people choose to invest in a bridge camera is for the impressive zoom capabilities in a relatively small and portable package. This makes a bridge camera great for wildlife photography in particular.
My recommendation would be to invest in a camera that offers at least a 600mm focal length, equivalent to a 12x magnification, although you can go much higher these days. Just be aware that there are always compromises, and image sharpness tends to drop off at the more extreme focal lengths.
In addition, the really long zoom lengths tend to only be available in cameras with a smaller sensor size.
If you are thinking in terms of optical zoom, this will vary depending on the focal length range, but a 25x optical zoom is a good starting point. However, always check the actual focal length range rather than the optical zoom when making a purchasing decision.
The aperture is the opening inside the lens which lets the light pass through onto the sensor. You can think of it like the pupil in your eye. When there is less light available, the pupil in your eye gets bigger, and when there is more light available the pupil gets smaller.
This is the same with a lens—the aperture increases and decreases in size depending on available light, and is one of the three main controls you have to adjust how bright your image is. You can read more about these three controls in my guide to the exposure triangle.
Aperture is measured with an “f” rating, which is denoted as the letter “f” followed by a number. For example, f/2.8, f/4.0. The smaller the number after the “f”, the larger the aperture goes.
Many lenses have what is known as a variable aperture. This means that as the camera zooms in on a subject, the maximum aperture decreases. For example, a lens might have an aperture of f/2.8-6.3. This means that at the widest angle, the maximum aperture will be f/2.8, whilst when zoomed in the maximum aperture will be f/6.3.
As the aperture gets smaller, less light will pass through the lens onto the sensor. As such, larger apertures are generally better, although of course there is always a trade-off between the size and weight of the lens and the maximum aperture.
As a general rule, the longer the available zoom on a lens, the narrower the maximum aperture.
Lenses also have a minimum aperture, which is the smallest the hole goes, however this is less important as a specification and not something to worry about too much in most cases.
When choosing a bridge camera, we’d suggest picking a camera with at least an f/2.8 maximum aperture at the wide angle.
Do also pay attention to the maximum aperture when fully zoomed in, especially when comparing cameras with otherwise similar specifications. The wider the aperture throughout the focal length, the more light will get to the sensor, and the better the final results.
Image stabilization is a technology whereby the camera compensates for the micromovements in your hand to ensure a clean and sharp image.
Image stabilization technologies work in a variety of ways, from floating lens elements with motors to compensate for movement through to gyroscopically mounted sensors.
When shooting in lower light conditions, it is common for the shutter speed of the camera to reduce so enough light can come in. However, if you are hand holding your camera and the shutter speed is too low, then you might find that the images come out blurry because we can’t hold our hands perfectly still.
You might be wondering at what shutter speeds you can hand hold a camera without getting blurry images. As a general rule of thumb, the shutter speed needs to be at least as fast as the inverse of the focal length.
If that sounds complicated, don’t worry, it isn’t. All it means is that if you are shooting at say a 60mm focal length, then you need a shutter speed no slower than 1/60th of a second. If you are shooting at a 2000mm focal length, you need a shutter speed no slower than 1/2000th of a second.
If a camera has image stabilization capabilities, then you can reduce these numbers. For example, a camera may claim to have 4 stops of image stabilization. This means you can lower the shutter speed four times. For example, you could go from 1/2000th of a second to 1/125th of a second. Essentially you cut 2000 in half four times to get to 125.
Most camera manufacturers will provide information on how many stops of stabilization their image stabilization provides. For a bridge camera, we would suggest at least 4 stops as a minimum. Otherwise you will struggle to get sharp images at longer focal lengths unless you use a tripod.
When it comes down to it, your budget is likely to be one of the major factors when it comes to choosing the right camera for you. Like other types of camera, there are a range of bridge cameras on the market, ranging in price from a few hundred dollars to well in excess of a thousand.
The primary factors that influence the price are the size of the sensor inside the lens, the maximum aperture of the lens, and the maximum zoom.
In general, a budget model can be picked up for around $250 – $400, a mid-range model will be $500 – $900, whilst a high end model will be in excess of $1000. We’d suggest the sweet spot of $500 – $900 will get you a great camera that will meet most users needs.
If you are looking for a cheaper model, then a good idea is to shop around for older versions. Bridge cameras have been on the market since 2005, and any camera released in the last three to five years is still likely to be a reasonable option.
You can also save money by shopping for second hand cameras. See our guide to buying used cameras for some of our favourite places to get a bargain.
