Digital Photography Without Optical Zoom? Unimaginable!

The Fujifilm FinePix S9000 bridge camera

The Fujifilm FinePix S9000 bridge camera (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Isn’t it amazing how digital cameras have made such amazing technological leaps and bounds in the last fifteen years?

It seems like we’ve gone from 3MP to 28MP in the proverbial blink of an eye. ‘Megapixel’, ‘image stabilization’, ‘digital single lens reflex’, ‘super macro mode’ and ‘mirrorless cameras’ weren’t in my vocabulary when I first made my acquaintance with black-and-white photography via 35mm film cameras, darkrooms, and the intoxicating scents of chemical baths in senior high. 

It’s a given that the number of megapixels will continue to increase, and image sensors will continue to improve towards the 35mm benchmark set by film cameras. But without zoom, the ability to make the far away look close and clear is rather academic. In my humble opinion, the zoom feature on today’s digital cameras has become as indispensable as disc brakes and airbags on a car.

What would I do without zoom on my digital cameras? Many of the birds and wildlife in my shots would appear as postage-stamp sized blotches.

Optical zoom is my preference in a standalone digital camera, and the current record holder is the Panasonic Lumix FZ72 bridge camera with an astonishing 60X. I confess to turning up my nose at digital zoom, which is a necessary evil with smartphones–unless one has one of those contract-only Nokia Lumia 1020 smartphones. Megapixels aren’t everything (the size of the image sensor is the more important determinant of image quality) — but the ability to capture images at a staggering 41 MP helps to mitigate the artifacts that digital zoom causes, too, and deserves some of the high drool factor that I normally have for DSLRs.

Deutsch: Einige Teleobjektive für manuelle Spi...

various camera lenses (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Photos taken from distances of 30-50 feet away can be rendered with a quality that approximates or even parallels in-studio portraiture, and the further addition of super telephoto lenses–which can be longer than your arm, and set you back a cool $3,000 or more–can make even longer-distance shots appear just as as professional as Getty Images stock images (which, as a graphic designer, I would be regularly sent complimentary books of, until online image banks became the favoured method of lead/demand generation for these image banks) or National Geographic photos.

When zoom can endow your camera with quasi-telescopic capabilities, there’s little-to-no fuzziness–physical, digital, or metaphorical–as far as Loch Ness, Bigfoot, or UFOs are concerned. It’s no wonder that we can experience the majesty of eagles soaring high in the skies in crisp, remarkable detail, or see the mud that a racehorse kicks up, thundering down the racetrack, in all of its full, stop-motion glory.

I can already capture the craters and oceans of the moon with a mid-range 12 MP point-and-shot Canon PowerShot SX270HS camera with its combined optical (20X) and digital zoom (80X) features, and 25-500mm telephoto zoom lens — so you can just imagine how much more can be achieved with even more powerful bridge and DSLR cameras.

How much more amazing will tomorrow’s digital cameras be? I can’t wait.

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8 thoughts on “Digital Photography Without Optical Zoom? Unimaginable!

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