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Best superzoom camera

 

If you're shopping for a superzoom camera, you've come to the right place! At Camera Labs I write in-depth reviews of cameras but understand you're busy people who sometimes just want recommendations of the most outstanding products. So here I'll cut to the chase and list the best superzoom cameras around right now.

On this page you'll find the best superzoom cameras on the market today from pocket-sized models to those which resemble compact DSLRs from the outside but pack absolutely enormous zoom ranges within. Today's pocket superzooms offer 16 or 20x ranges, while the larger models boast anything from 24 to 50x. So if you're looking for a camera with a lens that'll get you from wide landscape, interior or group shots at one minute to extreme close-ups at the next, this is the guide for you!

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Gordon's favourite super-zoom camera right now: Panasonic Lumix ZS30 / TZ40

Panasonic ZS30 / TZ40 review

 

The super-zoom market is roughly split between DSLR-styled models with massive ranges and smaller versions with shorter ranges but bodies that can just about squeeze in a pocket. For me there's a standout model in each category and both come from Panasonic. Starting with the chunkier models, Canon's SX50 HS and Panasonic's own FZ70 / FZ72 may sport the longest zooms, but for me its the f2.8 constant aperture and classy feature-set of the Lumix FZ200 which wins out - although keep an eye on Sony's RX10 and the Olympus STYLUS 1. In the pocket camp Canon and Sony are doing great things, but Panasonic always seems one step ahead with its flagship travel zoom. No wonder the Lumix ZS30 / TZ40 is one of the best selling cameras around.

Panasonic's Lumix TZ40, or ZS30 as it's known in North America, is the company's flagship pocket super-zoom camera for 2013. It shares the same 20x optical range as its predecessor, not to mention the same manual control, 1080p HD video, touchscreen, 360 degree panoramas, and GPS with a database of over a million landmarks and on-screen mapping. So what's new? The optical stabilization has been improved, especially for video, the GPS is now more accurate in urban environments and the slow motion video options are much better. Most significantly the TZ40 / ZS30 gains Wifi allowing you to wirelessly copy images to smartphones, computers or direct to sharing services; you can also remote control the camera with your phone over Wifi, and if it has NFC, the TZ40 / ZS30 will connect to it with a mere touch. The boost in resolution to 18 Megapixels is a step too far though and the TZ40 / ZS30's image quality is the worst of its peer group when viewed up close. But few owners will be pixel-peeping and will instead revel in the control and handling. So long as you don't look too closely at the images it's Highly Recommended.

Pros: Broad 20x stabilized zoom, 1080p, GPS, Wifi, NFC, decent slow-mo movies.
Cons: Better photo quality on rival models if you like to look very closely.
Overall: One of the best overall pocket super-zooms, but not for pixel-peepers.






Highly recommended alternatives


Panasonic FZ200 review


 

The Lumix FZ200 is Panasonic's flagship super-zoom digital camera. It replaces the best-selling Lumix FZ150 and shares the same 24x optixal zoom range that's equivalent to 25-600mm. But crucially where its predecessor had a variable aperture of f2.8-5.2, the new model boasts nothing less than a constant aperture of f2.8 throughout the entire focal range. In another welcome move away from its rivals, Panasonic has also upgraded the resolution of the FZ200's electronic viewfinder from 201k pixels to 1312k dots; it's still small, but the detail is wonderful. Panasonic has also resisted the opportunity to increase the resolution, keeping it at a sensible 12 Megapixels while maintaining support for RAW files. In terms of other headline specifications the FZ200 inherits the 12fps continuous shooting rate and 1080/50p/60p movies of its predecessor along with its external microphone input, making it one of the most highly specified superzoom cameras on the market. There's no Wifi and I'd expect an updated version soon, so look out for bargains.

Pros: 24x with constant f2.8 aperture; RAW; 1080p movies; hotshoe; mic input.
Cons: 24x is a shorter range than rival models. No Wifi.
Overall: Arguably the best all-round super-zoom around for quality and features.



