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Digital Camera Buyer's Guide: Ultrazooms
by Andy Stanton -  10/23/2008
Ultracompacts | Compacts | ULTRAZOOMS | DSLRs


Ultrazooms are point-and-shoot cameras that look like small DSLRs. Ultrazooms derive their name from the fact that they have a very long zoom lens, and as a rule, they include electronic viewfinders and manual controls.

While ultrazooms are too bulky to fit into a pocket, they are much smaller and lighter in weight than most DSLR/lens combinations. However, the sensors in ultrazooms are smaller than those in DSLRs, so they usually cannot match DSLRs in picture quality. Ultrazooms are very popular with people who are not quite ready for a DSLR but want something more challenging and capable than most point-and-shoots.

$300-$400

Canon PowerShot SX10 IS

Canon PowerShot SX10 IS


This newly released 10 megapixel camera is the sequel to one of the most popular ultrazooms of the last few years, the S5IS. The SX10 IS retains the earlier camera's hot shoe and movable LCD screen that allows you to capture shots while holding the camera overhead and to the side. It has a wide-angle 27mm lens with a 20x optical zoom, optical image stabilization, face detection, and motion detection, as well as an excellent macro mode for extreme close focusing. Picture quality seems to be very good, and although the SX10 IS is heavier than most ultrazooms, it has excellent build quality.

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Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28


This 10 megapixel camera is considered one of the best ultrazooms available. It has a 27mm wide-angle view on a sharp, low-distortion 18x optical zoom lens. The FZ28 also includes numerous features such as optical image stabilization, face detection, an Intelligent Scene Selector, an exceptional 1cm macro mode, and high definition video.

The FZ28's picture quality is very good, especially in good light, and it can capture raw files. It is also one of the smallest, lightest-weight ultrazooms around.

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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H50

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H50


The H50 has a 9 megapixel sensor and produces sharp, colorful images. It has a fairly wide-angle 31mm lens and 15x optical zoom. The H50 also includes optical image stabilization, a close-in macro mode, and a unique feature that enables it to take infrared pictures in total darkness.

The H50 includes Sony's Dynamic Range Optimization, a process by which highlight details are retained while greater detail is brought out in darker portions of the picture. The H50 also has a movable LCD screen.

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Over $400

Fujifilm FinePix S100FS

Fujifilm FinePix S100FS


The S100FS, which was our Editor's Choice for September 2008, is an ultrazoom that comes closer to the performance and picture quality of a DSLR than any other. It has an 11 megapixel special SuperCCD sensor and provides excellent images in good and poor light. It has a wide-angle 28mm lens with a 14x zoom range. The S100FS includes an excellent movable LCD and a very good electronic viewfinder.

The only downside is that the FinePix is quite heavy for an ultrazoom, and as expensive as many DSLRs. However, for those who want the best ultrazoom available, this is it.

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