Ultra-zoom point-and-shoot cameras remain an attractive option for many consumers because they provide unmatched versatility and value. And their compact, portable packages appeal to a broad spectrum of users from casual shooters to serious enthusiasts.
The most sophisticated models have full feature sets that include Wi-Fi, NFC (near field communication) and/or Bluetooth connectivity for seamless wireless transfers. They also offer 4K UHD or Full HD 1080p video capability, advanced AF and AE systems, and built-in multiaxial image stabilization (IS) systems. Add to that high-res LCDs, tilting touch screens and high-res electronic viewfinders (EVFs).
Most are responsive, easy to use and deliver impressive imaging performance, even at high ISOs. Some provide really long zoom ratios—up to an astonishing 83x—and rapid burst rates of 5–10 frames per sec (fps) and beyond.
Others with 20–25x zoom lenses have large sensors that deliver DSLR-level image quality. Indeed, many of the cameras on our list can give DSLRs and mirrorless models a run for the money. Some look and feel like compact DSLRs while others are slim enough to fit into a pocket. In addition, all deliver a fulfilling shooting experience along with impressive real-world performance.
While the number of manufacturers competing in the ultra-zoom P&S category has dwindled a bit over the past two years or so, it’s noteworthy that some of the cameras detailed here have 1-inch image sensors in lieu of the once nearly universal 1/2.3-inch sensors. And they provide 4K UHD video capture at 30 fps or higher.
These trends indicate that the target market for ultra-zoom P&S cameras is becoming more sophisticated and manufacturers are responding with cameras offering higher image quality along with greater creative control over depth of field. That’s why any of the cameras detailed here can provide an excellent complement to an enthusiast’s DSLR or mirrorless system.
Medium-Long-Range Cameras with Large Sensors
Canon PowerShot G3 X
This rugged-looking member of Canon’s acclaimed, high-performance G series has traditional ring, wheel and dial controls. It boasts a 1-inch, 20.2 megapixel High Sensitivity CMOS sensor coupled to the latest Digic 6 image processor. This high-tech combo delivers sensitivities to ISO 12,800, a maximum full-res burst rate of 5.9 fps, and Full HD 1080p video capture at 60 fps.
Its impressive 25x optical zoom, 24–600mm f/2.8–5.6* lens provides seamless telephoto shooting and has built-in optical IS to minimize the effects of camera shake. In addition, the lens’s 9-blade aperture diaphragm produces pleasing circular background blur. During video recording, Canon’s Micro USM II drives the high-speed, silent zoom with smooth focusing to aid in producing pro-quality video. Other features include: a 3.2-inch, 1.62M-dot, tilting, touch-screen LCD; high-speed 31-point AF; an HDMI port; and one-button sharing with Wi-Fi connectivity plus NFC. $899.99. usa.canon.com
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ2500
Assertively styled as a “downsized DSLR,” this new long-range compact features a 1-inch, 20.1MP High Sensitivity MOS sensor. It employs a 20x Leica DC Vario-Elmarit 24–600mm f/2.8–4.5 zoom lens (4:3). Its built-in ND filters enable users to set four ND levels. The hybrid photo/video lens also uses an internal guide-pole mechanism designed to provide smooth, stable zooming and suppressed image shift. Iris control is achieved with a 9-blade diaphragm and a pro-caliber galvanometer-type actuator.
The FZ2500 captures 4K DCI video (4,096×2,160) at 24 fps, 4K UHD (3,840×2,160) at up to 30 fps, and Full HD video at 200 or 100 Mbps. Video can be downloaded during recording via an optional micro HDMI cable. In addition, a contrast-based AF system uses DFD (Depth from Defocus) technology. This enables 0.09-sec AF speeds and 12-fps bursts (in AFS mode) for a maximum of 100 JPEG/30 RAW images.
Its OLED LVF (live viewfinder) displays images at 2.36M-dot resolution. The LVF is complemented by a swiveling, 3-inch, 1.04M-dot touch-control monitor. Wi-Fi connectivity is built in. $1,199.99. panasonic.com
Ultra-Zoom, Long-Range Cameras
Nikon Coolpix P900
This smartly styled, all-in-one model still stands at the pinnacle of its class. It provides an astonishing 83x optical zoom ratio thanks to its 24–2,000mm f/2.8–6.5 Zoom-Nikkor Super ED VR lens. The lens offers built-in dual-detect optical VR that provides a 5-stop advantage in minimizing the effects of camera shake. If that’s not enough, the P900 offers 166x dynamic fine zoom and 332x digital zoom, effectively quadrupling the optical zoom range.
To keep the subject in sight while zooming in, users can press the snap-back zoom button for a quick zoomed-out view. Once they find the subject, they can release the button and the P900 will zoom right back in. Additional high-tech niceties are a 3-inch, 921K-dot, vari-angle LCD and an eye-level EVF, plus a 1/2.3-inch 16MP CMOS sensor.
