The number of cameras released or announced this year is ridiculous. According to camera site 1001 Noisy Cameras, the count stands at more than 150 models with 42 of them being compact megazooms.
That's a lot of cameras for us to weed through and is kind of cruel to average consumers just looking for a long-lens point-and-shoot to stick in their pockets. What's worse is that manufacturers are producing several models with seemingly similar feature sets.
For example, if you walked into a store and saw Panasonic's Lumix DMC-ZS8 and its Lumix DMC-ZS10 next to each other, you might not immediately see the differences, let alone $100 worth of them. Even after picking them up, you might notice only that the ZS10 has a GPS receiver and a touch screen. But there are more differences than just those and they might make or break a buying decision.
To clear up the confusion, we've assembled a list of our six favorite compact megazooms of 2011. There should be something for everyone--from fully automatic to full manual. Lenses range from a 10x 25-250mm on the Sony HX7V to the Nikon S9100's 18x 25-450mm. What you won't find on these cameras are viewfinders, though. The idea here is to keep the body as small as possible, so you'll need to step up to a full-size megazoom if you want a viewfinder.
As I said up top, though, there are a lot of cameras in this category so this certainly isn't all of what's available. Look for future reviews of models from Fujifilm, Casio, Olympus, and others.