Times have changed even in the last few years. From living in an era where living and enjoying the moment was what people enjoyed, we have transformed the same lifestyle into a pattern where capturing the moment to cherish forever is much is also important. Everywhere we go today, wherever we go, photography is a must. For a lot of people the camera on their phone is enough, but for others, they want a camera that is a bit more capable. The affordable prices have put professional grade cameras into the affordable bracket, the bridge camera is a great of camera that ‘bridges’ the gap between compact point and shoot cameras and a DSLR.
But it’s not that simple. Buying a camera even for general purposes is not as easy as one might assume. One needs proper research about their needs and specifications. Basically, a lot of things are there to keep in mind before buying a camera. Let’s take a step by step look at some of them:
Basically, an indication of the resolution of the camera that determines the quality and the sharpness of the pictures that the camera is capable of taking. Theoretically higher the number of MP’s, better the camera. It all burns down to the print of the picture that is actually needed. For smaller prints, a camera with a higher number of MP’s will only decrease the quality.
A feature required mostly by professional photographers. Nevertheless, the number and variety of modes coming along with also determine the quality of the final picture. Different modes allow for different types of pictures to be taken. Say, for example, the Manual Mode lets the user take complete autonomy over the Shutter Speed, ISO, and the Aperture to capture images that look the way you want them to. Other modes include Automatic, Semi-Automatic, point and shoot etc.
Without a shadow of a doubt, THE most important aspect while buying a camera. The lens is what focuses the light onto the sensor of the camera to generate the pictures we see. However, even the lens has a couple of aspects to keep in mind:
The measure of the viewing angle i.e. the field of view that is possible to capture in a single go. A lens with a wide view angle will capture a major part of what you see, a telephoto lens will capture a minute portion. However, to keep it mellow, best is to go for a normal focal length lens with a focal length of almost 50-6mm which is the exact amount of what our eyes see.
The hole inside the lens that opens and closes, and thus controls the amount of light entering in the lens. The aperture is measured in f units that go hat in hand with the focal length to determine image quality. For example, a lens having a wide aperture and a smaller focal length gives a high-quality output as a wider aperture allows for more light to enter thus provisioning the option to shoot even high quality low light photos.
To capture long distance objects, zoom is what is needed to capture long distance people or objects in the focal range.
Stands for image stabilization. The factor that reduces all the blurs that happen if the camera moves while taking a picture or even due to noise. However, a lens coming with image stabilization increases the price tag of the lens and consecutively the camera.
Now that a beginner’s guide to buying a camera has been established and discussed, let us try and find some budget cameras for the amateur photographer in you.
The Best Budget Bridge Camera
Sony Cyber-shot RX10 IV
A camera that oozes class in every aspect. This is the latest addition by Sony in its bucket of bridge cameras and the latest successor in the RX10 generation series. A series that totally flipped the negative notions about bridge cameras on its heels and giving a strong contention to the market of SLR’s and DSLR’s. Four generations on and we have arrived at the RX10 IV that comes packed with a long list of features making it an all-in-one camera for the enthusiasts out there.
Not much has changed in the RX10 IV as compared to its predecessors in terms of design and build at least. Performance wise, it sees a massive update in terms of the image processor that it packs underneath all those specifications – the Bionz X processor that gives it a major boost in the performance arena highlighting its ability to pull off a speed of close to 24fps (frames per second) even while full autofocus and auto exposure are up and running. The stock EXMOR RS CMOS sensor clubbed with the BIONZ X processor gives the RX10 IV a mind-boggling and staggering focus speed of 0.03 seconds.
Talking about the lens. The lens size is the same as it has been in all previous versions of the RX10 series of bridge cameras as. Apart from the size, the sensor, the design, and the quality all remain surprisingly the same. The standard 20.1 MP camera that comes packed with a 1-inch sensor has a focal length in the same range of 24-600mm in combination with an aperture size of 2.4-4 mm. A slight modification to the zooming prowess of the camera has been made though. The aperture has been made variable while zooming in a surprisingly large range makes it one of the best fit for all types of professionals out there.
One potential performance issue while capturing photographs is possible – the camera shake. Not because of its heavyweight or bulky nature, but rather because of the massive focal length that has been provisioned, 600 millimetres to be exact. That is almost 10-12 times the focusing capability of the human eye (which in fact will be the clearest and sharpest camera in all of the world, even clearer than the HST (Hubble Space Telescope) to be exact, if it could be made into a camera). But Sony recognized that and came up with a really ingenious way to resolve that issue. A stabilization system referred to as the Optical Steady Shot has been built into the camera to resolve all issues arising from the shaking of the camera that makes it manually possible to use the shutter speeds at slower rates as compared to a normal shot. Apart from photographs, if recording videos is also a requirement for you, then fret not. The RX10 IV has got your back. It makes it possible to shoot videos in 720p, 1080p, 1080i, and even in 4K which comes up as a really salient feature in the world of digital videography.
As far as the negative aspects are concerned, performance wise there are absolutely none. Price wise, definitely, because there are a lot of strong contenders with the same features and specs but at comparatively lower prices. Build wise also, the camera is not something that feels elegant while holding. It is also believed to be hefty and weighty by the professionals.
Panasonic Lumix FZ2500
The Lumix series from Panasonic has always impressed the market and its buyers with its previous models accounting for the fact that no one expected such a sophisticated level of performance considering its price bracket. The FZ2500 was launched to give a direct competition to the Cyber-Shot RX10 IV, the Cyber-Shot RX10 III, as well as to the Canon Power Shot G3 X. And so far, it has been delivering and standing upon both its promise and its aim.
