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Thread: 4:3 vs. 3:2 vs 16:9 - how much influence?

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    Senior Member nostatic's Avatar
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    4:3 vs. 3:2 vs 16:9 - how much influence?

    As I ponder my dslr future, the question of native sensor/viewing size comes into play. One reason I was excited to get the DLux3 was for the native 16x9 resolution. When I shot with either my SD400 (4x3) or D70 (3x2) I tended to crop to 16x9-ish anyway.

    So fast forward to having used that for awhile, I'm also seeing instances, especially in street photos, where I'm cropping some of the 16x9 to more 4x3-ish or even 1x1. I know the reality is that I likely will end up cropping no matter what aspect ratio I'm shooing, but I'm wondering how much the viewfinder (or lcd) and native aspect influences what/how you see/shoot. And do you have different systems around to give you alternatives and push you to "see different"?

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    Re: 4:3 vs. 3:2 vs 16:9 - how much influence?

    I use the LCD on my GRD and have letterboxed it to 3:2 from its native 4:3 with strips of black tape. 3:2 is my most used ratio and if in the fluid style of LCD framing I didn't nail the y-axis, what I wanted on the sensor will be there in in 3:2 on 4:3. The 3:2 frame is a middle ground of ratios I like; this method makes the most sense to me for my use.

    Thomas

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    Re: 4:3 vs. 3:2 vs 16:9 - how much influence?

    Quote Originally Posted by nostatic View Post
    ... I'm wondering how much the viewfinder (or lcd) and native aspect influences what/how you see/shoot.
    A lot, Id say. While the possibility of cropping is there, one tries to compose the image within the frame one sees.

    FWIW, years ago I used MF cameras with a square format, and just loved it. Dont think I cropped more than one image out of twenty. The images were static, but thats what I liked then.

    After moving to digital, I used cameras with 4:3 ratio for a few years, and slowly adapted to it. Then I bought a dSLR with 3:2 ratio, and never liked it, cropping most of the time. To me, 3:2 was (is) a rather ugly compromise.

    Then, a month or so ago, I bought the Dlux 3, thinking Id mainly use the 4:3 setting. But Ive come to like the 16:9 a lot; its a new language! So most of the time I leave the camera there (the 4:3 I do use sometimes; dont think Ive shot a single frame in 3:2 yet).

    My point is, I dont think Id ever arrived at using those differing formats if I still would have had to crop them out of that square. I needed the finder (screen) to show me the possibilities, and to force myself to find ways of using them.

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    Re: 4:3 vs. 3:2 vs 16:9 - how much influence?

    Quote Originally Posted by Per Ofverbeck View Post
    Ive come to like the 16:9 a lot; its a new language!
    I hadn't used 21mm or 16:9 at all with analogue; now, I've found them an exciting match, cinematic.

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    Mitch Alland
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    Re: 4:3 vs. 3:2 vs 16:9 - how much influence?

    The question of aspect ratio is an interesting one. The 3:2 ratio of 35mm film is a historical accident in that it was chosen by using lenghtwise two frames of 35mm movie film, which was 18x24mm across the film to yield a 36x24mm frame. Large format cameras had 8x10 inch, 5x7 inch and 4x5 inch frames, which produced aspect ratios of 1:1.25, 1:1.4 and 1:1.25, compared to the 1:1.5 of 35mm film.

    I've seen people on the web disparage the 4:3 format (aspect ratio of 1:1.33) by saying it's like the original aspect ratio of television. But if you look at great master painting in major museums you'll see that most of them are at something like the 4:3 ratio. Some months ago I saw on the web a summary of a statistical study of the aspect ratios of great master paintings that showed that the most frequent ratio was around 1:1.3. Since painters can stretch their canvas to whatever aspect ratio they want, this has to be significant.

    My own feeling is that it's easier, in general, to compose in the 4:3 aspect ratio, particularly in the "portrait" orientation, than in the 3:2 ratio. Of course it's true that for particular scenes one may want a "longer" or panoramic format, but these are special situiatons.

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    Last edited by Mitch Alland; 10th March 2008 at 05:30.

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    Re: 4:3 vs. 3:2 vs 16:9 - how much influence?

