Compact super-zoom cameras offer tremendous telephotos in portable packages
The Leica V-Lux 1 is based on the same mechanics as the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50—although the more expensive Leica utilizes its own image processing and comes bundled with Adobe Photoshop Elements (and, of course, the prestige that comes with that little red Leica dot). The high-res V-Lux 1 offer 10.1 megapixels and a 12x Leica optical zoom lens, along with a swiveling LCD, hot-shoe and optical image stabilization. The features are similar to those found on D-SLRs, but the look and feel of the camera is a lot like those of an SLR. Estimated Street Price: $849.
Though Nikon cameras often offer extensive manual controls, the Coolpix S10 takes a simpler automated approach—and it brings a lower price, too. The swivel design gives the camera a unique form factor compared to most super-zooms, helping photographers to more easily put their cameras in trickier positions for more interesting angles. The S10 incorporates 6 megapixels, a 10x optical zoom lens with vibration reduction and face-priority autofocus into a compact 7.8-ounce package. Estimated Street Price: $349.
On budget and style points, the Olympus SP-510 UZ scores high. This 38-380mm-equivalent 10x optical zoom is packaged nicely with a 7.1-megapixel CCD. It doesn’t include optical image stabilization, but in Bright Capture mode, the ISO increases to 4000 to help quicken the shutter speed (though the resolution at this high speed drops to about 3 mega-pixels). Estimated Street Price: $249.
For photographers who put a bit more priority on compact size, there’s the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3. This 7.2-megapixel camera is a super-compact super-zoom. Weighing in at only 8.16 ounces, it doesn’t even have room for a viewfinder. Ideal for travelers, this small camera utilizes folded optics technology, which, through the use of a prism, gets a 10x optical zoom into roughly the same-sized space as that in which you’d expect to find a 3x lens. Leica glass helps make the most of every pixel. Estimated Street Price: $349.
The Samsung Digimax Pro 815 SE is tailored for photographers who want a big zoom and don’t mind a big package. The two-pound, 8-megapixel camera sports a 15x optical zoom, providing an equivalent focal-length range of 28-420mm. It’s fast at the short end, too, with a maximum aperture of ƒ/2.2-4.6. A big zoom deserves a big screen, so Samsung added a 3.5-inch LCD. There’s also a smaller color LCD on top of the body, so you can brace and still see your composition. Estimated Street Price: $599.
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H5 isn’t for those who want a tiny camera, but it will appeal to those who want a long zoom. A Zeiss Vario-Tessar lens offers a 12x optical zoom, equivalent to 36-432mm in 35mm terms. Also included are a three-inch LCD screen and the ability to macro focus as close as 2cm. The 7.2-megapixel H5 uses optical image stabilization and Memory Stick storage, as well as usable ISOs from 80 to 1000. Estimated Street Price: $429.