Changing lenses can be a faff, not to mention pricey, so the best ultra zoom cameras still have plenty of fans. Here’s our essential buyer’s guide

The best ultra-zoom cameras are designed to give photographers everything they need in one package. Rather than faffing around swapping lenses, users of ultra-zoom cameras can capture a broad range of subjects, at all distances, without having to so much as move a toe.

As well as ultra-zoom cameras, these are also known as bridge cameras and superzooms – it all refers to the same thing. Hugely popular in the mid-2010s, bridge cameras have declined in numbers and popularity along with other types of compact since the rise of smartphone photography. However, there are still plenty of great examples out there from the likes of Nikon, Canon, Sony, Panasonic and even Leica.

What makes a camera an ultra-zoom? We’ve tested and reviewed a lot of compact cameras, and generally will classify an ultra-zoom as having a lens that goes from a wide angle like 25mm (equivalent) to something as long as 400mm at the far end. Some of the latest models, particularly those by Nikon, will go considerably further than this.

The cameras on this list are the best ultra-zooms we’ve found in our testing and reviewing process. Some are relatively new, while others are a few years old (and therefore can generally be picked up at a cut-down price). If you want more all-in-one options, check out our guide to the best compact cameras. And we also have a useful guide to the best cameras for wildlife photography, which features a few of these ultra-zoom beauties.

How to choose the best ultra-zoom camera

Ultra-zoom cameras are not perfect of course, otherwise everyone would be exclusively using them. One way these cameras pack so much optical zoom in is by using a smaller sensor than your typical DSLR or mirrorless camera. This can mean low-light performance isn’t the best, but if this is of concern, then look out for a zoom camera with a larger 1inch sensor, as these often offer better image quality (albeit without as much telephoto zoom).

Things to look for in an ultra-zoom camera:

Sensor – size and resolution, a smaller sensor means that the camera can often offer more zoom, but low-light performance may suffer. Most models offer between 16 and 20MP. A 1/2.3inch sensor is smaller than a 1inch-type sensor.

Optical zoom – How much optical zoom does the camera offer? Don’t just look at the telephoto reach on offer, which is obviously important, but also consider where the wide-angle starts, most start at 24mm equivalent, but some go even wider, which will help for vast landscape images.

Image stabilisation – When using a lot of optical zoom, image stabilisation becomes all-important. If you want a sharp shot, with a lot of zoom then a good image stabilisation system will definitely help here. Nikon’s image stabilisation system is known as VR, standing for Vibration Reduction.

Screen and viewfinder – As well as a large touch-screen, many cameras offer a screen that can be tilted up and down, with some letting you turn them to face forwards, which is great for selfies or group shots. If you prefer “DSLR” styling, then look for a model with an electronic viewfinder, as this can help get steadier shots, and help you compose shots when shooting in bright light.

Video recording – The majority of these cameras will record 4K video, but some only offer FullHD video, so this could be a deciding factor for you. You may also want to check if the screen can be turned to face forwards, particularly if you want something for vlogging.

After you’ve looked through all of this, you’ll be well informed to make a decision about what zoom camera to buy, and we’ve selected some of the best models available, featuring manual controls, DSLR-like styling, and lots of optical zoom.

The ultra zoom camera offers a whole lot of versatility in an all-in-one camera, and there should be something here to suit all budgets and shooting needs. For example, if you’re looking for a high-speed camera for shooting fast moving subjects, then look at some of the cameras here with a 1inch sensor, as some offer up to 24fps continuous shooting!

So without further ado, here are our recommendations for the best cameras for zoom: 

Best ultra zoom camera: Nikon Coolpix P950

Best ultra-zoom cameras: Nikon CoolPix P950

Nikon CoolPix P950

Nikon Coolpix P950 – at a glance

  • 16MP 1/2.3-in.type, CMOS sensor
  • 24-2000mm equivalent lens, f/2.8-6.5
  • 2.359m-dot electronic viewfinder
  • ISO range: 100-6400
  • Screen: 3.2-inch, vari-angle LCD
  • 4K UHD video recording
  • Dimensions: 140.2 x 109.6.1 x 149.8mm
  • Weight: 1,005g (including battery and card)
  • Price: £849 / $796

Launched in January 2020 the P950 is built around a 16MP sensor and boasts an 83x optical zoom magnification. This gives a huge equivalent focal length of 24-2000mm – yes, you did read that correctly – from a lens that features a variable maximum aperture of f/2.8-6.5. This huge focal length range is obviously the headline features, but there’s a lot more to this camera too…

The P950 benefits from Optical Vibration Reduction to help keep shots steady – especially at longer focal lengths and those shooting stills will be pleased to hear you can capture RAWs as well as JPEGs, affording more potential when editing the files in software such as Lightroom.

