DISCLAIMER: This post does not intend to cover each and every advantage of the 4:3 aspect ratio, rather, it touches on the primary advantages and is designed to get the reader thinking about what aspect ratio is right for them.
I am a photographer who shoots what he sees, regardless of frame size, etc. But I do “see” better in 4:3 aspect ratio (also known as (1.33/1.37) than I do the more traditional 3:2 aspect ratio.
All Micro Four Thirds cameras, including my Olympus OM-D E-M1X, and Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III offer the 4:3 aspect ratio as their native choice.
On most modern digital cameras, you can adjust the camera to record in pretty much any aspect ratio you like. You can of course, also just shoot in the camera’s native aspect ratio and then crop in post, but some of us (me included) benefit from “seeing” the image in the viewfinder the way it will look in print (in my case) or on Instagram’s screen (the rest of the world.)
I like the 4:3 aspect ratio for several reasons.
1. It’s more suited to portraiture because it is less elongated than 3:2.
2. It reminds me of my old Mamiya 645, which was a fantastic medium-format film camera that I switched to after leaving the square formatted Hasselblad behind.
3. It was the standard ratio of old motion picture film and television and since I am old, it is familiar to me.
4. It differentiates my work from the more standard and traditional 3:2 ratio. Anything I can do to make my stuff stand out is good for me.
5. It is a vintage look and people say vintage is in!
In general, the extra space created by the longer 3:2 frame can be helpful for some landscape shots but for everything else, it just feels like wasted space (to me.) Since I photograph birds and primarily think of that as portrait photography (bird portraits – not human portraits) the 4:3 ratio allows me to more fully fill the frame and brings an intimacy to the images that is lacking in 3:2 ratio.
This becomes even more important when I switch the camera from horizontal to vertical. The differences seem more stark since much more information is included in the frame using 3:2 it seems much harder to fill with something interesting. This leads to cropping in and then eliminating some valuable pixels.
There is no one, single, “correct” aspect ratio. Your style and photographic goals should dictate which you use. If you have an older camera, it might relegate you to its native aspect ratio. Almost any new, ILC, digital camera will let you change this on the fly, regardless of native size. Give it a try.
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