Pro features, less fuss: The best bridge cameras of 2024

Like the simplicity of a compact camera but want the lens and controls of a DLSR? Welcome to the best of both worlds.

some of the best bridge cameras

by Chris Duffill |
Updated on

As even a seasoned professional will know, the ideal camera isn’t always the one brimming with the latest tech, manual settings and detachable lenses – it’s a bridge camera. These are perfect for novice and casual photographers, and anyone looking for a bit more control over their shots than the average compact camera or smartphone can give you. As the name suggests, a bridge camera is designed to bridge the gap between an automatic point-and-click model and a fully-featured DSLR.

The convenience of a lighter, simpler option with the flexibility to take full-auto and manually controlled shots is clear. Plus, as they have an integrated zoom lens you’ll save hundreds, if not more, on all of the extras that the average DSLR camera user needs. But you might wonder: isn't a camera that simply bridges the gap between basic and high-end a bit, well, dull? The answer may surprise you.

Best bridge cameras of 2024 at a glance

• Best overall: Panasonic Lumix DC-FZ1000 II – View at Amazon
• Best budget: Kodak PIXPRO Astro Zoom AZ405-BK – View at Amazon
• Best high-end: Sony RX10 IV – View at Amazon
• Best superzoom: Nikon Coolpix P950 – View at Jessops

Just because a bridge camera meets a lot of needs, from automatic point-and-shoot to manual doesn’t mean losing out on high-end features. The lenses here are compatible with filters and you’ll still be spoiled for super-fast autofocus and image stabilisation and more. So, if you're drawn to the art of photography and want to delve into more advanced settings like ISO, aperture, or shutter speed, these cameras are perfect for honing your skills.

Like all digital cameras, bridge cameras do, of course, vary from model to model and between brands in terms of zoom range, modes and other automated functions. So, which one is right for you? We’ve put together a guide, FAQs, and a glossary at the article’s end to help narrow things down.

Our experts have trained their lenses on a variety of user-friendly bridge cameras that provide that perfect blend of control and simplicity. Plus, we’ve also chosen budget options for beginners as well as premium models that even rival some popular DSLRs. So, let’s push that shutter button and discover the top bridge cameras of the year.

Best bridge cameras of 2024

All prices are correct at the time of writing. Prices, stock and deals are subject to change without notice.

Best overall

Amazon/Panasonic

For us, this Panasonic Lumix DC-FZ1000 II is an outstanding bridge camera that balances high-resolution photography with true versatility at a sensible price. This model sports a 20.1-megapixel 1-inch sensor – ideal for capturing plenty of details. It's equipped with a 25-400mm Leica DC Vario-Elmarit lens too, and that means you’ll have a significant range with your shots – from wide-angle to long zoom. That’s perfect for everything from landscapes to wildlife shots and everything in between.

This camera is also capable of 4K video at 30fps, adding another significant string to its bow in terms of the overall feature set. For those looking to expand on their photography post-production skills, it supports RAW files — allowing you to leave in-camera processing behind and tweak every detail of your image in photo editing applications like Lightroom.

We also like the body design and intuitive tile and swivel touchscreen, making getting things framed up in cramped or awkward shooting conditions that much easier. However, it's not without its niggles. The autofocus, while reliable, can sometimes hunt for a subject in very low light conditions – not that unusual with cameras in this price bracket. Overall, the Lumix DC-FZ1000 II is a truly compelling choice for anyone who is moving on from more basic models to manual photography without splashing out on more expensive and complex full DSLRs.

Pros

  • 16x optical zoom allows detailed shots from afar
  • A large 1-inch sensor ensures superior image quality
  • 4K video recording capabilities

Cons

  • Autofocus can be challenging in very low-lighting conditions

Best budget

Amazon/Kodak

Rrp: $199.99

Price: $179.99
Alternative retailers
Walmart$179.99View offer
Adorama$179.99View offer
BuyDig.com$189.99View offer
B&H Photo Video$189.99View offer

We were pleasantly surprised with this Kodak PIXPRO Astro Zoom AZ405-BK as it has a resolution of 20 megapixels; that’s 4 megapixels more than the previous model. Sensors that good are still something of a rarity in a budget bridge camera, but this one is going to be a noticeable step up from any basic point-and-shoot digital camera.

It has an excellent 40x optical zoom lens that spans 24-960mm - putting this model firmly into what photographers call the ‘superzoom’ category. This lens offers real versatility, from wide landscapes to detailed telephoto shots. Travellers or wildlife enthusiasts will love the reach that this camera offers for the money, as it does away with the usual expense and bulk of interchangeable lenses. Additionally, the camera includes a 3-inch LCD screen that is easy to see and use from various angles.

