By Eduardo Cervantes
I was interested in Mike's article the other day called "Why Not Square Sensors?" I have advocated before for square sensors. In the case of a full-frame DSLR, an ideal square sensor would be 36x36 mm in size, but a proportional conversion could implemented in any digital camera known to man.
The reason for a square sensor is to go from vertical to horizontal at almost the speed of thought. It would allow the operator to hold the camera always in the same way, preserving the controls always in the same place and always keeping the flash over the center of the lens. No fancy, tiring and distracting elbow movement either. Superior to working with a vertical grip too, I believe.
This proposed system must be mirrorless. The main advantage is that the entire existing line of lenses in any camera system could be used without any restriction or limitation. Only three things are needed: A square shutter curtain to cover the entire square sensor in cameras with shutters, a square LCD and a square EVF. Perhaps, the complete shutter could be discharged with the use of an electronic shutter. They are already here.
The photographer could go from vertical to horizontal and to square at the soft inconspicuous touch of a dedicated button to obtain the desired framing in both the LCD or EVF. He or she could go from a 1:1 to a 2:3 aspect ratio and anything in between with the same camera. Whatever suits the subject better. One other huge bonus would be that when shooting Raw, the in-camera cropping would not be final. Re-framing and re-orienting the picture could be done during Raw developing always keeping the maximum sensor area in regard to the image circle.
The purpose of this arrangement is appointed for speed and comfort when shooting horizontals and verticals as well as for the optimization of the image circle in relation to subject kind and intention. It is not meant for the entire square sensor to be covered with the lens image. Suffice to say, the efective image would be kept within the projected circle of the lens.
For an existing lens system ready for a 24x36 sensor, these are the rounded figures:
2:3 aspect ratio: 24x36 = 864 square millimeters
3:4 aspect ratio: 25.5x34 = 867 sq. mm.
4:5 aspect ratio: 26.5x33 = 874 sq. mm.
1:1 aspect ratio: 30x30 = 900 sq. mm.
One more thing: There are some camera systems with a few perpective control lenses also known as shift lenses. As we all know, these lenses have bigger circles in order to be able to shift the lens without running out of image.
Nikon and Canon have some superb T/S glass in their lens lines. In the particular case of Canon, the new T/S-E II perspective control lenses have a usable circle of 67.2 mm. The circle needed to cover the entire 36x36mm sensor is 51mm. By using this kind of lenses with a square sensor we would effectively be converting a full-framer into a digital medium format camera and still have some millimeters left for shift.
Hasselblad's V camera first digital back had a 36x36 sensor. The image area of a 36x36 sensor is 1296 square millimeters in area, just a few millimeters shy of the Leica S2 with 1350 square millimeters in its 30x45 sensor.
The extra cost of the square sensor, especially as the cost of sensors continues to fall, would be within reason when taking into consideration all these benefits.
Mexican photographer (and TOP reader) Eduardo Cervantes studied photography in the United States and now owns and operates an all-digital professional studio in his native Merida, Yucatan.
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Original contents copyright 2011 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Francisco Cubas: "A small world isn't? My first photography teacher was Edmundo Segura, in Villahermosa, and he used to talk about Eduardo Cervantes, who lived for some years in the city. He'll be glad to read this."