Sony RX10 review

 

Technically speaking the Sony Cyber-shot RX10 isn't really a super-zoom camera: with an 8.3x range, albeit in a useful 24-200mm equivalent, it falls short of the massive reach of other models here. But unlike most super-zoom cameras, Sony's trying something different here. First off, the 20 Megapixel 1in sensor comes from the RX100 II and is therefore four times larger than those in most rivals, allowing it to deliver lower noise at high ISOs. The lens also boasts a constant f2.8 focal ratio throughout the range, along with the choice of stepped or stepless aperture control. The latter is great for video, as are the inclusions of 1080 / 60p / 24p movies, manual exposure control, mic input, focus peaking, zebra patterns and more. The RX10 also sports a decent sized XGA OLED viewfinder, tilting 3in screen, Wifi, hotshoe with Sony's multi-interface contacts, and the budget DSLR-sized body is additionally weatherproof. Suddenly that 8.3x range doesn't seem so limited afterall. It's a pricier option, but one that's a class above the rest.

Pros: Large 1in sensor; constant f2.8 aperture; weather-sealed; Wifi; great EVF.
Cons: Screen isn't touch-sensitive; range shorter than rivals; relatively expensive.
Overall: A high-end option for those who demand the best photo & video quality.




Canon SX50 HS review

 


The Canon PowerShot SX50 HS is a 12 Megapixel super-zoom camera with a massive 50x optical range. It replaces the best-selling PowerShot SX40 IS and the big new feature is of course that 50x optical zoom range, beaten only by Panasonic's Lumix FZ70 / FZ72 at the time of writing. The 50x zoom delivers an equivalent range of 24-1200mm, taking you from respectably wide-angle coverage to super-telephoto close-ups; indeed it's amazing to think it's now more than double the range of rivals like the Panasonic FZ series. Something this long needs serious stabilization and Canon claims its improved system is good for 4.5 stops. And if you're into macro, don't worry, as the SX50 HS can focus down to zero cm - that's with the subject literally touching the front element. Round the back, Canon has kept the articulated screen, but upgraded the panel to 2.8in / 460k. The hotshoe also remains, as do the manual controls, but in a very welcome new feature the SX50 HS now offers RAW recording. Sadly there's no Wifi and I'd expect an upgraded version soon, but its age means there's bargains to be had.

Pros: 50x zoom; articulated screen; flash hotshoe; 1080p video; RAW
Cons: Lens becomes optically slow when zoomed-in. No mic input. No Wifi.
Overall: If you want one of the biggest zooms, look no further - and now with RAW!



Canon SX510 HS review

 


The PowerShot SX510 HS provides an unbeatable combination of massive 30x zoom range in a compact lightweight and affordable body. If you want a smaller camera, you'll normally need to make a compromise on zoom range and if you want a longer zoom range you'll be carrying a bigger, heavier camera. With PASM exposure modes, Creative filters, and Live Control, the SX510 HS caters for the needs of point-and-shoot casual snappers as well as more demanding photographers. The previous version's 16 Megapixel CCD has been swapped for a 12 Megapixel CMOS sensor here which not only delivers better performance in low light, but allows the SX510 HS to film Full HD 1080p video. Canon's also squeezed in Wifi for easy sharing of images. In a market packed with different super-zoom options, the SX510 HS is an affordable classy option with a decent feature-set.

Pros: 30x optical zoom and Wifi in a compact, lightweight and affordable body.
Cons: Average burst shooting. Some coloured fringing at extremes of zoom.
Overall: A compelling balance between compact size and big zoom range.





