Saturday, 6 March 2010

F/8 and Be Square


I think I could happily spend my life composing images within a square. Or, rather, recomposing, since no-one has yet come up with a square format digital camera. Wouldn't that be a fine thing, though? What a shame, always to be throwing away part of your lens' circle of coverage, simply because most people like composing in a rectangle. Wouldn't it be fun to have a smaller digital equivalent of a Hasselblad, perhaps with a screen on top of the camera inside the traditional collapsible hood?


8 comments:

ottluuk said...

A few months ago I got myself a Ricoh GRD-III compact. Among a myriad other customizations, it allows you to switch between 4:3 (full sensor coverage), 3:2 and 1:1 - a feature that is probably ubiquitous among compact cameras.

At first I thought I'd never use the crop modes as I could always crop later. The reality is quite different. About a third of all my images are made using the cropped aspect ratios and I almost never make significant crops on the computer. The ability to change aspect ratios on the fly has made composition much more intuitive for me. Wasting a million or two of the pixels hasn’t caused me much grief yet. I wish there was a 2:1 semi-panoramic mode.

It’s also surprising how deeply rooted the “square equals Hasselblad equals Fine Art” connotation can be. One evening at the pub, I showed a series of photos to a friend (a molecular biologist, not a photographer). They were all made with the little Ricoh compact. In fact, I used the little LCD on the back of said camera to show them. My friend seemed to like several of the images. I get to the first square composition in the set and he goes: “Wow. Is this Medium Format?”

Mike C. said...

ottluuk,

Yes, I'm a fan of the multiple aspect ratios of the Panasonic LX3, which has the advantage of not being achieved by simple cropping. This includes a semi-panoramic 16:9 which I like a lot. "1:1" is only possible via cropping, obviously, until someone installs a square sensor, which is what I want.

On the association of "square" with "art": If we go back to the pre-35mm days of the 1960s and before, many family cameras produced square images e.g. all those 6x6 folders (I use an Agfa Isolette) as did many press cameras (Rolleiflex, etc.).

Of course, most people still cropped them into rectangles... But, apart from its pleasing shape (to me, anyway) a square is simply the most efficient use of all the light coming into the camera, given a lens casts a circular image. All your options are kept open.

Mike

Bronislaus Janulis said...

Mike,

I believe the new, small Olympus cameras have a square aspect ratio.

Mike C. said...

Bron,

yes, but it's just a crop, so you only get the shortest dimension. I don't (generally) need any help seeing or composing squares, what I want is square real estate on the sensor. Something about 3464 x 3464 (i.e. 12Mpixel, or 11.5 inches @ 300dpi) would suit me fine.

Mike

Bronislaus Janulis said...

Mike,

Sorry, I've only looked at square slightly, as I "think" in rectangular. So, good luck with that, the square sensor.

I do like the "Green Tree" though, delightful, and square seems to really bring it out.

Bron

Gavin McL said...

I think the first Kodak cameras produced circular negatives to ensure that all the light was used and no emulsion was wasted. I dread to think what mess I would make of composing in a circle

Mike C. said...

Gavin,

Yes you're right, circular images about 2.25" in diameter. I think they look wonderful, and have dabbled in circular imagery myself, from time to time.

You could be pleasantly surprised by circular composition: in my view, the circle is a magic picture-making machine. Try using a large-ish circular selection mask in Photoshop sometime, and move it around in your image -- everything always seems to fall into place within the circle. It must be something to do with the absence of those magnetic corners...

the problem is that rectangles/squares have been so thoroughly established in our minds as "normal" that circles always look like a gimmick.


Mike

Gavin McL said...

I'll have to give it a go.

Vignettes though have such a terrible image.

"If he uses a circular vignette, how much longer before he uses a heart shaped one or - even worse a keyhole?"
Gavin