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Photography Lesson 2 – Optical vs Digital Zoom

When one sees a photograph that has that “wow” effect that immediately catch’s your attention it is usually composed very well with a subject that fills the majority of the picture. This is accomplished either by moving yourself close to the subject or by adjusting your camera lens (zoom) to fill the frame of your camera. Today, we will discuss the differences between optical and digital zoom so you will be able to make an informed decision on which to use to produce the better photograph.


If you have ever used a 35mm camera in the past, you have experienced optical zoom. Optical zoom occurs by adjusting the cameras lenses to project the image onto the sensor or film.. Optical zoom lenses physically extend to magnify your subject. This is a true zoom.


Digital zoom is not a true zoom. When using digital zoom, the camera crops your image and then magnifies the cropping. The digital zoom then guesses and makes up pixels to add to the image, in order to fill the empty spaces of the cropped and enlarged image. Nearly always, this produces a less than stellar result in your image. You will see it as blur or lack of sharpness in your image.


Always use optical zoom! Turn the digital zoom off for the best image results.


  1. Find how to operate your zoom in your camera manual
  2. Find a stationary subject (anything still will work)
  3. Take several pictures using your digital zoom feature on your camera
  4. Compose and take the same pictures using your optical zoom and getting closer to the subject.
  5. Compare the digital pictures to the optical pictures. You should see a better result with the optical ones.
  6. Review the last photography lesson and then read then move on to the next photography lesson.

Until next time, happy picture taking.

NOTE: If you have a slr camera with exchangeable lenses, you will not have a digital zoom feature.

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