|35mm Chinon Genesis|
image by Alf Sigaro (Image rights)
See the camera-wiki.org category bridge camera for examples of bridge cameras.
The term bridge camera originated around 1988, with 35mm film cameras such as the Yashica Samurai, the Ricoh Mirai, and the Chinon Genesis. These were autofocus single lens reflex cameras including a built-in, non-interchangeable zoom of high specification. Their styling was often highly unusual, an attempt to avoid the associations some consumers felt towards conventional SLRs, perceived as being too difficult and complex. Thus they represented a "bridge" between the ease of use of sophisticated point & shoot compact cameras, but with some of the image-quality advantages of full SLR system bodies. Some were known as Prosumer cameras, or ZLRs (for Zoom Lens Reflex)—especially the popular Olympus IS bridge camera series. Experts like Sylvain Halgand would prefer a clear definition: "What is a bridge? A SLR with unremovable lens seems a good definition." But unfortunately from the beginning there were some "advanced automatic viewfinder cameras" like the Olympus Infinity AZ-300 Superzoom mixed into the line-up of cameras called "bridge". The SLR designs gave a model for some of the early consumer DSLRs which had a built-in zoom lens too. And they gave a model for the digital bridge cameras with EVF, whilst the viewfinder models were a kind of "avantgarde" for the 1990s compact camera technology.
|A digital "bridge": superzoom with EVF|
image by AP (Image rights)
However in the digital era, the meaning of bridge camera shifted somewhat, to mean to a digital camera with a fast, wide-range autofocus zoom lens, an image sensor that should be larger than that of a digital compact camera, and a high-resolution color live-view electronic viewfinder in addition to a rear LCD screen. Examples include the Minolta DiMage 5, some of the Fuji Finepix S-series, such as the S8000, and Canon's Powershot S2 IS.
Digital bridge cameras were aimed at those who were happy with a single non-interchangeable zoom, but not with the limited image resolution and slower lenses of compact digital cameras. However by 2010, the bridge-camera market segment had become heavily eroded, both from the bottom end (by more full-featured pocketable cameras, including those with ~f/2.0 lenses and raw capture capability), and from the top (by the availability of DSLRs at price points below USD $500). Again some consider the term "bridge camera" for really advanced digital viewfinder cameras with optical viewfinder like the Canon PowerShot G1 X, trying to make a clear definition impossible. The attempt is useless because recently the advanced digital viewfinder cameras with optical viewfinder have become a new class of advanced cameras since the advent of the Fujifilm X100 in 2010, deserving a new term for classification. However, the digital bridge cameras according to our definition recently became the advanced models among the "superzoom" digitals, therefore loosing the advantage of larger image sensors than those of common digital compacts.