View Full Version : Which superzoom?

4th of August 2011 (Thu), 05:36
Looking at buying a superzoom for birding and wild life.

What would you buy?

I am looking for the best image quality with a long zoom.
Stills and video.

4th of August 2011 (Thu), 07:05
The SX30, P500, HS20EXR are all good choices with good image quality.
The SX30 has the largest focal length, though only by a margin.
There are other differences as well (Hot-shoe, RAW, 720p/1080p).
The Sony HX100V is also an option, but costs more than those three.

You can check out the Super Zoom comparison page (http://www.eyalg.com/compare/super_zooms/) on my site for further details.


4th of August 2011 (Thu), 07:47
Thanks off to your site now.

Looks like the SX30 (best range and stabilisation)or the HS20 (Good movie,raw and low light shots).

Very good site by the way.

Do you think it is worthwhile taking Fuji raw versus Canon's good jpeg quality?
How do you rate Canon movie quality versus Fuji?

4th of August 2011 (Thu), 20:11
Mistral2 - I'd suggest that you wait a few weeks if you can - to see if Canon's SX40 (?) to follow its SX30 effort has rather better JPEG IQ - or might return the SX10's SuperFine JPEG Save mode. And add RAW. And have Fast-Continuous...

Most higher-end Bridge Zooms now do RAW - the SX30 doesn't. Most have pretty good Fast-Continuous - 7-8fps or more - the SX30 has 1.3fps - slower than my older SX10's 1.4fps.

There's actually little "physical reach" difference between the 35x SX30 and Fuji's 30x HS10 - though Canon says 840mm-equiv for the one, Fuji 720mm-equiv for the other.

- I've had an HS10 for about a year - I like it, but it's been quite a learning experience....

The HS20 inherits the HS10's physical 30x lens setup - but as it has a different size sensor, the HS20 reach is a little less, and the "Wide end" is very slightly wider.

The HS10 has a 10Mpix 1/2.3" BSI-CMOS sensor. This makes it pretty good for a P&S at the lower-light, higher-ISO levels. Up to ISO 800 JPEGs are fairly good - but shooting RAW or RAW + JPG (up to 3fps or 5fps - JPEG only is 12-8-5-3fps) will have better detail and range in the RAW. Above ISO 800 there's 1600, 3200 and 6400 - use 1600 as RAW - above that, only if you had to.

The HS10 at over two-thirds Zoom is "very" senstive to movement or vibes - using a tripod and the Timer gets best results - stick to the Priorities or Manual - Auto and Program are rather slack, to be polite.

As said - the HS20 inherits that lens setup - but instead has Fuji's EXR Tech 1/2.0" sensor, at 16Mpix. That's a 7% larger sensor with 44% greater receptor density on it. To get Fast-Continuous, and low-light, etc, functions, that camera can function in EXR-mode - in which it pairs the sensor receptors and functions as an 8Mpix camera.

I awaited the follow-up to the HS10 with great interest - but "yet another" large zoomer with 16Mpix crammed into a confetti-flake sized sensor didn't impress me.

The HS10's worst faults are mostly inherited by the HS20 - including the fragile plastic tripod-mount that's very close to the battery-door. Fuji says - er, of their 30x Zoom camera - that "tripod use is only intended to be occasional".

Riiiggghhht - that's why Canon puts a solid lump of metal on the SX10-20-30, as tripod mount, is it....?

As for the video - the HS20 has the same setup as the HS10 - Full HD 1920 x 1080 H264/MOV, fairly low bitrate - Std HD 1280 x 720 - smaller frame, nearly the same bitrate / filesize as 'Full', better quality than Full - and 640 x 480...

There are no manual video Brightness or Focus controls. And the manual twist-zoom that's so lightning-fast superb for stills - is a woefully bad "Jerk-O-Matic" with the video... Fuji clearly never had anyone "field-test" the video 'jerk-zoom" and "non-controls".

If your needs include doing a lot of video with in-out-zoom, etc - it won't be with the HS10/20...

If you need medium-level JPEGs (not as good as SuperFine from a Canon SX10) - and pretty good 15MB+ Fuji RAF RAWs - and Continuous up to 12fps HS10, 5fps RAW, and RAW+JPEG, the HS10 in Priorities or Manual is pretty good. The HS20 does 8fps JPEG, 5fps RAW (in 16Mpix mode.)

But if video is one of your main preferences - AND you need a camera right now - the Canon SX30 probably has the best - if just Std 1280 x 720 H264/MOV - video of all the Bridge Zooms - the 2-speed zoom works very well in video in the slower speed, and like the SX10/20 before it - there's Manual focus and Manual Brightness... If it's similar to the SX10 - the Autofocus works well with the video - so you can use the control ring to handle brightness as you pan into brighter or shadier areas.

The SX30 does have too many Mpix on its 1/2.3" sensor, which doesn't help JPEG quality. However - and do check the SX30 threads on this Forum - you CAN get both RAW and the Superfine JPEG saves with the CHDK hack - which doesn't harm the camera at all.

From what I've been seeing - CHDK with RAW to post-process from that quite crowded sensor, seems to get best still-image quality - pretty good! - from the SX30.

