Best Superzoom Bridge Cameras PD9waHAgZWNobyBkYXRlKCdZJyk7ID8+

There are actually quite a few reasons why a more compact digital superzoom camera (Bridge Camera with powerful zoom) is far more suitable as a safari camera for the amateur photographer than a digital SLR.

But I would say the most important advantages of the super zoom over the SLR is their smaller size, much cheaper price tag and their ability to get nice close up wildlife shots with out the need for large and expensive telephoto lenses. (You can take a look at a few more reasons in my article on Digital SLR vs Compact SuperZoom Cameras).

These and their many other great features have menat that over the past decade the amount of superzoom bridge cameras on the market has exploded. Now almost every major camera manufacturer has at least one ‘super zoom’ in their lineup. This is great for us as the increased competition has really driven the development and innovation, but it does make it a lot harder to choose which one is best.

To help you with this choice, I have decided to list the most popular digital super zoom cameras, with their main features in a simple way to compare them against each other.

What makes a Super Zoom Camera?

A superzoom camera is basically a bridge camera with a very powerful optical zoom. Because of the race between camera manufacturers to stay one step ahead of their competitors, we have seen the average zoom range extend from 10x to more than double that figure in only a few years. Now it is actually quite common to find bridge cameras with magnifications of 30x or more.

Today all the best super zoom cameras have a pretty similar design along with a maximum zoom of atleast 24x, covering ranges from wide angle to super telephoto. What is more, all have some sort of optical or mechanical image stabilization which is essential when working at such extreme magnifications. Other common features include electronic viewfinders, the ability to record HD video modes and full photographic control.

Best Bridge Cameras (With a superzoom)

The cameras I chose to compare are all fairly new and most have only been announced in 2013. All have zooms of 24x or more and are from the most popular camera manufacturers.


Compare Superzooms Side-By-Side

There are many features that you can use to compare super zoom digital cameras, I have chosen the main ones below, to make a quick comparison as easy as possible (use the scroll bar at the bottom to scroll from left to right or view the chart on a single page for easier comparison here)

Use the scroll bar to scroll from left to right or view the chart on a single page for easier comparison here.

Canon Powershot SX40 ISCanon Powershot SX40 IS

Announced: Sep 15, 2011

The Canon PowerShot SX40 HS is a 12MP CMOS-based superzoom with 35x zoom. The SX40 replaces the SX30 and has a 24-840mm equivalent zoom range. It can shoot at up to 10.3 frames per second for 8 shots and can capture 1080p24 HD video. An ‘Intelligent IS’ system attempts to assess the shooting conditions and use the most appropriate stabilization mode, to make the camera’s huge lens range usable.

Best Features: Fast 10.3 frames per second burst mode at full image resolution.

Worst Features: Fairly low 12MP sensor, Its LCD is slightly smaller (6.8 cm/2.7″) and has a lower dot resolution (230k) when compared to other top superzoom bridge cameras on this list

Cost & Where to Buy

Canon Powershot SX30 IS

The Canon SX30 IS is more than just a minor upgrade to their previous model, the SX20 IS. At 35x It currently has the most powerful optical zoom of all superzoom bridge cameras, it really does have the potential to get you right up close to the action.

Best Features: The most staggering thing about the Canon PowerShot SX30 IS is that lens. With a 35x optical zoom, its the 35mm equivalent of a 24-840mm lens – a focal range that would see you carrying bags full of incredibly pricey lenses on a regular digital SLR. Its image stabilisation and an ultra sonic motor (USM) for zooming, to let you get the most out of distant objects are also great.

Worst Features: Bigger than most other superzooms, may not be ideal for traveling with especially if every inch is vital. No RAW mode. The Canon PowerShot SX30 IS also suffers from a little lag – when turning the camera on, and waiting for it to start up – and also when shooting. It can only manage two shots per second (0.6fps).

Cost & Where to Buy

Full Review: Canon PowerShot SX30 IS

Fujifilm FinePix HS30Fujifilm FinePix HS30EXR

Announced: Jan 5, 2012

Of all the Superzoom Bridge cameras available, Fujifilm are the only manufacturers to offer a full-on bridge camera. The HS30EXR improves on the already excellent HS20EXR and comes with full manual controls, an abundance of buttons and dials and a proper zoom ring and so is from the user’s point of view, almost exactly like using a DSLR camera.

Best Features: 30x (24-720mm) zoom, 1080p full HD and high speed video, many external controls, manual zoom ring, DSLR-like operation, flash hot shoe, articulated screen, 11 fps continuous shooting at full resolution.

