I think most of us would say if you have a camera shop nearby pop in and hold a few and see how they feel in the hand.
One I can recommend that is at the top of your price range is the Nikon p900 https://www.wexphotovideo.com/nikon-coolpix-p900-digital-camera-1569010/
Have a look at Bob's thread he has one
and if you want to see what it can do with the video have a look here at his Buzzard one...check out the zoom lol.
My Flickr photos
In reply to Alan.:
Second hand www.lcegroup.co.uk/.../Nikon-Coolpix-P900_217932.html
You won't go far wrong with any of the big names, Nikon, Canon, Panasonic (Lumix). As Alan suggests, get along to a decent camera shop to see what they feel like in the hand - Wex Photos is handy for Suffolk, it's on the outskirts of Norwich. The feel of a camera makes a lot of difference, if it feels right you'll use it more and get better at taking pictures. Don't get too hooked up on the specifications quoted - if you need a lens of 2000mm (equivalent) reach to get a picture of a bird, you're simply too far away (atmospherics or heat haze will probably impact the shot anyway). Take a look at the Wex website, see what models are in your price range, then take your short list along to the shop to take a look :-)
Find me on Flickr / All about your camera - The Getting off Auto Index
In reply to Whistling Joe:
One question that you need to address is processing. If you want to get the best out of your pictures you ought to think of shooting in RAW format, so that you can process pictures the way that you would like to see them. I dont think the P900 shoots in RAW. If you think that you will be happy with the in camera processing then the P900 gets lots of good reports.
My Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bobs_retired_now/
In reply to Bobs_Still_Retired:
I’ve owned a number of bridge cameras over the years, culminating in a Panasonic DMC-FZ72, and was a huge fan of them. I think I can safely say that I have taken some rather good photos with them.However, since buying a Canon EOS 800d DSLR recently I find myself reluctant to reach for my bridge cameras. For why?The first point to bear in mind is that the sensor (the chip that actually records the image) in a bridge camera is no bigger than what you find in a smart phone. I would postulate that in many cases they are the same.The sensor is small, with the result that it is unable to collect as much light as a sensor found in your typical DSLR. This tends to mean that these cameras struggle to take good photos on a gloomy day or in low light conditions. All cameras do so, to one degree or another. Even with my DSLR, the differences in photos taken on a sunny or bright day compared to those taken on a gloomy overcast day is remarkable.This tends not to meet your requirement of taking photos in low light or winter; though winter days can be quite bright, especially on a crisp, frosty morning. There are ways to mitigate this aspect e.g. longer exposure time springs to mind. That being said, my bridge cameras are better at taking photos indoors, at night, with normal lights than my ancient Canon EOS 350. I haven’t tried with my new Canon 800d.Another aspect of small sensor size is that images tend be on the softer side, with quite a loss of detail. HOWEVER, it all depends what you want to do with your photos. If you want to view them on smart phones or tablets or laptops or print them on A4 paper (A3 at a pinch) then honestly, go for a bridge camera. I realise that is what you requested, but just in case anyone pressures a DSLR on you without good reason. The photos from bridge cameras are sufficiently detailed for posting on various online forums.But, even when viewed on a tablet or laptop you will notice that (in general) photos taken with a modern DSLR seem to exhibit a certain sharpness and clarity, that you can’t quite place your finger on but you notice. Again, you may not want this degree of super clarity, but (like me) need a long lens to get close to a subject you would not normally be able to.Having been a bit negative about bridge cameras, I must say they do have certain advantages; but with caveats.They are light, ridiculously light. This is can be a major consideration. I’m not a big strapping lad (think more along the lines of old fogey) but even I can find lugging just over a kilo of camera kit around a bit tiring; and that’s with my light DSLR and light lens.They have long legs. This is due to the small sensor size. My Panasonic has a 1200mm equivalent zoom. Still out classed by the massive 2000mm of the Nikon P900. This has enabled me to get close to subjects I would never have dreamed possible. In fact I sometimes use my Panasonic as a telescope or take a photo of a distance bird (i.e. dot on the horizon) and then zoom into the image to have a fighting chance of identifying it.As you may already be aware, a lens with long zoom for a DSLR is quite expensive and heavy. I don’t think there is any lens that can reach 1200mm or the