Choosing a Digital Camera: Zoom Types
Digital cameras, even the compact budget variety, probably have a zoom feature. You may understand that â€śx4â€ť zoom mean that the zoom will move in towards the point you have aimed at, four times as close. But do you know the difference between â€śoptical zoomâ€ť and â€śdigital zoomâ€ť? Some of the better manufacturers explain what this is in their sales pitch for their particular cameras, others are silent. It can be a crucial thing in deciding what camera to buy, so be armed with this information before you go shopping!
Like with video cameras, digital cameras measure zoom by magnification factor. As Iâ€™ve already said a camera with 4x or 4 times zoom magnifies the image by a factor of four. This does not mean that your subject will appear 4x larger than it does to the naked eye but that it will appear four times larger than it does in the natural, original â€śunzoomedâ€ť lens position. In fact most compact digital cameraswill have a starting lens position that makes the subject appear further away that it does to the naked eye. This allows you to fit more into your shot. Itâ€™s a sort of mini-wide angle starter.
Optical zoom magnifies the image using the cameras optics. Thatâ€™s the lenses. This means that light is passing through curved glass which in turn makes your subject look bigger in your photo. The actual quality of the magnified image depends on the quality of the lenses and coatings on those lenses. Optical zoom is the traditional kind of zoom and can produce extremely sharp images. Itâ€™s been around since well before digital cameras.
Digital zoom appeared much more recently than optical zoom. Firstly on video cameras. I had one on my very first primitive camcorder and found that the zoom was disappointing though because the quality of it was so low and grainy. That is because digital zoom produces magnification by cropping the image and up-sampling the cropped portion. The result is a loss in quality. This is because cropping reduces the number of pixels used which you can see as a blocky or blurry looking image. The more you zoom in, the fewer pixels are used to make the image, reducing quality. So digital zoom is rubbish right? Well, no, not now.
With the advent of digital photo cameras, digital zoom has become somewhat more useful. Hereâ€™s an example. Youâ€™ve taken a picture of the Taj Mahal from a distance, but want to check that you havenâ€™t got a car park just away to the side, or a plane flying by in the distance in the top left corner. You can use the digital zoom to zoom up on it on the cameras screen. This will bring into clear sight portions of the photo. Using the digital zoom permits you to look closer at the photo and reshoot if necessary. Note that using the digital zoom to zoom up on a photo after you took it does not reframe or permanently zoom up on that photo. It is just a tool to let you see it more closely. So- yes, look, there was a plane at the top left of the Taj Mahal. Take that photo again!
Now that you know the basic difference between digital and optical zoom, the question is how much zoom do you need? If price werenâ€™t a factor, some may assume that the more zoom you have, the better. Not necessarily. A big zoom may mean that for the reasonable price, they will have cut corners elsewhere. Most people take pictures of their friends and families. When taking photos of this kind of subject, rarely will you be zooming up from far off. In fact youâ€™d probably do better with a camera that has a wide-angle lens, to get more of them in the shot, especially when shooting indoors. How many times has that cry gone out when trying to take a picture of everyone sitting down at the dinner table.. â€śMove in closer- I canâ€™t get you all in!â€ť
Where a powerful zoom does come in handy is when shooting vacation photos or photos of recitals or other events where you canâ€™t physically move closer. Most digital cameras on the market today have a 3x optical zoom. This amount of zoom fits with the needs and budget of most digital camera buyers. It is now possible to get cameras with optical zoom as powerful as 15x or more. While these can be very appealing, be aware that you are sacrificing some sharpness in order to get the versatility of a lens with such a large zoom range.
Another potential downside to buying a camera with a powerful zoom is that these cameras tend to be much larger and heavier. So if having a slim pocket digital camera is important to you, youâ€™ll probably have to forget about getting a powerful optical zoom. Most small cameras max out at 4 or 3x zoom.
As for how much digital zoom you need? Well mostdigital cameras being produced today have more than adequate digital zoom. No issue.
Just remember that the optical zoom is truly the important specification to look for. Now zoom off and start looking for your perfect camera!
For more information on digital cameras visit:http://all-cameras.com/