The Best Pocket Megazoom Cameras
They're bigger and more powerful than the average point-and-shoot camera. They're smaller and more day-to-day friendly than a digital SLR. When you come right down to it, high-zoom compact cameras perfectly fill the middle ground between portability and performance. Meet the tweeners--they'd prefer it if you call them pocket megazooms, though.
As the "pocket megazoom" name suggests, the marquee feature for the seven cameras we review here is their larger-than-average optical-zoom ranges. Each of these high-zoom compacts offers a wide-angle-to-telephoto reach of at least 10X. Thanks to various innovative advances in the world of cameras, however, that's often where the similarities end. From internal GPS antennas to high-speed shooting modes to fast-focusing silent lenses to sensors optimized for low-light shooting, most of these cameras have a distinct specialty.
Sony's Cyber-shot DSC-HX5V and Samsung's HZ35W, for example, have internal GPS receivers for geotagging photos instantly, which might come in handy for globetrotters or anyone who wants to display snapshots on a map. Casio's Exilim EX-FH100, meanwhile, offers a 40-frames-per-second shooting mode that lets you capture a fast-action sequence and turn it into slow-motion footage during playback. To go along with full manual controls, Canon's PowerShot SX210 IS provides creative scene modes and top-notch video capture, while Panasonic's Lumix DMC-ZS5 has a near-silent, fast-focusing zoom lens. For its part, Nikon's Coolpix S8000 is the easiest to use of the lot, and Fujifilm's FinePix JZ500 has a unique face-detection mode for your pet dog or cat.
For this roundup, we attempted to put all those bells and whistles aside and judge each of these seven big-name, big-zoom cameras on its merits alone. Read our capsule reviews and consult our chart to see how they stacked up to one another, based on subjective testing by the PCWorld Labs for still-picture and video performance, as well as our hands-on evaluations of day-to-day performance.
Read Our Pocket Megazoom Camera Reviews
- Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX5V
- Canon PowerShot SX210 IS
- Samsung HZ35W
- Casio Exilim EX-FH100
- Nikon Coolpix S8000
- Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS5
- Fujifilm FinePix JZ500
- Top-Rated Pocket Megazooms (chart)
In Video: Choosing the Best Pocket Megazoom Camera
Point, Shoot, Action! PCWorld Labs Puts Pocket Megazoom Video Capabilities to the Test
Part of our review process for every digital camera involves detailed image-quality testing in front of a panel of judges. With the vast majority of still cameras now offering 720p high-definition video capture, we believed it was a good time to start rating digital cameras on their ability to shoot video, too.
The seven pocket megazoom models in this roundup are the first point-and-shoot cameras to go through the PCWorld Labs' subjective tests for video quality. Our testing methodology involves recording a 1-minute video of a toy train and Ferris wheel to gauge several aspects of the video quality: smoothness of motion, color accuracy, and the lack of artifacts in the test footage. We also play an audio clip through speakers in the scene to determine how well each camera picks up sound.
We shoot the same scene twice, with each camera in the same tripod location at its highest video-quality setting: once in bright indoor lighting, and again with the overhead lights turned off and a floor lamp turned on behind the camera. Once we've shot all of the footage, our panel of judges rates each clip for its overall video quality in bright lighting, its quality of footage in low light, and its audio quality. The video scores account for 15 percent of each camera's overall performance score, and the audio quality makes up 5 percent of the camera's performance rating.
In our first-ever video tests for point-and-shoot cameras, the Canon PowerShot SX210 IS earned the top overall score for video, thanks to the smooth, vibrant footage it shot in bright light and its admirable video quality in our low-light tests. Hot on its heels was the Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS5, which received high marks for its smooth, sharp footage; that model also has a quiet, video-friendly zoom lens and a fast autofocus.
Want to see our test video clips for these seven cameras side-by-side? Click the links below for the tale of the tape.