Scenes can be lined up using the 3.2-inch LCD, which benefits from a vari-angle design and the P950 is fairly speedy, offering a maximum burst rate of 7fps. What’s more, those wanting to capture film as well as stills will be pleased to hear the P950 records videos in ultra high-quality 4K.

What we like:

  • Huge focal length
  • Vari-angle LCD
  • Fast burst rate

What we don’t like:

  • Smaller sensor
  • Aperture drops significantly at tele end

Fastest shooting: Sony Cyber-shot RX10 IV

Sony Cyber-shot RX10 IV - Image: Andy Westlake / AP

The Sony Cyber-shot RX10 IV on test. Photo credit: Andy Westlake

Sony Cyber-shot RX10 IV – at a glance

  • 20.1MP 1inch, Exmor RS CMOS sensor, aspect ratio 3:2
  • 24-600mm equivalent lens, f/2.4-4
  • 2.36M-dot (XGA OLED) viewfinder
  • Screen: 3-inch, 1,440k-dot, Xtra Fine TFT LCD
  • Up to 24fps shooting
  • 4K video recording
  • Dimensions: 132.5 x 94 x 145mm
  • Weight: 1,095g (including battery and card)
  • Price: from £1499 / $1,698

Although it sits at the higher end of the price scale, the RX10 IV is the perfect example of how new technology can supercharge a bridge camera. At the heart of the RX10 IV is a 1.0inch-type sensor that delivers an impressive 20-megapixels of resolution, and up to 24fps continuous shooting. So not only do you get high-quality images, but you can capture fast moving subjects!

A 25x optical zoom results in an equivalent focal length of 24-600mm – more than enough to prove effective in the bird hide although not as long as Nikon’s P950 and P1000. That said, the fixed lens is fairly fast, with the fastest aperture on offer here, with a variable aperture of f/2.4 at the wide end and f/4 at the telephoto end.

What we like:

  • High resolution
  • Impressive video functions
  • Fast lens

What we don’t like:

  • Expensive for a bridge
  • Screen not fully articulated

Read our Sony Cyber-shot RX10 IV Review

Best cheap ultra-zoom: Panasonic Lumix FZ330 / FZ300

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ330

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ330

At a glance:

  • 12.8MP MOS, 1/2.3inch sensor
  • 25-600mm equivalent lens, f/2.8
  • 1.44m-dot OLED viewfinder
  • Screen: 3-inch, 1040k-dot, tilting LCD
  • Up to 30fps shooting (in 4K Photo Mode)
  • 4K video recording
  • Dimensions: 131.6 x 91.5 x 117.1mm
  • Weight: 691g (with battery and card)
  • Price: £479 / $447

Panasonic’s Lumix FZ330 is the one of the cheapest ultra-zoom bridge cameras that is still widely available. This means that you have to live with a few compromises – the most significant one being the fact that the smaller 1/2.3-inch sensor carries a modest 12MP of resolution. If you want to print big images in high quality this isn’t the camera for you. Then again, if that’s the case, ultra-zoom bridge cameras probably aren’t right for you. So let’s talk about what we do get.

The Lumix FZ330, which made its debut in 2015, is equipped with 4K 25p video recording, as well as Panasonic’s famous 4K Photo modes, which allow you to extract 8MP stills from 4K footage. This effectively gives you a 25fps burst rate, and in a camera where your top resolution is 12MP anyway, going down to 8MP is hardly a big loss. Then there’s also the zoom itself – at 25-600mm equivalent, it’s bigger than some of Panasonic’s pricier bridge cameras, and it boasts a constant f/2.8 aperture throughout the zoom range.

What we like:

  • Lot of zoom for your money
  • 4K Photo features
  • 5-axis Hybrid Optical Image Stabilisation

What we don’t like:

  • Low resolution
  • No stabilisation when shooting 4K

Widest lens: Canon Powershot SX70 HS

Longest Canon Zoom: Canon Powershot SX70HS

Canon PowerShot SX70 HS – at a glance

  • 20.3MP, 1/2.3inch sensor
  • 21-1365mm equivalent lens, f/3.4-6.5
  • 2.36m-dot viewfinder
  • Screen: 3-inch, 922K-dot, Vari-Angle LCD (TFT)
  • 10fps shooting
  • 4K video recording
  • Dimensions: 127 x 90.9 x 116.6mm
  • Weight: 610g (including battery and card)#
  • Price: £579 / $669

If you’re on the lookout for a bridge camera that gives maximum bang for your buck, the Canon SX70 HS should definitely be on your shortlist. This sub-£600 camera offers a decent 63x optical zoom, which results in an equivalent focal range of 21-1365mm from the f/3.4-6.5 fixed lens.

With a 20-megapixel sensor and Canon’s powerful DIGIC 8 processor, the SX70 HS is an impressive all-rounder and also features an ISO range of 100-3200 along with a fast burst rate of 10 frames per second (5.7fps with continuous AF).

