Steal These Cameras!
How to Use a Superzoom
Holding the camera out at forearm's length may be okay if you're shooting at an equivalent focal length around 35mm. But not with 420mm! With or without image stabilization, that's just about the shakiest way to hold a long lens. Use the electronic viewfinder instead-and glom the camera tight against your face for extra steadiness.
We know whereof we speak. In our image stabilization tests, in which a number of photographers shoot the same target, those who can hold the camera steadiest without stabilization consistently get sharper results with stabilization.
In fact, you can use image stabilization as a kind of biofeedback to hold the camera steady. As you look through the camera, press the shutter button lightly to engage stabilization. The image will stop jiggling and begin to float smoothly (beware--it makes some people seasick). Don't try to counteract this movement--it'll only make it worse. Instead, concentrate on one detail in the center of the frame. Like driving, you tend to steer where you look. Keep your elbows tucked into your body, and breathe slowly--don't hold your breath. When the detail is steadiest in the frame, squeeze the shutter smoothly. Don't jab it or jerk your finger off the shutter. With some practice, you can get up to one stop more steadiness.
Some cameras have a stabilization mode that activates only when the shutter fires, and camera engineers say this mode can give you a higher percentage of sharp shots. That may be true for a stabilization newbie, but our tests indicate that a practiced shooter does better previewing. So practice.
A Pan of Panning
The problem with viewing a video image-which is exactly what EVF finders are-is that the image has to redraw when you move the camera. With static subjects, this isn't an issue, but with moving subjects, it can be mildly annoying, even exasperating.
The good news is that the redraw rate on the latest EVFs has been improved greatly-for single-frame operation, anyway. We were able to pan at fairly brisk rates with these four featured EVFs, and their shutter responses were fast enough that we could usually capture the composition we wanted.
The bad news: Tracking action during multiple frame bursts at full resolution is still nearly impossible with an EVF. After the first frame is captured, the EVF will either freeze on that frame or black out entirely, so you shoot in the dark. (The low-res, multiburst, "golf swing mode" on those like Sony's Cyber-shot DSC-H5 let you view continuously-but the individual files are tiny: 320x240 pixels.)
So, ironically, the best choice for action is usually single-frame rather than burst mode. The superzoom EVFs are better suited to sports with fairly predictable motion, like baseball or motorsports, rather than those with sudden erratic motion, like football or soccer.