Amidst the industry-wide hand-wringing over the contraction of the digital point-and-shoot camera market at the hands of the all-conquering smartphone, there is at least one class of noninterchangeable-lens cameras that seems to be holding its own, and even evolving in significance—long-range-zoom cameras.
Some of the latest models deliver staggering zoom ratios of 40x, 50x and even (gasp!) 60x—all the way from ultrawide to super telephoto. They’re the all-American family cameras often seen clicking away at theme parks, family events and major vacation destinations, and there’s no doubt that the latest models offer a fetching combination of convenience, versatility, real-world performance and competitive feature sets that can sometimes give mirrorless compact system cameras and digital SLRs a real run for the money.
Indeed, some are dead ringers for compact DSLRs or CSCs, and many provide high-res eye-level electronic viewfinders (EVFs) in addition to large, high-res LCDs and a host of sophisticated features. Other more compact models have retro styling that resembles the rangefinder 35s of yore, or have their own distinctive form factors.
Virtually all of them provide Full HD 1080p video capture, and many are available at enticing price points in the $200–$450 range, making them an attractive proposition for everyday shooters and excellent backup cameras for serious shooters who don’t want to tote a DSLR outfit.
While it’s true that most true super-zoom cameras provide moderate apertures in the f/5.6–6.7 range when they’re used at or near their maximum telephoto settings, there are exceptions, especially among the new models aimed at committed photo enthusiasts. Also, many of today’s top models include built-in image stabilization and deliver commendable imaging performance at high ISOs, so moderate apertures at the telephoto end pose less of a problem than in years past.
For many picture takers, regardless of their skill level, the optical flexibility of having a long-range zoom lens that does not require changing lenses fits in perfectly with a more casual shooting style, and that holds true even for serious shooters when they’re at a family gathering, sightseeing or simply out for a stroll.
Here’s our savvy selection of nine cool contemporary long-range point-and-shoot models from the leading camera manufacturers your customers are likely to be asking about in the New Year.
Fujifilm FinePix S1
Just announced, the FinePix S1 is said to be the world’s first weather-resistant super-zoom camera that’s sealed to provide extra protection against rain and dust. It features a 16 megapixel CMOS sensor and a bright 50x super-zoom (24–1200mm equivalent f/2.8–5.6) lens with ultrafast zoom speed and 2x intelligent digital zoom up to 100x. Its high-resolution, high-contrast vari-angle 3.0-inch LCD (920k dot) makes it easy to frame shots from any angle, and the 0.20-inch EVF (920k dot) is great for shooting in bright light or wherever viewing on the LCD is challenging. Plus, one-touch Wi-Fi connectivity lets users share its images to a smartphone or tablet that aren’t capable of the S1’s quality of capture. They can also operate the FinePix S1 remotely from those devices for unique picture-taking opportunities. Price: TBA. fujifilmusa.com
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ70
This sleek DSLR-style super-zoom “bridge camera” features a class-leading 60x Lumix Vario DC f/2.8–5.9 lens that provides an amazing 20–1200mm equivalent range and includes 2x digital zoom with Intelligent Resolution technology, which extends it to a staggering 120x. The FZ70 features: a 16.1 megapixel, 1/2.3-inch BSI MOS sensor; a 3.0-inch, 460k-dot LCD; and a 0.20-inch, 202k-dot electronic viewfinder. And it can capture Full HD 1080i AVCHD video at 60 fps with Dolby Digital Audio, as well as in the MP4 format for easy upload. Other key specs: one-touch movie record button; a built-in windshield zoom microphone; creative video mode; Power OIS (optical image stabilization) with active mode; creative controls like panorama and retouch; and iA (intelligent auto) mode and iA plus mode. It can shoot 3-frame bursts at 9 fps and up to 5 fps with single-shot AF. $329. panasonic.com
Samsung Galaxy Camera GC110
Svelte and stylish, this attractive camera packs a 21x optical zoom f/2.8–5.9, 23–483mm equivalent lens into its very compact (2.8×5.1×0.8-inch), lightweight (10.7-ounce) body. And its HD Super Clear Touch LCD is huge, measuring 4.8 inches diagonally! Other outstanding features of this fascinating high-tech camera include: an Android Jelly Bean 4.1 operating system that provides full wireless connectivity including Internet that lets uses employ voice commands and share images and videos from Wi-Fi hotspots; a 16.3MP, 1/2.3-inch BSI CMOS image sensor; optical image stabilization; Full HD 1,920×1,080p video capture at 30 fps; Bluetooth 4.0; a 1.4 GHz Quad-Core CPU; cloud photo backup; and HDMI output. It’s available in white or black. $449.99. samsung.com