heady heights of 2000mm that we can possibly afford or carry. I'm sure I read somewhere that a 2000mm DSLR lens would be the size of a small car!!! You may also have to carry a couple of DSLR lens to meet your requirements of taking bird and scenic shots. I have a Tamron 16-300mm lens which nicely covers this range; it cost me £295 second hand. However, I accept a lower image quality compared to a more dedicated 300mm lens. 300mm is regarded as the minimum zoom required for animal photography, but others may disagree.There is a downside to this massive zoom. Generally the more you zoom out, the more detail you lose and the fuzzier your image becomes. All sorts of things like chromatic aberration creep in. Some of these things are correctable. However, provided you do not zoom in on the image on a computer, you can still get some smashing shots at maximum zoom.You will need either a tripod or monopod to help stabilise the image; more so for the P900. I have got very good at holding my breath when taking photos at maximum zoom when I am too lazy to deploy the legs on my monopod. I am also adept at finding rigid objects to lean against; walls, fences, cars, boulder, tree, etc, etc.Most modern, mid to upper range bridge cameras have all the normal photographic modes you find with a DSLR e.g. Program, Shutter priority, fully manual, etc. Not that I used them much, if ever. Auto worked and still works fine for me. It’s only with my DSLR that I messed around with the other modes.RAW images is something I never worried or cared about with a bridge camera. True, some of the algorithms used to compress images on bridge cameras can be quite aggressive (leading to a lot of loss of detail and addition of noise) but honestly, I never did bother messing around with RAW images. I know, hangs my head in shame.I also found that when the bridge camera stored RAW images it often seized up the camera and quite rapidly filled the SD card. Though, SD cards are so big these days (storage wise) it doesn’t really matter. On the other hand, this slowness might be due to me buying cheaper and therefore slow SD cards.Big zoom doesn’t equate to good images. I have a Canon Powershot SX700 HS. It is a small camera which I carry in my trouser pocket. It has a 30x (or 25-750mm) zoom, and produces much sharper, clearer, brighter images than the Panasonic. It is bordering on to DSLR quality. I generally reach for the SX 700 if I were to take a bridge camera with me. Unfortunately it doesn’t have a view finder, but as you take photos with your smart phone, you might prefer the back screen. Note the SX 700 has been superseded.I would echo what other contributors have said. Get to a good photography shop (very hard to find these days) and check out the feel of them. Take some photos, if the shop will allow. Read reviews, but beware that there is a lot of contradictory opinions. Decide exactly what you want to do with the photos.Finally, bridge cameras offer an affordable way for you to enjoy yourself taking excellent photos. My blog on the restoration of Eversley quarry has examples of photos taken with bridge and DSLR cameras. The lightness and wide zoom range of bridge cameras is superb. I certainly carry one if I can’t be bothered lugging a heavy DSLR around. Go for models that have just been superseded. They are generally cheaper, as the shops try to get rid of them due to stocking newer models. There is nothing wrong with going second hand. Clifton Cameras, Park Cameras, WEX, Harrison, etc all have second hand cameras for sale. I bought my Canon lens from Harrison.£500 should get you a really good bridge camera. Possibly even one of these 'funny' ones that have a full size sensor. Careful about the P900, which I seriously considered. I did read that there were supply problems due to Nikon deciding to close down the factory they were produced in. Their price was much inflated IF you could get one.
In reply to Angus M:
Just to add to Angus' comments, though it's been a while since I last had a bridge camera, I never found one where I could take full control of the exposure settings. That may have changed in recent years.
Stick with the big names, Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Olympus, Fuji to name some of many, and you should be ok,
As far as extending the focal length of DSLR lenses, you can get lens extenders, which will make a lens upto and in some cases greater than double the focal length!
Flickr Peak Rambler
In reply to Mike B:
When you read online reviews of bridge cameras you will note that the reviewer often mentions that the size of the imaging chip means that detail in photos is often soft and that the dynamics of lenses with such huge zooms exacerbates this softness, most particularly at maximum zoom.
They will then often say that a good, modern DSLR with a reasonable lens will do just as good as you can aggressively crop the image but still end up with better photos than with a bridge camera.
I thought I'd test this out.
