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in-camera zoom vs post zoom


kato wong
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Depends on how much of a zoom-in there is… a very short and slow one, the post digital zoom will look more “perfect” in the move, it’s hard to start a super-slow creeping zoom flawlessly with a motor on a zoom lens. Not impossible though.

But at some point, the more you zoom-in, the post digital zoom will show artifacts — if it is something shot on film, the grain will be getting larger, and whether shot on film or digital, the resolution will be dropping.

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Post zoom's can be smoother, but the only way to really make them work is if you have really good glass AND a very high resolution source like an 8k or 12k camera in a 4k timeline. You can zoom in around 150% without too much degradation. If you want to zoom more, you'll have to do it on set. 

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As others mentioned, the feel will be smoother and the resolution drop and grain grow more with post zooms.

I also notice the depth of field getting shallower or feeling shallower with optical zooms vs post zooms.

I think it's a pretty subjective choice what you can get away with if that's what you're wondering. If you're looking for tell-tell signs, smoothness, increasing grain size, and for me the depth of field not feeling shallower (or bokeh not being bigger perhaps is a more accurate way of putting this technically) is another sign on a long enough zoom.

Sometimes you'll also get shifting distortion characteristics over the zoom range in an optical zoom.

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