Long-Distance Providers: Long Zoom Cameras of 2013
The emergence of long zoom cameras as a legitimate multi-purpose digital camera option continued in 2013. Bridging the divide between conventional point-and-shoot and DSLR cameras, these compact cameras offer portability similar to their mirrorless cousins with more novice-friendly interfaces than advanced interchangeable-lens cameras.
A defining characteristic of long zoom cameras is their versatile, all-in-one type zoom lens that doesn’t accompany a significant increase in overall camera size. Common functions also include a built-in flash, various shooting modes, and manual exposure settings. As with the rest of the photo industry, this year’s models demonstrated advances in zoom range and, in some cases, Wi-Fi and mobile app integration. Below, you’ll find a roundup of standout long zoom cameras that were released in 2013.
Compact Long Zoom Cameras
Small form factor, Full HD video, and high-resolution stills from a wide range of focal lengths is where these cameras excel. The compact versions mentioned in this section have the image quality and optical zoom range needed for landscape and wildlife photography, but without the bulk that will weigh you down during a hiking trip or day of sightseeing. The list of featured compacts also includes cameras that incorporate a larger screen, GPS receiver, and expanded ISO range.
The SZ-16 iHS Digital Camera from Olympus has a 16MP 1/2.3” BSI CMOS sensor and TruePic V image processor. In addition to Full HD recording at 30 fps, high-speed continuous shooting allows full-resolution still images to be captured at 1.5 fps for up to 200 photos or 3 fps up to 3 photos. At lower resolutions, shoot as fast as 30 fps up to 28 images. The SZ-16 also has a 24x optical zoom lens with a 35mm equivalent focal-length range of 25-600mm. Dual IS image stabilization maintains sharpness at telephoto focal lengths, and Olympus’s Super Resolution and 4x digital zoom can further narrow in on your distant subject of interest.
The Sony Cyber-shot HX50V Digital Camera looks like a conventional point-and-shoot but certainly boasts the imaging prowess and lens system of a long zoom camera. It features 30x optical zoom for 24-720mm equivalency in 35mm format and has Optical SteadyShot image stabilization and aspheric lens elements to produce sharp results with minimal aberration. Sony equipped the HX50V with a 20.4MP 1/2.3" back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS sensor and BIONZ image processor, allowing this compact camera to achieve ISO sensitivity up to 12800 in addition to continuously capturing high-res stills up to 10 fps. A built-in flash and hot-shoe mount are supported. The HX50V also supports Full HD video capture in high-quality AVCHD format. Complementing the image quality and palm-sized housing is a built-in Wi-Fi connection that easily integrates with Sony's free PlayMemories app to transfer images directly from the camera to computers, mobile devices, or social media sites.
Some of the most anticipated and unique cameras introduced in 2013 were Samsung’s Galaxy Digital Cameras. The GC110 and GC120 are Android-based long zooms that merge point-and-shoot photography and smart-device technology in a way that far exceeds that of smartphone cameras. Both cameras are available in black or white and run the Android 4.1 Jelly Bean operating system. The only difference in these camera versions—GC110 is equipped for AT&T’s 3G mobile data network; GC120 for Verizon’s 4G LTE network (each requires a contract through their respective network providers). Thanks to Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and broadband cellular connectivity, GC-series cameras allow cloud-based storage and image sharing via social media using just a few taps on the large 4.8” HD Super Clear LCD touchscreen.
The GC110 and GC120 also have a 16.3MP 1/2.3” BSI CMOS image sensor that captures Full HD 1080p video. A 1.4 GHz quad-core processor and 1GB of RAM provide enough computing prowess to run these hybrid devices without interruption to your imaging and sharing workflow. Complementing the mobile technologies and imaging features, Samsung equips these Galaxy cameras with a 21x optical zoom lens capable of 23-483mm equivalent focal lengths.
