Long Zoom Cameras
The movement from 35mm to digital sensors in compact cameras has done more than simply make it possible to instantly review and share your photos. It’s also changed the way cameras are designed. Because the sensors used in today’s compact cameras are much smaller than a frame of film, lenses can also be much smaller and cover longer zoom ranges than ever were possible with film.
Digital cameras with long zoom ranges—many featuring 35mm equivalent fields of view that start around 28mm on the wide end and range to longer than 500mm on the telephoto end—still have to obey the laws of physics, so you won’t find any shirt-pocket shooters in this category.
These “mega zoom” cameras are generally smaller than DSLR and feature a non-interchangeable lens. This makes them a great option for travel: the cameras won’t weigh you down, you won’t spend time fumbling with lens changes, and the incredible zoom range will allow you to capture wide-angle vistas as well as objects that are far out of the reach of most point and shoots. To top things off, image stabilization and video recording come standard.
Nikon CoolPix P100
Nikon’s CoolPix P100 sports a 26x optical zoom lens that covers a 35mm equivalent field of view of 26-678mm. A five-way vibration reduction system is built into the camera for sharper shots, and the lens features a maximum aperture range of f/2.7-5.7. Combine that with the camera’s maximum 3200 ISO sensitivity and you’ll be able to take photos in a variety of lighting conditions.
The CoolPix uses a backlit CMOS sensor for image capture. This chip can capture more detail and a wider tonal range than traditional sensors. When coupled with Nikon’s Backlit Scene HDR technology, it really lets you capture some spectacular images. Of course, the camera can also shoot 1080p video at 30fps, complete with stereo sound.
The P100 supports shooting 1.1MP stills at a stunning 120 fps, perfect for applications that require burst shooting. If full 10.3MP resolution is required, the camera can shoot at 10 fps. Images can be framed via an eye-level electronic viewfinder (EVF) or the camera’s articulating 3” LCD screen. The LCD features 460,000-pixel resolution, which gives you a clear picture when framing and reviewing shots. You’ll be able to adjust the LCD’s angle for optimal viewing, and it also offers antiglare coating and brightness adjustment.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ100
The Lumix DMC-FZ100 from Panasonic is a 14.1MP camera with a 24x (25-600mm equivalent) Leica DC Vario-Elmarit lens. The lens features a bright f/2.8-5.2 aperture and uses ED and aspherical elements for enhanced image quality. An optical image stabilization system works alongside a maximum ISO of 6400 to produce sharp images, even in less-than-ideal light. In addition to JPG support, the camera also features RAW image capture, a feature normally reserved for DSLRs!
The Lumix features a fully articulating LCD, which makes it easy to frame images in a variety of situations. You can easily shoot from the hip or above your head simply by rotating the screen. You’ll be able to rotate it so that the LCD is closed — perfect for shooting at eye-level using the EVF without worrying about smudging the screen, or for protecting the LCD during transport and storage.
The DMC-FZ100 can record 1080p HD video in the AVCHD Lite file format, which is compatible with many popular video applications, including iMovie. You’ll also be able to shoot 3.5MP stills at 60 fps, or full-resolution stills at 11 fps. A hot shoe allows you to add a dedicated flash unit for those times when you need more power than the Lumix’s built-in pop-up flash can provide. This energy-efficient camera can capture approximately 580 images per battery charge.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ235 and DMC-FZ40
The Lumix DMC-FZ235 is a 12.1MP camera with an 18x Leica Vario-Elmar optical zoom lens that covers a 27-486mm field of view. The lens is steadied by an optical stabilization system and employs an f/2.8-4.4 aperture. The camera supports ISO 1600 shooting for use in low light. JPG and RAW image capture are available—RAW images take up more space on a memory card, but are uncompressed, expanding your post-processing options.
You’ll be able to frame shots using the camera’s LCD, or at eye-level using its EVF. The Lumix supports 720p video capture in the AVCHD Lite format, complete with stereo sound. Panasonic’s Intelligent Auto Exposure (iA) mode allows the camera to determine the best settings for a particular shot thanks to advanced face detection and autofocus. The camera’s battery is good for about 470 pictures per charge.
If you like the body style and features of the DMC-FZ235, but would like a longer zoom lens and higher-resolution sensor, consider Panasonic’s Lumix DMC-FZ40. This camera features a 25-600mm equivalent Leica DC Vario-Elmarit lens, a 14.1MP image sensor, and ISO sensitivity that goes all the way to ISO 6400. It also features a slightly better battery life — up to 580 shots on a battery charge.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX1
Sony’s Cyber-shot DSC-HX1 is a 9.1MP camera with a 20x optical zoom lens, covering a 28-560mm equivalent field of view. An optical image stabilization system helps you capture sharper images, even at extreme focal lengths. The lens is capable of an f/2.8 aperture at the wide end of its zoom range, which drops to an f/8 at maximum zoom. It uses an Exmor CMOS sensor for image capture that is capable of ISO settings of up to 3200. Sony’s Twilight mode helps you shoot in low light, capturing six images in a fraction of a second and merging them to increase brightness.
