LAST UPDATED: February 18, 2021

The Best Compact Zoom Cameras (Review and Buying Guide) in 2021

Best Choice Canon PowerShot SX740 Digital Camera Canon PowerShot SX740 Digital Camera
Best Value Kodak PIXPRO Friendly Zoom 16MP Digital Camera Kodak PIXPRO Friendly Zoom 16MP Digital Camera
Premium Pick Sony DSCHX80/B High Zoom Point & Shoot Camera Sony DSCHX80/B High Zoom Point & Shoot Camera

Nowadays, thanks to some major advances in technology, cell phone cameras are capable of producing some incredible quality photographs, as evidenced by the amazing entries in the iPhone Photography Awards. So why would you still want to have a compact zoom camera for taking pictures? While cell phone cameras certainly have come a long way in terms of picture quality, they’re still no match for compact cameras when it comes to photographing moving subjects, or objects in difficult or low light settings. Compact cameras also have a more powerful flash.

Another major reason to continue to use a compact zoom camera over a cell phone camera is that your compact camera offers much greater zoom capability than the standard cell phone camera. Most cell phone cameras can achieve a 3x optical zoom, but a good quality compact camera can often reach an impressive 30x zoom capability, giving you a huge level of creative control. Whatever your reason for wanting a compact zoom camera, Car Bibles has got you covered with our comprehensive and educational product review and buying guide to help you get the best compact zoom camera to suit your needs. 

The Best Compact Zoom Cameras

When it comes to the best choice for a compact zoom camera, it’s hard to find a reason not to make it the Canon PowerShot SX740 Digital Camera. This camera brand has been a leader in the industry for a reason. This particular model features an incredible 40x optical zoom with a high-end image stabilizer and zoom framing assist to go with it. A 20.3 megapixel CMOS sensor captures some of the sharpest, highest quality photos you can get from a compact camera.

It also comes equipped with a 4K video processor and 4K time-lapse movie capability, making this a versatile, well-rounded choice. High-speed continuous shooting means you’ll never miss the perfect shot again. The 180-degree tilt-screen display is selfie-ready and you can easily share your pics and videos thanks to the built-in Wi-Fi, NFC, and Bluetooth capabilities. We also love that this camera is super lightweight and slim, letting you take it anywhere. We wish it was a little more rugged and that it had slightly better low-light and nighttime shooting capabilities, but all-in-all, this is a top-notch camera.

Key Features
  • 40x optical zoom
  • 4K video and time-lapse capability
  • Wi-Fi, NFC, and Bluetooth compatible
  • 3-inch 180-degree tilting display
Specification
  • Brand Canon
  • Model 2955C001
  • Weight 9.7 ounces
PROS

Very easy to use

One of the largest optical zooms on the market allows you to take a huge variety of photos

Super slim and compact for easy travel

CONS

A little pricey

Not the best for low-light or nighttime shooting

Housing could be a little more durable

If you want a high-quality, super-compact zoom camera that’s affordable, check out the Kodak PIXPRO Friendly Zoom 16MP Digital Camera. This tiny little camera packs a punch and is super easy and intuitive to use. It features a 5x optical zoom, which isn’t the most powerful but is still capable of producing high-quality images with its 28mm wide-angle lens and a 16-megapixel sensor. Users like it’s super slim, pocket-sized design that goes anywhere you want and can be ready to capture photos at a moment’s notice. 

It’s got a 2.7-inch LCD screen for viewing photos and videos and features 720p HD video capabilities for shooting clear, high-quality videos. This camera may not have as many bells and whistles as some others on our list, but its point and shoot ability makes it one of the more user-friendly options, and it’s tough to argue with such a reasonable price point.

Key Features
  • 5x optical zoom capability
  • 720p HD video
  • A 2.7-inch LCD viewing screen
  • 28mm wide-angle lens
Specification
  • Brand Kodak
  • Model FZ53-BK
  • Weight 3.68 ounces
PROS

One-touch video button lets you switch between photo and video quickly

Point-and-shoot allows for quick focus

Auto-detection option detects faces, smiles, and blinking for better quality pictures

CONS

Not a lot of zoom capability

Not water-resistant

Not many accessory shooting options

The Sony DSCHX80/B High Zoom Point & Shoot Camera deserves a spot on our list for being an easy-to-use, compact zoom camera that creates amazingly clear and high-quality images. It features an incredible 30x optical zoom/60x Clear Image Zoom ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T* Lens with an 18.2 megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor that captures superior low light images. It also comes equipped with a built-in retractable OLED Tru-Finder viewfinder.

