I’ve been looking at digital cameras (again) lately, and I’m a bit confused about the economics of the various classes of camera. It seems like one relatively new category is the super-zoom camera. There are several cameras in the $350-$400 range with 5 or 6 megapixel CCDs and good 12x zoom lenses. Examples include the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ7, the DMC-FZ5, and the DMC-FZ20. There’s also the Canon Powershot S1 IS and the Sony Cyber-shot H1.
These cameras have features that I generally associate with higher end SLRs, like image stabilization and fast lenses. Megapixel-wise, they’re in the same range as lower end DSLRs. The 12x optical zoom seems incredibly economical when compared to the replacement cost in SLR lenses.
What’s the catch? What do cameras like the Canon EOS 350D and Nikon D50 bring to the table that the super-zooms don’t? Is it that the sensors in the DSLRs work at higher ISO settings, whereas in the super-zooms, anything above ISO 100 is noisy?