Optical & digital zoom

In many situations, you may want to get "close" to a subject without moving physically closer—for example, when you don't want to break the mood of a scene, when you can't get closer because of an obstacle, or when the object of your attention might enjoy having you for lunch. The zoom control on your digital camera will let you get "close" enough to capture that bigger image. It will also let you zoom out to include a wide angle of view.

Digital cameras may be equipped with an optical zoom lens, optical and digital zoom settings, or a digital zoom only.

What is optical zoom?
Optical zoom lenses physically extend to magnify your subject. A motor controls the lens movement. When you press the switch to "W" or "T," the subject is either magnified or reduced in size. The "W" stands for "wide-angle" (reduce). The "T" stands for "telephoto" (magnify).

What is digital zoom?
Digital zoom crops your image and magnifies the result of the cropping. This magnification process is called interpolation. To make the cropped area bigger, digital zoom makes up, or interpolates, pixels to add to the image, which may give less than satisfactory results.

Using the digital zoom allows you to get closer to your subject when you want to be discreet about taking pictures, like at a graduation or a religious ceremony. Sacrificing image quality to capture the moment is more important than not getting the picture at all.

If you plan to use this mode, purchase a telephoto lens attachment so you don't have to use the digital zoom. Of course, you may use the digital zoom along with the telephoto lens attachment.

Setting up your digital zoom features depends on the type of digital camera you have. In general, the camera will allow you to zoom continuously from optical to digital or stop the optical zoom and then press the zoom switch a second time to engage digital zoom. Check your camera manual to determine your zoom settings.