I'm new to photography and would like to know a little more about zoom lens, The main thing I wonder about is this, I have a Fujifilm S4000 camera that claims to have 30x magnification.

The new camera I now own is a Nikon D60 with it's kit lenses (18-55) I was willing to get better lens to get a larger zoom range, and eventually reached 70-300mm lens made by Tamron ( Tamron AF70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di LD )

Now those lenses have a quite large range compared to what I have on my D60 right now, but when calculating the magnification ( 4.2x ) it's not even close to what the Fujifilm is offering.

So obviously I am missing something, or am I? Will I get more magnification with my D60 together with the 70-300 lens than the Fujifilm? Does the sensor size play a role here when it comes to that? and what else should I take into consideration when trying to compare the magnification between my cameras?

About the focus, what I was wondering about is the fact that some lens with big ranges like the 70-300 I stated above, claim to be "Macro" lenses, does that mean that they somehow have more focus range so that even if I zoom quite far I will be able to focus? I guess the question could be what would make zoom lens "Macro" lens?

Any info that would help me learn more would be much appreciated.

  • You might also find this question usefull: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/5917/… Oct 17 '13 at 7:21
  • The question referred as a duplicate above only addresses half of this question. It says nothing about the relationship between telephoto/zoom and macro capability of a lens.
    – Michael C
    Oct 23 '13 at 16:41
  • I actually voted to make this a duplicate of What is a macro lens?, but somehow that didn't get recorded. Some of the answers to that cover the basic issue here.
    – mattdm
    Oct 23 '13 at 18:11

The whole point of DSLR cameras such as your Nikon D60 is that they are interchangeable lens cameras. This allows the use of specialized lenses that are designed to do a specific task extremely well, rather than restricting them to a single, jack-of-all-trades lens such as is permanently attached to your Fuji S4000.

If the most important criteria to you is zoom range and maximum magnification with a single lens, you were better off with the Fuji, even if you spend a boatload of money on a wide variety of lenses. Look at it this way: You can buy a Nikon 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 DX lens, and a Nikon 70-300mm f/4-5.6 VR lens and take most of the same pictures you could with the Fuji. The image quality would be better, but you still wouldn't be leveraging the potential of your Nikon 60D. If you really want the reach of the Fuji, you need a 500mm Nikon lens, and 500mm from anybody isn't cheap. But any 500mm lens currently on the market (other than a cheap, fixed aperture, low quality mirror lens) is going to allow you to shoot at faster shutter speeds and your images will have significantly less noise (due to the greater light gathering capability of the much larger sensor) and more control of the depth of field than you could do with your Fuji.

If you really want to harness the power of your D60, you need to learn why prime lenses account for the vast majority of the worlds best photos in terms of technical quality. Prime lenses have only a single focal length and no 'zoom', but they often have much wider apertures that allow you to shot at f/2, f/1.4, or even f/1.2! That is close to 5 stops difference! All other things being equal, a picture you would need to take @ 1/15 sec at longer focal lengths on your Fuji, which would leave any moving subjects blurry, could instead be taken at 1/500 sec which will freeze all but the fastest athletes! Sure, you can capture an historical moment with inferior equipment and win a Pulitzer for the way you communicated the moment. But in terms of pure image quality, the old saying "Gear doesn't matter" is only half true. The truth is, "Gear doesn't matter, until it does." If you need your camera to perform beyond its technical limits to pull off a shot, at that point the gear does matter because it is preventing you from getting the shot you want.

In purely technical terms, your Fuji S4000 has the equivalent zoom range of a 24-720mm lens on a FF camera. For your 1.5X crop body D60, that translates to a range from 16-480mm. What you lose with the Fuji is light. A LOT if it. The sensor on the Fuji measure 6.17mm x 4.55mm. That gives it roughly 1/14 the area of the 24mm x 16mm sensor in your D60. Even though the Fuji has a 14MP resolution, compared to the D60's 10MP, those pixels are so tiny they don't collect near as much light as each of the much larger pixels of the D60 can. This results in lower image quality, especially in lower light environments.

