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Best bridge camera 2021: the 9 best cameras that pack huge zoom lenses

Included in this guide:

Nikon P950
(Image credit: Future)
PRICE
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
VERDICT
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID

Are you in the market to buy the best bridge camera? Look no further, as we've got all the latest and best cameras, with all the latest and best prices right here. For those unsure of what a bridge camera actually is - think of DSLR style handling, with the advantage of extra long zoom lenses and without the expense or hassle of having to buy, pack and carry multiple optics in your bag. 

Since the best bridge cameras usually pack an array of manual shooting modes, they're a fantastic alternative to DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, especially to those watching the budget. They're also ideal for those new to photography, those looking for something light and travel friendly, or those looking to downsize from their bulkier kit. Although we've mentioned manual modes, beginners needn't worry, there's plenty of straightforward automatic options on offer from most too.

Having a long zoom lens is a big draw for many, thanks to the versatility such an optic provides. With one, you can photograph everything from wide-angle landscapes to distant subjects like wildlife - and of course everything in between. Because of that, bridge cameras are often popular for those heading off on a vacation when you need everything to hand.

Naturally, there is a compromise to be made. The most important distinction between bridge cameras and DSLRs or mirrorless options is sensor size. Bridge cameras will have a much smaller sensor, which will typically have an impact on image quality - particularly in certain situations, such as low light. However, the upside is having the equivalent of a bag full of lenses in just one small and light package. Once you're aware of the differences - and the compromises - then you can make an informed decision about what is the right camera for you.

Although bridge cameras are often already excellent value, for those who don't mind waiting a little while, it might be worth holding on for Amazon Prime Day 2021. We're expecting lots of great camera deals, and with some of these bridge camera models now being a little older in the market, it could be those which see the biggest discounts.

If you're keen to know more about what exactly makes a bridge camera, we've included lots of detail in the article below. However, for now, let's take a look at the best bridge cameras available to buy in 2021.

Best bridge cameras 2021 at a glance:

  1. Sony Cyber-shot RX10 IV 
  2. Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 
  3. Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 
  4. Sony Cyber-shot RX10 III 
  5. Canon PowerShot SX70 HS
  6. Panasonic Lumix FZ80 / FZ82
  7. Nikon Coolpix P950
  8. Nikon Coolpix P1000
  9. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V
  10. Panasonic FZ300 / FZ330

Best bridge cameras in 2021:

1. Sony Cyber-shot RX10 IV

It's expensive, but it's virtually in a league of its own

Specifications
Sensor: 1-inch CMOS, 20.1MP
Lens: 24-600mm, f/2.4-4
Monitor: 3-inch tilting touchscreen, 1.23m dots
Viewfinder: EVF
Continuous shooting: 24fps
Movies: 4K
User level: Intermediate/expert
Reasons to buy
+Excellent and fast 24-600mm lens+Superb stills and video quality
Reasons to avoid
-Limited touchscreen control-Pricey compared to rivals

For those looking for a powerful all-in-one solution, you won't find better than the  RX10 IV. Featuring a hugely flexible 24-600mm f/2.4-4 zoom lens, the RX10 IV builds on the RX10 III with an overhauled AF system that now does justice to the rest of the camera, while the 1-inch, 20.1MP sensor is capable of achieving excellent levels of detail. It's quite bulky for a bridge camera, and there's no getting away from the hefty price, but the RX10 IV is virtually in a league of its own and is perhaps even deserving of a better name than 'bridge'. 

2. Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500

Combines a bridge camera zoom with a big 1-inch sensor

Specifications
Sensor: 1-inch CMOS, 20.1MP
Lens: 24-480mm, f/2.8-4.5
Monitor: 3.0-inch articulating display, 1,040,000 dots
Viewfinder: EVF
Maximum continuous shooting rate: 12fps
Movies: 4K
User level: Intermediate/expert
Reasons to buy
+1-inch sensor+Super-fast AF
Reasons to avoid
-Comparatively large-No weather-sealing

If your budget doesn't quite stretch to RX10 IV levels but you still want something top-quality, flexible and with great image quality, the Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 (known as the FZ2500 in the US) is an excellent choice. It 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 zoom range for better and faster optics, and we love the FZ2000 because it delivers both image quality and zoom range. If you're looking for something a bit cheaper, the older FZ1000 (below) is also worth a look, as is its successor, the FZ1000 II.

FZ1000

3. Panasonic Lumix FZ1000

A 1-inch sensor and 4K video recording give this bridge camera the edge

Specifications
Sensor: 1-inch CMOS, 20.1MP
Lens: 25-400mm, f/2.8-4
Monitor: 3-inch articulating, 921,000 dots
Viewfinder: EVF
Maximum continuous shooting rate: 12fps
Movies: 4K
User level: Intermediate/expert
Reasons to buy
+1-inch sensor+Large maximum aperture
Reasons to avoid
-Screen not touch-sensitive-Comparatively large

The Lumix FZ1000's 16x optical zoom is less than that of typical bridge cameras, but that's due to its sizeable 1-inch sensor, which delivers a big boost in image quality. This isn't just any old lens, either, but rather a Leica optic with a large f/2.8 maximum aperture at the wide-angle end, which narrows to a still-respectable f/4 at full zoom. This helps you capture shots in low light without resorting to high ISO sensitivities, while the Hybrid 5-axis Optical Image Stabilisation minimises camera shake. 4K (Ultra HD, strictly) 3840 x 2160 video recording, advanced autofocusing, a superb 2,359,000-dot electronic viewfinder and raw shooting all help to make the FZ1000 one of our top picks. Note that Panasonic replaced the FZ1000 with the FZ1000 II this year - but as more of a gentle refresh than complete rebrand, making the older model the best value right now.

Sony RX10 III

4. Sony Cyber-shot RX10 III

Expensive, but highly capable and offers a huge focal range

Specifications
Sensor: 1-inch CMOS, 20.2MP
Lens: 24-600mm, f/2.4-4
Monitor: 3-inch tilting, 1.23m dots
Viewfinder: EVF
Continuous shooting: 14fps
Movies: 4K
User level: Intermediate/expert
Reasons to buy
+Superb sensor+High-quality zoom lens
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-Menu system could be better

As is often the case with Sony, you can make decent savings if you look towards its extensive back-catalogue. In this case, if you can live without the advanced AF system and other performance advantages offered by the RX10 IV, the RX10 III is still worth a look. The design is pretty much identical to the RX10 IV, and you've got the same 24-600mm f/2.4-4 lens. What's the compromise? Well, the AF is a bit pedestrian compared to the latest model, while there's no touchscreen control or the ability to shoot at an impressive 24fps. 

5. Canon PowerShot SX70 HS

This feature-packed bridge camera has a lot to offer enthusiasts

Specifications
Sensor: 1/2.3-inch CMOS, 20.3MP
Lens: 21-1365mm-equivalent, f/3.4-6.5
Monitor: 3-inch articulating, 922,000 dots
Viewfinder: EVF
Maximum continuous shooting rate: 10fps
Movies: 4K
User level: Beginner/enthusiast
Reasons to buy
+65x zoom range+Lovely handling
Reasons to avoid
-Build quality could be better-Lacks touchscreen control

Canon's PowerShot SX70 HS is what we'd consider a more conventional bridge camera than those found in the top four. That's because it uses a smaller 1/2.3-inch sensor which gives you the advantage of a ginormous 65x optical zoom range. You still get full manual control, along with other great features such as an fully articulated screen (it lacks touch sensitivity though), a decent electronic viewfinder and the ability to shoot in raw format. In-built Wi-Fi and NFC is another bonus. This is a classic all-rounder which would suit those looking for something relatively small and light for trips such as safaris, where that big zoom comes into its own. A bugbear is having to activate the viewfinder manually since there's no sensor, but otherwise it's a solid performer. Image quality is very good, with the image stabilization system doing a good job of keeping captures even at the extreme end of the telephoto lens sharp. Shooting at the wide-angle and low-light are not this camera's forte, but there's good autofocus performance and speedy operation to compensate.

