Some cameras with a SLR appearance are, maybe improperly, classified in this way, even if in some cases they have a slightly smaller size, and use some non-interchangeable zoom lenses. They also offer an electronic viewfinder and the opportunity to work in Shutter or aperture priority mode or manual mode, along with an automatic program.
Until recently, bridges had some very wide range zoom lenses, used same electronics as the basic compact cameras, and small sensors, whose size was usually 1/2,3”. This was the only possible way to build some lenses that offered up to 80x focal ranges, without having enormous dimensions and not really affordable costs. The image quality of these bridge cameras is not different from the basic compact cameras’ one with small sensors, but low when there’s not much light. Moreover, the use of a lens with such a wide focal length is very arduous, due to its low luminosity, which often constrains to shoot with pretty long intervals, getting blurred pictures, or to increase the sensitivity pretty much and getting pictures with a high amount of noise. The quality of these lenses is usually low, especially setting the max focal length value. Even the operating speed isn’t that high, so this results in shoot delay, not really quick and sensitive autofocus, slowness when saving pictures, difficulty when following the subject with the viewfinder for multiple shoots.
Even in this field, however, the offer had a deep evolution. Currently, since they’re done with the competition for the highest focal length zoom, they introduced some bridge cameras with larger sensors, objectives with a lower focal length but more luminosity in order to get a better image quality, improved autofocus and operating speed.
Bridge cameras with a zoom of a 50x, and over, focal length are, then, disappearing from the market; some producers don’t make them anymore and there hasn’t been any presentation for new models. Due to their pretty low operating and image quality, I don’t recommend any of them. Who’s interested in some of the models that are still available, just for the satisfaction of shooting with a 1200mm objective or wider, and then notice the low quality of the pictures and the shooting difficulty, can buy one of them being aware of their limits.
My selection includes the bridge cameras belonging to the “premium” category that offer a better image quality, compared with those models, and a good level of autofocus and lens features. In some cases, there’s also the opportunity to shoot videos in 4K.
These bridge cameras offer a good image quality and can be a good choice for those who want a camera that matches (almost) every use, from memory pictures to family or landscapes, travels, vacation, events ones, without worrying about the choice, the purchase and the transport of additional lens, like it happens with a mirrorless and a reflex.
Panasonic Lumix FZ1000
This bridge by Panasonic follows the path previously traced by the Sony RX10 and proposes a 1” sensor with 20 Mpx. The zoom, though, has a wider focal length, equivalent to 25-400 mm, but does not have constant luminosity, it’s in fact, an f/2,8-4,0, considerable anyway for the focal length. Contrast detection autofocus uses, though, the Panasonic DFD (Depth From Defocus) technology that allows to focus with almost the same speed of the phase detection one. It has the possibility to film videos in 4K. The FZ1000’s image quality is very good, getting closer to the Micro 4/3 cameras, up to ISO 1600 at least, but you can reach up to 3200 with some compromise. But its size is pretty large and taxing, just like an APS reflex.
It’s a great choice for those who want a good quality camera, but without the concern, later, about the choice and the purchase of further objectives, and with the guarantee to get good pictures anyway, along with the opportunity to shoot videos in 4K.
With the RX10, Sony reinvented the bridge cameras. In fact, instead of using a microscopic sensor for a gigantic 50x zoom like other producers do (and Sony itself), they preferred, in this case, to use a larger sensor, even if not really that large, of 1” and limit the zoom distance, equivalent to 24-200 mm, putting the constant F/2,8 luminosity first. This results in a much better image quality, compared with all the superzoom bridge cameras with small sensors, making it closer and a competitor of all the Micro 4/3 cameras. However, size and weight are important and similar to an APS reflex.
The RX10 is a great camera, pleasant to use, with a great resolution and a very good image quality up to medium-high sensitivity values (ISO 3200). Also, its pretty luminous lens, even in telephoto, allows not to increase sensitivity too much. It’s a great choice for those who want a good quality camera without having to concern, later, about the choice and the purchase of further objectives, and want to be sure to get good pictures anyway.
Leica V-Lux Typ 114
It’s the Leica’s version of the Panasonic FZ1000, even if we could say the contrary, because the implemented objective is made by Leica. It’s different from the FZ1000 for its better external finish and the custom firmware by Leica. Moreover, it’s provided with a Adobe Photoshop Lightroom license that is 150$ worth, which pretty much fills the price gap.
Sony RX10 M II
The RX10 M II is different from the RX10 for its new Exmor RS sensor, which uses the “stacked BSI-CMOS” technology. The backlit sensor is made of multiple layers instead of one only, with pixels and circuits like the ordinary sensors, even BSI. The top layer, exposed to light, contains pixels only. The second one, beneath, contains electronic circuits, and the third one at the bottom, a fast DRAM memory to save the signal. This results in a further improvement of the signal/noise ratio, and a five times higher reading speed. The image quality is very good and better than the RX10’s one.
Sony RX10 M III
The RX10 M III differs from the M II for the lens, which has a wider focal length. In this case it’s a 24-600mm (25x )F2.4-4.0 ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T* lens. The sensor, the viewfinder and the autofocus are the same of the M II. Size and weight of the camera, though, are bigger due to the higher focal length of the lens, along with a good luminosity, and the price. The image quality is very good. It’s ideal for those who are looking for a higher maximum focal length than the RX10, RX10 MII and FZ1000 ones, for sport and animals shootings, even if the autofocus is not that quick for this kind of shoots.