If you're a photographer in need of serious zoom range but don't want to spend a fortune on a mirrorless or DSLR camera and a compatible telephoto lens, a bridge camera can be a good solution. While their smaller sensors don't offer the same level of image quality as most APS-C and full-frame cameras, they combine the simple usability of a compact point-and-shoot with unparalleled zoom range, making them a good fit for casual wildlife and sports photography or astrophotography.
We've tested over 70 cameras, and below you'll find our recommendations for the best cameras with zoom lenses to buy. These picks were selected not only based on their overall performance but also their feature set and price. You can also check our recommendations for the best point-and-shoot cameras, the best cameras for wildlife photography, and the best cameras for beginners.
The best bridge camera that we've tested is the Sony RX10 IV. Though it's on the pricier side for a bridge camera, it's made of premium, sturdy-feeling plastic, feels incredibly comfortable to shoot with, and comes equipped with a 21-megapixel 1-inch sensor. It has a 24-600mm equivalent built-in zoom lens that gives you a range of focal lengths to shoot from for all kinds of photography, from everyday photography to travel. It's also advertised to be weather-sealed against moisture and dust.
Image quality is excellent overall with amazing dynamic range and great noise handling capability at higher ISOs when shooting in JPEG. Its RAW noise handling capability is mediocre, on the other hand, but that's typical of cameras with smaller sensors, and it should still be suitable for shooting at moderate ISO levels without introducing too much visual noise. Unlike previous iterations, this camera has a phase-detect autofocus system, and it does a fantastic job of tracking moving subjects when shooting video.
That said, the autofocus is less consistent when taking photos. It's decent at tracking moving faces but struggles to track moving objects reliably. On the upside, the camera can shoot burst photos at a remarkably fast 21 fps using its electronic shutter or 11 fps with its mechanical shutter, so you can still capture clear moments of fast action. All in all, this is a powerful all-in-one bridge camera that stands out for its fast burst rate, excellent image quality, and good overall autofocus performance.
If you don't want to spend as much on a bridge camera for travel or casual photography, check out the Panasonic LUMIX FZ1000 II. It has a slightly shorter maximum focal length than the Sony RX10 IV and feels a bit less premium in its construction, with no weather-sealing. That said, it's considerably cheaper and a bit more portable. It also has a fully articulated touchscreen, which may be beneficial to videographers or vloggers, and it has a faster maximum shutter speed. It also uses a 1-inch sensor, larger than typical for bridge cameras, and delivers great overall image quality, although images aren't as sharp at higher ISOs. It has a decent autofocus system, though it only uses contrast detection, so it's slower to focus, and it performs much worse when shooting video. Still, the camera has a fast 10 fps continuous shooting speed and feels very comfortable to shoot with.
Get the Sony if you want a longer zoom and a faster autofocus system, but the Panasonic is a great alternative if you're looking for a more affordable bridge camera.
If you're looking for a camera with a longer maximum focal length, the Nikon COOLPIX P1000 is one of the best cameras with zoom lenses we've tested. This uniquely designed camera has a built-in lens with a remarkably long full-frame equivalent focal length of 3,000mm. It lets you capture close-ups of subjects that are extremely far away, like a small bird perched on a tree across the length of a park or details on the surface of the moon.
The lens' optical stabilization feature also helps reduce camera shake, which is handy for shooting at the very long focal lengths that this camera can achieve. Its screen is fully articulated, making it a little easier to shoot from unconventional angles. The camera also feels well-built for the most part, courtesy of its dense plastic body, sturdy screen hinge, and large buttons and dials that provide good tactile feedback. Out-of-the-box JPEG quality is relatively good overall, though you may notice a significant loss in sharpness at high ISO levels.
The downside of the lens' remarkable zoom capability is its bulky size and weight, making this camera fairly impractical to travel with. Its autofocus system can also struggle with tracking moving subjects in still photography as well as FHD and 4k video. Its 'High Speed' continuous shooting mode also only allows you to capture seven-shot bursts at 7 fps before the buffer clears, which is somewhat limiting. Still, it's a great option if you're looking for a highly specialized camera that offers unparalleled zoom length.
The best bridge camera that we've tested with a more portable design is the Canon PowerShot SX70 HS. It's relatively small and lightweight, and it feels very comfortable to shoot with, thanks to its intuitive menu system, large handgrip, and simple control scheme. It also has a fully articulated screen to help you shoot from different angles, though it lacks touch capability.
Its built-in lens has a long 21-1365mm full-frame equivalent focal length, so you can easily zoom in on far-away subjects or take wider-angle landscape shots. It delivers fairly good image quality, with a ton of dynamic range to pull out more details in highlights and shadows, and it has a decent autofocus system that's particularly effective at tracking moving objects. The camera also has a quick 10 fps burst speed, so you can fire off quick bursts to capture fast-moving action.
However, it's not well-suited to shooting in low light, as its smaller sensor results in images that look soft and noisy at higher ISO levels. Its battery life is okay and is advertised to last for about 325 photos depending on your shooting habits, but it doesn't support USB charging, which is inconvenient. Despite its flaws, this superzoom camera is relatively portable and still offers a lot of value for its price.
The best bridge camera we've tested for those on a budget is the Panasonic LUMIX FZ80. This superzoom camera has a 20-1200mm full-frame equivalent focal length, giving you a ton of zoom range to work with for a variety of photography styles. It also feels comfortable to shoot with and is relatively portable, so it's a fair choice for travel or simply casual and family photography.
It delivers reasonably good image quality with great dynamic range, although photos start to look soft and noisy at moderate ISO levels, so it's not particularly well-suited to shooting in more dimly-lit conditions. Its autofocus system is decent and supports both face and eye detection. While it struggles to track moving faces consistently, it does a fantastic job tracking moving objects and comes with useful features like 'Focus Stacking' and 'Post Focus' that let you combine images for an expanded focal range or change the focus point taking a photo.
Unfortunately, the camera has a fixed screen, so it's a little harder to compose shots from unconventional angles, and its electronic viewfinder is small and uncomfortable with a limited resolution. On the upside, though, the camera has an intuitive menu system that's easy to navigate using the camera's touchscreen and D-pad. Overall, this camera's relatively good image quality and feature set give it a lot of value for its price, making it the best camera under $300 that we've tested.
Nov 25, 2021: Renamed the Canon PowerShot SX70 HS from 'Portable Alternative' to 'Best Portable Bridge Camera'.
Nov 04, 2021: Minor updates to text for clarity and accuracy; no change to recommendations.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best cameras with a zoom lens for most people to buy according to their needs. We factor in the price, feedback from our visitors, and availability (no cameras that are difficult to find or almost out of stock in the US).
If you would like to choose for yourself, here's the list of all our reviews for bridge cameras. Be careful not to get caught up in the details. There is no single perfect camera. Personal taste, preference, and shooting habits will matter more in your selection.