There is video recording here, but sadly not at 4K resolution – that’s understandable at this price point though. The AZ405-BK does, however, support HD video recording which is fine for casual videography. While it does lack some advanced features found in pricier models, we think its affordability and the inclusion of essential functions make it a practical option for those looking to explore photography while keeping hold of their purse strings.

Pros

  • 40x optical zoom for capturing distant subjects
  • 24mm wide-angle zoom lens
  • Easy to use for beginners

Cons

  • No 4K video resolution

Best high-end

Amazon/Sony

There’s no doubt that Sony is a force to be reckoned with in the field of digital photography, and this Sony RX10 IV proves its credentials as a high-end bridge camera from the moment you clap your eyes on it. We love that it integrates features that are advanced yet still accessible for both amateur and professional photographers. Equipped with a solid 20.1-megapixel sensor and 24-600mm f/2.4-4 zoom lens, you’ll benefit from a seriously impressive image quality and shot versatility. The RX10 IV is perfect for capturing everything from wide landscapes to detailed close-ups.

Plus, video enthusiasts will appreciate the ability to shoot in both 4K and super slow motion at high frame rates. This capability, combined with a lightning-fast autofocus system, makes the RX10 IV exceptionally capable in fast-paced situations. Additionally, its sturdy build and weather-sealed body make it a reliable choice for outdoor photography.

However, we do think that the camera’s considerable weight of just over a kilogram might be heavy for those who like to travel light. That said, we think that’s really a testament to the superior build quality and overall package on offer here. We think the Sony RX10 IV is a powerhouse of a bridge camera that is well suited to a wide variety of environments and subjects.

Pros

  • Fast autofocus system, suitable for action shots
  • 24-600mm Zeiss lens offers excellent range and clarity
  • 4K video capability with advanced features

Cons

  • Heavier and larger than some others

Best superzoom bridge camera

Amazon/Nikon

Nikon has a well-deserved reputation for sheer lens and image quality with its DSLRs, and so this Nikon Coolpix P950 really stands out as one of the brand’s few departures into the bridge camera market. This really is a superzoom bridge camera in every sense of the word, thanks to its impressive 83x optical zoom. Yes, in 35mm equivalent terms that means you can reach everything from 24mm to a whopping 2000mm. The Coolpix P950 really will let you capture everything from sweeping landscapes to distant wildlife without so much as reaching for a different lens.

It has a 16-megapixel sensor, so it’s not the highest here, but the P950 delivers clear and detailed images as you’d expect from Nikon. One feature we’re especially happy to see, given the immense reach of that lens, is the Dual Detect Optical VR. That provides enough vibration stabilisation to allow you to shoot at a significant 5.5 stops slower than without, making it a crucial feature for taking those high-zoom shots.

For us, the P950 does much more than just bridge the gap between a compact and a DSLR – and that’s down to features like the lens of course, but also the vari-angle LCD screen and a high-resolution electronic viewfinder. This camera is a versatile shooter, allowing videographers to shoot in 4K UHD too. It has to be said, though, that the camera’s DSLR-like bulkiness might make some question whether they should make the leap to an entry-level DSLR instead. But, for us that immense lens is the clincher, as it replaces so many traditional lenses in one unit.

Pros

  • Incredible 83x optical zoom – replaces a small collection of regular DSLR lenses in one unit
  • 4K video recording and RAW shooting support
  • Dual detect optical VR for steady shots

Cons

  • Quite heavy and large for a bridge camera

Best mid-budget

Amazon/Panasonic

Owning a decent bridge camera isn’t always kind on the wallet, but we like to think that spending a sensible amount on a mid-budget camera can get you the best of all worlds. This Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ330EBK Bridge Camera is a prime example of a very well-balanced set of specs and features. Its 12MP resolution may not be the highest, but it’s a fine choice for anyone upgrading from a compact.

For us, the star component here is the versatile 25-600mm Leica lens, making it a flexible choice for photographers at all levels. This camera's f/2.8 constant aperture allows for consistent exposure settings across the entire zoom range too, facilitating sharp, high-quality images even in a low-light setting. As you’d expect from Panasonic, it’s equipped with 4K video capability, a touch screen and high-speed autofocus, making both still and video shoots that much easier.

Yes, you’ll find higher megapixel counts on the market ~ but you’ll either pay more for the privilege or find other corners have been cut to reach a similar mid-budget price. So, for those who value practicality, flexibility and ease of use over sheer pixel count, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ330EBK is a real performer.

