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What Is A Bridge Camera? Photography Basics Explained

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Bridge Camera

Bridge cameras bridge the gap between point-and-shoot cameras and digital single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras. Even so, the name “bridge camera” does not refer to its bridging capabilities. Instead, the name refers to the camera’s lens interchangeability including mega zoom, superzoom, or ultra-zoom.

Because bridge cameras close the gap between simple cameras and more advanced cameras, individuals who are looking to improve their photography skills often select bridge cameras. However, professionals often avoid bridge cameras due to their limitations.

For a complete picture of what bridge cameras are and how they work, keep reading. 

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How Does a Bridge Camera Work?

Before the invention of bridge cameras, there were two main camera types: point-and-shoot cameras and digital SLR cameras. Point-and-shoot cameras come with very few controls and are fun for an amateur, but they hardly offer great photo quality. Digital SLR cameras, in contrast, are advanced cameras that are primarily only used by professional photographers.

Since there were only two camera types, there was a gap in high-quality cameras designed for amateurs or budding photographers. This is how the bridge camera came to be. The bridge camera takes the best of point-and-shoot cameras and the best of digital SLR cameras. Thus, the bridge camera is pretty easy to use, but it still offers manual control, high-quality photos, and an affordable price tag.

photo of a man in front of the brooklyn bridge
Photo Credit: Matthew LeJune, Unsplash

Camera Body

Bridge cameras are created with manual controls, long interchangeable zoom lenses, and several product options. The body of the camera itself looks and feels like an SLR camera, and it even includes manual controls. As a result, bridge cameras offer some customization and manual control, but you don’t have to be a professional to learn how to use or afford this camera.

Today, most bridge cameras are digital and include a number of manual features like shutter speed, ISO sensitivity, and color balance for optimal user experience and image quality.

How Are Bridge Cameras Different From Other Camera Types?

It’s best to compare bridge cameras to point-and-shoot cameras and digital SLR cameras:

Point-And-Shoot Cameras

Point-and-shoot cameras are sometimes called compact digital cameras. They are designed so everyone can take a quick picture and capture a memory forever. There’s no need for extra lenses or film, but you will not have the ability to adjust settings. So, point-and-shoot cameras are more for taking quick photos.

woman using digital camera
Photo Credit: stockfour, Shutterstock

Digital SLR Cameras                                                     

Digital SLR cameras, which stand for digital single-lens reflex cameras, take higher-quality photos. This camera is expensive because it delivers sharp images with high resolution. They have an incredibly sensitive sensor to yield high-quality images in low-light environments, but they are difficult to use and require you to change settings on your own. Most professional photographers and videographers use this camera type.

Lumix DSLR
Image Credit: Clément Rémond, Unsplash

Bridge Camera

It’s best to think of a bridge camera as the middle point between the bridge shoot camera and the digital SLR camera.

On the one hand, bridge cameras are pretty easy to use and have a single lens. This means that you can easily position this camera and take the photos you want. You don’t have to spend a fortune or be an expert to figure out this camera either. In this respect, bridge cameras are similar to point-and-shoot cameras.

At the same time, bridge cameras offer some manual control. This creates a superior image quality to regular point-and-shoot cameras. In these respects, bridge cameras are like digital SLR cameras. 

Where Is a Bridge Camera Used?

Because bridge cameras bridge the gap between point-and-shoot and digital SLR cameras, bridge cameras are primarily used by amateurs and those who have just begun their photography hobby. Bridge cameras can help you learn how to manually control cameras without forcing you to spend a fortune. Occasionally, some families will invest in a bridge camera to create family photos with pretty high-quality results.

Very rarely are bridge cameras used for professional purposes. Because there is only one lens, bridge cameras do not offer ultra-wide angles or depth in portrait photography. Likewise, those who just want to capture an image with no concern for quality do not pick bridge cameras. They are not worth the hassle.

In other words, bridge cameras are for those who care about the image quality but don’t need all the customization and features of a digital SLR camera.

Advantages of Bridge Cameras

There are quite a few advantages to having a bridge camera. Most notably, they offer the best of both worlds in that they are affordable and easy to use, all while delivering very good image results. They can help you take some beautiful pictures, even if you are not a professional.

Another major benefit of the bridge camera is its price. Bridge cameras are not that much more expensive than point-and-shoot cameras, but the image quality is highly superior. So, you can get high-quality photos by just spending a few extra bucks on a bridge camera.

These cameras are also a great starting point if you want to become a more serious photographer. They can teach you some customization basics without overwhelming you. Many hobbyists like building up their skills with a bridge camera before investing in a digital SLR camera.

landscape photography using dslr
Image Credit: PhotoMIX-Company, Pixabay


Disadvantages of Bridge Cameras

Even though there are a lot of advantages to bridge cameras, there are some disadvantages too. Most notably, the image quality is nowhere near as superior as that of a digital SLR camera. If you try to zoom in a lot, for example, the image can become blurred. Although many cameras have features to try to offset this disadvantage, they can’t offset it completely.

Something else to think about is that it could be difficult to edit photos taken from bridge cameras. To Photoshop or edit pictures, they normally need to be in the RAW format. Bridge cameras normally process images in JPEG. JPEG is difficult to edit, further making this camera less of an option for professional photographers who need to edit the final results.

shutter camera divider 2 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is a bridge camera? 

A bridge camera has the body of a digital SLR camera with manual controls, but it only has one lens like a point-and-shoot camera. This makes a bridge camera a bridge between amateur point-and-shoot cameras and professional digital SLR cameras.

Who should get a bridge camera?

Bridge cameras are best for amateurs and hobbyists. These cameras are easy to use and affordable, but they offer more control and high-quality pictures than regular point-and-shoot cameras.

close up of the lens of a digital camera
Image Credit: Shutterbug75, Pixabay

How expensive are bridge cameras?

Bridge cameras can come in many price points. Some are only a few hundred dollars, whereas others exceed the $1,000 mark. The quality of the camera and its features will determine its price. You should be able to find a bridge camera that fits into your budget pretty easily.

How is a bridge camera different from a point-and-shoot camera?

Bridge cameras differ from point-and-shoot cameras in that they offer more manual control. Because bridge cameras have the body of an SLR camera, you can change the settings manually and zoom in dramatically to have customized, high-quality photos.

How is a bridge camera different from a digital SLR camera?

Bridge cameras only have one lens and do not offer complete manual control like that of the digital SLR camera. The image format differs as well, which makes editing difficult.

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A Quick Reference Guide

Scenario Best Camera Type
Amateurs Point-and-shoot
Hobbyists Bridge
Professionals Digital SLR
Learning photography basics Bridge
Those on a budget Point-and-shoot or Bridge
Editing Digital SLR

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Bridge cameras bridge the gap between point-and-shoot cameras and digital SLR cameras. If you are a hobbyist who wants to learn how to take great photos, it’s a good idea to start on a bridge camera until you learn the trade and can invest in a more expensive digital SLR camera.

Even though bridge cameras are good for many scenarios, keep in mind that they aren’t perfect. You won’t be able to get all the angles or depths you may want, and you won’t be able to practice your editing skills. Still, this camera can teach you some photography basics.

See also:

Featured Image Credit: Didgeman, Pixabay

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.