Extended-Zoom Cameras

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Not long ago, point-and-shoot cameras had zoom lenses that seldom went beyond the optical range of a 35-105mm lens on a conventional 35mm camera. Not so anymore. Thanks to numerous advancements in optical technologies, digicams now feature 8x to 14x zooms that despite their 20-something to 200-300mm-plus focal ranges, still slip easily into your pocket. In addition to HD video, some perform some pretty neat tricks.


 Nikon

From Nikon we have the Nikon CoolPix S8100, which in addition to a 12.1MP CMOS sensor and 3.0" 921,000-dot LCD, features a 10x, 30-300mm equivalent zoom lens that focuses down to 0.4" from the front lens element. Other features found on the CoolPix S8100 include 5 frame-per-second burst rates, ISO ratings up to 3200, 4-way image stabilization and 1080p, 30-frame-per-second HD video. Video enthusiasts will also appreciate the ability to shoot video at speeds up to 240 frames per second for ultra slow-motion video clips.

The Nikon CoolPix S8100, available in Black, Gold and Red, contains about 102MB of internal memory and accepts SD, SDHC and SDXC memory cards.  

Panasonic

From Panasonic we have a choice of two extended-range point and shoots. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7, available in Black, Blue, Red and Silver, features a Leica DC Vario-Elmar 12x Aspheric zoom lens with an impressively broad equivalent focal range of 25-300mm. Leica glass aside, the DMC-ZS7 features a 12.1MP imaging sensor, a 3.0" 460,000-dot LCD and 720p video at 30 frames per second, with stereo sound.

Other features found on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7 include ISO sensitivity ratings up to 6400 and in-camera GPS geo-tagging. The Lumix DMC-ZS7 contains 15MB of internal memory and accepts SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards. 

Our second choice from Panasonic is the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR3, which features a slightly shorter (but less impressive) 8x Leica DC Vario-Elmar 25-200mm equivalent zoom lens. In addition to its 8x zoom lens, the Lumix DMC-ZR3 features a 14.1MP imaging sensor, a 3.0" (230,000-dot) LCD, 720p HD video at 30 frames per second (mono sound) and ISO ratings up to 6400. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR3, which contains 40MB of internal memory and accepts SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards, is available in Black, Blue, Red and Silver.

Sony

From Sony we have a choice of two cameras, starting with the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55, which sports a 10x, 25-250mm equivalent zoom lens, a 14.1MP imaging sensor, a 3.0" (230,400-dot) LCD and 720p HD video at 30 frames per second (mono sound).

Some of the cooler features found on the Sony DSC-H55 include a Sweep Panorama mode for capturing 224-degree panoramic images in camera, a Dynamic Range Optimizer for enhanced details in the highlights and shadows and ISO sensitivity up to 3200. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55 contains 45MB of internal memory, accepts Memory Stick Duo, Pro Duo, Pro HG-Duo, and SD/SDHC memory cards and is available in Silver and Black.

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX5V (Black only), which has the same 10x 25-250mm equivalent zoom lens as the DSC-H55, features a 10.2MP Back-Illuminated Exmor R CMOS that enables low-light shooting technologies, including Handheld Twilight Mode and Anti-Motion Blur Mode for sharp handheld shooting under the lowest of lighting conditions.

Other features found on the Sony DSC-HX5V include a 3.0" (230,400-dot) LCD, 10 frame-per-second full-resolution burst rates, 224-degree Sweep Panorama Mode, ISO 3200 sensitivity, dual memory card slots (Memory Stick Duo, Pro Duo, Pro HG-Duo and SD/SDHC/SDXC), GPS geo-tagging and 1080i HD video at 30 or 60 frames per second, with stereo sound. The Sony DSC-HX5V contains 45MB of internal memory, accepts Memory Stick Duo, Pro Duo, Pro HG-Duo and SD/SDHC memory cards.

Canon

 The longest zoom range in this class belongs to the Canon PowerShot SX210, which features an extraordinary 14x,  28-392mm equivalent zoom lens. Available in BlackPurple and Gold, the Canon SX210 contains a 14.1MP imaging sensor, a 3.0" (230,000-dot) LCD, ISO sensitivity up to 6400 and 720p HD video at 30 frames per second, with stereo sound. Canon's PowerShot SX210 accepts SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards.

Just slightly shorter in range is the Canon PowerShot SX130 , an under-$200, long-range digicam, which has a 12x, 28-336mm equivalent zoom lens. Other features found on the Canon SX130 include a 12.1MP imaging sensor, a 3.0" (230,000-dot) LCD, 720p HD video with stereo sound at 30 frames per second, 22 shooting modes, and for those who tend to forget to charge batteries before heading out for a long day of shooting, the PowerShot SX130 draws energy from a pair of AA batteries, which means you can juice up your camera anywhere there's a convenience store or gas station. The Canon SX130 accepts SD/DHC/SDXC/MMC/MMC-plus/HC MMC-plus memory cards.