Panasonic ZS20 / TZ30 review

 


The Lumix TZ30, or ZS20 as it's known in North America, was Panasonic's flagship pocket super-zoom for 2012. It's therefore a year older than the latest TZ40 / ZS30 above, but remains a compelling alternative for a number of reasons. It shares the same 20x optical zoom range as the new model, not to mention the same manual control, 1080p HD video, touchscreen, 360 degree panoramas, and GPS with a database of over a million landmarks and on-screen mapping. It's lacking the Wifi / NFC capabilities of the new model, and the GPS, slow motion video and stabilisation aren't quite as good either, but if none of these matter to you, then the TZ30 / ZS20 represents a sensible choice. It is important to compare the prices closely though as supply and demand can mean there's often a minimal gap between the prices of a new and old model. But if you can find the TZ30 / ZS20 at a comfortably lower price than the TZ40 / ZS30, it's still well worth considering.

Pros: Broad 20x stabilized zoom, 1080p video, GPS.
Cons: Hard to handhold at 20x, especially for video.
Overall: A good option if you don't need Wifi & other upgrades on the latest model.





Panasonic ZS25 / TZ35 review

 

Panasonic's Lumix TZ35 / ZS25 is a simpler and more affordable version of the flagship TZ40 / ZS30 pocket super-zoom. It shares the same 20x optical zoom as its pricier sibling, but lacks many of its features. The screen is the same size, but isn't touch-sensitive and sports half the resolution (460k vs 920k dots); there's 1080 video, but it's interlaced not progressive and there's no slow motion option; there's no GPS, no Wifi and no NFC; there's fewer burst options with a maximum speed of 10fps at 3 Megapixels compared to the TZ40 / ZS30 which can shoot at 10fps at 18 Megapixels for six frames. It also has two fewer Megapixels, although that's no bad thing considering the TZ40 / ZS30's 18 Megapixels are a step too far for the sensor size. But the message remains the same as before: if you want a big zoom in a small package and don't need the frills, then the TZ35 / ZS25 will deliver it in a cheaper package than the flagship model. This sounds like a compelling sell for some, but they should also consider last year's flagship, the TZ30 / ZS20, above.

Pros: 16x stabilised zoom with 24mm; 1080i video.
Cons: Slow burst shooting; no GPS.
Overall: Ideal no-frills super-zoom with great quality.




Canon SX280 HS review

 

The PowerShot SX280 HS is Canon's pocket super-zoom for 2013. It shares the same 12 Megapixel resolution and 20x (25-500mm equivalent) range as its predecessor, the SX260 HS, along with essentially the same body, controls, screen and GPS. New to the SX280 HS though are built-in Wifi and Canon's latest DIGIC 6 processor which offers 1080p at 60fps and lower noise levels than before. The cheaper SX270 HS, available in some regions, is identical other than not having the GPS and Wifi capabilities. In my tests the SX280 HS delivered the best image quality of its rival 2013 super-zooms, but maybe not by the margin you were hoping for; Indeed if you don't pixel-peep you may not even notice it. It's also out-featured by the admittedly pricier Lumix TZ40 / ZS30. So you have to carefully think about their respective feature-sets and how closely you'll be looking at your images. But there's no denying the PowerShot SX280 HS is a good solid pocket super-zoom that should be on you shortlist; also consider its predecessor, below. PS - Canon appears to have fixed early issues with the battery life for movies. If you have a model where the battery icon flashes too soon, contact Canon for a firmware update.

Pros: 20x stabilised zoom; 1080p video; Wifi; GPS; best quality of peer group.
Cons: No auto panoramas, no touchscreen, no remote control via Wifi.
Overall: Out-featured by the Lumix TZ40 / ZS30, but better image quality & cheaper.



Canon SX260 HS review

 

Canon's pocket super-zoom for 2012 comes in two versions, the SX240 HS and SX260 HS, both identical other than the SX260 HS also featuring a built-in GPS to tag images with their location. The important specification of any super-zoom is of course the lens and the Canon is up there with its rivals with a 20x range that's equivalent to 25-500mm - and thankfully the stabilization is very effective. I'm also pleased to see Canon resisting the chance to increase the resolution of the sensor, instead sticking with a sensible 12 Megapixel CMOS chip with support for 1080p video. Better still, the 16:9 widescreen of its predecessor has been swapped back to a more useful 4:3 shape that's better for framing and viewing still photos. Overall a solid update, but compare closely with Panasonic's TZ30 / ZS20 above.

