While the best camera with a zoom lens is going to be an interchangeable-lens option paired with a compatible telephoto lens, that route can also make for a bulky and expensive camera kit. If you aren't a pro, and you just want a lot of zoom in a convenient all-in-one package, a bridge camera (so-called because they're meant to "bridge" the gap between point-and-shoots and DSLRs) can be a good solution. While their smaller sensors don't offer the same image quality as crop sensor and full-frame cameras, they combine the simple usability of point-and-shoot cameras with unparalleled zoom range, making them a good fit for casual wildlife and sports photography or family and travel photos.
We've bought and tested over 80 cameras in our lab, and below you'll find our recommendations for the best cameras with zoom lenses built in. If you're looking for more compact fixed-lens cameras, you can also check out our recommendations for the best compact cameras. If you're a beginner looking for your first camera, have a look at our recommendations for the best cameras for beginners instead. If you're interested in a camera for birding or nature photography, you can check out our picks for the best cameras for wildlife photography, as well.
The Sony RX10 IV is the Rolls-Royce of bridge cameras. Though it comes with a premium price tag, it's the best all-in-one camera we've tested. Its large 1-inch sensor outperforms most of the competition and captures great photos straight out of the camera, and it offers RAW shooting and manual controls for more advanced users. It's fitted with a Zeiss zoom lens that covers a fairly wide full-frame equivalent focal range of 24–600mm, meaning you can shoot far-away subjects or close-ups with ease.
Its price starts to make sense when you consider its excellent build quality, complete with weather-sealing, a generous handgrip, and premium touches like a top display to check your settings and battery life at a glance. Beyond its polished exterior, it's also incredibly versatile, with a blazing-fast 24 fps burst rate and a great autofocus system. The dense feature set, build quality, and excellent sensor make this one of the most capable bridge cameras money can buy.
If you're looking for something more affordable but still capable, the Panasonic LUMIX FZ1000 II is an excellent bridge camera. It's one of the best all-around choices for most people, especially if you don't need weather sealing or a 24 fps burst rate. Like the Sony RX10 IV, it uses a larger one-inch sensor for better image quality than your average bridge cam. However, at 400mm, its max focal length is a bit shorter than the Sony's, giving you a bit less zoom range to work with that's still long enough to capture far-off subjects.
Unfortunately, it uses slower contrast-detection technology for its autofocus system. It still performs okay but isn't as effective as the AF on the Sony. Thankfully, though, the camera comes with a ton of extra features, including focus stacking and post focus, which take multiple shots to either combine multiple focus points into a wider focal plane or let you choose a different focus point after the fact. Extra features like that, along with decent image and video quality, give this camera a lot of value for the money.
If you're on a tighter budget, the Panasonic LUMIX FZ80 is one of the best values in bridge cameras. Build quality isn't as good as the pricier models above, and the camera uses a smaller sensor, meaning lower image quality, but this camera still has a lot to offer. For one, it has more focal reach, with a 1200mm full-frame equivalent max focal length, allowing you to zoom in on birds or other subjects that are farther away.
The camera also has a simple, easy-to-use menu system and plenty of extra features, including a '4k PHOTO' mode like the Panasonic LUMIX FZ1000 II and creative shooting modes for nighttime and macro photography. While its resolution isn't great, the camera has a helpful electronic viewfinder, which is a feature you don't always get with budget options. Top it off with a 10 fps burst rate and a decent battery life, and you've got a well-rounded budget camera for birding or casual family photos.
While every camera on this list has a zoom lens, the Nikon COOLPIX P1000 is the bridge camera to buy if you're looking for the longest possible zoom range. Its built-in lens has a remarkable 125x zoom, allowing you to zoom in to a max equivalent focal length of 3,000mm, blowing all other bridge cams on the market out of the water. It's so long that it can capture details on the surface of the moon, though it's also suitable for landscapes or everyday photos at shorter focal lengths.
The trade-off of having such a long zoom lens is that the camera is very heavy and bulky, so it isn't very portable or well-suited to travel. While it has an electronic stabilization feature, you'll still need to use a tripod when shooting at the tail end of its zoom range if you want to reduce camera shake. The small sensor also means that image quality won't be as out-of-this-world as the potential subjects you can capture with the camera. Still, it's well-built, and you won't find this kind of zoom capability on any other bridge camera.
Though bridge cameras aren't known for their portability, you might still want an all-in-one camera with a long zoom and comfortable ergonomics without necessarily giving yourself neck strain. If that's the case, the Canon PowerShot SX70 HS is a good option. Though it isn't the most compact bridge camera on the market, it's relatively small and lightweight and feels very comfortable to shoot with, thanks to an intuitive menu system and a simple control scheme.
Unlike some cheaper bridge cameras, it has a viewfinder, which can help with framing and is nice to have on sunny days when it might be harder to see the screen. Its built-in lens also has a very long 21–1365mm equivalent focal length, so you can easily go from wide-angle shots and landscapes to close-ups of far-away subjects. That said, like the other superzoom bridge cameras mentioned above, it uses a smaller sensor than the slightly pricier Panasonic LUMIX FZ1000 II, so image quality is somewhat worse. Still, this is a solid bridge camera for the price, especially if you want something lightweight.
Apr 11, 2023: Verified that picks were still the most relevant choices for user needs.
Feb 07, 2023: Made minor adjustments to text for clarity and accuracy.
Dec 09, 2022: Checked article for accuracy and clarity; no change to recommendations.
Oct 11, 2022: Restructured article for simplicity and to align more closely with user needs.
Mar 03, 2022: No change to recommendations after reviewing article for clarity and accuracy.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best cameras with zoom lenses built in. 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.