Advice request: "Bridge camera" or DSLR?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Leia1912, Jun 25, 2012.

  1. Leia1912 macrumors member

    Jan 29, 2007
    Greetings, all,

    I'm considering buying a new camera. I have read the links posted here, and old threads, for advice. I am still a bit confused, so I am hoping that you could give me some input.

    Who I am/what I want to shoot: I'm someone who likes to take pictures of family, pets, and sites when I travel. That said, I really want to take *good* pictures of all of the above, and I enjoy challenging myself with a camera. I therefore want to get a camera with a bit more power than I have now, so I can control the options a bit more and learn more about what I'm doing.

    I have currently an old Nikon Coolpix S550 which I, frankly, hate. It's small, but it doesn't react quickly, so you miss shots. It also seems to flatten the color out of images, so the photos are dull.

    I've been thinking I would like a camera that sits below the DSLR range, as I thought it silly to go get a pro camera when I'm very much an amateur. (Plus, of course, I want to be able to take the camera around when I travel.) I'm thinking of around $500, although I could go up a little if I felt the value was there.


    1.) I've read threads here where people advised posters to just go for an entry level DSLR, instead of a bridge camera. (Bridge, in case I'm using the term incorrectly, means to me a camera meant to be more powerful/flexible than a point-and-shoot, but less powerful than the DSLR.) Would that still be your advice, and if so, which would you recommend?

    2.) In all of the Snapshort comparisons I've run, Snapshort favors the Canon S100 Powershot. Does that make sense to you? This one seems to have a weaker zoom (5), though, so I want to ask--is that sufficient?


    3.) What would you do if you were me? I would appreciate any specific suggestions. I've been to the local store with the most digital cameras, but the sales people there do not know the equipment as photographers would.

    Thanks for any input you can provide!
  2. mulo macrumors 68020


    Aug 22, 2010
    Behind you
    are you looking at a compact camera, or do you want to fiddle that much more?

    I'd suggest looking into a mirror less camera, which fit your budget perfectly, like the Sony NEX series. My girlfriend has one of those, and it takes pictures equal to DSLR quality, but in a package a quarter of the size.

    as you mentioned fiddling i couldn't help mention these as they allow you to change your lens so that you can experiment in so many more fields of photography, like 1:1 macro which your compact camera won't do.
  3. driftless macrumors 65816


    Sep 2, 2011
    We use Olympus Pens for our "walk around" cameras and for the same purposes as you are looking to use your camera for. One of the nice things about micro four thirds and other mirrorless cameras is that they shoot in both JPEG and RAW and you can add lenses as you wish. You can also add other bodies over time, in Olympus' case the OMD E-M5. In short, you can have a system that can be as big or small as you like. These cameras are easier to carry and use than entry to mid-level DSLR's as well.
  4. Leia1912 thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 29, 2007
    Thanks for the input!

    I am looking for a camera that is (I hope) travel-friendly, but at the same time able to let me fiddle about a bit more than a traditional compact point-and-shoot. I like the idea of mirrorless--I think the flexibility you've both mentioned would be a real asset to someone who hopes to grow as a photographer. I will research these suggestions, so thank you!
  5. driftless macrumors 65816


    Sep 2, 2011
    Mirrorless cameras are very travel friendly. I always have one and usually a second lens in a small messenger bag w/ laptop or iPad, etc. They are also easy to take outdoors hiking, etc.

    Good luck and enjoy.
  6. blueroom macrumors 603


    Feb 15, 2009
    Toronto, Canada
    Yep, mirror-less. I've got a Sony NEX-5N that's just great.
  7. noisycats macrumors 6502a


    Jun 1, 2010
    The 'ham. Alabama.
    While not 'cheap', I have always found the Canon PowerShot S-series to be top notch. I've owned the s45, s60, s70, s90 and now the 95. They have always had excellent point-and-shoot capability along with partial or full manual control. I think you are on the right track!
  8. Prodo123 macrumors 68020


    Nov 18, 2010
    Depends on your definition of a "bridge" camera. It could be a SLT camera like the Sony Alpha lineup, which technically isn't a DSLR lineup but rather a point-and-shoot with an electronic viewfinder and phase detect focusing. SLTs would be the closest to DSLRs and would offer a smooth and effort transition to DSLRs if you should buy one. However, they also share the bulkiness of DLSRs.

