Ultrazoom Cameras

basics1a190One of the only things I dislike about my Casio Exilim EX-Z75 7.2MP is the puny 3X optical zoom.

So it was no surprise when this NYT article caught my attention:

“There are currently two types of ultrazoom cameras: the full size and the compact. The full-size models resemble those digital single-lens-reflex cameras carried by professionals; compact ultrazooms look more like pumped-up standard point-and-shoot cameras.

I pitted five models against each other in an ultrazoom showdown. The average ultrazoom I tested weighed about 15 ounces with a battery — the lightest weighed in at 8 ounces. All of the cameras had 3-inch LCD screens and, except for two compact models, smaller viewfinder LCD screens.”

The two standouts are show top and bottom in the graphic. At top right:

Canon PowerShot SX200 IS

Details: $350, 12 megapixels, 12x optical zoom, 3-inch LCD

Fun Features: Blink-detection notifies you if a subject blinks during the shot. A smart auto mode changes settings for close-ups and long shots.

The SX200 is about two inches thick and weighs about 8 ounces. The 12x zoom lens pops out of the front and takes up most of the camera’s face, making it a bit hard to grip when taking action shots. In bright sunlight, the camera performed admirably and the odd features — including color replacement, which allows you to, say, swap pink for blue in every photo — will make some people happy.

The test shots showed excellent color reproduction, although the indoor shot looked a little washed-out.

This camera is similar in size and shape to the average point-and-shoot circa 2001. It fits into a pocket, which can’t be said for the larger ultrazooms.

Grade: A-

At bottom right:

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX1

Details: $439, 9 megapixels, 20x optical zoom

Fun features: A 10-image-a-second burst mode ensures you’ll get at least one good shot.

At 16 ounces, the Cyber-shot DSC-HX1 was the most compact of all of the full-size cameras we tested. The camera has a hinged LCD screen that swings up and down, but doesn’t swivel. The shots were quick and sharp even in low light and without flash. The camera had some minor issues with close-up photos — mainly focusing on the wrong part of the scene and creating a messy blur — but in terms of shooting speed, the Sony won hands-down.

In identical test situations, the Sony also had brighter colors in auto mode, offering a more nuanced photo. Interestingly, this model had the best viewfinder LCD: the image looked sharper in the viewfinder than on the large LCD screen.

Grade: A+

Cool stuff!


Little Cameras With Big Eyes
NYT, June 24, 2009

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