The difference between bridge cameras and DSLRs

Published: 17th August 2010
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A bridge camera falls somewhere between a compact digital camera and a digital SLR. Exactly where it falls depends on the camera maker.

Even so, there’s a steady demand for bridge cameras. The consumers who buy them want better results than a compact delivers; but they aren’t quite ready to upgrade to full DSLR.

Appearance
A bridge camera very often looks like a compact DSLR. It has a grip on the right-hand side and a protruding, adjustable lens.

On the back, you’ll find a screen plus controls. Usually, there’s also a pop-up flash mounted above the lens.

Weight
One of the advantages of a bridge camera as opposed to a DSLR is weight. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38EB-K, for example, is a bridge camera that weighs just 367 grams. This includes the lens.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH1, which is a full-blown SLR, weighs 18 grams more without a lens. A 45 mm – 200 mm telephoto lens for the DMC-GH1 adds a further 380 grams.

A bridge camera can therefore be half the weight of a DSLR.

Dimensions
Because of the lens, a bridge camera is not the sort of device you can slip into a pocket. But the camera will fit comfortably into a small bag. And thanks to its weight, it’s not difficult to carry around.

To give you an idea of size, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38EB-K bridge camera is 117.5 mm wide and 75.5 mm high.

The DSLR Lumix DMC-GH1 is 124 mm wide and 89.6 mm high.

The depth of the bridge camera is 89 mm, including the lens. The depth of the DSLR’s body is 45.2 mm. To this you must add the length of whatever lens you wish to use.

Lens
With a bridge camera, you cannot remove the lens. With a DSLR, you can change your lens to suit your proposed photo. But a non-removable lens on a bridge camera doesn’t necessarily limit your options.

Once again, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38EB-K is a good example. The 27 mm wide-angle lens on this camera gives you the chance to capture excellent landscape pictures. In addition, you get an 18x optical zoom. This gives you tremendous versatility.

A good quality DSLR, however, does offer a wider choice of lenses. These include lenses for extreme wide-angle shots, macro close-ups and telephoto zooms. Some DSLRs even offer lenses ideal for making films.

Price
Perhaps the most noticeable difference between bridge cameras and DSLRs is the price.

The Panasonic Lumix bridge camera discussed here costs around £250. The DMC-GH1 mentioned above costs about £1,000 with a 14 mm - 140 mm lens.

You don’t have to pay this much for a DSLR. The Panasonic Lumix G2, for instance, is about £550 with a 14 mm – 42 mm lens.

But a bridge camera is significantly cheaper. And despite the price difference, it can still produce great photos.


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