Tuesday, September 21, 2010

6x7, 6x6

In creating this picture I used a 6x7 aspect ratio. The original aspect was 6x4.5 which is basically 4x3. But in creating this picture, I found myself needing more and more "background".

Got me thinking, did they create 6x7 or 6x6 because there was a demand for it? Or did they create it because they pushed it on the consumers/photographers.

For digital medium format, most of us are stuck with 645's. In fact, I don't know of any digital medium format camera that isn't a 645. The 645 format is/was the smallest, lightest, and cheapest roll-film design (
source). Understandably, it was a lot more cost effective to make these sensors rather than a 6x7 sensor. Arguably, they could have scaled down the size to just a bit larger than 35mm but that would have defeated the purpose of having a digital medium format sensor. Today the largest medium format sensor is the Leaf Aptus-II 12 and 12/R that sport a 53.7x40.3mm 80MP CCD sensor. For reference, standard 35mm full-frame digital sensor is roughly 36x24mm and outputs up to 24MP (a la the Nikon D3x). On the Leaf Aptus-II 12 and 12/R there's an option to shoot 1:1 at 60MP which is very cool but I would probably never use that option since I like to crop in post in I need to change aspect ratios. I have a 5:4 aspect ratio that I can switch to in the Nikon D3 but I've never used it.

But sometimes it's more comfortable to shoot 6x7 or 6x6. When it's not client-driven and mandatory, it's a nice option to have. On my trip to Europe, I used an app on my iPhone that made all my images 1:1. It was awkward at first and seemingly limiting but I got used to it and occasionally even liked it better than the traditional aspect ratio for the iPhone (whatever that is, I have no clue). Now that I think about it, I'm guessing that the digital MF manufacturers (Phase One, Hasselblad, Leica, Pentax...) opted for 645 because it's closer to 35mm than 6x6 or 6x7 thus making it a potentially easier transition for first time MF shooters. I suppose it was a much easier deal for film shooters because some bodies could support a different aspect ratios with a switch and flip of the film back. Now we're locked-in. It's 645 or bust.

Going back to the picture, the original image was not well-shot. It was off-kilter, auto-focus for moving objects (in this case Allison) sucks on the H3DII-31, and worst of all I don't have enough seamless white background paper to support this type of aspect ratio (the original image is missing some of the sides and the top of the seamless). Fortunately content-aware fill (in PS CS5) is pretty smart and I'm getting better at getting what I want out of it. In my final cropping of the shot, I decided I needed more background to get the 6x7 final aspect ratio. It feels "right". More so than the original 6x4.5 which felt too rectangular.

We'll see where this goes, IIRC this is the first time I've used the 6x7 aspect in my work!


  1. Hello Charles,

    would you say MF is essential to what you do?

    do clients demand MF?

  2. Hey Brian! Great question, I'm going to write a post to answer!