Olympus now has a digital camera with 20x zoom, which works out to a 26 - 520mm range. Remember, though, that 20x is not as nice as it sounds, because part of the range goes down to wideangle.
The reference point is 50mm: this is the normal view, no zoom, no wide angle.
* Wideangle -- from 50mm to 26mm.
* Zoom -- from 50mm to 520mm.
Thus, the actual magnification is 10.4x (= 520 / 50).
Still, that's pretty good. All those common cameras with their 3x "zooms" provide just 2x, because of the wideangle factor.
Many binoculars enlarge the image by 7x, so this camera dispenses with the need for binocs, and has the added benefit of recording what you see closeup. With one exception: binoculars provide stereoscopic vision, not done by digital cameras.
But this new Olympus is still not as good as camcorders, which now have optical zooms of 35x. How can camcorders do what still cameras cannot? Smaller lens and image size allows for larger zoom ratios.
You can read more about the Olympus SP-570 UltraZoom digital camera at The Imaging Resource. It's just $500; the primary drawback, however, is that it uses xD memory cards, instead of today's standard SD memory cards. Since xD is smaller than SD, you can't even use an adapter to reuse your existing collection of SD cards.