So what do you choose when your optical zoom is just not long enough (no pun intented) and you know you will crop the image anyway?
This may change your mind about the uselesness of digital zoom: my 5050 will shoot (at highest rez) a file one third the original size at full digital zoom. When i shoot sports in a remote location (mainly mountain bike and rodeo kayak events) i can shoot at full digizoom about 40% more shots than taking the whole photo with useless data in it. And we are still talking close to the resolution of a 2.1 mp.
And,no, a teleconverter is not the better alternative as it steps down the lens too much for shaded areas. And, also, no a flash (even a METZ hammer) will not reach a paddler at 30 feet.
Digizoom is not a good solution to everyday use, but far from useless.