For smartphones, should one zoom or crop?

I recently read an article at World Start regarding smart phone photography.

Phone Photography: Don’t Zoom – Crop Instead 

According to the author, “Here’s a quick tip for phone photography. When you want to get a closer shot of something, don’t zoom in. That’s because your phone has a digital zoom instead of an optical zoom. You aren’t really zooming in, you’re just cropping the photo. ”

I decided to experiment with my own Galaxy SIII.

I drove out to the Terry Bison Ranch, on Terry Bison Ranch Road just a few miles south of Cheyenne. It was an overcast day – light, but no sunshine.

I took two photos, from a medium distance, of a Wyoming Coyote Eater sculpture. I then returned home, downloaded the photos to my PC, and cropped them.

Below is a photo of the sculpture taken with normal magnification. As you can see, the sculpture doesn’t stand out very well against the brown background of the leafless trees behind it.

Coyote eater sculpture normal magnification, cropped

When I zoomed in to take the photo, the result is as you see below. I made no other alterations to the settings, and it was taken just seconds after the previous photo. There’s a lot more light in the photo, and the sculpture stands out much better.

The Coyote Eater sculpture, zoomed in

Perform experiments with your own phone to see what works better for you – taking photos of distant objects at regular magnification and cropping them, or zooming in – which lets more light into your lens, at least in this example!

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