You can also shoot professional-looking videos with the versatile XAVC S, AVDHD, and MP4 video format options. This camera also comes with WiFi and NFC capabilities to easily and quickly connect to smartphones and printers. 5-axis image stabilization reduces blurry images caused by camera shake. A 3-inch extra fine LCD multi-angle display is selfie-ready. Multiple focusing modes give you versatile shooting options.

Key Features
  • 30x optical zoom
  • 18.2 megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor
  • Multi-angle, touchscreen, 3-inch LCD
  • Retractable OLED viewfinder
Specification
  • Brand Sony
  • Model DSCHX80/B
  • Weight 1.05 pounds
PROS

Compact

Multiple focusing options for shooting versatility

Shoots HD, professional-looking videos

CONS

Heavy

No SD card, it must be purchased separately

Some complaints the user interface isn’t very user-friendly and is too small

If you’re looking for a super durable and rugged compact zoom camera that can go anywhere and handle some serious wear and tear, the OM Digital Solutions Tough TG-6 Waterproof Camera is a great option. This camera is waterproof up to 50 feet or 15 meters. It’s also dustproof, shockproof to a height of 7 feet, or 2.1 meters, fog-resistant, able to withstand crushing pressures up to 100 kgf, and able to function in the severe cold to 14 degrees Fahrenheit, or minus 10 degrees Celsius, making this one of the toughest cameras on our list.

It features 4x optical zoom capacity, a high-resolution F2.0 lens, and a back-illuminated CMOS image sensor. On top of that, this camera can shoot full HD 4K videos. It also comes with four macro shooting modes, magnified shooting up to one centimeter from the lens, and five underwater shooting modes, including an underwater microscope. It’s a versatile, easy-to-use camera. The 4x optical zoom and 12-megapixel sensor are a little on the weaker side, but the durability of this camera is really what attracts us.

Key Features
  • Waterproof, shockproof, dustproof camera
  • HD 4K video capability
  • Four macro shooting modes
  • Five underwater shooting modes
Specification
  • Brand Olympus
  • Model V104210RU000
  • Weight 0.56 pounds
PROS

Can withstand some seriously harsh conditions

Able to take photos and video underwater

Also features a fun magnified shooting mode

CONS

Short battery life

Optical zoom is only 4x

Heavier than some models

The Panasonic Lumix 4K Digital Camera is one super tiny, super-powerful compact zoom camera. It features a 30x (24-720mm) Leica DC optical zoom lens that is perfect for everyday photography and travel. It comes equipped with an impressive 18-megapixel sensor that’s capable of delivering high-resolution images with fewer artifacts than many other models. It even has 4K ultra-HD video recording capabilities that let you capture video with crystal clear 3840 x 2160p detail. This camera also features exclusive Lumix 4K photo and 4K post focus photo capture features for added versatility.

The well-designed eye-level electronic automatic viewfinder and touch-enabled LCD screen allow you to see the shot clearly in even the harshest of sunlight. A control ring allows you to manually modify shutter speed, aperture, zoom, and focus. This is not the best camera for nighttime shots and super low light conditions. While its super compact size makes it great for travel, it’s almost too tiny to be used easily for everyday photography, especially if you have larger hands.

Key Features
  • 30x Leica DC lens optical zoom
  • 18-megapixel sensor
  • Full HD 4K video capability
  • 4K photo and post focus photo capture
Specification
  • Brand Panasonic
  • Model DMC-ZS60K
  • Weight 0.62 pounds
PROS

The compact size makes it great for travel

Large zoom capability

Excellent video quality

CONS

Too small to be easily used by larger hands

Nighttime or low light shooting capability is poor

Flash is ill-positioned and often gets covered by your finger

We love the Nikon Coolpix W150 for so many reasons. It’s a compact, affordable camera that is also waterproof down to 33 feet and is also shockproof and durable enough to hold up to some serious usage. You can shoot rich, clear photos and full HD 1080p videos with stereo sound, even underwater. With 13.2 megapixels and 18 convenient and easy to use shooting modes, this is hands down one of the most versatile cameras on our list.

This compact zoom camera features VR image stabilization that readily compensates for camera shake to provide solid and clear photos. Target-finding autofocus instantly assesses the intended subject and adjusts to provide the best image quality. The handy SnapBridge can automatically transfer your pictures to your compatible tablet or smartphone, making sharing super easy. The impressive scene auto selector automatically assesses and chooses the best mode for shooting to make taking pictures even easier. The only thing we would change about this great camera would be to beef up the weak 3x optical zoom to something a little more substantial.

