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're not 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 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 family and travel photos.
We've bought and tested over 75 cameras, 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 point-and-shoot cameras, and if you're just starting out, take a look at our recommendations for the best cameras for beginners. 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 most capable bridge camera we've tested, with a 20-megapixel 1-inch sensor and a built-in Zeiss zoom lens that covers a fairly wide zoom range of 24–600mm (full-frame equivalent). It's weather-sealed and feels super well-constructed, with a generous handgrip and premium touches like a top display to check your settings, battery life, and storage space at a glance.
Beyond its high-end exterior, it's also incredibly versatile. It can shoot at a blazing fast 24 fps burst rate and has a great autofocus system. And while you won't get the same level of image quality that you would with a larger sensor interchangeable-lens camera, it can still capture great photos straight out of the camera and includes RAW shooting and manual control for more advanced photographers. The dense feature set, build quality, and excellent sensor make this a great all-in-one camera—as long as you can stomach the premium price tag.
If you're looking for something more affordable but still capable, the Panasonic LUMIX FZ1000 II is an excellent bridge camera and 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 1-inch sensor than most bridge cameras, but it has a shorter max focal length of 400mm, so you don't get quite as much zoom range, but it's still quite good for capturing far-off subjects.
Unfortunately, it uses slower contrast-detection technology for its autofocus system. It still performs okay but isn't quite 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 takes 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 its price.
If you're on a tighter budget, the Panasonic LUMIX FZ80 is one of the best-value bridge cameras you can get. Naturally, build quality isn't as good as pricier models like the ones mentioned above, and it uses a smaller sensor, meaning image quality isn't amazing, but this camera still has a lot to offer. For one, it has more focal reach, with a 1200mm max full-frame equivalent focal length, allowing you to zoom in on birds or other subjects that might be 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 night photography or macro shots. And while it isn't the highest resolution, the camera has a viewfinder, which you don't always get with budget options. Plus, a 10 fps burst rate and a decent battery life make this a well-rounded budget camera for birding or casual family photos.
While all our picks have zoom lenses, the Nikon COOLPIX P1000 is the bridge camera to buy if you're looking for sheer 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 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 its longest focal lengths to reduce camera shake. The small sensor also means that image quality won't be as out-of-this-world as the things you can capture with the camera, but it's well-built, and you won't find this kind of zoom capability in an all-in-one camera anywhere else.
Though bridge cameras aren't known for their portability, you might still want an all-in-one camera with the comfortable ergonomics of a DSLR without necessarily giving yourself neck strain. If you'd prefer something on the more portable side, the Canon PowerShot SX70 HS is the way to go. It isn't the most compact bridge camera on the market; however, it's relatively small and lightweight and feels very comfortable to shoot with, thanks to its intuitive menu system and simple ergonomic control scheme.
Unlike some cheaper bridge cameras, you still get a viewfinder here, which is great for sunny days or to help with composition. Its built-in lens also has a very long 21–1365mm equivalent focal length, so you can easily zoom in on very far-away subjects or take wide-angle landscape shots. That said, it uses a smaller sensor than the slightly pricier Panasonic LUMIX FZ1000 II, so image quality is somewhat worse. If you want something a tad smaller, this is a solid bridge camera for the price.
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.
Jan 05, 2022: Renamed the Sony RX10 IV the 'Best Premium Bridge Camera' and moved the Panasonic LUMIX FZ1000 II from 'Cheaper Alternative' to 'Best Bridge Camera'.
Dec 16, 2021: Checked that picks were still accurate and available; no change to recommendations.
Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best cameras with zoom lenses that are 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.