What Is Optical Zoom?

Optical zoom is the process of adjusting the physical elements of a camera lens to zoom in or out on an image target without damaging the image quality. Unlike digital zoom, optical zoom is used to capture more detail by adjusting the focal length of the camera lens to prevent problems such as loss of sharpness or pixelation.

Optical zoom is usually expressed in multiples or numerical ratios, such as 3x, 5x, or 10x, indicating how much the camera can magnify the image by adjusting the lens compared to the widest angle setting. For example, a security camera with a 10x optical zoom can magnify the recorded surveillance footage up to 10x larger than what is seen at the widest angle setting without damaging the image quality. Different cameras use different lenses to achieve different optical zoom ranges, users can choose the right magnification according to their needs.


What Are The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Optical Zoom?


  • Higher Image Quality: Optical zoom allows you to adjust the focal length of the lens to produce sharper and clearer images without losing image quality, which helps you see more details.
  • High Flexibility: Optical zoom allows the user to adjust the focal length of the lens without changing the position of the camera, to more accurately capture the target and change the field of view.
  • Capture More Details: Optical zoom helps users zoom in or out to create various visual effects. Optical zoom doesn't require digital interpolation to capture more details and provide clearer images.


  • Cost: Camera lenses with optical zoom are generally more costly than fixed lenses because they require more complex moving optics and motorized systems.
  • Not Portable: Because optical zoom is achieved by physically moving the camera lens to zoom in on the target, the camera will generally carry more complex optics and the equipment is more bulky because it will cause the camera to be less portable.
Optical Zoom and Digital Zoom

    What Is Digital Zoom?

    Digital zoom refers to the effect of zooming in or out of a captured image by the camera through image processing technology, which does not change the focal length of the camera lens as compared to optical zoom. Digital zoom actually edits or enlarges the captured image and then resamples the pixels of the image, thus resulting in pixelation, loss of sharpness, or distortion.

    Digital zoom is usually expressed in multiples of "X", such as 8X digital zoom, 5X digital zoom, and 2X digital zoom, which indicates the level of zoom that can be achieved in an image with digital zoom. For example, a security camera with 8X digital zoom can zoom in 8 times on the captured image, which means that part of the image will be cropped and enlarged 8 times. One thing to keep in mind is that the higher the magnification, the higher the loss of sharpness in the image becomes. If a security camera has a digital zoom function, the user can choose the magnification they want according to their needs.


    What Are The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Digital Zoom?


    • Convenience: Digital zoom simply enlarges or reduces the subject through image processing technology and does not rely on the physical space of a complex zoom mechanism, which facilitates access and operation.
    • Lower Cost: Because digital zoom does not require the addition of extra optics and complex lens designs, the purchase cost is generally lower and more cost-effective, allowing most users to purchase and use it.
    • Faster Response: Digital zoom can quickly switch focal lengths simply by using image processing technology, which helps to adjust focus and capture fast-moving objects faster and more accurately.


    • Reduced Image Quality: Digital zoom is achieved by interpolating and cropping the image to zoom in or out of the target, which may result in pixelation and reduced sharpness during operation.
    • Inadequate Low-light Performance: Unlike optical zoom, digital zoom may not perform well in low-light conditions, as the process of digitally enlarging an image further amplifies noise, resulting in a loss of image clarity.
    • Limitations in Post-editing: Cameras that use the digital zoom feature will reduce image quality, limiting the user's flexibility in post-editing and losing some image details.

      When Do I Choose To Use Optical Zoom?

      • Professional Requirements: Optical zoom is a very precise choice when the user wants to capture high-quality images. Optical zoom provides better image quality and captures more detail without compromising the original sharpness of the image.
      • Long Distance Shooting: In wildlife photography, sporting events, and other scenarios where long-distance shooting is required, optical zoom can be a great way to get closer to distant objects and capture intricate details in the distance while maintaining a safe distance.
      • Event Photography: Optical zoom is perfect for large events such as receptions and parties, capturing more light and detail while maintaining the original image quality.
      Optical Zoom and Digital Zoom

        When Do You Choose To Use Digital Zoom?

        • Daily Activities: There is no requirement for specialization, just convenience-oriented shooting, such as family gatherings and daily life occasions, you can prioritize the use of a digital zoom camera for ease of operation and portability.
        • Social Media Sharing: For some pictures and videos shared on social media, only the digital zoom function is needed to easily capture the desired effect, which is convenient for users to edit and operate.

        Other Zoom Types

        In addition to the digital and optical zoom talked about in this blog, there are some other types of zoom technology, such as hybrid zoom. Hybrid zoom is a combination of optical zoom, digital zoom, and the use of software to zoom in on the image for more detail and to further extend the zoom range.