When it comes to enjoying your passion, like photography, it is essential that you have the right tools for the job.
You are at a concert and you want to photograph the lead singer of your favourite band – a wide angle compact camera just won’t do. You are at a wedding about to snap the bridal party and guests – do you really need that 300x zoom lens?
Bridge cameras are a balance between the pocket sized convenience of the point-and-shoot compact camera and the power and features of a full blown DSLR. They have a larger body, giving the feel of a DSLR while incorporating the newest technology. This opens the door to a more creative photography at much lower cost.
The purpose of our bridge camera buying guide is to give you all the information you may need so you can compare and decide on which cameras are best suited to you.
As cameras become more and more like mini computers we explain some of the key features you will come across when searching out the right bridge camera for your personal use.
So what are the things to look for if you want to buy digital camera? To best answer these, there are two sets of information you have to know before you can make your mind up.
Firstly you must define what YOU need and want in a digital camera. To help you do this, you should ask yourself the following questions:
- What kind of photos do you want to take with your digital camera?
Before you buy a bridge camera or indeed any type of digital camera, it is important to determine what kind of pictures you want to take with it. If you are,or harbour thoughts of becoming, a digital photography enthusiast, any modern digital camera will not just do. You have to look for features that can support and adapt to your requirements – the zooming you need, the resolution, etc.
- How much is your bridge camera budget ?
This is one of the most important questions any person wanting to buy a camera should ask. Because no matter what your needs and wants are for the device, your financial resources will hugely determine the type of camera you will buy. You’ve only to look at the Panasonic Lumix FZ72 to see one of the best available bridge cameras under £200 if that suited your budget. If you are a Sony fan then the DSCH400 is a brilliant little camera for just over £150.
- What are you additional resources?
When you buy any type of digital camera, whether compact, bridge or DSLR sometimes the spending will not end there. You also have to consider the capacity and the power of the computer and the printer you will be hooking your camera up to for your editing and printing needs. Editing software may already be included with your digital camera but you may prefer a different editing program. Then there’s a printer, ink and paper, larger memory cards, battery packs and endless accessories really depending on where you want to draw the line.
You will also need essential protection for your newest gadget with a good quality case or bag like this Lowepro Apex 120 camera shoulder bag.
That said – choosing the best bridge camera for your needs should mean very little additional expense if you think through what you will want to use it for and choose accordingly
After answering these three questions, the second set of information you need to know before you buy your digital bridge camera are the features that you need in the device.
IMAGE QUALITY / RESOLUTION
We put image quality as our first criteria to simply get our point across. All the bells and whistles of new technology may be able to enhance and digitally magnify your images before, during and even after capture but it will never match the crisp detail from a higher resolution initial picture. So what makes the difference?
There are basically two types of sensor currently used in bridge cameras: a CCD sensor or a CMOS sensor. For a detailed explanation see the glossary below, but for now it’s enough to say that yes- larger is better.
The CMOS is akin to sensors used in DSLR cameras and substantially larger than CCD type which is mainly used in more basic bridge cameras . This gives the sensor a larger area and so more pixels with which to analyse the image to be captured.
In addition, the higher the resolution capacity of the camera the better. Cameras may range from 6 megapixel to over 20 megapixel rating.
While the final result depends on many factors like lens quality and maximum aperture, again the higher number of pixels is usually better.
LENS / ZOOM
The quality of a cameras lens is really reflective of the image quality achievable from any camera. We would expect more expensive cameras to use a much better clarity of lens which is more responsive to low light situations.
As the optical zoom magnification on bridge cameras increases almost with each new launch it brings new challenges. In order to keep image quality at a maximum more refined lenses have to be used pushing prices upward.
As a sidenote Nikon have just launched their new Coolpix P900 bridge camera. It has a massive 83x optical zoom, the largest yet, and apparently Nikon have had to apologise for production delays due to amazing demand.
You will notice references to two types of zoom – digital and optical.
- Optical zoom actually zooms into the scene you want to photograph by using the lens optics and generally gives best results – you get what you see.
- Digital zoom uses the cameras technology to digitally enhance the zoom, making the subject seem closer. This can lead to a loss of detail or grain in the final image.
In perfect light conditions you may not notice a lot of difference, but in low light or other challenging situations the optical zoom will tend to be much clearer.
LCD SCREEN / VIEWFINDER
Most bridge cameras feature a 3 inch LCD or TFT screen much like the cameras in todays phones. This lets you frame shots easily in ideal conditions. Some basic models may have a fixed screen, like the screen on a phone. As we go up the range of models ( and prices) the screens will often tilt up or down or even swivel on a 360 degree axis for full flexibility and ease of viewing position.
The screen also allows you to quickly review your pictures. This can be useful if you want to retain as much memory as possible for future pics.
Strong sunlight can make the screens hard to see so it is particularly useful to have the addition of an electronic viewfinder (EVF). This lets you view and frame your shots easily when your LCD screen is difficult to make out. It also gives the bridge camera more of a DSLR like feel and you somehow feel more involved in your subject matter – try it.
Both LCD screen and EVF are graded by resolution with the higher rating offering the user a brighter screen or viewfinder.