In Defense of the Bridge Camera

In an age when smart phones have become the camera of choice, bridge cameras have largely been put aside and forgotten. And why not? The phone camera is simple to operate, pocket-able, and captures moments that can quickly be shared to social media. Plus. phone cameras have come a long way– I am always impressed with the capabilities of my Samsung S-8. The camera produces some impressive images. I understand the utility of a camera phone.

So, why bother with another camera? Below, I will provide five reasons to do just that: own a quality-made bridge camera. But first, it is worth explaining what a bridge camera is. A bridge camera is a hybrid– meaning it is a simple point and shoot camera, with many of the same features found on digital SLR’s. This equals versatility. The user can simply use the camera in automatic, or in manual mode (where the user is in charge of ISO, f-stop, shutter speed etc…). And, many bridge cameras offer a decent zoom lens, adding to the versatility of the camera.

The Kodak P-880 is a great example of a quality-made bridge camera. Although released in August of 2005, this particular camera has a lot to offer the user thirteen years later. (copyright The Wilderness Journal 2018)

Benefits of a Bridge Camera

Optical Performance

Often times, the quality of the lens on a bridge camera far exceeds that of a phone lens (in a majority of cases). While megapixels factor into a nice image, a quality lens has more impact on the quality of the final image. Plus, a bridge camera lens, when zoomed in, produces much nicer images. In many phone cameras, the zoom feature of the lens is digitally rendered. Unlike a bridge camera, where the zoom feature is optical.

Image Quality

Secondly, a bridge camera offers superior image quality. Yes, an image viewed from a phone screen will appear superb–but when viewed on a larger screen, the difference between a bridge camera and a phone camera’s image quality will become evident. Even low-quality images appear top-notch.

Many factors influence image quality, such as exposure settings, available light, lens quality, and of course, the size of the sensor. Generally speaking, a larger sensor will perform better than a smaller sensor. A typical sensor for a bridge camera is approximately twice that of a phone camera sensor. Visit the link at the bottom of the page for a visual representation of sensor sizes.

Exposure Adjustability

Third, a quality-made bridge camera provides an array of exposure adjustments. As mentioned above, control over the exposure can enhance the quality of the image– given a firm understanding of manual exposure dynamics. For example, if the subject is a landscape, the shutter speed can be reduced, the f-stop adjusted to around 11-16, and a low ISO can be selected. And even better, the focus can be set to infinity. For low-light images, set a low shutter speed and use a tripod.

To the left of the screen four buttons provide direct access to various exposure settings including flash settings, metering, ISO and white balance. (copyright The Wilderness Journal 2018)
Having focus options at the touch of a finger is invaluable. (copyright The Wilderness Journal 2018)
White balance adjustments are an important consideration in image quality. (copyright The Wilderness Journal 2018)

Quality of Prints 

Ever order large prints, excitedly open the envelope, and frown in dismay when you see that the prints are quite grainy? Or, perhaps not as they appeared on the screen of your phone? This is often the case with pictures printed from camera phone image files (again, some exceptions apply). But with files from a quality-made bridge camera, images can be printed quite large with no major loss in image quality.

It is worth noting that the print shop can also be a factor in the quality of printed images, no matter the type of camera used. A $5,000.00 camera can produce gorgeous images on a screen, but if the print shop is not up to the task, the images will be largely average.

TIP: If unsure about the quality of a print shop, order only a few prints if you are planning on having a large quantity of pictures printed. This way, money is saved by not having all the pictures printed if the end product is not satisfactory. 

Freedom from the Phone

Finally, a quality-made bridge camera has another benefit: no distracting text messages or social media breaks while out amidst the boundless beauty of the natural world. Even I am guilty of this. With a bridge camera, you take the picture, and continue on exploring. How wonderful is that? Though keep the phone packed away as a back-up, just in case. Nothing is worst than missing a shot.

Sample Images 

The following images display the capabilities of the Kodak P-880. Images were captured using various filters (polarizers, neutral density, skylight) and exposure settings.

Kodak P880 Boardman River 5 21 17b
Kodak P-880: Boardman River (copyright The Wilderness Journal 2018)
Kodak P880 YMCA Field 6 16 17 I
Kodak P-880: Local Field Grass (copyright The Wilderness Journal 2018)
Kodak P880 Skegomog Swamp Trail 8 4 17 a
Kodak P-880: Skegomog Swamp Trail (copyright The Wilderness Journal 2018)
Kodak P880 Platte River 6 25 17 b
Kodak P-880: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake Shore (copyright The Wilderness Journal 2018)
Kodak P880 RNP 9 23 17 a
Kodak P-880: Reffitt Nature Preserve (copyright The Wilderness Journal 2018)
Kodak P880 DeYoung Trail Flower Seeds 6 27 17 a
Kodak P-880: Flower Seed Pods (copyright The Wilderness Journal 2018)
Kodak P880 Deadstream Road 6 25 17 b
Kodak P-880: View from Deadstream Road (copyright The Wilderness Journal 2018)
Kodak P880 The Commons 11 13 17 a
Kodak P-880: Fall leaves (copyright The Wilderness Journal 2018)

Final Thoughts

Bridge cameras, though a bit larger than a phone camera, offer the user versatility not to be found in a majority of camera phones. In fact, I often times find myself reaching for a bridge camera (instead of a Nikon D-SLR) before any foray into the wilderness. The versatility of a bridge camera, in my opinion, is unmatched, especially when it comes to landscape and nature photography.

-Adam K.

*Link to sensor size chart:

Camera Sensor Size Chart

*I am in no way affiliated, paid or sponsored by the Kodak Company: I have grown to trust and appreciate the performance of the camera through extensive use.


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