The 5 Best Superzoom Bridge Cameras for Birding

Inside: Discover the best superzoom cameras for birding and easily select the one that fits your birdwatching style, requirements, and budget. I reveal the key features to look for in a bridge camera with superzoom capability along with actual photos I took with each superzoom camera I reviewed.

Have you started shopping for a superzoom camera? It’s overwhelming, isn’t it? So many models to choose from with different zoom ranges and other features you may not have heard of before. It’s hard to know what features are important and which ones you don’t need to pay attention to.

That’s how I felt when I started shopping for a bridge camera to take zoomed-in photos of the birds in my yard. The more I learned about cameras with superzoom for birding, the less confident I felt about buying one. Something was missing.

It was this frustration and absence of real information that motivated me to research superzoom cameras myself. Better yet, I decided to buy each camera, take pictures with each camera, and test the cameras like I was using them to take pictures of birds.

I’m sharing everything I learned with you as well as the results of my testing – including actual photos taken with the cameras! I’ll get more into it in a minute but first, let me share with you the best superzoom camera for birding.

The 5 Best Superzoom Cameras for Birding

To consider a bridge camera for birding it should have an extremely high optical capability (i.e. superzoom), fast autofocus, an image stabilization feature, fast frame capture rate, and a minimum sensor size of 1/2.3″.

The #1 best superzoom bridge camera for birding is the Nikon Coolpix P950 camera. With an optical zoom of 83x to get close up to the birds, fast autofocus to capture fidgety subjects, image stabilization to prevent blur, a frame capture rate of 25 fps to provide lots of keeper photos, and a 1/2.3″ sensor, it’s the perfect combination of features inside a camera body that fits comfortably in your hands.

The Complete list of 5 best superzoom cameras for bird photography are:

  1. Nikon Coolpix P950
  2. Nikon Coolpix P1000
  3. Canon PowerShot SX70 HS
  4. Panasonic Lumix FZ80
  5. Sony Cybershot RX10IV

The Best Superzoom Bridge Camera According to Whom?

The Nikon Coolpix P1000 has the largest zoom capability of any superzoom camera available – a whopping 165x! But what does that mean? If the other point-and-shoot superzooms only have 50x or 60x zoom, is 165x overkill? Is 50x or 60x not enough?

Some manufacturers tout the fastest autofocus on this side of the Mississippi! That’s great, but is it fast enough to capture a fidgety bird? Is slower autofocus perfectly fine? I had to use the cameras in a natural setting in order to know for sure.

The “experts” say most bridge cameras have a sensor that’s too small to produce a quality image. But what’s that mean? My idea of quality may be different from the trained eye of a professional photographer. Or your idea of quality for that matter. I included the pictures I took within the reviews so you can decide for yourself.

I was excited to test the superzoom cameras for birding and provide you with practical information based on real, hands-on experience actually using the cameras so you can feel confident if you decide to purchase one.

Let’s get started with some background on camera types, how to choose a superzoom camera for birding, and how I selected and reviewed the superzoom cameras for birding. 

Short on time? Skip right to the reviews!

What is a Superzoom Camera?

A superzoom camera is a type of bridge camera that has very high optical zoom capability. Some manufacturers and photography experts use different terms to refer to these types of cameras including long zoom, big optical zoom, bridge zoom, and hyper zoom 

Superzoom cameras are a great choice because they offer an affordable camera option with high zoom capability and great quality without the weight and bulk. Compared with a professional camera setup that includes the DSLR body and high zoom lens, superzoom cameras are smaller, lighter, and considerably less expensive. They’re ideal for people getting into wildlife photography as well as professionals that don’t want to carry a large, heavy setup into the woods.

In my research, I did not find a definitive number that qualifies it to be a superzoom vs. a regular old standard zoom. For the purposes of photographing birds, I looked at cameras with a minimum optical zoom of 25x.

Superzoom vs DSLR vs Mirrorless vs Bridge 

There are three main types of digital cameras: DSLR, Mirrorless, and Bridge. Below is a brief summary of each type. 

DSLR Camera

The DSLR (Digital Single-Lens Reflex) camera is commonly used by professional photographers. They consist of a camera body and interchangeable lenses. 

DSLRs rely on a mirror inside the camera body to capture the light and direct the image to the viewfinder. This enables the photographer to see exactly what the image will look like.

Mirrorless Cameras

The Mirrorless camera is similar to the DSLR in that it has interchangeable lenses. It differs from DSLRs in that it doesn’t have a mirror. This enables a mirrorless camera to be smaller and lighter than the DSLR. 

Also, the image displayed to the photographer in the viewfinder and screen (if it has one)  is an approximation of what the image will look like rather than exactly what it will look like. 

Bridge Cameras

The bridge camera, also known as a point-and-shoot, consists of the camera body and lens built into one unit. They’re also referred to as SLR-Style Compact. 

