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Why are photos still rectangle? Discussion topic.

It was a simple realization after looking at a photo taken by my significant other on her Pixel 6, why are mobile photos still rectangle and forced so wide?

 

The Phone Camera Sensor: A Simple Introduction | The Smartphone Photographer

 

May be an image of 1 person, car and road

 

I could honestly care less about the photo matching the dimensions of the device screen , premium phone manufacturers (Pixel Pro, Samsung S/Fol etc) should have an extra mode that allows us to capture the entire sensor, not just the slice of rectangle that's 3/4 of it. She would've been able to fit the top of that rollercoaster easily as she was backed up against another vehicle. 

 

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Probably because people who don't know any better would be furious if their expensive new phone didn't take pictures that "fill up the whole screen" by default.

 

(Unless they deliberately shoot faux Polaroids, those are supposed to be square and off-center in a white border.)

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So should the photo be  c i r c l e  instead of  r e c t a n g l e  or would  o v a l  be a better format?

 

Jokes aside how about trying a diff camera app?

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I don't really understand what you mean.

 

Are you saying the Pixel 6 cuts off the top and bottom of the image the sensor captures? If this is the case then it is not something all phone cameras does. This is the first time I have heard of a smartphone doing that to be honest. So the question should not be "why are mobile photos so wide" but rather "why are MY phone pictures so wide".

 

Secondly, did you edit that photo you uploaded? It has a really weird resolution which makes me believe you edited it. If you are going to post an image as an example, please post the original. Otherwise it will be even more confusing.

 

 

Are you sure you haven't accidentally changed a setting in the phone to make it do this? I know that on my Samsung phone I have the option to change the capture format, with 4:3 being the default. Some people change it to "fullscreen" because they believe no black bars in the viewfinder = good. It seems like the Google camera app has the same setting.

If you use the Google camera app then it should be under the menu and it's called "ratio". Change that to "full image (4:3)".

common_camera_screen_icons-7.jpg.be636b3daf5dca9f21500e44ff970235.jpg

 

 

 

Or are you asking why photos are so often 4:3 rectangles and not circles? It's because having a circle would make no sense.

  • While the lens itself is circular, there would be a lot of artifacting near the edge.
  • Saving an oval image would also be a nightmare, programming wise. It is very easy to define a rectangular grid and then place data on it. Especially in relation to each other. "Top corner is blue, the pixel next to it is red". With a circular format you would end up needing to use mix in the radius of the circle and angles. "the pixel at 32°, r/1 is blue, the pixel  32,1° r/1 is red". Way less efficient.
  • Our field of view is wider than it is tall (since we have two eyes, that are placed next to each other), so it make sense to have things slightly wider than tall since that's how we see the world.

 

Are you asking why phone cameras has such narrow field of view? The pixel 6, and many other smartphones, has multiple cameras for this exact reason. One focal length is not enough for all situations, so you have to change lens accordingly. 

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38 minutes ago, Chronified said:

premium phone manufacturers (Pixel Pro, Samsung S/Fol etc) should have an extra mode that allows us to capture the entire sensor, not just the slice of rectangle that's 3/4 of it.

They do typically capture the whole sensor, and it's rectangular...

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1 hour ago, Chronified said:

It was a simple realization after looking at a photo taken by my significant other on her Pixel 6, why are mobile photos still rectangle and forced so wide?

 

I could honestly care less about the photo matching the dimensions of the device screen , premium phone manufacturers (Pixel Pro, Samsung S/Fol etc) should have an extra mode that allows us to capture the entire sensor, not just the slice of rectangle that's 3/4 of it. She would've been able to fit the top of that rollercoaster easily as she was backed up against another vehicle. 

 

They do, on my Galaxy S10 you can choose the aspect ratio between Full (misleading, as its full screen not full sensor), 1:1, 16:9 or 4:3 (full sensor).

There are options on my point and shoot camera too, but there its more obvious as you just pick the one with the highest megapixels.

 

For video its different, as cropping is the norm for HD formats and the extra pixels may be used as part of image stablisation I believe.

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1 hour ago, Chronified said:

It was a simple realization after looking at a photo taken by my significant other on her Pixel 6, why are mobile photos still rectangle and forced so wide?

 

Look up "Kodak APS-C" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/APS-C

This is an image comparing the size of an APS-C sensor to other camera sensor sizes.