Worst Features: Like the HS20, the menu system is slightly longwinded, but this is somewhat compensated with the inclusion of a customisable Function (Fn) key on the rear of the camera, compared to may other superzooms it is fairly heavy and bulky

Cost & Where to Buy

Full Review: Fujifilm FinePix HS30EXR Review

Fujifilm X-S1Fujifilm X-S1

Announced: Nov 24, 2011

The Fujifilm X-S1 is part of the company’s high-end ‘X Series’ and is built around the same 12MP 2/3″ CMOS sensor as the X10 compact.

The 2/3” sensor has approximately double the surface area of most other superzooms that use 1/2.3”sensors.

Despite the comparatively large sensor, it manages to include a 26X 24-624mm equivalent F2.8-5.6 zoom lens.

It also features Raw shooting, a 1.44M dot electronic viewfinder and 460,000 dot rear LCD along with a rubberized coating and metal dials to emphasize its premium ‘Made in Japan’ status.

Best Features: Excellent build quality and one of the largest sensors of any superzoom bridge cameras currently on the market, 1.4 Megapixel viewfinder, 1080p full HD and high speed video, many external controls, manual zoom ring, DSLR-like operation, flash hot shoe, articulated screen.

Worst Features: The high quality sensor and fantastic build quality don’t come cheap and this is one of the most expensive bridge cameras on the market. Also one of the largest and heaviest Superzooms.

Cost & Where to Buy

Fujifilm FinePix HS10Fujifilm FinePix HS20EXR

Of all the manufacturers in this review, Fujifilm are the only ones to offer full-on bridge cameras. The FinePix HS20, like its predecessor, the HS10, comes with a propper zoom ring as you find on a DSLR as well as full manual controls and an abundance of buttons and dials. From the user’s point of view almost exactly like a DSLR camera, the only down side being that it is also one of the largest and heaviest superzooms on the market.

At 30x (24-720mm) it, apart from the Canon Powershot SX30 IS has the longest zoom range in the class.

Best Features: 30x zoom, 16 megapixels, 1080p full HD and high speed video, reliable focus/exposure systems, many external controls, manual zoom ring, DSLR-like operation, flash hot shoe, 3″ articulated screen, 8 fps continuous shooting at full resolution.

Worst Features: Slightly longwinded menu system, heavy and bulky.

Cost & Where to Buy

Full Review: Fujifilm FinePix HS20EXR Review

Kodak Z981Kodak EasyShare Z981

The Kodak Z981 gives you a good zoom range of 26-676mm (26x) and RAW capture, all at a bargain price. Some of the plastic body materials and the feature set look a little basic but the camera is definitely an option if you are shopping for a good superzoom on a tight budget.

Whilst the camera shoots 720p video at 30 frames per second, which is about average, the mode does not offer any manual controls at all.

If you like If the Kodak, you should also look at the Pentax X90. It is only slightly more expensive, also has a 26x zoom and comes in a more compact package that includes custom white balance and a slightly more flexible movie mode.

Best Features: Big zoom range, RAW format, low price.

Worst Features: Basic video mode, no HDMI output, low quality review image, no custom white balance, cheap looking body materials.

Cost & Where to Buy

Nikon Coolpix P500Nikon Coolpix P510

Announced – Feb 1, 2012

The Nikon Coolpix P510 boasts a massive 42x optical zoom and replaces the previous P500 and L120 models on the market (see below).

The P510’s 42x optical NIKKOR zoom lens reaches a powerful 1,000mm super-telephone focal length, down to a 24mm wide-angle. It packs a 16-megapixel back-illuminated CMOS sensor and advanced lens-shift vibration reduction, as well as a tiltable 921K-dot LCD monitor.

You also get Full HD (1080p) movie recording with stereo sound, the Coolpix P510 can record in slow or fast motion using speeds of up to 120 fps (VGA) and comes with a built-in HDMI connector that lets you connect the camera directly to a TV.

Burst Mode: Shoot up to five full-resolution shots at 7 fps, or up to 30 full-resolution shots at 1 fps.

Best Features: Super High-power zoom: NIKKOR 42x zoom lens with wide-angle to super-telephoto coverage (35 mm equivalent: 24-1000mm), Nikon use Four ED (extra low dispursion) glass elements minimize chromatic aberration. Built-in GPS. Great tilting screen mechanism.

