Originally so-called because they straddled (or bridged, if you will) the gap between point and shoots and advanced interchangeable lens cameras, bridge cameras have had a bit of a mixed reputation. However, modern bridge cameras really can bring you the best of everything – the flexibility to shoot at many different focal lengths, traditional style handling and manual controls – without the need to tool around with a kit bag full of different lenses.
There haven’t been too many recent releases of bridge cameras but there are still some excellent options currently on the market, from a variety of manufacturers. Generally speaking, bridge cameras are divided into those with larger one-inch sensors and slightly more limited zooms, and those with smaller sensors and very long, extensive zooms.
Which type is right for you largely depends on the type of photography that you’re into. If you’re looking for a great walk around camera, but which offers the best image quality – look for those with the larger sensor, as they’ll offer an all-round better performance. However, if you’re keen on the long-reach of a lengthy zoom, or are looking for a better-value option, those with a smaller sensor will likely better tick those boxes.
What’s the best bridge camera in 2021?
There’s a few different models to choose from in this guide, but if you’re looking for the best of the best, then it’s the Sony RX10 IV (£1,499) that easily takes the crown. Sony has brought together a host of fantastic tech to this highly flexible bridge camera model which offers a one-inch sensor, fast frame rates, 4K video and a decent level of zoom. That makes it our best bridge camera in 2021, but all of that technology doesn’t come cheap.
If your budget is a little more reserved, but you’re still looking for versatile model to suit a variety of different situations, then the Panasonic FZ2000 (£769) is also a fantastic option, and is the best all-round bridge camera under £800 you can buy.
Finally, if zooming is your most important consideration, the Nikon P1000 (£899) offers you an incredible 125x optical zoom – but it’s paired with a smaller sensor than some of the others in our list. It’s the best bridge camera for zoom.
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Sony RX10 IV
WIRED Recommends: A superb bridge camera with top-class specs – but at a price
Sensor: One-inch, 20.1MP Exmor R CMOS | Lens: 25x zoom, 24-600mm (equivalent), f/2.4-4 | Display: 1440k-dot 3.0-inch tilting LCD | Viewfinder: 2359k-dot electronic viewfinder | Max frame rate: 24fps | Video: 4K | Size: 132.5 x 94 x 145mm | Weight: 1095g (inc. battery and SD card)
If you’re looking for the best-of-the-best and you have a decent amount of budget to play with, the Sony RX10 IV (£1,499) is by far and away the best bridge camera currently on the market – even though it is now a couple of years old.
It’s got a well-performing one-inch sensor, which copes well in a variety of different lighting conditions and is paired with a very flexible 25x zoom. That zoom may be a little shorter than some of those towards the bottom of the list, but it should see you reach almost every subject with ease.
On top of that winning combination, you’ve also got a range of other very useful features. Perhaps most notable is the maximum frame rate of 24fps, which can be used to photograph subjects such as wildlife, sport and action – making it the ideal model to take with you on safari (or just the local zoo). There’s also a nice-to-use electronic viewfinder, coupled with a tilting, touch-sensitive screen which make for a nice combination, no matter your shooting preference. Rounding off the spec sheet nicely is 4K video, too.
In terms of handling, like most bridge cameras, the RX10 IV is chunky, but it is generally comfortable to hold – and, the size and weight is well below the equivalent you would need if you were to pack the equivalent interchangeable lens kit. There’s also full manual control, the ability to shoot in raw format and a range of dials and buttons to give you quick access to different shooting parameters. If you’re an experienced enthusiast you’ll feel very at home here, but beginners can just as easily pick this up and start getting great results from the get go.
Of course, there’s always a compromise to be made somewhere, and while the RX10 IV delivers the best all-round performance of any bridge camera on the market, it doesn’t come cheap. At just shy of £1,500 it’s a fairly hefty investment – but again, you’ll save money compared with comparable DSLR or mirrorless kit.
Pros: Flexible zoom; fast frame rate; good screen and viewfinder combo
Cons: Heavy and bulky; touchscreen could be better
A fantastic all-rounder which delivers great image quality in a range of situations
Sensor: One-inch, 20.1MP, High Sensitivity MOS | Lens: 20x zoom, 26-520mm (equivalent), f/2.8-4.5 | Display: 1040k-dot 3.0-inch free-angle TFT LCD | Viewfinder: 2360k-dot electronic viewfinder | Max frame rate: 12fps | Video: 4K | Size: 137.6 x 101.9 x 134.7mm | Weight: 966g (inc. battery and SD card)
If you’re looking for something a little friendlier on your wallet, but are still keen on decent all-round performance, then the Panasonic FZ2000 (£769) is a very viable alternative – and is just over half the price of the Sony RX10 IV (above).