Pros

  • Fast f/2.8 aperture across 25-600mm zoom range
  • 4K video and photo capabilities
  • Rugged design with splash and dustproof construction

Cons

  • Limited low-light performance due to sensor size

Best for automatic shooting

Currys/Kodak

Sometimes all you need is a camera you can just point and shoot with, but with a much better lens and flexibility than a standard compact camera. That’s where the Kodak PIXPRO Astro Zoom AZ652 comes in. It’s still a bridge camera with a seriously impressive 20-megapixel resolution and all of the manual settings you’d expect. But, its the 65x optical zoom lens (equivalent to 24-1560mm) that really gives the AZ652 its superzoom status. Imagine the sheer cost and number of ordinary DSLR lenses you’d need to have that sort of flexibility – from broad landscapes to close-ups and distant shots of wildlife.

For the simplicity of automatic shooting, the AZ652 offers a range of intelligent modes. The 360° Scan Panorama mode allows for easy expansive scenic shots, and the Face Beautifier does what it says in a similar vein to smartphone apps. But, it’s the other various scene modes – like Portrait, Night Portrait, Landscape, Sport and even Snow – that ensure optimal results.

However, it's worth noting that while the massive optical zoom lens on the AZ652 excels in reach, its sheer length can limit its low-light performance, so you may need to consider a more specialised model if you’re focussing on night shooting without a flash. That said, we think that any enthusiast looking for a great mix of both automatic and manual modes (plus a seriously capable lens) will love this bridge camera.

Pros

  • 65x optical zoom for extreme close-ups
  • Articulating screen for flexible shooting angles
  • Built-in WiFi for easy sharing

Cons

  • That long lens does make this less responsive in low-light conditions

Best for video

Currys/Panasonic

Many classes of camera can shoot 4K video these days, but those that do are still probably half as capable as this one. The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ2000EB is a bridge camera that’s squarely aimed at photographers with a serious interest in video. Equipped with a 20.1MP sensor for those sharp high-resolution images, plus a 24-480mm Leica lens for a versatile zoom range, this camera is capable of stunning manual and automatic shots.

Returning to its video capabilities, it supports 4K resolution – but this time we have both higher bitrates and variable framerates that will appeal to filmmakers looking to shoot in a variety of styles and to suit various technical needs in post-production. The LUMIX DMC-FZ2000EB also features a 1-inch sensor, which means enhanced image quality and low-light performance over lesser models.

However, we do think that the camera’s size (and weight of almost a kilogram) is a little cumbersome for longer shooting sessions. We recommend a tripod to all photographers, but in this case, it’s probably essential for shooting video or extensive stills sessions. Overall, it's a high-performance bridge camera that delivers professional-grade results for both still shooters and videographers.

Pros

  • 20x optical zoom with a versatile focal range
  • 1-inch large sensor improves image quality
  • Professional video recording features

Cons

  • May be too complex for casual users

Best for landscapes

Jessops/Canon

We love a camera with a wider lens than most, and this Canon PowerShot SX70 HS stands out for its impressive 65x optical zoom lens, ranging from 21mm at its widest to 1365mm at full zoom. Serious zoom capabilities aside for a moment, at its widest, this is designed to favour capturing expansive landscapes. And that’s paired with a superb 20.3-megapixel sensor, so you’ll be shooting those vistas in sharp, high-resolution. This makes it ideal for spectacular scenic shots where every detail matters, from the subtle hues of the sky at sunset to the architectural details on distant buildings.

Given all that detail and lens flexibility, we’re happy to see that the SX70 HS supports RAW format. So, if you’re a photographer who likes to fine-tune their images in post-production, it’s a brilliant camera choice. Other features include a fast autofocus system that can keep up with its broad zoom range, and that’s a great addition to its 4K video capability too.

However, we think that one slight drawback is its bulkier design. It’s not hugely different to many other bridge cameras, and the weight is reasonable, but as this is likely to appeal to photographers who like to get out and about it’s worth noting. That minor nitpick aside, this is an ideal camera for any landscape photographer who wants professional results without the expense of buying lenses for high-end DSLRs.

Pros

  • 65x optical zoom covers a vast range
  • Supports both RAW and JPEG formats
  • Features a vari-angle LCD for flexible shooting

Cons

  • A little bulky compared to some other bridge cameras

Best bridge camera bundle

Maplin/Kodak

Kodak make it back into our pick of the best with another PIXPRO model, but this time it comes as a handy bundle. The Kodak PIXPRO AZ425 is equipped with a formidable 20MP sensor and an expansive 42x Astro Zoom lens (24-1008mm). So, while the lens doesn’t have the reach of the superior AZ652, it still offers an impressive range, able to quickly adapt from wide-angle shots to distant subjects.