Key Features
  • Waterproof to 33 feet
  • Shockproof
  • Target-finding autofocus
  • Automatic scene select mode
Specification
  • Brand Nikon
  • Model 26530
  • Weight 0.39 ounces
PROS

Takes underwater photos and video with sound

Super lightweight

Very user-friendly

CONS

3x optical zoom is weaker than most other models

Not many manual options for more accomplished photographers

No external memory capability

Canon has been a top-selling manufacturer of high-quality cameras for years, so it’s easy to see why we’ve also included the Canon PowerShot ELPH 360 Digital Camera on our list. It has a 12x optical zoom with a superior optical image stabilizer that allows you to take amazing photos with ease. A large 3.0-inch LCD enables you to easily view photos and videos. This camera is also equipped with 1080p HD video capability, a 20.3 megapixel CMOS sensor, and a DIGIC 4+ image processor that ensures stunning image quality, even in poor lighting conditions.

This camera will function optimally in a wide range of conditions, including temperatures ranging from 0-40 degrees Celsius and humidity levels between 10-90 percent, making this a versatile camera that can go just about anywhere. Built-in WiFi and NFC let you easily share and transfer photos and videos, while several different shooting modes let you flex your artistic muscles. One thing to note about this camera is that you can’t use the zoom mode while shooting video, as it creates image distortion.

Key Features
  • 12x optical zoom with image stabilization
  • 1080p HD video capability
  • 20.2 megapixel CMOS sensor
  • DIGIC 4+ image processor
Specification
  • Brand Canon
  • Model 1078C001
  • Weight 5.2 ounces
PROS

Easy and intuitive to use

“Story Highlights” function compiles images and videos into a fun slideshow

“Hybrid Auto” lets you record up to four seconds of video before each photograph

CONS

The lithium-ion battery is not included and must be purchased separately

SD card also not included

Can’t use zoom function while shooting videos

Best Compact Zoom Cameras Buying Guide & FAQ

Now that you’ve seen some of our top picks for the best compact zoom cameras on the market, it’s time to learn why we chose those versus some other brands. What makes a compact zoom camera worth the money you’re going to spend on it? The following buying guide will teach you exactly what you need to know to ensure you’re getting the best compact zoom camera to suit your needs and that you’re sure to love. 

Or if you’re looking for something a little more rider-friendly, check out these top of the line motorcycle helmet cameras.

Why Do You Need a Compact Zoom Camera?

A compact zoom camera is a great investment for those times when your built-in cell phone camera just won’t cut it. Vacations, family outings, weddings, and reunions, parties, graduations, holidays, and all your special events deserve high-quality, crystal clear images to help you remember them. 

When you have a stellar, top-notch photo that is taken on a camera with greater zoom and megapixel capacity, you have the option of using that high-definition image to create some amazing artwork, enlarged prints, calendars, and gifts that just wouldn’t look as good if you used images captured by your cell-phone camera to create them.

Woman holds a compact photo camera
Today’s compact zoom cameras are so slim, compact, and affordable, that there’s no reason not to have one.

If you’ve ever tried to capture the perfect photo on your smartphone only to be told you don’t have enough storage or that your battery is about to die, you know how frustrating that can be. The storage capacity and battery life on a compact zoom camera are often much greater since it’s not being shared by a bunch of other apps and background functions that take up energy and space.

  • Compact zoom cameras often come with a much larger optical zoom capability than cell phone cameras.
  • Today’s compact zoom cameras are so slim, compact, and affordable, there’s no reason not to have one.
  • Compact zoom cameras are great options for kids and newbie photographers who are interested in photography and want to hone some of their skills without spending thousands of dollars on complicated camera equipment.

Looking for a back-up camera for your car? Check out our top picks.

Different Kinds of Compact Zoom Cameras

When it comes to different types of compact zoom cameras, there are only a couple of options. Compact zoom cameras are a type of digital camera, so to further subdivide them into more types is a little difficult. With that being said, you do still have some options to choose from when it comes to selecting the best compact zoom camera for you.

Budget-Friendly/Starter Compact Zoom Camera

This type of camera is a basic, entry-level camera that is great for the occasional photographer, kid or teen, or anyone on a tight budget. They’re usually under $250 and offer a lot of automatic features that help less-experienced photographers take clear, high-quality photos that they can be proud of. 

They can offer various optical zoom strengths from 3-30, but usually on the lower end. Megapixel strength is also usually on the lower end, below 15. This type of camera is often made by a lesser-known manufacturer. 

Professional Compact Zoom Camera

As the name implies, these types of compact zoom cameras are made with more practiced photographers in mind. They will offer a larger optical zoom and megapixel strengths. They also offer more options for manually adjusting settings, such as shutter speed, ISO, aperture, white balance, and more, giving your complete artistic license over your shots just like you would experience with a top-of-the-line professional-level DSLR camera. 