    Quote Originally Posted by nostatic View Post
    As I ponder my dslr future, the question of native sensor/viewing size comes into play. One reason I was excited to get the DLux3 was for the native 16x9 resolution. When I shot with either my SD400 (4x3) or D70 (3x2) I tended to crop to 16x9-ish anyway.

    So fast forward to having used that for awhile, I'm also seeing instances, especially in street photos, where I'm cropping some of the 16x9 to more 4x3-ish or even 1x1. I know the reality is that I likely will end up cropping no matter what aspect ratio I'm shooing, but I'm wondering how much the viewfinder (or lcd) and native aspect influences what/how you see/shoot. And do you have different systems around to give you alternatives and push you to "see different"?
    I agree with Mitch - there are times wen 3:2 seems better, and 16:9 is very attractive for landscape (especially when it's flat). 4:3 seems to be a good compromise.

    Just this guy you know

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    Re: 4:3 vs. 3:2 vs 16:9 - how much influence?

    This weekend I watched Andrei Tarkovsky's film "Andrei Rublev" which is shot entirely in approximately a 14.25:6 ratio. It is very instructive for those of us who tend to see the world as a horizontal band.

    I went back and cropped several shots from my most recent outing in this extreme aspect ratio and was quite pleased by the effect... for me it mirrors how I actually see much of what is around me.

    Now if I go out to intentionally shoot with this frame I will be challanged in visualizing while shooting.

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    Sean_Reid
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    Re: 4:3 vs. 3:2 vs 16:9 - how much influence?

    Quote Originally Posted by nostatic View Post
    As I ponder my dslr future, the question of native sensor/viewing size comes into play. One reason I was excited to get the DLux3 was for the native 16x9 resolution. When I shot with either my SD400 (4x3) or D70 (3x2) I tended to crop to 16x9-ish anyway.

    So fast forward to having used that for awhile, I'm also seeing instances, especially in street photos, where I'm cropping some of the 16x9 to more 4x3-ish or even 1x1. I know the reality is that I likely will end up cropping no matter what aspect ratio I'm shooing, but I'm wondering how much the viewfinder (or lcd) and native aspect influences what/how you see/shoot. And do you have different systems around to give you alternatives and push you to "see different"?
    Yes, I think that it can be very important and every photographer has to find his or her own way with respect to this question. Also, one, of course, needn't settle on only one aspect ratio. Walker Evans, for example, used all kinds of aspect ratios well, some made by the camera, some made by the enlarging easel.

    Cheers,

    Sean

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    Re: 4:3 vs. 3:2 vs 16:9 - how much influence?

    I've never thought much about having to stick to the native format of a camera. I crop to communicate what I want the final image to be. But this may have come from my mother who was a painter and worked a lot with oil on gessoed masonite. I've seen her take a finished work and a few weeks later decide it would look better than with the size changed and out came the saw....

    "The market wants a Leica to be a Leica: the inheritor of tradition, the subject of lore, and indisputably a mark of status to own."
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    helgipelgi
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    Re: 4:3 vs. 3:2 vs 16:9 - how much influence?

    I'm a big fan of 16:9, and when I got a GRD2 I didn't think I'd ever get along with the native 4:3 ratio. But now I've grown to like it, especially how easy it is to switch from horizontal to vertical.

    3:2 is a good compromise, although I much prefer 4:3 for vertical compositions (i.e. 3:4).

    At the moment I like switching between cameras and using whatever it gives me to work with, sort of tuning into the character of each camera. I enjoy how different cameras affect the way I look at things

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    Michael Rivers
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    Re: 4:3 vs. 3:2 vs 16:9 - how much influence?

    I find that the switch between 3:2 or 4:3 is less problematic than when I shoot square for a while. I went through a Rolliflex TLR portrait project that took me a while to get into. After I picked up a 35mm camera again, I still composed in a square format for a while. I felt like my brain was programmed, but change did foster a creative spurt and a new way of appreciating the composition of my photographs.

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    7ian7
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    Re: 4:3 vs. 3:2 vs 16:9 - how much influence?

    I used a Nikon D3 loaner on a small assignment, and left it on its 4/5 in-camera crop setting (which creates a 10.6mp image by chopping off the sides). I loved working handheld with that aspect ratio.

