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Optical versus Digital Zoom and Photo Tips

Optical versus Digital Zoom and Photo Tips


These tips can be used for Windows XP and Vista -

Operating systems vary, if in doubt, check with your provider and/or technical support.


Many people are confused between optical and digital zoom.  If you are thinking of buying a new camera for yourself or someone else, you can know exactly what you are looking at.

If you have used a 35mm camera, you are aware of optical zoom which is a feature of the lens.  It brings the subject closer.

Digital zoom, on the other hand, is a feature of digital cameras.  It is not actually a ‘zoom' per se.  What it does is enlarge the image, or portion of it, in a ‘crop' fashion.  When you significantly enlarge an image, your quality will decline noticeably. 

I feel certain some of you had bad results and some of you are very adept at digital zoom.  For me, I prefer to have my software do cropping and resizing so that I have exact control and can see the results and numbers at my leisure.

Some cameras will warn you when you are using the digital rather than the optical zoom, and that should remind you to change it.  If you normally want 4" x 6" photos, you may not have any problems.  However, one of those photos you snapped may just WOW you to the point that you want it blown up, therefore, stick with the optical zoom

Zoom does not affect the number of megapixels you are using.  I do recommend that you get the highest number of megapixels you can afford.  Detail is lost with smaller numbers and there is no way to change that.

A word of caution about megapixels - the higher number, the larger your file will be.  If you are in the 10 MP to 12 MP range, you cannot just email it to a friend.  You will need to reduce its size in your software.  Additionally, your removable memory ‘stick' will get full faster with larger files.  The ‘sticks' are so inexpensive, I have several of them.  One is in my digital photo frame.  Did you know that there is a "Digital Photo Frame - 14 inches, 1280x800, Standard/Mosaic View, 128MB, 2x USB, Multi-Card Reader, Ebony Black" for under $100?  That is a bunch of features for the money.  What a great gift for someone far away. 

Photo Tips and Tricks

My mother had an extensive photo lab in our basement in the 1950s.  That is what I call progressive!  She loved photography and she passed that joy on to me.  I passed it to my daughter as well.  A wonderful hobby is hard to resist.

I have a few tips for you, in no special order.  They are useful for everyday photos and the special occasions of our lives too.  Here is one of my most treasured photos:


Of course, I did not see the bird in flight.  If I had, and then lifted my camera, it would have been much too late.  As I said earlier, you never know when you get a gem that will please you for life.  This is the beach at Mission Bay in San Diego.  It was from an older camera with 5 MP.  I now use a 10 MP.  I actually cannot find the original photo, this is a scan from an 8" x 10" I had made. 

My first tip is one that is really simple.  Take multiple shots.  If you ever watch a professional photographer working, you will see that they take many photos in series.  Since digital allows you to take so many photos, use that to your advantage and discard any that are not the idea you were going for. 

Most of us know to crop to a small item.


But crop does not always mean cut a lot out of the photo.  Try this one next time you have an interesting photo.


Just a 90 degree turn and your photo is really changed. (Crop photos courtesy  BTW, Kodak Easyshare Software is free, user friendly and works with any camera, not just Kodak.  If you are looking for a well developed photo program, this one is excellent.  It is still free, but that could always change.

When possible, chose the time of day to take your photos.  The early morning can result in so many great scenes.  The middle of the day can wash out your subject.  For instance, the photos you see about "The Red Rocks in Sedona, Arizona" are usually taken in early morning or late afternoon.  Day photos become awash of color.  However, there is a time used by photographers called ‘the golden hour.'  Check this site out to find out that time in your area and for a specific date.  You only need to click on the map and determine your time frame.  Here are some general instructions:

  1. Click on the map until you are where you will be shooting photos.
  2. Make a note of your "Offset" time.  Mine is minus 8 hours.
  3. Select the date you will be photographing.


In this case, for November 26, 2009, my golden hours are - Sunrise 6:29 am (14:29-8:00) and Sunset 16:43 (00:43-8:00 - 24 hour clock). 

Here is a dawn, photo courtesy of


Photos taken right after this time will have more detail, but a sunrise can be a terrific photo. 

Closing idea - if your digital camera has a "sport" setting, you can use it for children in motion. 

I love to talk photography, and there is so much more to share. If you like this blog, let me know and I will add tips for your camera to my computer blog.

For more computer tips, check out my "PC Tips and Tricks," you will be glad you did.

Comments (4) -

Thank you for the tips.  I use to waste loads of film before digital cameras.  

love your coments and tips on taking pictures i try to take pictures of basket ball games for pee wee girls and kids at school,any information will be helpful,thanks linda

thecomputerist 12/5/2009 9:01:30 PM

I am thinking that I will incorporate more camera tips into my computer blog.

What do you think?  

Comments are the fun part of blogging!


Thank you so much for the tips.  I love photography and I was interested in what you said about the difference between Optical & Digital Zoom, that is a very helpful tip.

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