Somebody said the other day that there is "no reason" why the big pro cameras (D4, 1Dx) have to be so big. Actually there is at least one: pros like to have full dual handgrips for each orientation of the sensor rectangle, portrait and landscape, vertical and horizontal.
But if the market is trending away from mirrors and towards EVFs, why have a rectanglular sensor at all? Why not square sensors as the norm? Then give people their choice of rectangles in the camera settings. For one thing, you'd remove the need to hold the camera two different ways. And square sensors make the most sense in terms of lens coverage.
A mirror-box/prism assembly for a square format is more expensive than it is for a rectangular format, but if the viewfinder is going to be electronic anyway, there's no longer any reason except tradition to stick with a physical rectangle in the sensor.
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Original contents copyright 2011 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Steve Braun: "I agree wholeheartedly! Square should be the standard for sensors and allows the most flexibility for the photographer and could lead to the shape of cameras changing to more like the medium format rangefinders of old than the 35mm SLRs that dominated for so long. So much nicer not to have to rotate the camera for verticals or add on an adapter to mount the camera vertically on a tripod as well."
Featured Comment by Ramón Acosta: "I would feel like I was wasting all those pixels I paid for. Once you decide on an orientation for the picture, if you use the traditional 35mm ratio you lose about 30% of the sensor area. Unless we get to a good resolution and price point, where those pixels don't really matter. Maybe at about 64 megapixels we end up with 42.8 MP after choosing an orientation. It may happen in the future when the megapixel war is in the distant past and the ISO battle has been won. (We have to remember that in the digital age, we seem to use dog years compared to traditional film years.)"
Featured Comment by Stephen Best: "Since change in sensor sizes/aspect ratios is likely to be slow, the real question is why not provide more display/capture options (1:1, 4:5, 6:7 etc) in cameras with EVFs? This also solves the problems with soft corners, and colour casts with less than optimal lenses. Let people make their own choices based an aesthetic and performance considerations.
"The NEX-7 does 3:2 and 16:9; why not 1:1? It's not as though there's a shortage of megapixels."
Featured Comment by Mike Peters: "As a person who shoots square, I would be thrilled to have such a camera available. I do have a GH2, which when I'm shooting for myself I set it to 1:1, and find it adequate. At 12 MP it is enough, and frankly rivals what I get from my Hasselblad in terms of apparent sharpness and beats it when it comes to grain, and no spotting!
"However, where it falls to pieces is in dynamic range and actual detail. Dynamic range will one day be a done deal, as will actual detail. But one thing that will not change though is the look of the image. A large piece of imaging real estate, as the 56mm square is, imparts a look to the image by the lenses used in front of it. And no matter how much trickery you write into the firmware, no other lenses look quite the same, they are just too damn short. So, unless sensors grow to fit a full frame Hassy, at at reasonable price, I'll just stick with film."