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Old Friday 3rd February 2012, 11:22   #1
Tavish
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Magnification and Zoom

Hi Guys,
Am using an ancient pair of Praktika 12x25 bino's but I seem to get on OK with them apart from the fact that everything is always slightly out of range (the birder's lot?). I'm particularly interested in starting to get a few photo's - especially for situations like finches sitting high in a tree - then I can identify at my leisure or post them on here. So I started looking around in John Lewis and it was a bit confusing. The cameras seem to have optical zoom and digital zoom (what's the difference?) Theses zooms might go up to 30 or 40 times (depending on what you pay) - yet binos are basically 10 x mag even when expensive. Is magnification different to zoom? Why don't bino's magnify or zoom up to 30 times? That would remove the need for the camera as a bird in the top of a tree would be clearly seen. Does anyone understand all this? Many thanks
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Old Friday 3rd February 2012, 12:11   #2
dwatsonbirder
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To give you a concise answer, binoculars occupy a lower magnification range for several reasons. The main reason is that at magnifications above 10x the amount of hand shake whilst holding them to your eyes makes viewing difficult, this is the case even with the lightest of binoculars. There are zoom binoculars, though these are invariably crap. Magnification refers to how many times stronger than the human eye an object can be measured against, whilst zoom is a range of variable magnifications eg 20-60x. It may be worth buying a camera such as Fuji hs20 if you want to begin taking photos, though it may also be worth investing in a "proper" pair of binoculars with a larger objective lens (40mm for example) as this should help you see birds in more clarity. There is much conjecture on which magnification is best, but the most popular are 8x32, 8x40, 8x42, 7x42 and 10x42.
I hope this helps.
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Old Friday 3rd February 2012, 12:24   #3
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A 10x binocular makes everything look 10x bigger than normal human vision. In the world of cameras, especially compact cameras, they talk of a 20x zoom, this reflects the range of magnification that the camera can produce. But all cameras can make the world appear smaller than human vision (wide angle), so in terms of normal human vision (NHV) a compact camera may range from 10x NHV at full magnification to 0.5x NHV at full wide angle, this gives the headline "20x zoom" quoted in the manual.

Digital zoom is marketing trick really, there are two types. The first just takes the pixels in the middle of sensor and creates a smaller picture, the same effect as cropping a digital photo on a computer. The second does the same as the first but then inflates the image back up to original size by simply inventing new pixels to fill in the gaps, it works for a bit but taken to the extreme just produces a horrible pixelly image.

One can get zoom binoculars with variable and often extreme magnification but these are best avoided, the zoom is achieved at the expense of field of view and anything above 12x magnification really needs a tripod and at extreme magnifications the amount of light in is so tiny as to be useless.

Any more questions?

Edit: Cross posted with above
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Old Friday 3rd February 2012, 12:47   #4
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This is really helpful chaps - thanks
dwatson - I will take your advice re the 40mm binos and also look at that Fuji camera.

Mono - are you saying that a 20x zoom camera is only really 'magnifying' by ten times (ie only actually 'matching' a 10x mag pair of binos) due to the nhv thing? How can I find out what the real magnification (x nhv) of a zoom camera is? I want to buy something that will give me a photo in significantly more detail than I presently see in my 12x binos.

Last edited by Tavish : Friday 3rd February 2012 at 12:48. Reason: typo
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Old Friday 3rd February 2012, 14:24   #5
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Originally Posted by Tavish View Post
This is really helpful chaps - thanks
dwatson - I will take your advice re the 40mm binos and also look at that Fuji camera.

Mono - are you saying that a 20x zoom camera is only really 'magnifying' by ten times (ie only actually 'matching' a 10x mag pair of binos) due to the nhv thing? How can I find out what the real magnification (x nhv) of a zoom camera is? I want to buy something that will give me a photo in significantly more detail than I presently see in my 12x binos.
Not necessarily 10x, that was just an example. If a zoom is stated as 20x that should just mean the range between highest and lowest manification is a 20:1 ratio ie if the widest angle is 0.5x magnification the highest magnification will be 10x, yet if the widest angle is 0.25x mag the highest mag from a 20x zoom will be just 5x. This isn't necessarilly bad, it just means that camera is designed more for wide angle landscape shots than the strong magnification you are looking for. And all of this does assume the manufacturers are honest with the specifications which is a big assumption.

