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What Do the Numbers on Camera Zoom Lenses Mean?

Digital Camera FAQ: Basic Photography Questions


Q: What do the numbers on camera zoom lenses mean?

A: Understanding digital camera zoom lenses, especially the numbers listed with camera zoom lenses, can be difficult. The zoom lens measurements for a digital camera signify the amount of magnification the lens can produce. The numbers can be confusing, however, because some manufacturers highlight different measurements, including optical zoom, digital zoom, and combined zoom. Keep this in mind when working at understanding zoom lenses: Optical zoom is the most important zoom measurement because it measures the focal length of the lens.

Also, keep this in mind when working at understanding zoom lenses: All optical zoom measurements are not the same. For example, a 10X Nikon zoom lens might have a 35mm film equivalent of 24mm-240mm, while another might have a 35mm-350mm equivalent. (Such numbers should be listed in the specifications.) Basically, such numbers refer to the magnification and wide-angle capabilities of the lens. A 24mm lens would have more wide-angle capabilities than a 35mm lens, for example. And a 350mm lens has more zoom, or magnification, capabilities than a 240mm lens.

For gaining a better understanding of zoom lenses in digital cameras, try reading "Understand the Zoom Lens".

Find more answers to common camera questions on the camera FAQ page.

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