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You can use the ring for manual zoom (I have the SC700 model, but I am pretty sure they are all the same). The thing is with mine, if you ask for manual _focus_ then the zoom is not available to the ring, because it is then used to focus. That’s what they mean by auto mode being the only way to zoom with the ring.
It’s not anything to do with what Grunwald is saying about gain levels and being manual there. Separate issue.
FWIW, as with all modern photography, the manual/auot debate is never cut and dried: under normal good lighting by far the most easy and versatile way to shoot is in auto or semi-auto modes, IMO, especially under changing light if you are shooting “general” scenes. ….however I rant, as usual.
Actually it’s not a true manual zoom anyway and can be quite irritating, AFAIAC. You turn the ring, and to some extent the faster you turn that faster it zooms, but it has little more feel than the auto zoom button, for me. You can get used to either (I am still working on it), but the point is you can’t just zoom at your own manual rate then stop instantly as with focus pulling on a pro camera or DSLR camera. There can be a lag as well, if you try to turn the ring too fast. For that last reason I actually prefer the zoom controller.
I think you may have some searching to do to find any better at prosumer level. It’s far cheaper to make an electrical zoom than true manual.
I have not compared, but FWIW the OIS on this camera is uncanny. I can hand hold and you would swear it was either on a “steadycam” or a tripod. It can cause a “swim” effect if you stop a pan too suddenly, but I am willing to train myself for the sheer power of the OIS.