Like every year, this time too digital camera manufacturers battled primarily for one thing—to churn out a super-zoom camera that could zoom the farthest. This was quite evident with the launch of the Nikon Coolpix P510 that featured a 42x zoom lens, which was followed by the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS with a whopping 50x zoom. Then there were other models that focussed on a different aspect; for instance, the Samsung Galaxy Camera, which was an attempt to converge a super-zoom camera and the features of a high-end smartphone. Some brands even attempted to redefine the price band, which is why you can today buy a super-zoom for as less as Rs 10,000. We have listed all such models and compiled our G.O.T.Y. 2012: Super-zoom list. Let’s start with the ones that topped our chart.
Super-zoom of the Year: Panasonic Lumix FZ200
Deciding between the Panasonic Lumix FZ200 and the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS was a tough call to take. The photo and video quality of both the cameras is excellent, and so is the feature set that includes support for RAW, full HD video recording, full manual controls, hot-shoe for external flash, fully-articulating display, and so on. The biggest difference between the two is the lens. The one on the FZ200 can maintain F2.8 aperture throughout the large focal range of 25 to 600 mm (24x optical zoom), whereas the SX50 HS boasts a 50x zoom lens. Given the lens of the SX50 HS, it can extend twice as much as the FZ200, but that wasn’t the only deciding factor. The FZ200 has a far better build and ergonomics. In fact, it feels better than even some of the entry-level DSLR cameras. Also, the controls are much more fine-grain and customisable. All this put together makes the FZ200 a clear winner. It’s priced higher than entry-level DSLRs, but it’s a worthy investment if you want a super-zoom that’s enthusiast-class in all respects.
The best-in-class super-zoom
First Runner Up: Canon PowerShot SX50 HS
The Canon PowerShot SX50 HS would have been the winner had the Panasonic FZ200 not existed! It’s the successor to the SX40 HS and Canon has gone all out with upgrading the feature set—the most significant change being the 50x zoom lens, which is the first in the super-zoom segment. Like in the SX40 HS, the lens starts from 24 mm and goes way up to 1200 mm. Be it super macro, wide landscapes, portraits or capturing minute details in distant objects, one lens does it all. The super telephoto lens calls for strong image stabilisation, and Canon has been thoughtful in providing the Lock button to maintain a steady frame. Other upgrades include a higher resolution screen (461K dots) and higher ISO range (100 to 6400) in 1/3-step increments. If you want a digital camera with a lens that can effectively extend up to as much as those bazooka-like super telephoto lenses used in sports and wildlife photography, get the SX50 HS—the close-ups taken at full zoom are jaw-dropped!
Super-zoom with maximum optical zoom
Second Runner Up: Nikon CoolPix P510
The CoolPix P510 is Nikon’s latest flagship super-zoom camera. It had the longest zoom range until the PowerShot SX50 HS showed up. At 24 mm, the lens is among the widest in class and it extends to a good 1000 mm, which is slightly less than the SX50 HS. Other than this, the key features include a high-resolution 921K display and built-in GPS receiver to help you geo-tag your photos. The P510 is available in black and metallic red body colours, and both look very pleasing. According to our tests, the quality of photos it captures is just a notch below the Panasonic FZ200. The largest aperture at the wide end is f/3.0, which makes it a fairly better low-light performer than many of the other models in its class. Also, it handles noise quite well at up to ISO 400. Considering its feature set and stellar performance, it’s undoubtedly the best value for money at its current asking price of Rs 21,000.
Second-highest optical zoom
The ones listed above were the biggest and the baddest super-zoom cameras that we got our hands on in 2012. Besides these, we also came across a few other models that deserve a mention because they are special in some way and impacted the digital camera industry.
A super-zoom camera jammed into the body of the Samsung Galaxy S III; yes, we’re talking about the Samsung Galaxy Camera. Agreed that Samsung wants to offer a camera that goes beyond just allowing you to share your photos wirelessly and upload them on social networks. But sadly, it doesn’t deliver on its core functionality—the quality of photo it takes isn’t impressive at all. On the other hand, it’s incredible as a mobile Internet device and portable media player. Nevertheless, it was one of the most innovative gizmos of 2012. That it didn’t quite make a cut is another question!
The most enthusiastic attempt
This one proved it was possible to offer a super-zoom camera for as less as around Rs 10,000, which is less than half the average price of premium super-zoom models. This 16 megapixel shooter boasts a 21x telephoto lens and its design resembles an entry-level DSLR camera. One of the factors that helped reduce cost was the use of four AA batteries to power the camera. Also, unlike premium super-zooms, you don’t get as much flexibility over exposure parameters despite the fully manual controls. The GH600 is good for taking macro shots and performs acceptably well at up to ISO 200. If you’re going to shoot mostly in broad daylight and need an ultra-budget super-zoom, this one won’t disappoint you.
The most affordable super-zoom
Much of the heft of this 14 megapixel shooter comes from the 30x zoom lens. When retracted, the lens with a ridged rubber grip resembles a standard 18-55 mm lens that comes with most entry-level DSLRs. The lens has a focal length of 24 mm at the widest end and extends up to 720 mm at the telephoto end, which translates to 30x optical zoom. Fujifilm has made absolutely no compromises on the build quality. The solidly-built plastic shell and rubberised surface lends a premium look and feel—and also inspires confidence while shooting. The overall performance of the SL300 is quite acceptable and with its feature set put together, it’s good value at slightly less than Rs 20,000.
Good value for money
That’s our G.O.T.Y 2012 for super-zoom digital cameras. Do let us know which models in this range made it to your list. We’d love to know just which of 2012’s big launches left their impression on you.
Check out our other G.O.T.Y 2012 award lists here.
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