For years, I have heard warnings about the poor quality of photos taken by small point-and-shoot cameras that have digital zooms. Critics would say that they never use that feature because it would mean giving up the quality that only an optical lens could provide. That made sense to me, so I seldom used the digital zoom on my old Canon G9 camera. My larger cameras don’t have digital zooms.

 

Canon G1X

Canon G1X

I got curious yesterday, though, and decided to test out the quality of the digital zoom feature on my Canon G1X. I set up a subject, put the camera on a tripod, and zoomed the digital zoom lens out to its maximum length, filling the frame. It provides a 16X magnification.

 

PHOTO ONE: This photo was taken at the full extension of the digital zoom lens function on my Canon G1X camera to compare it with the quality of a photo taken at the maximum optical zoom lens range. This looks pretty good to me! Photo ©2013 Jim Quinn

PHOTO ONE: This photo was taken at the full extension of the digital zoom lens function on my Canon G1X camera to compare it with the quality of a photo taken at the maximum optical zoom lens range. This looks pretty good to me! Photo ©2013 Jim Quinn

Then I turned off the digital zoom and took the second photo using only the optical zoom lens. My camera only has a 4X optical zoom, not too impressive.

PHOTO TWO: This photo was taken at the full extension of the optical zoom lens on the Canon G1X.  There is no question that it is possible to take a much closer photo using the digital zoom.  Photo ©2013 Jim Quinn.

PHOTO TWO: This photo was taken at the full extension of the optical zoom lens on the Canon G1X. There is no question that it is possible to take a much closer photo using the digital zoom. Photo ©2013 Jim Quinn.

Finally, I made a copy of that second shot and cropped it to match the first one. In this way, I could compare the digital and optical versions. I thought it might be possible that the pure optical version could be blown up to equal, or even to surpass, the digital zoom version. But it didn’t work out that way. The digital zoom version, while not perfect, was considerably better than the cropped, range-limited optical zoom image.

PHOTO THREE:  This photo is a cropped version of Photo Two.  It is much lower in quality than Photo One, which used the G1X camera's digital zoom.  Which seems to prove that despite theoretical objections, digital zoom works!

PHOTO THREE: This photo is a cropped version of Photo Two. It is much lower in quality than Photo One, which used the G1X camera’s digital zoom. Which seems to prove that despite theoretical objections, digital zoom works!

The test shows that there’s no need to be afraid to use a digital zoom when you need the added range. If you have a compact camera with this feature, why not make a test and see for yourself?