Caveats. Firstly, I think Karen will be best served by a bridge camera. She requires a light weight camera, with decent zoom for up to £500. Even my cheap, entry level combination of Canon 800d (bought on considerable offer price) and Tamron 16-300mm lens (second hand) blows her budget, and it isn't light.
Secondly, my experiments this morning were not scientifically rigorous. All the cameras were mounted on a tripod, and where possible I photographed the same subject at the same range. Even though light conditions remained fairly constant (cloudy and gloomy) they did change slightly, plus one subject I photographed had the audacity to move around!
I also shot most of the photos at maximum zoom - where most of us want to be. However, I did pull back on a couple of shots with one camera, as it is supposed to be particularly bad at maximum.
The two bridge cameras were on Auto, whilst the DSLR was on Program mode. I needed to set the DSLR on P mode as the light was so bad, Auto mode kept putting the flash up.
All cameras were mounted on a tripod.
Both bridge cameras are 16.1 Megapixels, whilst the DSLR has 24.1 Megapixels. I don't have a more modern bridge camera.
All photos have been reduced in size to be web friendly, as are all my photos I post. This does, unfortunately, has the effect of making the images look a little crisper than they are. However, click on the photos and you will be able to zoom in a bit.
The results. First subject behaved itself, keeping still.
Lumix DMC-FZ72, 1200mm, no crop.
Canon SX700HS, 750mm, no crop. I was quite surprised that the 700HS produced this poor image. It is possible the lens is dirty. It has been through the wars; slightly scratched lens, got a drenching once.
Canon SX700HS, 750mm, cropped. Even though the exposure is very washed out, the image is a little sharper than the Lumix. I may have to have a go at the lens and then retake this photo.
Canon 800d, 300mm, no crop.
Canon 800d, 300mm, cropped to be roughly the same as the bridge cameras. The image looks sharper, with more detail, even though the Tamron lens struggles at 300mm.
The following three photos now have the Canna aggressively cropped out.
Lumix DMC-FZ72, 1200mm, aggressively cropped.
Canon SX700HS, 750mm, aggressively cropped.
Canon 800d, 300mm, aggressively cropping out the Canna.
A Magpie dropped into the garden. At a rough distance of 30 feet, it was 10 feet closer to me than the Canna. It wouldn't cooperate and stay still. Tsk, Magpies these days. :-) :-) :-)
As the FZ72 really struggles at 1200mm, I pulled it back to something I felt would resemble the shot taken by both Canons.
Lumix DMC-FZ72, 569mm, no crop.
Lumix DMC-FZ72, 569mm, cropping out the bird. It's looking quite sharp.
Canon SX700HS, 750mm, no crop. That's looking better. That's what I remember the 700HS being capable of.
Canon SX700H, 750mm, cropped. Not at all bad.
Canon 800d, 300mm, cropped.
The Canon SX700HS has been superseded by a newer model. Not sure about the Lumix.
As I mentioned earlier, a very unscientific test. Not least that the Canon 800d is a much newer model than the two bridge cameras, and also has a higher pixel count.
Getting fabulous photos with a bridge camera is quite feasible. In fact they would have been even better had it been a sunny day.
It all depends what you want to do with the photos. If you want to zoom into the image or do large format printing (e.g. A2 and above) then I feel you are going to struggle with a bridge camera. Because I do highly detailed paintings, I like to zoom into to photos to see the detail. But that's me, and the vast majority of people will not be doing this.
Yes DSLRs produce sharper images, and it verifies what some reviewers say about images cropped from a DSLR produced photo with low zoom capabilities can be as good as those produced by bridge cameras with a high zoom capabilities. But DSLRs + lens are heavier and more expensive. I still pack a bridge camera where ever I go.
Hope this helps.
I'm happy with my Lumix DMC TZ90 but it has its limitations. The issue is that they are doing a single lens which covers from super-wide to super-zoom and also trying to cover most light levels.
I have access to 3 cameras - I inherited a Lumix GH3 which when I found the receipt for it is eye-wateringly expensive. it was bought as a light-weight SLR (what they call 4 thirds - so a "cropped" format) but what lets it down is lens availability - an equivalent of a 600mm 35mm lens was around £300 IIRC, so not really up there in the quality optics and I've never got excellent results at full stretch. I also have an old Canon D60(?)(which the Lumix was bought to replace) with a good set of lenses but no super-zoom. It takes excellent photos but does not have an electronic shutter so is unusable outside as it is too noisy.