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    Mitch Alland
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    No need to emulate the look of film

    Reading all these posts it becomes clear that there is no "best aspect ratios", which of course should be obvious: there is only what one likes at any time and what one becomes interested in. The point is that one does not have to be limited by any preconceived ideas on this.

    When I got my first digital camera over 1-1/2 years ago the GRD I started shooting in the 3:2 aspect ratio because somehow I felt the pictures had to look as if they had been shot with 35mm film; and it took a couple of months before I got comfortable with the idea of hooting in the 4:3. It seems to me this needs to be extended as a more general proposition: there is no need to try to imitate film in other respects as well: in tonality, in grain in dynamic range better just to produce pictures that you think look good, or look the way you want them to, without thinking whether they look like they were shot in film or not.

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    Senior Member nostatic's Avatar
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    Re: 4:3 vs. 3:2 vs 16:9 - how much influence?

    Due to a bit of a career shift and getting a crash course in film (movie) history over the past year, I've actually been influenced lately by cinematographers (especially Christopher Doyle, who works with Wong Kar Wai)...hence my interest in 16x9 and even wider. But then I look at Burtynsky's 8x10/4x5 stuff and "see" something totally different.

    Seems that a lot of my shots are luck or the muse. And it almost doesn't matter what is in my hands. But other times the tool seems to sway my eye in certain ways. And sometimes I see something but damned if I can capture it on the sensor. So I can suck in any aspect ratio

    As a side note, a couple of things that I *really* like about this place:

    - very talented people shooting and showing great pictures
    - a willingness to talk about the process and the results
    - people put up with my semi-philosophical questions and meanderings

    I'd just like to say thanks to Guy and Jack for creating this place, and all of you for being part of the community.

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    Sean_Reid
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    Re: No need to emulate the look of film

    Quote Originally Posted by Mitch Alland View Post
    Reading all these posts it becomes clear that there is no "best aspect ratios", which of course should be obvious: there is only what one likes at any time and what one becomes interested in. The point is that one does not have to be limited by any preconceived ideas on this.

    When I got my first digital camera over 1-1/2 years ago the GRD I started shooting in the 3:2 aspect ratio because somehow I felt the pictures had to look as if they had been shot with 35mm film; and it took a couple of months before I got comfortable with the idea of hooting in the 4:3. It seems to me this needs to be extended as a more general proposition: there is no need to try to imitate film in other respects as well: in tonality, in grain in dynamic range better just to produce pictures that you think look good, or look the way you want them to, without thinking whether they look like they were shot in film or not.

    Mitch/Bangkok
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/
    I agree entirely.

    Cheers,

    Sean

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    Sean_Reid
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    Re: 4:3 vs. 3:2 vs 16:9 - how much influence?

    BTW, in case some do not yet know this venerable work, I've recently been watching John Ford movies again and the photography remains among the best I've ever seen in films. It's breathtaking, actually -- not the subjects per se but the photography itself. For photographers, I especially recommend "The Grapes of Wrath" (which, visually, comes in very strong from the first frame), "The Searchers" and "How Green Was My Valley".

    Cheers,

    Sean

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    Christi Mac
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    Re: 4:3 vs. 3:2 vs 16:9 - how much influence?

    Wholeheartedly agree there Sean. The Searchers in particular is stunning imho and was an inspiration to me. Interesting to note the cinematographer ( Gregg Toland ) who did How Green Was My Valley and The Grapes Of Wrath also did Citizen Kane. My personal favourite cinematographer was/is Vitorrio Storraro ( The Last Emperor and Apocalypse Now )... his use of the frame and use of colour is awe inspiring.

    As for ratio - this is something I'm struggling with right now while I decide which camera to go for. My way of working really depends on framing in-camera and while I do crop quite often I prefer not to. I like that feeling that you get when you just know you have a good shot when you press the button. I went from the square format Mamiya 6 MF to my E-300 and it gave me no end of trouble to begin with and still to this day I crop 1:1 very often, it's just the way I see things. Part of my style is that calm static shot - I feel that it keeps the eye inside the frame - and personally I really enjoy pictures shot in that format by other people.That in itself is leading me towards buying one of the Ricohs as I believe they can switch to 1:1 format in camera ( I know it's essentially still a crop - but this is psychology we're dealing here rather than practicalities )

    Conversely though... I do love the other extreme of 16:9, I love the flow of pictures made in this format - and my love of cinematography gives me a great deal of enthusiasm for it too. I actually like that ratio in the vertical as well as it gets close to the style of Japanese painting that I also have a leaning towards. I believe it forces the viewer to step back a bit and look at the picture as a whole. This leads me towards the Panaleicas.

