What Megazoom Looks Like

A camera and camcorder with extreme close-up

ZoomZoom

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Sean Captain

Cameras are looking more and more like telescopes. This year's CES saw several megazoom models emerge, including 60X and 70X from Sony and Panasonic camcorders and a 26X still camera from Olympus. (The higher the camera's resolution, the harder it is to extend the range of a lens. The Olympus is a 12MP camera, while the standard-def camcorders are under a megapixel.)

But it's hard to parse those numbers without a concrete example. Bob Perry from Panasonic captured it well when he said that using the companies 70X zoom is like "holding a piece of spaghetti in our hand that's about a half a mile long. And at the end when that spaghetti's moving up and down, we're taking a picture and we expect it to be fully in focus and sharp."

But perhaps the best way to picture this awesome zoom capability is, in fact, to see a picture.

Olympus SP-590UZ

A new record

Olympus claims that its SP-590UZ ($450) has the longest zoom lens you can get on a still camera. The 26x range goes from an ultrawide 26mm to an extremely close 676mm. That's too much range to capture in a single photo. The best I could do was split the difference when focusing.Sean Captain

Panasonic SDR-H80 Camcorder

Longest Zoom Ever

Panasonic's SDR-H80 camcorder (also $450) sets a new record with a 70X zoom, which was too much to fit even in this giant Las Vegas ballroom. At 50X, in this photo, we get a close-up (with facial recognition) of an entire group of people that we couldn't even see with a naked eye.Sean Captain