The 8 Best Optical Zoom Cameras to Buy in 2017

No squinting required: Find cameras with the best zoom

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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 we've seen in the market lately.

The most advanced smartphones now have up to 10x zoom. Most entry-level DSLR cameras have about double that. But this iteration of Nikon’s popular COOLPIX line blows both out of the water with an amazing 83x optical zoom or 166x Dynamic Fine Zoom super telephoto lens. In the back of the stadium? No problem, you can still get closeups. Trying to shoot an object you can’t get any closer to? Chances are this camera has you covered.

It has a powerful 16-megapixel CMOS image sensor and allows for full manual exposure control. See the image on a swiveling vari-angle display or through a high-resolution viewfinder. The max aperture range is F2.8-F6.5 and maximum shutter speed is a blazing 1/4000 of a second, with long exposure of up to 15 seconds. The battery lasts for around 360 photos, while built in WiFi and NFC allow instant upload and sharing. A built-in GPS with Google Map alerts you to points of interest and helps you find picture-perfect spots nearby, making this camera a go-to for any adventures.

This higher-end version of the Canon Powershot delivers even more zoom, coming in at 50x optical zoom. This level of detail will allow you to capture travel, landscape and entertainment in vivid high quality even from great distances. The camera’s intelligent IS automatically factors in shooting conditions and applies advanced stabilization technology to allow you to produce quality images. Improved Zoom Framing Assist also helps you capture faraway moments, while a lock feature allows you to capture your family and friends. The ergonomic design fits securely and comfortably in your hand, allowing you to focus on the distance to create these images. The camera also boasts WiFi connectivity and a 20.3-megapixel high-sensitivity CMOS sensor that excels in low light situations.

This LUMIX DMC-FZ70 has been on the market for a few years, but its rave reviews and loyal fanbase mean that Panasonic has kept it in production and they're selling it at an excellent price. After all, the camera has a 4.5 rating, an impressive feat in the demanding photography market.

What makes the camera so special is its 60x optical zoom in a wide-angle 20mm to 120mm long zoom F2.8-5.9 lens. Intelligent Resolution technology even allows you to expand the zoom ratio up to 120X equivalent with little loss in quality. And the zoom isn’t limited to still photography. Record video and audio while zoomed in, thanks to Dolby Digital Stereo Creator. The Dolby feature improves sound quality while zoomed in with a Wind Shield Zoom Microphone. The camera has a 16.1-megapixel processor, 15 filter effects, stabilization and panoramic shooting to widen the frame.

While you probably won’t catch a professional photographer going to a shoot with this entry-level Sony, it delivers an incredible value for the average user. At less than $200, this camera packs a powerful 35x optical zoom, allowing you versatility in your shooting that is typically reserved for far pricier cameras. Even the image processor is a respectable 20.1-megapizel Super HAD CCD sensor, capable of delivering high-quality and beautifully detailed images.

The maximum aperture range is f/3.4-6.5, while the max shutter speed is 1/1500 of a second. Again, not pro specs, but an incredible value at this price range.  Optical SteadyShot technology helps stabilize your images, eliminating annoying blur and noise. Party Mode adjusts your ISO to enable vivid photos and Easy Mode minimizes the layers in your camera and makes for great shots.

Find more ways to share your photos with the Nikon COOLPIX B500, an ultrazoom offering that has Bluetooth, WiFi and NFC connectivity. You can also control the camera via smartphone or tablet from a distance with the Snapbridge app, a great feature for YouTubers and selfie enthusiasts.

This camera also has a 40x optical zoom lens, which has super telephoto power or 80x Dynamic Fine Zoom, giving you the ability to capture great shots from a distance. It has a NIKKOR f/3-6.5mm ED lens and a 16-megapixel BSI CMOS sensor. You can record video in Full HD 1080p at a rate of 30fps. Other nice features include Lens-Shift Vibration Reduction (VR) for more control while shooting, 18 scene modes and an auto mode that is great for beginning photographers.

Preserve your family’s memories with the great all-around PowerShot SX420 IS camera, an excellent value that delivers high quality photos and a powerful zoom. The 20-megapixel sensor with DIGIC 4+ Image Processor captures amazing quality photos and captures 720p HD video. You don’t have to worry about fussing with the settings, as a smart auto feature empowers everyone to be a great photographer. And with a powerful 42x optical zoom with Optical Image Stabilizer, you can capture photos from far away.

Other great features include fun scene modes such as fisheye effect and monochrome, which give you some creativity for fun shots. The aperture range is f/3.5-6.6 and the minimum shutter speed is one second. The camera is also a lightweight .72 pounds, and self-timer lets you set up shots of the whole family. Built-in WiFi gives you the option to upload your images to Facebook and other social media, so your friends can see pictures of the family vacation while it is still in progress. 

If you want a camera with optical zoom that can comfortably fit inside your jacket pocket, then this Canon Powershot ELPH 360 HS is a sure bet. At less than one pound and under five inches, this camera is smaller than most cell phones. It also has 12X optical zoom that is steadied by an Optical Image Stabilizer. The images are captured in gorgeous quality, thanks to the 20.2-megapixel CMOS sensor and DIGIC 4+ Image Processor. Even low-light photos come out great. You can record video in 1080p Full HD resolution, while still images can be captured in Dynamic IS, Powered IS, Macro IS and Active Tripod IS modes. WiFi and NFC technology make sharing easy, while PictBridge certified printers can instantly print your captures. 

The latest release from Panasonic boasts 4K photo and 4K video capture, providing stunning quality to accompany full range 60X long zoom. This all-around camera is a fairly priced option that works well in just about every scenario. It is powered by an 18.1-megapixel sensor that has impressive low-light performance. This low-light even works when utilizing the 20mm wide-angle 60X zoom that can capture details from far away. Perched on your hotel balcony, you can capture scenes unfolding all the way off on the horizon.

New tech includes a ‘Post Focus’ feature that lets you set desired focal points after the picture has already been snapped, allowing you to capture a scene without having to pause and perfectly compose the picture. See your 4K photo and video on a three-inch LCD touchscreen display and use the travel-ready USB charging to quickly refill the camera’s charge.

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