The camera supports Sony’s Sweep Panorama technology, which allows you to capture ultra-wide vistas simply by moving the camera horizontally or vertically while holding the shutter. All stitching is done in-camera, so there’s no need to spend time in Photoshop to create your panorama. The camera is capable of capturing full-resolution stills at 10 fps, and can capture 1080p HD video.
You’ll be able to frame images on the camera’s 3” Clear Photo LCD. You’ll be able to tilt the LCD 90 degrees up or down, allowing you to shoot from waist level or above your head with equal ease. Antiglare coatings and wide viewing angles make it easy to see the LCD, even in bright conditions. The Cyber-shot also features an eye-level viewfinder. Because it is a Sony camera, it uses Memory Stick cards for image storage, not the standard Secure Digital cards that most other digital cameras use.
Olympus’s SP-800UZ features a stunning 30x zoom lens that covers a 28-840mm equivalent field of view. With 14MP of resolution, a maximum ISO of 3200 and optical image stabilization, the camera is more than capable of capturing sharp images that can be printed at large sizes. The lens features an f/2.8-5.6 aperture, which is very impressive when you take its telephoto range into account.
The camera features a multitude of image processing functions to enhance photo quality. Beauty Mode softens shadows and smooths wrinkles, allowing you to capture more pleasing portraits. A number of creative art filters are built into the camera, including Pop Art, Pinhole, Fisheye and Drawing. The SP-800UZ even supports in-camera image editing, panorama stitching and 720p HD video recording.
The camera features a 3” LCD for image composition — unlike most other cameras in this class, it does not feature an eye-level EVF. The camera does have 2GB of built-in memory, allowing you to snap quite a number of shots, even without a memory card. If you’d like to supplement that, you’ll be happy to know that the camera takes standard SD and SDHC memory cards.
Canon PowerShot SX30 IS
Canon’s entry in the megazoom range is PowerShot SX30 IS. Built around an amazing 35x optical zoom lens, covering a 24-840mm equivalent field of view, the camera features one of the widest coverage ranges in its class. It uses a 14.1MP image sensor, boasts three-way optical image stabilization, maximum apertures of f/2.7-5.8 and a top-end ISO of 1600.
You’ll be able to use the camera’s eye-level EVF or its articulating 2.7” LCD to frame your shots. Canon’s exclusive Zoom Framing Assistant will help you follow moving subjects even at maximum zoom. The camera’s Smart Auto mode selects from one of 23 predefined situations, ensuring that optimal settings are used at all times. The camera can also capture 720p HD video with stereo sound.
Numerous special effects are built into the camera. You can create fisheye images, or use a faux tilt/shift effect to make real-life images look like miniatures, all without having to use Photoshop. Of course, you can give your photos different color looks including sepia, black and white, vivid, positive film and more.
Fujifilm’s HS10 is a 10MP shooter with a 30x zoom Fujinon lens, covering a 24-720mm equivalent field of view. The camera features CMOS-shift image stabilization, RAW shooting support, a f/2.8-5.6 aperture and a maximum ISO of 6400. You’ll be able to frame images using the camera’s EVF or 3” LCD.
The HS10 has a Pro Low Light mode, which takes four rapid shots, mixing high-sensitivity and low-sensitivity shots to create a sharp, properly exposed image with very little digital noise. The camera also features 1080p video capture, and can record low-resolution stills at an amazing 1000 fps! You’ll be able to take these stills and import them into video editing software to create ultra slow-motion video.
Numerous in-camera editing and special effects functions are at your fingertips when you shoot with the HS10. You can stitch multiple shots together to create panoramas—up to 260 degrees wide! It also features a zoom bracketing mode, which automatically takes three shots at different zoom levels: the original shot, a 1.4x zoom shot and a 2x zoom shot.
Fujifilm S1800 and S2550HD
The S1800 and S2550HD from Fujifilm are almost the same camera. The only difference between the two is the addition of an HDMI Mini output on the S2550HD. This port makes it easy to connect the camera to your HDTV via an optional cable.
Each features an 18x zoom Fujinon lens and a 12MP image sensor. They cover a 28-504mm equivalent field of view with an f/3.1-5.6 aperture range. CCD-shift image stabilization and a maximum 6400 ISO allow you to capture sharp images in all types of lighting conditions. You’ll be able to frame images using the EVF or the 3” LCD.
Both cameras can capture 720p HD video with sound. They are loaded with features that are designed to help you take better photos, including face detection, autofocus and exposure, blink and smile detection and tracking autofocus. You’ll be able to use either camera to take panoramic images via in-camera stitching, and they feature the same zoom bracketing function as the HS10.
Wrapping Things Up
Whether you choose to wrap one of these cameras up in shiny paper this holiday season is up to you. Digital cameras come in all shapes and sizes, from compact models that fit in your shirt pocket to high-end DSLRs with medium-format image sensors. These megazoom cameras balance size and optical performance. They are smaller than a DSLR, but deliver impressive zoom ranges.
The B&H website allows you to filter through the hundreds of point-and-shoots that we have available through a variety of criteria, including optical zoom range, so that you can narrow down the best camera for you.