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What's the difference between optical zoom and digital zoom?

It's important to understand this difference, as you could end up mighty disappointed if you confuse one with the other.

Optical zoom is similar to what you'll find in a regular 35mm camera: When you push the button to zoom in or out, physical lens elements move inside the camera, to achieve the desired effect.

Digital zoom, on the other hand, has no moving parts. Using the "electronic brain" within the camera instead, the camera takes a look at what it's "looking at", and digitally zooms in, usually two or three times closer.

The problem with digital zoom is that you lose quality -- your images will tend to be more "pixelated" than the same image taken with an optical zoom camera. This is due to the "interpolation" the camera uses, which is a nice way of saying that it makes a guess about how the picture should look while zoomed in.

Many webcam ads boast digital zoom numbers to promote their product. What do these different zoom numbers really mean, and how do they relate to the overall picture quality? You might be surprised to find out that in the digital age, when it comes to zoom, digital is not necessarily better.

22X Optical Zoom

Optical Zoom is a far superior method of zoom. When using optical zoom the camera is actually bringing you closer to your subject while maintaining a high quality image. Our camera is equipped with an optical zoom of 22x, which means it gets a clear and close up view of a subject from a greater distance without letting the quality suffer. With our camera you can put it just about anywhere in the room and still get the crystal clear image you desire.

normal_zoom.gif optical_22.gif

Digital Zoom is typically the only zoom method other cameras offer. Instead of bringing you closer to your subject, Digital Zoom crops and enlarges the picture you already see. Using this method the camera has no way of obtaining new information about the image including the depth of field. It basically stretches what you’ve seen and resizes it back down to the size of your display. This results in a great loss in image quality, and increases the further you digitally zoom. Instead of having to sit a foot a way from the camera, we've given you the freedom to move around the room.

normal_zoom.gif digital_22.gif

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