How do I Increase the Zoom on my Camera?

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Updated July 26, 2022

Are you a beginning photographer wondering, “How do I increase the zoom on my latest digital camera?” Fortunately, the answer is simple—it all comes down to your camera’s lens. And the first step to mastering this topic is understanding the difference between optical and digital zoom and the types of lenses available for your camera.


  • A single zoom lens allows you to focus on either up-close or distant subjects.
  • If you are using a prime lens, you’ll have to move closer to the subject.
  • Compact digital cameras, also known as point-and-shoots used for birding sometimes, use Manual Focus Assist to automatically magnify in Live View mode.

How to Zoom In

Most DSLR or mirrorless cameras can be zoomed in to capture images at a distance by turning a ring on the lens or by pulling or pushing the lens barrel until you are satisfied with the scene in the viewfinder. On compact cameras, there’s usually a dial on the top of the body that you can turn to zoom in.

Insider Tip

Focal length in photography refers to a lens’ angle of view.

Optical Zoom Vs Digital Zoom

Focal length in photography refers to a lens’ angle of view. The smaller the focal length, the wider the angle of view, which means that you will capture more of the scene in front of you. Conversely, the larger the number, the tighter the angle of view, so less of the scene will be captured. In other words, this can help you get long exposure on a digital camera.

Optical zoom involves the physical adjustment of the camera lens, which alters the closeness of an image by increasing the focal length. When you zoom in, the lens drifts away from the camera sensor, resulting in the magnification of the scene.

On the other hand, digital zoom uses a form of image magnification technology to increase or decrease the area of an image. In this process, your camera’s photo-processing software zooms in by enlarging the pixels at the center of the image, which then cuts down the overall size of the photo. The downside to using digital zoom is that it lessens your image quality and resolution.

Zoom Lenses Vs Prime Lenses

Although some cameras have optical zoom, all digital and film cameras (including DSLRs, point-and-shoot cameras, camcorders, video cameras, and mirrorless cameras) are capable of digital zoom. It just depends on the lens type you are using: zoom or prime.

The major difference between prime and zoom lenses is in focal length. Primes have a fixed focal length, while zooms have a wider and more variable focal length. Moreover, primes are lighter and smaller, and they work best in low light. On the other hand, zoom lenses are heavier but are more versatile because of their wider focal range.

More About Zoom Lenses

If you are a beginner photographer, you need a zoom lens in your arsenal. The different ranges you get with each zoom lens allow you to shoot anything from wildlife in the savanna to people in the streets.

The most popular optical zoom lens is the 70-200mm lens commonly used by wedding photographers because of its versatility. A lens of this type is also great for sports, landscape, wildlife, portrait, and events photography.

Of course, if you want to travel light, you can use zoom lenses with a wide focal range, such as an 18 – 270mm lens, for example. This lens will allow you to shoot both close-up shots and long-distance shots.

In short, if you are a budding photographer looking to shoot in a diverse range of conditions and scenarios, a good zoom lens with the right range will serve you well. Additionally, if you’re putting an old manual camera lens on a digital camera, you might run into some complications.

Insider Tip

Optical zoom involves the physical adjustment of the camera lens, which alters the closeness of an image by increasing the focal length.

More About Prime Lenses

A prime lens does not have a zoom ring, so the focal length is constant. As a result, if you want to zoom in on a subject, you will have to physically move closer. One of the benefits of using a prime lens is that you will be able to use a wider aperture like f/1.4. On the flip side, zoom lenses tend not to go as wide as prime lenses, apart from filming with expensive wide aperture lenses like the 70-200mm f/2.8.

Having a maximum aperture helps in two ways. First, it lets you capture sharp images in low light. Second, you can achieve background separation behind your subject, which is ideal for shooting portraits. If you want to take photos with interesting autofocus areas, a prime lens with a maximum aperture of f/1.8 will do the trick.

It should be noted, however, that there is some debate about the advantage of prime lenses over zoom lenses when it comes to image sharpness. On the cheaper side of things, such as an 18-55mm kit lens, it’s true that you will not find the same level of sharpness as with a 50mm f/1.8 prime lens. But when you move into more expensive lenses, the difference in sharpness between the two diminishes.

When first starting out, using a prime lens will help you master capturing shots at a specific focal length, thus providing consistency in your portfolio.

Telephoto Lenses

If you’re not getting what you need with a standard zoom lens, go for a telephoto lens instead. These big lenses work within a range of 100m to 600m or more. You will need a tripod stand, though. Keep in mind, too, that telephoto lenses are pricey and not as practical as zoom lenses for beginning photographers. Professional photographers mostly use them for sports and wildlife photography.

Wide-Angle Lenses

Wide-angle lenses provide a wider focal field and are often used by landscape photographers to record more of the scene than a zoom lens can. For example, suppose you are shooting a landscape with a wide-angle lens at a zoom range of 140mm. In that case, you can easily frame a shot and eliminate all the distractions. But if you zoom out to 16mm, your image will include more details in this field of view, i.e., the wide shot. If you want to capture an even broader field of view, go for fisheye lenses. Once you take your photos, you need to edit them to look professional. You, therefore, need to learn how to load pictures from a digital camera to windows 10 computer or any other editing device.


What is a standard zoom lens?

A standard zoom lens has a middle focal length of about 50mm to cover wide angles and a telephoto range of 70mm to 100mm. To cover an even wider range, use superzoom lenses of up to 300mm.

What is the ideal optical zoom?

The most common compact cameras have an optical zoom of 20x or 25x. To record super-sharp images, you need the combination of a powerful zoom lens and a powerful image sensor.

What’s hybrid zoom, and where is it used?

Smartphones use hybrid camera zoom ( both digital and optical zoom) to boost image results by zooming further into subjects than the capabilities of a camera lens.

STAT: In 2021, the revenue from digital camera sales reached $18,078 million. (source)

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