Bridge cameras may have many manual settings available for the photographer to flex her creative side but are also known for preset modes so the novice can immediately begin shooting pics just by setting the dial (for example) to “Bird” mode. 

As mentioned earlier, superzooms are bridge (or point-and-shoot) cameras.

Key Features for a Bird Photography Camera

Bird photography is unique from other types of photography in that birds are tiny, fidgety, fly away without notice, and often make their appearance in the early morning and late afternoon when lighting is low – again, without notice. 

When choosing a bridge camera with superzoom capability for bird photography there are a few key features the camera must have to help us take great close-up pictures of the birds. They are:

  1. Optical Zoom (Hello Superzoom!)
  2. Auto Focus
  3. Image Stabilization 
  4. Frame Capture Rate
  5. Sensor Size

Combined, the above key features work together to provide great image quality and a clear and in-focus close-up of the bird. After all, that is what we want, right? Great close-up pictures of birds! 

Let’s take a look at each of these features and learn why they made the “key features” list.  

Optical zoom refers to the camera lens’ ability to get close to the subject – the birds. The higher the optical zoom the closer we can get to the bird which is crucial.  Note: Digital zoom is a fancy way of referring to zooming in on the photo. You can disregard digital zoom because it doesn’t improve image quality – in fact, it introduces noise which results in poorer quality. I disabled digital zoom while testing the cameras in my review to ensure I was assessing optical zoom alone.

Autofocus: We see a bird, grab our camera, get it in the frame, zoom in, press the shutter ½ way to auto-focus, and click! A beautifully focused close-up of the bird. Or so we hope. 

A fast auto-focus dramatically increases our chances of capturing that perfect shot. 

With a slow auto-focus, our photo may show the tail end of the bird as it flies off! This is why auto-focus speed is so important.

All cameras come with an auto-focus feature, Some manufacturers state the auto-focus speed, usually in fractions of a second, while others do not. By testing each superzoom camera myself I’m able to gauge whether or not the camera’s autofocus speed is suitable for bird photography.

Image Stabilization: Camera movement is a leading cause of blurred images. Image stabilization helps by reducing camera movement and is particularly important with bridge superzoom cameras because not only is the photographer trying to hold the camera steady but also the long, extended lens when it’s zoomed out. 

A monopod or tripod is also useful but not always practical. 

Auto-focus and image stabilization work together to produce an image that’s in focus. 

Frame Capture Rate (fps): Remember, our models (birds) are always on the go. Even while perching they may be darting their bodies here and there. For that reason, it’s helpful to enable the camera’s continuous mode which captures photos continuously versus one at a time. The multiple shots allow you to choose from a variety of images in hopes of at least one being the perfect pic.  

Sensor Size: The job of the camera sensor is to capture the photons (light particles) that hit it and convert them to an electrical signal that the camera’s processor reads and forms into an image. 

The camera sensor is important because it is a key factor that determines image quality. The bigger the sensor, the better the image quality. 

However, as I alluded to in my introduction, your idea of great image quality may differ from mine and that of the seasoned professional photographer. So I invite you to be the judge. Review the sample photos I provide in this article and decide – is the image quality good enough for you?

That said, the majority of the cameras I reviewed have the same sensor – 1/2.3″ (6.2 x 4.6mm) BSI CMOS. 

What about Megapixels?

Time to bust the myth “More megapixels are better.” 

Note: The number of megapixels your camera has is important when having large prints made of your image. If you’re taking pics of birds to frame and hang a 10” x 20” photo on your wall, more megapixels may be better for you. For the rest of us, keep reading…

Remember when camera and smartphone manufacturers were regularly raising the bar in the megapixels department? It led us to believe that more megapixels are better

While this may have been true back then when the average camera sported 4MP, it no longer is true. Today, even a camera with 12 MP is more than enough for most of us. 

This is great news because in general, the higher the megapixel the slower the camera becomes at other tasks such as auto-focusing and continuous shooting – two key features for bird photography. 

From an image quality perspective, the sensor size is a far better gauge of image quality than megapixels. 

Superzoom Camera Nice-to-Have (but not Essential) Features for Bird Photography

The features and attributes below are nice-to-have and may enhance your experience or meet a personal preference, but are not deal-breakers for shooting pics of birds. Review the list and if something is personally important to you, make note of it.

