Bridge Cameras like the Olympus Stylus 1 shown below are so-called because they bridge the gap between a Compact Camera and the more expensive SLR models. They usually have the same small sensors as those fitted to Compact Cameras. So ultimately the images they produce are not really in the same very high quality league as those produced by an SLR.
Olympus Stylus 1
Weight 14.25 ounces (402 grams)
Dimensions (W x H x D)
4.57 x 3.43 x 2.24″ (116 x 87 x 57 mm)
Zoom Range 28 – 300mm (35mm equivalent)
12 megapixels Sensor
Sensor Size – 1/1.7″
Sensor Area – 41.5 mm²
Panasonic make a number of Bridge Cameras and I seem to remember a very neat description they had for one of their (less expensive) Bridge Camera models. What they said was “it’s a camera to support people’s hobbies rather than being their hobby”. I think this sums them up very well as not everyone is super-keen on examining images at 100% magnification on their computer screens.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ70
The two big advantages of Bridge Cameras are cost (compared to SLR’s) and the very wide zoom range of the lenses fitted. This in turn makes them more bulky than Compact Cameras as the lenses are by necessity quite a bit bigger. Some Bridge Cameras are quite inexpensive considering the tremendous zoom range of the lenses fitted. Certainly a lot cheaper than a SLR despite looking quite similar.
The Panasonic model shown above for example has the same 1/2.3″ size sensor as the Canon A1400 but has a much wider 60x zoom range of 20–1200mm (35mm equivalent). Compare that to the Canon A1400’s 28-140mm 5x zoom range for instance. It’s certainly something of a bargain if a camera with a super-wide zoom lens is of interest. A SLR camera with a bag of lenses to cover the same sort of 20mm to 1200mm zoom range would cost a small fortune.
Fuji also make a number of Bridge Cameras across a fairly wide price range like the model shown here:-
FujiFilm FinePix S4200
In general though, Bridge Cameras are not really very compact (particularly in-depth) but are usefully a fair bit smaller and lighter than a SLR. They’re not really pocket-size though… unless you’ve got big pockets. But depending on your needs and ambitions, this type of camera may well be worth exploring.
If the bigger size is not a problem, a Bridge Camera could well be all the camera you would ever need.
Important – Please note that many Bridge Cameras do have an electronic type viewfinder but there are some that don’t. So please take care to check this out carefully when exploring the net. A quick way of doing this is simply by clicking on the images that appear when looking at a Bridge Camera on Amazon. (There’s often an image showing the rear view).
Also worth mentioning is that the viewfinders are of the electronic type rather than optical. By electronic, what I mean is that what you see when looking through the viewfinder is a repeat of what appears on the LCD screen. Useful in many ways for composition and to check settings etc but not as bright and clear a view as with the better optical system of a SLR or some of the compact cameras with optical viewfinders.