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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: Olympus STYLUS 1

Olympus STYLUS 1 review

 

Picking a super-zoom often involves compromises between body size, image quality and of course the all-important focal range. Some higher-end options additionally throw in the consideration of lens aperture as well. As such it's really important to think carefully about your priorities. Personally speaking while it's fun to have a massive telephoto lens at your disposal, I'd sooner sacrifice some reach for better image quality and a bright focal ratio. Sony's RX10 is an excellent choice, but I want something smaller, so my personal pick in this category is the Olympus STYLUS 1, which confidently strikes a very compelling balance of features.

With the STYLUS 1, Olympus has delivered an upmarket bridge camera that swaps the maximum possible zoom range for better image quality and a classier handling experience. The 1/1.7in sensor is slightly larger than the 1/2.3in sensors deployed in most super-zoom cameras, the 28-300mm / 10.7x zoom, while not the longest around, covers most situations and also sports a constant f2.8 aperture, and by inheriting the large detailed viewfinder, tilting touch-screen and control ethos of the OMD EM5, it feels more like using a mirrorless or DSLR camera than a typical bridge model. The Wifi also works very well, allowing you to remote control the camera along with wirelessly transferring images. Crucially, the STYLUS 1 is also very compact, and when testing it alongside Panasonic's FZ200 and Sony's RX10, I was regularly surprised at how much smaller it was. Unlike those two models, you really can squeeze the STYLUS 1 into a smaller coat pocket. A classy camera I can highly recommend.

Pros: Slim body, 28-300mm f2.8 zoom, tilting touchscreen, good EVF, Wifi.
Cons: Some may desire a bigger sensor or a longer zoom range.
Overall: A great balance between body size, image quality and lens range.






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: One of the best all-round super-zooms 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 SVGA 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 major 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 TZ60 / ZS40 review

 

The Lumix TZ60, or ZS40 as it's known in North America, is the latest version of Panasonic's eternally popular travel zoom series. Like Canon and Sony, the latest Lumix sports a long 30x zoom range, equivalent to 24-720mm, but unlike its rivals, Panasonic has amazingly managed to squeeze an electronic viewfinder into the corner. The view may be small and relatively low resolution, but it offers a useful alternative to composing with the screen in bright light or when you need maximum stability at the long zoom. The TZ60 / ZS40 also aims for a more demanding photographer with RAW, focus peaking and a customizable lens control ring, and there's also built-in Wifi, NFC and GPS. It may be larger than the earlier TZ40 / ZS30 and lack its touchscreen and built-in map, but the TZ60 / ZS40 takes a refreshing step-up to satisfy enthusiasts who want a pocketable super-zoom.

Pros: 30x zoom, viewfinder, Wifi, GPS, RAW files.
Cons: Chunkier than its predecessors and loses their touchscreens too.
Overall: A good choice if you want a 30x pocket superzoom with high-end features.





Canon SX700 HS review

 

At the top of Canon's 2014 compact super-zoom line-up, the PowerShot SX700 HS provides a big 30x zoom range in a compact body. Different people want different things from a travel zoom and the competition in this market segment is intense. Canon's approach is simple - provide the longest zoom in the most compact possible body at a price that undercuts the competition. Of course there are less expensive second tier models available from Sony and Panasonic, not to mention Canon itself, but Sony's HX50 lacks GPS and often costs more, and although the Lumix TZ55 / ZS35 is cheaper, it 'only' has a 20x zoom. Sure, there are things you wish the SX700 HS could do better; a panorama mode wouldn't go amiss, battery life is below par, remote shooting via Wifi is quite basic and it's time Canon updated its slow motion video offerings. But none of this got in the way of my enjoyment of the SX700 HS nor prevented me getting some great shots.

Pros: 30x stabilised zoom; 1080p video; Wifi with NFC; best quality of peer group.
Cons: No auto panoramas, no touchscreen, basic remote control via Wifi.
Overall: Out-featured by the Lumix TZ60 / ZS40, but better quality & cheaper.





Sony HX50V/ HX60V review

 

The Sony Cyber-shot HX60V is a mild refresh of last year's HX50V, the first compact to boast a 30x optical zoom, with 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 Panasonic, and strangely the miniature effect can't be applied to movies. I'd recommend comparing very closely with the Lumix TZ60 / ZS40 and Canon's SX700 HS, both of which also sport 30x zooms. Also look out for the older HX50V which is almost identical other than not having NFC and employing slightly less sophisticated stabilisation.

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




Sony HX400V review

 

Sony's Cyber-shot HX400V 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, electronic viewfinder, hotshoe for accessories and built-in Wifi with NFC, along with a GPS receiver for tagging images with your location; suffice it to say there's also Sony's famous iSweep Panorama mode which captures and assembles views of up to 360 degrees. Downsides? Not a lot apart from lacking a RAW mode which its rivals do. But by updating the earlier HX300 with Wifi, GPS and a hotshoe, Sony's ticked most of the boxes people are looking for in a modern super-zoom. Note an HX400 version (without the V) is also available in some regions - it's identical but lacks the GPS.

Pros: 50x zoom; 1080p; tilting screen; Wifi; GPS; hotshoe; auto panoramas.
Cons: No RAW recording; screen isn't touch-sensitive.
Overall: The latest HX big zoom is the best yet; there's little more you could ask for.




Panasonic TZ30 / ZS20 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 two years older than the latest TZ60 / ZS40 above, but remains a compelling alternative for a number of reasons. It sports a useful 20x zoom, similar manual control, 1080p HD video, a 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 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.


     
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