The camera captures Full HD 1080p video at 60 fps and shoots full-res stills at 7 fps. Other features include: built-in Wi-Fi and NFC; GPS; full auto and manual exposure control; and sensitivity settings up to ISO 12,800 in extended mode. $599.95. nikonusa.com
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H400
This understated, ergonomic, DSLR-style compact has an extended-range, Sony f/3.4–6.5, 63x optical zoom lens. The lens boasts a remarkable 24.5–1,550mm focal length range for true imaging versatility. The entry-level camera incorporates a 1/2.3-inch, 20.1 megapixel Super HAD CCD sensor coupled to a Bionz R processor for excellent responsiveness and image detail.
In addition, it provides Optical SteadyShot IS to minimize the effects of camera shake at long focal lengths and close focusing distances. Other key features include: a 3-inch, 460K-dot Clear Photo LCD; a 210K-dot EVF; ISO settings of 80–3,200; 720p HD video capture at 30 fps; intelligent auto mode; 360º sweep panorama mode; face detection, smile shutter, picture effect and party modes; and a dedicated movie button. $269.99. sony.com
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ80
Expected by mid-March, this cleanly styled, all-in-one P&S combines an ultra-long-zoom 60x Lumix DC Vario 20–1,200mm f/2.8–5.9 ultrawide-angle lens. The camera’s impressive multimedia capabilities include 4K UHD video recording at 30 fps, a 10-fps full-res still burst rate and 8MP still image grabs at up to 30 fps in 4K photo mode. The FZ80 achieves an AF speed of 0.09 sec, and this benefit increases as the focal length grows.
Other key features include an 18.1MP, 1/2.3-inch High Sensitivity MOS sensor; a 1,170K-dot, eye-level EVF; a 3.0-inch, 1,040K-dot, touch-screen LCD monitor; a DFD autofocus system to enhance continuous AF and tracking performance; post focus and focus stacking to shift focus points for enhanced control over depth of field; and Power OIS with active mode to minimize the effects of camera shake even during video recording. The FZ80 also provides built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, a built-in pop-up flash and a hot shoe. $399.99. panasonic.com
Nikon Coolpix B700
This sleek, brand-new high-spec DSLR-type entry features a 20.2MP, 1/2.3-inch BSI CMOS sensor. Its 60x, 24–1,440mm f/3.3–6.5 Zoom-Nikkor ED glass lens employs five ED glass elements for enhanced definition. Furthermore, Nikon’s dynamic fine zoom function, an enhanced digital zoom, effectively doubles that reach for a whopping 120x zoom without loss of image quality. The B700’s advanced sensor and image processor deliver a continuous full-res RAW burst rate of 5 fps, 4K UHD video capture at 30 fps and sensitivities up to ISO 3200 to facilitate low-light work.
Complementing this is a combined dual-detect, 5-axis optical as well as digital image stabilization system that minimizes the effects of camera shake. Nikon’s SnapBridge with built-in Wi-Fi, NFC plus BLE (Bluetooth low energy) assures connectivity for image storing and sharing.
The B700 also incorporates a high-resolution, eye-level EVF plus a 3-inch, 921K-dot, variable-angle LCD. Other features are: RAW image capture; a PASM mode dial; a full range of creative mode options; an HDMI port; and also an ergonomic form factor with a large grip for enhanced shooting stability. $449.95. nikonusa.com
Long-Range, All-in-One Cameras
Canon PowerShot SX540 HS
This handsome, 50x ultra-zoom P&S was enhanced with a 20.3MP, 1/2.3-inch High Sensitivity (HS) CMOS sensor and the latest Digic 6 processor. The camera, which provides a very impressive 24–1,200mm focal length range, delivers notable improvements in image quality and responsiveness. In addition, an improved zoom framing-assist function helps make capturing faraway subjects easier with a “lock” feature. Hold the button and the camera zooms out to include a wider view to more easily locate moving subjects; release the button and the lens returns to its original zoom position, keeping the subject in focus.
The SX540 captures Full HD 1080p video at 60/30 fps as well as shoots full-res bursts at 5.9 fps. Sensitivity settings extend to ISO 3,200 for low-light performance. Other features include: a 3-inch, 461K-dot touch-screen LCD; intelligent IS with panning IS, macro (hybrid) IS and active tripod IS settings; and a hybrid auto mode that records four seconds of video prior to taking a still photo, then automatically combines the still and video imagery into a short video recap. $399.99. usa.canon.com
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX500
This sleek compact sports a 1/2.3-inch, 18.2MP Exmor R CMOS sensor paired with Sony’s latest Bionz X image processor. As a result, they produce impressive responsiveness and sensitivity settings from ISO 80–12,800. Additionally, its 30x optical zoom Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens provides a focal length range of 24–720mm (up to 60x with digital zoom) and multilayer, antireflective coatings. It also incorporates 5-axis Optical SteadyShot hybrid IS to minimize the effects of handheld camera shake in both stills and videos.
The WX500 also supports Full HD 1080p video capture at 60p and 24p in AVCHD and XAVC S formats. Other features include: a 3-inch, 921K-dot, tilting LCD for selfie taking; PASM modes; built-in Wi-Fi as well as NFC connectivity; and included Sony PlayMemories apps that let shooters use a smartphone as a remote control and viewer—and to transfer content for sharing via social media. $349.99. sony.com
*Focal length ranges are in 35mm equivalents.