Cameras are marketed with both an Optical Zoom and Digital Zoom capability.
If you’ve used a film camera, you’ll be used to optical zoom. Optical zoom uses the lens of the camera (the optics) to bring the subject closer. Digital zoom uses clever software to digitally enlarge a portion of the image – thus simulating optical zoom.
So, which is better? Definitely Optical zoom. Here’s why.
Digital zoom is not really ‘zoom’ in the strictest definition of the term. Digital zoom just enlarges the image. i.e. it takes a portion of the image and enlarges it back to full size. You lose quality because of the enlargement process so photos that have been taken with digital zoom won’t look as good as those without.
You can perform the same result using image editing software on your computer. In fact, it can be better to crop and enlarge using your image software in your computer as you can decide exactly what part of the image to enlarge, and how much to enlarge by.
So when taking shots, use optical zoom only. If you need to zoom in further, use your editing software to select the best part of the image to keep. Ensure your camera warns you when it’s switching to digital zoom from optical zoom, or use your settings to disable digital zoom entirely.
Why is clarity important? The more clarity you have in your image, the larger the printed size can be without the image appearing fuzzy, or blocky. If you want to keep clarity in your images, use the optical zoom whenever possible, and avoid the digital zoom.
How do you use Optical Zoom? When you zoom in using your camera, it will use Optical zoom first and then use Digital zoom. You can usually set your camera to notify you when it starts to use the Digital zoom, or tell it to not use digital zoom at all. Consult your manual for details.