It's all about the zoom this week at Crave. Some may name them bridge cameras, describing the way they boast features from both the compact and dSLR worlds, but for those who call them superzooms the latest generation is living up to the name. We starting to wonder if the race to slap a bigger lens on the front will overtake the race to cram in more megapixels.
We're currently stalking with, er, carrying out testing with a Kodak Easyshare Z712 IS. We thought the 12x zoom was a bit tasty, but the recent announcements from Panasonic and Fujifilm knock it into a cocked hat. Panasonic's DMC-FZ18 packs 8.1-megapixel and a crazy huge 18x zoom. Fujifilm's 8-megapixel S8000fd matches the Panasonic's 18x zoom, 64mm (2.5-inch) screen, face detection and maximum ISO 6,200 sensitivity.
Fuji seems committed to making these dSLR-aping cameras accessible to consumers by continuing its recent policy of adding SD and SD-HC memory capacity cards alongside the usual xD format. On top of that, the S8000fd gets its juice from four consumer-friendly AA batteries.
The really good news is that manufacturers have recognised that such ginormous zooms need to be paired with decent image-stabilisation systems. Pushing a telephoto lens to these kind of limits will magnify even the smallest of hand vibrations and give you blurry pictures (booo!). So the Z712, DMC-FZ18 and S8000fd all have optical image stabilisation (hurray!). The CCD sensors are microscopically shifted to counter camera shake.
As the gap between dSLRs and compact cameras narrows, primarily because compacts are getting better, there seems to be less space for bridge cameras. But if the manufacturer-hyped megapixel race is slowing, and perhaps even topping out at around 10-12 megapixels, we anticipate zoom size could become the newest camera craze. Superzooms are inherently unable to match the pocketability of the slimline compact, but they could develop a growing following from photographers looking to take more control without making the leap to dSLR.
Available in September, the Fujifilm S8000fd will retail at $399.95 (£200) in the US and should be zooming its way across the pond soon. -Rich Trenholm