 

Basically photos became rectangular because of how film in photo cameras were designed. If you see SLR photos from 1940-1985 or so, these are all square-ish because the film stock at the time only supported one aspect ratio (1:1.5). APS-C supports 3, and how it works is by cropping the film. The negatives you get do this:

aps-frame-sizes.png

 

16:9 is a compromise for computer and television to show wide-screen content without having half the screen be black with a letterbox. Pretty much every digital process once migrated from film has standardized on 16:9, be it for good or bad.

 

Now, can you use the full sensor? Yes. You can. But you need a device that lets you do it. A smartphone will not do it, because it's sensor is a bit fake, it needs all those extra pixels to compensate for it's lack of lighting, and the "full sensor" may actually be obstructed by the lens mount itself. But a DSLR or really any decent Digital Still camera will usually switch to the "full frame" mode when you select portrait. Where as when you select Portrait on the iphone and android, usually it just messes with the auto-focus to find a face. 

 

Is there a point? No. Nobody asks for the full frame, the lens have all been designed (which is why phones sometimes have 3 cameras on them now) with a specific lens system in mind, and in a smart phone, that "full sensor" is probably obscured by the lens mount. That said, DSLR's do not normally have this problem unless you're using a lens system from a different manufacturer via an adapter that doesn't actually fit the camera. 

 

 With that said, nobody uses a smartphone as a replacement for a DSLR, they use them as a replacement for a lugging around both a video camera and a still camera. Less hardware to carry around and lose.

 

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The rectangle shape is chosen to match most displays who will probably used to show these pictures. So there is nothing wrong with the shape.

If your photo sensor is square for some reason, I would recommend the manufacturer to just make a rectangular sensor and I guess most manufacuters will do so.

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7 minutes ago, Kisai said:

Pretty much every digital process once migrated from film has standardized on 16:9, be it for good or bad.

In video yes, in still camera land it's almost exclusively been 3:2 for DSLRs and 4:3 for the rest, 16:9 stills sensors are pretty much not a thing.

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It's rectangular because the sensor is rectangular, because it's also used for recording video.

And will probably stay like that because most photo paper is also rectangular and people are psychologically used to seeing rectangular video and may subconsciously see square or round pictures as outdated. 

 

The standard photo paper is 2 by 3 aspect ratio  (4R = 4" x 6"  , 6R = 6" x 8" and so on) 

 

Regular paper in the ISO standard is also rectangular for a perfectly good reason - not wasting paper. The wide side is sqrt(2) x narrow side, because it allows to cut big sheets of paper without waste .. ex  A0 = 2 x A1 = 4xA2 = 8xA3 = 16 A4 sheets = 32 A5 sheets and so on.

 

 

There's lots of good videos about how various aspect ratios and how they psychologically affect how you view a movie.. to some degree same can be said about regular photographs

 

 

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15 hours ago, Kisai said:

Look up "Kodak APS-C" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/APS-C

This is an image comparing the size of an APS-C sensor to other camera sensor sizes.

 

Basically photos became rectangular because of how film in photo cameras were designed. If you see SLR photos from 1940-1985 or so, these are all square-ish because the film stock at the time only supported one aspect ratio (1:1.5). APS-C supports 3, and how it works is by cropping the film. The negatives you get do this:

 

 

Fun tidbit with APS film is that even when shooting in a cropped mode, the full frame of the sensor still gets exposed.The crop is stored in the magnetic strip, and is applied during printing.

 

It's kind of a cool film system that just came too late to the party. This format came at the height of film tech, and while quality is certainly worse than 135, it is perfectly serviceable. (110 by comparison was pretty rough). And you could reasonably switch mid-roll if you needed a faster film stock, for example. Owing to the magnetic strip, the camera is able to find where you left off at.

 

We do have some developed APS rolls in the house. It would be interesting to get those scanned and see how they hold up today.

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Why not use a 1:1 ratio? Why not use a circular shape? Why not a rhombus or a triangle? [/snark]

 

 In all seriousness, it's most likely because that's how cameras have developed (har har) over the last hundred or so years. Just kinda convention.

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I'd like to add that besides that aspect ratio thing, there's also other research done and studies about composition, framing in photos and movies. 

 

There's concepts like the Rule of Thirds, the Golden Spiral... all there to potentially make your photographs look better.

 

 

 

 

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