I didn’t even know what a bridge camera was until maybe a year-and-a-half or so ago, when I decided to concentrate on nature photography. That’s when I yearned for a 400mm lens to replace my very-good-but-now-hardly-used 300. It wasn’t long before I wanted a 600 to replace the 400 — and that’s where I was stuck until I discovered bridge cameras. Sure, I could live with a smaller range of apertures and a cap on shutter speed if only I could trade it off for a 60x lens! or an 83x!
Well, not being made of money (because I am a short-round, opinionated, and retired — that means “poor” — old lady with an unhealed hand injury), I had to start small and light, which I did in the used market with the Canon PowerShot SX60. It wasn’t long before I thought the Sony DHC-HX400 would provide better color. It did, but the reach was smaller than I wanted,and the lag on the EVF guaranteed that only feet or tails would show in my portraits of flying birds. So I jumped up to a Nikon p900. . .but it didn’t have raw capabilities; plus, it was a little wiggly at full extension. So, when I learned that the lens on the Nikon p1000 would reach to a whopping 125x, I was hooked into saving every penny I could find so I could get one of my very own. This wasn’t a camera, it was a small telescope! And I wanted to buy it NEW!
It wasn’t quite a month or two of mostly fuzzy long shots before I was sorely disappointed. Maybe “disappointed” doesn’t describe it. I was disappointed when my Sony a6000 had to be returned for servicing four (4!) times during its one-year warranty period. . .so when the Nikon p1000 failed to live up to its expectations I had similar but vaguely different feelings. Sad. Yes, I think “sad” describes it best. All this promised power bundled into a camera that failed on the most important promise of all, a fully usable (and dependable) superzoom. Why?
Asking that question taught me a very expensive lesson about sensor sizes, effective lens length, and centers of gravity, but it was the physics lesson that sobered me up and got me off the long-lens train. A camera with a 539 mm lens that can zoom in to a calculated 3000 (!) is impressive, but it’s also long. . .and heavy. . .so much so that it makes the camera unbalanced and front-heavy at full extension. I mean reallyreallyREALLY unbalanced and front heavy. . .to the point that even a tripod can’t stabilize it, not unless you jury-rig something like a cut-up Manfrotto 293 to support its center of gravity, which varies with the amount of extension required for your shot. Even on a tripod. Especially on a tripod. And that was the point where I packed up the no-longer-cherished p1000, kissed it good-bye, and sent it off to the used department of a large camera shop.
I should probably loathe Nikon right about now, or at least hate the advertising executives who push the p1000 as the greatest thing since sliced bread. But I don’t. After all, it’s a bridge camera, and bridges, even those packed into a camera, can lead us to new places. So, I find that I don’t loathe this foray into Nikon-Land as much as I thought I would. I mean, I wish I had my money back, but hey, it’s a pittance compared to what REAL cameras cost. Nope, I loathe neither Nikon nor its wobbly bridges; I’m actually kind of grateful, because it led me right into the World of Micro (mirrorless) Four-Thirds, and I (finally!) have a camera that is a reasonable compromise of zoom and sensor size that doesn’t wimp out in the areas of aperture and shutter speed. The full range it offers means that you can get decent results even on a gray day. AND it weighs less than 2 pounds! So far (I’ve had it for about a week) it is working out fine. I am hoping that with my new Oly + Panny combination I can pay more attention to improving my photography and less attention in trying to make the camera live up to its expectations. I mean, cameras should do that all by themselves, without us having to worry about it. . .right?
Still, I had to be certain before I jumped right in to the 4/3 pool, so I tried out the Panasonic Lumix bridge, the FZ80 (gray-market-speak for the FZ82). I wasn’t impressed with its full-length focus, but I think I’ve given up on all that superzoom hype — it just isn’t going to happen with the tiny sensors used in bridge cameras and all the lens and other material that are necessarily built around it. Still, it was inexpensive (around $200 used) and, like the other bridge cameras, produces good photos when the light is good — as long as you don’t push the zoom.
Despite all the talk nowadays about mirrorless cameras displacing the DSLR, I am not ready to forsake my Canon — not yet and maybe never. My investment in Canon, Inc. is “only” a 77d, which I consider the poor man’s 80d, but it is a true workhorse. The optical viewfinder guarantees that, with BIF, what I see is what I get. Coupled with an L series 100-400 f/4-5.6 and a 1.4x converter I can get some really decent photos at a not-too-shabby-but-calculated 896 mm, even as a greenhorn newbie! And now that I’ve learned the lesson about bridges, I’m not as green as I used to be.