Long-range, ultra-zoom, point-and-shoot cameras continue to be a bright spot in the declining P&S category. Their unmatched, all-in-one versatility and value appeal to a broad spectrum of consumers, from casual shooters to enthusiasts.
Indeed, many of the latest long-zoom models have everything but interchangeable lenses, and that includes Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity, Full HD 1080p video capability, advanced AF and AE systems, high-res LCDs and multi-axis image stabilization. In some cases, they even offer electronic viewfinders (EVFs).
On the whole, the latest long-zoom cameras are fast, responsive, satisfying to use and deliver impressive imaging performance, even at high ISOs. Their most attractive feature, many of them provide zoom ratios up to an astonishing 60x.
In terms of real-world performance and features, these cameras give DSLRs and mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras a real run for the money. Some even look and feel like compact DSLRs. Others have slimmer, more compact form factors. Almost all are offered at very competitive prices, giving consumers a lot of picture taking bang for the buck.
A good indication of the vitality and competitiveness of this category is that they’re still evolving—about 25% of the long-zoom cameras detailed here were recently upgraded.
Three Categories of Long-Zoom Point & Shoots
While there’s no official definition of a long-range or ultra-zoom camera, the class includes three distinct segments. (1) So-called bridge cameras with wide-to-telephoto zoom lenses in the 50x to 60x range, DSLR-like form factors and features that may include an articulated LCD and an eye-level electronic viewfinder. (2) Slim, ultracompact models with zoom ranges of about 30x, possibly touch-screen LCDs and no EVF. (3) Compact, high-tech models with zoom ratios of around 21x to 30x and advanced features such as Wi-Fi and built-in or accessory EVFs.
To keep our focus on true long-zoom cameras, all the cameras selected here provide a 30x or greater zoom ratio. However, dealers should bear in mind there are many worthy and attractive cameras in the 10x–25x zoom range that didn’t quite make the cut this time.
Any of these contemporary models can provide an excellent backup to an enthusiast’s DSLR, a great all-around picture taker for people on the go, or a great option for serious shooters who want to travel light. These are just some of the reasons many savvy dealers put these flexible long rangers near the top of their promotional priority lists.
Nine Notable Long-Zoom Cameras
Nikon Coolpix P610. With its handsome appearance, ergonomically rounded contours and large, comfortable handgrip, this upgraded DSLR-styled entry has all the bells and whistles, like a 16MP, 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor. It boasts a remarkable 60x, 24–1,440mm* f/3.3–6.5 Nikkor Super ED VR (vibration
reduction) lens with lens-shift image stabilization (IS). The lens gets out to an amazing 120x using digital dynamic fine zoom. It employs both a 3-inch, vari-angle, 921K-dot LCD monitor with six brightness levels and an eye-level EVF. Other high-tech features include: Full HD 1080p video capture at 60/50/30/25 fps with stereo sound; ISO 100–12,800; built-in GPS; Wi-Fi and Near Field Communication (NFC) connectivity for easy image sharing; full auto and manual control; a range of creative options; and full-res, 7-fps bursts for 7 frames. $429.95. nikonusa.com
Canon PowerShot SX540 HS. This 50x, all-in-one P&S has a 20.3MP, 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor and a Digic 6 processor. It boasts an impressive 24–1,200mm f/3.4–6/5 lens and a 3-inch, 461K-dot LCD. Notable improvements in image quality and responsiveness enable Full HD 1080p video capture at 60 and 30 fps and a full-res, 5.9-fps burst rate. An intelligent IS system provides panning IS, dynamic IS with 5-axis stabilization for
steady video, macro IS and active tripod IS settings. Hybrid auto mode records up to 4-sec videos before taking a photo and combines the still/video imagery into a video recap. Useful when using the long zoom is a zoom framing assist seek function: hold the button and the camera zooms out to include a wider view to more easily locate moving subjects; releasing the button returns the lens to its original zoom position, keeping the subject in focus. Wi-Fi/NFC are built in. $399.99. usa.canon.com
Samsung Smart WB1100F. Looking like a compact DSLR, this 35x optical zoom model has a wide-to-ultra-telephoto 25–875mm f/3–5.9 lens with dual image stabilization (OIS+DIS). It delivers a full complement of enthusiast-aimed features, such as a 16.2MP, 1.2/3-inch CCD sensor; a 3-inch, 460K-dot LCD, 720p HD video recording at 30p with picture effects; ISO settings of 80–3,200; and a slew of still shooting modes, including smart auto and magic frame. Its advanced, built-in Wi-Fi/NFC connectivity