Packing a 20-megapixel sensor, the AZ425 captures sharp, high-resolution images.
Included in the package is a 32GB SD memory card. We’d have liked to have seen 64GB at a minimum, but we’re glad to see that this is a Class 10 card – which means you can shoot in burst and video modes without worrying about image corruption due to slow write speeds.

The included camera case does ensure basic protection and portability for the price. Yes, you’ll find better, but as a one-stop shop for a camera that’s ready to take out with you right out of the box, it’s a great deal.

Pros

  • Powerful 42x zoom in a compact size
  • Intuitive controls are suitable for all skill levels
  • Optical Image Stabilization for sharper images

Cons

  • The case is fine, but basic

Best compact bridge camera

Wex/Sony

As fully-featured bridge cameras go, you’ll be hard-pushed to beat the Sony RX100 VII Premium Bridge Camera. As the name (and price) suggests, this is a professional-grade model with a ton of functionality in a compact format. And it’s that robust yet lightweight design and build that make it a standout bridge camera for those who need to travel light. Weighing just 302g, this camera blends true portability with power - thanks in part to the 1-inch 20.1MP sensor.

Equipped with a 24-200mm ZEISS lens, the RX100 VII may not have the sheer range of some of the ‘superzoom’ bridge cameras here, but it’s telephoto is still impressive enough for everything but distant wildlife or lunar photographers. It also packs the renowned Sony autofocus system, incorporating real-time tracking and real-time eye AF for both humans and animals. 4K video in HDR (High Dynamic Range, for over a billion colours) is a welcome addition too.

All in all, we think this is one of the most agile high-spec bridge cameras around, ensuring your subject is sharp in any situation. It’ll appeal to enthusiastic amateurs and seasoned professionals alike, with all the benefits but none of the bulk of a DSLR. However, despite its formidable capabilities, there’s no weather sealing here – so, we recommend investing in a waterproof camera bag and a cover if you’re shooting in wet conditions.

Pros

  • Pocket-sized with outstanding image quality
  • High-speed autofocus performance
  • Real-time tracking and video features

Cons

  • No weather sealing

How to choose the best bridge camera

Keep to your budget and buy wisely

If you're on the lookout for cost-effective bridge cameras suitable for beginners, you've likely encountered numerous tempting options from lesser-known brands. While affordability is a key concern for many, we think it’s important to stick to well-established and trusted brands. Our suggestions all feature products from reputable manufacturers and, provided you choose your features wisely, any of them could set you on the path to becoming an adept photographer.

And on the subject of budgets, it's easy to be tempted to overspend based on glowing technical specifications, artificial intelligence enhancements, and high megapixel counts. However, stay as close to your budget as you can if you’re a beginner or novice. You will need to master the basics before you can fully utilise more advanced models. So, our recommendation here is to keep it straightforward and consider upgrading later.

Match the lens with your style of photography

Despite having fixed (non-interchangeable) lenses, bridge cameras do come in a variety of lens lengths. Although you’re more likely to find one with a zoom lens, you still need to consider what kind of shots you’ll be taking with it.

If you’re looking to capture stunning landscapes you’ll need to pay attention to the lowest number in the lens measurement. For instance, an 18 - 150mm zoom lens has an 18mm focal length between the glass and the sensor. That’s a nice wide view of the world. Whereas, zoom the lens to 150mm and your focal length will increase accordingly – ideal for capturing distant wildlife and everything in between. Portrait photographers favour 85mm lenses, so that would be covered in the example above. Always check the focal range of the lens on your bridge camera before you buy to make sure it’ll do what you need it to.

Protect and accessorise your camera

If you haven't got one yet, investing in one of the best camera bags is crucial. Remember to account for extra room for filters, additional batteries, and similar items. It's important that these accessories fit comfortably alongside your new bridge camera without having to force them in. If you're planning on shooting outdoors, you'll also need some waterproofing or a rain cover. A robust tripod is indispensable for many bridge cameras, as it’ll aid your more creative shoots - particularly with longer shutter speeds. Any of the best tripods for a DSLR camera are compatible.

Also, don't overlook essential camera accessories like a UV filter to safeguard your lens, assuming your camera's lens supports a filter attachment thread. A camera cleaning kit is vital to maintain your lens and camera body in pristine condition.

