Sony Clear Image Zoom: The Most Amazing Shooting Mode You Never Heard Of

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Do you own a Sony a7S II or a7 III, a Sony a7R II or a7R III, a Sony a9, or perhaps a recent Sony a6000 or RX-series camera? If so, have you ever tried the camera’s Clear Image Zoom function? If you haven’t, you’re not alone. In fact, I didn’t know about it until recently and I’ve been shooting with many of the abovementioned Sony cameras for quite some time.

Sony Alpha a7R-III Mirrorless Digital Camera

Clear Image Zoom is an in-camera function that enables you to zoom in 2x with any lens you own. The best part? Unlike cropping and normal interpolation, you lose little if any detail when you zoom in, your file size remains unchanged, and there’s zero light loss—the maximum aperture of your f/1.4 lens remains f/1.4 even when you double the image magnification.

The photographs used to illustrate this post were captured using a tripod-mounted Sony Alpha a7R II with the ISO set to 100. The lens was stopped down 3 stops from wide open (theoretically the sharpest aperture setting for most lenses), and image stabilization turned off. I also set the shutter for a 2-second delay to further minimize camera shake.

Photographs © 2019 Allan Weitz

Captured with a Voigtländer 15mm f/4.5 Ultra-wide Heliar normal, and zoomed in 2x using Sony Clear Image Zoom function, effectively turning a 15mm ultra-wide into a more modest 30mm f/4.5 semi-wide

It’s important to note that Sony’s Clear Image Zoom feature is digital zoom; the difference from the usual is how Sony’s engineers leverage the information from the sensor to punch into the image effectively without losing detail. Without getting technical, Sony’s engineers describe the Clear Image Zoom function as being “interpolation on steroids” involving “advanced algorithms” and a “unique pattern recognition database” using Sony’s exclusive By Pixel Super Resolution Technology. Call it what you may, Sony Clear Image Zoom works and it works extremely well.

Cropped detail (above) of the street scene captured normally with a 15mm ultra-wide lens, and cropped detail (below) of the same image area captured at 2x using Sony’s Clear Image Zoom function, and displayed at half the magnification. Quality-wise, any differences are difficult to notice.

Sony’s Clear Image Zoom function delivers notably better definition than digital zoom or post-capture cropping. Even when pixel-peeping at 100%, the differences—if any—are seldom perceptible. What is noticeable is a slight increase in perspective compression when zoomed in to 2x, which is exactly what you’d expect when increasing the focal length of a lens or cropping.

Shooting straight with a 200mm f/4 AI-S Micro-Nikkor lens l (left) and zoomed to twice magnification, effectively converting the lens into a 400mm f/4 (equivalent) macro-telephoto lens.
A closer view of the Sandy Hook lighthouse photographed with a 200mm f/4 AI-S Micro-Nikkor lens straight, and after engaging the Clear Image Zoom function

To activate the Clear Image Zoom function, go to the main menu and under the cogwheel icon find the Zoom Setting, and set it to Clear Image Zoom. There are a couple of ways to engage the Clear Image Zoom function from here, but the quickest and easiest method is to dedicate a Custom button for this function by going back to the cogwheel menu, select Custom Key Settings, and select Zoom under any of the available the custom buttons.

On my camera, I dedicated custom button #4 for Clear Image Zoom. Once engaged, I could zoom in or out by pressing the rear control wheel left or right. To zoom in or out quicker, every time you press the control wheel up or down, it automatically zooms in 50%—press twice and it zooms directly to 2x magnification.

Street scene captured with a Voigtländer 15mm f/4.5 Ultra-wide Heliar normal and zoomed-in 2x (right) using Sony’s Clear Image Zoom function

If there’s a downside to using Sony’s Clear Image Zoom function, it would have to be you can only shoot JPEGs—no raw. Depending on your shooting preferences, this may or may not be a big deal for you. I personally shoot JPEG and raw but, for me, having the ability to critically frame my photographs in-camera is worth the tradeoff. For videographers shooting with fixed prime lenses, in addition to enabling zoom-like camera movements, Sony’s Clear Image Zoom function enables you to tighten your frame lines in situations where camera movement and/or repositioning is limited.

Do you own a Sony camera with Clear Image View functionality? If so, have you tried it out? If you have, what do you think about it? Let us know in the Comment field, below.