    Or it could be a mirrorless camera, like the Fuji x100 or Leica X1, which does not offer interchangeable lenses. These, like the SLTs, don't have an OVF. Instead they opt for the point-and-shoot screen. The Fuji cameras are a little weird in the fact that they have a hybrid viewfinder, a mix of rangefinder, OVF and EVF. They also use the lesser contrast detection autofocus found in point-and-shoots as opposed to the phase-detect systems in SLTs and DSLRs.

    Or a MILC, a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The NEX line and the PEN line fall into this category. These are identical to mirrorless cameras, but also offer the ability to change lenses.

    If you want to stick with the point-and-shoot style of snapping photos, then the mirrorless cameras are for you. If you want a little more creative control and ability to change lenses, the MILCs are for you. If you know you'll get a DSLR later on in your life, wouldn't mind having a bulky camera and/or shoot a lot of video, then the SLTs are perfect.

    For traveling, the Olympus PEN series with a pancake lens would fit your budget and needs. Set it to P mode and snap away, or turn it to manual for more control. It'll help you get the grasp of exposure and get you used to the manual shooting mode. Then when you want to move up to a DSLR, the shift won't be as drastic.
  9. I AM THE MAN macrumors 6502

    Apr 10, 2011
    It all really depends. As everyone above said, mirror less lens like the Sony NEX are great cameras and very compact. However, my approach is a little different and only worth it if you really want to get into photography. My approach is go with an SLR camera.

    Why and SLR camera?

    Well for one thing, I just don't believe there are nearly as many lens available for mirror-less cameras (yet?). With the innumerable amount of lens available for DSLR (especially Nikon or Canon DSLRs) you have more "opportunities."

    While traveling, although it might seem like carrying an SLR with a few lens seems really tiring and all but it honestly really isn't that bad. Im currently in Switzerland and for everywhere we go, I have my Canon T3 with me along with a small camera bag that has a couple of my lens. I can admit that everyone once in awhile I might need to "take a break" but for me personally it really pays off with some of the shots I take.

    Just a little quick info, before I bought my first slr about a year and 2 months ago, I always used a digital camera and the last one I used (and sometimes use) is the Nikon CoolPix L110. However, I wanted to get more for my money and I really wanted to get into photography and therefore, I invested in an SLR (back when the Canon T3 was about $650) and honestly I don't regret it at all, except that I find myself always wanting to invest in a lens kit than rather spend my money and on anything else.

    If you go with an SLR, Im sure you'll enjoy it. It'll take a little time to adjust to it but the possibilities are endless. With a mirror-less, in my opinion, I think you get limited with the lens possibilities and so on. Good luck with your purchase.
  10. driftless macrumors 65816


    Sep 2, 2011
    Check sites like B&H, there are plenty of lenses to choose from for m4/3's camera and more coming all the time, including better quality glass.
  11. mikepro macrumors 6502

    Sep 3, 2010
    My needs/desires were similar to yours. I got a great deal on a new Canon T2i kit for just over $500 (camera, lens, bag) a couple of months ago.

    For an SLR, it's fairly lightweight and compact. Not nearly as small as a mirrorless like the Sony NEX, which I was also looking at.

    I have NO regrets getting the full blown SLR. The NEX is great for it's compactness, and it does let you grow into better skills. However, it is tough to beat the speed of the SLR and ease of adjusting settings quickly on the camera with the dials and buttons, without even having to look at them. Also, the optical viewfinder is nice. It's just more "photographer friendly". Plus, the choice of lenses is hard to beat.

    So glad I got this camera. The quality of photos of my family were instantly improved. (Previously using iPhone 4s and Canon S2 IS).

