Premium Compacts

For many photo opportunities, compact "superzoom" cameras are the perfect blend of size and performance, combining DSLR features with a versatile, big-range zoom lens. This year’s models have had some exciting improvements and technological advancements, which have made them smaller and yet more robust than ever before. Often available at hundreds of dollars below the cost of even an entry-level DSLR, many photographers are looking at them as a great sidekick for taking out on the road or as an affordable backup for more advanced models. (Note: Zoom ranges listed are 35mm equivalent.)

Canon PowerShot SX500 IS

LIST PRICE: $329

30x
24-720mm

The Canon PowerShot SX500 IS loads a ton of useful features into a compact body, starting with its 24-720mm equivalent zoom. The camera uses Intelligent Image Stabilization, which analyzes how the camera is moving and applies the most optimal method for correcting any shake. There are six different settings the system chooses from based on your subject matter, as well as whether you’re shooting stills or video. A 16-megapixel CCD sensor, DIGIC 4 processor, 3-inch LCD with 461,000-dot resolution and 720p video capture at 25 fps round out the camera’s key specs. Pressing the Zoom Framing Assist button lets you zoom all the way out on a faraway subject and locate it before releasing the button to return the lens to its original zoom position. The subject stays in focus until you’re ready to shoot.

Fujifilm FinePix HS30 EXR

LIST PRICE: $495

30x
24-720mm

The 30x optical zoom on the Fujifilm FinePix HS30EXR is just one of many factors that makes this camera an appealing option. Along with the 24-720mm equivalent focal-length range, the camera has an Intelligent Digital Zoom mode that offers 60x magnification power, the equivalent of a 1440mm focal length. You can control the zoom manually, just like you would with a DSLR, and the viewfinder is large enough that you can focus with precision. Among the more advanced shooting modes is a focus-bracketing mode that achieves the look of using a shallow depth of field. When shooting at full resolution, the 16-megapixel camera has an 8 fps burst rate. At lower 8-megapixel resolution, it increases to 11 fps. The 3-inch LCD has a Sunlight Mode for delivering clear images under bright conditions. position.

Nikon Coolpix P510

LIST PRICE: $429

42x
24-1000mm

Upping the zoom factor to 42x, the Nikon Coolpix P510 pushes into new focal-length territory with its 24-1000mm zoom, the longest telephoto length in this camera class. The zoom on the camera’s predecessor, the P500, offered 36x capability. You can use that expansive zoom range to capture 16.1-megapixel stills or 1080p video at 30 fps. Adding to its lens power, in macro mode, you can focus as close as 0.4 inches for getting detailed close-ups. You can frame images using either the 3-inch tilting vari-angle LCD with 921,000-dot resolution or the electronic viewfinder. The camera really does look and feel like a miniature version of a DSLR with the handgrip and eye-level viewfinder. Other key features include 5 fps continuous shooting and a built-in GPS for tagging photos.

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