Fixed Lens or Interchangeable?

Point shoot cameras with built-in superzooms offer an alternative to long lenses

At this point in the development of digital photography, there is a camera for every buyer . In selecting which camera is right for you, one of the basic considerations will be whether to get a fixed lens or camera that lets you change lenses.

These days the question is not as clear cut as it was a few years ago. In the old days, you wouldn’t think of taking portraits with a zoom lens. You would have had a case of prime lenses and probably picked one in the 85mm-135mm range. Today zoom lenses are much better. Computer controlled milling machines, advanced optical coatings, and robot assembly means zoom lens quality is no longer an issue.

Now there are “superzooms”, also sometimes called “travel lenses” with incredible zoom ranges that make changing camera lenses a rare event. A few years ago you might have been carrying a small case full of lenses, today, even for a commercial shoot, you’ll likely only be packing two or three.

Modern consumer cameras with fixed lenses are still able to offer an impressive zoom range and most will work for 90 percent of the shots you will probably ever want to take. It’s that last 10 percent that separates photographers. Specialties that positively need to change lenses are serious bird watchers, sports, and wildlife photographers.

If you’re taking pictures for a living, or think you will, interchangeable lenses will be a capability you want. You may not have a lot of lenses at first, but you’ll pick them up over time.

Even if photography is just a serious hobby, I’d still get interchangeable lens capability if it’s in your budget.

But if you’re getting a camera to take pictures of the kids, for a family vacation, or occasional get together then the zoom range in most point and shoot cameras are just fine.

If you’re thinking about your kid’s soccer game, cameras like the Canon SX30 IS, the Nikon CoolPix 500, and Fujifilm Finepix HS20 with a built-in long zooms can put you right in the action, even from the sidelines at a price less than you’d pay for a decent long lens.

Fujifilm X-S1 Long Range Superzoom

sx1 photo
The Fujifilm S-X1 Superzoom can put you right in the middle of the action - by Fujifilm

Fujifilm has fielded the Fujifilm X-S1 superzoom, what some are calling a “bridge” camera that falls in between point-and-shoot and full size DSLRs.

While the Fujifilm X-S1 is a fixed-lens camera, it sports an impressive 26x zoom range with a lens that has a 35mm equivalent of 24mm to an impressive 624mm. With a range like that how often would you really miss having interchangeable lenses? On top of that Fujifilm has layered Intelligent Digital Zoom which takes the telephoto end out to an eye-popping 1248mm (35mm equivalent).

If the long range doesn’t lure you in, you can get in as close as 1cm by selecting Super Macro Mode for monster close up images.

Inside the X-S1 packs a 2/3 in 12-megapixel EXR CMOS sensor, the same one in the X10, which yields much better low light performance. The EXR CMOS technology allows the user to switch between automatic modes such as High Resolution, Wide Dynamic Range, and High Sensitivity with the flick of a button and Fujifilm claims a shutter lag of just 0.01 sec in high speed continuous shooting mode.

For video the X-S1 offers full 1920×1080 video, with stereo sound, at 30 fps.

On the back the X-S1 has a tiltable 3 inch LCD screen with a special daylight mode to make it easier to see during the day, a feature I wish Canon would emulate.

The Fujifilm X-S1 offers an impressive array of automatic shooting modes along with a full range of manual controls.

Priced at just under $1,200, the Fujifilm X-S1 is an ambitious offering, giving consumers the option of paying a little more for full DSLR functionality without the DSLR weight and need to carry separate lens.

It’s for sure, with the zoom capability, that parents on the sidelines of their kid’s soccer game will find this camera can put them right in the action all the way from the bleachers. It should also appeal to weekend nature photographers and bird watchers.

Compare to:

Fujifilm X-S1 vs Canon SX20 IS

Fujifilm X-S1 vs Pentax X90

Fujifilm X-S1 vs Nikon Coolpix P100