Reach across space
Road trip! Those magic words conjure up pictures from summer vacations past. But how many pictures on those road trips were "keepers?" Were the subjects small? Were the close-ups blurry? Did your group shots miss some of the group?
Vacations put demands on a camera, mostly in terms of the amount of territory you'll want them to cover. If you'd rather not walk several miles to get up close and personal with every landmark, you might want to consider a camera or camcorder with a good zoom lens. At the wide end they'll handle your group, architectural and landscape shots, and zoomed in to their telephoto range, your framing options will grow exponentially with each bit of magnification they offer.
We chose a great American tourism destination, Washington, D.C. as a venue where we could try some favorite long-zoom cameras in a typical hand-held vacation scenario. Click on the hot spots to see what we enjoyed about each.
Easy to handle, fast to focusDetails
An impressive 30X optical zoom lens and lightning fast autofocus are a pretty good combination when it comes to shooting over long distances outdoors. The SL300's ability to capture this lion statue's expression from across the pond speaks volumes about the pictures you could be bringing home from your next adventure. Panorama, face and blink detection, and "smile and shoot" modes round out the features that help you document the family's fun times.
Compact and stableDetails
Surprising? It's fair to say that about the Canon PowerShot SX260. On first glance you wouldn't suspect this camera, pulled from your pocket, would have such rock-solid stabilization paired with its 20X optical zoom lens. But even the shakiest hands wouldn't have a problem plucking a crisp close-up of General Grant on his horse from our vantage point across the water. A built-in GPS will help you identify landmarks from your next whirlwind tour.
The Nikon CoolPix P510 enters binocular and telescope territory with its 41X optical zoom lens. Well-stabilized and light-sensitive, it's the perfect camera to have when you need just a bit more "oomph" to capture that detail from far away. The Statue of Freedom captured here was the most distant of our chosen subjects, yet you can easily see the folds in her tunic and details of her headdress. The Nikon is also a joy to hold, with its solid right-side grip aiding your aim while zoomed in.
Versatile and detailedDetails
The Nikon D5100 DSLR is the only camera featured here that can use interchangeable lenses. That means you can tailor its response to the artistic needs of your subject. Here we used Nikon's powerful 70-300mm f4.5-5.6G ED-IF AF-S VR lens, and we didn't even need to zoom it in all the way to get nice shadow detail from this statue of an artillery wagon. Being one of the world's best-selling DSLRs, you'd expect the D5100 to rise up to the challenges presented here, and it does so admirably. Fine detail, low noise, and excellent color reproduction are just a few of the features it's known for.