Worst Features: It offers f/3 maximum aperture, which isn’t especially fast, but that’s true of superzooms in general.

Cost & Where to Buy

Nikon Coolpix P500Nikon Coolpix P500

Once again the Nikon P500 has made a big step forward from the P100 – especially when you take into consideration it’s very powerful 36x zoom lens and it’s very wide range from 22.5-810mm (35mm equiv.)

Other features include an excellent 3.0″ tilting LCD with 921,000k dot resolution and better low-light photography by incorporating a 12.1-megapixel back-illuminated CMOS sensor. For those interested in video, this camera offers 1080p Full HD movie recording capability with one-touch operation.

Best Features: High-power zoom: NIKKOR 36x zoom lens with wide-angle to super-telephoto coverage (35 mm equivalent: 22.5-810mm), High-resolution 7.5 cm (3-in.) 921K-dot, tiltable LCD monitor and is relitively light compared to others in this class.

Worst Features: Only records images at 12.1 Megapixels, aperture range is fairly small (F3.5 – F5.7) as is the ISO Range (160-3200)

Cost & Where to Buy

Nikon Coolpix P100Nikon Coolpix P100

The Nikon P100 is a big improvement from it’s predecessor and has an impressive feature set and decent image quality. The user interface leaves some room for improvement though.

With it’s powerful 26x zoom lens, giving you a range from 26-678mm (35mm equiv.)

It has a fairly high resolution LCD screen, although the P500 is now double it. What is nice is that it is articulated, although having said that remember the Panasonic FZ cameras can flip out and rotate, which in my view is even more flexible.

The dedicated movie button is a nice feature and the high speed 1080p stereo video is also impressive. What is also impressive is the 10 frames per second burst mode for stills capture and all this at a very tempting price point.

Best Features: Good build quality, high resolution LCD screen (articulated), small and lightweight body, USB-charging, clever video button, good quality 1080p full HD video, high speed video and stills capture, fast and reliable AF, good metering, efficient image stabilization.

Worst Features: The menu system is not that obvious and there is no quick menu, no RAW format.

Cost & Where to Buy

Olympus SP-810UZOlympus SP-810UZ

Announced: Jul 27, 2011

Taking over from the SP-800, the Olympus SP-810UZ superzoom comes with an even larger 36x (24-864mm equiv.) zoom lens and thus features one of the world’s longest optical zoom in a compact camera.

The SP-810UZ has a 14MP CCD sensor, 3.0″ LCD and 720p HD video recording. Also included are a 3D capture mode, AF Tracking and Magic Filters including a new ‘reflection’ effect.

Best Features: 36x zoom, one of the most compact and lightweight superzoom bridge cameras. Also one of the cheapest.

Worst Features: Only records film at 1280 x 720 (30 fps) and can only record a maxiumum of 0.73 fps in burst mode.

Cost & Where to Buy

Olympus SP-800UZOlympus SP-800UZ

At 30x (28-840mm), the Olympus SP-800UZ has one of the biggest zooms in the superzoom class.

What is also impressive is the 10 frames per second burst mode for stills capture and I like the fact that the camera comes with a rechargeable battery and not the 4xAA batteries required by some others.

This Olympus is one of the smallest super zooms, but is not one of the lightest.

Best Features: 30x zoom, 10fps burst mode for still capture, 14.0MP, 2GB internal memory, USB charging, compact design.

Worst Features: The slowest shutter speed is pretty fast (1/4 sec), The excellent Olympus 1.7x Tele Conversion Lens (TCON-17) is not compatible with this camera, which is a shame.

Cost & Where to Buy

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150

Announced: Aug 26, 2011

The Panasonic DMC-FZ150 CMOS-powered 24X superzoom is a replacement for the slightly unloved FZ100 and incorporates a lower-resolution 12MP sensor that Panasonic says will outperform its predecessor’s 14MP chip.

The camera retains a 25-600mm equivalent lens but now incorporating ‘Nano Surface Coating’ to mitigate the effects of internal reflections. And, just like its predecessor, the FZ150 retains the ability to record Raw images. The FZ150 also shoots 1080p60 HD movies in the recently-created AVCHD Progressive standard.

Best Features: Excellent High quality 3″ (460k dot) Flip out and rotateable LCD, threaded lens so is telephoto lens compatible, excellent HD 1080p video quality with stereo sound and manual controls, 12fps in burst mode.