As for the relationship between Telephoto zoom and Macro capability, there really isn't one. Macro lenses allow closer focusing than most lenses. By allowing you to get the subject closer to the camera, it allows you to increase the size of the subject in your photo. Macro capability is measured in terms of Maximum Magnification (MM) that is only indirectly related to focal length. Magnification is expressed as the ratio between the actual size of the subject and the size of the subjects image that is projected onto the film/sensor. A 1:1 Macro lens, which has an MM of 1.0x or 100%, means if the subject is 15mm tall, the lens can get close enough to project a properly focused image of the subject on the focal plane that is 15mm tall. A 1:2 lens would have an MM of 0.5x or 50% and would project an image 7.5mm tall of the 15mm subject. This is because if both lenses are the same focal length the 1:2 lens would require twice the distance to properly focus on the 15mm subject.

Most high powered telephoto lenses are designed to focus on very distant subjects, not to reproduce nearer subjects at high magnifications. A 600mm lens will do very well at taking a 6 foot tall human at very large distance (a little over 400 feet) and filling the 36mm tall sensor frame (full frame is 36mm x 24mm) in portrait orientation. I've never seen a 600mm lens that can get close enough to a 36mm subject to fill the same frame and properly focus on it. By the time you are close enough to the subject, you are inside the lens' Minimum Focus Distance (MFD) by several yards/meters. Most very long telephoto lenses have very large MFD and thus small MM numbers. That is what a Macro lens is designed to do: by reducing the MFD you can focus on a much closer object and get a higher MM.

There are some telephoto zoom lenses on the market, usually in the 70-300mm range, that claim to be Macro capable. But if you examine the specifications of such lenses, you see that at best they are 1:3 in terms of magnification. They can only focus close enough to project a 15mm image of a 45mm subject. That gives them an MM of .33x or 33%. While it is theoretically possible to design a zoom lens with 1:1 Macro capability, it is not practical. Most true Macro lenses have a fixed focal length designation that allows them to be simpler, cheaper than a comparable zoom lens would be, and produce better image quality at closer subject distances.

  • Firstly, thanks for the great answer! very informative and useful. what I now wonder about is two things, how is it that a cheap camera such as the Fuji that I own has so much zoom range while lens that can get to the same level for DSLRs cost a fortune? is that because of the sensor size difference? and just to understand another thing, when does 'zoom' lens become 'macro' lens? or all zoom lens can be used for macro shots?
    – Don
    Oct 17 '13 at 11:39
  • The sensor size has everything to do with it. To get the equivalent angle of view of a 24-720mm lens on a full frame 36mm x 24mm sensor, your Fuji actually has a lens with a zoom range of 4.1-123.4mm. That lens can be manufactured MUCH more cheaply than a FF 24-720mm lens because the image circle it must project is about 1/14 the size of a FF sensor. Since it is much smaller, it uses less materials. It also gives up a lot in terms of image quality: things like distortion, chromatic aberration, vignetting, not to mention sharpness, control of depth of field, and sensitivity to light.
    – Michael C
    Oct 17 '13 at 23:01
  • But the whole point is that no one shooting on Full Frame cameras wants a 24-720mm lens as long as it comes with the compromises to image quality and narrower apertures such a design would necessitate. Not to mention it would cost as much as a luxury automobile and be almost as heavy. The whole point of interchangeable lens cameras is to make each lens do one thing very well, or a few things fairly well, or a few things 'good enough' at a much cheaper price, without forcing a single lens to do everything fairly poorly.
    – Michael C
    Oct 17 '13 at 23:08
  • Actually, the sensor in your Fuji has about 1/15th the area of your D60's, and 1/30th the area of a FF sensor, not 1/14 as I mentioned a few comments ago.
    – Michael C
    Oct 17 '13 at 23:28
  • Thank you for covering the Macro part, I learned a lot! Just one other thing I have to know about the macro lens is, aren't there any lens that will magnify more than 1:1? I mean, I see so many photographers take so large and detailed photos of tiny insects, they can't be 1:1,maybe 2:1 or even more. But I tried to find lens like that and found none.If there aren't lens that do that, how do people achieve that level of magnification? and if there are,do you think that there are lens like that that will also allow me to have some nice amount of distance from the subject?
    – Don
    Oct 18 '13 at 9:14

x numbers on zooms are a bit deceptive. If you have a lens that is 1mm to 30mm, it's a 30x zoom, but it won't have nearly the reach of a 70 - 105mm lens, even though that lens is less than 2x. You would do well to completely forget any x multiplier numbers you have ever dealt with as they are a useless number, what matters is focal length range, the longer the focal length, the more magnified it will seem and the further out you can shoot an image.