  • Size & Weight – Superzoom cameras come in a variety of sizes and weights. If you’ll be hiking great distances or just prefer a smaller, lighter camera, look for one that meets this need.
  • Battery Life – Some batteries last longer than others. If you are easily annoyed by having to switch batteries when spending the day with nature, look for a camera with longer battery life.
  • Price – Superzoom cameras range in price anywhere from $300 to $2,000. The less expensive cameras often mean you’re giving something up – but not always. Read my reviews carefully and decide for yourself if the more expensive camera is worth it.  
  • Bird Mode – Many cameras come with predefined “scene” modes where you easily switch to them and all exposure settings are automatically set. Bird mode is one such scene mode. If you’re new to photography or just don’t want to deal with manual settings, look for a camera with a Bird mode.
  • Durability – More durable cameras enable you to get thick in the woods without fear of damage. A well-cushioned camera bag can also help protect the cameras when not actively snapping pics. Decide if this is an important feature for you.
  • Waterproof – Plan on taking photos in the rain or snow? Look for a waterproof camera if this is a concern. 
  • Video – Most if not all cameras are video-capable these days. If video is or will be part of your photography life, make sure the camera has the latest and greatest format – 4K. 
  • Audio – Same as video, if you intend to capture audio of your videos make sure this feature is available. 
  • Image Sharing – Nowadays many people want to easily share their images on line. If simple image sharing capability is important to you, be sure to check out the camera’s capability for it. 
  • RAW Image Format – If you plan to do some backroom editing (e.g. with Lightroom or PhotoShop), you’ll want to take photos in RAW format. All cameras shoot in JPG format but not all support RAW. If this is important for you make sure RAW is supported. 
  • Connections (Wi-FI, Bluetooth, HDMI, USB) – Determine what you plan to do with your amazing bird photos. Then determine how the photos will get there. Popular options include: Transfer to computer via Wi-Fi, USB cable, or Bluetooth. Transfer to a smartphone (to share online) via Wi-Fi, app, or Bluetooth. Show on TV or monitor via HDMI cable. Don’t have Wi-FI? Make sure the camera has Bluetooth capability.

How I Reviewed the Superzoom Cameras

I purchased and tested each of the superzoom cameras I reviewed.  The same tests were performed with each camera so they could be assessed equally.

First, I took several photos of a static subject (wooden cardinal below) at full zoom, without support (e.g. handheld) from distances of 15, 25, 50, and 75 feet from the subject.

Wooden cardinal bird taken with a Nikon Coolpix P1000 from 50 feet away

This allowed me to determine if the superzoom camera was up to the task of zooming in close enough to capture up-close images of birds in a real-life scenario. 

Note: Because the cardinal is made of wood with definitive edges, not soft feathers, the quality is going to be better than a real bird. For that reason, I didn’t use distance tests to determine image quality. It wouldn’t be fair.

Then I spent time using the cameras naturally, taking pics of birds around my yard and beyond. 

I was mindful of how quickly the auto-focus was able to find a clear shot of the bird. How often I was able to capture the bird before it flew away and how often I wasn’t. 

Using the continuous shooting features I wanted to be sure it was fast enough to capture enough pics of the bird (from perching to flying away) so I was left with several choice shots to choose from.

Finally, I analyzed the photos for image quality. 

Keep Your Distance When Photographing Birds

In order to assess the cameras equitably, I needed to test using the same distances from the birds. But just how close should you be to a bird when taking pictures?

When photographing birds you should never be so close that they notice you (e.g. they appear spooked or rattled and fly away). The actual distance varies depending on how well you’re concealed by trees and shrubs, the brightness of your clothing, and the noise made by your camera, but 25′ away from the bird is the minimum.

The National Audubon Society suggests we keep enough of a distance that allows our subjects to behave naturally.

Besides that, if you’re too close to the bird it’s going to fly away and you get no shot.

Thinking about my own experience with birds in my yard, a distance of 50’ generally assures the bird hasn’t noticed me. If the bird approached me, I may be between 15-25’ away. If I’m taking pics through a window in my house, the distance is about 15’. In larger yards or out in the wild a distance of 75’ (minimum) is likely needed.

By testing the 4 distances (15, 25, 50, and 75 feet) I felt many bird encounter scenarios were covered helping you to make the best superzoom camera choice depending on how you typically shoot photos of birds.  


Now, let’s get to the good stuff – the reviews!


#1 – Nikon COOLPIX P950 Review for Birding

Nikon Coolpix P950 camera front view
Nikon Coolpix P950

The Nikon Coolpix P950 is an excellent camera with an optical zoom of 83x that blows away all the competition with the exception of its older brother – the Nikon Coolpix P1000. Still – 83x is more than adequate zoom for birding.

Of all the cameras I bought and tested, I ended up keeping the Nikon Coolpix P950 and love it!

The P950 is ideal for the birder who wants extreme zoom capability, and great image quality, but in a slightly smaller & lighter body.

If you’re on the fence about the P1000 due to its weight or size, the P950 is for you. The P950 is smaller but still boasts its 2000mm focal length to capture the tiniest bird.

