Zoom, Digital Resolution, and the Visibility of a Distant Object

A camera with a zoom lens has a variable field of view but a fixed output resolution. As a result, its angular resolution depends on the zoom factor. Changing the zoom factor will change the ability of the camera to resolve a distant object.

Flat-Earthers show us zooming in reveals an unseen object & uses it to “disprove” Earth’s curve. In reality, the object was previously unseen due to the angular resolution limit at wide zoom. It is not far enough to be obscured by Earth’s curvature.

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Visibility Range vs Angular Resolution

Visibility range is a measure of the distance at which an object can be clearly discerned. Angular resolution is the ability of an optical system to resolve detail in the object.

Unlike the claim from flat-Earthers, there is no such thing as the “maximum range” of a camera. A germ on our hand is well within the visibility range, yet a regular camera lacks sufficient angular resolution to see it. On the other hand, an airplane is much farther away, but it has a larger angular size and can be seen by the camera.

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