Pros: 20x stabilised zoom; 1080p video; sold in two versions with or without GPS.
Cons: Fiddly / noisy zoom motor; hard to handhold for video at 20x.
Overall: A solid pocket super-zoom, but compare closely with Panasonic TZ30 / ZS20.




Canon SX40 HS review

 

Canon's PowerShot SX40 HS takes the earlier SX30 IS with its whopping 35x optical zoom and switches the 14 Megapixel CCD for a 12 Megapixel CMOS sensor. In tests this really does allow the SX40 HS to enjoy lower noise levels than before although the JPEG image quality is roughly similar to the Panasonic FZ150. The CMOS sensor also allows the SX40 HS to support 1080p video at 24p, a pair of slow motion modes at 120 and 240fps, and fast continuous shooting bursts of eight frames at 10.3fps. The screen is fairly average at just 2.7in / 230k and the SX40 HS is also looking out-featured by the Panasonic FZ150 and FZ200, but there's no denying the draw of a 35x optical zoom range which is equivalent to 24-840mm. If having an enormous zoom range is important to you, then it's a great choice, but again do compare closely with the Panasonic FZ150 and FZ200. Fans of mega zooms should also check out Canon's latest SX50 HS with nothing less than a 50x optical zoom. The arrival of the SX50 HS should also see prices on the SX40 HS fall, so keep an eye open for bargains.

Pros: 35x zoom; articulated screen; flash hotshoe; 1080p video.
Cons: No RAW recording; average screen.
Overall: A great choice for those who value big zoom ranges.





Sony HX50V review

 

The Sony Cyber-shot HX50V is the World's smallest and lightest compact camera with a 30x optical zoom range, boasting a 24-720mm equivalent range. It also features a 20 Megapixel CMOS sensor, 3in screen, full manual control (if desired), 1080p movies, 10fps continuous shooting, built-in Wifi and GPS (on the V version), and a hotshoe for accessories including an EVF, flash or external microphone. This makes it one of the most feature-packed pocket super-zooms to date, but there's a few downsides to be aware of including a screen that's hard to see in bright conditions, basic Wifi compared to models like Panasonic's TZ40 / ZS30, and strangely the miniature effect can't be applied to movies. I'd recommend comparing very closely with the Lumix TZ40 / ZS30 and Canon's SX280 HS, which is exactly what we've done in our HX50V review. But there's no denying the draw of its unique selling point: a 30x zoom in a pocketable body.

Pros: 30x zoom in pocket body; Wifi and GPS in V version; 10fps shooting.
Cons: Screen hard to see in sunlight; basic Wifi features; no miniature effect for video.
Overall: Ideal if you want the biggest zoom in the smallest body.




Sony HX300 review

 

Sony's Cyber-shot HX300 is a DSLR-styled super-zoom camera with a whopping 50x range, equivalent to 24-1200mm. This delivers enormous flexibility taking you from wide angle to super-telephoto in a few seconds. Images are recorded in 20 Megapixel resolution, there's 1080/50/60p video, a 3in tilting screen and electronic viewfinder, not to mention Sony's various tricks like the iSweep Panorama mode which captures and assembles views of up to 360 degrees. Downsides? Well unlike the Canon SX50 HS which shares the same range, there's no hotshoe or RAW recording. There's no Wifi or GPS either, but it's a good all-round super-zoom with some neat tricks. Do compare closely with Canon's SX50 HS though, which we have in our review!

Pros: 50x zoom; 1080p; tilting screen; auto panoramas.
Cons: No RAW or hotshoe; no Wifi or GPS.
Overall: A good all-rounder with a massive range, but compare with Canon SX50.

     
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