It’s less expensive than the P1000 (by about $200) and the focal length drops from 3000mm to 2000mm – but still, you’re getting 83x zoom! (See a comparison of the two COOLPIX cameras below)

Nikon COOLPIX P950 vs P1000 Comparison

Nikon P950Nikon P1000
Weight2.2 #3.1#
Size5.6 x 4.4 x 5.9 “5.8 x 4.7 x  7.2 “
Zoom83x125x
Cost$$$$$$$

Key Features

Make & ModelNikon Coolpix P950
Optical Zoom83x
Auto FocusFast
Image StabilizationYes
Frame Capture Rate25 fps
Sensor1/2.3″ (6.2 x 4.6mm) CMOS

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Amazing optical zoom (83x) to get those close-ups.
  • Excellent image quality.
  • Fast autofocus speed so you don’t miss the shot.
  • Easy to use with Bird mode, so you can start shooting pics right away.
  • Multi-directional monitor, so you can easily size up the shot.

Cons

  • Heavier than the other superzooms I tested.
  • A stability device such as a monopod or tripod is needed when using full zoom.

Nikon Coolpix P950 Test Observations

When the camera arrived I immediately opened it, installed batteries & a memory card, set it to Bird mode, and started shooting. It was that fast and easy. And, it felt comfortable in my hands.

Optical Zoom Distance Test

Below are the results of the distance testing with the camera at full zoom.

Wooden cardinal bird taken with a Nikon COOLPIX P950 from 15 feet away
Camera: Nikon Coolpix P950 | Distance: 15′
Wooden cardinal bird taken with a Nikon COOLPIX P950 from 25 feet away
Camera: Nikon Coolpix P950 | Distance: 25′
Wooden cardinal bird taken with a Nikon COOLPIX P950 from 50 feet away
Camera: Nikon Coolpix P950 | Distance: 50′
Wooden cardinal bird taken with a Nikon COOLPIX P950 from 75 feet away
Camera: Nikon Coolpix P950 | Distance: 75′

With the shooting mode set to continuous, I was able to capture many great shots each time.

House finch eating birdseed
Camera: Nikon Coolpix P950
House finch eating birdseed
Camera: Nikon Coolpix P950
House finch eating birdseed
Camera: Nikon Coolpix P950
House finch eating birdseed
Camera: Nikon Coolpix P950
House finch eating birdseed
Camera: Nikon Coolpix P950
House finch eating birdseed
Camera: Nikon Coolpix P950

I found the autofocus speed to be very quick, which is essential for bird photography.

The Nikon Coolpix P950 was noticeably lighter and smaller than the P1000. Keep in mind this camera has an optical zoom of 83x so it needs larger housing and some weight to contain this lens.

In other words, you get a phenomenal optical zoom reach with the P950 and have to expect some type of trade-off. In this case, it’s a camera that’s a bit larger and heavier than the others. Still, it’s MUCH lighter and smaller than a DSLR setup with a comparable zoom lens.

It really comes down to personal preference. After purchasing and testing both the Nikon Coolpix P950 & P1000 superzoom cameras, I opted to keep the Nikon Coolpix P950 because it was lighter and smaller.

Tammy Poppie

At full zoom, the Nikon Coolpix P950 requires a monopod or tripod for most people.

Alternatively, be sure to enable the camera’s image stabilization. Nikon’s system is referred to as a Dual Detect Optical Vibration Reduction system. It works to stabilize both horizontal and vertical movements and works great. I shot all my pics freehand.

More Nikon Coolpix P950 Images

Below are additional photos taken with the Nikon Coolpix P950. They’re unedited and perhaps not the best in terms of composition but provide a sample of the camera’s image quality and zoom.

dark-eyed junco bird on a branch=
Dark-Eyed Junco took with the Nikon Coolpix P950.
American goldfinch bird on a thistle feeder
American goldfinch took with the Nikon Coolpix P950.
House finch on a branch
House finch took with the Nikon Coolpix P950.

Check the price for the Nikon Coolpix P950:


#2 – Nikon COOLPIX P1000 Review for Birding

Nikon Coolpix P1000 superzoom camera for birding
Nikon Coolpix P1000 camera

The Nikon Coolpix P1000 is an excellent camera with a mind-blowing optical zoom capability – 125x! However, it’s a large and relatively heavy camera.

It’s ideal for the birder who won’t settle for less than the maximum zoom capability and demands great image quality – even at full zoom from 100′ away.

It’s one of the highest-priced cameras in the superzoom category but with 125x optical zoom it’s still thousands of dollars less than a DLSR or Mirrorless attached to a telephoto zoom lens. And, it’s lighter!

