Tag Archives: film

Aspect Ratios – Legacy or Aesthetics? (Part 1: The Golden Rectangle)

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Leica 35mm f/2.8 Summaron @  ISO 2500, cropped to 24mm x 65mm Xpan format (a/r 2.708)

I’ve wrestled with the concept of aspect ratios, for as long as I have been into photography. It was simple enough in the film processing days, where photographers mostly used 35mm (135) film or medium format (120) film and standard print sizes at your local labs were 4×6, 5×7, 8×10, etc. Aspect ratio was physically limited by the physical size of the film/slide used and the available developments, unless, of course, you cut the photograph to size after the fact. Digital could have changed all this. But it didn’t. And why is that? Is it because of legacy or aesthetics?

Legacy Shmegacy
I can imagine a variety of arguments in support of the traditional 2×3 (a/r 1.5) 35mm format, such as “our modern day FF and APS-C sensors are based on this format and our old and new lenses cover this format.” Yes, this is a legacy argument. But with digital cropping, you can easily achieve different aspect ratios. Also, manufacturers are forever coming up with new camera lines with new mounts and new lenses. What a perfect opportunity to change the aspect ratio.

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Zeiss SEL55F18Z @  f/2.5, ISO 250, 1/200s, cropped to 24mm x 65mm Xpan format (a/r 2.708)

Realists might say “but if you crop, you are not using your sensor to the fullest.” Yes, but with today’s high megapixel 24MP or 36MP cameras, you can easily afford to lose 10% or more of those megapixels and still retain a huge image. Olympus fans may jump in and say “Ha! We have thought of this so we use the 4/3s format.” Yes, to which we will collectively roll our eyes at the 4/3s format (a/r 1.33) for its hideousness in proportions, at least in the landscape perspective. Remember our old (now “retro”) cathode-ray tube television boxes. Looking at it now, they are hideous compared to our 16:9 HDTVs. What changed? Our of-the-moment sensibilities or something more?

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