You still get a well-performing one-inch sensor and a long zoom, which offers only a slightly more modest 20x offering (26-520mm equivalent). It performs well across a range of different subjects, but it’s not quite as impressive when it comes to action photography, with a maximum full-resolution frame rate of 12fps. You can switch to Panasonic’s useful “4K Photo” modes to extract stills from 4K videos – and therefore give you a more usable 30fps – but if you’re mainly photographing fairly static objects, you likely won’t be too worried about missing this feature.
In other areas, the FZ2000 actually outdoes the RX10 IV. For example, the screen here is fully-articulating and has better touch-implementation. It’s paired with another well-performing electronic viewfinder that works well for those who prefer to compose in this way.
Handling-wise, this is another fairly well-built option, but it also feels sturdy and carefully constructed. There’s a comfortable grip while the spread of dials and buttons across the top and back of the camera is well thought out and gives you direct access to a number of key functions.
Overall, this is a very-well performing bridge camera and offers a lot of features for your money – if you don’t intend to shoot fast-moving subjects, and can live with a slightly shorter zoom lens, it’s an ideal choice.
Pros: Useful 4K Photo Modes; good value; fully articulating screen
Cons: Limited battery life; bulky design
Panasonic FZ1000 II
An alternative to the FZ2000, a decent all-rounder well-suited to travel
Sensor: One-inch, 20.1MP, High Sensitivity MOS | Lens: 16x zoom, 25-400mm (equivalent), f/2.8-4.0 | Display: 1240k-dot 3.0-inch free-angle TFT LCD | Viewfinder: 2360k-dot electronic viewfinder | Max frame rate: 12fps | Video: 4K | Size: 136.2 x 97.2 x 131.5mm | Weight: 810g (inc. battery and SD card)
The FZ1000 II (£729) is intended to be a cheaper and smaller version of the FZ2000 (above) for those with a little less need and/or budget. However, over the past couple of years, the two models have come very close in price – so the choice between the two comes down to personal preference.
Here again we have a one-inch sensor that puts in a very good performance in a variety of different conditions, but this time we’ve got a shorter, 16x (25-400mm equivalent lens). Again, this is still pretty flexible for most ordinary situations, and has the benefit of making the overall model less bulky and lighter than the FZ2000.
Other specifications are similar to the FZ2000, including a fully-articulating touchscreen and very usable electronic viewfinder. You’ve also got the same 12fps maximum frame rate, plus the option to use 4K Photo if you need to boost that performance a little higher.
Handling doesn’t suffer from having a smaller body as most of the bulk is lost from the lighter lens. That means a chunky grip, plus a good range of direct access buttons and dials.
Most online retailers present the FZ1000 II at a slightly cheaper price point than the FZ2000, so it makes a lot of sense to go for the former if you’re keen to travel a little lighter and don’t think you will need that extra zoom length.
Pros: Fully articulating screen; 4K Photo Modes; less bulky than FZ2000
Cons: Close in price to FZ2000
Nikon Coolpix P1000
With the P1000 you can literally shoot the moon – but the body is big and bulky
Sensor: 1/2.3-inch 16MP CMOS | Lens: 125x 24-3000mm (equivalent) f/2.8-8 | Display: 921k-dot 3.2-inch free-angle TFT LCD | Viewfinder: 2360k-dot electronic viewfinder | Max frame rate: 7fps | Video: 4K | Size: 146.3 x 118.8 x 181.3mm | Weight: 1,415g (inc. battery and SD card)
If zoom is your number one consideration, then you won’t get longer than the Nikon P1000 (£899), with which you have an enormous – and perhaps generally unnecessary – 125x zoom. In old-school terms, that gives you a 3000mm reach, which is long enough to reach the moon.
Of course, a whopping great lens like that doesn’t come small and light, making the P1000 the bulkiest bridge camera in our list. This is a camera that will you get noticed – it’s not one for being small and discreet – but again, if you attempted to get even close to this kind of reach with an interchangeable lens set up, then you’d probably need a small truck to transport it. You don’t have to use it at its full reach, obviously, but if you think you’ll mostly be shooting at wider angles, this kind of camera is total overkill.
