How To Choose A Long-Range-Zoom Point-And-Shoot Camera

These all-in-one cameras are the hot ticket for family photographers, enthusiasts, and folks on the go. Here’s how to pick the one that shoots your needs and shooting style.


What’s a point-and-shoot (P&S) camera, you ask? Basically this large and diversified category includes any digital camera that doesn’t have interchangeable lenses. In other words, if a digital camera isn’t a DSLR or a Compact System Camera (CSC) with interchangeable lenses it’s a point-and-shoot.

As a generic category point-and-shoots are facing a serious challenge from the ubiquitous smart phones, many of which can take pretty good pictures these days. However, there’s one very popular class of point-and-shoots that’s rapidly expanding and evolving because it offers an unbeatable combination of convenience, versatility, and performance—long-range-zoom cameras. Also known as ultra-zooms, bridge cameras, or all-in-one compact cameras, many of the latest models provide a shooting experience and performance parameters akin to a DSLR.

Indeed there’s been a recent explosion of ultra-long-zoom P&S cameras with zoom ranges from 30X to a staggering 63X that have actually morphed into machines that provide virtually complete DSLR functionality and form factors, albeit with built-in ultra-wide-angle—to-super-telephoto zoom lenses in lieu of interchangeable lenses. Relatively compact, lightweight, and typically more affordable than DSLRs and compact interchangeable lenses system cameras (CSCs or ILCs) with larger sensors, many provide hi-res EVFs, and comprehensive feature sets including Full HD 1080p video at a range of framing speeds, plus the latest must-haves, GPS to literally put your pictures on the map and Wi-Fi connectivity to upload images seamlessly to smart phones and social media.

All of these ultra-long-rangers are great for shooting wildlife, birds, and sports at the long telephoto end of their zoom ranges. However, if you do a lot of indoor shooting or want to capture expansive scenic vistas on your next vacation make sure that the wide-angle end of the zoom is equivalent 28mm or less so you’ll get the coverage you need. If you take lots of portraits, take a close look at models that provide a constant wide aperture (such as f/2.8) over the entire zoom range so you can create beautiful pictorial effects using shallow depth of field.

There’s another enticing class of long-range-zoom cameras having lenses with less reach, but still impressively long zoom ranges, that provide ample shooting versatility for travel and vacation shooting. Ideal for folks on the go that want to travel light, their sleek, slim bodies will typically slide easily into a jacket pocket or handbag. These ultra-compact, stylish long-range zoom cameras provide zoom lenses in the 12X-21X-range and several exciting new models have just been released.

Features to look for in all types of long-range-zoom P&S cameras include: Built-in optical or hybrid image stabilization (IS) to assure sharp shake-free images at long telephoto settings and in low light; hi-res LCD and (where applicable) electronic viewfinder (EVF) for precise composition and image evaluation; Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity for easy image upload and sharing; Full HD 1080p video capture, preferably with a range of framing rates; Face Detection (the more faces the better); a wide range of creative modes and effects; Smart Mode, Easy Mode or Auto Scene selection, which makes it easy for novices and casual shooters to get excellent results automatically.



A sumptuous selection of cool new long-range P&S cameras



Fujifilm FinePix S

This attractive new 50X ultra-long-ranger covers an equivalent focal length range of 24-1200mm and incorporates a 16.4MP 1/2.3” CMOS sensor, a 3.0-inch 920l-dor Vari-Angle LCD monitor, and a 0.2-inch 920k-dot electronic viewfinder (EVF). Built into its sleek dust and weather-resistant body with 70 seals: 5-axis image stabilization (IS), Wi-Fi connectivity, and Full HD 1080p video recording capability at 60 fps. It can even shoot full-res images at a burst rate of up to 10 fps, do time-lapse photography, and capture 3-frame Dynamic HDR images. Adorama price: $499.00.




Samsung WB50F

Svelte and stylish, this attractively priced compact packs a lot of cool features into a super-portable package, including a 16.2MP 1/2.3” CCD sensor, a 12X f/3-6.3, 24-288mm-equivalent lens, optical image stabilization (IS), and a big 3-inch hi-res HVGA LCD. Casual shooters are well served with a Smart Auto shooting mode that selects the optimum scene mode and a built-in Soft Flash, and it also provides NFC and Wi-Fi connectivity for easy image sharing via social media. The WB50F can shoot HD 720p video at 30 fps, it accepts micro SDXC cards up to 64GB, and features Live Panorama mode. It’s available in black, white, and red. Adorama price: $179.00.




Panasonic LUMIX DMC-ZS40

A 30X long-ranger with an impressively compact, elegant form factor, this minimalist beauty incorporates an 18.1MP CMOS sensor, an advanced Venus Engine image processor, and a Leica DC Vario-Elmar 24-720mm-equivalent lens incorporating aspheric and extra-low-dispersion elements for enhanced imaging performance. Other features: a 3.0-inch 920k-dot LCD complemented by a 0.2-inch 200k-dot 100% Live View EVF, Full HD 1080p video capture at 60 fps, Hybrid O.I.S.+ image stabilization and Level Shot image-leveling function, ISO settings to 6400, a full-res burst rate of up to 10 fps, built-in Wi-Fi connectivity, and GPS. It’s available in black or silver. Adorama price: $449.00.