What’s more, the SX70 HS is also a lot more portable than other bridge cameras, tipping the scales at just 608g and the design and shape of the SX70 HS is a lot more like a typical DSLR. Photographers can line up compositions using the 3-inch vari-angle LCD, which also comes in useful when capturing 4K video and users can quickly transfer content to smart devices thanks to the built-in Wi-Fi.

What we like:

  • Value for money
  • High resolution
  • Lightweight dimension

What we don’t like:

  • Struggles in low light
  • Out-zoomed by Nikon

Best Panasonic: Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 II

Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 II

Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 II – at a glance

  • 20.1MP MOS, 1inch sensor
  • 25-400mm equivalent lens, f/2.8-4.0
  • 2.36m-dot OLED viewfinder
  • Screen: 3-inch, 1240k-dot, freeangle TFT LCD
  • Up to 30fps shooting (in 4K Photo Mode)
  • 4K video recording
  • Dimensions: 136.2 x 97.2 x 131.5mm
  • Weight: 810g (with battery and card)
  • Price: £729 / $847

The Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 II was launched back in early 2019 – yet this interesting bridge camera still has a lot to offer.

The 1-inch MOS Sensor delivers 20-megapixels of resolution while a 16x optical zoom offers an equivalent focal length of 25-400mm. This is at the lower end of what you would expect from a bridge camera’s focal length, but is still enough to help capture wildlife imagery without the need to get up close to subjects.

As you’d expect from Panasonic who have a rich pedigree in stabilising technology, the FZ1000 II benefits from a 5-axis In Body Image Stabilisation (IBIS) system that helps keep shots sharp, particularly at longer focal lengths where shake can be more prevalent.

Image can be lined up via the 3-inch touch-sensitive vari-angle LCD or by using the Electronic Viewfinder (EVF), which features a 2360k-dot resolution. With 4K video specifications, the FZ1000 II is also fairly lightweight and portable, tipping the scales at only 810g.

If you’re after a budget version of this, have a look out for the predecessor, the Panasonic Lumix FZ1000, which you should be able to find second hand for much less. 

What we like:

  • Advanced stabilisation
  • Vari-angle LCD
  • Lightweight

What we don’t like:

  • On the pricey side
  • Zoom shorter than others here

Longest optical zoom: Nikon Coolpix P1000

Longest optical zoom: Nikon Coolpix P1000

Nikon Coolpix P1000 – at a glance

  • 16MP, 1/2.3inch sensor
  • 24-3000mm equivalent, f/2.8-8
  • 2.36m-dot OLED viewfinder
  • Screen: 3.2-inch, 921k-dot (RGB), wide viewing angle TFT LCD
  • ISO range: 100-1600
  • 4K video recording
  • Dimensions: 146.3 x 118.8 x 181.3mm
  • Weight: 1415g (including battery and card)
  • Price: £1,049 / $996

The P1000 can rightly hold claim to the ‘king of focal lengths’ title as this impressive camera offers an incredible 125x optical zoom that delivers an equivalent focal length of 24-3000mm – that is a remarkable feat. It also opens up new creative possibilities as the P1000 can be used to excellent effect when capturing the moon, along with wildlife imagery, travel photography and pretty much everything in between.

Granted, the 16-megapixel sensor isn’t as high as other cameras in this round up, but this is a camera for somebody who prefers focal length over resolution. The P1000 benefits from a big, 3.2-inch LCD that employs a vari-angle design to aid low/high compositions and there’s also an electronic viewfinder (EVF) with 2.36m-dot resolution.

Vibration Reduction to help keep shots steady while movies can be captured in 4K quality. Stills can be captured in RAW and JPEG format and, with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, content can be quickly transferred to smart devices such as phones or tablets. It’s worth taking a look at the size and weight of this camera in person, as this camera is LARGE!

What we like:

  • Incredible focal length
  • Big LCD
  • Bluetooth & Wi-Fi

What we don’t like:

  • Big and heavy
  • Lower resolution than others

Read our Nikon Coolpix P1000 Field Test

Best ultra-zoom for video: Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 / FZ2500

Best ultra-zoom cameras - Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ2000

The Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ2000 uses a 1-inch sensor.

At a glance:

  • 20.1MP MOS, 1inch sensor
  • 24-480mm equivalent lens, f/2.8-4.5
  • 2.36m-dot OLED viewfinder
  • Screen: 3-inch, 1,040k-dot, freeangle LCD
  • Up to 30fps shooting (in 4K Photo Mode)
  • 4K video recording
  • Dimensions: 137.6 x 101.9 x 134.7mm
  • Weight: 966g (with battery and card)
  • Price: £899 / $997

At the premium end of Panasonic’s ultra-zoom stable, we have the Lumix FZ2000. Equipped with a high-quality 1-inch MOS sensor, the FZ2000 is one of the most versatile cameras around. It sits alongside the FZ1000 cameras rather than being a direct replacement, and is more of a video/stills hybrid than other bridge cameras. Chief among its video specs is unlimited 4K video recording. With time limits of around 30 minutes common even on high-end cameras, this is a very interesting feature indeed.

