Bridge models slot inbetween digital compacts and DSLRs by offering the finer points of both genres. This makes them ideal for photographers who like the simplicity of a compact camera, although occasionally find it rather restrictive in terms of lens range and picture taking features, but don't want to make the leap to a full-blown DSLR. The models in this category, then, offer a 'bridge' between the two camps. Clever, eh?!
In most cases, a bridge camera also represents the middle ground in terms of physical size and handling ergonomics. Whereas a compact is largely about sleekness and pocketability, a bridge camera is typically a more sculptured affair with a chunky handgrip, sizeable rear LCD and large buttons that make function setting easier. While you could never describe a bridge camera as large, you'll certainly need to trade up a size or two in bags if you're currently a compact user.
Lenses on bridge cameras are fixed, but offer a whopping zoom range, so it's unlikely that you'll be left wanting when it comes to taking pictures. A typical zoom range will enable you to tackle everything from landscapes at the wide-angle end through to tame wildlife and sporting action at the telephoto end. They also focus reasonably close, so you'll be able to tackle some macro shots too. While having a fixed lens may be seen by some as a disadvantage (if you do, a DSLR is more your bag), it does mean that you'll never have any problems with dust getting on to the sensor and spoiling your shots.