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Optical zoom is achieved by mechanically moving the optical elements in a lens to effectively bring the image closer. Because it is done optically this will result in the image being a clearer image.
Digital zoom however can be misleading. What digital zoom actually does is basically crop a portion of the image and electronically enlarges it back to size, usually by interpolation. The result is generally a much lower quality image, typically image detail is lost and looks pixilated.