So, I was reviewing where to go (I am quite keen on photography though I tend to quantity rather than quality!). Day to day, I carry the TZ90 as I can strap it onto my belt and it starts up very quickly so can take a picture if something grabs my eye without the camera dominating my activities. I've been tempted to get a new Canon body and something like the Tamron 150-600 zoom but I'm not convinced I'd get the use out of it because of the commitment to lugging it about would suggest planned bird spotting expeditions as opposed to keeping a weather eye open.
So, I stick with the TZ90. SWMBO has a lower spec Canon - the TZ90 shoots RAW and I can get improvements on my photos (exposure adjustments and a bit of cropping that I couldn't get on jpegs).
The other issue I've had is that all the auto cameras can be a bit of a pig to persuade to focus and on different cameras I've had to do a bit of experimentation and research to get the right mode to get a reliable quick focus. On full auto, the focus systems look all over the frame and find twigs and branches rather too interesting and easy to latch onto.
So I use my lightweight camera to try and get record shots to find out what I've seen and personal pleasure. I'm not going to be doing competition entries.
In reply to IanMSpencer:
Firstly, I would certainly echo everything that Ian said in the previous post.
Secondly, I know this might feel like information overload, especially for the experienced photographers, but I still remember struggling to understand all the jargon and bits and bobs camera reviewers used, and what exactly were the differences in image quality produced by DSLRs vs bridge cameras. Plus they always tended to present the best of the best of their photos in their reviews, most probably not taken with Auto mode, which didn't tally with the photos I took.
I weighed the cameras this morning.
Canon SX700HS: 10 oz or 300 gms.
Lumix DMC FZ72: 1lb 8 oz or 650 gms.
Canon 800d with Tamron 16-300mm lens: 2lb 10 oz or 1.2 kg.
I forgot to say that the photos I posted in this forum of the MGLG/BVCT/et al volunteers clearing scrub around Grove hide were taken with the Canon SX700HS. It spent the entire time in my back pocket, apart from when I fished it out to take photos. I didn't sit on it on Sunday, but I have done so in the past, also slipped over on coastal rocks whilst carrying it in a rucksack. It does get a battering, but soldiers on.
Anyway, I took the Lumix DMC FZ72 along with me today, when I paid my usual visit to the local proto-reserve; mainly as it was so sunny, therefore ideal for bridge cameras. Just as well I took it, as the battery in my DSLR ran out of charge and I didn't take a spare like I normally do.
The equivalent zoom were given by FastStone image processing software, which may not agree 100% with what the camera thinks it is.
We start with some Barnacle geese flapping up a bank on the scrape in Cormorant lake. The geese are some 100 yards away. Full zoom of 1321mm equivalent - 60x on the camera. As you can see, detail is very soft; partly due to the nature of extreme zoom range, partly as the camera struggled to decide what to focus on.
Same maximum zoom, hand held, the Barnacle geese are now atop the scrape. I was quite disappointed when I first got this camera and saw the softness of the images. It's taken me sometime to understand why. However, the camera does enable me to get shots of very, very distant objects. :-) :-) :-)
Moving further along the scrape - more of which is being exposed as the pump chugs away - we have some gulls and guillemots, but with the lens pulled back to 709mm. Instantly, the image looks a little sharper. This might be due to there being less background clutter or the light had changed subtly, but it is normally indicative of the lens. The less the zoom, the better the optics cope with taking sharper images. It's the same with my DSLR lens: 300 mm is softish, whilst 200mm is pin sharp.
I knew there were lots of Lapwings flying around, showing off and practising their aerial manoeuvres, but I didn't realise one had photo bombed the gulls/terns. Photo at 709mm zoom.
I then zoomed in on the Gulls and guillemot. 1281mm equivalent or about 57x on the camera. Detail a little softer. You only notice how soft it is when you zoom into the photo on t'computer.
As you may or may not realise, I do like action shots. When I noticed a little kerfuffle going on with the Barnacle geese, I trained the bridge camera on them and got this at a zoom of 1286mm. A very busy photo, possibly confusing the camera's focus, therefore quite soft detail. Matters not helped by the tall weeds in the way.
You can get flying shots of birds. It's very difficult at full zoom on this particular camera as the field of view (least ways that's what I think it's called) is quite tiny. Slow moving subjects are fine, but even moderately moving targets are a challenge. You can pull back on the zoom, but the sensor and pixel density can mean cropping the bird produces a very soft image.
This gull was taken at 1286mm, almost max zoom. However, I was sort of ready for it. I have lots of photos with very, very blurry bird shaped smudges or of background scenery.
About this time the charge on my DSLR's battery had gone. I was heading back to the car, when I noticed the Barnacle geese taking off en masse; blast! Quickly puts DSLR onto ground. Then swings bridge camera round from my back (I normally carry the bridge camera like a satchel, but with it resting on my right kidneys. It doesn't bump around so much), turn it on and attempt to track the birds.
Basically I missed the shot of the birds taking off as a mass, but I did manage to track them as they flew in front of me. First picture is at a zoom of 1112mm (not too far off maximum) with an exposure time of 1/160th of a second - as decided by the camera's Auto mode. This means the birds are not pin sharp.
As the birds cleared the trees, the camera decided it could up the exposure time to 1/800 of a second. Oh, I forgot to mention a major point with bridge cameras. They do not have a very high ISO value. Even then, reviewer tend to say anything above about 400 or 800 and there is too much noise. I had pulled back the lens a tad to 1052mm to get more of the birds in. Now the birds are much sharper, shame about the background.
What had spooked these birds? I always look around for a raptor. Sure enough, high in the sky, a dot. To photograph a dot in the sky, I start with the lens pulled back. This is one at 302mm. It turns out to be a Red Kite. Silly geese, they're harmless.
With the bird in frame, I zoom in, desperately trying to track the bird, until finally at or near maximum zoom (1321mm in this instance) I can, if I am lucky, get something
Unfortunately, when I press the shutter, the lens loses focus as the image is written to card. I then have to go through the whole routine again. The Barnacle geese then set off the other birds. First a Lapwing legged it. There is one in this photo. Zoom is 486mm.
Then the other birds on the scrape and mud flats took off. This one of gulls and terns at 486mm. The exposure time was 1/400 of sec which is a tad low for pin sharp images.
Still at 486mm, but now with an exposure time of 1/1300 of a sec, we have gulls and Lapwings.
I love Lapwings, especially when they fly en masse. I had to up the zoom to 627mm as the Lapwings were circling away from me.
Told you I like them
Finally, after a brief fly around, the birds decide the Red Kite is not a danger, and all begin to circle back to the scrape.
With a nice sunny day, quite reasonable photos are achievable with a bridge camera. They don't come out so nice on a manky grey day - trust me, been there many a time when I photographed the proto-reserve during winter.
Personally I wish the online camera reviews publish a selection of photos produced by bridge cameras. The normal soft ones at extreme zoom, with camera on Auto mode, and grey dull skies; along with the super ones taken on a sunny day and probably one of the manual modes. That way I may not have been so disappointed about the photos I produced i.e. I thought it was all down to operator error.
However, if the reviewers are too negative then they probably wont be sent cameras to review by the manufacturers.
This has been an interesting thread to follow, not least because I've done a few comparisons between lenses etc myself on here, but never with a bridge camera (as I don't own one). It's clear that the DSLR Canna image is better, even with the more aggressive crop and the less-than-perfect-at-300 lens, and I didn't expect it to be such a clear winner. It definitely looks to me like the focus missed a bit on some of the images (leaves sharper than the flower), so I agree with you on that - if the bridge won't let you select specific focus points/areas that will be a regular nuisance I suspect.
Long equivalent focal lengths also need high shutter speeds to avoid camera shake and it sounds like that caused you some problems too - even 1/800 sec is slow at 1000mm for in-flight stuff.
The in-camera jpeg compression is a bit aggressive as well, detail's been lost in the whites on the magpie for example. I'm curious how much detail could be retained using RAW and processing them later on the PC.
I'll put a link to this thread in my Getting off Auto index, all adds to the knowledge base! :-)
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