Typically point and shoots can pull off ridiculous multipliers because they have a very small sensor with very cheap optics, this means that they can easily make a lens that has something like 2mm to 60mm and slap a 30x label on it even though the lens isn't that great.

The other thing that comes in to play here is crop factor though, since a point and shoot has a very small sensor, it takes crams all the pixels in to a very small space, so a picture taken from a 2mm lens on a point and shoot will look similar to a picture taken on a much longer focal length on a DSLR with a larger sensor. This is what the crop factor captures (because it is the amount of cropping that occurs from a typical 35mm film camera). Say for example that your point and shoot had a crop factor of 4 and your DSLR had a crop factor of 1.5 (most Nikon crop sensors) (typically that or 1.6 (APS-C) for most non-full frame DSLRs). This would mean that the 2mm focal length on the point and shoot would be like an 8mm lens on a full frame camera or 5mm lens on an APS-C camera.

The thing is that with the small lens, they take shortcuts so that the image circle (the image that the lens projects on the sensor) is only as big as it needs to be to cover the part where the sensor is. This is what allows the lens to be so much smaller and cheaper. When you move up to an APS-C, or even bigger, full frame, you can't take those shortcuts anymore. That is also why there are some Nikon lenses that are much cheaper but will mention they aren't compatible with the full frame lines.

You are also missing the fact that zoom range always comes as a trade off to image quality. It is hard to make a zoom lens, the wider the range, the harder it becomes and the more optical tradeoffs have to be made. You can overcome some of them through size and cost, but it gets exorbitant pretty fast and can only go so far. This is why in Canon's lens line up for example, the 24-70 f/2.8 lens is $2400 but you can get a $200 50mm lens that will produce just as good of images at 50mm.

This means that while you can buy a lens with something like a 22-300mm focal range, it isn't really ideal since it has to make so many tradeoffs for that range. You are much better off in most cases to go for multiple lenses at shorter focal length ranges that will give you better image quality and then swap lenses when needed. This and sensor size are two of the main advantages of shooting with a system camera such as a DSLR.

As for the Macro lens bit, it is mostly the minimum focus distance. Lenses can only focus so close and a macro lens allows focusing much more closely so that you can zoom in on something small rather than something far away.

  • "... the longer the focal length, the more magnification you will get and the further out you can shoot an image." Not exactly true. The MM of most long telephotos is in the 0.15-0.20x range. EF 600mm f/4 is 0.15, EF 300mm f/2.8 is 0.18. This is because their MFDs are so large. The EF 50mm f/2.52 Macro is 0.5x. Canon's 100mm f/2.8 Macro lenses are at 1.0x, because they have much shorter MFDs.
    – Michael C
    Oct 17 '13 at 23:17
  • @MichaelClark - as far as the magnification of something close, yeah. If I wasn't clear, I wasn't referring to the minimum focus distance but how much something beyond the MFD would be zoomed in on. For example, if something is 10 meters out, it will be more magnified with a 300mm lens than a 70mm lens, you just can't move up as close to it with the 300. I just added the bit about macro at the end because it was a second question in the main post.
    – AJ Henderson
    Oct 17 '13 at 23:51
  • But still, if you're filling the frame with a 6ft (1,830mm) tall person at 400+ feet, they're only projecting an image 36mm tall on the sensor in portrait orientation. That's not magnifying anything, it is reducing by a factor of about 50, which is about 0.02x magnification. Only at the MFD of about 15 feet will the 600mm lens even produce a magnification of 0.15x. which is a reduction by a factor of about 7.
    – Michael C
    Oct 18 '13 at 0:22
  • @MichaelClark - it's a magnification of what you would see if you shot it with a 20mm lens. That's what I mean by magnification. Guy at 600 feet with a 20mm lens is smaller than a guy at 600 feet with a 400mm lens. That's all I was intending to say. The point was that I'd rather have a 400 prime with no zoom than a 20x zoom that goes from 2mm to 40mm if I'm trying to get a shot from far away (assuming the same size sensor).
    – AJ Henderson
    Oct 18 '13 at 0:59
  • Strictly speaking, the difference between 20mm and 400mm is not more magnification by the 400mm lens, it is less reduction than the 20mm lens. Using the word magnification in that context can be misleading, since one of the standard lens specifications used is Maximum Magnification, which refers to the size of the projected image at Minimum Focus Distance compared to the size of the subject.
    – Michael C
    Oct 18 '13 at 1:18

This site is temporarily in read only mode and not accepting new answers.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .