Ultra Zoom Cameras - 4 Best Ultra-Zoom Compared
The Nikon P500 is one of the most popular ultra-zoom cameras right now, and for a good reason. It's been heavily compared against the Canon SX30 IS, Olympus SP-800UZ and Sony HX100V. I've been getting emails from people who have tried all of those cameras. It seems that the Nikon P500 is more favorable among amateur photographers than the other cameras. If I had to rate those cameras according to what I've heard from people, this is how I would rate it: Nikon P500 first, Sony HX100V, Canon SX30 IS and Olympus SP-800UZ last.
When people are searching to purchase a new ultra-zoom cameras they are looking for a few things: megapixels, zoom range, LCD screen, video resolution and camera design. Some of them care about battery life too. Many people just don't care or don't understand what BSI means nor they care investigating the software-based features in the camera. I don't mean everyone, but it seems that it's true for the majority. For those of you who still have problem deciding between the Nikon P500 and the other cameras, let me emphasize the advantages that the Nikon Coolpix P500 has over its competitors (which I've written above).
Sensor Type - Is it important?
In short, Yes, it is. You should know that the Nikon P500 and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX100V, only those two cameras utilize a Back illuminated sensor, BSI in short. A backside illuminated sensor is a new technology which many companies start implementing in their digital cameras. It's a sensor technology which actually enhance the light sensitivity of the sensor. The problem with point-and-shoot cameras' sensors is that they are very small.
Because of that, they are less sensitive to light and that leads to poor image quality in general. This is crucial if you want to take pictures in low lighting conditions. This is the reason why we have higher ISO sensitivity options in our camera. To be able to get those low-light shots and get out with a usable photo, both for print and for the web. But it's not only for low-light. In fact, BSI sensors have higher dynamic range which, in the end, gives use better looking and more colorful images.
The TRUTH about the Zoom
One of the reasons you want to get a super-zoom digital camera is to be able to shoot far away subject without getting close to it. You just can't get a closeup photo of the top floor of the Eiffel Tower by climbing to the top - with an ultra-zoom digital camera you can. You just hold down the zoom bottom and the camera optically magnifies the subject. Because it's done optically and not digitally (although digital zoom is also available in those cameras), you get a sharp and high quality photo.
The Nikon Coolpix P500 utilizes a 22.5-810 mm F3.4-5.7 (36x) lens. This is a very long range, or you might call it a very long zoom. The 36x number represents the range between the lowest focal length number (22.5) and the largest focal length number (810). The number (ie. 36x) by itself doesn't tell the real truth about the magnification capabilities of the camera. A 30x zoom camera can have larger magnification than a 36x camera. It depends on the number that appears second in the focal length range (in Nikon P500 this is 810mm). The higher the number, the bigger the magnification of the lens. So when you go shopping for a new camera, you should take a closer look at those two numbers.
Regarding the first focal length number (in the P500 its the 22.5mm). The smaller the number, the wider the scene that you can capture through the lens. For a group shots or landscape shots, you want you lens to have the a smaller number. 22.5mm on the Nikon P500 means that its a pretty wide angle. We can compare those two numbers against the competitors and than we can see which one has larger magnification and which one has a wider angle.
In fact, both the Nikon P500 and the Sony HX100V has less magnification power than the Olympus 800 UZ and the Canon SX30 IS. It's not a huge difference.
Nikon P500: 22.5-810 mm (36x Zoom*)
Canon SX30 IS: 24-840 mm (35x Zoom)
Olympus SP-800UZ: 28-840 mm (30x Zoom)
Sony Cyber-Shot HX100V: 27-810mm (30x Zoom)
* optical zoom
Look closely at this information. We can see that the Canon SX30 IS and the Olympus 800UZ both have a 840mm maximum magnification. Even though that the Canon is 35x zoom and the Oly is 30x zoom, they both give you the same maximum magnification. It's easy to see why the Canon is 35x zoom and the Olympus is 30x zoom, take a look:
Canon - 840 / 24 = 35
Olympus - 840 / 28 = 30
I hope that's make things clear now.
Let's see what a 22.5-810mm (36x) zoom feels like. This YouTube video was shot in 1080p and demonstrated the zoom range of the Nikon P500.
By inspecting those numbers even further, we can see that the Nikon P500 gives you the widest angle (22.5mm) compared to the other three cameras. That means that for landscape and group shots, the Nikon is a better camera, because it offers a wider angle of view compared to the other cameras.
Don't be tempted to buy a camera only because it has a 40mm magnification advantage over another camera, it's not makes a lot of difference and there are many other factors that should be considered. I personally prefer having a wider angle than having those extra 40mm. If the camera's image quality is good, the image can be cropped a bit and give you the same results, that without getting an un-sharp image.
Aperture, You need to know what it means
The other factor that you should be know about is the aperture values of the lens. The aperture of the lens represents the opening size of the lens diaphragm. The larger the aperture, the more light can reach the sensor. The aperture is represented with f-numbers.
For example, take a look at the Nikon P500 lens specs:
The maximum aperture opening is represented with the F-number (shown in red above). That means that we start with the lease magnification (22.5mm) with a maximum aperture opening of F3.4 and up to F5.7 in the highest magnification of the lens (in P500 its 810mm). As we said the lower the number the better.
