What is a bridge camera?

As always, when buying a bridge camera you'll have a budget in mind. Fortunately in today's ultra-competitive market there is a bridge camera available to suit you, especially with the prices of entry-level DSLRs and CSCs falling.

If you're not bothered about an accessory shoe on your bridge camera, whether the camera records stereo sound and are happy to settle for 1080 x 720p HD video rather than the best quality 1920 x 1080p, then you won't need to spend top dollar.

If you have a bit more to spend but aren't worried about switching optics, and a whole host of manual features rather than a big lens are your main concerns, then a premium compact such as the Canon G15 or Nikon P7700 might be a better bet.

Read our mini guide to which bridge cameras may set your pulse racing.

Olympus SP-620UZ

Price: £110/US$200 (around AU$170)

What's a bridge camera? Best bridge camera

The Olympus SP-620UZ is a simple to use value for money superzoom with modest aspirations but a decent performance. In some respects it betters more ambitious models - we were able to achieve sharp results handheld at extreme tele setting, for example - something we struggled to do with the likes of Fuji's premium X-S1.

The likes of Magic Filters, 3D mode and simple but effective panorama mode make things a bit more interesting than your regular bridge camera, although it lacks manual shooting features, a viewfinder and hotshoe.

Read our Olympus SP-620UZ review

Nikon Coolpix L810

Price: £160/AU$280/US$230

What is a bridge camera? Best bridge camera

The Nikon Coolpix L810 is frill-free in terms of lacking any real photo control or many creative options, but this is reflected in its low cost. It is a fine starter option, most aptly suited to holidaying families or a casual snapper on a budget who can appreciate the benefit of a point-and-shoot camera with a bit of poke in the lens department.

Sure, the optic here can't be swapped, as it could be on a DSLR that the L810 closely resembles in looks and - to a lesser extent - layout. But with a focal range this expansive, the Nikon Coolpix L810's would-be audience won't feel they are missing out. The Nikon L810 is a superzoom for beginners, so photo enthusiasts wanting hands-on control should look elsewhere.

Read our Nikon Coolpix L810 review

Sony HX200V

Price: £310/AU$530/US$480, 18.2MP, 1080p video

What is a bridge camera? Best bridge camera

With a serious matt black finish that denotes a enthusiast-targeted piece of kit without even delving into the riches of its feature set, the Sony Cyber-Shot DSC HX200V is one of the more impressively attired superzoom cameras out there.

The camera has a rugged build, reliability and a price tag that, while not inexpensive (it could otherwise buy you a starter DSLR and standard lens kit) nevertheless feels fair when you weigh up the features and the creative possibilities of an extremely broad focal range on a relatively compact camera body.

Read the Sony HX200V review

Canon PowerShot SX50 HS

Price: £380/AU$590/US$450, 12.1MP, 1080p video

Best Canon camera

The Canon PowerShot SX50 is a bridge camera with a 50x optical zoom that covers the equivalent of 24-1200mm. This is a phenomenal zoom range that most DSLR users can only dream of, or perhaps look to achieve at huge expense. On top of this, it also boasts a 100x digital zoom, raw shooting and the same Digic 5 processor we've seen in Canon's top DSLRs.

For anybody looking to purchase a bridge camera, the Canon SX50 is easily one of the best options currently available on the market.

Read the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS review

Fuji XS-1

Price: £400/AU$800/US$700, 12MP, 1080p video

What is a bridge camera?

Fuji's bridge camera is worthy of a spotlight all of its own - if only because it costs more than most consumer DSLRs. It sports the same 2/3-inch 12MP EXR CMOS sensor as the Leica-inspired Fuji X10 compact.

Other key specs include a 26x zoom (24-624mm equivalent), bright f/2.8 maximum aperture, plus 1.44MP EVF.

Read the Fuji XS-1 review

Panasonic Lumix FZ200

Price: £430/AU$670/US$550, 12.1MP, 1080p video

What is a bridge camera? Best bridge camera

The Panasonic FZ200 offers a great number of features and direct control over the image-making process. Its versatility, efficient AF system, fast f/2.8 aperture, manual mode, 3-inch fully articulated LCD screen, option to shoot raw and wide range of creative filters make it a wonderful all-rounder.

While there are bigger or equivalent zooms on the market - and even in Panasonic's catalogue - the maximum aperture of f/2.8 throughout the whole of the 25-600mm focal range gave us the freedom to shoot anywhere, at any time.

Read the Panasonic Lumix FZ200 review