To really work it out you need to know the actual focal length of the lens and the size of the camera's sensor which is getting even harder to understand. To make this easier some/most manufacturers quote a '35mm equivalent focal length'. This makes it easier as on 35mm a 50mm focal length is considered equivalent to normal vision (1x). Therefore if your camera is said to have a '500mm equivalent focal length' you know it is will have 10x magnification (i.e. 500/50). If it doesn't explicitly state an 'equivalent focal length' be carefull.

Hope that helps,
Rob.
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Old Friday 3rd February 2012, 14:30   #6
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Superb - this is one heck of a website. Many thanks gwing. I'm now going deep into the internet to see what I can find at under 200 ...
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Old Friday 3rd February 2012, 14:46   #7
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OK - I'm reading the following as 14 x magnification at full zoom ...
Lens focal length
f=4.3mm - 129.0mm, equivalent to 24 - 720mm on a 35 mm camera

http://www.photographyblog.com/revie...pecifications/
This is 148 in Amazon

And I'm reading this as 17 x magnification ...
Focal length (equiv. 35mm) 24 - 864 mm
http://www.photographyblog.com/revie...pecifications/

The 2nd one (Olympus) has a 36x zoom and is 189 on Amazon. It has top reviews and people seem to like it.

dwatson - the one you suggested is around 230. Is it worth the extra?

Any thoughts. Mainly - am I reading the magnifications right? If I am, I am struggling to resist that Olympus.

Cheers guys!
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Old Friday 3rd February 2012, 15:35   #8
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I cannot comment on this particular camera as I mainly use a cheap compact through my scope. It would appear that this is the one to buy (hs20) as it has received rave reviews on several websites (including this one) and is the cheapest decent alternative to an DSLR with equivial focal lens, though it should be noted that results will be different between DSLR and any compact, though it is of course, a matter of personal opinion, and what you want to use your photos for. Another consideration is that for a few of these bridge cameras one can add a teleconverter to increase the focal lenght (http://www.safari-guide.co.uk/raynox...ens-review.php) and give extra reach. This is something Ive been thinking about myself, though I shouldnt spend the money!
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Old Friday 3rd February 2012, 22:31   #9
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Originally Posted by Tavish View Post

And I'm reading this as 17 x magnification ...
Focal length (equiv. 35mm) 24 - 864 mm
http://www.photographyblog.com/revie...pecifications/

The 2nd one (Olympus) has a 36x zoom and is 189 on Amazon. It has top reviews and people seem to like it.


Cheers guys!
I don't know this (or even use this type) of camera but yes I think you are interpreting the spec correctly. It should have a max optical magnification of 17x or 68x with digital zoom at max as well. Don't get excited about that though as the digital zoom will give you nothing you can't do by enlarging in computer afterwards and will look horrid at those levels. For what it's worth a colleague at work has the hs2 recommended earlier and it works surprisingly well, results are rather soft compared to 3000+ slr and lens (as you would expect) but even at full zoom, with the camera's stabilisation, and resting the camera on a support of some kind it is very usable. Good results from photos at 17x aren't easy whatever kit you use.
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Old Friday 3rd February 2012, 23:13   #10
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Many thanks gwing. I think I'm close to a decision. Will report back and attach a blurred picture of a starling's leg.
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Old Tuesday 7th February 2012, 01:01   #11
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Many thanks gwing. I think I'm close to a decision. Will report back and attach a blurred picture of a starling's leg.
This is from my HS20 - I like it for the manual zoom but it also shoots 320 frames per second slow motion, has a high dynamic range mode, a very clever low light mode, a million techy things to play with but works very well in plain 'auto' mode.
I've got three other superzooms but the Fuji is my favourite at the moment.
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Old Friday 10th February 2012, 23:22   #12
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Nice picture. I've gone with the Nikon Coolpix P500 and will charge it up and have a go over the weekend. t was that x36 wot did it!
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Old Wednesday 29th February 2012, 17:44   #13
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I am fairly new to both birdwatching and photography. I found YouTube very helpful with some really good tutorials on explaining binoculars and some excellent photography tips. Just type in the search what you are looking for, eg what is optical zoom, what is binocular magnification

I use a Fuji bridge camera with an 18x optical zoom and whilst the pictures are fine with larger birds, eg various ducks, geese etc I find the smaller birds finches blue tits etc very difficult to photograph. To get decent photos of small birds you need to get fairly close and of course with small birds that is almost impossible.

To get quality photos of small birds you may need to move up to an SLR camera and generally these are 350 upwards new. You may of course be able to pick up a decent SLR second hand

Binocular wise I use a pair of 8 x 40 although I also have a pair of Praktica16x30 and I find these suprisingly good
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