Sunday, 16 June 2013

Camera buyers guide – DSLR Vs Bridge Camera

A lot has been said about the benefits of a DSLR to the point that many people consider themselves
professional photographers just because they own one. The truth is if you don’t know the fundamentals of photography then you are better off with a point and shoot camera. But what if you know the basics, what if you want to shoot in full manual, what if you know what shutter speed, ISO and aperture work for different scenes and what if you want prefer manual focus. Can you now go in for a DSLR? Hmmm … no!

Knowing how to use a full-manual camera is one thing, but what about the end result of your snaps? Are you the type to print your photographs into posters? Will you be cropping into small sections of your photograph? Will you be doing some heavy post processing on your photographs? OR will you simply upload your snaps to a Facebook album and wait for people to comment on them?

If you fall into that last group then I’d say a DSLR is overkill and you may get better results with a good bridge camera. Let’s do a quick comparison of the two:-

First the advantages of the Bridge camera over the DSLR:-

Bridge Camera (e.g. Fuji HS50 EXR)Digital SLR
Cheaper (good ones start at Rs. 18K / $310)More expensive especially when factoring the costs of additional lenses
Smaller and LighterBigger, bulkier and with the added burden of carrying extra lenses
Significantly longer zoom lens (24mm – 1000mm) 42x optical zoom lens Much shorter zoom range (18mm-55mm) Telephoto lenses are available but at a much higher cost and even then don’t come near the range of the Bridge (superzoom) cameras.
Macro to moon shots on a single lens. No hassles of changing lenses in the middle of a shootChanging lenses may not be difficult but it needs to be done carefully and not in dusty environments plus takes time away from the shoot
More feature rich than most DSLRs
Features include- Optical image stabilization, Digital Zoom, faster burst mode, more scene modes, panorama mode, high speed video mode, ultra high ISO (12,800)Don’t usually pack in as many features
Look and feel of a DSLRIs a DSLR so yea, looks and feels like one too

Now the advantages of a DSLR over a Bridge camera:-

Digital SLRBridge Camera (e.g. Fuji HS50 EXR)
Much better low light performance thanks to the larger sensor allowing for great night shots with no flashWhile the low-light performance may have it trumped the flash does compensate to a large extent. Also in daylight shots there is little difference between the two when viewed on a web album
Shallow depth of field – especially with additional lenses – giving you much better portrait snapsThe fixed lenses of bridge cameras have a lower aperture range so you won’t usually get the same effect however you can ‘fake’ the effect through simple software solutions – Photoshop, picasa and apps like After Focus on Android
Usually faster autofocus While this is true for many bridge cameras it’s not the case for mine (Fuji HS50) which matches and is often faster than your average DSLR at locking focus
RAW mode photography available should you need it (which in many amateur cases you won’t)RAW mode is available in some bridge cameras as well like the Fuji HS50 though I admit I’ve never used it
The placebo effect – makes one feel that by owning it, you automatically take great photographsThe Fuji HS series looks every bit as much as a DSLR and has all the bells and whistles. They even have full manual zoom and focus rings.

I’ve given the Fuji HS 50 as an example as it’s one of the best bridge cameras on the market today (and since I own one I can attest to it's greatness). Also most of my photographs are limited to Facebook albums (yes I’m one of those) and with that massive 24mm to 1000mm lens I don’t ever need to crop into a photo so there’s never any perceptible noise in my photographs (a common issue with all small sensor non-DSLR cameras). For me a good bridge camera is the clear choice and I know that most of you out there are like me. You should know I love experimenting with challenging photography situations and this camera is a perfect tool to give me that freedom (fast shutter, amazing lens, wide ISO range, good screen, tones of useful presets, very good EXR mode (especially the pixel-binning 8MP mode), complete manual zoom and focus plus a great battery life.
A demonstration of the massive zoom capability of today's bridge cameras

I’ve owned a couple of bridge cameras and have no plans of making a switch to a DSLR yet. My bridge camera is ideally suited for long range wildlife shots, landscape panorama shots and macro shots of insects or flowers. For portrait shots I’d use software to blur the background and for night shots I’d use a tripod so in essence I don’t think I’ll need a DSLR. Do you think otherwise?

Check out this video that compares the older HS20 with a Nokon D700 -

Guest post by Prithvi Raj


  1. I have always had a DSLR camera and thought id never change but reading this makes me think. I might be better off with a bridge camera from reading all the pros and cons. If its going to be smaller and easier to take out on trips and if the zoom is better then why not change. Decision time!!

  2. I own both! :) I have the Fuji HS50 EXR and also a Canon T3i with 4 lenses (50mm prime f1.4, 28-55, 70-300, and 100mm macro) For serious images, I use my Canon, but I hate the heft of the camera bag with all 4 lenses. Nothing compares to portrait shots with that shallow DOF and that f1.4 lens! However the best camera is the one you always have with you and I don't drag teh SLR everywhere due to the amount of stuff I have to bring with it!!

    I bought the HS50 EXR for a trip to India (leaving this weekend). I didn't want to lug over 2000.00 worth of gear and have to carry it around with me. I owned the HS20 when it came out and loved it (aside from the paintbrush effect on photos when viewed at 100%). I hoped that issue was solved and it was for the most part (except at ISOs above 800). I almost never use L size for photos... stick to the 16:9 M size. All monitors are now widescreen so I shoot in 16:9 M (I think it's 6MP mode) and almost never have noise that way, and photos are still plenty large enough to use as full screen wallpapers.

    A few new goodies on the HS50 vs HS20 are the included effects... I love using the selective colour. They actually turn out very good! And also the pop colour (fantasy one) and there's one for soft focus mimicking a diffuser filter.

    A few bonuses you didn't mention about the HS50EXR: Its the ONLY bridge camera to have threads on the end of the lens and it will take standard 58mm filters. I already have 58mm filters from my Canon DSLR. ND, C-POL and UV. and I can use them on the HS50! It also has phase detect AF along with contrast detect. Its the only bridge cam I know of that has phase detect, making AF seriously FAST! HS20 did not have that... and I love that they included it! Also, the sensor, while smaller than a DSLR, in the HS50 is larger than even most of the bridge cameras. It's 1/2" s 1/2.3" giving a bit better quality and low light performance than the others. The LCD screen is fully articulating, but that meant the left side quick access buttons were removed from the HS20. Some people hated that... but being a DSLR user, I loved it! Reason is, there is one button now for Quick Access and it brings up a quick menu to change all the main shooting settings on one screen, and the layout is very similar to what I see on my Canon T3i!!

    Even if you are a die hard DSLR user, you won't always carry your DSLR with you, along with a bag full of lenses! As I said, the best cam is the one you have with you!! A bridge cam is a grab-n-go backup to have even for a pro!! And of all the bridge cams, the Fuji HS50 is closest in feel and function to a DSLR. Not disappointed at all and think this is the best bridge camera out right now for balance of features and quality of photos!