1719: Superzoom

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Revision as of 18:01, 12 August 2016 by (talk) (Explanation)
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*click* Let him know he's got a stain on his shirt, though.
Title text: *click* Let him know he's got a stain on his shirt, though.


In this comic, Cueball is showing off his new Super zoom camera to White Hat. These are cameras with large zoom lenses, often up to 25x or higher magnification. He is very excited and starts by exclaiming how they can take detailed photos of the moon, and (on better models) relatively large photos of Jupiter. He then uses it for bird watching, which is a popular use for these cameras. He also is able to photograph an airplane, and make out the airline, both possible on these cameras, though it is unlikely he would be able to make out the registration number.

Finally, White Hat decides to buy a superzoom camera like Cueball's, and Cueball tells him a shop in town that sells them. This is where it takes a turn for the unlikely; as Cueball points the camera in the direction of this store, he is able to make out not only the worker inside but also (in the title text) the stain on his shirt. Even with the ability of these cameras, it would be unlikely for Cueball to be able to make out a specific worker inside the store, let alone a stain on their shirt.

It could also be implied that since Cueball knows an employee in the store, and knows that there are cameras in stock, he is in fact advertising for this store, and his over-enthusiasm is an attempt to convince White Hat to buy a camera. While this tactic is reminiscent of many commercials and advertisements on television, it is not common in real life.


[White Hat and Cueball are walking. Cueball is playing with a camera]

Cueball: I love these superzoom cameras. For a few hundred dollars you can take pictures of moon craters and Jupiter's clouds.

Cueball: And birds! See that speck up there?

[Camera clicking]

Cueball: Peregrine falcon!


Cueball: It's banded, too. Want the number?

Cueball: And see that plane?


Cueball: 787 Dreamliner


Cueball: Japan Airlines.


Cueball: Registration is-

White Hat: OK, I'm sold- I want one.


Cueball: They're in stock at the place on Union Road.


Cueball: Hey, Kevin's working today! He's great.

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Camera guy is an asshole. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Didn't realise donkeys could fit in a guy!
Anyhow, does anyone know if those cameras are really that good? (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
(It's the American form of arsehole) 15:16, 25 November 2020 (UTC)

Alternatively, its possible he's borrowing this camera from beret guy. Too bad he didn't check to see if it dispenses soup; now we'll never know. 15:08, 12 August 2016 (UTC)

I don't think the comic mentioned anything about the price of the camera. 16:12, 12 August 2016 (UTC)

Yes, he does; see the first panel. But I had to look twice after reading your comment.  :) 16:59, 12 August 2016 (UTC)

I think this comic might be inspired by this video I recently saw [1] --Eluvatar (talk) 17:48, 12 August 2016 (UTC)

Here's a video of the Nikon P900 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-0X3xJf-kg which has 166x optical zoom (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Thins this last video is more relevant than the one above. Have used this in the explanation. --Kynde (talk) 12:30, 13 August 2016 (UTC)

This feels like something Buttercup Festival would think up of. 19:56, 12 August 2016 (UTC)

I understand cruising altitudes vary, but I've been able to see airplane reg numbers using a 6MP APS-C dslr at 200mm and post-shot image review zoom. Has anyone done resolution math to fact check the assertion? 23:10, 12 August 2016 (UTC)

Editing this comment to add: And the title text - note the stain shirt is after the click comment. Really sounds like zooming into the image - which at a high resolution, shows a lot. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Never mind the distance factor. I'd be astonished if he can make out who's working in the store if there are any walls in the way. 08:54, 13 August 2016 (UTC)Andrew Williams

Have you heard of windows? ;-p Who says he is that far away. To me it seems that such a small camera as shown here can do all he claims except take pictures of the clouds of Jupiter, see links in the explanation. Also there are no indication of how far away either bird, plane or Kevin is, so it is not possible to say they are too far away to see anything. And of course they have to be visible from Cueball's location, it's not an "x-ray" camera with superman vision! The number on the birds band is probably not readable from just one side of the ring/bird, as it goes around the ring... But to make out those numbers turned his way may be possible. However as he is looking up indicating the bird is flying it would be difficult to get a great picture (especially handheld). But if the falcon is soaring it can stay very still even in the air. So apart from the handheld part it seems very likely that this is possible, and that is a bit scary. Any time you are standing in a spot where someone can see you from afar, then they can tell if you have forgotten to zip up your fly from a couple of miles away! ;-) --Kynde (talk) 12:25, 13 August 2016 (UTC)

Super zoom doesn't mean super magnification; a zoom lens is a lens which allows the focal length to be varied. Some zoom lenses (e.g., Tamron's 150-600) do give high magnification, but others (e.g. Nikon's 10-24mm) do not magnify. "Super zoom" isn't even a word that has meaning, though I suppose something like a 8-300 could be called super zoom (if it could even be built) A telephoto lens magnifies; a super telephoto magnifies a lot. The opposite of a zoom lens is a Fixed focal length, aka Prime, lens. Long lenses (over 100mm) are telephoto. The 5400mm lens linked to in the explanation is a Prime lens (essentially a telescope with a camera mount; notice it's a reflector design, not a refractor like a zoom lens must be). As far as reading bird bands, I use a Tamron 150-600 at 600mm on my Canon 5D when recording bands during spring snow goose migration; works well for birds up to 150 yards away or so. Note that goose bands are much bigger than those used on Falcons. That lens is properly called a telephoto zoom lens. 04:56, 14 August 2016 (UTC)

Superzoom (1 word) is a term for a fixed-lens camera with excess of "15x" optical zoom. Source: 7 years of reading Popular Photography magazine covers. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)