Key Features

Make & ModelNikon Coolpix P1000
Optical Zoom125x
Auto FocusFast
Image StabilizationYes
Frame Capture Rate7 fps
Sensor1/2.3″ (6.2 x 4.6mm) CMOS

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Astounding optical zoom (125x) to get those close-ups even when 100+ feet away.
  • Excellent image quality near and far (100’ +) for greater versatility.
  • Fast autofocus speed so you don’t miss the shot.
  • Easy to use so you can start shooting pics right away.
  • Multi-directional monitor, so you can easily size up the shot.

Cons

  • It’s the heaviest superzoom bridge camera available.
  • A stability device such as a monopod or tripod is needed for greater distances using full optical zoom.

Nikon Coolpix P1000 Test Observations

When the camera arrived I immediately opened it, installed batteries & a memory card, set it to Bird mode, and started shooting. It was that fast and easy. It was also heavier than I expected.

Optical Zoom Distance Test

Below are the results of the distance testing with the camera at full zoom.

I did not include a photo from a 15′ distance because the Nikon Coolpix P1000’s optical zoom was too strong for the wooden bird at a short distance.

Wooden cardinal bird taken with a Nikon Coolpix P1000 from 25 feet away
Camera: Nikon Coolpix P1000 Distance: 25′
Wooden cardinal bird taken with a Nikon Coolpix P1000 from 50 feet away
Camera: Nikon Coolpix P1000 Distance: 50′
Wooden cardinal bird taken with a Nikon Coolpix P1000 from 75 feet away
Camera: Nikon Coolpix P1000 Distance: 75′

The Nikon Coolpix P1000 camera is up to the task of zooming in on birds far away. Check out the pic below taken more than more than 100’ from the subject! 

Wooden cardinal bird taken with a Nikon Coolpix P1000 from 100 feet away
Camera: Nikon Coolpix P1000 Distance: 100′

With the shooting mode set to continuous, I was able to capture more than 10 great shots each time. Although it’s not the fastest camera I tested (only 7fps), it was plenty fast for me.

And, because the quality of each shot was great it didn’t matter. In fact, I literally had a difficult time choosing the best shot. They were all that good. 

shot of American goldfinch bird taken with a Nikon Coolpix P1000
Camera: Nikon Coolpix P1000
shot of American goldfinch bird taken with a Nikon Coolpix P1000
Camera: Nikon Coolpix P1000
shot of American goldfinch bird taken with a Nikon Coolpix P1000
Camera: Nikon Coolpix P1000
shot of American goldfinch bird taken with a Nikon Coolpix P1000
Camera: Nikon Coolpix P1000
shot of American goldfinch bird taken with a Nikon Coolpix P1000
Camera: Nikon Coolpix P1000
shot of American goldfinch bird taken with a Nikon Coolpix P1000
Camera: Nikon Coolpix P1000

Nikon doesn’t explicitly state the speed of the autofocus and I didn’t get out a stopwatch and test the actual autofocus speed but found it to be really fast.

I took the Nikon Coolpix P1000 to a nearby nature park and although it’s the heaviest (3 lbs) and largest (5.8″ x 4.7″ x 7.1″) superzoom camera I tested, I felt like I was just carrying “a camera” vs. “a really heavy cumbersome camera”. I think it boils down to personal preference.

Unless you’re one of those people with a really steady hand, a monopod or tripod is needed for really far distances otherwise, the camera has trouble focusing on the subject due to camera movement.

The shots below were from a distance of more than 150’ and full zoom. I had a difficult time keeping the camera still enough to let the autofocus do its job. 

shot of American robin bird taken with a Nikon Coolpix P1000
Camera: Nikon Coolpix P1000 Distance: 150′
shot of American robin bird taken with a Nikon Coolpix P1000
Camera: Nikon Coolpix P1000 Distance: 150′
shot of American robin bird taken with a Nikon Coolpix P1000
Camera: Nikon Coolpix P1000 Distance: 150′

That said, for the shots under 100′ I really appreciate the image stabilization on the P1000. I shot all of the pictures freehand and they’re pretty clear and crisp but would have been better with a tripod or monopod.

More Nikon Coolpix P1000 Sample Images

Below are additional photos taken with the Nikon Coolpix P1000. They’re unedited and perhaps not the best in terms of composition but provide a sample of the camera’s image quality and zoom.

American goldfinch on thistle feeder
American goldfinch. The photo was taken with Nikon Coolpix P1000 about 10′ feet away, zoomed-in but not full zoom.
American goldfinch
American goldfinch. Photo was taken with the Nikon Coolpix P1000 about 10 feet away (zoomed in but not at full zoom).
Downy woodpecker. Taken with Nikon Coolpix P1000.
Downy woodpecker Photo was taken with the Nikon Coolpix P1000 about 10 feet away (zoomed-in, but not full zoom).
female house finch on a peanut feeder
Female house finch. The photo was taken with the Nikon Coolpix P1000 about 10 feet away (zoomed-in, but not full zoom).