Fujifilm

The Fujifilm FinePix F80EXR (Black only), with a night-busting top ISO rating of 12,800, features a 10x, 27-270mm equivalent zoom lens, a 12MP 1/2" FujiFilm Super CCD EXR sensor, a 3.0" 230,000-dot LCD and a dual IS image stabilizing system. Other features include 720p HD video with stereo sound at 24 frames per second, 5 Film Emulation Modes and Face Recognition for people, cats and dogs (if you have a pet weasel, sorry, you're skunked).

The Fujifilm FinePix F80EXR contains 40MB of internal memory and accepts SD/SDHC memory cards.

Fujifilm's FinePix JZ300, which is only 0.88" thick, features a 10x, 28-280mm equivalent zoom lens, a 12.1MP imaging sensor, a 3.0" 230,000-dot LCD, ISO sensitivity levels up to 3200, and along with JPEGs, records 720p HD video at 24 frames per second, with mono sound. The FinePix JZ300, which is available in black and silver, contains 40MB of internal memory and accepts SD/SDHC memory cards.

Casio

Our final two contestants are from Casio, starting with the Casio Exilim EX-H10. The Exilim EX-H10 is a narrow-bodied digicam that features a 10x, 24-240mm equivalent zoom, a 10.1MP back-illuminated CCD imaging sensor,  a 3.0" 230,400-dot LCD, and 720p, 24 frame-per-second HD video, with mono sound.

Other cool features found on the Casio Exilim EX-H10 include 38 Scene Modes, 12 "Skin Adjustment Modes," guaranteed to make Aunt Jenny the prettiest girl at the prom, and up to 1000 exposures per battery charge. The Exilim EX-H10 contains 35.7MB of internal memory and accepts SD/SDHC memory cards.

Lastly, we have a little powerhouse called the Casio Exilim EX-FH100, which like the Exilim EX-H10 features a 10x, 24-240mm equivalent zoom, a 10.1MP back-illuminated CCD imaging sensor,  a 3.0" 230,400-dot LCD and 720p, 24 frame-per-second HD video, with mono sound. But here's where the fun starts, because in addition to all of the above, the Exilim EX-FH100 can also capture RAW files, has full manual overide of exposure controls—and get this—still capture at up to 40 frames per second at full resolution. And that's not too shabby for a camera you can slip into your pocket.

Extended Zoom-Range Point-and-Shoot Comparison Chart

 
  Zoom Range Sensor LCD Still/Video Formats Unique Features Colors
Nikon CoolPix S8100 10x (30-300mm equiv.)  12.1MP  3.0"  (921,000-dots)  JPEG 1080p@30 fps (Stereo Sound)

ISO 3200
Slow-Motion Video (240 fps
5 fps Stills
 

Black Gold Red
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7 12x (25-300mm equiv.)  12.1MP  3.0" (460,000-dots)  JPEG 720p@30 fps (Stereo Sound)

ISO6400
Leica Lens
GPS Geo-Tagging
AVCHD Lite Video

Black Blue Red Silver
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR3  8x (25-200mm equiv.)  14.1MP  2.7" (230,000-dots)  JPEG 720p@30 fps (Mono sound)  ISO 6400                         Leica Lens                    AVCHD Lite Video  Black Red Silver Blue
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55 10x (25-250mm equiv.)  14.1MP 3.0" (230,400-dots)  JPEG 720p@30fps (Mono sound) Sweep Panorama Mode (224°) ISO 3200 Dynamic Range Optimizer Silver Black
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX5V   10x (25-250mm equiv.)  10.2MP 3.0" (230,400-dots)  JPEG 720p@30/60fps (Stereo Sound) Twilight Handheld Mode  10 fps @ Full-Res GPS-enabled Sweep Panorama Mode (224°) Dual Card Slots  Black
Canon PowerShot SX210  14x (28-392mm equiv.)  14.1MP 3.0" (230,400-dot) JPEG 720p@30 fps (Stereo Sound) ISO 6400 Black Purple Gold
Canon PowerShot SX130   12x (28-336mm equiv)  12.1MP 3.0" (230,000-dot) JPEG 720p@30 fps (Stereo Sound)  AA batteries Black
Fujifilm FinePix F80EXR 10x  (27-270mm equiv) 12MP 3.0" (230,000-dot) JPEG 720p@24 fps (Mono Sound) ISO 12,800 Film Emulation Modes Black
Fujifilm FinePix JZ300 10x (28-280mm equiv.) 12MP 2.7" (230,000-dot) JPEG 720p@24 fps (Mono Sound) Only .88" Thick Black  Silver
Casio Exilim EXH10 10x (24-240mm equiv.) 12.1MP 3.0" (230,400-dot) JPEG/RAW 720p@24 fps (Mono Sound) 38 Scene Modes 12 Skin Adjustment Modes Black
Casio Exilim EX-FH100  10x (24-240mm equiv.)  10.1MP   3.0" (230,400-dot) JPEG/RAW 720p@30 fps (Mono Sound) RAW files 40 fps @ Full-Res Manual Overrides Black