There’s a simple rebuttal to any doomsayer who claims that point-and-shoot cameras are an endangered species: long-range or ultrazoom compact cameras.
The latest models in this enticing class have everything but interchangeable lenses. Their features include Wi-Fi and NFC (Near Field Communication) connectivity, Full HD 1080p video capability, advanced AF and AE systems, high-res LCDs and, in some cases, electronic viewfinders (EVFs).
On the whole, the latest ultrazooms are fast, responsive, satisfying to use and deliver impressive imaging performance, even at high ISOs. And many of the current models provide zoom ratios up to an astonishing 60x, rapid burst rates and much more. Performance- and feature-wise, these cameras give DSLRs and compact system cameras a run for the money—often with lighter, more compact bodies and at very competitive prices.
In short, these models deliver many of the advantages of point and shoots, interchangeable-lens DSLRs and CSCs in attractively priced, all-in-one packages.
A Segmented Long-Zoom Market
While there is no ironclad definition of a long-range or ultrazoom camera, it’s clear this category has evolved into three segments. 1: So-called bridge cameras with wide-to-telephoto zoom lenses in the 30x–60x range, DSLR-like form factors, and features that may include an articulated LCD and an eye-level EVF. 2: Slim ultracompact models with 24x–30x zoom ranges, possibly a touch-screen LCD and no EVF. 3: An emerging category of compact, high-tech models with zoom ratios of 21x–30x and advanced features such as Wi-Fi connectivity and accessory EVFs.
Some of the cameras in category 1 provide a DSLR-like handling and shooting experience, albeit without interchangeable lenses. Cameras in categories 2 and 3 provide a mix of classic P&S convenience with vastly enhanced versatility.
In keeping with the trend toward longer zoom ratios, we’ve limited our list to models with 24x zoom ratios and higher. Any of the cool, contemporary models detailed here can provide an excellent backup to an enthusiast’s DSLR, a great all-round picture taker for people on the go, or a great option for serious shooters who want to travel light. Those are just some of the reasons savvy dealers should put these flexible long rangers near the top of their promotional priority lists.
Long-Range Zoom Camera Roundup
Canon PowerShot SX50 HS. It looks like a downsized version of a sleek, modern DSLR, and it provides impressive performance and versatility with a 50x, 24–1200mm* f/3.4–6.5 zoom lens, a 12.1MP CMOS sensor and a Digic 5 image processor. Users can view the image on its 2.8-inch, vari-angle, 461k-dot LCD or in the 202k-dot, eye-level EVF. It can shoot in RAW and JPEG formats and at up to 13 fps. Other features include: smart auto mode; face ID; optical IS; high-speed 0.19-sec autofocus; Full HD 1080p video recording with stereo sound at 24 fps; 12 color effects; and a built-in hot shoe. $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. Its 24x, 25–600mm 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 in low light or capturing pictorial effects using limited depth of field. Other key features include: RAW plus JPEG file capture; a 3.0-inch, tilt/rotate LCD plus a high-res, 1.3-million-dot EVF; dual zooming controls; Full HD 1080p AVCHD or MP4 video recording; 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
Nikon Coolpix P600. With its striking appearance and ergonomically rounded contours, including a large, comfortable handgrip, this 16.1MP DSLR-styled entry has all the bells and whistles. Most notable is its 60x, 24–1440mm f/3.3–6.5 Nikkor super ED VR lens with lens-shift vibration-reduction image stabilization that gets out to an amazing 120x using a digital dynamic fine zoom function. Other high-tech features include: a 3.0-inch, vari-angle, 921k-dot TFT-LCD with six brightness levels; an eye-level EVF; Full HD 1080p video capture at 60i with stereo sound; built-in Wi-Fi for easy image sharing; and full auto and manual exposure control. It can shoot bursts at up to seven fps. It’s available in red or black. $449.95. nikonusa.com
Canon PowerShot SX700 HS. This sleek, new 16.1MP long ranger packs a 30x, 25–700mm f/3.2–6.9 zoom lens and a 3.0-inch, 922k-dot LCD into a 4.4×2.6×1.4-inch, 9.5-ounce package. Its impressive feature array includes Canon’s latest Digic 6 image processor, built-in Wi-Fi/NFC connectivity, Full HD 1080p/60-fps video recording, an 8.5-fps burst rate, smart auto mode with 58 predefined scene modes, and creative shot mode. Its zoom framing assist function provides automatic tracking, allowing users to zoom in on subjects without losing track of them and to keep the subject the same size in the frame as it moves. Plus, hybrid auto mode automatically combines videos and stills to create highlight reels. A mobile device button immediately connects the camera to a smartphone for sharing. It comes in red or black. $349.99. usa.canon.com
