Petty Complaints Dept #1 – G9 and Aspect Ratio
For years and years, I used a 4×5 camera almost exclusively. Now, a 4×5 image has an aspect ratio very close to 4:5 (it’s not quite exact because there’s a border around the 4×5 negative, and that changes it slightly). Now, it turns out that this makes it a good match to most common photo paper (such at 8×10). And somehow, in that ‘come to love the walls of our prison’ way, I got into this mindset that this 4:5 aspect ratio was, in fact, God’s Own Aspect Ratio. And, I’m ashamed to confess, I sometimes looked at the aspect ratio of a print for a clue to what format the photographer used. Snobbery, nothing more.
Then I bought the 5d, and started making prints from the exposures from that camera. And, of course, the EOS-5d has the usual full-frame 24mmx36mm thing going on – the aspect ratio is 2:3. At first, everything seemed wide, and it always felt like I had this extra space at the ends. It didn’t take long to adjust, though, perhaps because I’d been experimenting with a 1:2 aspect ratio with the 4×5, by cropping down the negative.
There probably isn’t one God’s True Aspect Ratio. The needs of the world’s photographers are many and diverse, and although one photographer will thrive with the 1:1 square aspect ratio of the old Hassy, another will thrive with the 6×17 panoramic ratio. That’s a good thing. We don’t have to all be the same.
And that’s why this is a petty complaint. In the relatively short time I’ve been using the EOS-5d, I’ve gotten really enchanted with the 2:3 ratio.
Naturally, my second favorite camera, the recently acquired Canon Powershot G9, has a 4:5 aspect ratio. It’s as if the Photo Gods have sent me a little camera that I like very much, but decided to tweak me just a bit.
On the bright side, this aspect ratio issue remains one of the few things about the camera that irks me. Yesterday I noticed that the camera has acquired several scratches (some in the paint, and one minor scritchy scratch in the corner of the display). This is actually good news – the camera has been riding around in the pocket of my coat, never far from hand. Some might call them scratches of use. I suppose that Fred Picker, bless his soul, would call them Noble Scars.
I’d just point out that if the most annoying day to day thing about the G9 is that I wish it had a 2:3 aspect ratio, then pocket sized compact digital cameras have come a mighty long way toward being real cameras instead of fancy electronic gizmos which can, in a pinch, be forced into making something which kind of resembles a photograph.
There are other problem with the G9, of course. Like every camera I’ve ever owned, I wish the lens was better – in particular I wish it had less distortion and nicer out of focus rendering. And I wish it didn’t suffer quite so much from noise at higher sensitivities. But the bottom line here is that although the G9 might make be inadequate in some ways, to me it feels like such a step up from all the other compact digital cameras I’ve owned that it’s a breath of fresh air.