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I'm just someone who enjoys photography, but I'm not a photographer. I don't know a lot, so please try and keep things simple.

I've been using a Fujifilm Finepix S9200, a bridge camera with a 24-1200mm lens (50x zoom), but only a 1/2.3" sensor. It's too cumbersome for travel, so I'm looking for something lightweight, most likely a point and shoot. Some of what I enjoy photographing are faces: children, statuary, etc. I've never needed to go to the end of my lens, but I've easily used 3/4 of my lens capability.

If I get a camera with a 35x zoom, will that be sufficient for what I want to shoot?

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The problem with these 35x or 50x notations on a camera is that they are great for marketing, but they don't really tell you anything. 50x is great - the telephoto end is 50 times multiplied the wide-angle end...but what actual focal length does the zoom begin and end at? The important figures to know are the focal length and sensor size (and hence the angle of view).

See this question: Which focal-length lens is usually used for portrait photography, and why?
In particular I like Vikas' answer, and I'll copy it here:

A common rule people follow is to keep 10ft to 15ft distance between subject and camera. And then select focal length based on type of portrait they want.

From that distance:

  • 50mm on cropped sensor and 75mm on full frame for full body shot
  • 85mm on cropped sensor and 120mm on full frame for waist up shot
  • 105mm on cropped sensor and 150mm on full frame for classic head and shoulder shot
  • Longer lenses for tight head shots

Note that what is most important really is the perspective and framing. These respectively depend on the camera-to-subject distance (camera independent), and the combination of focal length and sensor size (for framing / angle of view). If you are using a point-and-shoot camera (which has a smaller sensor than those referenced in Vikas' answer), then the relevant focal lengths will be lower. To (attempt to) save confusion, people often work in "full-frame equivalent" focal lengths, so what you would be looking for then is a point-and-shoot camera with equivalent focal length covering, say, 75mm-150mm. All point-and-shoots will start much wider than this, but if you can cover up to 150mm, you might find that that is "enough".

A camera with 35mm-150mm equivalent lens would have a 4.3x zoom.
A camera with 28mm-150mm equivalent lens would have a 5.4x zoom.
A camera with 24mm-150mm equivalent lens would have a 6.3x zoom.
If we extend the telephoto end to 200mm, then...
A camera with 35mm-200mm equivalent lens would have a 5.7x zoom.
A camera with 28mm-200mm equivalent lens would have a 7.1x zoom.
A camera with 24mm-200mm equivalent lens would have a 8.3x zoom.

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I've been using a Fujifilm Finepix S9200, a bridge camera with a 24-1200mm lens (50x zoom), but only a 1/2.3" sensor. It's too cumbersome for travel, so I'm looking for something lightweight, most likely a point and shoot. Some of what I enjoy photographing are faces: children, statuary, etc. I've never needed to go to the end of my lens, but I've easily used 3/4 of my lens capability.

If I get a camera with a 35x zoom, will that be sufficient for what I want to shoot?

Using this Nikon Coolpix as an example (https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1234149-REG/nikon_26501_coolpix_a900_digital_camera.html) - its 35mm equivalent range is 24-840mm (35x).

You'd be losing some range at the top end, but as you say, it's a range you hardly ever use anyway.

FWIW - that sort of range in the 35mm space is just about unheard of. Many people use 400mm to shoot birds and wildlife. 300mm is popular at football games. Portraits are usually in the 85mm or 135mm range. A 70-200mm zoom is probably the most popular telephoto zoom on the market.

So, the fact that this little pocket camera offers an equivalent of 840mm...that is incredibly "zoomed in." I've no doubt that it'll be enough for what you say you shoot.

That being said, do consider the trade-offs. I don't have any experience with either of these cameras but I would expect differences in Autofocus modes and speed, controls and settings, Image Stabilization, Video Options, Burst Modes / Buffer Size, Built in flash power, minimum focusing distance...just to name a few.

  • I really like my 18-300 ;-) It's way better than the 24-120 it replaced, by a very large margin. – Tetsujin Apr 26 at 17:16
  • @Tetsujin lulz. Well, I suppose there might be one exception to the rule. – Hueco Apr 26 at 17:23
  • Compulsory link - The Question of 18-300mm Lenses, Part Deux – Tetsujin Apr 26 at 17:37
  • No - I don't have an interchangeable lens camera. I realize that what they used to call DSLRs are now called bridge cameras. – VanCoerte Apr 26 at 18:58
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    @VanCoerte no worries - context is tough to get across sometimes. With just about anything photo related, I'd recommend checking your local area for a place with a good return policy so you can buy without worry. My local shop also has a habit of giving more in store credit than they'd give you cash, so trade-in's and upgrades are easier on the wallet. – Hueco Apr 26 at 20:46
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Almost certainly more than sufficient in terms of focal length, but a point-and-shoot may not be sufficient in its ability to collect enough light and render the background out of focus.

Something a bit over 100mm (35mm equivalent) is good for taking pictures of people standing 10 - 15 feet away. If you want just the face in the image, perhaps around 150mm? Although you won't find those exact lenses, but 85mm and 135mm are available; they just require a bit more cropping. One full frame option is a telezoom lens, such as 70-200.

A 35x zoom on a point-and-shoot camera almost certainly starts from around 30mm (35mm equivalent), and goes to aroound 1000mm (35mm equivalent). Thus, the zoom is way more than what you need. Excessive, I would say. Typically the superzoom lenses aren't the best in producing good pictures. They are just best in zooming in to such ridiculous magnification ratios that the image will be shaken so much that even the image stabilization can't correct it.

But the big question is, does a point-and-shoot camera take good enough pictures? You need plenty of light for such a small sensor. With the feeble flash, you can't have enough light. Thus, a tripod and asking the subjects to stay still is necessary for useful pictures, although image stabilization could perhaps in some situations be enough to not require a tripod. Image stabilization of course doesn't stop the subject movement.

A larger sensor camera such as APS-C DSLR / mirrorless is a much better choice, because it collects far more light and can render the background out of focus. You can find DSLRs very cheaply today, but the lenses require some investments. For portraits, do get 50mm and 85mm for APS-C. 50mm is very cheap, 85mm costs a bit more.

Of course, the ultimate portrait camera would be a full frame one, but I would say that is overkill for most uses.

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    What? A FF camera would be a more "ultimate" portrait camera than a MF Hasselblad H6D-400c MS? – Michael C Apr 26 at 18:40
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    It's too cumbersome for travel (citation, OP) does not sound like a shallow DOF is top priority here. And if a Finepix S9200 is too heavy, then APS-C won't cut it, either (typically). Also, most recent 1" or µ4/3" sensors (for example) have pretty decent SNR up to ISO 3200/6400 - the highest I ever use on my full frame camera is 12800, and that is in almost complete darkness with moving subjects - typically, I don't go over 3200. So while your answer is technically correct, it somewhat reads like "You want a decent car? Well, what about that new Ferrari Superfast?" (hyperbole, obviously ;) ) – flolilo Apr 26 at 19:53

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