The best bridge camera combines the portability and convenience of a compact camera with the zoom of a telephoto lens and the ergonomics of a DSLR. Bridge cameras look and feel pretty similar to a DSLR but they have a fixed lens and usually a massive zoom range (sometimes up to 1200mm).
These hybrid cameras are great for capturing wildlife, sports, or even astrophotography and they won't cost you the earth. Here, we've put together the best bridge cameras, based on size, features, zoom reach, portability, and price.
Bridge cameras are known for their massive zoom range. They're able to capture anything from a wide-angle landscape shot to a detailed shot of a bird in the distance. These versatile cameras are so popular as they are pretty lightweight for the amount they can zoom so can easily capture faraway subjects such as elephants on Safari or even the moon. There are some drawbacks to bridge cameras such as sensor size and the fixed lens they are still the best option for lots of photographers.
If you are looking for a setup that means you never have to leave the house with more than one bag then bridge cameras are great. The fixed lens will often cover a huge focal range but you're not going to be able to do much 'specialist' photography. Unlike with interchangeable lens cameras, you won't be able to experiment with different types of lenses such as a fisheye lens, macro lens, or tilt-shift lens and you won't be able to add a teleconverter to increase the reach of the camera further.
The sensors on bridge cameras are normally smaller than the sensors in some of the best DSLRs and best mirrorless cameras. This means that they're not as high resolution, usually have less dynamic range and they don't perform as well in low light. Even newer models like the Nikon Coolpix P950 only have a 1/2.3" sensor.
Despite the drawbacks and limitations, bridge cameras are still incredibly useful bits of kit. For the price, you do get a lot for your money and the focal ranges are often so large an equivalent size lens for a DSLR or mirrorless camera would set you back thousands of pounds. Check out the best bridge camera models available below...
Best bridge cameras in 2023
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Even though the Sony Cyber-shot RX10 IV is the most expensive camera on our list - it has a high price tag for a reason. The most exciting upgrade from the RX10 III is the 315-point phase-detect AF system which makes it much better at tracking moving subjects.
Sony has also included a touch screen making it the first RX10 model with one. Bluetooth and wifi connectivity make it possible to share images to your smartphone on the move and the 24-600mm lens makes it a super versatile camera.
It's capable of 24fps in continuous burst mode which is a big improvement on the 14fps on the Mark III. All of these extra features make it a much better sports and action camera but you will have to dig a little deeper into your funds.
Read our full Sony RX10 IV review.
Those seeking big zoom power from a relatively compact all-in-one setup are directed to the 16-megapixel Nikon B600. Frill-free and a little lightweight in build it may be, despite its mini DSLR type, looks, but that is reflected an extent in the price, while the simplicity of operation and handling makes it accessible to a wider audience.
Some three years on from its original pre-pandemic release, this camera offers plenty of visual ‘poke’ for everyday family photography and video capture
Read our full Nikon Coolpix B600 review.
At its max zoom, the Nikon P1000 has an astonishing 3000mm focal length which is even more impressive than the P950's. However, when shooting at the telephoto end you lose three full stops taking the aperture down from a solid f/2.8 to a miserable f/8. Nikon's VR (Vibration Reduction) cuts down camera shake but at longer focal lengths there is a noticeable softness in images which it doesn't fix.
It boasts a higher-resolution electronic viewfinder, 4K video capabilities, and raw format shooting. The biggest downside of this camera is its price tag and the fact it only has a 1/2.3-inch sensor. It's a lot of money for not a lot of sensors and there are other cameras on the list that are better value for money - albeit not with the same zoom range.
Read our full Nikon P1000 review.
Kodak continues to play to a niche but potentially still a sizeable audience of photographers who competing brands have moved on from, with the Pixpro AZ528 all-in-one ‘superzoom’ while others have abandoned the area.
The whopping 52x zoom still comes in very handy not just for budding wildlife photographers but also for casual sports photography fans, which makes this an incredibly versatile camera. However, it’s still saddled with a small-ish sensor and any camera like this means softer results when shooting handheld the further we creep towards its maximum zoom setting.
Read our full Kodak PIXPRO AZ528 review.
On paper, the SX70 HS looks a close rival to the Panasonic FZ82 (above), offering a slightly longer maximum zoom and nearly matching the Panasonic's wide-angle setting. But its f/3.4-6.5 maximum aperture range is on the low side and its 20-megapixel resolution can't overcome the limitations of the small 1/2.3-inch sensor size.
The SX70 does handle well and it's not that big for a bridge camera, but the opposition has moved on, with bigger zoom ranges, bigger sensors, or lower price points. The SX70 HS offers solid enough specifications but at a price point that makes its rivals look more tempting.
