Optical vs digital zoom: what are they?
Optical zoom and digital zoom explained
Many digital cameras are now coming equipt with increasingly impressive zoom lengths, allowing you to get close up shots from a far-off distance. This is fantastic for sports and wildlife photography when you might not be able to get as close to the action as you would like. When buying a digital camera, you may have noticed ‘optical zoom’ and ‘digital zoom’ mentioned. These two types of zoom are very different, so it is useful to know what they mean.
This is the actual amount that your camera’s lens can zoom in and make you subject appear closer. When using optical zoom, you will notice the lens of your camera move outwards to draw the image closer. Image quality will remain the same so that you get a high resolution zoomed image.
When using digital zoom, the image does not actually come any closer and the lens will not move. The camera will simply expand a portion of the image to the full size of the picture, so that it becomes bigger instead of closer. This will cause the image quality to be reduced.
Therefore, if you want good quality images taken at long focal lengths, look for a camera with a long optical zoom. Then simply use the digital zoom to get a little bit closer if you need to.