Canon PowerShot SX50 HS
With an impressive equivalent focal length range covering 50x, from 24mm wide-angle to 1200mm super telephoto, a 12.1MP CMOS sensor and Canon’s high-tech Digic 5 image processor, this compact, ergonomically contoured DSLR-style camera is capable of delivering high-quality RAW and JPEG images. It also boasts a 202k-dot eye-level EVF as well as a 2.8-inch, 461k-dot vari-angle LCD to enhance viewing and shooting flexibility. Other key features include: built-in optical image stabilization; Full HD 1080p video capture with stereo sound; high-speed AF claimed to focus in 0.19 sec; high-speed burst HQ that provides a maximum framing rate of 13 fps; and a built-in hot shoe for external flash. It also offers a unique seek and lock feature for locating and tracking action subjects, and it includes smart auto mode and 12 color effects. $429.99. usa.canon.com
Leica V-Lux 4
This classically styled 12.1MP machine provides virtually full DSLR functionality in a compact, ergonomic form factor, and its high-performance 24x, 25–600mm equivalent Leica DC Vario-Elmarit zoom lens maintains its wide f/2.8 maximum aperture over the entire focal length range—a big plus when shooting at long focal lengths and in low light. Other key features include: RAW + JPEG file capture; a 3.0-inch, tilt/rotate LCD plus a high-res, 1.3m-dot EVF; dual zooming controls; Full HD 1080p recording in AVCHD and MP4 formats; a blistering 12-fps burst rate; and built-in panorama mode. It comes with a free Adobe Lightroom 4 download. $899. us.leica-camera.com
Resembling a scaled-down ultracompact version of a classic DSLR, the X-5 provides features to match, starting with a 26x, 22.3–580mm equivalent, f/3.1–5.9 megazoom lens with three aspheric elements, a 16MP CMOS image sensor, a 230k-dot EVF and a 3.0-inch, 460k-dot tilting LCD. Other key features include: Triple Shake Reduction technology; Full HD 1080p video recording at 30 fps; super macro mode focusing down to 1cm; auto picture mode; fast face detection; manual controls; and a micro-HDMI port for TV viewing. $229.95. ricoh-imaging.com
Olympus SP-820UZ iHS
With cool minimalist styling, a 40x, 22.4–896mm equivalent, f/3.4–5.7 lens and a 14MP iHS CMOS sensor coupled to a new TruePic V image processor, it’s definitely a top contender. Its advanced features include: a wide-angle 3.0-inch, 460k-dot LCD; Full HD 1080p video recording at 60 fps; dual image stabilization; multi-motion IS video stabilization; a full-res, 3-fps burst rate; handheld starlight, HDR adjustment and iAuto modes; plus 12 magic filter effects. $279.99. olympusamerica.com
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX300
This advanced SLR-style ultra-long-ranger sports a 50x, 24–1200mm equivalent Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* f/2.8–6.3 lens coupled to a 20.4MP back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS sensor and a Bionz image processor to deliver high performance, speed and shooting flexibility in a convenient all-in-one package. It provides a 3.0-inch, 921k-dot, tilting LCD, built-in SteadyShot Optical image stabilization and sensitivity settings expandable to ISO 12,800 for enhanced low-light performance. It can also shoot full-res bursts at 10 fps and captures Full HD 1080p AVCHD video at 60 and 30 fps with stereo sound. Other key features include: superior auto mode that automatically adjusts the exposure to capture sharp images of moving subjects; advanced flash, which extends the flash range when needed; intelligent sweep panorama for creating one-touch, 360º panoramic images; picture effects; background defocus; face detection; and full manual exposure control with PASM modes. $399.99. sony.com
Nikon Coolpix P520
It’s the top-of-the-line model in Nikon’s megazoom series, and its DSLR-like body houses a 24–1000mm equivalent, 42x optical zoom lens that handles virtually any shooting situation, and it can focus down to 0.39 inch in macro mode. The camera’s 18.1MP BSI CMOS sensor and built-in lens-shift VR image stabilization system let users capture crisp images handheld, even at long telephoto settings for capturing sports and wildlife images. Plus its built-in GPS automatically records the location of each shot. Users can compose and evaluate images using the 201k-dot, eye-level electronic viewfinder or the huge 3.2-inch, vari-angle 921k-dot LCD. Its comprehensive AF system offers 9-zone auto AF with selectable wide-angle, normal or spot coverage, face priority and a choice of 99 manual focus areas. In addition, subject tracking and target finding AF help users capture sharp action shots, even at the camera’s maximum burst rate of 7 fps. This versatile, all-in-one camera also shoots Full HD video and is compatible with Nikon’s wireless mobile adapter for transfer to a smartphone. $349.95. nikonusa.com