On the plus side, handling is otherwise pleasing, with a good array of dials and buttons spread across the body – particularly useful is a button to help you frame your shots when shooting at long focal lengths. You’ve also got a fully-articulating screen (it’s not touch-sensitive though, which is disappointing), and a decent electronic viewfinder. 4K video is also included for capturing the odd movie.
When it comes to image quality, however, the P1000 suffers from its small sensor. If you really do need a 125x zoom, it’s a sacrifice you’ll have to make, but you’ll probably need to stay away from low-light scenes to get the most from the P1000.
Overall, the P1000 is arguably a gimmick which shows off the maximum capability of bridge cameras, but it’s also perhaps the most flexible of the group for those who want to shoot distant subjects.
Pros: Enormous zoom; fully articulating screen; 4K video
Cons: Massively bulky; small sensor; slow frame rate
Canon PowerShot SX70
With great handling and a long zoom, the SX70 suits trips and days out
Sensor: 1/2.3-inch 20.3MP back-illuminated CMOS | Lens: 65x zoom 21-1365mm f/3.4-f/6.5 | Display: 922k-dot 3.0-inch free-angle TFT LCD | Viewfinder: 2360k-dot electronic viewfinder | Max frame rate: 10fps | Video: 4K | Size: 127 x 90.9 x 116.6mm | Weight: 610g (inc. battery and SD card)
If a big zoom is something you’re keen for, but you don’t need something quite so ridiculous as the P1000, the Canon SX70HS (£579) is a good value option which keeps things relatively small and light.
As well as a very flexible 65x zoom, you get full manual control, the ability to shoot in raw format and a range of shooting modes. If you’ve ever shot with a Canon DSLR you’ll be very at home here, as the design is very reminiscent of one of its interchangeable lens cousins. There’s also a nicely chunky grip, a fully-articulating screen (another one which is disappointingly not touch-sensitive), plus a decent viewfinder.
Image quality is again hampered here by having a smaller sensor than the premium options at the top of the list, but the SX70HS offers a good enough balance between zoom, portability and image quality to recommend it for day trips and when you want to travel (reasonably) light. If you’re mainly shooting sunny landscapes, it will be less of an issue than if you want to photograph low-light scenes.
With a maximum frame rate of 10fps, this is also not the ideal camera for fast-moving wildlife subjects, but for those that are relatively static – or slow-moving – there’s some flexibility to capture that type of subject too, such as at the zoo or on safari.
To sum up, while the Canon SX70HS is a little on the old side now, it’s the cheapest model in our round up, giving you a decent array of specs for your cash – especially if you’re happy to compromise on sensor size.
Pros: Very long zoom; good value; fully articulating screen
Cons: Small sensor; screen not touch-sensitive
A flexible zoom and a decent range of specs – the P950 is ideal for day trips and holidays
Sensor: 1/2.3-inch 16.7MP CMOS | Lens: 83x zoom 24-2000mm f/2.8-6.5 | Display: 921k-dot 3.2-inch free-angle TFT LCD | Viewfinder: 2359k-dot electronic viewfinder | Max frame rate: 7fps | Video: 4K | Size: 140.2 x 109.6 x 149.8mm | Weight: 1,005g (inc. battery and memory card)
Another alternative for those who have their interest piqued by the P1000, Nikon’s P950 (£799) is a much more sensible option for almost every type of photographer.
Here you get a much less bulky – and therefore more usable – bridge camera, but you still get a fairly length 83x zoom, one which should suit almost every type of subject perfectly well. Alongside that 2000mm equivalent focal length, you get a 16 megapixel sensor which copes well with good light, but like the other small sensors in this group, is less adept in low light.
Enthusiasts will be keen on the full manual control and raw format shooting the P950 offers, as well as the decent array of buttons and dials that you’ll find across the camera’s body. You also get a fully-articulating screen – no touch-sensitivity still – plus a fairly decent electronic viewfinder.
With 7fps as the maximum frame rate, it’s a little disappointing in this are – especially for those with a penchant for wildlife – but for landscape and travel shooters, it’ll likely be less of an issue.
The P950 is not the cheapest in our round-up, but for being a good blend of zoom capability and manual features, it represents good value for those who want a little bit of everything from their bridge camera.
Pros: Less bulky than P1000; fully articulating screen; very long zoom
Cons: Small sensor; fairly high price; screen not touch sensitive