Home Cameras Compact Toolbox: Big Zoom Compacts
Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Toolbox: Big Zoom Compacts

Get extensive focal range and high-tech features in a camera that’s smaller and lighter than a typical telephoto lens

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This Article Features Photo Zoom

Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ200
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 ƒ/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.

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 HD 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 HDR, Panorama mode and 14 filter options like soft focus, high key, sepia, cross-process and more. Estimated Street Price: $499.


Pentax X-5
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 HD 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.

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 HDR, Digital Panorama and popular modes like Sunset and Night Scene Portrait. Estimated Street Price: $259.

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