Just how much difference does a zoom lens make?

Ever wonder what the differences are between camera zoom lenses in terms of how much more (or less) you can photograph with one? Or what the difference is between a 5 times (5X) zoom and a 50 times zoom?

I did and my camera (Nikon Coolpix B700) is able to give you some idea.

lovewillbringustogether - zoomThis shot has a focal length of 24mm. For a standard camera a focal length of between 35 – 50mm approximates a 1:1 version of what you see with your eyes so this being about half that means the image has squeezed roughly twice what you might see with your eye in a frame of the same size. ( I won’t go further into the discussion about what the eye equivalent is exactly as it’s way too complicated and will only confuse things; for now lets just stick with the (35mm full frame) focal length as the way to measure zoom magnification on this particular camera)

lovewillbringustogether - zoom1
Here the focal length for a 35mm camera is equivalent to 40 mm or 1.66 times the original (slightly wide angled) image. It’s virtually what you see is what is there, 1 for 1 🙂

lovewillbringustogether - zoom2
This time it’s a 60mm focal length (FL) or 2.5 times zoom of the original image.

lovewillbringustogether - zoom3
Now it’s at 115mm FL or nearly 5 times zoom.

lovewillbringustogether - zoom4
200 mm FL or 8 times zoom.

lovewillbringustogether - zoom5
450 mm FL or 18 times zoom.

lovewillbringustogether - zoom6
This is at the optical zoom limit for the Nikon (just over actually with a digital zoom multiplier of 1.2) of 1440 mm FL which would be a 60 times zoom but because of the digital manipulation is really 72 times the original.

lovewillbringustogether - zoom7
Maximum zoom: a 1440 mm FL and 4 times digital multiple = 240 times zoom!! The white bits are feathers from the white cockatoos that sometimes rest in the Pine, or possibly from the hawk who occasionally seeks his prey from this high up perch. 🙂

The top of the tree was roughly 100M (110yds) from the camera.

Just to recap: From 1 times to 240 times in 8 easy steps:



  1. It’s also the difference between having to run to get the picture and just zooming the lens. My 600mm super zoom can take detailed pictures of birds on the other side of a pretty wide river. My EYES aren’t good enough to see it without the camera!

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