23 Comments

Clear image zoom is not available when shooting in RAW mode - which makes sense since you could get the same results by processing your RAW file.

Thanks for weighing in! We appreciate tips from our readers, always.

I have a sony a99ii with a 28-300 Tamron lens.  I use this feature o all of my travel photography.  I got a photo of an Ibex on the Gobi while in Mongolia.  From a mile away you can't see much. with 2.0 clear image zoom...what a shot!  I just today purchased a Sony A7rIV with a Sony 24-240 lens.  One of the deciding factors for the camers was tyhat it had to have clear focus zoom.  The 99ii was still a great camera, but with 'A' mount going out, it was time to upgrade.  Besides features, and general product quality, Sony gets my business every time.  I started with Minolta!

I am sure I am missing something, with a Prime lens I am able to zoom but a soon as I press the button the zoom cancelled out , I changed over to jpeg, did the clear selection , but still unable to hold zoom 

Andrew K. wrote:

I am sure I am missing something, with a Prime lens I am able to zoom but a soon as I press the button the zoom cancelled out , I changed over to jpeg, did the clear selection , but still unable to hold zoom 

sony a7111

I have tested this feature and I was not able to see a difference between using clear image zoom shot and cropping in post except for a little bit of extra sharpness, which can be done with a simple click in post with even a basic image viewer. If you use clear image zoom on video recording, your video quality will suffer. If you are only viewing images and videos on mobile phone or posting to social media, then you won't be able to see the difference. Clear image zoom also disables phase detection focusing so you are better off shooting normally and cropping in post. I have tested this with the a5100, a6000, a6100 and a6400 with zoom and prime lenses. I had even programmed a button to engage clear image zoom quickly but for zooming but disabled it after much I ruined a few shots with this feature. Be aware that when using a power zoom lens and clear image zoom is enabled, clear image zoom engages when zooming using the zoom ring once you reach the long end of the lens. One thing to note is that when using power zoom lenses, the clear image zoom is kind of smooth but when using non power zoom lenses, it zooms in steps so it is not good for video as it makes the video jerky.

Hi support team,

Does clear image zoom support on video recording?? also will this feature available on new A7C camera ?  

Thanks 

Clear Image Zoom is supported when recording video and is featured in the A7C. 

Make that 'Clear Image Zoom' in the previous post .... my bad.

Working with Clear Zoom on a A7Riii. I find it disables autofocus. Is there something I'm missing that requires me to use manual focus?

If you haven't done so already, you would need to turn on the manual focus feature. This is explained on the following page:

https://bit.ly/32EUBFW

I've used it successfully with the A7 iii with the 200-600 lens.

Great 'extra' to have, but only JPG and single shot. 

I tried this with an a7r3 and a 24 - 240 zoom. It does not work while shooting raw. 

Hey Greg,

You are (unfortunately) absolutely correct.

That's the one drawback of this otherwise wonderful feature - you can't shoot raw.

Like they say "there's no free lunch".

Perhaps the next incarnation will include raw... let's hope for it.

Hi, I have the A7R3, that clear image zoom works very well indeed with it, I'm wondering if it will work with my 200-600 zoom? that would be something else for sure, if it can be done, I'd like advice on how to do it...cheers everyone, enjoy!

According to Sony, you can use the Clear Image Zoom with Sony lenses with a power zoom or Sony non-power zoom lenses. While it may be possible to use it along with the Sony FE 200-600mm lens, it has not been tested to our knowledge. The link below shows the set up for the Clear Image Zoom function. https://bit.ly/3hexiYA

Did this work?!?!

if some one said the quarlity image not change ( detail ) Im not agree with it's change a little as my opinion .

Great tip. Also works on the A7II.

Doesn't work in burst mode?

In a word...Absolutely.

AW

Hi, I hope you can help me.

I heard about this function just a couple of days ago, I have had an a6000 for a couple of years ! 

I can't seem to get it working.

I have changed the settings to Clear image zoom and assigned zoom to custom button 2, but I'm unable to see the zoom scroll option, camera just takes a regular photo. Which mode should the camera be in ?

As you can tell, I am a novice still ! Any ideas where I am going wrong please ? 

Thanks  Trevor

In this case, it would be best to e-mail us to askbh@bhphoto.com or visit us via Live Chat for better assistance. 

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