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Zoom Lenses on Point and Shoot Cameras

How and why do you get very close to your subjects for macro and close-up photography? How and why do you pull back from your subjects? Almost all point and shoot digital cameras are equipped with a lens that zooms. If you can zoom, you can more easily compose images and fill your frame with the amount of a scene you feel to be interesting.

However, your digital point and shoot’s macro mode works with the zoom lens in surprising ways, and so photographing macro or close-up shots means you need to understand more of the ins and outs of zoom.

Point and shoot digital cameras (with the exception of a few newer models) enable you to get closest to your subjects when using the widest focal length. By using the zoom function while shooting in macro mode, you actually decrease magnification on your subject.

You can use wide-angle lenses in macro and close-up photography to incorporate background details into your compositions. Doing so enables you to show your subject largely in your frame and still show much of the surrounding environment. Because most point and shoot digital cameras are best suited for close-up photography at their widest zoom, they tend to be most useful for this type of composition.

The figure shows a subject photographed at the widest angle and closest focusing distance (1 cm).
The figure shows a subject photographed at the widest angle and closest focusing distance (1 cm).

6.1mm, 1/15, f/2.8, 800

When shooting with a digital point and shoot, your subject is usually going to appear largest within your frame when you’re shooting with your widest angle and at the closest focusing distance possible. As you zoom in and move your camera to the effective minimum focusing distance, your close-up abilities diminish.

A digital point and shoot camera offers its closest focusing distance and highest level of magnification when used at its widest angle. As you zoom the lens, your closest focusing distance becomes less effective, causing you to move farther from your subject and making it appear smaller in your frame. Zooming all the way in causes the least effective focusing distance and the least amount of magnification.

This figure shows the same subject photographed with the lens halfway zoomed in and at the current
This figure shows the same subject photographed with the lens halfway zoomed in and at the current closest focusing distance (5 cm).

10.8mm, 1/10, f/3.2, 800

As the figures show, the wider your lens on a digital point and shoot, the greater your macro and close-up capabilities. DSLR cameras function differently. In DSLR photography, you need additional equipment — extension tubes, tele-converters, or close-up filters — to achieve wide-angle macro and close-up compositions.

A good point and shoot digital camera can act as a quick and useful sidekick to your DSLR. Any time you desire a wide-angle, close-up perspective you can whip out the trusty digital compact, set it to macro, and start shooting.

This photograph reveals the maximum zoom at its closest focusing distance (30 cm).
This photograph reveals the maximum zoom at its closest focusing distance (30 cm).

30.5mm, 1/8, f/4.5, 800

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