Reader Question: Why Can’t I Zoom My DSLR with the “Zoom” Buttons on the Camera Body?

Nikon D7000

Photography Bay reader, Carol, just got her new D7000 camera. As a new DSLR user, she wants to know more about zooming with the camera and lens.

I just purchased a D7000 camera, and in using the various features, I noticed that I can NOT take a picture in the zoom in or out setting. Apparently this setting is used only for playback viewing?  Why is that?

Here’s my response to Carol on why this is the case with DSLRs like the Nikon D7000….

With DSLRs like the D7000 (a great camera, by the way), you will use the zoom ring on the lens barrel to zoom in or out. A common lens for the D7000 is the 18-105mm lens. So, you will rotate the lens barrel to zoom from wide (at 18mm) to telephoto (at 105mm).

The reason that you can’t zoom with a button the camera is because there is no motor inside the lens to drive to zoom ring. Generally, these lenses are too large to put motors to drive the zooming elements inside of the lens (i.e., it would drain the battery too quickly to be an efficient function). As a result, you have to manually rotate the lens barrel to get that zoom action.

In some newer compact interchangeable lens cameras like the Sony NEX-3N, manufacturers are making very compact zoom lenses that are capable of zooming via controls on the camera body. Expect this new trend to continue; however, it may be limited to these more compact mirrorless cameras for a while.

The zoom buttons on the camera are designed for just the reason you have discovered. You can magnify the view of captured images to check things like focus or even zoom in on faces to see if you are happy with expressions in group photos.

I hope this answers your question Carol. I also recommend checking out the Photography Basics section under on the Learn Photography page where I give an overview of some of the basic photography concepts, which I think will help you get to know your way around the D7000.



  1. Emil Gheata says

    Verry nice answer and delicately in the same time. I like this style. I want to remember to, there is much more powered zoom lens in the market now. First I want to mention one from Nikon 1 series, nikkor vr 10-100 mm F/4.5-5.6 PD-ZOOM, which zoom motor don’t have problem with a small battery from Nikon 1 series. This lens cover a 27-270 mm focal equivqlent. I know there is an adapter for all ‘F’ mount lens with Nikon 1 series mount, but I don’t know if is possible to use Nikon 1 lens mount with ‘F’ mount camera. And don’t forget Panasonic with two very good powered zoom lens, Lumix GX Vario 14-42 F/3.5-5.6 PZ Power OIS and PZ 45-175 mm Power OIS to. The powered zoom work fine in video. I’m a Nikon dslr system owner but I admire this new Pansonic gear, in specially with new lumix GH3 that have the most evaluated video capture of the moment and all this performant gear can be triggered remotely with Wi-Fi app on a tablet or smartphone with all the parameter existing in the camera, inclusive zooming the lens and see lifeview image in a remote viewfinder. Image all of this feature with a motorized pan and tilt head, bescor mp-101 by the way, in remote viewfinder work.
    All in one there is only few motorized zoom lens for the moment and Carol can anderstand that is must to use the manual zoom for her gear now, but can to change this in the future.