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Digital Zoom Vs. Optical Zoom

Abhijit Naik Sep 28, 2018
If your trips to the electronic store to buy a camera more often than not leave you confused, this digital zoom - optical zoom comparison is a must-read for you.
If you are an amateur photography enthusiast, you have ample scope of making your passion your profession. You just need to get well-versed with the basics of photography, which will improve with time and eliminate all those myths that you have in your mind.
One in particular that you must have come across several times, is that megapixels are more important than zoom. The fact though is the other way round.
A digital camera with 10× zoom and 8 megapixels is anytime better than a camera with 12 megapixel resolution, but only 6× zoom. Basically there are two types of zooms: digital zoom and optical zoom―both miles apart from each other.

How Digital Zoom Works?

Digital zoom is a technology wherein magnification is attained by cropping and interpolating the image. In a camera with digital zoom, the Integrated Chip (IC) within the camera crops the image and magnifies this cropped image to give you the picture you desire.
Whilst doing this, the picture is virtually given a makeover on the various fronts. All the adjustments that the picture is subjected to affects the quality of the picture and most often the image ends up being distorted. This type of zoom is most often used in compact cameras and camera phones.

How Optical Zoom Works?

Optical zoom is the process wherein magnification is facilitated by extending and retracting zoom lenses (optics). This type of zoom works on the concept of focal length, i.e., the distance between the center of the lens and image sensor.
When the lens is zoomed out, the focal length increases, which, in turn, magnifies the image. Such zoom feature is most often seen in SLR or DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex), wherein zoom can be operated by rotating the lenses with your hand.
More recently, some companies have launched compact cameras with optical zoom, wherein zoom lenses are operated by the push of a button. The elongated button has 'W' and 'T' marked on either side, wherein 'W' stands for wide angle and 'T' stands for telephoto.

Difference Between Digital Zoom and Optical Zoom

The foremost difference in comparison of digital and optical zoom is that former uses a chip to enlarge the image, while the latter does it manually by adjusting the focal length. Using optical zoom is definitely advantageous as it doesn't hamper the quality of the image.
The procedure of cropping and enlargement of an image, which a camera with digital zoom does, is something that can be also done after clicking a normal image. In fact, when cropping and enlarging an image in editing software you also get to exclude the unnecessary portions of the same.
That, however, doesn't mean digital zoom is entirely useless. The fact that these cameras are priced pretty low as compared to their optical zoom counterparts means going for them is a better option, especially when you don't intend to make a career in photography.
Ideally, a camera with digital zoom is a good option when you want to take pictures of small gatherings, your pets, etc. As long as you don't need to enlarge these pictures, you should be fine with digital zoom. Experts though, recommend going for a camera with optical zoom.
Even though you will have to shell out some extra money for this, the end result will always be worth. You will have to really work on learning how to use a camera with optical lenses because understanding the different aspects of the optics can be a daunting task.
Professional knowledge about camera lenses though, can make it easier for an individual to choose the perfect lens for that perfect shot.
You need to take all these differences into consideration when buying a digital camera. When it comes photography and other such creative fields, you need to put in years of practice to become perfect. Choosing right equipment is no doubt important, but using it effectively is even more important ... and that comes with practice.