And finally, we must look at the detail of each shot, a cropped optical zoom shot and a cropping digital zoom shot.
You will notice, that the lighting difference aside (this is because of the aforementioned difference in how the shot is taken), the colour reporduction on the optical zoom shot is much better, it is a lot more vivid and vibrant.
Also, you will see the digital zoom shot suffers from a loss of detail, even though the optical zoom shot has been cropped to just 500x375 pixel and the digital zoom shot is 1000x750 pixels (resized to 500x375 for the purposes of this test).
There is admittadly a bit of noise on the optical zoom shot (although its the same on the digital zoom shot if not worse, but disguised by the lighting and leack of detail), but if you noise reduction software, it would more then like make it clean again.
I think overall, you will agree that as good and as handy as digital zoom can be, its not "quite" as good as optical zoom cropping on a PC.
I must again mention that the optical shot was made slightly darker when I put the shot on the PC, so it would be nearer to the lightness digital shot in reality.
I should also re-iterate the fact that an old and less powerful PC program was used to crop the images. A newer and more powerful program like CS3 would yeild slightly better results, more noticeable on the optical zoom crop.