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Digital Cameras - the Bridge Camera

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Digital Cameras
Digital Pocket Camera | Digital Bridge Camera | Digital Single Lens Reflex Camera | Digital Camera Lenses
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What is a Digital Bridge Camera? A simple way to describe it is to say that it is similar to an SLR (Single Lens Reflex) Camera without the mirror(s). Why a mirror? In an SLR the view from the lens is diverted by an angled mirror1 positioned between the lens and the film or image sensor. This mirror directs the image up into the viewfinder. When a photograph is taken, the mirror is mechanically lifted to allow the picture to be exposed on the film or image sensor. This system allows the photographer to see a true image in the viewfinder of the subject of the photograph - a proper lens eye view. This is an improvement on other cameras such as the Digital Pocket Camera which only provide an image preview on a rear screen (difficult to see in bright sunlight) or ones with an offset viewfinder which will not display a true view of the image if there is any zoom in use.

So a Digital Bridge Camera is very similar to the SLR but has no mirrors - hence they are also known as Mirrorless Cameras. The image that is seen through the lens is electronically sent to the receiver in the viewfinder, giving you the lens eye view, and also sent to a larger screen in the camera back. A Digital Compact Camera just has the back screen or an offset viewfinder. The Digital Bridge Camera is therefore a bridge between a basic digital camera and a full SLR (either film or digital).

One thing to remember is that a Bridge Camera is not a poor man's SLR. These cameras can produce results equal to any SLR more than 90% of the time2 - they are limited only by their fixed lenses and the lack of accessories and attachments that are available to the SLR user. But as a serious SLR and two or three lenses will cost over £3,500 and they can be quite inconvenient to carry around, the Bridge Camera is a good option to consider.

Good Points

They are equipped with a single multi-purpose zoom lens, making them easy to carry and use.

A benefit of a digital shutter system is an increase in the Frames Per Second or FPS rate. This makes it easier for anyone to take good fast action and nature photographs.

More sophisticated than Digital Compact Cameras3, allowing the use of additional filters and complex flash units, they are commonly programmed with photographic filters and techniques such as panorama, plus camera effects such as Pop Colour4.

As they are so easy to use they could encourage lazy photography. That is not a problem as a novice can achieve good results from the start. A skillful photographer, however, can get some superb results. But remember to try to 'see' the photograph in your mind's eye before you pick up the camera. All this means you will get good results and not find yourself rapidly outgrowing this type of camera.

Quirks

Digital Bridge Cameras often have video capability. This a mixed blessing as the results are often very disappointing. If you use the video option don't make the two big mistakes. The first is zooming whilst filming - moviemakers seldom use it (remember almost all cameras will make some noise on the soundtrack of your video). Also not using a tripod when filming can lead to you producing blurred and unstable images.

Even small memory cards now can hold over 1,000 images - this freedom will encourage creative experimentation and that will inevitably improve you as a photographer. However, regular downloading and editing is advisable to keep track of your work.

Getting prints produced can be expensive, but at least you don't have to print every image to see your results. If you take a lot of photographs it is an idea to invest in a decent printer. Inkjet printers are now quite inexpensive and produce excellent photographs and enlarged prints.

Common Features

  • Autofocus
  • Auto exposure
  • Auto power off
  • Good macro capability
  • Built-in flash
  • Tripod mount
  • Rechargeable battery supplied with charger
  • The camera will imprint the time and date tag on all images
  • Geotag on some cameras

Geotag can be very useful if you travel a lot and do not download your photos very often, so do ask when considering a purchase.

A few makers of Digital Bridge Cameras, representative of the range available from non-specialist stores, include:

  • Canon
  • FujiFilm
  • Kodak
  • Leica
  • Nikon
  • Olympus
  • Panasonic
  • Pentax
  • Rollei
  • Samsung
  • Sony
  • Yashica

Important Tips and Notes

  • If the camera does not come with a case, buy a good one - you will never regret it. Besides giving protection, it keeps the dust off.
  • Just in case you need reminding, take care when pointing the camera at the Sun as it may damage your eyes and the camera.
  • Buy large memory cards, but not too large as you have to find your images later. Several smaller ones are more useful - buy different cards from good makers so you can more easily distinguish between them and identify the contents.
  • It is unwise to only store photos on your PC as it might malfunction. You can store them on an external hard drive (HDD) but file them with care so you can find them later.
  • If you take a lot of photographs, edit them ruthlessly - delete duplicates and any that are out of focus. File them by subject, year and month. File events such as holidays, weddings, etc, separately.

If you are on a budget, why not consider a pre-owned camera? Remember that cameras are pampered possessions so a used one is normally in excellent condition. However, it is advisable to buy from an established used camera dealer, as you will normally get a warranty and technical support so you can enjoy many successful photography sessions.

1In fact there is a second fixed mirror used to correct the image seen in the viewfinder.2Yes! Although admittedly the SLR's quality will start to show if you enlarge and print a very large scale image.3Important Note - as technology moves so fast, this may only be current for a few years.4Pop Colour is a black and white image with only one of the primary colours included in the image

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