Big Zoom Compacts: Smaller And Lighter Than A Typical Telephoto Lens (Part 2)

6/11/2013 9:20:10 AM

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200

Although it offers less zoom reach than many of these cameras, the FZ200 does provide a solid 24x range of 25mm to 600mm*. That optical zoom can be doubled to 1200mm with digital zoom (dubbed "Intelligent Zoom") enabled.

More importantly unlike any of the competition here, all of which have a variable maximum aperture - the FZ200 features a fast constant maximum aperture of f/2.8, excellent for low-light photography or when you want to soften background distractions for pro-quality portraits. It's also worth noting that the lens is a Leica DC Vario-Elmarit, with Leica being well-known for excellent optical quality. Panasonic's Optical Image Stabilizer keeps stills and video steady when shooting handheld.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200

Images can be captured at up to 12 frames per second at full 12-megapixel resolution, making the FZ200 the fastest camera here. You also can record full I ID 1080p video with stereo sound. Plus, there's a hot-shoe for using an optional accessory external microphone, an external flash or a remote shutter release.

In addition to the 3-inch, free-angle LCD that tilts and swivels, there's also an electronic viewfinder that provides 100% coverage for eye-level shooting. Creative shooting modes include in-camera IIDR, Panorama mode and 14 filter options like soft focus, high key, sepia, cross-process and more.

Estimated Street Price: $499.

Pentax X-5

Easily mistakable for a DSLR with its traditional good looks, the 16-megapixel X-5 incorporates a 26x zoom lens, with a range of 22.3mm to 580mm*, and up to approximately 870mm with digital zoom enabled (at a reduced resolution of 7 megapixels).

In addition to the telephoto reach, the X-5 can do close-up work, as well, focusing on subjects as near as 0.4 inches in Super Macro Mode. It's even smart enough to automatically switch to macro focus when you're very close to your subject.

Along with 16-megapixel stills, you can record full I ID 1080p video. Triple Shake Reduction employs sensor-shift stabilization, plus ISO boost and video shake reduction to let you shoot stills and video handheld. Although it doesn't flip or swivel, the 3-inch LCD is tiltable, and is complemented by the eye-level electronic viewfinder.

Pentax X-5

Pentax X-5

A nice feature for group portraits is the X-5's Fast Face Detection, which can detect up to 32 distinct faces in a scene and optimize focus and exposure accordingly. Another convenience is the fact that the X-5 is powered by four standard AA batteries, making it easy to get backup power in a pinch or when traveling.

Multiple exposure modes are available, including IIDR, Digital Panorama and popular modes like Sunset and Night Scene Portrait.

Estimated Street Price: $259.

Samsung WB100

The WB100's 26x zoom starts at a wide 22.3mm and tops out at just shy of 580mm*. With digital zoom, that extends 5x further to 2900mm. Zoomed out all the way to 22.3mm, it has the widest focal length of any of these cameras, just squeaking past the Olympus SP-820UZ IS's 22.4mm. It deploys dual image stabilization both optical and digital.

With 16-megapixel resolution, it's one of the higher-resolution cameras in this group for still photos, but for I ID video recording, it's limited to 720p with mono sound, while every other camera here offers full I ID 1080p. That may not be an issue for you if you don't record a lot of video or don't need the extra resolution for big-screen playback.


Numerous Scene and Auto modes are available, including settings for close-up, night portraits and backlit images. There's also a 180 degree Panorama mode that gives you a live preview of your final image as you sweep across the scene. You can apply a variety of effects to your images in-camera with Smart Filters like oil Painting, Half-tone Dot and a Cartoon Filter to simulate an animation still.

Though there's no hot-shoe for accessories, there's a built-in flash. Powering the WB 100 is convenient, with four rechargeable AAs. Maybe the best feature of the camera for the budget-minded is that it's the most affordable model here by a fair margin.

Estimated Street Price: $199.

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-HX200V

One of our favorite models in this group, the IIX200V leads the pack with 18-megapixel resolution. The 30x optical zoom provides a slightly variable focal range depending on the aspect ratio you select: For 16:9, the range is 29-870mm; at 4:3, it's 27-810mm*. Those focal lengths can be doubled using Clear Image (digital) Zoom.

The HX200V is among the faster cameras here, with the ability to shoot those large image files at up to 10 frames per second. You also can record full HD 1080p video with stereo sound, and capture still and video simultaneously. Both stills and videos are stabilized with Optical SteadyShot and Active 3-way stabilization, the latter of which guards against camera rotation during video recording.

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-HX200V

Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-HX200V

Sony was the first to introduce the ability to capture a panoramic image simply by panning across a scene, and the HX200V includes Intelligent Sweep Panorama IIR, which is smart enough to detect faces and even moving objects, counteracting the most common obstacles to automatic panorama stitching. The camera also has GPS built in for convenient geo-tagging.

The HX200V includes several features to help you take better portraits, including Smile Shutter, which automatically captures a shot when your subject smiles; an Anti-blink function that rapidly captures two images, keeping only the one with eyes wide open; and a Soft Skin mode that automatically reduces blemishes and wrinkles.

Estimated Street Price: $389.

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