While the overall point-and-shoot compact camera market continues to shrink, long-zoom P&S cameras remain an attractive option. They provide unmatched, all-in-one versatility and value that appeal to a broad spectrum of consumers ranging from casual shooters to enthusiasts.
The most sophisticated ultra-zoom models have full feature sets. They include Wi-Fi as well as NFC (Near Field Communication) connectivity, UHD 4K or Full HD 1080p video capability, advanced autofocus (AF) and autoexposure (AE) systems, and built-in, multi-axis image stabilization (IS) systems. They also provide high-res LCDs that are often able to tilt or swivel and can provide touch capabilities, as well as electronic viewfinders (EVFs).
In general, they’re responsive, satisfying to use and deliver impressive imaging performance, even at high ISOs. Many of the latest long-zoom models also have rapid burst rates of 5–10 frames per second (fps).
But what makes the category really appealing is that these cameras can boast really long zoom ratios—up to an astonishing 83x. In terms of real-world performance, features and convenience, these attractive cameras give DSLRs and mirrorless models a run for the money. Some even have the form factor and feel of compact DSLRs, while others are slim and svelte enough to fit in a pocket.
The number of manufacturers competing in the long-zoom point-and-shoot space has decreased somewhat over the past year or so. Samsung has left the camera market and Olympus and Fujifilm are discontinuing their ultra-zoom compacts to concentrate on the rapidly expanding mirrorless sector. However, it’s notable that four out of the eight cameras detailed here have 1-inch image sensors in lieu of the once nearly universal 1/2.3-inch sensors. And three of the models record UHD 4K video at 30 fps or higher.
These are clear signs that the target audience for long-zooms is becoming more sophisticated—and manufacturers are responding with cameras capable of higher image quality, especially in low light, as well as greater image control, particularly over creative use of depth of field.
Any of the contemporary new models here can also provide an excellent backup to an enthusiast’s DSLR or mirrorless system. They’re great all-around picture takers for people on the go and attractive alternatives for serious shooters who want to travel light.
Long-Zoom P&S Roundup
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ2500
Assertively styled in “downsized DSLR” fashion, this new long-range P&S features a 1-inch, 20.1 megapixel High Sensitivity MOS sensor. It employs a 20x, Leica DC Vario-Elmarit 26–520mm* f/2.8–4.5 zoom lens (4:3). And built-in ND filters let users set four ND levels. The hybrid photo/video lens 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 DCI 4K 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.
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. A free-angle, 3-inch, 1.04M-dot touch-control monitor complements it. Wi-Fi connectivity is built in. $1,199.99. panasonic.com
Nikon’s premium, long-zoom compact has a DSLR-like form factor housing a 1-inch, 20.8MP CX-format (13.2×8.8mm), backside-illuminated CMOS sensor. The same size sensor as that used by Nikon 1-series mirrorless cameras, it integrates with an advanced Expeed 6A processor.
The camera’s 21x, Zoom-Nikkor f/2.8–5.6 lens provides a 24–500mm focal length range. The lens includes vibration reduction (VR) IS with blur-reducing dual detect optical VR and sport VR modes. It’s constructed with aspherical, extra-low dispersion and HRI glass elements to minimize aberrations, while a fluorine coating repels dust and moisture.
Specs include a 171-point hybrid AF system with contrast- and phase-detection points, as well as a maximum sensitivity setting of ISO 12,800. It also boasts blistering, full-res bursts of 60 fps in fixed focus mode and 20 fps with AF, as well as 4K UHD movie recording. Other features include: a 0.4-inch, 236M-dot OLED EVF; a 3-inch, 104M-dot, vari-angle OLED touch screen; and built-in SnapBridge with Wi-Fi/NFC/Bluetooth connectivity. $999.95. nikonusa.com
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX500
This sleek, slim-line compact sports a 1/2.3-inch, 18.2MP Exmor R CMOS sensor coupled to an advanced Bionz X image processor. They produce impressive responsiveness and sensitivity settings from ISO 80–12,800.
The 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 image stabilization 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 easy selfie taking; PASM modes; built-in Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity; and included Sony PlayMemories apps that let shooters use a smartphone as a remote control and viewer—and transfer content for sharing via social media. $349.99. sony.com
Canon PowerShot G3 X
This rugged-looking member of Canon’s acclaimed, high-performance G series has traditional ring, wheel and dial controls. It incorporates a 1-inch, 20.2MP High Sensitivity CMOS sensor coupled to the latest Digic 6 image processor. This high-tech combo delivers sensitivities to ISO 12,800, a max 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. And the lens’s 9-blade aperture diaphragm produces 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 output port; and one-button sharing with built-in Wi-Fi connectivity and NFC. $899.99. usa.canon.com
Leica V-Lux (Typ 114)
This is the latest iteration in Leica’s hefty, ergonomically contoured V-Lux series of advanced, all-in-one cameras. The DSLR-styled beauty sports a 1-inch, 20MP MOS sensor and a fast, 16x zoom, Leica DC Vario-Elmarit 25–400mm f/2.8–4.0 Asph lens. Optical IS helps combat camera shake to produce sharper images, and 4x digital zoom and 32x intelligent zoom provide users with an extended focal range.
Viewing and image evaluation are handled by a rotate-and-tilt, 3-inch, 921K-dot LCD and a large, 0.39-inch, 2.36M-dot OLED EVF.
Other features include: a max native ISO setting of 12,500, extendable to 25,000; 4K UHD video capture; framing rates up to 50 fps using the electronic shutter; and built-in Wi-Fi and NFC to provide instant image sharing and remote control using the Image Shuttle app. $1,195. us.leica-camera.com
Nikon Coolpix P900
This crisply styled, all-in-one compact 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 long-zoom P900 offers 166x dynamic fine zoom and 332x digital zoom, effectively quadrupling the optical zoom range. And 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 again, 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 as well as 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, NFC and 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 P&S has an extended-range, Sony f/3.4–6.5, 63x optical zoom lens. The lens provides a remarkable 24.5–1,550mm focal length range.
The entry-level, long-zoom camera incorporates a 1/2.3-inch, 20.1 megapixel Super HAD CCD sensor coupled to a Bionz R process for excellent responsiveness and image detail. It also provides Optical SteadyShot IS to minimize the effects of camera shake at long focal lengths and close focusing distances.
Key features also include: a 3-inch, 460K-dot Clear Photo LCD; a 0.2-inch, 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
Canon PowerShot SX540 HS
This handsome, 50x long-zoom compact was upgraded with a 20.3MP, 1/2.3-inch High Sensitivity (HS) CMOS sensor as well as an advanced 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, its 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 and shoots full-res bursts at 5.9 fps. Sensitivity settings top out at ISO 3,200 for low-light shooting. Furthermore, a 3-inch, 461K-dot, touch LCD lets shooters compose, navigate menus and review images and videos. Features also include: 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
* All focal length ranges are given in 35mm equivalents unless other noted.