How much telephoto do you need? Get ready for a Super-zoom Smack Down!

The tiny Canon SX260 and Nikon S9300 nearly disappear compared to the Nikon D700 and Nikon D7000 rigs with their tripods. So it is tempting to wonder how much serious telephoto work can be done with a pint-size super-zoom. We'll find out and let you know!The idea of a point and shoot that can take great telephoto images is really appealing. But over the years I’ve been underwhelmed by their performance. I’m a much bigger fan of no compromise models like the Canon S100, which offer excellent images over a limited zoom range than of the super-zooms I’ve reviews, like the Canon SX240. But kind words about the new Canon PowerShot SX260 HS by my friend and former editor Michael Miller convinced me to take another look. The Canon PowerShot SX260 competes directly with the new Nikon Coolpix S9300, so I decided to do a real hands-on field test of both of them. Of course I couldn’t leave well enough alone, so we’ve decided to go all the way, pitting the SX260 and S9300 (unfairly) against a Nikon D7000 paired with the Sigma DSLR super-zoom lens the Sigma 50-500mm f/4.5-f/6.3 HSM lens, and against the full-frame Nikon D700 with Nikon’s flagship 200-400mm f/4 VR pro lens. So for the next month here at Cardinal Photo we’ll be shooting with all four cameras and taking careful notes…

Obviously part of the face-off is a bit tongue-in-cheek. We really don’t expect $300 cigarette-pack sized point and shoots to get the same images as a $10,000 DSLR setup, of course, but it’ll be interesting to see how far they’ve come and where the tradeoffs are. Similarly, I was never a fan of 10x zooms for DSLRs until I shot with the Sigma 50-500 and got some very nice images. So I want to throw it into the mix, since it may represent one of the best all-around choices for a “one size fits all” safari lens on the market.

Our extravaganza will build-up to June 7th, when I’m lead a photo walk at the Bronx Zoo for B&H Photo. It’ll be a great time to get the cameras working on some moderately wild critters (I’m not counting on the super-zooms for much in terms of tracking any fast action). If you can join us on June 7th, stay tuned for the event details from B&H, but in any case you can benefit from our camera shoot-out over the next month. Let us know if you have any specific comments on our test models or questions you’d like us to answer! – David