Are you looking to purchase a new digital camera but aren't quite sure where to begin? Or perhaps you've browsed several electronics stores and online storefronts only to find yourself puzzled by the latest jargon?
If you apply to either of those categories then this upcoming series of photography articles will help you understand what all the "latest jargon" means, and how it effects your photos. Over the next several posts I will be going into detail and explaining approximately four different photography terms. All of these terms are fairly basic, but fundamental. In fact, I think these are terms everyone should be aware of before purchasing a digital camera.
And if you're wondering how I came up with the idea for this series, it's as simple as the following: I am asked these questions at my workplace on a regular basis by clients. As a photographer, it made me realize just how confused people are by advertisements that highlight pointless information - that's right, megapixels are not as important as they seem (don't worry, we're explaining that one too)!
If you're curious to learn more about who I am and my photography, please head on over to our "About" page.
Optical Zoom verses Digital Zoom
Many of the clients I help see "Optical Zoom" highlighted on the camera's description card, and they often look at me in a puzzled manner or ignore it. I suppose it's one of the terms you could ignore (ignorance is bliss, right?), but 90% of the time curiosity draws people to ask me "What does this mean?"
Optical zoom is what I like to call the actual zoom, you may even see it be referred to as "true zoom" as well. I call it this because it's the actual zoom of the lens. Or better yet, it's the furthest the actual lens will go. Zoom on point and shoot cameras is defined as 5x, 10x, 15x, etc. All this really means is that the lens is bringing your subject x amount of times closer to you. Therefore, if you are photographing wildlife, the camera will bring the deer 10 times closer to you.
When shopping for a camera, you want the most optical zoom because it is the highest quality of zoom to have. Anything other than optical zoom delivers poor quality photos because it is not using the features or quality of the lens to obtain your picture.
As for digital zoom, think of it more like a "software zoom." Essentially, what's happening is the lens can no longer go any further, so the camera takes the image from the maximum zoom of the actual lens (optical zoom) and crops it into a larger version. This is why the quality of digital zoom photos are very poor - because it's the software inside of the camera that's giving you the picture, not the lens.
To see how this works visually, check out the image below.
With digital zoom the rabbit's eye appears very pixelated, fuzzy, etc. Whereas with optical zoom, the rabbit's eye is sharp and easy to distinguish. Obviously, you want the most optical zoom because it's the best quality, as seen here.
When you go shopping for cameras make sure to hold the camera and play with it - I recommend this to all my clients so they can get a true feel of the camera. Also make sure that when you're doing this to zoom in and see what the difference looks like between optical and digital zoom. Most cameras will list how far zoomed in they are when you're zooming, others will identify this with a vertical line on the zoom bar (see below).
Anything past the vertical line will be the digital zoom (which you want to avoid using, unless you're just testing out cameras).
Good luck on the camera hunt!
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