Optical/digital zoom


Old 11-15-04, 08:50 PM
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Optical/digital zoom

I am going to be buying a digital camera [my first], and I know the higher the megapxels, the better the picture, but what about the digital, and optical zoom?
Some cameras have both, some just one or the other.
What is the best one?
Mainly I will just be using the camera for everyday stuff. [my dogs.....]
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Old 11-15-04, 09:08 PM
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I am only speaking from personal experience so bear with me. The optical zoom is most critical. The higher the optical zoom in a digital camera the better you'll like it if you desire to get close up shots by using the zoom feature. I have 3 Olympus cameras, D370 - 1.3 mp, C-5050zoom - 5.0 mp and the 8080wz - 8 mp. The digital doesn't impress me at all so I can lock the camera from going into digital mode when I'm shooting. If you are after clear pictures, get one that has the higher optical power. The higher mp and optical power is the best buy but more money. This means that you can clearly see and capture a great picture before the pixels start to be grainy.

This is from Steve's Forum and I think it best describes his viewpoint.

Optical zoom and megapixels:

For adequate versatility, the optical zoom should ideally be at least 3x optical and zoom range should ideally start at 28mm although most start at 35mm (in 35mm camera equivalence terms).

Digital zoom results in increasingly poor quality and is generally not useful.

Here is one example of what I have,

C-8080 Wide Zoom features:

* 8-Megapixel CCD for images up to 3264 x 2448
* f2.4 5x Wide Angle Zoom lens (28 - 140mm equivalent)
* Stylish and rugged black magnesium alloy body
* JPEG, TIFF and RAW image formats
* Articulated 1.8-inch color LCD tilts up 90 and down 45
* Program AE, Shutter-priority, Aperture-priority, full Manual, Auto Exposure Bracketing
* Shutter speeds from 16 secs to 1/4000 sec in Manual mode.
* 1.6 frames/second burst in any JPEG mode
* iESP multi-pattern AF with Spot AF, Selective Spot AF, Full time AF and Manual focus (with gauge and LCD enlarged view) modes.
* Digital iESP multi-pattern, Spot and Multi-point Spot metering modes.
* Noise Reduction minimizes background noise in low-light situations
* Sharpness, Contrast and Saturation is adjustable +/- 5 steps
* ISO sensitivity: 50-400 or AUTO
* Built-in flash with Auto, Fill, Red-eye reduction and Slow-sync modes
* 640x480, 320x240 QuickTime movies w/audio at 15 fps
* Two media slots: xD-Picture Card and CompactFlash II including Microdrives
* TTL hot shoe for Olympus FL-50 or FL-20 external flash
* High-capacity BLM-1 Li-ion battery and charger included
* Optional B-HLD30 holds two BLM-1 batteries and adds portrait grip and shutter release
* PictBridge, Exif Print and Epson PRINT Image Matching II compatible

The 5x Optical on this camera is really good but it is 8 mp and does cost! Less expensive ones than this have 10x optical, like the 750zoom but not as many mp. You have to determine what you like, intend to take more pictures of and your budget. A less expensive camera, less than 8 mp doesn't mean you get less of a camera but the more mp means that you can create great 8x10's or larger. I think that 1.3 took great pictures and could fit in your pocket. However I needed more wide angle capabilities for my business. Then you have to consider that printing costs will go up when you consider this option. Ink cartridges and photo paper add up. Cheat, put them on CD and view them whenever you like or share/send CD's to friends and family.

Here is a link of 2 cameras that I have used as mentioned above - http://dougaphs.smugmug.com/

Hope this helps!

Last edited by Doug Aleshire; 11-15-04 at 09:27 PM.
Old 11-16-04, 04:50 AM
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Forget the digital zoom. Good computer software will do a better job.

As Doug said, the optical zoom is critical.

Optical zoom is like looking through a telescope. You get all the picture data for what you see.
Digital zoom is the same as taking a regular picture, cropping it, and then enlarging it. The data isn't there and you can't go back and get it. Software has to fill in (guess) for the missing data.
Old 11-16-04, 05:49 AM
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I agree with bob and Doug on digital zoom being a useless option.

There's another thing that optical zoom does that digital zoom doesn't that relates to the look of a photograph, and that's perspective.

