The Best and Highest Optical Zoom Cameras

Find the Best Point and Shoot Cameras With 18X or Larger Optical Zooms

Having a large zoom lens is one of the things that beginning photographers seem to want more than any other feature. This desire makes a lot of sense. After all, there are times when you simply cannot move physically closer to your subject, and the highest optical zoom gives you a chance to still shoot a good photo.

Keep a couple of things in mind when you're looking for ultra zoom camera options, however. First, a point and shoot camera with a large zoom lens may be a bit more susceptible to camera shake, especially the closer to the maximum zoom you get. Second, you want to make sure the zoom number you're looking at is the optical zoom, not the digital zoom.

With that in mind, here are the best ultra zoom cameras I've seen in the market lately. For this list, ultra zoom cameras are considered those with at least a 18X optical zoom lens. (The cameras are listed in order from smallest to largest optical zoom lens.)

Nikon Coolpix S9100


Nikon has paired style with a powerful 18X optical zoom lens in the Coolpix S9100 point and shoot camera.

You'll find a 12.1-megapixel CMOS image sensor with the S9100. The S9100's 3.0-inch high-resolution LCD screen is impressive, and this camera can shoot full 1080p HD video.

Nikon is offering the S9100 in three colors -- black, silver, or pink/red -- although a gold-colored S9100 is available in some parts of the world. Pairing this sharp-looking thin model with a big zoom lens is a nice combination.


Samsung WB850F


If you're someone who just can't decide between a point and shoot camera that provides great telephoto capabilities or one that can shoot wide angle images, Samsung may be ready to come to your rescue.

Samsung's recently released WB850F provides a 21X optical zoom lens, while it also can shoot at a wide angle of 23mm, providing photographers with the best of both worlds. In addition, it only measures a little over 1.3 inches in thickness, although the main portion of the camera body is less than an inch in depth.

The WB850F has a built-in WiFi capability, which is a nice feature for uploading a photo quickly to social networking sites, as well as built-in GPS.

The WB850F's other photography-related features include 16.2MP of resolution, a 3.0-inch high-resolution AMOLED screen, and full HD video capabilities.


GE X2600


Considering the sub-$200 price point for the GE X2600 ultra zoom camera, this is a bit of a different type of camera in this ultra zoom category. The image quality for the X2600 is above average versus other similarly priced cameras, and the 26X zoom lens is one of the largest you'll find in this price range.

The X2600 doesn't have any advanced features, such as a high-resolution LCD or built-in Wi-Fi, which would be a really nice option to find at under $200. Even with that in mind, the X2600 is an above average camera, both in terms of image sharpness, flash photo quality, and in its large zoom lens. There certainly are better long zoom cameras in the market, but if you have a strict budget to stick to, the X2600 would be a decent option for a beginning photographer looking for a first ultra zoom camera.

Canon PowerShot SX710 HS

The Canon PowerShot SX710 is available in red or black. Canon

Canon's PowerShot SX710 fixed lens camera provides quite a collection of impressive features for a relatively thin point and shoot model, offering more than 20 megapixels of resolution, a high speed image processor, and wireless connectivity, all in a model that's less than 1.5 inches in thickness.

You may find yourself wanting to use the Canon PowerShot SX710 outdoors -- where it is a strong camera -- quite often thanks to the 30X optical zoom lens Canon included with this model. The great zoom lens and small camera body size of this model make it a nice option for taking with you on a hike or when traveling.

Canon PowerShot SX500 IS


The PowerShot SX500 IS from Canon is a model that should definitely be on your short list if you're looking for an ultra zoom camera for the upcoming holiday season.

Few fixed-lens cameras can match the 30X optical zoom lens that Canon has included with the SX500 IS.

Canon included 16MP of resolution, a 3.0-inch LCD, and 720p HD video options with the SX500 IS. This camera is a large model that's only available in black, so be sure that you can work with a camera that measures more than 3 inches in thickness before you purchase this one.

Nikon Coolpix S9700


While the Nikon Coolpix S9700 has a few flaws, this model's strong versatility makes it a great travel camera.

The 30X optical zoom lens will give you the option of shooting photos over a variety of distances, which can be handy when you're traveling, because you won't know how close you can get to landmarks ahead of time. And with the Coolpix S9700 only measuring 1.4 inches in thickness, it should fit easily in a carry-on bag, making it easy to travel by air with this camera as well as fit in a pocket while you're seeing the sights.

Image quality is pretty good with this model, and its autofocus mechanism is able to achieve very sharp photos throughout the 30X optical zoom range. You will notice some image flaws from time to time, so don't expect to make extremely large prints with the Coolpix S9700's photos.

Nikon Coolpix P520


Even though the Nikon Coolpix P520 looks a bit like a DSLR camera, it doesn't quite have that level of high-end photographic features.

Still, the Coolpix P520 has enough advanced features that it'll be well worth considering. The P520 has a 42X optical zoom lens, 18.1MP of resolution, a 3.2-inch articulated LCD, a built-in GPS unit, and full 1080p HD video recording. Those are all above-average features in a fixed-lens camera.

Nikon is offering this 2013 TIPA award-winning model in black, red, or dark gray camera bodies.

Canon PowerShot SX50 HS


Add another high-end fixed-lens camera to the mix this holiday season, as Canon is selling its PowerShot SX50 HS model.

The SX50 HS has a 12.1MP CMOS image sensor, full HD video capabilities, an articulated LCD that measures 2.8 inches diagonally, and Canon's High Sensitivity (HS) system designed for low-light photography.

However, the star feature of the SX50 HS is the 50X optical zoom lens, which carries an amazing 24mm to 1200 mm range. As far as I can decipher, the SX50 HS is one of the largest optical zoom lens on a fixed lens camera currently in the market.

Olympus SP-100


Olympus' effort at setting its ultra-zoom SP-100 camera apart involves giving this model a Dot Sight mechanism that will help you track far-off subjects while the camera's powerful 50X optical zoom is fully engaged. Most photographers who have made use of cameras with long zoom lenses have experienced the problem of having a subject move out of the frame while shooting over a long distance with the zoom in use.

The Dot Sight is built into the popup flash unit and gives the SP-100 a unique feature. You certainly won't find this type of feature on any other consumer-level camera.

Panasonic Lumix FZ70


Panasonic appears to have created the fixed-lens camera with the largest optical zoom measurement currently on the market in the Lumix FZ70.

The FZ70 features a 60X optical zoom lens (20-1200mm), which features a bit more of a wide angle capability than some of the other ultra zoom cameras listed here.

You'll find 16.1 megapixels of resolution, a 3.0-inch LCD, and full 1080p HD video capabilities in the Lumix FZ70, which is only available in black. 

Samsung WB2200F


Samsung has given the WB2200F a 60X optical zoom lens, which is one of the largest zoom settings you'll find on a camera currently in the market. And the dual hand grips that allow you to use this model equally well horizontally or vertically while hand-holding it are great to find.

You'll find 16 megapixels of resolution with this powerful Samsung model, and it provides a bit more manual control over your images than some cameras aimed more at beginners. Samsung calls the WB2200F a "bridge" camera, meaning it will serve as a stepping stone between a beginning model and a DSLR-type of camera.

Both Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity are included with the WB2200F, as are a 3.0-inch LCD screen and an electronic viewfinder

Nikon Coolpix P900

Nikon P900 review

With an 83X optical zoom lens, the Nikon P900 is one of the most impressive offerings in the market. The image quality you'll find with the P900 is much more impressive than you might expect to find in a large zoom camera.


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