Whether you are a budding amateur or a professional, all photographers need a precise and clear zoom to capture details from afar. Our collection of the best optical zoom cameras can capture stunning details of your subjects no matter how close or far you are.
Although most cameras are capable of digital zoom, in-camera post-processing can sometimes skew the results, resulting in higher resolution and poor quality images. Optical zoom, on the other hand, uses a series of lenses to zoom in on the subject in the exposure without digital processing, so the subject is limited only by the camera sensor’s megapixel (MP) rating.
Optical zoom cameras are ideal for all types of photography, including travel, landscape photography, sporting events, wildlife, or any situation where you want to get close to your subject without compromising image quality. For a bird’s eye view of what this type of camera can do, check out our guide to understanding zooms.
These are the best optical zoom cameras from manufacturers like Canon, Nikon and Sony. We considered factors such as price, ease of use, stabilization and zoom to find the best cameras.
Best package: Panasonic Lumix DC-FZ80
There is a lot to love about the Panasonic Lumix DC-FZ80. This camera offers great value for money and an impressive 60x long zoom (20-1200mm), ideal for capturing all the details of your photos, even from a distance, when paired with the LUMIX DC VARIO lens. It also offers 4K photos and videos, so the resulting images are of high quality.
The 18.1 megapixel MOS sensor works well even in low light conditions, and the built-in body stabilizer helps you take crisp, clear photos. However, you get the best results with telephoto shooting if you attach the camera to a tripod.
When you’re done shooting, you can transfer images directly to your devices via the camera’s built-in Wi-Fi. The FZ80 also features Panasonic’s “Post Focus” technology, which allows you to set the AF point in post-production, allowing you to capture the scene without gaps and compose the image perfectly.
Even if you are new to photography, camera controls can be learned quite quickly. You have a 3-inch LCD touchscreen to choose a setting and take a photo. The FZ80 is the best choice if you need a camera that shoots quickly and accurately and captures impressive zoomed images, whether you’re on vacation or just in your garden.
Runner-up, best overall: Canon Powers hot SX540 HS
Canon’s Powers hot range has been loved by amateur photographers for years and the Powers hot SX540 is no exception. This compact camera fits comfortably in your hand and is a great travel companion: with a 50x zoom (24-1200mm) you can capture every detail of wildlife even from a distance.
Photographers will enjoy a 20.3 megapixel CMOS sensor, Wi-Fi connectivity and the ability to record Full HD 1080p video. Although the LCD screen on the back is sadly not a touchscreen, the 3-inch LCD screen is large enough for you to easily compose your shots and view the photos you’ve taken.
The SX540 also benefits from Zoom Framing Assist, which allows users to automatically capture and track a subject. This is a useful feature for shooting animals, sports, or anything else that moves quickly. This makes it much easier to take sharp photos with the entire subject in the frame. We also like that this camera is affordable – while you may not get the tech features you find in a more expensive camera, most users are impressed with the great features this little camera can offer.
Best camera: Nikon COOLPIX P1000
If you’re willing to pay a little more, the Nikon COOLPIX P1000’s 125x zoom (24-3000mm) won’t impress you. With this type of detailed zoom you can take beautiful photos of wildlife, flowers or concerts, but you can also take photos in space.
The P1000 offers so much zoom that you can easily use it for astrophotography, capturing the moon, stars and even other planets as they pass. Users can also enjoy a 16 megapixel CMOS sensor, 7 FPS continuous shooting and 4K Ultra HD video.
You can shoot in RAW format with the P1000, something avid photographers will appreciate. Plus, you can unleash your creativity with some of the camera’s useful features, such as time-lapse, super-lapse, and built-in editing filters.
Ideal for families: Canon Powers hot SX70
Families want a reliable, high-quality camera that takes great pictures, but is also easy enough for everyone in the family. If your family is looking for a new zoom camera, check out the Canon Powers hot SX70. The 65x optical zoom (21-1365mm) captures stunning images, and Dual Sensing image stabilization ensures you capture every detail the way you want it. We also love the fast autofocus, long battery life and accurate colors – just what you need for your next family vacation.
Users can shoot in both JPEG and RAW format, opening up more editing options in post-production. You can also upload your photos directly to your phone or social media, as the SX70 includes both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity.
Photographers have access to a highly sensitive 20.3-megapixel CMOS that’s great in low-light conditions, as well as ultra-fast focus and shooting with the camera’s DIGIC 8 image processor. Or shoot 4K UHD videos at up to 30 FPS, but remember that 4K videos are usually recorded slightly cropped. Plus, it’s a great all-in-one that your family will enjoy for years.
Best budget: Sony DSC-H300
If you’re an amateur photographer looking for a good value for money camera, the Sony DSC-H300 is a great entry-level option. Although the specs don’t rival the cameras used by professionals, you can still use the 35x zoom, Steady Shot image stabilization and 20.1 megapixel Super HAD CCD sensor, all of which combine to produce beautifully vivid images.
Party mode allows you to automatically adjust ISO and capture vivid images that are useful in low-light shooting. If it’s video you’re looking for, this camera can record in 720p high definition. It’s hard to find a better camera for under $200.
When shooting, the smooth grips are comfortable to hold and use, with excellent ergonomic support. However, some users report that the menu system can take some time to master as it can be confusing, although users can simplify their operations by switching to simple mode. Sharp autofocus, high-quality images and an affordable price have a lot to offer with the H300.
With 60x zoom, built-in stabilization and a high-quality build, the Panasonic Lumix DC-FZ80 is our first choice for almost every user. The Canon Powers hot SX540 HS also offers good value for money and many useful features such as 50x zoom, compact size and Wi-Fi connectivity.