GPS-Equipped Compact Ultra Zoom Cameras Review

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor

Originally Posted: April 3, 2011

Last Updated: July 12, 2011

One of the most popular digital camera genres in recent years has been what some have called the "travel zoom". These compact cameras have typically featured lenses of around 10X - 14X, large LCDs, and HD movie modes. In 2011, camera manufacturers really put the "travel" in travel zoom, by adding GPS receivers to their cameras. So, not only do you now have a camera which can go anywhere, but you'll know exactly where you took the photo.

In this review I'll take a look at three of what will likely be the most popular models: the Canon PowerShot SX230 HS, Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS10, and Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX9V. I wanted to include the Fuji FinePix F550EXR and possibly the Olympus SZ-30MR in this comparison, but neither camera was available to review. The Casio Exilim EX-H20G was left out due to its smaller lens and lack of Full HD video recording.

This chart compares the features between the three cameras:

  Canon PowerShot SX230 HS Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS10 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX9V
Street price* $349 $399 $349
Sensor size (type) 1/2.3" (CMOS) 1/2.33" (CMOS) 1/2.3" (CMOS)
Resolution 12.1 Megapixel 14.1 Megapixel 16.2 Megapixel
Focal range (zoom) 28 - 392 mm (14X) 24 - 384 mm (16X) 24 - 384 mm (16X)
Max aperture F3.1 - F5.9 F3.3 - F5.9 F3.3 - F5.9
Macro distance 5 cm 3 cm 5 cm
LCD size / resolution 3.0" / 461,000 pixel 3.0" / 460,000 pixel 3.0" / 910,000 pixel
Touchscreen LCD No Yes No
ISO range 100 - 3200 100 - 1600 100 - 3200
Flash strength
(Auto ISO)
0.8 - 3.5 m (W)
1.0 - 2.0 m (T)
0.6 - 5.0 m (W)
1.0 - 2.8 m (T)
0.3 - 5.6 m (W)
1.2 - 3.0 m (T)
Manual controls Shutter speed, aperture, white balance, focus Shutter speed, aperture, white balance Shutter speed, aperture**, white balance, focus
AE bracketing No Yes Yes
Burst mode
(At full res)
3.2 frames/sec 10 frames/sec 10 frames/sec
GPS: compass No No Yes
GPS: landmark data No Yes No
3D still capability No Yes Yes
In-camera panorama creation No No Yes (2D and 3D)
Max movie resolution 1920 x 1080 (24p) 1920 x 1080 (60i) 1920 x 1080 (60p)
Movie codecs H.264 AVCHD, M-JPEG AVCHD
Sound in movies Stereo Stereo Stereo
Zoom in movies Yes Yes Yes
Underwater case Yes Yes No
Built-in memory None 18 MB 19 MB
Supported memory cards SD/SDHC/SDXC
MMC/MMCplus/HC MMCplus
Memory Stick Pro Duo
Battery life 210 shots 260 shots 300 shots
(W x H x D)
4.2 x 2.4 x 1.3 in. 4.1 x 2.3 x 1.3 in. 4.2 x 2.4 x 1.4 in.
Weight (empty) 195 g 197 g 215 g
Available colors Black, red, blue Black, red, blue, silver, brown Black
* Prices obtained from B&H Photo-Video on 3/23/2011
** Limited to two aperture choices at any time

On paper, at least, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX9V looks to be the best of the bunch. Is that the case in reality? Well, you'll have to read the review to find out!

Before we continue, here's how this comparison is structured. I'll go over the basics of each camera, followed by sections comparing camera performance and photo quality, and a conclusion that wraps things up. Let's dive in now!

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