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Even the nosebleed seats seem close with our favorite megazoom cameras

One of the most commonly undervalued features on a camera is the zoom. A better camera with a good zoom will get you faraway shots while maintaining image quality. Add in the fact that nearly all smartphone cameras lack optical zoom, it’s easy to see why the market for long-zoom cameras is growing.

Bridge cameras — also referred to as megazoom and super-zoom cameras — are a mix between a point-and-shoot and a DSLR, and pack in some pretty big-zoom capabilities. You can’t swap out the lenses, but with their wide focal ranges, you wouldn’t want to anyways. Most bridge cameras include advanced features like manual modes and have a DSLR-feel with a larger profile and grip. But, bridge cameras also bring plenty of zoom, often even more than you can get with a DSLR, or at least more than you can get affordably.

Related: Canon shows off super zoom in a creative Instagram campaign

The problem with bridge cameras, however, is that the longer a lens gets, the tougher it is to get a sharper image. If you’re paying a few hundred dollars for a bridge camera, you want usable images at the end of that big zoom. That’s why we’ve gathered some of the best bridge cameras that will not only get you a pretty great zoom, but good image quality from the wide to telephoto range.

Canon PowerShot SX60 HS ($479)

PowerShot SX60 HS Lifestyle 03

The Canon PowerShot SX60 HS extends the reach with an extensive 65x zoom. While it lacks fancy extras like 4K, the Canon SX60 is a well-priced option with a longer reach than most megazooms. The SX60 sits at a mid-point for things like lens aperture and burst shooting, and instead opts for lower price point. Still, the SX60 is a good option for consumers who don’t need a wide aperture but still want a longer reach than most bridge cameras can offer. As a camera that’s almost two years old, however, Canon could potentially be releasing a new version soon. Read our full review.

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Nikon Coolpix P900 ($529+)

Nikon Coolpix P900 Thumb

Just a few years ago, a 25x optical zoom was considered a wonder in engineering. Now, many top out at 50x — except for the Nikon Coolpix P900. The P900 boasts a 83x optical zoom that’s pretty impressive. While good zoom lenses with that kind of reach are tough to make, the P900 achieves better quality at the tele-end of the 83x zoom than Nikon’s P600. Although you can get brighter lenses, faster burst speeds, and bigger sensors for the same price, you can’t top the 83x zoom, at least not currently. If reach is your No. 1 priority, this is it.

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Panasonic Lumix FZ300 ($598)

Panasonic Lumix FZ300 Life

The longer the zoom, the lower the image quality gets when shooting in the dark. That’s because most zoom lenses stop at a maximum aperture of around f/5.6 or more at full zoom. The Panasonic Lumix FZ300 bucks the trend, however, with a lens that has a constant f/2.8 aperture throughout the zoom range. That’s a strong featured compared to the specs on most bridge cameras.

The tradeoff? A more limited zoom range that stops at 24x. Still, Panasonic tosses in a few other big features to make the camera really enticing. There’s 4K video, five-axis image stabilization, and a 12 frames-per-second (fps) burst speed – all wrapped up in a splash-proof body with both an electronic viewfinder and a tilting touchscreen. If you’ll be doing a lot of low-light shooting, like reaching across a concert hall for example, this is the zoom camera to get.

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Nikon DL 25-500 ($997)

Nikon DL 25-500 Thumb

Nikon announced a trio of premium compacts earlier this year, called the DL-series, with the 24-500 being the most versatile of the bunch. This bridge model has a 21x optical zoom and a 1cm macro mode. While it costs more than Nikon’s other bridge cameras (like the aforementioned Coolpix P900), it has a larger 1-inch sensor — CX-format, the same type used in the Nikon 1-series — than the manufacturer’s other choices. That’s also paired with 4K video, 171 autofocus points, and built-in Bluetooth-based SnapBridge technology for phone pairing and image transfer. While it’s tough to make a decision before the camera has officially hit the market, it’s priced about $500 less than the Sony Cyber-shot RX10 III (see below) with better speed and macro, though a slightly shorter lens. The camera hasn’t shipped yet, but retailers are taking pre-orders. Read our first-impressions of the DL series.

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Sony Cyber-shot RX10 III ($1,498)

The Sony Cyber-shot RX10 III’s $1,500 price tag makes it a luxury option, although an excellent one at that. The RX10 III and its two predecessors — the RX10 and RX10 II, both still available —  use a large 1-inch Exmor sensor, similar to the Nikon DL 25-500 (see above). That means more resolution (and bigger prints) along with better low-light performance, thanks to Sony’s “stacked sensor” technology used in this particular sensor. The sensor also offers more depth of field than the typical bridge camera with a 1/2.3-inch variant. It offers a nice boost in image quality over some of the lower-tier options, too, but it’s actually tougher to put a zoom lens in front of a larger sensor, so the RX10 tops out with a 25x zoom, which is equivalent to a 24-600mm lens on a DSLR. It’s still a technical feat, considering the RX10 and RX10 II only reach 8.3x.

The RX10 III is also very flexible and fast, with a nice 3cm macro mode and a burst speed up to 14 fps that even makes it a viable option for casual sports photography. Still, even with all those features, that $1,500 price tag is tough to swallow. To put things in perspective, an off-brand 600mm zoom like the 150-600mm from Tamron costs $1,000 (just for the lens) while Nikon’s 600mm prime costs more than $9,300. If price is a concern, check out the RX10 II ($1,200). It has nearly all the same features, and while the optical zoom is shorter, it has a bright f/2.8 aperture across the entire focal range. Read our hands-on review.

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Amazon B&H