Bridging the gap between compacts and Digital SLR cameras – with their interchangeable lenses – Bridge Cameras are cheaper than DSLR and generally easier to use.
So if you’re thinking of buying a Bridge Camera, here are some things to know and consider before you do.
Don’t get too hung up on the make
You will find Bridge Cameras available from all the major imaging brands; Canon, Fujifilm, Nikon, Panasonic and Sony.
Each will have its own features so don’t get too tied down to buying one from your favourite brand. Examine each close-up to find the one that suits your needs the most as the quality will be comparable across the range.
Visit a store and handle different models
Bridge Cameras are naturally bulkier than a compact and they can also be bigger and heavier than a DSLR so it’s important to get a feel for which one is most comfortable in your hands, with buttons in easy reach of your fingers.
You won’t be able to tell that simply from looking at them online.
Decide how close you need to be to the action
A powerful optical zoom can be found on most Bridge Cameras but just because it gets up to 42x close, doesn’t mean you need it.
Work out what you’ll be using the camera for. If it’s just better holiday and family snaps then up to 24x would easily suffice. If you’re considering using it to shoot landscapes, nature or animals, the more intense zoom would be useful.
Pick a large screen size
Bridge Cameras do not always have an optical viewfinder, instead relying on you to frame your image using the screen on the back.
Therefore, while bigger does not mean a better camera, it does mean you will have a larger view of the action you’re hoping to capture. Screen sizes can range from 2.7in, similar to a compact, all the way up to 7.5in.
Try out the lens for yourself
Again this is another reason to get hands-on with a Bridge Camera. The make of lens tends to be specific to each brand for example Fujifilm use Fujinon. But it is important to see the picture quality first-hand by trying before you buy.
Unlike DSLRs, which allow you to change the lenses for different uses, a Bridge Camera only has one fixed lens but it will shoot wide-angles. The lower the number in centimetres, the wider it will shoot.
Often having the equivalent shooting ability through a DSLR would cost a fortune and while the eventual picture quality would undoubtedly be better, the value-for-money provided by a Bridge Camera is what makes it attractive to the average user wanting more flexibility from a compact without the huge expense of a professional DSLR.
Megapixels aren’t everything
The race to have the largest number of megapixels is less important today as it was a few years ago. Digital cameras have reached a basic megapixel level where pictures will always look good when blown up fairly large.
A camera with 12-14 megapixels will suffice for most people even when blowing images up to A1. So unless you’re making massive billboard prints of your holiday snaps, you’ll be fine.
Buy a large memory card
If you want to snap a lot of pictures using your Bridge Camera on the highest quality settings, then you’ll need a decent size memory card. These days they don’t cost the earth and a 32GB card now costs under £20.
But if you want to shoot short films using the movie mode on your Bridge Camera, then you may want to consider going for a 64GB or even 128GB. If you want full HD movies, then look for a camera with 1080p rather than 720p.
Check the power of the flash
While a Bridge Camera often has a pop-out flash, this may not be powerful enough for the more creative uses you are planning to shoot with your new device.
Some come with a connection on top to add an external flash to increase your options when in low-light conditions.
Are there any manual controls?
The great thing about a Bridge Camera is it will let you play around with the settings and controls far more than on a compact. Be sure to check which manual settings are available and how much can be adjusted.
It won’t offer as many manual modes as a DSLR but it should give you the ability to begin to experiment.
What extra features does it have?
There are a wide range of extra features you should expect to find on a Bridge Camera. Image Stabilisation is a must as you’ll be holding it tight to look through the screen to frame a shot. Other obvious ones such as red-eye reduction and a self-timer will usually be standard.
Face Detection, Smile Detection, Blink Detection and a Panoramic Mode are others to consider and if you’re hoping to capture sports or other fast-moving objects, then a Continuous Shooting option will be necessary.
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