Thursday, January 15, 2015

Landscapes and aspect ratios

click photo to enlarge
After thirty odd years of shooting 35mm film with an aspect ratio of 3:2 I shot with Four Thirds cameras for a few years. These had an aspect ratio of 4:3. To my surprise I found I preferred it to 3:2, particularly for portrait format shots. When you turn a 3:2 camera so that the long side is vertical it seems to me that the aspect ratio doesn't work so well as when it is horizontal (landscape format) - it's simply too tall. There are a few subjects that benefit from a taller shape (and a very few where 16:9 is best) but not too many. I definitely preferred 4:3 in those circumstances. For landscapes, streetscapes and general photography 3:2 was, by and large, fine, but not better than 4:3 and sometimes too long.

Since I've returned to 3:2 with Canon, Nikon and Sony, the three makes I use now, I've generally shot 3:2 and where I've particularly felt it looked wrong (in horizontal or portrait format), I've cropped to 4:3. Today's photograph is a case in point. When I composed the shot I knew I wanted the verticals of the two medieval churches in the shot. However, I also wanted the full width of the street. On a wet day with an overcast sky 3:2 left too much boring grey cloud in the top half of the photograph. Consequently, I shot at 3:2 knowing I would crop to 4:3. Those of you who know the Sony RX100 might wonder why I didn't dive into the menu and set the camera to 4:3. The fact is I find it easier to stick with the same aspect ratio (3:2 is native and the highest resolution) across all the cameras to benefit from a consistent view and maximum pixel dimensions. To do otherwise would be for me, just too confusing, too tedious, and would deny me the best image where 3:2 is the ratio I want.

On the other hand, if Sony had done what Panasonic did with the LX3 (and other LX models), a camera that I owned until it died, and had put the aspect ratios round the lens barrel selected by a click stop switch, then I just might have set 4:3 before shooting.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Sony RX100
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 20mm (54mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f4.5
Shutter Speed: 1/100
ISO: 125
Exposure Compensation:  - EV
Image Stabilisation: On