Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX100V

A couple of trends are evident in the category of long-zoom cameras. First, companies are outfitting impossibly small cameras----with lenses that provide optical zoom ranges of 10X and up. Second, companies are going even bigger with larger-sized fixed-lens cameras, equipping them with optical-zoom lenses that approach 40X.

The Sony Cyber-shot HX100V ($450 as of September 2, 2011) is among the latter--a long-zoom camera with a larger body that resembles a small DSLR. Its 30X-optical-zoom lens is a few steps behind the 36X-optical-zoom and the 35X-optical-zoom in zoom range, but the HX100V offers other benefits that may ultimately make it more appealing than its rivals.

Like competing superzoom cameras, the HX100V offers a combination of manual, semimanual, and automatic exposure controls. The camera distinguishes itself from the pack with a few extras: built-in GPS, 3D snapshot and panorama features, excellent video quality, and a blazingly fast 10 frames-per-second continuous shooting speed. A full user guide is also built into the camera for quick reference, and there's even a search option for it.

The 16-megapixel Sony Cyber-shot HX100V offers a backside-illuminated Exmor R CMOS sensor that the company says is designed for low-light operation. The HX100V's optically stabilized 30X zoom lens reaches as far as the Nikon Coolpix P500's 810mm on the telephoto end, but not as far as the 840mm Canon PowerShot SX30 IS. At 27mm wide-angle, the HX100V achieves a slightly narrower maximum than the P500's mega-wide-angle 22.5mm and the SX30 IS's 24mm.

It isn't the widest of superzoom cameras, but the HX100V's 27mm wide-angle lens does a good job of capturing landscapes and group shots. The lens is relatively fast, with a maximum aperture of F2.8 at wide angle, though it slows to F5.6 at telephoto.