Worst Features: Compared to many of the latest superzooms, the 24x optical zoom now seems a little small, but because the lens has threads, like the other Panasonic FZ cameras, the Lumix FZ150 is also compatible with a Telephoto Conversion Lens, which can extend your zoom to 40.8x, equivalent to 1020mm on a 35mm camera.

Cost & Where to Buy

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ45 (FZ40)Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ45 (FZ40)

The FZ45 (FZ40 in the USA) sits just under the FZ100 in Panasonic’s FZ superzoom series and is the successor to the very popular FZ38/35, one of my all time favorite superzoom safari cameras.

Improvements include am more powerful 24x (25-600mm equivalent) lens and a 14.1MP CCD sensor that now gives you a maximum image resolution of 4320 x 3240 pixels and a larger 3.0″ LCD screen.

What is also good news is that this camera is also compatible with a 1.7x Telephoto Conversion Lens, which extends your zoom to a massive 40.8x, equivalent to 1020mm on a 35mm camera. This combination means that this and the FZ100 have the largest zoom of any current superzoom camera.

Best Features: 25mm ultra wide-angle lens, telephoto lens compatible, High quality LCD, excellent image stabilization, snappy operation, intuitive user interface, fast and reliable AF, reliable metering, RAW format, excellent video quality with stereo sound and manual controls.

Worst Features: Only 1.8fps in Burst Mode.

Full Review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ45 (FZ40)

Cost & Where to Buy

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ100Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ100

The DMC-FZ100 added a number of improvements and refinements to the very popular FZ38/35 and the FZ45/40.

The improvements over both of them include the ability to record high-resolution full-HD 1920×1080 60i movies in AVCHD (MPEG-4/H.264) format as well as the standard Motion JPEG images.

The DMC-FZ100 also has a 3.0-inch “free-angle” LCD that rotates 180° to the side and tilts 270° up and down, and gives you almost the full field of view.

Like the other Panasonic super zoom cameras, the Lumix FZ100 is also compatible with a 1.7x Telephoto Conversion Lens, which extends your zoom to a massive 40.8x, equivalent to 1020mm on a 35mm camera. This combination means that it has the largest zoom of any current superzoom camera.

Best Features: High quality Flip out and rotateable LCD, 25mm ultra wide-angle lens, telephoto lens compatible, excellent HD 1080p video quality with stereo sound and manual controls, 11fps in burst mode, excellent image stabilization, snappy operation, intuitive user interface, fast and reliable AF, reliable metering, RAW format and 14.1 MP CMOS sensor.

Worst Features: Larger and heavier than the other Lumix Super Zoom cameras.

Full Review: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ100

Cost & Where to Buy

Pentax X90Pentax X90

The Pentax X90 offers a long zoom – 26-676mm (26x) at an attractive price point but overall the feature set is nothing out of the ordinary and the image quality lacks a little behind the competition in some areas.

The powerful (26x) zoom lens is it’s strongest asset, this combined with it’s small size and low weight make the Pentax an ideal carry-anywhere superzoom.

In many respects the Pentax X90 is an average compact superzoom that does the job as good as most out there, but without standing out from the crowd.

Best Features: Big zoom range (26-676mm), compact dimensions, reliable metering and focus, efficient image stabilization.

Worst Features: Low light image quality, focus slows down in low light, grainy videos, some corner softness, some fringing at telephoto end.

Cost & Where to Buy

Samsung WB5000 (HZ50W)Samsung WB5000 (HZ50W)

The Samsung WB5000 (HZ25W in the US) is the Samsung’s first go at in the superzoom market and they have produced a well-rounded camera with a 26x (26-676mm) zoom lens, 720p HD video and RAW shooting.

This is another superzoom that offers a lot of zoom in a tiny package but in low light it cannot quite keep up with the best cameras in this class. It’s also not the quickest and its focus can struggle in dim conditions.

Best Features: Attractive design, big zoom range, customizable user interface, compact dimensions, reliable metering, focus and flash.

Worst Features: Slowish operation, low light performance, chromatic aberrations at telephoto end, shortish battery life, not the best image stabilization.

Cost & Where to Buy

Sony Cybershot DSC-HX200VSony Cybershot DSC-HX200V

Announced: Feb 28, 2012

A 30x optical zoom is the camera’s main attraction and like most of Sony’s high end point-and-shoots, the HX200 carries an 18 megapixel EXMOR R sensor coupled to a BIONZ image processor. It sports a manual focus ring for those who would choose to do so, as well as a 3.0-inch 921k-dot tilting LCD and is GPS-enabled.

