Buy Bridge Camera
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Essentially, a bridge camera fills a gap in the market for those looking for a camera which offers the same kind of manual controls and zoom capability as you might expect from a DSLR with a telephoto lens, but in an all in one package that is easy to use, like a point-and-shoot camera. Bridge cameras are particularly popular for birding, general wildlife and as an all round travel camera, but are suited to all types of photography.
A bridge camera may also be called a superzoom camera, in reference to the huge zooms that these cameras often have. In fact, the zoom on some bridge cameras is far more than what you could achieve even with a specialist telephoto lens on a high-end DSLR or mirrorless camera. More on this on the section below on zoom.
A bridge camera is a particularly popular option for folks going on wildlife focused trips, such as a wildlife safari or birdwatching trip. The long zoom means you can get photos of far away subjects, without having the huge weight of a dedicated lens and DSLR setup.
As an example, my parents recently went on a bird watching trip to India, and for them a bridge camera was the perfect tool at a reasonable price point. The long zoom meant they could get great shots of wildlife and birds, whilst the wide angle meant that they could still capture the lovely landscapes and other scenes.
Most smartphone cameras either have no zoom, or very limited zoom capabilities. A bridge camera features a long zoom, as well as more manual controls that a smartphone. This means that getting clear photos of further away subjects will be a lot easier with a bridge camera.
Bridge cameras and compact cameras have quite a lot in common, but also some key differences. There can also be a bit of a blurry line between a small bridge camera and a large compact camera, leading some bridge cameras to be labelled as compact cameras.
First, the similarities. The sensor size is usually similar in both bridge cameras and compact cameras. Lower priced compact cameras and bridge cameras come with a 1/2.3 inch sensor, whilst more premium bridge and compact cameras come with a larger 1 inch sensor. More on sensor size and how it impacts your images further on in this guide.
In terms of differences, the main difference is the size. A bridge camera looks more like a small DSLR, with a protruding lens and hand grip, and is larger than a compact camera. Compact cameras are shaped more like a large pack of playing cards, meaning they can be kept in your pocket or easily slipped into a purse or bag.
The biggest difference between a compact camera and a bridge camera though is the zoom capability. Bridge cameras are physically larger, meaning they can fit a much larger zoom. Whilst some compact cameras do have longer zooms, a bridge camera can fit a higher quality long zoom, perfect for capturing far away subjects.
In many ways, bridge cameras were the precursors to mirrorless cameras. A bridge camera has no mirror inside as you find on a DSLR, meaning that like a mirrorless camera, there is no optical viewfinder.
The main difference between a mirrorless camera and a bridge camera is that you can change out the lenses on a mirrorless camera. Since mirrorless cameras have interchangeable lenses, they allow you a great deal more flexibility and choice with your camera setup.
The other main difference is sensor size. Mirrorless cameras have larger sensors than bridge cameras. A bridge camera will have either a 1/2.3 inch sensor or a 1 inch sensor, whilst a consumer mirrorless camera will generally either have an APS-C sized sensor or a full frame sensor.
Bridge cameras were originally launched as a sort of stepping stone to DSLR cameras. The intention was to offer some of the same features that you would find in a DSLR camera, whilst still being easy to use like a compact camera.
The similarities are that most bridge cameras offer fairly similar controls to a DSLR, in that you have a range of shooting modes, from manual to fully automatic. You can adjust the key settings, like shutter speed, ISO, and aperture or you can set it to Auto and use it like a point-and-shoot if you wish.
The shape and size is also similar, with most bridge cameras being similar in shape to a small DSLR with a regular lens attached. On average, bridge cameras are smaller and less heavy that a DSLR with a lens attached, although of course there are always exceptions to this rule.
A bridge camera also has no mirror inside, which means that there is no optical viewfinder. Instead, what you see when you hold your eye to the viewfinder is a small electronic display, the same as you will find on a mirrorless camera.
This electronic display will vary in quality depending on the specific bridge camera, and powering this display uses the battery. As a result, the battery life on a bridge camera is usually lower than that of a DSLR. DSLR cameras generally have the best battery life of any camera type.
