Bridge cameras have DSLR-style controls and massive zooms, but image quality isn't a strong point unless you want to pay a premium.
If the size of the camera isn't important but you like the idea of a do-it-all camera with a super-long zoom lens, then a 'bridge' camera is the next logical step.
The name 'bridge camera' comes from the way these cameras are designed to bridge the gap between a regular compact camera and a DSLR. In fact, bridge cameras often look like DSLRs, with a characteristic 'fat' body, a chunky grip on the right hand side, an exposure mode dial on the top and the program AE, aperture-priority, shutter-priority and manual (PASM) modes of DSLRs. Many models now shoot raws as well, but check the specification to make sure.
But while bridge cameras offer monumental zoom ranges, such as the amazing 83x zoom on the Nikon Coolpix P900, there are limitations. In order to achieve these zoom ranges at a manageable size and cost, the makers use the same-sized 1/2.3-inch sensors as you find in smaller compact cameras. You get the look and feel of a DSLR, but you don't get the image quality.
There are exceptions, though. In the past couple of years the likes of Sony and Panasonic have launched bridge cameras with much larger 1-inch sensors, notably the Sony RX10 III and Panasonic Lumix FZ2500 (known as the Lumix FZ2000 outside the US). This comes at the expense of zoom range (though still very impressive and more than adequate for most shooting situations) and, well, expense generally, but most keen photographers would swap a little zoom range for a big step up in quality.
Pros: Massive zoom range; DSLR-style controls and features; versatility and value for money.
Cons: Small sensor size limits the quality (with some key exceptions); detail often quite soft at full zoom; autofocus systems rarely match DSLRs for responsiveness.
Our pick... Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500
The new Panasonic Lumix FZ2500 / FZ2000 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 for of zoom range for better and faster optics. We love the FZ2000 because it delivers both image quality and zoom range, but if you're looking for something a bit cheaper, the older Lumix FZ1000 is also worth a look.