May 22, 2024


Sapiens Digital

The Best Bridge Cameras for 2020

How to Choose the Right Camera

SLR Looks, Fixed Lens

Big superzoom cameras are still referred to as bridge models in many circles. It’s a vestigial term carried over from the days when the large body style was aimed at photographers who wanted to move up from a pocket point-and-shoot (which, at the time, had limited zoom ranges as a rule), but weren’t quite ready for interchangeable lenses. The idea was that a camera like this would bridge that gap, and perhaps encourage the same photographers to eventually move to an SLR.

In 2020, the term makes less sense, but it’s stuck around. Modern bridge models can vary greatly in features and capabilities. Models with smaller image sensors boast incredibly long zoom ranges, while cameras with larger sensors can’t keep up with 30x pocket zoom cameras like the Panasonic ZS50 in terms of absolute zoom range, but deliver images that truly bridge the gap between compact and SLR quality.

Small Sensor, Big Zoom

Some bridge cameras pack the same size sensor that you’ll find in a pocket point-and-shoot or a premium smartphone like the Samsung Galaxy S20. You’re not going to see a significant jump in image quality when compared with a pocket model, but you will be able to enjoy zoom ratios in excess of 50x power. Our favorite model, the Canon SX70 HS, sports a 65x lens that covers an ultra-wide (21mm) to an extremely narrow telephoto (1,365mm) angle. It also sets itself apart from many pocket models and smartphones by offering Raw capture, a very solid optical stabilization system, and an electronic viewfinder.

Lumix camera

You can go longer when it comes to zoom—the Nikon P900’s 83x zoom lens covers a 24-2,000mm range— but image quality at the extreme telephoto isn’t as good as it is at wider angles, and the camera omits Raw capture. The upgraded P950 corrects some shortcomings, but we’ve not yet a chance to review it.

Nikon also has the P1000, with a one-of-a-kind 24-3,000mm (125x) lens, Raw image capture, and 4K video recording. Its huge, heavy, and priced on the high side, though—it’s definitely not a camera for everyone.

See How We Test Digital Cameras

Going in the other direction, the Panasonic FZ300’s lens is a mere 24x power (25-600mm), but it maintains an f/2.8 aperture throughout the entire range, and features one of the best EVFs in its class, along with a weather-sealed design and 4K video capture.

Big Sensor, Shorter Zoom

Sony started putting 1-inch sensors into cameras in 2012 with the pocketable RX100. It didn’t take long for it to follow with the RX10. It’s upgraded the RX10 over the years, and currently sells two editions, the RX10 III and RX10 IV, each with an excellent 24-600mm f/2.4-4 zoom lens and pro-grade build. The RX10 III is more than enough camera for most families and backyard wildlife; the RX10 IV adds much faster autofocus and burst capture, giving serious photogs a reason to spend more.

Sony camera

Other 1-inch models to consider include the Panasonic FZ1000, an older model selling at a very good price, at least while supplies last. The FZ1000 II has the same basic imaging capabilities, but has some welcome upgrades and refinements. If you want to live in luxury, Leica sells its own version of the FZ1000 II, the V-Lux 5.

Canon also has one long-lens entry in its 1-inch series, the G3 X. Its 25-600mm f/2.8-5.6 zoom matches the RX10 III in terms of coverage, but its lack of an electronic viewfinder is a downer, as is its slower focus system.

Choosing the Right Bridge Camera

The model that’s best for you depends on your budget, your image quality demands, and just how much zoom range you want. Our top pick for backyard wildlife spotters and family vacationers is the Canon SX70 HS. It has an ultra-wide lens, great for landscapes and snapshots in front of famous landmarks, and enough zoom power to snap a shot of a songbird dining at your feeder. But it has its limitations—it’s not the best tool for working in dim light, doesn’t offer weather protection, and isn’t great at focusing on fast-moving subjects.

More serious photographers—or families that don’t mind spending a bit more for better image quality—will want to think about a 1-inch sensor model. The lenses don’t wow us with a big zoom factor, but the larger sensor area means you can crop when needed. The Sony RX10 III is our top pick here. It has a phenomenal lens, reaching 600mm at a relatively bright f/4 aperture, and does 4K video, slow-motion, and shoots at a speedy 14fps. The RX10 IV is a premium upgrade, with a faster 24fps shooting rate, and a much more advanced autofocus system to go with it.

And for the edge cases—photographers who just want as much zoom power as possible—there are a pair of models from Nikon that utilize the smaller 1/2.3-inch sensor format, but reach 2,000mm and 3,000mm. The P900 and P1000 are both niche options, but you may find yourself right in that niche.

  • Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 III

    Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 III

    Pros: 1-inch image sensor.
    25x wide-aperture zoom lens.
    Quick autofocus.
    14fps burst shooting.
    Raw image capture.
    Dust and splash resistant body.
    EVF and tilting rear LCD.
    Monochrome information LCD.
    Wi-Fi with NFC.
    4K video capture.
    High-def slow motion.

