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How do I decide on a camera/lens with high zoom range?

There are a lot of relatively cheap ~ 300$ (with body) consumer cameras with mega-zoom features — i.e. lenses with a 10-20× zoom factor for example Nikon p5100.

But for Nikon d5100 I have found only 11× lenses, and the price is quite high (example Nikon-AF-S-28-300mm-f3.5-5.6G-ED-VR-lens) ~ 1000$.

Is there are cheaper alternative? Perhaps there are some zoom filters or something like this.

I want to take portraits of wild animals, birds, etc. which are located 20-30m away.

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    I have found with my 55-200mm lens I get shots that are just as good as any point and shoot superzoom can do with a bit of post processing (I have a D5100) – L84 May 14 '12 at 21:35
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    Your 'purpose' and your question seem to have different requirements. If you want to take pictures of things that are far away, then ultimately what matters is the lens's maximum focal length. A 20x 'zoom' wouldn't mean much if it went from 8mm-160mm for your 'purpose'. – rfusca May 14 '12 at 23:27
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    Also, see photo.stackexchange.com/questions/4425/… – rfusca May 14 '12 at 23:30
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  • The price you quoted for the Nikkor 28-300 is too high, you can pick one up for about $950. If that's closer to your budget, there's also the far better and brighter 80-200 f/2.8 for about $1100, or the even cheaper 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 for $590. Any of these would allow you to capture great pictures of wildlife – Tzarium May 15 '12 at 7:53

There are cheaper lenses, like the Nikon 55-300. Maybe it suits your needs?

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    Why the downvote? – Luciano May 15 '12 at 15:18

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