You’ve got plenty of other impressive features to play with, including 5-axis optical image stabilisation, dial-based physical controls, a 9-bladed aperture for smooth bokeh, and lots more. Panasonic clearly set out to make a ‘do-everything’ camera here, and came about as close to succeeding as anyone has. We were very impressed by the FZ2000 in our first-look review, pegging it both as a potentially useful second camera for GH users, and a credible rival to Sony’s RX10 range.

What we like:

  • High-quality sensor
  • Unlimited 4K recording
  • Excellent stabilisation

What we don’t like:

  • On the pricier end
  • Shorter zoom range than others

Read our full Panasonic Lumix FZ2000 review

Best Leica Ultra-Zoom: Leica V-Lux 5

Classy Bridge Camera: Leica V-Lux 5

Leica V-Lux 5 – at a glance

  • 20MP, 1-inch sensor
  • 25-400mm equivalent lens, f/2.8-4
  • 2.36m-dot viewfinder, 0.74x magnification
  • Screen: 3-inch, 1,240k-dot TFT LCD
  • 30fps shooting (4K Burst Mode)
  • 4K video at 30fps
  • Dimensions: 136.7 x 97.2 x 131.5mm
  • Weight: 812g (with battery)
  • Price: £1,150 / $1,595

Be honest, did you know Leica made a bridge camera? Well, they do and the V-Lux 5 not only benefits from that classic Leica design, but also offers a 1-inch sensor that delivers 20-megapixels of resolution. The fixed lens serves up a 16x optical zoom which results in an equivalent focal length of 25-400mm, with a variable maximum aperture of f/2.8 to f/4.

The advanced autofocus system enables photographers to lock onto subjects in 0.1 seconds and images can be lined up via the 3-inch vari-angle screen or using the Electronic Viewfinder. The V-Lux 5 can be charged on the go, via a USB connection, which will appeal to photographers who are traveling and therefore away from mains power for lengthy periods.

Other noteworthy features include an impressive maximum burst rate 12 frames per second, which will help wildlife photographers capture split-second moments and the ability to shoot 4K video.

What we like:

  • 2 Year Warranty
  • High resolution
  • Fast burst rate

What we don’t like:

  • Very expensive
  • It’s essentially a reskinned FZ1000 II

Best second hand option: Canon PowerShot G3 X

Best Canon with large sensor: Canon Powershot G3x

Canon PowerShot G3 X – at a glance

  • 20.2MP CMOS, 1inch sensor
  • 24-600mm equivalent lens, f/2.8-5.6
  • Viewfinder: Optional Electronic Viewfinder EVF-DC1
  • Screen: 3.2-inch, 1,620k-dot sRGB PureColor II G Touchscreen LCD (TFT)
  • Up to 5.9fps shooting
  • Full HD video recording
  • Dimensions: 123.3 x 76.5 x 105.3mm
  • Weight: 733g (including battery and card)
  • Price: from £450-£599

Some people may be put off by the bulk of a bridge camera, but it doesn’t have to be this way. You’ll notice the Canon G3 X looks more like a compact camera rather than the DSLR shape of cameras like the P1000, but this portable pocket rocket can still offer a versatile focal range of 24-600mm from the variable max F2.8-5.6 aperture 25x optical zoom lens. This will cover everything from wide-angle landscapes to long lens travel photography.

Despite being a little older than other cameras in this round-up, the G3 X (launched way back in 2015) still offers an impressive resolution of 20-megapixels, which should be plenty to make big prints. Features include optical image stabilisation, a 3.2-inch, tilting, touch-sensitive LCD and a built-in ND filter, just in case you want to try your hand at some long exposures.

While the video specifications top out at Full HD rather than 4K, the G3 X does include ports for both headphones and an external mic so enhanced audio can be captured and monitored. This makes the G3 X a left-field choice for a videographer’s B-camera to capture footage from a great distance. You may have to shop around a little to get your hands on a G3 X, but there are a few still out there.

What we like:

  • Small size
  • Decent resolution
  • Built-in ND filter

What we don’t like:

  • Getting hard to find
  • Some dated features (e.g. no 4K)

Read our Canon PowerShot G3 X Review

Further reading

Check out more of our buying guides, as well as our latest reviews. Or why not have a look at the best mirrorless cameras, the best DSLRs, or the best compact cameras particularly if you’re looking to get better quality images than your smartphone.

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