A Bridge Camera In Your Future??


Those with long memories may recall the old Dr. Pepper slogan: "Dr. Pepper, So Misunderstood!"


This can be said of so-called "bridge" cameras, which have been around since 35mm autofocus point-and-shoots. They are now emerging, improved, as digital cameras. And this time you might want one!


A bridge camera has a DSLR-like appearance and function but does not have a removable lens.


Currently virtually all good digital bridge cameras (DBCs?) have the familiar rear screen and the desirable eye-level electronic viewfinder. Very low priced bridge cameras lacking the electronic viewfinder should be avoided. In other words, if you have trouble using your smaller back-screen only camera outside, it will not improve with a bridge camera lacking the electronic finder. Can I make this any more clear?


Bridge cameras got a bad rap in the 35mm days for many reasons. Part is the tendency of buyers to get "the same kind of camera the pros use."


Another part of the lukewarm reception was because the camera store staff were often enthusiasts who did not consider such cameras worthy! I know this, as I was once one of them. It's a snobby thing!


And from a business point of view, selling a full SLR camera often opened the door to future sales of lenses, filters, flash...and a nice big bag to carry it all.  Bridge cameras have all needed bits "baked in."


So 35mm bridge cameras did not flourish. All this after several companies spent a great deal of money designing superior lenses for these cameras that were so misunderstood.


Fast forward to today and we find the situation changing. I believe bridge cameras will make it this time!




First, bridge cameras take advantage of the same improvements in resolution, fast startup, faster focus, fast "burst" modes and more found in their full SLR or mirrorless big brothers.


And now that electronic viewfinders are getting better, they are more accepted in all kinds of cameras, including bridge cameras. Again, using that eyepiece not only tends to isolate you from other distractions, it is especially useful outside in bright light.


Second, better lens design, coupled with in-camera image correction, lets makers fit bridge cameras with lenses only dreamed of in the 35mm era. I have one that covers 24mm to 600mm!


Finally, these cameras also have a fairly high ISO, needed for those long telephoto shots to keep things steady. Most have genuine optical image stabilization and all the modes you can possibly imagine. Or leave them on full auto and snap away.


And, while I am not a big fan of video, these cameras often have stereo audio recording for high-quality HD videos and also Wi-Fi to transfer files to a phone or tablet.


The 16 MP Fuji FinePix S9950W I own (now discontinued & "refurbished") was only $150. Compare that to my ancient "early adopter" Minolta bridge camera from years ago with a much smaller zoom, 5 MP resolution, far fewer features that cost $1,200!


For those looking for something more upscale, check out Sony's recent line of bridge cameras, one of which sells for $1,500 with an absolutely superb lens. In-camera processing corrects for any distortion or light falloff found in extremely long zoom ranges. I like Sony products and am sure their electronic eyepiece is even better than mine.


And again, these cameras no longer use a mirror box optical system which reduces camera vibration dramatically. It also allows for bursts of images at high frame rates because there is no mirror to flap.


About the only (sort of) negative is that many of these cameras still use AA batteries. OK if you are in downtown Paris with a dead battery, but I have gotten used to long-lasting lithium rechargeable batteries. But, unlike cameras a few years ago, modern bridge cameras do not seem to gobble power as much.


So for a person trying to do a bit more with photography but not quite ready to invest in a single lens reflex camera, or one of the new mirrorless camera systems, these may be perfectly satisfactory for almost any kind of shooting you can imagine.


Do some serious thinking about the kind of pictures you wish to take and then the kind of hardware that is absolutely required to take those shots.


They still may not be the magic answer to getting those elusive sports action shots of the kids. But enough has improved that we may look back at the day when we carried around two or three zoom lenses with the same kind of nostalgia we do now when hearing about the "old school" folks who had the camera bag with six fixed focal length lenses.

Two shots from the same position. Those leaves on are the tip of a tree in the far distance.

The camera offers "standard" color, "chrome" color and black & white.

There is also a mode for expanded dynamic range, which stacks several exposures.

"Molly," one of our sillycats, taken from about 8 feet away, no flash. She really is a sweetheart, despite the look she gave me.