Looking to get your hands on the best bridge camera? Our list should be just the ticket. This type of camera boasts long zoom lenses and DSLR style handling, without the faff (and expense) of having to buy and pack multiple optics.
Thanks to offering many of the same manual control modes, they're a versatile and budget-friendly alternative to DSLRs. If you're new to photography, don't worry there's always a range of straightforward auto modes too.
The lens is the main attraction with optics that will see you able to shoot everything from wide-angle landscapes to subjects in the distance such as wildlife. For that reason, they're often a popular choice for travel and vacations when you need to have everything to hand.
You'll need to consider the differences between bridge models and DSLRs/mirrorless alternatives – once you're aware of the compromises, you can make an informed decision. Perhaps the most obvious, and most important, difference is that a bridge camera will have a much smaller sensor than a DSLR or mirrorless camera. That means outright image quality isn't quite as good – but the considerably upside is the versatility of that lens, which is like having a bag of lenses in one body.
If you want to learn more about what a bridge camera is, we've gone into more depth further down this page – but now it's time to get into the best bridge cameras you can buy in 2021.
Best bridge cameras 2021 at a glance:
- Sony Cyber-shot RX10 IV
- Panasonic Lumix FZ2000
- Panasonic Lumix FZ1000
- Sony Cyber-shot RX10 III
- Canon PowerShot SX70 HS
- Panasonic Lumix FZ80 / FZ82
- Nikon Coolpix P950
- Nikon Coolpix P1000
- Sony Cyber-shot HX400V
- Panasonic FZ300 / FZ330
Best bridge cameras in 2021:
For those looking for a powerful all-in-one solution, you won't find better than the RX10 IV. Featuring a hugely flexible 24-600mm f/2.4-4 zoom lens, the RX10 IV builds on the RX10 III with an overhauled AF system that now does justice to the rest of the camera, while the 1-inch, 20.1MP sensor is capable of achieving excellent levels of detail. It's quite bulky for a bridge camera, and there's no getting away from the hefty price, but the RX10 IV is virtually in a league of its own and is perhaps even deserving of a better name than 'bridge'.
- Read our in-depth Sony Cyber-shot RX10 IV review
If your budget doesn't quite stretch to RX10 IV levels but you still want something top-quality, flexible and with great image quality, the Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 (known as the FZ2500 in the US) is an excellent choice. It uses a 1-inch sensor, and while the zoom tops out at 480mm equivalent, which is relatively short for a bridge camera, that's still plenty for all but the most extreme everyday use. We'd certainly sacrifice a little zoom range for better and faster optics, and we love the FZ2000 because it delivers both image quality and zoom range. If you're looking for something a bit cheaper, the older FZ1000 (below) is also worth a look, as is its successor, the FZ1000 II.
- Read our in-depth Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500 review
The Lumix FZ1000's 16x optical zoom is less than that of typical bridge cameras, but that's due to its sizeable 1-inch sensor, which delivers a big boost in image quality. This isn't just any old lens, either, but rather a Leica optic with a large f/2.8 maximum aperture at the wide-angle end, which narrows to a still-respectable f/4 at full zoom. This helps you capture shots in low light without resorting to high ISO sensitivities, while the Hybrid 5-axis Optical Image Stabilisation minimises camera shake. 4K (Ultra HD, strictly) 3840 x 2160 video recording, advanced autofocusing, a superb 2,359,000-dot electronic viewfinder and raw shooting all help to make the FZ1000 one of our top picks. Note that Panasonic replaced the FZ1000 with the FZ1000 II this year - but as more of a gentle refresh than complete rebrand, making the older model the best value right now.
- Read our in-depth Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 review
As is often the case with Sony, you can make decent savings if you look towards its extensive back-catalogue. In this case, if you can live without the advanced AF system and other performance advantages offered by the RX10 IV, the RX10 III is still worth a look. The design is pretty much identical to the RX10 IV, and you've got the same 24-600mm f/2.4-4 lens. What's the compromise? Well, the AF is a bit pedestrian compared to the latest model, while there's no touchscreen control or the ability to shoot at an impressive 24fps.
- Read our in-depth Sony Cyber-shot RX10 III review
Canon's PowerShot SX70 HS is what we'd consider a more conventional bridge camera than those found in the top four. That's because it uses a smaller 1/2.3-inch sensor which gives you the advantage of a ginormous 65x optical zoom range. You still get full manual control, along with other great features such as an fully articulated screen (it lacks touch sensitivity though), a decent electronic viewfinder and the ability to shoot in raw format. In-built Wi-Fi and NFC is another bonus. This is a classic all-rounder which would suit those looking for something relatively small and light for trips such as safaris, where that big zoom comes into its own. A bugbear is having to activate the viewfinder manually since there's no sensor, but otherwise it's a solid performer. Image quality is very good, with the image stabilization system doing a good job of keeping captures even at the extreme end of the telephoto lens sharp. Shooting at the wide-angle and low-light are not this camera's forte, but there's good autofocus performance and speedy operation to compensate.
