Dawn of the Megazooms

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What Kind of Camera Is Your Perfect Match?

Megazooms didn't emerge out of an economic vacuum: Businesses and individuals have a need for their combination of features.

Like smaller point-and-shoots, megazooms are far less expensive than SLR cameras, yet they also have advantages beyond mere price: They're simpler to use, less burdensome to lug around, and great for taking photos. The 10-megapixel CCD on some models means there's even a bit of room to magnify an image if you need to go beyond the maximum optical zoom and use the digital zoom as well. The cameras can also shoot video, which an SLR can't do.

The big disadvantage of the megazooms--their bulkiness--isn't dramatic; schlepping one around is just slightly more of a hassle.

Who needs a megazoom? Home inspectors, contractors, insurance agents, and real estate agents stand to gain from using the long-distance zoom--photographing a roof defect from the street, for instance, to save a trip up a ladder. Many models offer a macro feature that lets you place the lens inches from the photographic subject. Car insurance adjusters would get mileage from that.

Nature and wildlife photography is another match for megazooms: When photographing skittish (or dangerous) wildlife, for example, you can keep your distance and still get a decent shot.

The one thing that megazoom cameras struggle with is jerky motion. Though several models include image stabilization, you can't depend on that alone to block the blur--so a tripod is a must.

Andrew Brandt

Point-and-Shoot, Megazoom, or Digital SLR?

Megazoom cameras aren't the perfect fit for everyone or every situation, but they definitely have a target audience. Are you in that group? Here are some criteria to consider in deciding which class of camera is right for your needs.

Digital SLR Point-and-shoot Megazoom
Why to buy: You need a really quick shutter to photograph fast-moving targets. You want precise control over your shots. You want access to a variety of lens options. You're looking for a very durable camera. You want or need to use fine-art features such as multiple exposures.

Why not to buy: You need something light, beginner-friendly, compact, or inexpensive.
Why to buy: Small size and ease of use are the two most important considerations you are weighing. Neither zoom nor manual controls factor into your needs.

Why not to buy: You need to use a relatively advanced camera-one that offers greater responsiveness, more manual controls, and/or a higher-quality image than you can get with a point-and-shoot model.
Why to buy: You want to capture image details from a relatively long distance with a high-megapixel camera. You need manual controls, but not enough to justify paying a premium for a full digital SLR camera.

Why not to buy: Your photographic needs are met by a smaller or less costly camera. The only real appeal these models have for you is that you like saying "megazoom."

This story, "Dawn of the Megazooms" was originally published by PCWorld.

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