    Mitch is definitely right, there is no best aspect ratio... but I suspect that different people "see better" in specific formats than they do in others.

    I think perhaps this is a reflection of me more than anything. I'm always at one of those extremes - static and thoughtful ( asleep some might say ), or trying to bust out of the "square" with a burst of energy.

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    7ian7
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    Re: 4:3 vs. 3:2 vs 16:9 - how much influence?

    Amazing thing about The Grapes of Wrath is what an unabashed homage it is to the work of WPA photographers Bernice Abbott, Walker Evans and Ben Shahn. There's an extraordinary documentary called Visions of Light, for anyone interested in learning more about many great cinematographers. Anyway, I learned a lot watching it. Great stuff. More recently, Janusz Kaminski's photography for Schindler's List wow. I don't really love that movie, but from a photography standpoint it's a remarkable achievement. Then there's "The Last Picture Show". And for inspirational color, Vittoria Storaro is a hero of mine too.

    Sometimes I think aspect ratio is one of the ways we try to find order or tame this kind of unruly universe. Good Luck.

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    Re: 4:3 vs. 3:2 vs 16:9 - how much influence?

    Christi,

    Part of my style is that calm static shot - I feel that it keeps the eye inside the frame - and personally I really enjoy pictures shot in that format by other people.That in itself is leading me towards buying one of the Ricohs as I believe they can switch to 1:1 format in camera ( I know it's essentially still a crop - but this is psychology we're dealing here rather than practicalities )

    With my preference for 3:2, I did try that mode in my GRD but the effect on the screen is dark gray borders (lights of course are still on behind the whole screen). So, not as clean as slivers of black tape. But like you say, it will be cropped.

    I think perhaps this is a reflection of me more than anything. I'm always at one of those extremes - static and thoughtful ( asleep some might say ), or trying to bust out of the "square" with a burst of energy.

    Ditto on 16:9 oriented both ways. It's interesting to hear other's feelings towards specific ratios. I agree with static and energetic respectively for those ratios, and I will add humorous for the square; is there a more tongue-in-cheek-able ratio? I tried 14.25:6 as mentioned by popum; I find it wildly wide and calmly collected at once, interesting and pleasant.

    Thomas

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    Senior Member DavidE's Avatar
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    Re: 4:3 vs. 3:2 vs 16:9 - how much influence?

    Another fine example of Gregg Toland's cinematography is The Long Voyage Home (1940), directed by John Ford. This was the film that Toland worked on just before Citizen Kane (1941). It features similar deep-focus shots and contrasts in lighting, as well as extraordinary shadows that move and extend across the screen.

    David

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    Re: 4:3 vs. 3:2 vs 16:9 - how much influence?

    Toland is amazing. Just to reiterate Christopher Doyle (and Andrew Lau Wai-Keung), if you haven't seen any of Wong Kar Wai's work, it is highly recommended. Chungking Express is probably my favorite, but 2046 is another good example. He really captures the essence of life in Hong Kong, and his framing in hallways and doorways to give a feeling of the cramped nature of the city is quite moving. It is interesting to see how one can convey a vertical city in a largely wide/horizontal medium.

  22. #22
    Christi Mac
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    Re: 4:3 vs. 3:2 vs 16:9 - how much influence?

    @nostatic - I keep meaning to watch 2046, thanks for reminding me - it's now on my rental list

    @thomas - Thanks for letting me know how that system works - to be honest I think that would do the job nicely for me. I'm also beginning to think that I'm going to end up with a Ricoh AND a panaleica . Looks Like I'm going to have to postpone my plans for that nice Oly E-3.

  23. #23
    Sun
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    Re: 4:3 vs. 3:2 vs 16:9 - how much influence?

    Ya 2046 is really artistic.. though the storyline (for me) was a little off-putting. Anyways
    thats just me..

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