    Basically you should decide how compact you want, and how into photography you want to get. If you really want to make it a hobby, that leans towards an SLR. If you just just better pictures, and don't see yourself getting too into it, and also think you will take lots of video, and really value compactness, then go bridge.

    So, basically I think you should consider either a Canon T2i, T3, or T3i, or Nikon D3100 or D5100 (Decide on price, and decide on Canon vs, Nikon based on which one feels better in your hand, and which brand your friends have so you can share lenses).

    If you decide you want the compactness and slight ease of use of bridge, get a Sony NEX.
  12. BigRed1 macrumors 6502

    Dec 13, 2011
    I picked up an Olympus Pen Mini refurbished from Cameta for $300 about a month ago. I added an adapter for another $20 that lets me use my old Canon FD lenses with the camera (manual focus, manual aperture control) and I've been having all sorts of fun. If I had had more money I likely would have picked up the Panasonic G3 instead - it has an integrated electronic viewfinder which would have been nice, but it is also a bit bigger.

    I like the looks of some of the other systems as well, but I couldn't say no to the entry price for this camera.

    The jpegs out of the camera are fantastic and my indoor shots with my Canon 50mm f1.8 are great (without flash). I love how light and small the camera is - I just keep it with my in my bag at all times.

    I was tempted by the DSLR's, but honestly I find them too big and cumbersome. I feel sorry for the other parents in the park who have those things swinging around their necks while they're chasing their kids around. My Pen fits into a jacket pocket, is fast to focus and is very light.


    One more thing - I'd suggest finding a store where you can get your hands on some of these options and seeing how they feel in your hands and in front of your face.

    Let's be honest - they're all good cameras, personal preference on the details like size, ergonomics and feature sets should really be the deciding factor.
  13. Eolian macrumors regular

    Aug 25, 2010
    I've shot for the better part of a year with a Canon G12 (available <$400), and have found it to be an extraordinarily capable and satisfying camera in situations similar to what you describe.

    First, it's ruggedly build with excellent ergonomic (and customizable) full-manual controls. Second, the image sensor is large for a camera this size and records 10MP RAW images in excellent quality. Additionally, it's optical zoom with image stabilization, macro capabilities, and low-light capabilities are all superb.

    The biggest plus this camera offers me is the image quality for it's compact size and portability. It's larger than a pocket camera per se, but far smaller and more portable than a DSLR + lens kit with much of the necessary manual control. I'm a geologist and avid hiker and absolutely love being able to travel "light" with the G12 into all kinds of situations and capture very high-quality images under just about any shooting condition. Very good HD video captures as well (though I use this infrequently.)

    With the new G1X on the market (which to my understanding has weaker macro capabilities but I've not researched it fully), last year's G12 can be found for terrific value ... I see nice bundled/package deals (with case, extra battery, storage card, etc) in the $400 range. Worth at least a look based on what you describe ~ there's a lot of good reviews / info out there. Highly recommended.

    Best of luck with the "bridge camera" search, if that's the direction you decide to go :)
  14. iTiki macrumors 6502

    Feb 9, 2007
    Maui, Hawaii
    Check out the Fuji X10. It's a little more than your budget, but getting great reviews. I have the Fuji X100 and love it. So much so, I just sold all my Nikon gear and ordered the Fuji X-Pro1. Just got tired of the bulk and weight of lugging around a DSLR and lenses.
  15. VI™ macrumors 6502a

    Aug 27, 2010
    Shepherdsturd, WV
    EVIL cameras are great (Electronic Viewfinder Interchangeable Lens). I owned an E-P3 I gave to my dad after I bought an OM-D. They're a bit out of youre price range, but they are great cameras for being so small. My biggest complaint about recommending them to someone with a $500 budget is the price. The kit lens that came with my OM-D sucks. I didn't really use the camera until I bought two M43 primes for about $400 each. I basically spent about $1,200 before the system was up to what I would call usable. You always have the option of picking up cheaper legacy glass from E-bay, but then you're stuck with manual focusing and having to deal with possible lens issues the seller may not be aware of or are aware of but trying to pawn off on someone else.
  16. blueroom macrumors 603


    Feb 15, 2009
    Toronto, Canada
  17. Leia1912, Jun 27, 2012
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2012

    Leia1912 thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 29, 2007
    Terrific recommendations and insight, guys--thank you so, so much!

