Though it delivers merely OK photos, the S2550HD is one of the least expensive ways to get your hands on an 18x zoom, wide-angle lens with semimanual and manual controls. It's also powered by AA-size batteries and has an electronic viewfinder, which is being dropped on many lower-end megazooms.
Also, those not interested in connecting to an HDTV should check out the less expensive S1800, which has the same basic feature set and design, but lacks the S2550HD's Mini-HDMI output. In exchange, the S1800 comes with automatic picture rotation, so you can shoot horizontally or vertically without having to right the images later, and Tracking Auto Focus for keeping moving subjects locked in focus until you're ready to shoot.
The ZS5 is the less expensive version of Panasonic's ZS7. Mainly it loses the ZS7's GPS receiver, has a smaller, lower-resolution LCD, and records HD video in Motion JPEG instead of AVCHD Lite. There are a few more differences, but none that have a big impact on photo quality or shooting performance. What remains makes the ZS5 a smart choice for those simply looking for the flexibility of a wide-angle lens with a 12x zoom and semimanual and manual shooting modes, as well as a reliable auto mode.
Like Panasonic's ZS5, Sony's H55 is a simpler version of the company's HX5V. It also loses the built-in GPS receiver in the higher-end model, but it shares the same body, lens, and LCD. With the Panasonic, it has some of the best image quality we've seen on a budget-priced compact megazoom.
It's really pretty amazing what Nikon is able to offer on the Coolpix L110. For the same MSRP as 2009's L100 ($279.95), Nikon retains that model's wide-angle lens with 15x zoom and sensor-shift image stabilization, but increases the camera resolution from 10 to 12 megapixels and the 3-inch LCD resolution from 230K dots to 460K; added a 720p movie mode, a built-in stereo microphone, and HDMI output; added use of the optical zoom and autofocus while shooting video; and includes four AA lithium batteries for 840 shots or 7 hours of video out of the box. And, although the MSRP approaches $300, it can be found for as little as $230.
Like many compacts, the JZ300's photos benefit from a little sharpening with software once they're on your computer. That said, the camera has a flexible wide-angle 10x zoom lens in a very compact body and records HD resolution movies for a street price of less than $160. The JZ300 is one of the better values here.
Like the Z915 at the beginning of this slideshow, the Z950 is a 10x compact zoom, but instead of AA batteries, it's powered by a rechargeable lithium ion pack. It also shoots HD resolution movie clips and has a larger LCD. The best part is it can be found for less than $125.
If you need a compact megazoom with a long battery life, the Casio H10 is your best bet. It has a 1,000-shot battery life. While we never got to that many shots in our testing, we took hundreds of photos and a good helping of video and it never needed to be recharged.
A 26x, f2.8-5, 26-676mm (35mm equivalent)lens for less than $250? Yep, that's what the Z981 offers. The photo quality requires some compromises, though, as does the feature set. On the other hand, a look at user reviews on CNET and at retail sites reveals a lot of happy consumers, so while we don't give it a full endorsement, many users do.