The X numbers - my rant, and my suggestion

Started Sep 12, 2012 | Discussions thread
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GeraldW Veteran Member • Posts: 7,442
The X numbers - my rant, and my suggestion

I think the use of X to characterize zoom lenses is a really bad thing.

I've been in our local shop when folks walk in to look at P&S cameras and the first thing they want to know is how many X is it and how many MP does it have? Then they agonize over two perfectly suitable cameras because this one has more X and that one has more MP. In neither case do they understand what X signifies. They just use it as a figure of merit and for them, more is better. Go to a seller's website, and how are the filters for camera properties set up? The X is one of the filters.

Two cameras I have owned provide a good example. My Panasonic FZ150 has a 24x lens (25-600 mm, equivalent); while a Canon S5IS is 12x (36-432 mm, equivalent). To the X factor shopper, the FZ150 is twice as good. But, if you do the math, the FZ150 is only 39% longer.

Part of the problem, particularly for the older user is confusion with the X ratings for binoculars and spotting scopes. There, the X translates directly into magnification and can be compared across brands and models. But that isn't true in cameras; although most of my older freinds (and some younger ones, too) assume that more X translates automatically into more magnification in cameras.

I'm not sure what would be better, except perhaps picking an equivalent focal length, like 50 mm on a full frame or 35 mm camera, and then rating the lens as ratios of that focal length. So my FZ150's 25-600 would have a 0.5-12x range (the ratio of which is 24) and the Canon S5IS would be 0.72-8.64x. This scheme would also work for prime lenses; where a 50 mm lens for a FF is a 1x, and a 25 mm for an MFT (micro four thirds) camera would also be a 1x, avoiding the confusion of crop factors.

 GeraldW's gear list:GeraldW's gear list
Canon PowerShot S90 Canon PowerShot ELPH 330 HS Canon PowerShot SX260 HS Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 Panasonic FZ1000 +1 more
Casio Exilim EX-S5 Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150
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