6. Panasonic Lumix FZ80 / FZ82

60x zoom bridge camera gets close to the action

Specifications
Sensor: 1/2.3-inch CMOS, 18.1MP
Lens: 20-1200mm, f/2.8-5.9
Monitor: 3-inch touchscreen, 1,040,000 dots
Viewfinder: EVF
Maximum continuous shooting rate: 10fps
Movies: 4K
User level: Beginner/enthusiast
Reasons to buy
+Easy to use+Effective image stabilization
Reasons to avoid
-No eye sensor for EVF-Weak high-ISO performance

The Lumix FZ80 (known as the Lumix FZ82 outside the US) might be one of the most affordable bridge cameras here, but it still packs quite a punch. The zoom range is very impressive, going from an ultra-wide 20mm through to a staggering 1200mm, and benefits from an effective image stabilization system. There's also 4K recording with Panasonic's 4K Photo, which can shoot 8MP images at 30fps, meaning you should never miss that split-second moment. It's also very easy to use, with an intuitive touchscreen. The viewfinder could be better (and there's no eye sensor to automatically switch between the viewfinder and rear screen), while high-ISO performance can't match that of larger-sensor (and more expensive) rivals. That said, this is one of the best budget bridge cameras around.

Nikon P950

(Image credit: Nikon)

7. Nikon Coolpix P950

A minor update on the P900, but still an option for wildlife shooters

Specifications
Sensor: 1/2.3-inch CMOS, 16MP
Lens: 24-2000mm, f/2.8-f/6.5
Monitor: 3-inch articulating, 921,000 dots
Viewfinder: Yes
Maximum continuous shooting rate: 7fps
Movies: 4K
User level: Enthusiast
Reasons to buy
+Huge zoom+Raw format shooting
Reasons to avoid
-No touchscreen-Pretty unwieldy

It doesn't quite have the Nikon P1000's ludicrous 125x optical zoom range, but the P950's 83x zoom is more than enough for most people in most situations. If you like to mainly shoot landscapes or wildlife on your travels, it remains a good contender, particularly if you're coming from another Nikon camera. The three big improvements over the P900 are support for Raw shooting (for greater flexibility when editing images), 4K video resolution, and a much-improved electronic viewfinder. Collectively, these make it more user-friendly and versatile than its predecessor, though it is also worth looking out for deals on the Nikon P900. We'd like to have seen a touchscreen added too, but the P950 remains a good option if zoom is your main priority. 

8. Nikon Coolpix P1000

125x optical zoom anyone?

Specifications
Sensor: 1/2.3-inch CMOS, 16MP
Lens: 24-3000mm, f/2.8-8
Monitor: 3.2-inch articulating, 921,000 dots
Viewfinder: EVF
Maximum continuous shooting rate: 7fps
Movies: 4K
User level: Beginner/enthusiast
Reasons to buy
+Unique 125x optical zoom+Good handling
Reasons to avoid
-Plasticky finish-Slow overall performance

The Coolpix P1000 is the follow-up to the P900 and stretches what we’ve come to expect from superzoom cameras that bit further. The reason is the lens, with the P1000 packing in a massive 125x optical zoom range equivalent to 24-3000mm in 35mm terms, it has the potential to home in on the most distant subjects you’d realistically want to capture, be it wildlife or the Moon. If you absolutely need a camera with a 3000mm-equivalent lens, the fact that the P1000 is alone in offering this makes your decision easy. With a huge body, less-than-reliable autofocus, a sub-standard LCD and operational strifes, however, its appeal for anything else is more limited.