Size and Weight
Whilst bridge cameras are of a fairly similar size and shape, they are certainly not all identical. The cameras with the larger 1″ sensors and wider apertures are usually larger and heavier than those without.
In some cases, these larger bridges cameras are larger than a small mirrorless camera or DSLR. However, if you compare a large bridge camera with a DSLR or mirrorless camera equipped with a large telephoto zoom lens, then the bridge camera will invariably be smaller and lighter.
Weight varies, but expect it to be from around 600g (1.3lb) through to 1100g (2.4lbs). Obviously, a lighter camera will be easier to carry around and slip into a bag, whilst a heavier camera is going to be bulkier and more weighty to carry around all day.
RAW / Manual Controls
One of the nice features about bridge cameras is that they usually come with more manual controls than most point and shoot cameras, with the exception of some high end point and shoot cameras.
This means you get more control over the camera, and can control settings like aperture, ISO, and shutter speed. This gives you a lot more creative options, and as you learn more about photography, means you’ll be more likely to get the shots you really want to get.
In addition, most bridge cameras that we are aware of also allow you to shoot in RAW. This is a file format where all the image information is saved to the memory card, and which gives you lots of more options for editing your photos compared to JPG.
You can see more about why you should shoot in RAW here. We’d definitely recommend a camera with manual controls and the ability to shoot in RAW.
Whilst this guide is focused on bridge cameras for photography, we can’t ignore the fact that pretty much every camera on the market today also offers support for shooting video.
If you think you will also be using your camera for video, then you will want to check what video features it offers. These will include support for different resolutions and frame rates, as well as support for things like external microphones.
You will also want to check what sort of focus features are available when shooting video. It is usually important for example that the camera can automatically track a moving subject when shooting video, so as to avoid out of focus moments.
We’d generally recommend the camera supports shooting at a resolution of 1080p where possible, which is the high definition standard. Newer more powerful cameras may also support 4K resolutions, although if this is something you want then a more video focused camera like the mirrorless Lumix GH5 might be a better option.
Most cameras these days offer a range of connectivity options, usually including WiFi and/or Bluetooth.
These wireless protocols allow you to do a number of things with your camera, such as control it remotely via an app and transfer files without needing to worry about wires or memory card readers.
This isn’t necessarily a make or break feature, but I love being able to wirelessly control my cameras from my smartphone, so this is a feature I do look for in a camera.
Every camera on the market requires power to make it work, which means there’s a removable and rechargeable battery which makes the magic happen.
Cameras are all given what is known as a CIPA rating for battery life, which will tell you how many photographs the camera will be able to take on a full battery. The CIPA rating tests the battery life of different cameras in the same conditions, which makes it easier to compare cameras against each other.
A bridge camera usually has quite a large rear screen as well as a electronic viewfinder. Both of these require a fair amount of energy to power, as do other features like the image stabilization.
We would say that a poor battery life for a bridge camera would be less than 200 shots per charge, average would be 200 – 400, whilst any camera that lasts for more than 400 shots on one battery is doing well.
Of course, different setups and situations will result in different real world performance, but as a general rule we’d suggest trying to get a camera that can shoot more than 300 shots on a single battery. We’d also always recommend traveling with at least one spare battery.
Weather / Dust Sealing
We’re coming towards the end of the features to look out for when purchasing a bridge camera. One feature that you may or may not find useful, depending on your needs, is weather and dust sealing.
A weather sealed camera will provide some measure of protection from water and dust. This latter is particularly important in a bridge camera, as you can’t easily take it apart to clean it as you can with a mirrorless or DSLR camera.
It should be noted that weather sealing is not the same as a camera being waterproof. You still won’t be able to submerge your camera in the water without a special waterproof housing. If you are looking for a camera that works underwater, see our guide to the best action cameras.
Instead, weather sealing just provides some piece of mind that you don’t have to worry too much if your camera gets a bit wet during a rain shower. It’s a good idea if you are buying a camera for hiking and backpacking for example.
We’d generally advise buying a camera with some weather-sealing if possible, although this is usually a feature that is only available on more premium models.
Image Burst Speed
The burst speed of a camera tells you how many pictures the camera can take in quick succession. This is important particularly for action photography, where the exact moment you want to capture might happen in a split second.
Burst speed is measured in the number of images that the camera can capture per second, and will usually vary from a slower number like three frames per second, up to a much faster ten or even twenty frames per second.
Even if you don’t plan on taking a lot of action photos, the burst speed of a camera is a useful number to be aware of because it also indicates how powerful the technology inside the camera is. A higher burst rate indicates a more powerful camera, whilst a lower burst rate suggests a less powerful camera.
