Many predicted bridge cameras would be wiped out by the rise of affordable DSLRs and compact system cameras (especially budget models), but this hasn't happened.
It's not that hard to figure out why. Not everyone wants the relative bulk, faff and expense of an DSLR and a big bag of lenses, so it's the combination of power and portability, at an affordable price, that explains the enduring appeal of bridge compact cameras.
The best examples now offer DSLR-like levels of control and fast, wide-aperture lenses, along with raw shooting and other useful extras such as Wi-Fi and articulated screens. Bridge compact makers have been working hard to keep these cameras fresh and appealing to serious photographers, so read on to discover the best buys.
Six things to look for in a bridge camera
Sensor size: Most bridge cameras have small 1/2.3-inch sensors which limits the picture quality, but a couple now have much larger and better 1-inch sensor – though the zoom range is lower.
Zoom range: Make sure that you check the optical focal length, as well as the digital focal length. Optical is always better.
Max apertures: For low light shooting and for shooting images with a shallow depth of field, you'll want something which offers a wide maximum aperture.
Viewfinder: A viewfinder is useful, especially those that come with a sensor for detecting when the camera has been lifted to your eye.
Raw shooting: For the most flexibility, particularly when it comes to controlling noise, look for those which offer raw format shooting.
Manual control: Being able to change the aperture, shutter speed, ISO and so on gives you the same kind of control as using your DSLR.
Best bridge camera: Panasonic Lumix FZ1000
Sensor size: CMOS, 1-inch | Megapixels: 20.1 | Zoom range: 16x, 27-432mm | Screen type: 3-inch articulating, 921,000 dots | Viewfinder: Yes | Maximum continuous shooting rate: 12fps | Maximum video resolution: 1080p (4k supported too)
The Panasonic FZ1000 is the brand's flagship bridge camera, packing a 16x optical zoom lens (equivalent to 25-400mm) and a large, 1-inch sensor with 20.1 megapixels. The zoom range is lower than regular bridge cameras, but the larger sensor delivers a big boost in image quality.
This is not just any old lens either, being Leica DC Vario-Elmarit glass with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 at the widest point and f/4 at the narrowest. There is also a Hybrid 5-axis Optical Image Stabilisation to reduce the risk of camera shake when the lens is zoomed out.
What's more, the FZ1000 is the first compact or bridge camera able to record 4K (3840 x 2160 pixel) video at up to 25fps (PAL) in MP4 format. So, you can enjoy 8Mp still images on 4K televisions. Up to 49 AF points are available and a Custom Multi AF mode enables you to use blocks, rows or columns of AF points.
The Panasonic FZ1000 has a 2,359,000-dot OLED electronic viewfinder, and vari-angle rear LCD – but it's not touchscreen. You can't shoot raw in HDR mode and the camera is a bit bulky, but otherwise it's a really good buy.