Digital Camera Zoom Differences

Old Oct 22nd, 2007, 11:49 AM
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Digital Camera Zoom Differences

I read the old posts but didn't find one that addressed zoom differences. I currently have 7 megapixel with a 3x zoom and want a larger zoom. I'm looking at the Canon A720is with a 6x zoom - however I wonder if this will be enough of a zoom increase that I will notice it.

I considered the 10 - 18 zooms, but the cameras got so much larger and heavier that I didn't think I would carry them around as much. I am strickly an amateur and take a lot of shots outside so I want a viewfinder.

So, will I notice enough difference from 3x to 6x to warrant the purchase? I would also appreciate any other suggestions. Thank you.
RagtopGirl is offline  
Old Oct 22nd, 2007, 11:57 AM
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First question. Why do you feel like you need a camera with a larger zoom range?

Is it because you want a wider angle which your current camera cannot cover? Or is because you take many pictures already all zoomed-in, and the subjects are still too small in the picture?

If it's the latter, have you tried cropping down the size of the picture using literally any photo software on the computer?
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Old Oct 22nd, 2007, 12:03 PM
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I tend to take a lot of landscape shots and have an upcoming trip with animals in the distance (Patagonia). I have a Sony P200 that I've never been real happy with since I bought it. Pictures are just OK - or maybe it's the photographer that's just OK - ha!
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Old Oct 22nd, 2007, 12:07 PM
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Make sure you are referring to optical zoom and not digital zoom. In fact, do not use digital zoom even if it's a feature on your camera.

In effect digital zoom is a crop rather than a zoom.

Go to your nearest electronic/camera store and take with yours. Try them out.

I find that for travel I always want wider not longer. However, with distant animals you may want longer as well.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2007, 12:13 PM
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To understand zoom range and focal length, you can check out this little web-based tool:

You can see what a lens will cover from focal length of 11mm to 500mm. This "11" or "500" number is 35mm equivalent (based on 35mm film that measures 24mm x 36mm per frame).

The Canon A720IS has a 35mm equivalent focal length of 35-210mm. The Sony P200 has a 35mm equivalent of 38-114mm.

Go to that Tamron site, click on the "35mm Film" icon beneath the main picture, and then use the slide to see the difference between 114mm and 210mm.

If you want one of these super-zooms with 7, 10 or even higher zoom range to get the really far animals, make sure the camera has image stabilization (like the Canon A720IS). Without IS, a long tele shots handheld will mean blurry picture due to shake.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2007, 12:22 PM
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I use a Nikon 35 mm for most of my shooting. I have a long lens for that camera. All of my "money" shots are with the film camera.

I used a Nikon digital camera that was a 6.1 megapixel. I think the optical zoom was 8 or 10. (I bought it about 4 years ago, and I can't remember the model name at the moment.)

Anyway, the digital died about 3 months ago. I've been deliberating over the last few months as to what new digital to get. The big difference was to get more meg, or to get a bigger zoom.

I went with a Nikon which has 12.1 meg. the zoom on the other hand is only 3.5. But I figured that I can crop and not have to worry about resolution, thanks to having more meg. Also, the camera is about half the size of my old digital. That's a plus.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2007, 02:29 PM
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Check out the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3.,2704,2121051,00.asp

My FIL owns it and I'm really impressed with it.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2007, 03:39 PM
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I have a Canon S3-IS with 12X optical zoom. It's small enough to be a compact, 6MP for great resolution and cropping back home.

The current price is about $250. There is also the newer S5-IS.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2007, 03:46 PM
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RagtopGirl, I think the 6x is a significant upgrade from a 3x zoom. I faced a similar dilemma when buying a camera for my wife. She wanted something she could stick in her purse yet give her a reasonable zoom. After a bunch of research, I bought the Canon A720. We then went to Alaska, and she was a little frustrated trying to shoot wildlife with just a 6x. But it's all about priorities and she was happy. Plus she knew I had a longer zoom and would pick up what she couldn't. I use the Fuji 9100/9600 and like it alot. But as you've already discovered, longer zooms equal bulkier cameras. Again it's all in your prioities.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2007, 04:06 PM
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If you're into research, there are a couple of great digicam websites, including DP review and Steve's digicams ( They rate cameras, have educational articles, and have forums where you can learn alot.

