When it came to popular film cameras you could choose between two really popular types:
Simple point and shoot cameras with no zoom lens or a small one. My friend Lou Fuld coined the name “PHD” cameras because they had one button, Push Here Dummy. Not a lot of creative settings that you need to set, not many that you could set if you wanted to.
Professionals and advanced amateurs would choose the SLR camera – a Single Lens Reflex. The name meant that you looked through the same lens that took the photo, and a mirror sent the picture to your eye up until the last moment before the picture snapped.
Digital cameras initially fell into the same categories, and a DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) remains the most versatile category. You can choose from lots of lenses and other accessories, you can add separate flash systems, you can control depth of field and you can make a lot of creative decisions yourself. And because they have larger image sensors most DSLR cameras give more color depth and better results under low light levels. But the basic lens that is usually packed with a DSLR doesn’t have a very powerful zoom, and accessory lenses can be both big and expensive.
Bridge cameras are cameras that fill the niche between the single-lens reflex cameras (SLRs) and the point-and-shoot camera.
Because bridge cameras use a small sensor, they can have a really powerful zoom lens without being terribly big. For comparison: a Nikon D5500 with an 18-55mm lens, the one that usually comes with it, has a 3-power zoom (it makes distant objects look 3 times closer).
The Nikon P900 “bridge” camera has an 83-power zoom. It makes things look 83 times closer.
It’s one of the biggest and most expensive bridge cameras ever, because of that gigantic lens. But if they could make a lens that powerful for a DSLR camera (they can’t) it would be about seven feet long!
The p900 is the biggest and most expensive bridge camera, at $599.99, and Nikon can’t make them fast enough to keep up with the orders!
Advantages of bridge cameras:
- The longest range of zoom of any still camera category
- With their eye-level finders, you can actually SEE when you’re outdoors in bright light.
- Some models have rotating viewfinders so you can hold the camera up high – or down low – or even look around corners (and take selfies).
- Most bridge cameras take great HD video and some even have a socket to accept external microphone.
Disadvantages of bridge cameras:
- Although you can set the exposure manually for creative control, they don’t have the wide range of f-stops (lens openings) of single lens reflexes.
- They usually won’t focus as quickly and precisely as a DSLR.
- You can’t throw the background as completely out of focus as you can with a DSLR (but many cameras have special creative modes that make it look that way.)
- Because the sensors are small, they don’t have the same low-light capability of a DSLR.
- They’re not as easy to carry as a point-and-shoot camera.
- Most don’t have a threaded filter rim.
New bridge cameras from Canon, Sony, Nikon and Fuji generally cost from $200 to $600.
Incidentally, Chris’ Camera Center recently received a large batch of good used bridge cameras, and we’re going to have a “how to” class aimed toward bridge camera uses March 22nd, 2016.
tips from an old-fashioned camera store