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The bizarre Canon Powershot Zoom looks like the future of compact cameras

Canon Powershot Zoom
(Image credit: Canon)

The best camera phones might have replaced dedicated compact cameras in most people's pockets, but that doesn't mean compacts can't reinvent themselves – a prime example is the Canon Powershot Zoom, which has just smashed its crowdfunding target in Japan in only 13 hours.

First shown off as a concept in 2019, the Powershot Zoom is a monocular-style camera that puts a 400mm telephoto lens in your pocket, with digital zoom stretching that even further to an 800mm equivalent focal length. This could make it a very handy little companion for both watching and taking snaps at sports events and safaris.

Smartphone zoom has improved greatly in the last few years, with phones like the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra bringing a 5x optical zoom and impressive 10x hybrid zoom. But their longer reach is usually achieved by cropping into high-megapixel images rather than using superior optical zooms, which are physically tricky to squeeze into smartphones even with clever folded optics.

The Canon Powershot Zoom (which is currently Japan-only) offers optical zooms that are equivalent to 100mm and 400mm, while only switching to inferior digital zoom for its maximum 800mm focal length. Naturally, the only way it can do this while being a pocketable, 144g camera is by having a 1/3-inch sensor, which is smaller than the one in many smartphones. 

Still, its 12.1MP telephoto images should be superior to its phone rivals thanks its superior optics, Face recognition AF and built-in image stabilization, plus it can shoot Full HD videos, too. 

Canon Powershot Zoom

(Image credit: Canon)

Stretch goals

The pocket telephoto camera concept might not be brand new – we've seen binoculars and monoculars that can take snaps and video, too. But it is the first we've seen from a major camera manufacturer that slips easily into your pocket.

It also follows an interesting trend from Canon, or its Canon Marketing Japan subsidiary, of testing concepts with limited edition crowdfunding campaigns. Its first foray into crowdfunded cameras was the Canon Ivy Rec in 2019, which is a carabiner-style camera that's an interesting new take on the action cam.

The latter did eventually launch worldwide and is available to buy now from Canon's online store, which suggests the same could ultimately happen with the sold-out Canon Powershot Zoom. 

While its appeal might be relatively niche, the Powershot Zoom's price tag of ¥31460 yen (around $300 / £230 / AU$405) could see it find a home with those who regularly watch sports, wildlife or find themselves at the back row of concerts.   

Something that would make it even more interesting would be the inclusion of Canon's excellent new Animal Eye AF, which was recently introduced on the Canon EOS R5. Now there's an idea for the worldwide launch of the Powershot Zoom Mark II, Canon.