Regards, Dave.

5th of August 2011 (Fri), 01:29
Hi Dave - Thanks for the superb info -

One thing which really worries me about the Sx30 is the "sticking" zoom.
Did you find this??

When do you think they will launch the Sx40? This year or next?

5th of August 2011 (Fri), 09:43
Have you considered an m4/3 body with the 100-300mm lens?

5th of August 2011 (Fri), 10:13
I need 650mm reach minimum for wild life.

5th of August 2011 (Fri), 10:22
I need 650mm reach minimum for wild life.

Did you pick 650mm because it is just longer than the the 600mm equivalent lens I recommended? :)

600mm equivalent on an m4/3 sensor is going to give you crisper and sharper photos even if you had to crop half the photo away.

5th of August 2011 (Fri), 10:31
Not at all!
650mm is a good minimum for birding etc. Anything shorter is difficult to work with.

Superzooms are cheap but good enough quality for ID-ing birds etc.

What would an m4/3 cost?

5th of August 2011 (Fri), 10:31
Not to mention that the superzoom P&S do have noticeable shutter lag. But have you considered digiscoping?

5th of August 2011 (Fri), 10:35
You make a good point but the less I have to carry and look after the better.

There is talk by the way of new Canon superzoom - SX40 this month.

I guess they can't let Nikon have a longer zoom!!

5th of August 2011 (Fri), 13:31
Take a look on the net for shots of birds by compact super zooms at full zoom.
The quality is good for general use, but when compared to cameras with larger sensors,
it becomes, generally speaking, awful. If you want anything more than - 'there's a bird',
pick any other alternative. Not even the SX40 can change this.


5th of August 2011 (Fri), 15:52
Eyalg - As a bridge-zoom user - I have 3 - I'd love to be able to argue your point. But sadly, I can't, as you're quite right....

Once that Zoom goes over about 15x - until the laws of physics are repealed - the designers are stuck with the 1/2.3" sensor - or very close to that... The Fuji HS20 has a "bigger" 1.2.0" sensor - 7% larger than the 10Mpix HS10's - then complicates the heck out of it by cramming 16Mpix onto it.

When a camera needs to be operated - by 'pairing' receptors - at half-resolution, 8Mpix EXR mode in the HS20's case - to get Fast Continuous and lower light functions - and the user has to know when and how to use EXR-mode - and when to use the 16Mpix mode - the idea of the "P&S" camera being relatively simple to use takes a large hit.

I waited for the HS10's "better" replacement very eagerly. From what I'm seeing in various places about the HS20 - and the displayed "best images" folk are getting with it - it seems not to be "better than" a properly used HS10. Actually, anything but...

So how do we keener folk get those pix of the wee birdie at 100-metres - with the glint in the eye, lunch-remains on the beak, and feather-grain all detailed and defined in perfect focus...?

Here in Oz a 5D MkII is $2,700.00 - and a nice big white Canon 400mm EF f/4 DO IS USM - for $7,689.00 - would certainly do the trick - for a little over $10-Grand.

As that's just a frac (well, several fracs, actually...) - outside my budget - I'll have to go the other way - no, not Nikon, though they do very nice "birding gear", too - as one "can" have 400mm prime, 600mm equiv on crop - and camera - for under $1,000.00.

That is - a Pentax K-R - with a Takumar S-M-C 400mm f/5.6 - if at full-manual - will do quite a reasonable job. Such a lens, in immaculate condition, sold recently on Pentax forum for $300.00. If I wasn't in the middle of building a new PC, I'd have grabbed it. These lenses come with tripod mount and slide-up hood, and were built in the days when Asahi-Pentax was competing with Zeiss on optics quality.

So a fairly useful "birding" setup can be obtained for about 50% more than the top-end bridge-zooms cost here. Probably wouldn't interest the "Pros" - but for those of us "Hobbyists" moving-on from bridge-zooms - a workable option.

Regards, Dave.

5th of August 2011 (Fri), 16:36
You don't have to go with manual lenses, though. LIke I mentioned above, with the 2x crop factor, 4/3 or m4/3 does quite well at birding with smaller lenses. ONe such example would be an olympus SLR with the Zuiko 70-300mm. Used E-510 or E-520 go for like $250 and the lens is about the same price on the used market.

I mentioned micro 4/3 above. Those setups will be a little bit lighter, but also a bit more expensive. The 100-300 is about $500 alone.

5th of August 2011 (Fri), 18:33
Take a look on the net for shots of birds by compact super zooms at full zoom. The quality is good for general use, but when compared to cameras with larger sensors, it becomes, generally speaking, awful. If you want anything more than - 'there's a bird', pick any other alternative....eyalg

While agreeing that the superzoom compacts will never give the IQ of a DSLR with a long Canon "L" lens, they can certainly do more for birders than the above quote suggests. The big advantage of the compact zooms is they are carry-arounds that you always have ready, rather than lugging around a heavy DSLR with a bag full of lenses and tripod.

Take a look at this gallery. The shots were all taken with compact Canon zooms (S5, SX20, SX30) with no DSLR images.