Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Square Format Digital

Several years ago I sent correspondence to both Olympus and Canon asking why they didn't consider making a digital camera with a square sensor. Olympus replied politely saying my suggestion had been forwarded to their engineers. Canon ignored me.

Why square? Because you can shoot a horizontal or a vertical without turning the camera. All you need are some guidelines lightly inscribed in the viewfinder or on the back screen to compose and crop after shooting. Or you could even shoot square photos, something Hasselblad, Rollieflex and others did for years. With digital you could even use software to crop in the camera as the image was being recorded. One of the most loved cult cameras of all time was the Mamiya 6 that shot 6x6cm images on 120 film. If they were to create a digital version it would probably be an instant hit.

Well, none of the above saw fit to try but Panasonic has done it, sort of, and I can't claim any credit because I didn't write to them. I say sort of because they get the square image by cropping a rectangle, not the other way around. Their Lumix GF-1 has several aspect ratio options selectable in camera  three of which are square, 8.9MP, 4.4MP and 2.2MP respectively. I'd rather they had made the sensor 4000x4000 pixels instead of the 4000x3000 pixel sensor they used but it is an interesting concept. It is designed as part of what is known as the four thirds standard. Cameras adhering to the standard can exchange lenses across brands and apparently many older high quality lenses can be adapted to the four thirds bodies which (so far) are only being made by Panasonic and Olympus (which doesn't have the square format option). They are pretty pricey though with the Panasonic GF-1 body selling around $900 ($1200 with a lens).

I cropped the above square photo from a Canon G10 image. It is a 10.9MP square image. I bought the camera for $410 with a lens. I think I'll stick with cropping in the computer afterward.

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