We purchased the The 5 Best Optical Zoom Cameras so our expert reviewer could thoroughly test and assess it. Keep reading for our full products reviews.
Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, all photographers require a precise and clear zoom to capture details from a distance. No matter how close or far you are from your subject, our collection of the best optical zoom cameras can capture stunning details.
While most cameras have digital zoom capabilities, in-camera post-processing can sometimes skew your results, leaving you with low-resolution and low-quality images. Optical zoom, on the other hand, employs a series of lenses to enlarge the subject in your exposure without the use of digital processing, ensuring that your subject is only limited by the megapixel (MP) rating of your camera’s sensor.
Optical zoom cameras are great for a variety of situations, including travel, landscape photography, sporting events, wildlife photography, and any other situation where you want to get closer to your subject without sacrificing image quality. If you want to get a bird’s eye view of what this type of camera can do for you, check out our guide to understanding zoom lenses.
The best optical zoom cameras from Canon, Nikon, and Sony are listed below. To determine the best cameras, we looked at factors like price, ease of use, stabilization, and zoom.
The Panasonic Lumix DC-FZ80 () has a lot to like about it. This camera comes with a LUMIX DC VARIO lens and a 60x (20-1200mm) long zoom lens, which is ideal for capturing all the detail in your photos, even from a distance. It also supports 4K photo and video, ensuring that the images you produce are of the highest quality.
The 18.1MP MOS sensor is also good in low light, and the built-in body stabilization aids in capturing crisp, clear images. When shooting telephoto video, however, you’ll get the best results if you use a tripod.
After you’ve finished shooting, use the camera’s built-in Wi-Fi to transfer your photos to your devices. Panasonic’s “Post Focus” technology is also included in the FZ80, which allows you to set your focal points in post-production, allowing you to capture a scene without pausing to compose it perfectly.
The camera’s controls can be learned quickly even if you’re new to photography. To choose your settings and create your shot, you have a 3-inch LCD touchscreen display. If you need a camera that can shoot quickly, accurately, and capture impressive zoom shots, whether you’re on vacation or just in your own backyard, the FZ80 is a great choice.
Resolution: 18.1MP | Sensor Type: 1/2.3″ MOS | Max ISO: 3,200 | Optical Zoom: 60x | Connectivity: NFC, Wi-Fi
Runner-Up, Best Overall: Canon PowerShot SX540 HS
Canon’s PowerShot line has long been a favorite of amateur photographers, and the PowerShot SX540 () is no exception. With a 50x (24–1200mm) zoom, you’ll be able to capture all the details of wildlife, even from a distance, with this compact camera.
The 20.3MP CMOS sensor, Wi-Fi connectivity, and ability to shoot 1080p Full HD video will appeal to photographers. While the 3-inch LCD on the back of the camera isn’t a touchscreen, it’s large enough to compose shots and review photos you’ve already taken.
Zoom Framing Assist is another feature on the SX540 that allows users to lock on to a subject and track it automatically, which is useful for photographing animals, sports, or anything else that moves quickly. This makes capturing clear shots with your entire subject in the frame much easier. We also like how affordable this camera is—while you won’t get the same specs as a more expensive camera, most users will be impressed by how many great features this little camera has to offer.
Resolution: 20.3MP | Sensor Type: 1/2.3-inch BSI-CMOS Sensor | Max ISO: 3,200 | Optical Zoom: 50x | Connectivity: NFC, Wi-Fi
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Best Splurge: Nikon COOLPIX P1000
The Nikon COOLPIX P1000’s () 125x (24-3000mm) zoom is impossible not to be impressed by if you’re willing to spend a little more. You can shoot not only amazing images of wildlife, flowers, or concerts, but you can also shoot into space with such a detailed zoom.
Because the P1000 has such a wide range of zoom, it’s ideal for astrophotography, capturing the moon, stars, and even other planets as they pass by. A 16MP CMOS sensor, 7FPS burst shooting, and 4K Ultra HD video are also available.
On the P1000, you can shoot in RAW, which will appeal to serious photographers. You can also get creative with some of the camera’s useful features, such as time lapse, Superlapse, and built-in editing filters.
The camera’s size is comfortable and easy to grip when shooting for long periods of time, though it may be too large for those who prefer something more compact. You can adjust the camera’s focus or exposure without taking your gaze away from the viewfinder thanks to the addition of a control ring. If the best zoom is all you need, the P1000 is the way to go.
Resolution: 16.7MP | Sensor Type: 1/2.3-inch BSI-CMOS Sensor | Max ISO: 6,400 | Optical Zoom: 125x | Connectivity: NFC, Wi-Fi
Best for Families: Canon PowerShot SX70
Families want a camera that is both dependable and high-quality, as well as simple to use for everyone in the house. Check out the Canon Powershot SX70 () if you’re looking for a new zoom camera for your family. The 65x optical zoom (21mm-1,365mm) produces stunning images, and the Dual Sensing image stabilization feature ensures that you get every detail you want. We also like how fast the autofocus is, how long the battery lasts, and how accurate the color is—all of which are ideal for your next family vacation.
Users can shoot in JPEG or RAW, which gives them more options for post-production editing. Because the SX70 has both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, you can upload your photos directly to your phone or social media.
Photographers will benefit from a 20.3MP High-Sensitivity CMOS sensor, which is ideal for low-light situations, as well as the camera’s DIGIC 8 Image Processor, which allows for super-fast focus and shooting. Shoot video in 4K UHD at up to 30 frames per second, but keep in mind that 4K video is slightly cropped. Aside from that, it’s a fantastic all-arounder that your family will enjoy for years.
Resolution: 20.3MP | Sensor Type: 1/2.3-inch BSI-CMOS Sensor | Max ISO: 3,200 | Optical Zoom: 65x | Connectivity: NFC, Wi-Fi
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Best Budget: Sony DSC-H300
The Sony DSC-H300 () is a fantastic option for an entry-level model if you’re an amateur photographer looking for a good value camera. While the specs aren’t as impressive as those found in professional cameras, you still get 35x zoom, SteadyShot image stabilization, and a 20.1MP Super HAD CCD sensor, all of which work together to produce stunning, vibrant images.
You can use Party Mode to automatically adjust your ISO to enable vivid photos in low-light situations. If you want to record video, this camera can do so in 720p high definition. It’s difficult to find a better camera for under $200.
The smooth grips are comfortable to hold and use while shooting, and they provide excellent ergonomic support. However, some users report that mastering the menu system can be difficult due to its complexity; however, users can simplify their controls by switching to Easy Mode. There’s a lot to like about the H300, including sharp autofocus, high-quality images, and a low price.
Resolution: 20.4MP | Sensor Type: 1/2.3-inch BSI-CMOS Sensor | Max ISO: 3,200 | Optical Zoom: 35x | Connectivity: NFC, Wi-Fi