Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sensor aspect ratios and reeds

click photo to enlarge
The Lumix LX3 camera, in common with a few others in the Panasonic range offers the photographer different aspect ratios. A switch on the lens barrel allows the user to select 4:3, 3:2 and 16:9. What makes Panasonic's offering particularly useful is that the angle of view doesn't change when you make your selection. So, APS-C users are catered for with the 3:2 setting, Four Thirds (and MicroFT) users will be familiar with 4:3, and widescreen (16:9) is there for anyone wanting to either fill such a display with an image, or who fancies a landscape or other shot with this aspect ratio. I find myself using the 4:3 and 16:9 a lot, and the 3:2 only occasionally.

However, a firmware update intoduced a fourth option - 1:1, that is to say, square. Because it's an afterthought it has to be accessed through the menu system. However, for this photographer it is very welcome despite this inconvenience. There are those who cannot see the point, possibilities or aesthetic value of the square format: but there are others who use it exclusively or regularly. The latter group often includes former medium-format photographers who cut their teeth on square viewfinders and square film. And then there are people like me, who see 1:1 as offering the ideal shape for some subjects. If I were a portrait photographer I'd use it a lot. But even for landscapes, semi-abstracts, urban scenes and the like, it has its place.

You're perhaps wondering why I'm mentioning this in the context of a photograph taken with an Olympus DSLR with a 4:3 aspect ratio that has been cropped to square. Well, many argue that cropping obviates the need for hardware settings of this sort. I disagree. It is difficult (though not impossible) to visualise a square composition when you're framing a shot with a different aspect ratio. I did it here, but I'd love to have been able to place a square frame over the viewfinder rectangle or close it down until it was square. But thats not an option.

Today's shot is a black and white semi-abstract with, I like to think, a Japanese watercolour feel to it. I selected a group of dead reeds around a narrow water-course, including one that arches into the water (with its reflection), others that exist only as motion-blurred reflections, and some nearer ones that are out of focus. The delicate lines traced across the square frame, that look like they have been applied with a brush, appeal to to me, though I think they won't be everyone's cup of tea.

photograph & text (c) T.Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 150mm (300mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/200
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On