We’d generally recommend aiming for a camera that can do at least 5 images per second if possible.
The Best Bridge Camera for Travel Photography
Now we’ve covered everything you need to look for in a bridge camera, let’s go through some of our favourite bridge cameras on the market today. This list is approximately ordered by price from low to high.
However, do be aware that camera prices vary over time, and there are often promotions, so we always recommend checking prices at a few retailers before making a purchase decision.
When you think of a bridge camera, a Panasonic may come to mind. This is hardly surprising, as Panasonic have been launching large zoom cameras under the Lumix FZ brand since the DMC-FZ18 in 2007.
The Panasonic Lumix DC-FZ80 (FZ82 in Europe) was launched in March 2017. It’s also the lowest priced option in our bridge camera round-up, although there’s still lots here to impress.
You get an image-stabilized 20-1200mm (60x) lens which offers around five stops of stabilization. That’s paired with an 18.1 megapixel 1/2.3″ sensor which also supports 4K video.
The screen on the back is unfortunately fixed, but it is touch enabled. The camera is also WiFi enabled, and is a lightweight 616g (21.7oz). There’s no weather sealing, although that isn’t a surprise at this price point.
Key Specifications: 20-1200mm (60x) focal length, f/2.8-5.9 aperture, 10 images / second, 18.1 megapixel 1/2.3″ sensor
Weight: 616g / 21.7oz
Battery life: 330 shots
Price: Check latest price on Amazon here, B&H here, and Adorama here
The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 (FZ330 in Europe) was launched in 2015, so it is obviously getting on a bit now. However, its age means you can pick it up for a bargain, which is why we’ve included it in this round up.
For your money, you still get a lot of camera. It comes with a 25-600mm (24x) optical zoom lens which is stabilized and offers around 3 stops of stabilization. It also offers a fast f/2.8 aperture at all focal lengths, which is excellent.
Speed wise the camera can shoot at 6 images per second with autofocus enabled, or 12 frames per second when the focus is locked.
There’s a 3-inch tilting touch enabled LCD display as well as an OLED powered viewfinder. You also get 4K video support which is impressive given the age of the camera, and it’s both splash and dustproof. There’s also WiFi connectivity and a companion app.
The main drawback of this camera is that the 1/2.3″ sensor is only 12 megapixels. Whilst this will be fine for social media and small prints, it’s not large enough for larger prints.
Still, overall this is still a great bridge camera option, especially for the price.
Key Specifications: 25-600mm (24x) focal length, fixed f/2.8 aperture, 12 images / second, 12 megapixel 1/2.3″ sensor
Weight: 724 g / 25.5 oz
Battery life: 380 shots
Price: Check latest price on Amazon here, B&H here, and Adorama here
Canon might not have the huge range of bridge cameras that some of its competitors on this list have, but what it lacks in quantity it doesn’t lose in quality.
The Canon Powershot SX70 HS is the latest bridge camera in Canon’s SX range. It features an impressive 21-1365mm (65x optical) zoom lens, which has a variable f/3.4-6.5 maximum aperture.
That’s not the widest aperture we’ve seen in a bridge camera, but it’s reasonable for this price, and this is also one of the lightest bridge cameras in our round up at only 610 grams (21.5 ounces).
The lens is optically stabilized, providing up to five stops of stability. The 1/2.3″ sensor offers 20 megapixels, which will be enough for most users.
It has full manual controls as well as RAW support, and you get both Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity as well as 4K video support.
There are some drawbacks. Image quality at the zoom and wide angles is a little soft, and there’s no touch screen or weather sealing, although the screen does flip out and tilt at least.
Key Specifications: 21-1365mm (65x) focal length, f/3.4-6.5 aperture, 10 images / second, 20 megapixel 1/2.3″ sensor
Weight: 610 g / 21.5 oz
Battery life: 325 shots
Price: Check latest price on Amazon here, B&H here, and Adorama here
Like Panasonic, Nikon is well known for their bridge cameras, and they are particularly known for pushing the envelope when it comes to maximum zoom. In fact, it’s largely down to Nikon that the term “superzoom” has started to be used to describe these cameras instead of bridge camera.
The Nikon Coolpix P950, released in 2020, has a lot going for it. First, you get an impressive 24-2000mm lens, which is an 83x optical zoom. This is one of the longest lenses in our round-up. The maximum aperture starts at a wide f/2.8, and narrows down to f/6.5 when zoomed in. Given the length of the lens, this is to be expected.