    Cons: Very expensive.
    Omits internal neutral density filter.
    Lens hood blocks flash at wide angles.

    Bottom Line: The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 III marries an incredible 25x zoom lens to a large image sensor and delivers excellent images, 4K video, and fast autofocus.
    But it carries a premium price tag.

  • Canon PowerShot SX70 HS

    Canon PowerShot SX70 HS

    Pros: 65x zoom lens.
    Vari-angle LCD.
    Excellent EVF.
    10fps bursts.
    Raw image capture.
    4K video with mic input.
    Strong ergonomics.

    Cons: Not great in dim light.
    Omits accessory shoe and 24fps video.
    4K not available in all modes.
    Not a good choice for fast action.

    Bottom Line: The Canon PowerShot SX70 HS captures views ranging from ultra-wide to extreme telephoto.
    It’s a solid camera for wildlife observers, families, and shutterbugs in search of a lightweight bridge model.

  • Leica V-Lux 5

    Leica V-Lux 5

    Pros: 16x zoom lens.
    1-inch image sensor.
    Articulating touch LCD.
    Big, sharp EVF.
    Fast 4K video and mic input.

    Cons: Premium price.
    Omits weather protection.

    Bottom Line: You’ll pay more for Leica’s V-Lux 5 camera than Panasonic’s very similar FZ1000 II, but you might find the premium look and feel to be worth it.

    Read Review

  • Panasonic Lumix DC-FZ1000 II

    Panasonic Lumix DC-FZ1000 II

    Pros: 16x zoom lens.
    1-inch image sensor.
    Vari-angle touch LCD.
    Large, crisp EVF.
    Quick autofocus.
    4K video with mic input.

    Cons: Omits dust and splash protection.
    Not as well built as some competitors.

    Bottom Line: The Panasonic Lumix DC-FZ1000 II bridge camera keeps the same excellent lens and sensor as its predecessor.
    It’s an excellent performer, but we wish it had some level of weather protection.

    Read Review

  • Panasonic Lumix DC-FZ80

    Panasonic Lumix DC-FZ80

    Pros: Huge 60x zoom range.
    Fast autofocus.
    10fps Raw capture.
    30fps 4K Photo capture.
    Touch LCD.
    Sharp EVF.

    Cons: No EVF eye sensor.
    Fixed rear LCD.
    Limited Raw buffer.
    Omits 24fps video capture.
    Telephoto video shows wobble effect.

    Bottom Line: Panasonic’s Lumix DC-FZ80 camera gives you a ton of zoom for not much money, and includes support for Raw images and 4K video.

  • Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300

    Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300

    Pros: 24x zoom lens with f/2.8 aperture.
    All-weather build.
    Excellent EVF.
    Vari-angle touch-screen display.
    Very fast autofocus.
    12.4fps burst shooting.
    Strong high ISO images for its class.
    Raw image capture.
    4K video.

    Cons: Expensive.
    Large-sensor superzooms offer better image quality.
    Zoom range isn’t as ambitious as others.

    Bottom Line: The excellent Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 superzoom offers a long focal range with a fixed-aperture lens, 4K video, and instant autofocus.

    Read Review

  • Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 IV

    Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 IV

    Pros: 25x zoom lens.
    Large 1-inch sensor.
    Phase detect autofocus.
    24fps Raw capture with tracking.
    Dust- and splash-resistant design.
    Touch LCD and EVF.
    Top info LCD.
    4K video and 1080p slow-motion.

    Cons: Very expensive.
    No in-lens neutral density filter.
    Hood blocks flash at wide angles.
    Can’t start a video when still buffer is in use.

    Bottom Line: The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 IV camera delivers an incredible zoom range and uses a stacked sensor design and phase detection focus for 24fps image capture.

    Read Review

  • Nikon Coolpix P900

    Nikon Coolpix P900

    Pros: 83x zoom lens.
    Excellent image stabilization system.
    Full manual controls.
    Eye-level EVF.
    Vari-angle LCD.
    Quick autofocus.
    In-camera GPS and Wi-Fi.
    1080p60 video capture.

    Cons: Detail suffers at moderate ISOs.
    No Raw support.
    Long recovery times after burst shooting.
    Large and heavy.
    No hot shoe.
    External charger not included.

    Bottom Line: The Nikon Coolpix P900 boasts the longest zoom range of any camera on the market, but a lack of detail at higher ISOs holds it back.

    Read Review

  • Nikon Coolpix P1000

    Nikon Coolpix P1000

    Pros: Incredible 125x (24-3,000mm) zoom range.
    7fps burst.
    Vari-angle LCD.
    Raw support.
    4K video.
    Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

    Cons: Expensive.
    Screen omits touch support.
    Narrow aperture.

    Bottom Line: The Nikon Coolpix P1000 has the longest zoom of any fixed lens camera we’ve seen, but it’s also one of the largest and heaviest you can buy.

    Read Review

About the Author

Source Article