provides Tag & Go one-touch sync to a mobile device, for direct upload to social media sites. Its photo beam and auto share features send and save photos directly to a mobile phone. Connectivity functions also include PC auto backup. A remote viewfinder feature lets users control the camera with a phone—great for shooting selfies and group shots. $249.99. samsung.com
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX400V. The flagship of Sony’s ultra-zoom lineup, this curvaceous DSLR-styled camera employs a 20.4MP, 1/2.3-inch Exmor R CMOS sensor and Bionz X image processor. Notable is its 50x, 24–1,200mm f/2.8–6.3 Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens with a 100x clear image zoom function. A 3.0-inch, 921K-dot LCD monitor is complemented by an eye-level EVF. The HX400V can shoot continuous full-res bursts at 10 fps as well as record Full HD video at 60p and cinematic 24p. Plus,
lock-on AF uses multiple points with subject recognition to keep moving subjects in focus. Other key specs include: built-in Wi-Fi/NFC; GPS; intelligent sweep panorama mode; ISO 100–12,800; a built-in hot shoe; and Optical SteadyShot image stabilization with intelligent active mode for minimizing blur when moving while shooting video. $499.99. sony.com
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS60. The svelte, minimalist flagship of Panasonic’s ZS series of compact P&S cameras packs a lot of punch into a slim, compact package. It offers an 18.1MP, 1/2.3-inch High Sensitivity MOS sensor for low-light performance; a 30x, 24–720mm f/3.3–8 Leica DC Vario-Elmar zoom lens; and 4K video capture with four times the resolution of 1080p Full HD. It’s one of the few cameras in the compact long-zoom class to
include both a 3-inch, 1,040K-dot touch-screen LCD monitor and a live viewfinder. Other impressive specs include: hybrid OIS+, 5-axis image stabilization; RAW capture; continuous, full-res shooting at up to 40 fps; low-light and starlight autofocus functions; a DSLR-like lens ring control; a post-focus function to refocus images on the LCD after they are captured; and a 4K photo function that grabs a 4K still photo from video frames. $449.99. panasonic.com
Fujifilm FinePix S9900W. Sporting crisp, contemporary, DSLR styling and an ergonomic handgrip, Fujifilm’s S9900W long-zoom FinePix incorporates a state-of-the-art, 5-axis IS system to minimize the effects of camera shake, a 16.2MP CMOS sensor and an impressive 50x, 24–1,200mm f/2.9–6.5 zoom lens. Its optical range can be boosted to an incredible 100x magnification with Fujifilm’s Intelligent Digital Zoom technology, while going all the way down to 1cm in super macro mode for close-ups. It has a
3-inch, 460K-dot LCD monitor plus a high-res 0.2-inch, 920K-dot EVF. Other key specs are equally impressive: ISO settings to 12,800; Full HD 1080i video capture at 60 fps; an ultrafast AF speed of 0.15 sec; 10-fps continuous bursts; interval timer shooting; built-in Wi-Fi; HDR mode; 11 effects filters; and motion panorama 360 to record expansive views. $299.99. fujifilmusa.com
Kodak PixPro Astro Zoom AZ901. Unveiled at CES 2016 but not yet available, the AZ901 is worth a mention due to its full 90x optical zoom, 19.5–1,775mm lens. With its added 4x digital zoom capabilities, it has an incredible maximum super-telephoto range
of 7,020mm. Specs are still not confirmed, but it will feature image stabilization, 16MP image capture at resolutions up to 4,608×3,456, 5-fps shooting and Full HD 1,920×1,080 video recording. Built-in panorama capabilities make it easy to capture 360º spherical images. Pricing to be announced. kodakpixpro.com
Canon PowerShot SX420 IS. At a more economical price point than the SX540 HS, this sleek, stylish P&S has a 20MP, 1/2.3-inch sensor, a Digic 4 image processor and a 42x optical zoom, 24–1,008mm lens with an optical image stabilizer. It packs a 3-inch, 230K-dot, widescreen LCD into a compact, lightweight package and provides an impressive array of features. These include: the same intelligent IS system as its sibling; built-in Wi-Fi with NFC connectivity; HD 720p video capture with a
dedicated button; smart auto mode for set-it-and-forget-it photo and video capture; a range of shooting and scene modes, including creative effects filters; and eco mode, which helps provide a higher number of shots per battery charge. $299.99. usa.canon.com
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX90V. This slim camera delivers high-speed operation and excellent imaging performance by virtue of its 30x, 24–720mm f/3.5–6.4 Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens, 18.2MP, 1/2.3-inch Exmor R CMOS sensor and state-of-the-art Bionz X processor. It has a 638K-dot, pop-up OLED Tru-Finder EVF plus a 180º tilting 3-inch, 921K-dot LCD. It provides Full HD 1080p video capture in XAVC S or AVCHD
formats and incorporates 5-axis Optical SteadyShot hybrid image stabilization that works for both stills and video. Other features include: built-in Wi-Fi, NFC and GPS capabilities; a maximum burst rate of 10 fps for 10 frames; and a variety of adjustable dials and functions, including a customizable control ring. $430. sony.com
* All focal length ranges are 35mm equivalents.