The lens is stabilized, and the stabilization offers an impressive 5.5 stops of improvement. Sensor wise, you’re looking at a 1/2.3″ 16MP sensor, which offers a good balance between size and low light performance, and image quality is good although softens as you zoom further in.
The P950 has support for RAW photography as well as manual modes that let you set shutter speed, ISO, and aperture. There’s also 4K video support as well as WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity options.
There are a few downsides. Battery life is not fantastic at 290 shots, and the huge lens means this camera is heavier, weighing just over 1 kg (2.2 lb). There’s also no touchscreen, which is a glaring omission in a camera at this price point released in 2020. It’s also lacking weather / dust sealing.
It’s also worth pointing out that the predecessor to this camera, the P900, is very similar, featuring the same sensor and lens. It is missing RAW file support and 4K video, but otherwise is very similar in terms of image quality, and is also available at a much lower price.
Key Specifications: 24-2000mm (83x) focal length, f/2.8-6.5 aperture, 7 images / second, 16 megapixel 1/2.3″ sensor
Weight: 1005 g / 35.4 oz
Battery life: 290 shots
Price: Check latest price on Amazon here, B&H here, and Adorama here
I appreciate there are a few Panasonic cameras in this list. This is for good reason though—Panasonic have really committed to the bridge camera category, and they’ve released a lot of great options.
The FZ1000 II, released in 2019, is definitely worth including because it features a 1 inch sensor. This means you get better low light performance than cameras with smaller sensors, as well as higher image quality.
Unfortunately, a larger sensor comes with some trade offs, namely the zoom. The FZ1000II features a 25-400mm lens, equivalent to a 16x optical zoom. This is definitely on the low end, but if you’re not too worried about shooting very distant subjects, 400mm is still on par with high-end DSLR or mirrorless zoom lenses.
The lens features a wide f/2.8 aperture which drops to f/4 when zoomed in, which is still very respectable. It’s also image stabilized, offering 3-5 stops of stabilization.
The display tilts and swivels out from the camera and is touch enabled. You also get WiFi and Bluetooth support, as well as good battery life of 440 shots. Video wise, you get 4K video support. Despite having a larger sensor, the camera is a reasonable weight at 810 g (1.79 lbs).
There’s no dust or water protection, which is a shame in a camera at this price point. Otherwise though, if you are happy with the zoom range, this is a solid option.
If the price is a little high, consider instead its predecessor, the FZ1000. This also has a 1″ sensor and 25-400mm lens, and despite being a few years older actually offers very similar performance. You do lose the touchscreen and some of the control dials, although for the price difference this might be a sacrifice you are willing to make.
Key Specifications: 25-400mm (16x) focal length, f/2.8-4 aperture, 10 images / second, 20.1 megapixel 1″ sensor
Weight: 810 g / 28.5 oz
Battery life: 440 shots
Price: Check latest price on Amazon here, B&H here, and Adorama here
Another Nikon on our list, and I’ve included this one because it currently holds the title for the camera with the world’s longest zoom.
The Nikon Coolpix P1000 has a staggering 25-3000mm zoom range, which is a 125x zoom. That blows pretty much everything else on the market out of the water. Naturally the lens is image stabilized, offering up to five stops of stabilization.
In terms of aperture, it starts at a wide f/2.8, but stops all the way down to f/8 when zoomed all the way in. So that superzoom is going to need bright conditions for the best performance.
The sensor is a 1/2.3″ 16MP sensor, which is to be expected for a camera with a zoom this big.
Of course, a big zoom isn’t everything. You also get 4K video, RAW support, manual controls, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. There’s also a flip out screen. However, the screen isn’t touch enabled, which is a huge oversight in my opinion. There’s also no weather sealing, and that lens makes it heavy, at 1415g (50oz).
Honestly, this camera is really only worth considering at this price if you absolutely need the crazy zoom. If a 3000mm equivalent lens is something you think your photography would benefit from, then go for it. Otherwise, I’d suggest that you might do better with one of the other options on our list, because you are definitely paying for the privilege of the world’s longest zoom lens.
Key Specifications: 25-3000mm (125x) focal length, f/2.8-8 aperture, 7images / second, 16 megapixel 1/2.3″ sensor
Weight: 1415g / 50oz
Battery life: 250 shots
Price: Check latest price on Amazon here, B&H here, and Adorama here
If image quality and performance are your key criteria, then look no further than the stunning Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 IV. Sony has been leading the way with high performance camera sensors for a number of years, and the RX10 IV is the current pinnacle of their bridge camera offerings.
This is definitely a premium offering, costing much more than the other cameras in our round-up. However, you get a lot for your money.