Check the price for the Nikon Coolpix P1000:


#3 – Canon PowerShot SX70 HS Review for Birding

Canon PowerShot SX70 HS superzoom camera for birding
Canon PowerShot SX70 HS camera

The Canon PowerShot SX70 HS is a fun camera with an impressive optical zoom of 65x. It’s ideal for the backyard birder that wants to be able to zoom in close on birds on the feeder or nearby the deck/patio.

Compared with the Nikon Coolpix P950 and P1000, the Canon is much smaller, lighter, and less expensive. At about 1/2 the zoom capability of the Nikon Coolpix P1000 (125x) it still packs a punch and is more than adequate for birding.

When capturing shots of small birds, its sweet spot at full zoom is about 25′ or closer.

Key Features

Make & ModelCanon PowerShot SX70 HS
Optical Zoom65x
Auto FocusFast
Image StabilizationYes
Frame Capture Rate10
Sensor1/2.3″ (6.2 x 4.6mm) BSI CMOS

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Tremendous zoom capability (65x) to capture great shots of small birds close up.
  • Small & lightweight.
  • Vari-angle monitor to easily set up the shot.
  • Great image quality.

Cons

  • Doesn’t have a Bird mode so getting started was slower.

Canon PowerShot SX70 HS Test Observations

After unboxing and charging the battery it was ready to go. I did have to fiddle with the settings a bit since it doesn’t have a Bird mode.

I was impressed with the image quality, especially zoomed in. The autofocus speed was lickety-split. That combined with the fast image capture rate (10 fps), I didn’t miss any shots.

The Canon PowerShot SX70’s viewfinder is large and I was able to swing the monitor out to the side, rotate 360, and place it back in its compartment with the monitor facing outward. I found the flexible monitor really helpful when getting the shot ready, reviewing it afterward, and navigating the camera’s menu system.

Canon PowerShot SX70 HS camera variable monitor
Canon PowerShot SX70 HS camera variable monitor

As you’ll soon see, the image quality is really very good. Kudos to the image stabilization as most shots were very sharp and clear, even in full zoom, without a tripod or other stability method.

Optical Zoom Distance Test

Below are the results of the distance testing with the Canon PowerShot SX70 HS camera at full zoom.

Wooden cardinal bird taken with a Canon PowerShot SX70HS from 15 feet away
Camera: Canon PowerShot SX70HS Distance: 15′
Wooden cardinal bird taken with a Canon PowerShot SX70HS from 25 feet away
Camera: Canon PowerShot SX70HS Distance: 25′
Wooden cardinal bird taken with a Canon PowerShot SX70HS from 50 feet away
Camera: Canon PowerShot SX70HS Distance: 50′
Wooden cardinal bird taken with a Canon PowerShot SX70HS from 75 feet away
Camera: Canon PowerShot SX70HS Distance: 75′

More Canon PowerShot SX70HS Sample Images

Below are additional photos taken with the Canon PowerShot SX70HS. They’re unedited and perhaps not the best in terms of composition but provide a sample of the camera’s image quality and zoom. And yes, I like chickadees!

Black-capped chickadee. Photo taken with Canon PowerShot SX70-HS 15' away.
Black-capped chickadee. Photo was taken with Canon PowerShot SX70-HS 15′ away.
Black-capped chickadee. Photo taken with Canon PowerShot SX70-HS 25' away.

Black-capped chickadee. Photo was taken with Canon PowerShot SX70-HS 25′ away.
Black-capped chickadee. Photo taken with Canon PowerShot SX70-HS 10' away.
Black-capped chickadee. Photo was taken with Canon PowerShot SX70-HS 10′ away.
Downy woodpecker.  Photo taken with Canon PowerShot SX70 HS 25'+ away.
Downy woodpecker. Photo was taken with Canon PowerShot SX70 HS about 35 – 50 feet away.

Check the price for the Canon PowerShot SX70:


#4 – Panasonic Lumix FZ80 Review for Birding

Panasonic Lumix FZ80 superzoom camera for birding
Panasonic Lumix FZ80 camera

The Panasonic Lumix FZ80 is the ideal budget superzoom camera for the backyard birder that wants to capture bird closeups from the deck or patio and still get very-good quality images.

If you prefer a camera on the smaller and lighter side and prefer to navigate the menu via touchscreen, this camera is for you.

When capturing shots of small birds at full zoom, its sweet spot is about 15-20′ away.

Key Features

Make & ModelPanasonic Lumix FZ80
Optical Zoom60x
Auto FocusQuick
Image StabilizationYes
Frame Capture Rate10 fps
Sensor1/2.3″ (6.2 x 4.6mm) BSI CMOS

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Good image quality when within 15’ of the subject.
  • Good autofocus speed to focus on the bird quickly. 
  • Touch screen monitor to easily navigate the camera menu options.
  • Small & light so it’s easy to carry anywhere.

