Bridge Camera

We explain the term 'bridge camera', the name for a compact camera with a fixed lens that offers much of the functionality of a DSLR.

What is a bridge camera: the history

In the old days it was simple: proper photographers used SLR cameras. Great big boxes with even larger detachable lenses that cost unfeasibly large amounts of money. The rest of us used smaller point-and-shoot cameras, or even displosables. While the former laboured hard over composing the perfect shot, and then headed to the lab to develop their work, the rest of us took photos of meals out on holiday and were happy if Boots returned more than half of our photos in such a state that we could show Granny.

Digital changed the world, but not in such a way as to make it unrecognisable. In the first instance casual photographers bought simple compact cameras. Heavy on megapixels and preset features, but with a single unchangeable lens and not much customisation. Hobbyist photographers invested in DSLRs. Cameras with interchangeable lenses that captured to digital, unlike true SLR cameras.

And there the camera world would have stayed, but for two important factors. The first is the rise of the smartphone camera. These days a good quality smartphone likely offers the same quality as a compact camera, so increasingly casual photographers aren't replacing their compact point and shoot cameras when they break or age. And those that are look for something more than a basic snapper.

The other factor is saturation point. Not only does everyone have a camera these days, most people have loads of cameras. Your laptop, tablet and smartphone will all contain a camera. So if you are to be persuaded to buy a standalone camera you need to be offered something more than just a point and shoot.

That's why the bridge camera came along. To offer something more than a basic camera to casual photographers who were otherwise well-served by their smartphone camera.

What is a bridge camera: mind the gap

Put simply a bridge camera bridges the gap between a simple compact camera and a DSLR. Typically a bridge camera looks like an SLR. It has a large lens sticking out from the body of the camera. Indeed, another term for a bridge camera is a 'megazoom' or 'superzoom' camera. No prizes for guessing that the manufacturers came up with those terms.

Bridge cameras are often aesthetically designed to heighten this simularity, with black material finish rather than the chromey silver more typically found in a compact camera.

Bridge cameras are also often roughly the same size and weight to the smallest digital SLRs, but they tend not to have optical viewfinders, instead relying on a digital screen. And, critically, the lens is almost always fixed. You can neither take it off nor swap it out for a different lens. Another key difference between a DSLR and a bridge camera is that the latter likely has a narrower ISO range. This is because they usually have a smaller image sensor.

Unlike compact cameras, however, bridge cameras offer the user full manual controls over such important photographic tools as shutter speed, aperture, ISO sensitivity, colour balance and metering. As with the size, expect a similar feature set to a small, low-end DSLR. Visit Photo Advisor.

Bridge Camera