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Digital camera technology changes quickly. Only a few years ago, Olympus pretty much had the extreme superzoom category all to itself. But the landscape has changed dramatically in the last couple of years.
The latest entry with an extreme superzoom is Samsung's new HZ25W. And while Samsung makes some nice cameras, the response has been mostly "ho-hum."
That may be because several other camera makers - including Olympus, Kodak and Pentax - already have 26x superzooms intheir lineup. (Nikon isn't far behind with a 24x superzoom.) So Samsung's effort feels like a Johnny-come-lately.
But all this emphasis on stretching superzooms' lens length leaves out another important consideration: speed. Have manufacturers kept lens speed up with length? Because all the reach in the world won't do you any good if you can't get enough light into the camera.
With the latest batch of 26x superzooms, the news is mostly good. In fact, the lenses on all the cameras I've mentioned here are a relatively speedy f2.8 at their minimum focal length. They've accomplished this by starting the zoom range at a fairly wide 4.6mm (26mm in 35mm camera terms).
But their performance quickly deteriorates. By the time you've stretched these lenses out to the end of their 26x range, they're at f5.0... which is reasonably slow. So, even at a high ISO setting, you may not get a good quality shot at 26x in cloudy weather.
I'm not trying to discourage anyone from buying an extreme superzoom. The models we're discussing here are all good digital cameras. But while they dazzle us with their features, we should be aware of their limitations, too.