Lastly, you might find yourself in need of new, larger memory cards. With the ever-increasing megapixel counts, you’ll require more storage than before. Be mindful of your card's speed Class as well; Class 10 cards are recommended for their optimal read/write speeds, which are crucial to prevent any noticeable slowdown in continuous shooting speed during file transfer.

a DSLR camera and lenses
A bridge camera can avoid the expense of a DSLR with multiple lenses ©Getty images

Best bridge cameras of 2024: FAQs

Is a bridge camera better than a smartphone camera?

Even the very best smartphone for photography won’t compete with the average bridge camera. And that’s simply down to the size of the image sensor and, of course, the lenses on bridge cameras - they’re larger and will produce superior images. They also benefit from better mechanics and form factors, such as a proper shutter and viewfinder, dedicated controls for settings, and alternative lens options.

Is a bridge camera better than a DSLR?

Potentially – depending on what you need to get out of your photography. Just because a more costly DSLR is capable of a lot of manual adjustments doesn't mean you need to use them all. With a bridge camera, not only might you save money but if you put some time into reading up on your camera's capabilities you’ll discover the vast majority of settings are the same as a DSLR.

But if you're put off by having so much control at your fingertips right at the start, opt to use your bridge camera in its automatic modes instead. They'll give you all the essentials you need to succeed, and fewer advanced features aimed at more experienced photographers.

Is it worth buying a bridge camera?

This is going to come down to how comfortable you are with cameras and their settings. Not to mention basic photography principles like depth of field, ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. If you're totally new to photography (other than the point-and-click variety) we recommend a bridge camera with a user-friendly guided menu system, like the Canon PowerShot SX70 HS Digital Camera above. It’ll help you to learn and get the most out of your new camera.

a DSLR
A bridge camera is just as practical as a DSLR ©Chris Duffill/What's The Best

Best bridge camera of 2024: Jargon buster

Manual mode

This mode offers complete manual control over the primary camera settings that photographers rely on. Whereas a full-sized DSLR camera comes equipped with manual focus rings and adjustment dials, some bridge cameras might offer limited or multifunctional controls instead. Certain adjustments may need to be accessed via on-screen menus, but you should still be able to manage shutter speed, light sensitivity ('ISO'), and aperture (F-stop).

Shutter speed

This refers to the duration the camera's shutter, which blocks light from hitting the sensor, remains open. A longer opening means a slower shutter speed, allowing more light to reach the sensor. This measurement is denoted in seconds and fractions of seconds. Hence, capturing a fast-moving car without any motion blur requires a quicker shutter speed.

ISO (or 'film speed')

In the era of film cameras, films varied in their sensitivity to light, indicated by an ISO rating. The higher the ISO, the greater the light sensitivity. Thus, a film with a high ISO rating requires less light for capturing an image. Today’s camera sensors act as the modern counterpart to a reel of film, where increased light sensitivity results in higher graininess.

Aperture

Aperture, alongside the above, is crucial in photography. It functions similarly to a pupil in the human eye, regulating the amount of light that passes through the lens before it reaches the sensor. The aperture size, measured in f-stops, determines light intake: a low f-stop like f/3.5 means a larger aperture, whereas a high f-stop like f/22 indicates a smaller one.

Depth of field

A lower f-stop significantly reduces the depth of field, blurring everything beyond or in front of the focal point. On the other hand, a higher f-stop expands the depth of field, bringing everything from the middle distance to the horizon (or further) into sharp focus.

Full-Frame / APS-C sensors

The sensor is the camera component that captures the image. Full-frame sensors, common in high-end cameras, match the size of traditional 35mm film and capture more light per pixel. For that reason, they're preferred by many professionals.

Despite being approximately 1.6 times smaller, APS-C sensors can deliver the same megapixel count. However, their smaller size results in a cropped image — useful for capturing distant subjects or wildlife, and contributes to a lighter and more compact camera design. The latter is what makes this sensor a common feature of bridge cameras, as the camera body can be somewhat smaller than a full-size DLSR.

Chris Duffillis a Senior Tech Writer and Reviewer for What's The Best. His background includes writing, editorial, marketing, design, video production and photography.

He specialises in home entertainment and audiovisual tech, including speakers, amplifiers, turntables, streaming media players, and TVs. He is also one of our resident experts in computing (PCs, tablets, smartphones, smartwatches), DSLR photography and all kinds of digital cameras. He also writes about retro gaming, game consoles and various electronic gadgets. If it plugs in, lights up or makes a noise, he’ll write about it.

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