We can see that the Nikon P500 has a disadvantage when compared to the other cameras, let's take a look:
Nikon P500 - F3.4-5.7
Canon SX30 IS - F2.7-5.8
Olympus Sp-800UZ - F2.8-5.6
Sony Cyber-Shot HX100V - F2.8-5.6
The Canon is actually the fastest on at the wide angle with F2.7. We should consider the focal length so we can compare the F-number equivalent to the same focal lengths on all cameras. Because this varies, be can make a rough assumption.
At the tele end, the Olympus SP-800UZ is the fastest (F5.6), but not that much. It's important to remember that each F-stop means twice the amount of light that reaches the sensor (more information here). Today we can see some compact cameras (not ultra zooms) that have F1.8 and F2.0 aperture in their shortest focal lengths.
This is important if you intend to shoot in low-light or you want to be able to get faster shutter speeds to stop the action. Overall, those cameras aren't low-light heavy-weight champions and they aren't intended to be. So the Nikon P500 doesn't get an extra score here, but rather the Canon Sx30 IS.
LCD, Does Resolution & Size Matter?
The rear LCD is probably one of the mist important parts of any point-and-shoot camera. Why? - because you will be composing your shot through it. The thing is that many the latest digital cameras have a large 3-inch high resolution displays, so some comparison articles don't even mention it. However, with our four cameras, we can clearly see a substantial difference, let's take a look.
Nikon P500 - 3-inch 921,000 dots Tilt
Canon SX30 IS - 2.7-inch 230,000 dots Swivel/Tilt
Olympus - SP-800UZ 3-inch 230,000 Fixed
Sony HX100V - 3-inch 921,600 dots Tilt
As we can see in the above list, the Nikon and the Sony have a clear resolution advantage over the Oly and the Canon. Furthermore, the Canon has a smaller 2.7-inch compared to 3-inch on the other cameras. The difference between 230K dots and 921K dots is pretty obvious when looking at the two cameras side by side. It's not crucial, but it certainly gives you more information on the screen and viewing, composing images and checking focus and sharpness is much better with large and high resolution LCDs.
Another thing to notice is that the Olympus has a fixed LCD compared to the tilting ones on the Nikon, Canon and Sony. Why?, beets me, but that what Olympus has given us.
So why do you need a tilting screen? - a tilting screen is useful if you want to capture photos and videos in various angles without getting on the floor or climbing on a wall. It just make shooting pictures and videos more fun. Want to shoot your dog sleeping on the floor? You don't need to lie on the floor like him, just open the tilting screen and put the camera in a lower position and compose your image or video footage. -1 point for Olympus.
So in this section the Nikon P500 and the Sony HX100V, both wins hands-down. No competition from Canon or Olympus.
Another things that we can't just skip is the electronic viewfinder. The electronic viewfinder (EVF) gives you an option to compose your images through a viewfinder not through the LCD. Many photographers will prefer this for a few reasons:
1) Better than LCD in daylight. In a bright daylight, composing images through the LCD can become really difficult
2) Better connection between the subject and the photographer
Maybe there are other advantages, but the point is that the Olympus (again, Olympus) doesn't come with an EVF. The other three cameras do. I am tried taking point from Olympus all the time
Why do you want Full HD (1080p) Camera?
It's pretty simple, better image quality and its look gorgeous on a 1080p HDTV, that's why. Both Nikon and Sony can record movie clips in Full HD (1080p = Full HD, 720p = HD). The Olympus and the Canon can only record movie clips at 720p/HD. The Nikon can even capture slow motion videos at 240fps in QVGA resolution.
Not all of you will care about 1080p. Why? - because it takes more space on the memory card. Second, it takes more time to upload to YouTube. But in short, 1080p is better, and if you still don't know the differences, you should probably get 1080p, just to be sure.
I've seen video from both Sony and Nikon, both look great. Because I've already posted a video from the Nikon above to demonstrate the zoom, Lets take a look at a 1080p Full HD (you'll need to change the resolution in the video to see that in full hd) video that was taken with the Sony HX100.
In one word: Beautiful. Great colors, contrast and sharpness. Excellent example of the Sony HX100 video recording capabilities. Don't you agree. Kodus Sony
I've gone through what I think are the key features that most of you are interested in comparing. The image quality of the Nikon and Sony, in my opinion, is better than the Canon and the Olympus, I can't really see a large difference in image quality between the Sony and the Nikon that will make me recommend one over another. Overall, both the Nikon CoolPix P500 and the Sony HX100 are highly recommended ultra-zoom cameras and I highly recommend buying on of those two cameras, Sony HX100V or Nikon P500.
You can purchase the Nikon P500 from Amazon here) or the Sony HX100 from Amazon here. If you prefer buying from B&H Photo, you can buy the Nikon P500 from B&H here or Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX100V from B&H here.
BTW: sorry for any grammar mistakes that might appear in this comparison article. English is not my native language. Thanks for understanding.
Those of you who experienced with one of those cameras, feel free to share your experience. See ya.
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Sony HX100V vs Nikon P500 vs Canon SX30IS vs Olympus 800UZ Which Ultra Zoom Digital Camera you Should Buy?
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