    (I knew asking MR would get a lot more useful info than listening to the sales guys at the local computer store!)

    I think my next step is, as someone upthread suggested, is going in to the shop and handling the various candidates. Since size and heft is an issue, I think that will narrow down the candidates.
  18. Leia1912 thread starter macrumors member

    Jan 29, 2007
    Okay, just to follow up:

    After reading all of your advice, and doing a lot of research (online reviews, video reviews, Flickr searches, professional photography forums, and 6-7 different trips to places locally with digital cameras, to play with features and feel all of the candidates), the winner is...the Sony NEX5N. I'll do a mini review here, in case someone else asks the same question:

    Pros: It takes great pictures on the automatic level. So, in other words, for someone just edging over from the point-and-shoot world, you have a very comfortable fallback (and something that will exceed a p-and-s.)

    Pro #2: It doesn't have a built-in flash, but honestly, it almost never needs one. I read a review/comment where someone says the camera "sees in the dark." It's pretty close to that. The camera comes with a small external flash, and I've resorted to it only a few times. (500 photos taken so far, to give you a sense.)

    I also appreciated how the camera tried very hard to adjust for different issues--in handheld night shots, it will take a rapid series of photos and then it will merge the images to try to reduce low-light noise.

    Cons: It is a little bulky, but as I grew used to the camera, I found that wasn't that much an issue. (Even when using the hood, which I started using obsessively when I saw it could save the lens from being bumped.) I'm sure it would feel tiny to a person used to a DSLR, but it is quite bigger than my ancient Coolpix.

    It does require some shopping: I do need to get a lens cap on a string, though, as taking the lens cap off and trying to put it in my pocket/bag quickly is a pain in the rear. (Sony also is currently not bundling a rear lens cap with the attached lens, which is obnoxious of them, but fixable. I have a telephoto lens in addition to the regular lens, thanks to an open-box resale at MicroCenter; when I switch lenses, I use the rear lens cover of the telephoto on the bundled lens, just to be safe.)

    Con #2: iPhoto doesn't love the format of the movies. They play back in a jerky motion within iPhoto and the performance is quite poor. That can be solved by going through iMovie and handling them there. FYI, it does mean the Apple-made camera kit of the iPad won't transfer the movies over to the iPad, though. (At least currently.) I understand this is an issue with the format of the movies (set as AVCHD). I could fiddle with it and try MP4, but I haven't gone there yet, nor have I tried alternate solutions. Right now, I am just uploading the movies via my MBP.

    (To be clear: there's no issue at all with the movies when played through iMovie. I exported a movie out of iMovie and uploaded it to YT and it looks and sounds great. It just means you have to take an extra step than you might otherwise, but you will end up with a better video than your original point-and-shoot's video.)

    I haven't used the Sony software at all yet, so I can't comment on that. I did get a book on the 5N, in addition to the included instruction booklet. The 5N tries to help you out so you don't need a book, but the menu system is slightly complicated--I think it is one of those situations where the more you use it, the more intuitive the menu design will become.

    Thank you all for your advice on my selection! I still have a long way to go when it comes to mastering this camera, but I felt a lot better making this decision with your input in mind. :apple:
  19. LongSticks macrumors 6502

    Jul 22, 2012
    Kent, UK
    Abso fricken lutely! Very sage advise. Just bought my wife the x100 black and look, feel, control, and pic quality all live up to the hype! Suddenly she is also an expert on aperture, shutter speed and exposure, where she had no interest before with a point and shoot!

    As soon as the tele zooms come out from fuji in 2013 its adios Canon and the trailer full of bits! And hello X Pro 1 and probably an M Mount as well!

Share This Page