Full-Size Long Zoom Cameras
Compared to their streamlined counterparts, full-size long zoom cameras usually feature more DSLR-like functionality and form factors. Additionally, some full-size long zoom cams have a broader optical zoom range and more robust imaging engines. For example, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ70 Digital Camera has 60x optical zoom with 35mm equivalent focal lengths of 20-1200mm, offering a remarkable wide-angle to ultra-telephoto zoom. Enabling shooters to capture sharp images anywhere along the 60x zoom range, the FZ70 offers an f/2.8-5.9 maximum aperture; Panasonic’s Optical Image Stabilization (POWER O.I.S.) reduces camera shake and even has an Active Mode for motion compensation while recording video. AVCHD format video capture with stereo sound is supported and a 3.0” LCD monitor provides image playback and composition. For stable, eye-level composition, an electronic viewfinder is provided as is both a built-in flash and hot-shoe mount.
The Canon PowerShot SX50 HS Digital Camera features a 50x optical zoom lens with a 35mm focal length equivalent range of 24-1200mm. From wide-angle to ultra-telephoto, the SX50 HS can easily handle everything from self-portraiture to on-field sports action. To assist with those "selfies," a 2.8” Vari-angle LCD rotates and swivels to enable well-framed images at various shooting angles. Zoom Framing Assist Lock is a useful feature that automatically tracks a subject within the field of view and keeps it centered within the frame as the photographer zooms in for a close-up. Its 12.1MP CMOS image sensor and DIGIC 5 processor allow the SX50 to capture simultaneous RAW and JPEG stills or Full HD video with stereo sound. It also provides Optical Image stabilization, a pop-up flash and a hot-shoe mount for attaching an external flash or other accessories.
Certainly one of the most enticing and most recent entrants into the long-zoom category is the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10, which features a 20.2MP 1" Exmor R CMOS sensor and a Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* 8.3x optical zoom lens, offering the 35mm equivalent focal-length range of 24-200mm. While not the longest in reach of the bunch, the RX10's lens does have the distinction of a constant f/2.8 maximum aperture, enabling consistent low-light performance throughout the zoom range. Optical SteadyShot image stabilization further accentuates this camera's low-light capabilities while the Supersonic Wave Motor (SSM) delivers quick, smooth, and precise focusing capabilities. Both an XGA OLED Tru-Finder electronic viewfinder and a tilting 3.0" 1,228k-dot Xtra Fine LCD, with White Magic Technology, are available for intuitive handling and clear visibility. Full HD 1080i/p video recording is supported and built-in Wi-Fi connectivity with NFC enables a seamless method for sharing photos and movies straight from the camera.
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H200 Digital Camera houses a 20.1MP Super HAD CCD sensor and lens system with 26x optical zoom, 22.3-580mm focal-length equivalency. This impressive zoom range gives the H200 wide-angle and super-telephoto imaging capability. Like the HX50V mentioned above, the H200 has aspherical lens elements to minimize soft focus at the edge of the frame and SteadyShot optical image stabilization to improve image quality at the telephoto end of the zoom range and even at slow shutter speeds. HD 720p video, 360° Sweep Panorama, and a 3.0” Clear Photo LCD round out its feature set and for convenience sake, it utilizes AA batteries.
One of the most supremely equipped long zoom cameras of 2013 is the Fujifilm FinePix HS50EXR Digital Camera. Its 16MP 1/2" EXR CMOS II sensor delivers Full HD performance and sensitivity up to 12800 for notable low-light performance. EXR CMOS II sensors also incorporate phase-detection pixels that enable hybrid autofocus technology for fast and accurate focus acquisition. Combined with an EXR Processor II imaging engine, the HS50EXR can produce 11 fps for fast, full-resolution continuous shooting. A 3.0" Vari-angle rear LCD and an eye-level electronic viewfinder offer multiple methods for image composition and monitoring. Rounding out the HS50EXR's list of features are a manual-focus-enabled 42x optical zoom lens equipped with lens-shift image stabilization as well as aspherical and ED glass elements that enhance color fidelity while maximizing image brightness throughout the 24-1000mm equivalent focal-length range. A nice touch to this fine camera is Fujifilm’s Film Simulation mode, in which you can set the camera to replicate the look and feel of the great Fuji reversal-film types such as Provia and Velvia.
A long zoom camera is a great option for photographers looking for more functionality and focal-length range than their standard point-and-shoot camera can offer, but who are not interested in the bulk or investment of a DSLR. By combining a wide-angle to super-telephoto zoom lens and the user-friendly interface of a point-and-shoot, the long zoom cameras mentioned above are likely to please novices and more advanced shutterbugs alike.