Call me square


There has been a slew of new cameras announced on launched in recent months, but no manufacturer has really launched a game-changer.

Put simply, we still use cameras like we did when their design was as much dictated but the shape and technical requirements of film rather than what’s ideal for us – except we hold them further from our bodies to look at the back of our digital cameras instead of through a viewfinder.

We still put up with rectangular pictures, and in the world of advanced amateurs and professionals, the manufacturers even duplicate controls so the cameras can be used vertically and horizontally. This is downright silly – why not simply have a square sensor and crop accordingly?

A square format – used for decades by Hasselblad even today – would give designers a lot more freedom when it comes to the design of a camera and with the flick of a switch the photographer could change what’s captured from horizontal to square to vertical, a lot quicker than physically rotating a camera.

As an editorial photographer I’d almost always shoot square. I can crop images later in the computer and have the flexibility of creating a horizontal or vertical from each image in post rather than having to decide how I like it when I take the shot – or worse, continually take both!

Until recently it could be argued we didn’t have the megapixels to waste on a square sensor, but we sure do now. My Canon EOS 5D MkII captures over 20MP with a touch of the shutter, almost three times the amount my 1D MkIIN captures – and I’ve produced double-page spreads from the 1D. Sure, they’d look better from the 5D, but they were acceptable for the times.

A square format would require rethinking of camera design though. Video cameras aren’t used vertically, and look how comprehensively different they are to still cameras. Flip-out screens which could be angled to suit the image would be a no-brainer, any built-in flash would always be above the lens where it should be, the camera’s shape could be configured to make shooting from waist-level viable.

I doubt we’re going to see a square-format camera from anybody except Hasselblad. I just don’t think it’s what people are asking for – but I think we’re missing out as a result.

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