Nikon CoolPix L830

It looks like a cool downsized DSLR but this new 34X long-range-zoom dispenses with the EVF to keep the camera as compact and lightweight as possible while delivering an impressive level of performance and versatility at about half the price! The L830 incorporates a 16MP 1/2.3” CMOS sensor a 4-136mm (22.5-764mm-equivalent) f/3.5-9.0 Nikkor lens, and a bright hi-r3s 3.0-inch 921k-dot tilting LCD. It has a big, ergonomic grip for added stability plus Hybrid Vibration Reduction to tame the effects of camera shake. It can shoot Full HD 1080p video at 601 complete with stereo sound, provides 19 scene modes, and is powered by 4 AA batteries. It’s available in red or black. Adorama price: $299.00.




Sony Cyber-shot WX350

Just released as we go to press the elegantly thin and stylish compact is claimed to be the world’s smallest camera with a 20X optical zoom (it gets out to 40X with virtually to quality loss with Sony’s Clear Image Zoom system). The WX350 incorporates 18.2MP Sony R T CMOS sensor coupled to Sony’s latest high tech BIONZ X image processor. Other features: Optical SteadyShot with Intelligent Active mode said to provide smoother, more stable stills and movies, built-in Wi-Fi and NFC for one-touch wireless transfers and remote control from a smart phone, and Full HD 1080o video capture at 60p, 60i, and 24p framing rates. It’s scheduled to be available in March in black or white. Estimated Adorama price: $320.00.




Olympus Stylus 1

Distinctively styled in a traditionalist mode with echoes of the classic Olympus OM-1 35mm SLR, the Stylus 1is clearly aimed at serious enthusiasts. This 10.7X zoom camera provides a high-performance Zuiko lens equivalent focal length range of 28-300mm with a constant f/2.8 aperture—great for shooting in low light or creating soft background (bokeh) effects. It also incorporates a relatively large 12MP 1/1.7” BSI CMOS sensor for enhanced image quality, a 1.4M-dot High-Def R EVF with Eye Sensor, and a hi-res, 3.0-inch 1.4M-dot Tilt-Touch LCD. Other key features: Super Macro Mode with focusing down to 2 inches, a Hybrid Control Ring and customizable controls, Auto Lens Cap, built-in flash and Wi-Fi connectivity, and a hot shoe for mounting accessory flash units. It can shoot Full HD 1080p video at 30 fps, and has a maximum full-res burst rate up to 7 fps. Adorama price: $699.00.




Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H400/B

Just announced as we go to press this amazing DSLR-style machine stands at the pinnacle of long-range zoom cameras, providing an astounding 63X optical zoom Sony f/3.4-6.5 lens that’s equivalent to a 24.5mm-1550mm focal-length range! Incorporating a 20.1 MP HAD CCD sensor for excellent image detail it also has Optical SteadyShot for shake-free shooting at long focal lengths and close focusing distances. Other key features: 3.0-inch Clear Photo 460k-dot LCD, 0.2-inch 210k-dot EVF, HD 720p video capture at 30 fps, Intelligent Auto mode, Sweep Panorama mode, Face Detection (up top 8 faces) and a dedicated movie button. Estimated Adorama price: $320.00.




Leica V-LUX 4

It sure looks like a DSLR, but it’s really an all-in-one ultra-zoom camera with built-in 1.3-million-pixel 100% view EVF and, remarkably, a 25-600mm-equivalent Leica DC Vario-Elmarit lens that maintains its fast maximum f/2.8 aperture over the entire zoom range (!) to provide a real DSLR shooting experience without the usual compromises. Other key features: 12.1 MP CMOS sensor, 3.0-inch 460k-dot tilt/swivel LCD, full-res maximum burst rate of 12 fps, Full HD 1080p AVCHD and MP4 video, built-in panorama, and a claimed start-up time of less than 1 sec. It comes with a free Adobe Lightroom download. Adorama price: $899.00.




Canon PowerShot SX50 HS

This handsome, rugged DSLR-style camera was the first compact 50X and its super-telephoto zoom lens covers and equivalent range of 24-1200mm. The camera has a 12.1MP CMOS image sensor and an advanced DIGIC 5 image processor that delivers high speed AF (0.19 sec) and a very short 0.25sec shutter lag time along with JPEG and RAW capture plus Full HD 1080p video at 24 fps with stereo. It can shoot at a blistering 13 fps for 10 frames in High-Speed Burst HQ mode. Other key features: Optical Image Stabilizer (IS), hi-res 461k-dot 2.8-inch Vari-Angle LCD plus electronic viewfinder (EVF), built-in flash and hot shoe, ISO settings to 6400. Adorama price: $359.00.



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