Samsung Smart WB2200F. Samsung’s recently announced, 60x ultrazoom breaks new ground in providing a 20–1200mm f/2.8–5.9 lens—the first with ultra-wide-angle focal lengths of an incredible 20mm equivalent! The lens has Samsung’s iFunction control to adjust aperture, shutter speed, EV and ISOs from the lens. The camera also delivers a full complement of features, including: a 16.4MP BSI CMOS sensor; a 3.0-inch hVGA LCD plus a 200k-dot EVF; Full HD 1080p video capture at 30 fps; and an ergonomic dual grip. Its built-in Wi-Fi/NFC system provides Tag & Go one-touch sync to a compatible mobile device by touching them together. This connectivity enables the Photo Beam feature to send photos directly to a phone and the Auto Share feature to back them up in real time. The Remote Viewfinder function lets users control the WB2200F with a smartphone—great for shooting selfies and group shots. $449.99. samsung.com
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX400V. The flagship of Sony’s ultrazoom lineup, this curvaceous DSLR-styled camera boasts a 20.4MP, 1/2.3-inch Exmor R CMOS sensor and Bionz X image processor. Also of note is a 50x, 24–1200mm f/2.8–6.3 Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens with a 100x clear image zoom function, and its 3.0-inch, 921k-dot LCD monitor is complemented by an eye-level EVF. It can shoot continuous full-res bursts at 10 fps as well as record Full HD 1080p 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. $479.99. sony.com
Nikon Coolpix S9700. Commendably svelte for a 30x ultrazoom, the 16MP S9700 sports a 25–750mm f/3.7–6.4 Nikkor ED VR lens with vibration-reduction IS and digital dynamic fine zoom that extends its reach to 60x. It can capture Full HD 1080p video at 30p, 60i or 50i, has a 3.0-inch, 921k-dot OLED monitor and provides built-in Wi-Fi connectivity as well as GPS, an electronic compass and a points-of-interest function. Other key features include: Nikon’s smart portrait system with in-camera red-eye fix, face-priority AF and AE; easy panorama mode; smile mode; and a burst rate of 6.9 fps for five frames. It works with Nikon’s mobile app to enable immediate image review on a smartphone and instant sharing. It’s offered in red or black. $329.95. nikonusa.com
Olympus Stylus SH-1. Styled in the retro-inspired Olympus PEN tradition, this attractively slim, 16MP compact employs a 24x, 25–600mm f/3.0–6.9 lens that’s coupled to the latest TruePic VII image processor. It also provides 5-axis sensor-shift image stabilization for capturing sharp handheld images and Full HD 1080p video at 60 fps. It also boasts a 3.0-inch, 460k-dot, touch-screen LCD monitor and built–in Wi-Fi connectivity with remote camera control and viewing on a smartphone via the Olympus Image Share app. Other key features are: ISO settings to 6400; a blazing burst rate of 11.5 fps; interval shooting; a time-lapse movie setting; backlight HDR, handheld starlight and panorama modes; art filters; AF tracking; and a built-in electronic level gauge to ensure level horizons and plumb verticals when composing. It comes in black or silver. $399.99. olympusamerica.com
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS40. This svelte, minimalist 18.1MP machine packs a lot of punch into a compact package, including a 30x, 24–720mm f/3.3–6.4 Leica DC Vario-Elmar zoom lens coupled to an advanced Venus Engine image processor. It’s one of the few cameras in the compact ultrazoom class to have both a 3.0-inch, 920k-dot LCD monitor and a 0.2-inch, 200k-dot live viewfinder with 100% coverage, which can be set to provide a 60-fps refresh rate. Other impressive specs include: Full HD 1080p video recording at 60 fps; ISOs to 6400; a fast 10-fps burst rate; a control ring; RAW shooting; focus peaking; built-in Wi-Fi/NFC connectivity; GPS; Hybrid OIS to ensure sharp handheld images and videos; and a level shot function to keep the image level while recording video, even when the camera is tilted. $399.95. panasonic.com
Fujifilm FinePix S1. Sporting contemporary DSLR styling and an ergonomic handgrip, Fujifilm’s S1 is a compact, dust- and weather-resistant 16.4MP ultrazoom that incorporates a 50x, 24–1200mm f/2.8–5.6 lens. Unlike many of its competitors, it employs 5-axis optical image stabilization and can capture RAW and JPEG images. And it offers both a 3.0-inch, 920k-dot, vari-angle LCD monitor and a 0.2-inch, 920k-dot EVF. Its other specs are equally impressive: Full HD 1080p video capture at 60 fps; a claimed AF speed of 0.14 sec and a shooting interval time of 0.65 sec; a 10-fps continuous burst; super-macro mode; built-in, one-touch Wi-Fi connectivity for instant connection, remote viewing and firing using the Fujifilm Camera Remote app; an intervalometer for time-lapse shooting; motion panorama; custom settings; and creative filters. $499.95. fujifilmusa.com
*All focal lengths are 35mm equivalents.