2009 Super Zoom Shootout Review

How Do They Compare?

I went into this comparison trying to find out which of these four Super Zooms was the best, and if that camera could top the leaders in this class from Canon and Panasonic. The Olympus SP-590 Ultra Zoom came away as my favorite of these four cameras, with its good (but not spectacular) image quality, full set of manual controls, plenty of point-and-shoot features, and solid design and build quality. Despite all that, it's not quite as good as the best-in-class Super Zooms, but it's well worth considering if you're in the market. The Nikon Coolpix P90 is a camera that I liked in so many ways, only to be let down by its image quality and low light focusing performance. The Pentax X70 is unremarkable, with a few too many corners cut for my taste. Lastly, there's the Kodak EasyShare Z980. It's a camera which sounds great when you read the spec sheet, but it has so many issues, most notably image quality related, that I cannot recommend it.

Below I've summarized my thoughts for each of the cameras, presented in the same order that I've been using throughout this article.

Kodak EasyShare Z980

What I liked: Lens range, image stabilization, large LCD, zoom can be used in movie mode, automatic redeye removal, RAW support (with in-camera editing), hot shoe, easy photo tagging, image undelete feature, good battery life, good bundle includes rechargeable batteries and vertical grip

What I didn't like: Photo and video quality, no image stabilization in movie mode, poorly implemented manual focus feature, no manual white balance, EVF lacks diopter correction, plasticky body, software barely supports RAW files, plastic tripod mount, can't access memory card slot when using tripod, no video output cable included, full manual must be downloaded (and it's not very detailed)


Nikon Coolpix P90

What I liked: Good color, Lens range, image stabilization, large/tiltable LCD, full manual controls, fast focusing in good light, continuous shooting, time-lapse feature, face/smile/blink detection, in-camera help system

What I didn't like: Heavy noise reduction softens images and smudges details, tends to slightly overexpose, poor low light focusing, no optical IS in movie mode, audio cuts out early in movies, some redeye, below average battery life, can't access memory card while using tripod, very basic included software


Olympus SP-590 Ultra Zoom

What I liked: Photo quality, incredible zoom range, image stabilization, design/build quality, full manual controls w/bulb mode and white balance fine-tuning, fast/precise lens control, conversion lens support, good outdoor LCD visibility, wireless flash support, HDMI output, good battery life, time-lapse feature, in-camera help system, lots of playback mode extras

What I didn't like: Dull colors out of the box, LCD on the small side, no IS in movie mode (unless you turn off sound recording), redeye a problem (though you can remove it in playback mode), plastic tripod mount, reliance on xD cards, lousy manual


Pentax X70

What I liked: Photo quality, lens range, image stabilization, small body, full manual controls, face/smile/blink detection, digital filters/frames, time-lapse feature, image undelete feature

What I didn't like: Redeye, LCD on the small side, poor battery life, no full resolution continuous shooting, slowest shutter speed 4 seconds, face detection worst in the group, choppy frame rate at highest movie resolution, no optical IS in movie mode, no diopter correction for EVF, dated menu system, plastic tripod mount, can't access memory card while using tripod

Some other super zooms worth considering include the Canon PowerShot SX1 and SX10, Casio Exilim EX-FH20, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28 (discontinued and likely to be replaced soon), and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX1.

As always, I recommend heading to your local camera or electronics store to try out all of these super zooms and their competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

Check out the photo galleries for all four of the Super Zooms in this review:

Buy it Now

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If you have a question about this review, please send them to Jeff. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation.