Eight compact cameras that pack a massive zoom

These compact cameras offer much more versatility than the average point-and-shoot does, thanks to powerful lenses that reach from 8x to 12x optical zoom.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3: Does the Work for You

The Lumix DMC-ZS3 ($350;  ) doesn’t offer much in the way of manual controls, but it’s a very good pocket megazoom camera for casual photographers who would rather let the camera do the work. It can also shoot HD video.

Optical zoom: 12X (25mm to 300mm)

Casio Exilim EX-H10: 'Beginner's Megazoom'

If it’s entertaining in-camera features you’re looking for, the $300 EX-H10 ( ) should be at the top of your list. The camera features 37 scene modes. The EX-H10 is geared toward the younger crowd, or toward users looking for a “beginner’s megazoom.” Shoppers who want full manual controls should look to the Canon PowerShot SX200 IS.

Optical zoom: 10X (24mm to 240mm)

Canon PowerShot SX200 IS: Intuitive Controls, but Bulky

The $350 Canon PowerShot SX200 IS ( ) is one of those rare point-and-shoots that are as easy to use as they are versatile. It offers intuitive controls, a big-time zoom lens, addictive in-camera features, and stellar image quality. It also allows some manual control. If you don’t find its bulkier-than-usual size off-putting, it’s a great buy.

Optical zoom: 12X (28mm to 336mm)

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR1: Excellent All-Purpose Camera

Though there's no manual aperture and shutter controls, the $280 DMC-ZR1 ( ) has a few features that help it rise above its competitors—including an ultraquiet zoom lens, lightning-fast autofocus in video mode, great image stabilization, and unique scene modes. The sum of all those parts is an excellent all-purpose camera.

Optical zoom: 8X (25mm to 200mm)

Kodak EasyShare Z915: Budget Friendly

Though the 10X optical zoom range is impressive, it’s only one of several features that make the wallet-friendly EasyShare Z915 ($200;  ) an outstanding bargain. The lens doesn’t offer much at the wide-angle end (it’s a 35-350mm lens), but this camera comes through with the best range of manual controls we’ve seen in a model at this price. Its shutter response is fast, too.

Optical zoom: 10X (35-350mm)

Olympus Stylus-9000: Sophisticated Shooting Controls

We haven’t had a chance to review the $300 Stylus-9000, but we have reviewed its sibling, the $300 Olympus Stylus-7000 ( ). The Stylus-9000 and the Stylus-7000 have many of the same basic specs, but with two key differences: The Stylus-9000 has a 10X optical zoom (versus the Stylus-7000’s 7X) and a 2.7-inch LCD screen (in contrast to the Stylus-7000’s 3-inch LCD). Reviewer Ben Long recommended the Stylus-7000 as a good pick for creative snapshooters. It has sophisticated shooting controls (spot metering and shadow adjustment) plus in-camera editing options, and its distinctive features include in-camera panoramas, beautified portraits, HD output, slideshow presentation, and reasonable low-light performance.

Stylus-9000 optical zoom: 10X (28mm to 280mm)

Kodak EasyShare Z950: Impressive Features

The $250 12-megapixel Kodak EasyShare Z950 ( ) is an easy-to-use pocket megazoom camera with an impressive list of advanced features. Though its 10X-optical-zoom lens is skimpy on the wide-angle end, its performance is bolstered by exposure bracketing, shutter priority, aperture priority, high ISO, and high-definition 720p video capture. In our tests the overall still-image quality was among the best we’ve seen in this camera’s class, but the video quality isn’t much to write home about.

Optical zoom: 10X (35mm to 350mm)

Fujifilm FinePix F70EXR: Innovative Sensor

The stylish $280 FinePix F70EXR ( ) lets you capture either 10-megapixel or 5-megapixel images with improved low-light sensitivity and dynamic range. It includes interesting shooting modes such as Pro Focus, which combines a pair of photos at different f-stops to give you a portrait with a softly blurred background. Natural & Flash mode takes a pair of shots—with and without flash—so that you can choose the better one.

Optical zoom: 10X (27mm to 270mm)

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