The 4 best bridge cameras reviewed

By: Jen Wiss

A bridge camera will give you DSLR-like manual control and (for some models) raw shooting, but with a fixed lens which makes it lighter and more compact than a DSLR. Here, I review my top 4 favourite bridge cameras, including my favourite features and what makes them a good buy.

1. Panasonic DMC-FZ72EB-K Lumix (my favourite)

Lumix panasonic bridge cameraThe specs:

  • 20mm Ultra Wide-Angle, Powerful 60x Optical Zoom Lens
  • POWER O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilizer) with Active Mode
  • Full-HD Video with Clear Sound Featuring Wind Shield Zoom Microphone
  • 16.1-Megapixel High Sensitivity MOS Sensor and Venus Engine
  • Intuitive Control in Shooting-Style Design

What I like:

  • The big zoom – 60x – one of the best you can buy at the moment which makes it outstanding value for money.
  • Excellent quality images in good light.
  • Decent battery life – around 400 shots which is good for a camera in this price bracket.
  • Decent 200mb of internal memory.
  • Video is HD and is good quality, again making this camera great value for money.
  • Has camera RAW – you don’t get this a lot in Bridge cameras so it’s a big plus.

What I dislike:

  • The screen would have been better if it was articulated.
  • If you want to get really high quality images with a lot of detail, you need to use Raw. If you use jpg, sometimes there’s a lack of detail even at lower ISO levels. Avoid going above ISO 800.
  • There’s no eye sensor on the electronic view finder – you have to press a button to flick between the monitor and the viewfinder.
  • Some of the knobs and buttons are a little cheap looking by Panasonic’s usual standards, but most people will be more than happy with it.

Price: £199.99 (find out more)

2. Sony DSCHX400V

Sony DSCH400 Digital Camera

The specs:

  • 20.4MP Exmor R CMOS sensor, 50x optical zoom, ZEISS lens, Optical SteadyShot, Wi-Fi, and NFC, and GPS
  • 20.4MP Exmor R CMOS sensor
  • 50x optical zoom lens by ZEISS
  • Built-in Wi-Fi, NFC, and GPS.

What I like:

  • Fast and easy to use.
  • Produces crisp, sharp photos which are near SLR quality and video which is full HD with awesome quality and sound.
  • 24-1200mm range – no need for the interchangeable lens that a DSLR would offer you.
  • Decent battery life.
  • Steady Shot image stabilisation – makes it quite difficult to blur your pics 🙂
  • Full manual control as you’d expect.
  • Lens threaded so you can use filters.
  • Exceptionally good macro.

What I don’t like:

  • No Raw – with jpg, image quality is pretty good in low light levels but does start to deteriorate as conditions get worse.
  • In camera battery charging – it’s not supplied with a separate charger, which is a little irritating.
  • Your vids are limited to 29 minutes.
  • The viewfinder has an electronic eye sensor but won’t work if you’re wearing glasses

Price: £299.00 with WiFi and NFC (find out more). It’s also worth checking out the Sony DSCH400 (£169.00) in this range which has no Wifi, GPS or NFC but it does have a more powerful 63x optical zoom lens by Sony (find out more).

3. Sony H300 Digital Compact Camera

Sony H300The specs:

  • Striking images made simple with a 35x optical zoom, 20MP sensor, HD video, and creative effects
  • 20.1MP Super HAD CCD sensor
  • 35x optical zoom lens by Sony
  • Optical SteadyShot image stabilisation

What I like:

  • Very easy to use in auto mode – great choice for beginners.
  • Clear, sharp pictures – 20mp is decent enough for most people.
  • 35x optical zoom – fantastic for the price.

What I don’t like:

  • Saves in jpegs – no Raw.
  • No viewfinder, although the view screen is a good size and clear. Set it to display the grid permanently and you’ll find framing shots is a doddle.
  • A minor point I guess but £99 buys you just the camera. You’ll need to pay for a case, SD card, batteries and a battery charger separately (it takes 4 AA batteries so a battery charger is a good buy to save money in the long run). It’s so cheap, I guess most people won’t complain.
  • The user manual it is supplied with is useless. You can access a more detailed one on the Sony website: http://pdf.crse.com/manuals/4480190111/EN/index.html
  • Not impressed with performance under low light, especially when taking pics of things that are far away.
  • The focus occasionally changes automatically when you’re filming vids, which can blur them.

All in all, look at what you’re getting for the price. A quality, 20mp camera with 35x zoom that will take amazing photos and has manual control for £99. You can’t argue with that.

Price: £99.00 (find out more)

4. Fujifilm S8650

Fujifilm-S8650-Bridge-Digital-CameraThe specs:

  • Powerful 36x Fujinon zoom lens
  • 1/2.3-inch CCD sensor with primary colour filter
  • 16 million pixels
  • 3 inch LCD screen

What I like:

  • Compact in size, great for carrying around.
  • Decent 36x zoom.
  • Nice clear pics, good quality.
  • Fun creative effects that do give some nice results.
  • Macro gives great results.
  • The price – at just over £100, it’s a decent camera for your money.

What I don’t like:

  • Battery life seems poor – buy rechargeables and a recharger to get the best value out of this, and keep spares with you!
  • Slow between taking pictures – a few seconds – this can be annoying if you’re trying to capture a few pics of a scene that’s changing quickly.
  • Poor screen – makes the pics look awful. Don’t be fooled – when they’re on your PC, you’ll see that they’re really good. So don’t go deleting them until you’ve got home and had a proper look.

Price: £105.99 (find out more)

Conclusion

In my view, these four bridge cameras are all good buys. I’ve deliberately included a couple of really budget buys that I think offer fantastic value for money. However, if I had to pick one of the four, I’d go with the Panasonic DMC-FZ72EB-K Lumix. Even though they are the best in their class, all four cameras struggle in less ideal light conditions but in my view, the Panasonic DMC-FZ72EB-K Lumix which is the only model that has Raw handles the conditions the best.

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