Capturing moments and the very essence of life; that’s what cameras are all about. Remember the days when film cameras were actually in vogue? The endless number of film rolls that one would purchase since they could capture just about 24 shots? That’s not all; the reel then had to be given for processing, which would take two to three days before you actually get to see the snaps. With the advent of digital cameras, photography has taken a whole new dimension. With a plethora of choices from every major brand, photography is no longer limited to professionals. The number of options that one gets when purchasing a camera is so enormous that everyone from a beginner to a professional can find what he/she is looking for. We can't deny the convenience that digital cameras have brought. Unlike film cameras, these come with added features such as face, smile and blink detection, along with a wide range of preset scenes that make usability almost foolproof.
The Canon SX40HS - Great performance, not quite the all-rounder
That’s not all; cameras such as the Nikon CoolPix P500 feature wide angle lenses. This basically gives you a wider view of the subject(s) being shot. Capturing videos is another added advantage that digital cameras offer. And you are no longer limited to capturing VGA resolution videos either; you can now get as high as Full HD 1080p at 60 fps. All cameras featured here, except the Canon PowerShot SX30 IS and the Olympus SP-810 UZ, are capable of capturing full HD video, which translates to better picture quality and smoother playback. Additionally, these cameras, other than offering the DSLR feel with regard to the build, weight, and usability, offer plenty of scene modes and filter options that can be applied similar to what compact point-and-shoot cameras have to offer.
Display screens are now available in tilt and flip-out options, which help taking shots at difficult angles even simpler. For example, shots can be taken from a height of more than 6 feet by merely lifting the camera up high and tilting the display screen downwards. Also, some cameras offer a 180-degree rotating and flip-out display, making self portraits easier. But since most cameras offer different feature sets, specifications and performance, the most confusing part is to be able to choose one that suits your needs and budget. With an array of cameras that list out their detailed specifications, it’s easy to get lost in a sea of information when you need to buy a simple, but good one. So if you are looking to pick up a megazoom camera, read on to find out which suits you best. Here are some of the best super ones that we tested. If you're interested in knowing how the others fared, the score sheet is present below.
Scoresheet (Click to enlarge)
Panasonic Lumix FZ150
The Canon SX40 HS is the clear winner when it comes to pure performance. However, parameters such as comfortable handling, rugged build and a few other features such as RAW support are also important, and this is where the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 stands out. With nano surface coating and rubberized grip, it looks and feels as rock solid as a mainstream DSLR. The specifications are similar to other digital cameras in its class. It features a 12.1 megapixel sensor with full manual control and 1080p video recording. However, the zoom ratio is quite less as compared to most others, which offer at least 30x optical zoom. The focal length at the widest end is 25 mm and it extends up to 600 mm.
Feature packed - the Panasonic FZ150
The design is excellent and it goes a long way in helping you adjust the settings on-the-fly and shoot comfortably. Some of the key features are an extra zoom lever to the left of the lens and one-touch access to focus modes, AF/AE lock, EV, ISO, timer, burst mode, and video capture. The extra zoom lever can be programmed for manual focus, plus there’s an ‘Fn’ button on the 5-way d-pad that can also be programmed as a shortcut. You can switch to EVF at the press of a button, but we wish it had a proximity sensor for automatic switching like in the Sony HX100V. The flip-out display is a very useful feature as it allows creative shooting with the camera held over the head or at ground level.
Great overall features and performance
On the performance front, the FZ150 is the second highest scorer. The reproduction of details and colours was top notch in both indoor and outdoor tests. The control over noise is very good up to ISO 400 after which the camera starts going haywire. A good thing is that you get 1/3-step ISO increments. The quality of video recording is very good. The image stabilizer does a very good job at keeping the frame steady at full zoom while shooting videos. If you don’t have the budget for a DSLR and you’re looking at prolevel features, the FZ150 is our top recommendation.
Panasonic Lumix FZ47
Panasonic’s Lumix FZ47 bagged the best value product because of the lowest price given on a combination of the great features it offers, excellent ergonomic value it possesses, rugged build quality it sports and, of course, good imaging performance. Unlike its predecessor, the FZ40, which has a 14 MP CCD, the FZ47 features a 12.1 megapixel 1/2.3- inch CCD with a 25 mm ultra-wide angle LEICA DC VARIO-ELMARIT lens with an optical zoom of 24x. The ISO sensitivity is between ISO 100 to 2000, while the shutter speed available is from 60 – 1/2000 sec. The camera can also record full HD video with stereo audio and optical zoom at 60 fps. It also features a Wind Cut function, whereby it can automatically reduce ambient noise of the wind. Users can simultaneously capture 3.5 MP still photos while shooting videos. The continuous autofocus and image stabilization create sharp videos with just a tad amount of jitter when panning or zooming.
Panasonic Lumix FZ47 - a great VFM product
Unlike other cameras, users also have the option of manually selecting the shutter speed and aperture for video modes. Since special filter effects are commonplace amongst digital cameras, the FZ47 features sepia, pinhole and tilt-shift options, which can be previewed on the screen as well as applied to photos and videos. The FZ47 also features 3D still image capturing, which can be viewed on a MPO compatible 3D television using the HDMI connection. Images for 3D are captured in a burst mode, while moving the camera by around 10 cm sideways and the camera automatically selects two photos to generate the 3D image.
The camera sports a 3-inch display that flips out and can be turned 180 degrees for angular shots and self portraits. The FZ47 performs with nearly 75 percent imaging quality when compared to Lumix FZ150, while the video performance is at par. Retailing at just Rs.20,990, it is a good choice for those looking for an advanced-level megazoom offering almost identical features and usability of a DSLR. The package includes a 4GB SD card and carries a great warranty period of three years.
So, if you're a wildlife photographer or want to just shoot long distance photos, then these cameras should be the one to look for.