Best Features: 30x zoom, Full 1080 HD video at 60fps, ISO sensitivity ranges from 100 up to 12800 and a 18.2 megapixel sensor.

Worst Features: None at the moment – this looks to be a real contender!

Read the AnnouncmentSony Cybershot DSC-HX200V

Cost & Where to Buy

Sony Cybershot DSC-HX100VSony Cybershot DSC-HX100V

The GPS-enabled DSC-HX100V features Sony’s newly-developed back-illuminated Exmor R CMOS sensor, and is capable of recording full 1080p60 HD videos.

For still photography the HX100V offers 10fps continuous shooting. The HX100V boasts a 30x (27-810mm equiv.) optical zoom lens and a 921k dot display, and it can generate both high resolution panoramics and also 3D images.

Best Features: 30x zoom, Quality Carl Zeiss Lens, Exmor R CMOS sensor, can record full 1080p60 HD videos at 60fps & high resolution LCD display.

Worst Features: Small ISO range (100-3200) and this will probably not affect most people, but there is no lens thread, so cannot at additional teleconverter lens.

Cost & Where to Buy

Advantages of CMOS vs CCD Sensors

Some of the newest digital superzooms also now feature backlit CMOS sensors instead of the more conventional CCD ones.

The main advantages of CMOS over CCD include higher frame rates in both still and video capture as well as lower noise levels. However, the photodiodes on conventional CMOS sensors are typically smaller, due to their associated circuitry, leading to lower light-gathering efficiency and correspondingly higher noise. So-called ‘back side illuminated CMOS’ technology simply means that the sensors are more efficient at gathering light, due to the circuitry that accompanies the photodiodes being moved to the rear of the light gathering surface. This should mean greater efficiency, leading to cleaner output compared to conventional CMOS, especially in poor light at high ISO settings.


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Burst Mode / Continuous Shooting

The Continuous Shooting mode which is also known as Burst is the digital camera’s ability to take several shots immediately one after another.

The speed (number of frames per second or fps) and total number of frames differs greatly between cameras. The number of frames that can be taken is defined by the size of the buffer where images are stored before they are processed and written to the storage card.

This is an important feature for a safari camera or anyone wanting to take photos of faster moving objects like birds.


Raw image format

Raw image files are sometimes called digital negatives, as they fulfill the same role as negatives in film photography: that is, the negative is not directly usable as an image, but has all of the information needed to create an image.

Like a photographic negative, a raw digital image may have a wider dynamic range or color gamut than the eventual final image format, and it preserves most of the information of the captured image. The purpose of raw image formats is to save, with minimum loss of information, data obtained from the sensor, and the conditions surrounding the capturing of the image.

Normally, the image is processed by a raw converter in a wide-gamut internal colorspace where precise adjustments can be made before conversion to a “positive” file format such as TIFF or JPEG for storage, printing, or further manipulation, which often encodes the image in a device-dependent colorspace.


Cost & Where to Buy

As mentioned before, one of the biggest advantages of a digital compact super zoom camera over a digital SLR one is cost. Not only is the camera cheaper, but with a superzoom, you get the huge telephoto lens with the camera. To get the equivalent telephoto lens for an SLR camera can cost many thousands of pounds / dollars.

Superzooms cost between £250 and £500 or $250 and $500:

 

 

Further Reading

Fujifilm FinePix HS20EXRFujifilm FinePix HS20EXR

The successor to the very popular FinePix HS10 from Fujifilm, comes very powerful Fujifilm FinePix HS20EXR with it’s 30x optical zoom (35mm camera equivalent 720mm), much higher 16 MP image resolution, faster auto focus and movie recording in full 1080p HD. This camera has to be one of the very best for taking with you on any safari holiday.

>> Fujifilm FinePix HS20EXR Camera Review

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ100Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ100

With a super powerful 24x optical zoom (35mm camera equivalent 600mm), much higher 14.1 MP image resolution, rotating LCD screen, movie recording in full HD and a 25mm ultra wide angle lens, this is the best superzoom compact digital camera on the market and an ideal safari holiday companion.

>> Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ100 Digital Camera

 

  • For some advice on the best all round digital cameras, to take with you on safari and traveling around Africa: Best Digital Camera for Safari and Travel

  • For more of the best super-zoom cameras for safaris, wildlife and traveling, including which camera has the largest zoom and the highest image resolution, take a look at this page on the Safari Holiday Blog: Best Cameras for Safari: Super-Zooms