Read our full Canon PowerShot SX70 HS review.
The Panasonic FZ82 might not have the same zoom range as the Nikon P950 but at 20-1200mm it's still pretty impressive. It has a maximum variable aperture of f/2.8-5.9 and uses a 1/2.3-inch sensor which isn't the best for low light but it does enable it to have a bigger zoom range.
The price of the FZ82 is also quite a lot more appealing than the first two cameras we've mentioned and you still get a lot of useful features. It can shoot 4K video and takes advantage of Panasonic's 4K photo mode for high-speed image capture. The 20mm wide-angle focal length is also a lot wider than most bridge cameras which makes it perfect for shooting landscapes or in small, indoor spaces.
The FZ1000 II is a welcome update to the original Panasonic FZ1000 bridge camera. Look closely, and you'll see that you're still getting a hell of a lot of current tech for the money.
The 20.1MP 1in sensor and 25-400mm (Equiv.) f/2.8-4 Leica-branded lens come together to form a capable core, with 4K UHD video, 5-axis Power O.I.S. stabilization, a 2.36million-dot OLED EVF, Wi-Fi, and NFC, and a raft of video-specific additions such as zebra patterning on top of it. Definitely, one to snap up if you don't need the fancy tricks of the more recent FZ2000 / FZ2500.
Panasonic already won many people over with the FZ1000, with its 1-in sensor, 25-400mm (Equiv.) f/2.8-4 zoom lens, 4K video, and masses of control making it a fine DSLR alternative. The FZ2500 (sold as the FZ2000 in Europe) delivers plenty more, including a slightly longer lens, touch-screen control, and an electronic viewfinder with a slightly higher magnification than before, but it's in the video where Panasonic has made the most significant improvements.
So, here we get DCI 4K video and a variable ND filter, for example, although the latter can, of course, be used for stills too. The lack of weather sealing is a pity, but its falling price, together with the occasional cashback deal, makes it a brilliant-value competitor to models in Sony's RX10 series.
If you need something more for stills than video, however, you may find the FZ1000 II (above) makes more sense – particularly when you see just what you get for the money.
From its junior models right through to its various flagships, Panasonic has always been generous with features. This has allowed its models to remain appealing in the face of newer competitors, and 2015's FZ330 exemplifies this perfectly: a sub-£500/$500 camera with 4K video recording, a splash-resistant body, and a 25-600mm (Equiv) lens with a constant f/2.8 aperture.
You simply don't get that anywhere else right now! On top of that, there's a tilting touchscreen, a 1.44million-dot EVF, Wi-Fi, and image stabilization, which round off the specs to deliver a mighty fine proposition for the advanced novice or enthusiast on a budget.
How we test bridge cameras
We test cameras both in real-world shooting scenarios and, for DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, in carefully controlled lab conditions. Our lab tests measure resolution, dynamic range, and signal-to-noise ratio. Resolution is measured using ISO resolution charts, dynamic range is measured using DxO Analyzer test equipment and DxO Analyzer is also used for noise analysis across the camera's ISO range. We only use real-world testing for our guides to instant and compact cameras – comparing results against similar models that we have tested.
How to choose the best bridge camera
Firstly, you need to decide on how to balance the size of the camera you want to carry to the range of the zoom. While a bigger sensor is advantageous, it does mean that often you'll have a smaller zoom range so you'll need to decide what's more important - image quality or the amount you can zoom. Depending on what you plan on shooting most will determine what should be more important. If you are investing in a bridge camera to take on Safari, for example, it might be a good idea to opt for something with the biggest zoom range possible but if you want a versatile, all-rounder and can forgo a 1000mm zoom I'd definitely opt for image quality.
You'll also need to think about how much you're willing to spend. The bigger sensors do come at a higher price tag but often have features that make it worth it. For this reason, we've split the guide into 1-inch sensor bridge cameras with a smaller zoom range and 1/2.3-inch sensor bridge cameras with a massive zoom range and average picture quality.
What is a bridge camera?
The aptly named bridge camera bridges the gap between DSLRs and compact cameras. They have bigger bodies, non-interchangeable lenses with massive zoom ranges, and small(ish) sensors. When bridge cameras first came out, they had really small 1/2.3-inch sensors, like the kind you find in the best point-and-shoot cameras.
However, these days brands such as Sony, Panasonic, and Canon make bridge cameras that have a larger, 1-inch sensor which is closer to the size of sensors in APS-C cameras. They offer better image quality and better low-light performance but these features come at a price.