Many of us prefer shooting photos and videos on smartphones because they’re so convenient. But a smartphone isn't the best choice in all circumstances. Say you’re hoping to catch your favorite band at an outdoor concert. Your phone’s camera just can’t get in close enough to capture the guitarist wailing out a lead or the drummer pounding out the beat. You might try to use the digital zoom on your phone, but your results will be middling at best since that type of zoom degrades image quality. What you need instead is a camera with a long optical zoom lens. This superzoom will produce better images since it uses optical elements in the lens to get closer to the action.
The latest superzooms are thinner, more compact, and lighter than their predecessors, which makes them ideal for traveling and getting in close can make for a great shot, whether you’re photographing the Caryatids on the Acropolis or the gravestones near Disney World’s Haunted Mansion.
Here are five superzoom models to consider.
Find the best model for your needs and budget: Check our digital camera buying guide and Ratings.
Nikon Coolpix P610, $500
This model includes an extremely long (60x) zoom, which will allow you to get in very close to your subjects. In fact, you can probably capture the craters on the moon with the Nikon Coolpix P610. Although it’s a bit heavier and bulkier than many in its class, this Nikon is a nice travel camera because it includes a GPS mode, which embeds geotagging into image files.
Olympus Stylus SP-100, $400
One problem with a model like this, which has an extremely long (50x) lens, is that it's easy to lose track of a subject once you zoom in, especially if it's moving. As a solution, Olympus included a special dot sight feature: Flipping up the popup flash reveals a glass panel below it (between the flash and the camera body), which has a red crosshair target projected on to it. Use this target to track your subject while you're composing the image on your LCD. The Stylus SP-100 has other nice extras that you won’t find on most point-and-shoots, such as an electronic viewfinder, which can be very useful in sunny situations where bright light washes out the image on your LCD.
Canon SX710 HS, $350
Compared to the larger, bulkier superzooms of the past, this Canon has a much smaller footprint. It’s slim and lightweight, but still has a 30x optical zoom lens. Because it has a highermegapixel count than most point-and-shoots, you can generously crop without losing too much detail. The Canon SX710 HS includes some fun shooting modes, too. For instance, its Creative Shot mode applies Instagram-type filter effects to your shots.
Nikon Coolpix S9900, $350
Like the Canon SX710, this superzoom packs a lot of features and performance into a lightweight, slim camera body. It has a 30x optical zoom lens, and also includes a swiveling LCD, which is great for capturing selfies and hard-to-reach shots. And travelers will appreciate the Coolpix S9900's built-in world map, which includes points of interest, an electronic compass, and built-in GPS for geotagging, just like the P610.
Nikon Coolpix L840, $300
What makes this superzoom stand out is that it’s one of the few contemporary cameras that runs on AA batteries. That can be very convenient if you're traveling and you run out of power, since it's easy to buy replacement batteries. Additionally, the camera has longer battery life than most point-and-shoots, so you might not need to run out so quickly to get those AAs. The Coolpix L840 also has one of the widest angle lenses of any point-and-shoot, at 22.5mm. That can be great when you want to capture the entire expanse of a landscape or when you want to cram as many people as possible into a group portrait.
Copyright © 2005-2015 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission. Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this site.