by ʇolɐǝz ǝɥʇ qoq

Submit your Photo
Hall of Fame

Please participate in Meta
and help us grow.

Photography Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professional, enthusiast and amateur photographers. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I'm considering buying one of compact superzooms, like Canon Powershot SX50 or Fuji X-S1. However, I have doubts if such big zoom are really useful when taking pictures of plants or animals.

On my old camera, Canon Photoshot A530 with 4x zoom, I practically never use maximal zoom. There's no use of it, because with 4x zoom, any vibrations are also magnified that time and getting stable picture even with tripod is problematic. Also, the animals move, the leaves move, and those movements are also magnified. I could't get with it sharp picture of even small-moving animals like ducks or branches on mild wind, when using such zoom.

Of course, newer cameras offer much better shutter speeds, but using the fastest shutters requires really big amount of light coming, and it's harder with big zooms. Also, by zoom over 20x, I suppose the vibrations caused by pressing shutter button, even if camera is mounted on tripod, would be a big issue.

My question is, is such big zoom practically useful when taking shots of living objects, or it's just a feature that won't be very usable?

share|improve this question
Can you clarify your question title and question description? Photographing nature is very broad. And from your detailed question, I think you might be asking specifically about zoomed in pictures of distant, moving subjects, like birds. – Icycle Jan 19 '14 at 20:16
@Icycle feel free to edit unclear formulations, especially with grammar/syntax errors. Fast moving objects are extreme, and my question is more general, namely about such slower moving objects like leaves or ducks... – Danubian Sailor Jan 19 '14 at 20:33
I would think that image stabilization would really make a difference here. – Paul Cezanne Jan 19 '14 at 21:25
That your A530 gave you an unsharp picture on the tripod is a little odd, since it sounds like you've used it in varying conditions. I'm left wondering if it was broken somehow. – Dan Wolfgang Jan 19 '14 at 23:31
Based on some of your previous questions, I suspect that your expectations are higher than the results you are going to get. I think you will have to either lower them, or else increase your budget significantly and reach for an SLR and nice lenses to go with it. – mattdm Jan 20 '14 at 17:52

Having the zoom can certainly be useful. Technique (such as using a timer mode) and optical image stabilization can help account for many of the problems you described.

That said, there are other costs associated with a super zoom that must be considered. Any lens design involves compromises. For a super zoom, either the cost goes up or the quality of the lens has to go down. It's hard to make a lens that covers a longer focal range, though it is made easier by the very small sensor in a point and shoot. Compared to a point and shoot with a smaller zoom range and a similar value and price however, the shorter zoom would be expected to have a better quality averaged across the focal length range.

Maximum aperture across the focal length range is also something to consider as the maximum aperture typically becomes much smaller (bigger number) as the focal length increase. This means less light can make it to the sensor when you zoom in.

Lastly, there is the consideration of point and shoots in general. With such a small sensor, your ability to get good depth of field, your low light capability and your overall image quality will be greatly compromised when compared to cameras with larger sensors, such as a mirrorless system camera or a DSLR. Additionally, the shutter lag is generally much more significant with a point and shoot which can result in missing a shot entirely.

share|improve this answer
Might I add "slow" as in "everything takes what feels like forever to happen" to the list? Plants are usually pretty patient, but any animals you capture will be rolling their eyes and tapping their little feet if they hang around. The newer ones are not nearly as bad as their ancestors were, but superzoom/bridge cameras still aren't SLR quick. Knowing that and anticipating it will reduce the number of failures, but there will still be a much higher percentage of failures than with, say, Moose Peterson's kit. – user2719 Jan 20 '14 at 16:35

A superzoom camera can be useful for capturing images of living subjects, but trying to capture close up images of distant subjects with a superzoom will push up against the limits of the camera. Regardless of what camera or lens you are using, you will need to use a shutter speed that is sufficient to freeze the motion of your subject. In addition, if you are shooting without a tripod, you will need to make sure that your shutter speed is fast enough to prevent camera motion. The rule of thumb is a shutter speed of 1/(35mm equivalent focal length) without image stabilization. Superzooms tend to have a relatively slow maximum aperture at the telephoto end. The combination of relatively fast shutter speed and relatively small aperture means that you'll need to increase the ISO or use a tripod under any but the brightest of conditions when shooting at maximum zoom to achieve correct exposure without blurring the subject.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.