Sony HX400V

9. Sony Cyber-shot HX400V

A great all-rounder that's just starting to be outclassed by newer rivals

Specifications
Sensor: 1/2.3-inch CMOS, 20.4MP
Lens: 24-1200mm, f/2.8-6.3
Monitor: 3-inch tilting, 922,000 dots
Viewfinder: Yes
Maximum continuous shooting rate: 10fps
Movies: 1080p
User level: Beginner/enthusiast
Reasons to buy
+High-quality build+Wi-Fi, tilting screen
Reasons to avoid
-Can't shoot in raw-Low-resolution EVF

Sony's superzoom bridge camera is closely matched with the Panasonic FZ82, and is available at a great price owing to its age. The downsides when compared to the FZ82 include JPEG-only image capture and a lesser zoom range, but if you can live with both it's a great budget option. The HX400V claws back some ground by offering Wi-Fi, while it's also pleasure to use thanks to its ergonomic design, and the tilting screen is nice touch, although it isn't fully articulating. More disappointing is the relatively low-resolution electronic viewfinder. Although there's no raw support, JPEG images have great colors and plenty of detail. Some image smoothing is visible when images are viewed at 100%, but that's a common trait amongst small-sensor bridge cameras.

Great value option: Panasonic Lumix FZ300 / FZ330

Constant f/2.8 aperture and 4K video make this a great buy

Specifications
Sensor: 1/2.3-inch CMOS, 12.1MP
Lens: 25-600mm, f/2.8
Monitor: 3-inch vari-angle touchscreen, 1.04m dots
Viewfinder: EVF
Continuous shooting: 10fps
Movies: 4K
User level: Beginner/intermediate
Reasons to buy
+Constant f/2.8 max aperture+High-quality EVF
Reasons to avoid
-1/2.3-inch sensor-No multi-function ring

If your main concern is the state of your finances, here's a quick look at a great value option from Panasonic. It was launched back in 2015, so it's a fair old age now, but that just makes the FZ300 (known as the Lumix FZ330) outside the US an even better bargain. With a 25-600mm zoom lens, what's really impressive is an f/2.8 constant aperture throughout the range, which is particularly useful at the longer end of the zoom range. Top that off with a splash-resistant body, a vari-angle touchscreen and a decent electronic viewfinder and you've got all the makings of a great all-rounder. Impressively for an older model, it even shoots 4K, too.

What is a bridge camera?

For those wondering where bridge cameras get their name – it's because they are said to 'bridge' the gap between simple point-and-shoot models (or your phone) and more advanced DSLR type models.

Bridge cameras tend to have smaller sensors than DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, but the other main difference is that the lens is fixed to the body, so you can't remove it for a more specialized optic or one with a wider aperture. While the lenses on a bridge camera are extremely flexible, you can't attach something like a macro lens for extreme close-ups or an f/1.4 lens for shooting in low-light.

It's not quite as straightforward as that anymore, as some bridge cameras are advanced and sophisticated themselves. Sensor sizes – although still smaller than a DSLR / mirrorless, have increased in size over the years too, with many now sporting a one-inch sensor which is much larger than that in an average smartphone.

If you're just starting out in photography, bridge cameras can be the ideal place to start. You get a lot for your money and it's the ideal way to learn about different shooting modes and settings, without necessarily spending a huge amount of money. 

Mark Wilson

Mark is the Cameras Editor at TechRadar. Having worked in tech journalism for a ludicrous 17 years, Mark is now attempting to break the world record for the number of camera bags hoarded by one person. He was previously Cameras Editor at Trusted Reviews, Acting editor on Stuff.tv, as well as Features editor and Reviews editor on Stuff magazine. As a freelancer, he's contributed to titles including The Sunday Times, FourFourTwo and Arena. And in a former life, he also won the Daily Telegraph's Young Sportswriter of the Year. But that was before he discovered the strange joys of getting up at 4am for a photo shoot in London's Square Mile.