You’ll recognize big-name companies like Nikon, Canon, Olympus, and more in this range. Of course, these cameras are a bit more of an investment money-wise, ranging in price from $300 to upward of $2000.

Waterproof Compact Zoom Camera

This type of compact zoom camera is designed with the outdoor adventurer or vacationer in mind. It’s exceptionally rugged and able to withstand harsh weather conditions and rough environments. It can take high-quality photos and videos underwater, as well as in regular conditions. 

This type of camera varies greatly in its included components and accessories, and you can often find it in either of the above-mentioned categories over a wide price range.

Learn more about our top recommendations for dash cams.

Features to Look for in Compact Zoom Cameras

When searching for your ideal compact zoom camera, there are a few key features to look for that will ensure you’re getting a durable, reliable, and well-performing instrument that is going to deliver the high-quality photos and videos you want.

One of these features is an extended optical zoom. As mentioned before, this is one of the biggest reasons for choosing a compact zoom camera over your regular cell phone camera. Be sure to get an optical zoom lens, not just a digital zoom. Optical zoom lenses produce a sharper, clearer image quality. A 4x optical zoom means that the longest focal length range is four times greater than the shortest focal length range, so the subject appears four times larger when the lens is zoomed out. Of course, the larger the optical zoom lens you choose, the more you’ll pay.

Automatic modes are also key features to consider when choosing your compact zoom camera. If you’re more of a novice photographer or just want to be able to point and shoot and get excellent quality photos, then the more automatic modes, the better for you. These features automatically select the best settings for your camera based on the current conditions, leaving little room for error. If you’re more into doing things manually, you’ll want to select a camera with more manual control modes. Either way, make sure your compact zoom camera has facial recognition at the very least. This is a setting that can automatically recognize multiple faces in a group shot and quickly select the optimum settings to flatter everyone.

Lastly, look for a camera made by a well-reputed manufacturer who offers a solid warranty and great customer service. If you’re going to make a significant financial investment in a compact zoom camera, you want to make sure it’s protected against any unforeseen defects or damage.

Young man taking pictures with a compact camera through the forest in the fall
High-quality cameras produced by top manufacturers don’t allow for interchangeable lenses, but they do take superior photographs.

Learn all about our favorite off-roading GPS units.

Best Compact Zoom Cameras FAQ:

Still have some questions regarding the best compact zoom camera? Here are our answers to the most commonly asked questions floating around the internet.

Q: Which compact camera has the best zoom?

While many digital cameras offer incredible zoom capabilities, we love the Canon PowerShot SX740 Digital Camera with its impressive 40x optical zoom and compact design. We also like the  Sony DSCHX80/B High Zoom Point & Shoot Camera and the Panasonic Lumix 4K Digital Camera for their 30x optical zoom and ease of use.

Q: What is the best ultra-zoom compact digital camera?

Again, while there are several awesome ultra-zoom compact digital cameras on the market, the Nikon COOLPIX P950 features a kicking 83x optical zoom and gets some pretty stellar user reviews. 

Q: What compact cameras do professionals use?

The compact cameras used by professionals are known as DSLR cameras, which stands for digital, single-lens, reflex camera. These cameras are high-quality cameras produced by top manufacturers that don’t allow for interchangeable lenses but take superior photographs.

Our Top Pick

Now that you’re well-versed in what to look for in a good compact zoom camera, you can see why we chose the Canon PowerShot SX740 Digital Camera as our top pick. It’s got a 40x optical zoom with a high-end image stabilizer and zoom framing assist to go with it. A 20.3 megapixel CMOS sensor captures some of the sharpest, highest quality photos you can get from a compact camera. It also comes equipped with a 4K video processor and 4K time-lapse movie capability, making this a versatile, well-rounded choice. High-speed continuous shooting and a 180-degree tilt-screen display are nice touches. You can easily share your pics and videos thanks to the built-in Wi-Fi, NFC, and Bluetooth capabilities. 

Final Thoughts

Whether you decide to invest in the Canon PowerShot ELPH 360 Digital Camera, the Kodak PIXPRO Friendly Zoom 16MP Digital Camera, or one of our other terrific options, having a compact zoom camera can up your game when it comes to taking superior quality, crystal clear photos that you’ll be proud of and that will be amazing mementos for years to come. Do you have a favorite compact zoom camera that you can’t live without? Let us know about it in the comments.

Sources:

  1. Superzoom Compact Cameras – Wikipedia