Build, performance and specification wise, the FZ2500 does not differ much from its predecessor- the FZ1000. One notable change that is present in the new model is the introduction and arrival of a longer lens clubbed with slight tweaks and modifications to its interface. In the videography department, the ability to capture real-time videos in 4K quality has been made available.
Delving a little deeper in its specifications, we will find it equipped with the standard 1-inch sensor clubbed with a lens with a variable focal length ranging from 24mm to 480mm, significantly lower than what the RX10 IV has to offer. The construction on the sensor has been slightly modified that now features a back-illuminated construction enhancing the light capturing capability and thus expanding the sensitivity range. The same sensor has been designed that works hat in hand with a Venus processing engine which forms the backbone of the 4K video capturing abilities of the FZ2500.
As mentioned, modifications to the interface made, bring about an enhanced level of fluidity to the control while recording, capturing, and even scrolling through the menu. The thing worth noticing is the optical zoom of 20x allowing for capturing of really far away objects.
Speaking against the camera, there is not much to mention. As far as providing the perfect sense of professionalism is concerned, the absence of weather scaling kicks it down a level particularly considering its price. Its predecessor, the FZ1000 was able to account for the same and that too at half the price. For double the price, one would expect a lot of changes performance wise at least. But even in that department, the FZ2500 does not impress at the level one would want it to.
Canon PowerShot SX60 HS
With a rather unorthodox censor of 1/2.3 inch, the PowerShot SX60 surprises us with the quality of its captures. As compared to its predecessor – the SX 50 HS, the SX60 showcases and boasts a tremendous boost in terms of the pixels it’s able to provide. However the decrease in the sensor means a higher amount of optical zoom available to exploit, a whopping 65x to be precise, that can be further doubled down to 130x due to the ZoomPlus technology made and developed ingeniously at Canon Inc. The most astonishing part about the focal zoom is that the resolution and quality of the picture are still retained even after using it at 130x zoom made possible by the same ZoomPlus technology that interpolates the pixels as needed to maintain digital quality.
As far as the lens is concerned, the lens comes equipped with a surprising 16.1 megapixels (again considering its price) with a focal length ranging from 21mm to 1365mm, clubbed with a variable aperture width ranging between f3.4-f6.5
Complete manual control over the various clicking formats makes it an ideal fit for all types of photographers – beginner, amateur, not professionals though. Modes such as automatic, semi-automatic, creative, manual, landscape, portrait to choose for your perfect fit that is made available with different random filters to give a further picturesque effect makes it quite a winner among the various contenders in the average price range.
The Creative Shot mode is something that would appease editors and professionals to a large extent. While taking a single shot, the camera takes another 5 itself with the application of 5 unique filters over each copy in order to choose from best picture photographer deems best. Its capability to capture pictures in raw format makes it another plus point for the editors out there.
As far as the weighted cons are concerned, the lack of a touchscreen to control the camera and browse through the menu makes it quite a turnoff for the average price range. Also, the fact that the viewfinder on the camera lacks an eye sensor and has to be operated manually using a button-controlled and oriented interface disappoints the end user to another level.
PANASONIC LUMIX FZ80
Referred to as the Lumix FZ82 outside the United States, this camera qualifies as one of the hottest contenders in the most affordable price bracket. The reason for this is the shift and breakage from the standard builds on the lenses as compared to other bridge cameras or DSLR’s. A 1 inch CMOS sensor is replaced by a 1/2.3 high sensitivity MOS sensor that comes in-line with an 18.1-megapixel camera, supported by a lens with a staggering amount of focal length in sense of numbers. Ranging from a mere 20mm, it goes as high as 1200mm, which is double of what is found on the Cyber-Shot RX10 IV combined with an aperture of range f2. 8 to f5.9. This high amount of focus is stabilized by a really effective image stabilization technology which keeps the image quality and its print to the perfect level and thus delivering really punchy photographs.
Able to cram up a surprising 60x zoom, and controls resembling those of a standard DSLR considering its size, the FZ80 is able to provide a one-sided competition in the market.
An even staggering and unbelievable feature that it flaunts is the ability to capture 4K videos and photos. The 4K capturing mode shoots images at 30fps at a size of 8 MP means the camera is more than equipped and sufficient to capture all those split-second moments, allowing for an error margin of 1s before and after the capturing of the shot. The 4K recording at up to 30p going as low as 200p in VGA mode, shooting moments and storing them in slow motion definitely makes it another plus point for the same. A touchscreen LCD control console automatically makes it better than the PowerShot SX60 HS.
Cons, yes. Nothing is perfect, technologically. Just like the SX60 HS, the FZ80 also lacks an eye sensor for the View Finder. Also, a poor EVF magnification kicks it another level down the curb. But, nevertheless, as far as the price and its range are concerned, the FZ80 is without any question a clear winner in almost all departments.
A claim by Nikon which states “Capable of capturing details invisible to naked human eye” certainly seems like an exaggeration to a limit. The return on this promise is a little unclear at the moment, but certainly not impossible given the fact that the optical zoom goes as high as up to 166x while retaining image quality through the image stabilization technique that differs in design and working and developed at Nikon separately (again as claimed by Nikon). Packed with a 1/2.3 inch sensor collaborating with a focal length operating in the range of 24-2000 mm is without a question a possible factor to deliver all of Nikon’s claims. The thing that sets it slightly apart from the Panasonic FZ80 and the Canon SX60 HS is the availability of an eye sensor on the viewfinder that activates and deactivates automatically. Full manual control over the various modes available is another yes for a reason to go with it. Lack of 4K video and image capturing is kind of made up by making a 1080p video capturing available.
Speaking of reasons to not buy it, the shutter speed is one. The lag of almost 0.2s while autofocussing is certainly a turn off if one intends to capture split-second moments. Apart from that, the unavailability of raw format clicking kicks down the image quality for further processing.