- Read our in-depth Canon PowerShot SX70 HS review
The Lumix FZ80 (known as the Lumix FZ82 outside the US) might be one of the most affordable bridge cameras here, but it still packs quite a punch. The zoom range is very impressive, going from an ultra-wide 20mm through to a staggering 1200mm, and benefits from an effective image stabilization system. There's also 4K recording with Panasonic's 4K Photo, which can shoot 8MP images at 30fps, meaning you should never miss that split-second moment. It's also very easy to use, with an intuitive touchscreen. The viewfinder could be better (and there's no eye sensor to automatically switch between the viewfinder and rear screen), while high-ISO performance can't match that of larger-sensor (and more expensive) rivals. That said, this is one of the best budget bridge cameras around.
- Read our in-depth Panasonic Lumix FZ80 / FZ82 review
It doesn't quite have the Nikon P1000's ludicrous 125x optical zoom range, but the P950's 83x zoom is more than enough for most people in most situations. If you like to mainly shoot landscapes or wildlife on your travels, it remains a good contender, particularly if you're coming from another Nikon camera. The three big improvements over the P900 are support for Raw shooting (for greater flexibility when editing images), 4K video resolution, and a much-improved electronic viewfinder. Collectively, these make it more user-friendly and versatile than its predecessor, though it is also worth looking out for deals on the Nikon P900. We'd like to have seen a touchscreen added too, but the P950 remains a good option if zoom is your main priority.
- Read our in-depth Nikon Coolpix P950 review
The Coolpix P1000 is the follow-up to the P900 and stretches what we’ve come to expect from superzoom cameras that bit further. The reason is the lens, with the P1000 packing in a massive 125x optical zoom range equivalent to 24-3000mm in 35mm terms, it has the potential to home in on the most distant subjects you’d realistically want to capture, be it wildlife or the Moon. If you absolutely need a camera with a 3000mm-equivalent lens, the fact that the P1000 is alone in offering this makes your decision easy. With a huge body, less-than-reliable autofocus, a sub-standard LCD and operational strifes, however, its appeal for anything else is more limited.
- Read our in-depth Nikon Coolpix P1000 review
Sony's superzoom bridge camera is closely matched with the Panasonic FZ82, and is available at a great price owing to its age. The downsides when compared to the FZ82 include JPEG-only image capture and a lesser zoom range, but if you can live with both it's a great budget option. The HX400V claws back some ground by offering Wi-Fi, while it's also pleasure to use thanks to its ergonomic design, and the tilting screen is nice touch, although it isn't fully articulating. More disappointing is the relatively low-resolution electronic viewfinder. Although there's no raw support, JPEG images have great colors and plenty of detail. Some image smoothing is visible when images are viewed at 100%, but that's a common trait amongst small-sensor bridge cameras.
- Read our in-depth Sony Cyber-shot HX400V review
If your main concern is the state of your finances, here's a quick look at a great value option from Panasonic. It was launched back in 2015, so it's a fair old age now, but that just makes the FZ300 (known as the Lumix FZ330) outside the US an even better bargain. With a 25-600mm zoom lens, what's really impressive is an f/2.8 constant aperture throughout the range, which is particularly useful at the longer end of the zoom range. Top that off with a splash-resistant body, a vari-angle touchscreen and a decent electronic viewfinder and you've got all the makings of a great all-rounder. Impressively for an older model, it even shoots 4K, too.
- Read our in-depth Panasonic Lumix FZ300 / FZ330 review
What is a bridge camera?
For those wondering where bridge cameras get their name – it's because they are said to 'bridge' the gap between simple point-and-shoot models (or your phone) and more advanced DSLR type models.
Bridge cameras tend to have smaller sensors than DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, but the other main difference is that the lens is fixed to the body, so you can't remove it for a more specialized optic or one with a wider aperture. While the lenses on a bridge camera are extremely flexible, you can't attach something like a macro lens for extreme close-ups or an f/1.4 lens for shooting in low-light.
It's not quite as straightforward as that anymore, as some bridge cameras are advanced and sophisticated themselves. Sensor sizes – although still smaller than a DSLR / mirrorless, have increased in size over the years too, with many now sporting a one-inch sensor which is much larger than that in an average smartphone.
If you're just starting out in photography, bridge cameras can be the ideal place to start. You get a lot for your money and it's the ideal way to learn about different shooting modes and settings, without necessarily spending a huge amount of money.