Optical vs. digital zoom
It's important to understand this difference, as you could be disappointed with the results if you use one rather than the other.
Optical zoom works like the zoom on a traditional film camera. When you push the button to zoom in or out, physical lens elements move inside the camera, reducing the field of view and making the object you're shooting appear closer.
Digital zoom, on the other hand, has no moving parts. The camera interpolates a small portion of an image to artificially restore the file to its original size. Using its electronic brain, the digital camera analyzes what it sees and digitally zooms in, usually two or three times closer.
Unfortunately, digital zoom also reduces the resolution of an image, so your picture will tend to be more pixilated than the same image taken with an optical zoom camera. If you're just snapping an image to e-mail to a friend, this loss of resolution won't be so noticeable. But in situations where the highest quality counts, skip the digital zoom and use your PC's image-editing tools to zero in on your subject.