When any photograph is taken there is a relationship between how the foreground relates to the background.
If for instance you take a photograph of a person by setting the camera to the lowest zoom setting, which on a digital would be 1x. Then frame the person to be a head and shoulders shot. Whatever is in the background would appear to be far away.
Then set the camera to maximum zoom, which on an average camera would be 3x. Then, when you position yourself to take the same image size as the first, the background will appear closer.
This phenomenon is very important if you ever want to improve basic photography skills.
It, along with a few other photo basics will for example, allow you to take a portrait where the background is brought forward and then intentionally put out of focus so the in focus subject stands out in the picture.

You can't do this with digital zoom.

Last edited by GregH; 11-17-04 at 09:37 PM.
Old 11-17-04, 05:02 AM
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Something to note, that you may be aware of allready but I thought I'd mention. For Optical zoom you need a physical distance between the front and rear lens i.e. a telescope has greater optical amplification than binoculars. So, my point is, you won't get optical zoom that's worth a damn on one of those tiny DV Cameras, If you want good optical zoom you'll have to get a larger camera which tend to be cheaper anyway
Old 11-17-04, 08:36 PM
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Thanks for all the info~!
Now I know.
So if I were to get a camera that is 3.2 megapixels, and 3x optical/3x digital,
that would be a fairly good camera?
Are there any brands to stay away from, or are they pretty much the same as far as quality goes?
I plan on getting a known name--Sony, Kodak,Canon, etc.
I had seen an ad for one- Vivitar -3.1megapixel,4xdigital zoom, for $79.00.
I guess now I know why it was so cheap~!!!! [no optical zoom].
Thanks again.
Old 11-17-04, 08:51 PM
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I can only tell you from experience and I am not a professional photographer that a 3 mp or 5mp or whatever, that it is all based on your budget. I am partial to Olympus. The other brands you mentioned all have good and bad points - so does Olympus. You just have to sort it all out and go from there.

I also want to mention that the batteries used with these digitals is also important as well as how much power it takes to run these cameras. Buying lens wide angle adapters is a waste of money but getting a good slave flash is a good idea. A good UV lens filter is a good investment but other filters may be above your needs. I like the added protection over my camera lens. These items are rarely looked at along with all the other things you would want on a camera but as with the Olympus C8080wz, it uses a Li-Ion Battery - BLM-1 versus 4- AA batteries on the 5050. It does last a long time but other brands may eat up battery power and this can be a problem if taking allot of pics that need flash for example. Always buy at least one extra set!

I received some photos just yesterday that were done with a Vivitar and I was not impressed. My little Olympus D-370 did much better.

You may want to look at this link for reviews on various cameras, it's essentially unbiased and gives great info.


By the way I think GregH used the wrong word here when he wrote "I agree with bob and Doug on optical zoom being a useless option". I think it meant to be a "digital zoom" versus optical zoom.

Hope this helps!
Old 11-17-04, 09:34 PM
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Thanks Doug, I didn't see that.
Old 11-17-04, 09:37 PM
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No problem - we all are getting older!
Old 11-18-04, 04:48 PM
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One possible use for digital zoom

If you're looking to buy a digital camera and find yourself talking to a salesperson, ask him/her about digital zoom. If they proceed to tell you about the virtues of this truly worthless feature, then you'll know you can't trust that salesperson.

You'll have learned valuable information, and digital zoom made it possible.
Old 11-18-04, 04:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Doug Aleshire
I also want to mention that the batteries used with these digitals is also important . . .
As far as I know, there are only two reasonable battery options: Rechargeable lithium-ion, and rechargeable NiMH (nickel metal hydride). The camera you buy will likely take one or the other (the NiMH replace standard alkaline batteries like AA, as they are the same size and shape).

Alkaline batteries, even rechargeable ones, simply do not last long enough to be worthwhile.

I would recommend having at least 3 sets of batteries if you take the camera out in the field or on trips a lot. If you use it primarily around the home, getting an AC adapter is a good idea.
Old 11-18-04, 08:54 PM
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Thanks, guys, for all the info.
Now when I go looking, I will have at least some knowledge of what I am looking for.
I never thought about the batteries, it's something to really watch for.

I have been waiting to get a digital camera until the prices drop, and they are really dropping fast. My sister got her camera about 4 years ago, and the ones that compare to hers are about half, or less of what she paid for hers!

As I said, I will just be using it for everyday stuff, so I dont need anything really extravagent [spelling?].
I was looking at an HP catalog, and they seem to have some good cameras. I have an HP computer, monitor, 2 printers, and they all have been VERY reliable for me, at least....

Mark, I love your possible use for digital zoom~!!!

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