To start with, this is a 1″ sensor camera, with 20.1 megapixels of resolution. That means you do have to compromise a little on zoom, but with a 24-600mm (25x optical) lens, we think this will be enough for most consumers.
The lens starts out at a very wide f/2.4, meaning lots of light can reach the sensor. At 600mm the lens stops down to f/4. This is still very impressive, when you consider that a 600mm f/4 lens for a DSLR will set you back five figures! The lens is stabilized, offering around 4.5 stops of improvement.
You also get one of the fastest autofocus systems in the world, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and 4K video, superb image quality, a touch-enabled screen, a weather sealed body, and a truly impressive 24 frames per second shooting speed. Naturally there are full manual controls and RAW support.
With all that tech onboard, combined with the large sensor and large lens, this camera does weigh quite a bit. In fact, at 1095g (2.4lbs) it’s heavier than some DSLRs. It’s also expensive. However, if quality and performance are your key goals, then this camera still offers excellent value for money. Overall, I would say that this is one of the best bridge cameras for low light situations.
If the price is a bit much, then consider the earlier model RX10 III, which offers similar features at a lower price point. You will lose the touchscreen, and the autofocus and shooting speeds are a little slower.
Key Specifications: 24-600mm (24x) focal length, f2.4/4 aperture, 24 images / second, 20.1megapixel 1″ sensor
Weight: 1095 g / 38.6 oz
Battery life: 400 shots
Price: Check latest price on Amazon here, B&H here, and Adorama here
Which Bridge Camera To Choose?
I’ve provided you with what we think are the best options on the market. Of course, you might still be wondering which one to go for. Here’s a quick summary of what we’d pick for different scenarios and budgets.
- If you’re on a really tight budget, then your best option is the Panasonic Lumix DC-FZ80 / FZ82, You get a great 60x zoom and solid performance, with only a few compromises
- If zoom is everything, then either the Nikon Coolpix P950 or the P1000 are your best options.
- If image quality is more important to you than massive zooms, you’ll want a 1″ sensor camera like the Panasonic FZ1000 II or Sony RX10 IV. These have less wild zoom options, but your image quality and performance in low light will be better.
Well, that’s it for our guide to our favourite bridge cameras on the market today! I hope you found it useful.
Before you head off, I wanted to share some more photography tips and advice that I’ve put together in the years of running this site.
- We have a guide to how to use a compact camera, how to use a DSLR camera, and how to use a mirrorless camera. We also have a guide to how a DSLR works
- Knowing how to compose a great photo is a key photography skill. See our guide to composition in photography for lots of tips on this subject
- We have a guide to what depth of field is and when you would want to use it, as well as a guide to bokeh in photography
- We are big fans of getting the most out of your digital photo files, and do to that you will need to shoot in RAW. See our guide to RAW in photography to understand what RAW is, and why you should switch to RAW as soon as you can if your camera supports it.
- We have a guide to the best photo editing software, as well as a guide to the best laptops for photo editing for some tips on what to look for.
- If you’re looking for more advice on specific tips for different scenarios, we also have you covered. See our guide to Northern Lights photography, long exposure photography, fireworks photography, tips for taking photos of stars, and cold weather photography.
- If you’re looking for a great gift for a photography loving friend or family member (or yourself!), take a look at our photography gift guide,
- If you’re in the market for a new camera, we have a detailed guide to the best travel cameras, as well as specific guides for the best cameras for hiking and backpacking, the best compact camera, best mirrorless camera and best DSLR camera. We also have a guide to the best camera lenses.
- If you want a camera or lens, but the prices are a bit high, see our guide to where to buy used cameras and camera gear for some budget savings options.
- We have a guide to why you need a tripod, a guide to choosing a travel tripod, and a round-up of the best travel tripods.
Looking to Improve Your Photography?
If you found this post helpful, and you want to improve your photography overall, you might want to check out my online travel photography course.
Since launching the course in 2016, I’ve already helped over 2,000 students learn how to take better photos. The course covers pretty much everything you need to know, from the basics of how a camera works, through to composition, light, and photo editing.
It also covers more advanced topics, including astrophotography, long exposure photography, flash photography, and HDR photography.
You get feedback from me as you progress through assignments, access to webinars, interviews and videos, as well as exclusive membership to a Facebook group where you can get feedback on your work and take part in regular fun photo challenges.
It’s available for an amazing one-off price for lifetime access, and I think you should check it out. Which you can do by clicking here.
And that’s it for our guide to the best bridge cameras for travel photography! If you have any questions or feedback, I’m here to listen and do my best to answer. Just pop them in the comments below and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.