Here's a great tool from DP review to help you discover the available cameras which fit your criteria:

For landscape and general photography, I agree with the poster above who recommended getting a wide angle zoom, that is, one that starts at 28mm. Problem is that there aren't any of those that also have long zooms (over 10x) and will fit in a smaller travel purse. The perfect camera has yet to be made!
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Old Oct 22nd, 2007, 04:27 PM
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dcd - the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 does have a wide angle and a 10x optical zoom and is small enough to fit in a purse
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Old Oct 22nd, 2007, 04:48 PM
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The Ricoh Caplio R6 and R7 are ultracompacts with a 28-200 lens (7.1x) and image stabilization (sensor type, not lens type). Only a few stores carry the Ricoh, like Adorama (which only has the R6).

And, as mentioned, the Panasonic DMC-TZ3, which is a little larger, but is widely available.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2007, 05:01 PM
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The measurement of zooms with digital cameras is very misleading. A few things to take note of:

1. Optical vs. Digital vs. Combined zoom: Optical zoom is the amount of zoom that the camera lens actually does. The lens extends to zoom. Digital zoom is basically an in-camera cropping process. The camera crops the outer area of the image, giving the perception of having zoomed in further. Combined is a combination of both. The only one of these that you should be concerned with is the Optical zoom - the rest can be duplicated on a computer with software (i.e., cropping the image).

2. The "x" factor is also misleading. A camera can be a 2x zoom and get you in closer than a 3x camera. You have to look at the actual 35mm equivalent to see if you're getting closer.

For example, if you have a 3x camera, the 35mm equivalent might be 24-72mm. That's a 3x zoom (72mm is 3 times the length of 24mm). Now look at a 2x camera that has a 35mm equivalent of 38-76mm (76mm is 2 times the length of 38mm). You get 4mm more reach with the 2x that you do with the 3x.

The more zoom you're discussing, the more change it can make.

If camera A is a 7x zoom and camera B is a 10x zoom, you would assume that camera B gets you closer to the subject. However, if camera A is a 38-266mm zoom (266 is 7 times the length of 38mm), and camera B is 24-240mm (240 is 10 times the nength of 24mm), then camera A gives you 26mm more zoom than camera B.

This also means that not all 10x zooms are equal. A 10x zoom with a 35mm equivalent of 35-350mm will get you in closer than a 10x with a 35mm equivalent of 24-240mm.
toedtoes is offline  
Old Oct 22nd, 2007, 05:32 PM
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BarbaraS, good point although the OP was wanting a viewfinder which the Lumix TZ3 doesn't have. Nor do the Ricohs mentioned. But other than that, those cameras fit her requirements. There's always a compromise when buying a camera and, in the OP's case, it may well be worth giving up on the viewfinder.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2007, 08:27 PM
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I'm going to make the same suggestion as J62 did. Take a look at the Canon S3IS or the S5IS. I have an S2IS with a 10X optical zoom that equates to a 432mm film zoom lens and it works well. It is only 5mp so the extra density you would get with an S3 or S5 would be all the better.
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Old Oct 23rd, 2007, 03:32 AM
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I hate to bring this up.

With most P&S cameras the shutter speed will end up being about 1/50 sec for most shots and the lens is a little piece of plastic.

How can you expect to get really sharp photos with that?
Myer is offline  
Old Oct 23rd, 2007, 03:47 AM
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*read later*
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Old Oct 23rd, 2007, 04:41 AM
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As was just said, look at the Canon Powershot IS3--or higher. Just replaced my IS1 with the IS3. GREAT user friendly control of modes on the top of the camera, rotatable monitor screen, 12X zoom, good lens, image stabilization (IS). VERY versatile. Movie mode available immediately with push button on camera, in any shooting mode. Battery is AA and was the final reason I decided over the Lumix which is a proprietary battery--emergencies happen. Good lenses--Lumix is Leica and Canon is, well Canon. Hardly "little pieces of plastic".
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Old Oct 28th, 2007, 12:12 AM
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I second the Canon S3/S5 recommendations - these cameras are great for both zoom reach and picture quality. The IS will help you get sharper pictures under low light conditions.
Is you don't like the size and bulk of S3 / S5 series, then the A720is will be a better camera for you - it may lack the reach of the S-series, but it's much smaller and lighter and x6 zoom is plenty for most situations (equivalent to 35-210mm in terms of 35mm film cameras). The A650is is also a great camera - it offers the same x6 zoom, image stabilization and swivel LCD screen, which is VERY handy when shooting from crazy angles

I would also advise to get a small table-top tripod for low-light or night photography. During my last trip to Rome I made almost 70% of my photographs with my little A630 and a small Manfrotto tripod (see here - ).

Hope it helps,
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