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Megacheap megazooms: 10 sub-$250 cameras with 10x or longer optical zoom

CNET compares 10 megazoom digital cameras that cost less than $250 each.

The Kodak Z915 is a 10x zoom camera that's widely available for less than $100. Sarah Tew/CNET

Ah, the lure of the long lens. Camera manufacturers have spent the past couple years waging a zoom war, trying to pack as much magnification into increasingly smaller camera bodies. A few of them, such as Nikon, Fujifilm, and Olympus, are offering both budget-friendly and high-end models of full-size megazooms, while just about all of the makers have a lower-cost compact megazoom in their lines.

It used to be impossible to find a 10x optical zoom camera for less than $200, but those days are officially in the past. Take the 10x zoom Kodak Z915 (pictured above), for example. It's more than a year old, but still readily available and if you don't mind buying it in black you can find it for less than $100--50 percent of its original price. However, even new models are available for bargain prices.

Unfortunately, you occasionally get what you pay for. Generally speaking, photo quality and shooting performance aren't the strongest on megazoom cameras and the cheaper you go, the weaker they're likely to be. That's not to say they're not worth considering, though.

If a majority of your photos are taken outdoors in good lighting and they're for sharing online, viewing on a TV, or making small prints and the occasional 8x10, all of these cameras are sufficient.

Lastly, two cameras belong here that we haven't reviewed. The Samsung HZ30W is a stripped-down version of the HZ35W that we have reviewed, basically missing that models built-in GPS receiver and AMOLED screen, but selling for about $230. The other is the sub-$200 Olympus SP-600UZ, which hasn't been made available to us for review.

See the megazoom cameras for under $250.