Given that most DSLR and Mirrorless camera lenses top out at around 500 mm, with some options available at 800 mm, you can see straight away why many photographers prefer a bridge camera for shooting far away subjects. In particular, photographs of wildlife and shots of the moon are popular reasons to own a bridge camera.
To compensate for this, most bridge cameras come with some sort of image stabilization. Because the camera is an all in one unit, it is easier for the manufacturers to include this in the camera system.
Another advantages of a bridge camera are that they usually come with full manual controls, which means that you can take control over all the settings of the camera. This means you can adjust the camera to match the shot you want. This is a definite advantage over many point and shoot cameras, although more expensive point and shoot cameras do include manual features.
Finally, bridge cameras are for the most part more affordable than similarly specified DSLR or mirrorless cameras. However, as with all types of camera, bridge cameras come at a range of budgets depending on features and specifications.
The main disadvantage of a bridge camera is the size of the sensor. The sensor is the part of the camera which records the image as a digital file, and is the modern day equivalent of the roll of film on older cameras.
The physical size of the sensor directly impacts the capabilities of a camera. Larger sensors, such as those found in mirrorless and DSLR cameras, are able to capture more of the light in a scene, and so produce better images when there is less light available.
Smaller sensors allow manufacturers to put longer zooms into a camera, however they do not perform so well when there is less light available. Despite the larger physical size of a bridge camera compared to a point and shoot camera, the sensor sizes are the same.
Another issue with bridge cameras is that image quality usually falls off the more you zoom in. This is just a reality of physics, although for the price of a bridge camera compared to an equivalent DSLR setup, this is a compromise that most users are willing to make. The speed of the autofocus, which is linked to the quality of the image the sensor receives, can also slow down as you zoom in.
Overall, every camera system has some sort of compromise, be that weight, price, image quality, or features. The main thing is to decide what is important to you as a photographer, and find the camera system that works for you.
A 12 megapixel camera sensor, for example, has 12 million pixels. Assuming a 4:3 aspect ratio, this means that image files will be 4000 pixels wide and 3000 pixels high. If you multiply the height and width, you get the total number, meaning that image files produced by the camera will have 12 million pixels.
Much higher megapixel counts are generally unnecessary in anything but high-end full frame cameras, where professionals need them for large format printing or extreme cropping. When purchasing a bridge camera, I would suggest looking for a megapixel range between 12 and 20.
One of the reasons people choose to invest in a bridge camera is for the impressive zoom capabilities in a relatively small and portable package. This makes a bridge camera great for wildlife photography in particular.
My recommendation would be to invest in a camera that offers at least a 600mm focal length, equivalent to a 12x magnification, although you can go much higher these days. Just be aware that there are always compromises, and image sharpness tends to drop off at the more extreme focal lengths.
Many lenses have what is known as a variable aperture. This means that as the camera zooms in on a subject, the maximum aperture decreases. For example, a lens might have an aperture of f/2.8-6.3. This means that at the widest angle, the maximum aperture will be f/2.8, whilst when zoomed in the maximum aperture will be f/6.3.
Do also pay attention to the maximum aperture when fully zoomed in, especially when comparing cameras with otherwise similar specifications. The wider the aperture throughout the focal length, the more light will get to the sensor, and the better the final results.
You might be wondering at what shutter speeds you can hand hold a camera without getting blurry images. As a general rule of thumb, the shutter speed needs to be at least as fast as the inverse of the focal length.
If a camera has image stabilization capabilities, then you can reduce these numbers. For example, a camera may claim to have 4 stops of image stabilization. This means you can lower the shutter speed four times. For example, you could go from 1/2000th of a second to 1/125th of a second. Essentially you cut 2000 in half four times to get to 125.
Most camera manufacturers will provide information on how many stops of stabilization their image stabilization provides. For a bridge camera, we would suggest at least 4 stops as a minimum. Otherwise you will struggle to get sharp images at longer focal lengths unless you use a tripod.
When it comes down to it, your budget is likely to be one of the major factors when it comes to choosing the right camera for you. Like other types of camera, there are a range of bridge cameras on the market, ranging in price from a few hundred dollars to well in excess of a thousand. 59ce067264