This test compares six compact cameras that give you the extended reach of a superzoom in a pocket-friendly box.
Canon PowerShot SX710 HS
The SX710 HS is especially easy to use thanks to decent ergonomics, unusually large buttons and an excellent three-inch, 922k-dot LCD screen.
There are also some useful toys, like Wi-Fi connectivity, NFC pairing and Zoom Framing Assist, which keeps track of a subject when using the full reach of the 30x, 25-750mm-equivalent optical zoom.
Inside is a back-illuminated 20.3- megapixel CMOS sensor and Canon’s latest Digic 6 image processor, which together give decent – though not exceptional – image quality. In good light up to ISO 400, images stand up to close scrutiny and detail is well resolved, but chroma noise becomes visible at ISO 800 when viewing images at full size.
Nikon Coolpix S9900
This may be one of the less expensive cameras here, but you wouldn’t know it from its features. There’s the same 30x optical zoom range as the Canon, along with Wi-Fi and NFC, but also GPS for image geotagging, plus a vari-angle 921k-dot LCD display. This adds bulk, however, and the S9900 is the largest camera here, albeit not by much.
However, you can’t have it all at this price. There’s no viewfinder and the screen isn’t touch sensitive, while the 300-shot battery life is only average in class, and raw recording is absent.
This is a pity, because Nikon’s image processing is quite aggressive, smoothing more detail than the other cameras and generating a slightly painterly appearance.
Olympus Stylus SH-2
Where the other cameras boast a 30x optical zoom range, the SH-2 can ‘only’ manage 24x, equivalent to 25-600mm in 35mm terms. But it makes up for this with an impressive 380-shot battery life and touch sensitivity, while its ability to shoot in raw is only matched by the Panasonic TZ70.
There are plenty of fun filters to play with, along with Wi-Fi and a manual mode, but strangely no Shutter or Aperture Priority settings. The screen’s 460k-dot resolution also trails the pack.
Image quality is nothing special, either. The SH-2 resolves more detail than the S9900, but can’t quite match the Panasonic or Sony cameras. Auto white balance also tends to produce slightly cooler and more muted colours.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ70
The TZ70 only has a 12-megapixel sensor, but it’s all the better for it, resolving bags of detail with no evidence of smearing. High ISO noise reduction is subtle, meaning you’ll see some grain, but fine detail is preserved up to ISO 3,200. The only image quality bugbear is the noticeable chromatic aberration.
Elsewhere the TZ70 impresses with Wi-Fi and NFC, a useful multi-functional control ring around the lens, plus a full complement of manual shooting modes.
There are also time-lapse video and panorama modes, but the TZ70’s stand-out feature is its terrific 1,166k-dot electronic viewfinder. This helps to justify the TZ70’s high price, though it’s a pity you don’t get a touch-sensitive screen.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX90V
Considering it packs a 30x optical zoom with 24-720mm-equivalent focal range, the HX90V is incredibly small. Even more impressive is that Sony has managed to cram in the same 1,440k-dot pop-up viewfinder as found in the RX100 III premium compact.
The three-inch, 921k-dot screen doesn’t fully articulate and isn’t touch-sensitive, but it will flip up for selfie shooting. You also get a lens barrel control ring like the Panasonic TZ70, but Sony’s version feels cheaper.
Wi-Fi, GPS and exposure bracketing are all present, but raw recording isn’t. That’s not a deal-breaker, though, because JPEG image quality is superb. Colour reproduction, dynamic range, and exposure metering are all excellent.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX500
The WX500 and HX90V have a lot in common. Externally they’re almost identical, with the same exceptionally petite proportions, although without the HX90V’s front finger grip, the WX500 is worryingly slippery.
The similarities aren’t just skin-deep, because the two cameras also share the same lens, an 18.2MP Exmor R CMOS sensor and Sony’s Bionz X processor.
That means you get just as impressive image quality and performance, all for less cash. The catch is you’ll have to do without the HX90V’s clever viewfinder and GPS, plus some other features, such as high ISO noise-reduction control and flash exposure compensation. At least there’s no faulting the 400-shot battery life.
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