Cons

  • The viewfinder and monitor are too tiny to be useful for gauging the shot (even from a close distance or fully zoomed in).
  • Image quality became soft around 20’.
  • Doesn’t have a Bird mode so getting started was slower.

Panasonic Lumix FZ80 Test Observations

The Panasonic Lumix FZ80 doesn’t have a Bird mode so I wasn’t able to set it and start shooting right away. This is a minor annoyance but may be key if you’re new to photography.

The closest the FZ80 came to a bird mode was to set it to Scene mode and choose animals that appear to be intended for pets – not fidgety tiny birds. So, it wasn’t intended for fast-moving wildlife.

The camera housing does feel rather “plasticy”. If you can get past that, the camera is great for a budget superzoom.

Optical Zoom Distance Test

Below are the results of the distance testing with the Panasonic Lumix FZ80 camera at full zoom.

Wooden cardinal bird taken with a Panasonic Lumix FZ80 from 15 feet away
Camera: Panasonic Lumix FZ80 Distance: 15′
Wooden cardinal bird taken with a Panasonic Lumix FZ80 from 25 feet away
Camera: Panasonic Lumix FZ80 Distance: 25′
Wooden cardinal bird taken with a Panasonic Lumix FZ80 from 50 feet away
Camera: Panasonic Lumix FZ80 Distance: 50′
Wooden cardinal bird taken with a Panasonic Lumix FZ80 from 75 feet away
Camera: Panasonic Lumix FZ80 Distance: 75′

The Panasonic FZ80’s strength is image quality when closer to the subject – about 15′ or less. Beyond that, the image quality starts to soften – not as clear and crisp.

Sparrow on the edge of birdbath
Sparrow. Taken with a Panasonic Lumix FX80 about 15′ away using full optical zoom.
Nuthatch at feeder
Nuthatch. Taken with Panasonic FZ80 about 25′ away using full optical zoom.

More Panasonic Lumix FZ80 Sample Images

Below are additional photos taken with the Panasonic FZ80. They’re unedited and perhaps not the best in terms of composition but provide a sample of the camera’s image quality and zoom.

Downy woodpecker.  Photo taken with Panasonic Lumix FZ80 25' away.
Downy woodpecker. Photo was taken with Panasonic Lumix FZ80 25′ away.
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Blue jay. Photo was taken with Panasonic Lumix FZ80 15′ away.
American goldfinch. Photo taken with Panasonic Lumix FZ80 10' away.
American goldfinch. Photo was taken with Panasonic Lumix FZ80 10′ away.

Check the price for the Panasonic Lumix FZ80:


#5 – Sony CyberShot RX10IV Review for Birding

Sony CyberShot RX10IV Camera
Sony CyberShot RX10IV camera

The Sony CyberShot RX10IV is the fastest superzoom camera available (24 fps) and perfect
for the backyard birder that wants great image quality and a huge variety of great images to choose from with each shot.

With the largest sensor of all the superzooms (1″) the resulting image is surrounded by plenty of “space” compared with the smaller sensor cameras. However, a bigger sensor also comes with a higher price tag. The Sony CyberShot RX10IV is the most expensive superzoom – even more than the ones with astonishing zooms (the Nikon Coolpix P950 & P1000).

If you want a superzoom camera that nearly has it all (fast, small, light, fast autofocus, great image quality), intend to be within 25′ of the birds, and you don’t want to wait for the Nikon superzoom to become available, the Sony Cybershot RX10IV may be for you.

Key Features

Make & ModelSony CyberShot RX10IV
Optical Zoom25x
Auto FocusQuick
Image StabilizationYes
Frame Capture Rate24 fps
Sensor1″ BSI CMOS

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Blazing fast frame capture rate – 24 fps.
  • Excellent image quality.
  • Good autofocus speed to focus on the bird quickly. 
  • The current exposure settings are easy to identify in the top window.

Cons

  • Pricey.
  • Doesn’t have a Bird mode so getting started was slower.

Sony CyberShot RX10IV Test Observations

The Sony CyberShot RX10IV doesn’t have a Bird mode so I wasn’t able to set it and start shooting right away. This is a minor annoyance but may be key if you’re new to photography.

With only a 25x optical zoom I needed to get much closer to the birds to get a closeup.

The blazing-fast frame capture rate was immediately noticeable and left me with a huge choice of photos to choose from for a given shot. Besides this feature advantage, I didn’t notice any additional attributes that warrant a huge jump in price from the other superzoom cameras.

I really like the top window which showed the current exposure settings without having to
hunt through menus for them.

Sony CyberShot RX10IV camera
Sony CyberShot RX10IV camera topview

Optical Zoom Distance Test

Below are the results of the distance testing with the Sony CyberShot RX10IV camera at full zoom.

wooden cardinal on a post
Camera: Sony CyberShot RX10IV | Distance: 15′
wooden cardinal on a post
Camera: Sony CyberShot RX10IV | Distance: 25′
wooden cardinal on a post
Camera: Sony CyberShot RX10IV | Distance: 50′
wooden cardinal on a post
Camera: Sony CyberShot RX10IV | Distance: 75′

More Sony CyberShot RX10IV Sample Images

Below are additional photos taken with the Sony CyberShot RX10IV. They’re unedited and perhaps not the best in terms of composition but provide a sample of the camera’s image quality and zoom capability.

blue jay bird perched on heated birdbath
Blue Jay. The photo was taken by Tammy Poppie using a Sony CyberShot RX10IV camera about 15′ away, fully zoomed-in.
finch perched on platform feeder eating
Finch. The photo was taken by Tammy Poppie using a Sony CyberShot RX10IV camera about 15′ away, fully zoomed-in.
house sparrow perched on branch
House sparrow. The photo was taken by Tammy Poppie using a Sony CyberShot RX10IV camera about 10′ away, fully zoomed-in.

Check the price for the Sony CyberShot RX10IV:


Frequently Asked Questions

How is Bird Photography Different from Other Types of Photography?

Bird photography is unique from other types of photography because the models (birds) are very tiny, appear without notice, and don’t stay still for long. Bird photography requires equipment that quickly zooms in to tiny subjects and focuses very, very fast. It also requires the photographer to be patient and aware of the birds’ behavior so they can plan for their arrival while at the same time being ready to shoot because you may only have one chance.

What’s the best time to watch birds?

The best time to watch birds is between dawn and 10:00 AM when they are most active. When inclement weather is approaching they will be active even longer.

How Can You Tell if a Camera Lens is Zoomed?

You can tell if a camera lens is zoomed because the lens is protruded out from the camera body.

The Canon SX70 vs Nikon P950 – Which Camera is Better for Birding?

The Canon SX70 and Nikon P950 are great choices for birding photography.

  • Both cameras have the massive zoom capability you need for tiny subjects such as birds (Nikon P950 has 83x zoom while the Canon SX70 has 65x).
  • Both cameras have fast autofocus needed for fidgety birds that take off without notice.
  • Both cameras also have very fast frame capture rates to grab a lot of shots ensuring several will be keepers (Nikon P950 has a 25 fps frame rate while the Canon SX70 has 12 fps).

Deciding between the two cameras for birding comes down to great vs astonishing zoom capability, camera size & weight, and how long you’re willing to wait for the camera to arrive at your doorstep.

Choose the Nikon Coolpix P950

Nikon Coolpix P950 camera front view
Nikon Coolpix P950

If you want the maximum zoom available, fastest frame capture rate, are willing to pay a bit more, don’t mind a moderately weighty camera, and are willing to wait for it to arrive at your door – choose the Nikon Coolpix P950. Check out my full review above.

Choose the Canon Powershot SX70 HS

Canon PowerShot SX70 HS superzoom camera for birding
Canon PowerShot SX70 HS camera

If you want the amazing zoom to capture those tiny birds but don’t need the maximum zoom, fast frame capture rate, lighter & smaller camera, and want it immediately – choose the Canon SX70. Check out my full review above.


Conclusion

It can be overwhelming to find a superzoom camera that suits your needs for bird photography. I was in the same position which is why I dove into testing the top superzoom cameras myself. I learned that whether you’re an all-around birder that likes to venture to parks and nature centers to satisfy your “birding” need or someone that just enjoys their backyard, there’s a superzoom camera for you. Of all the superzoom cameras I bought and tested, I chose to keep the Nikon Coolpix P950 for its amazing zoom of 83x and all-around great quality.

What about you? What’s been your experience shopping for or using superzoom cameras for birding? Do you have some advice to share? Would love to hear from you! Leave a comment below.

More than 25 years ago, Tammy put her first bird feeder outside her kitchen window. Since then she learned how to attract wild birds to her backyard. Studying the meaning & symbolism of wild birds is also a passion of hers.

1 thought on “The 5 Best Superzoom Bridge Cameras for Birding”

  1. I’ve read your articles about best cameras for bird photography and they’re very informative. When I bought my first camera I struggled to find information that was easy to follow for someone who knows almost nothing about cameras or photography. My first buy was a Panasonic Lumix and I love it. Then I got the Nikon Coolpix P950 so I could take pictures of birds sitting further away, and it’s a great camera for someone like me: easy to use, intuitive, really nice for bird photos. I didn’t see your articles when I was shopping around, but I sure wish I had! It was hard to read through and try to make sense of more technical descriptions, features, and tips. This is a great website, thanks!

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