3:2 where are you?

You’d think I’d be able to get a decent size digital picture frame in 3:2 format so I can display my DSLR pictures without having to crop the sides on all of them. For those of you that are going “huh?” here is a quick explanation:

Early in the motion picture age 35mm film became the standard for motion picture film. Pretty soon people had the idea of using this standard stock inside a camera for still photos too. Unfortunately, the camera makers decided that a 3:2 ratio of 36x24mm was a good proportion and that is what stuck for the common photography taken by the masses. I say “unfortunately” because the 3:2 ratio isn’t really the best format for portrait work – it comes out too long and skinny. But, you might be thinking, ‘my 8X10 photo looks just fine’. Well, what has happened is the photo lab cropped the top and the bottom of the photo for you as the original blowup was 8X12. Similar things happen with 5X7’s. Up until the dawn of digital photography, most consumer shutter bugs didn’t even think of this much – the photo lab just took care of it for you. Meanwhile, in the world of television, a 4:3 ratio was adopted as the standard ratio of a tube TV. This standard migrated to computer monitors with resolutions such as 640×480, 800×600, 1024×768. Now enter the digital age – LCD panels had gotten cheap enough to produce that you could buy one just for displaying pictures. The people designing these panels come from the computer world and naturally just used 4:3 ratios such as the examples given. To really muck things up, computer people were designing point and shoot digital cameras, using the same 4:3 ratio sensors. So, if you own a point and shoot camera, you can happily go on download your pictures to your frame, secure in the knowledge that things will more or less look like they did on the LCD preview screen on the back of the camera.

For DSLR owners, (and some high end point and shoot cameras I think) life is not so fun. As designers of cameras from a film background, Canon and Nikon built sensors on a 3:2 ratio. You take these pictures and put them on a 4:3 frame and you will get one of several possibilities, possibly under your control if the frame supports it:
– Fit the picture to the more square 4:3 ratio – everything gets distorted. People will seem to be fatter or thinner depending on the orientation of your frame.
– Auto crop of the short sides to take it down to 4:3 If you’ve been composing carefully and care about what is on the edge of your photo, this will drive you nuts.
– Fit the picture as is, leaving black areas on the long sides of the frame. Probably the best option – at least the picture is left as is.

The only solution if you want proper control is to do what the photo labs used to do for your 8X10’s – crop the photos yourself to intelligently remove the unimportant bits – you might as well resize them for the native resolution of the frame at the same time. You can get a lot of pictures on even the paltry 16MB some frames give you for in-frame storage – the native resolution will take up way less space than the much larger original picture from your camera.

So, what I want is a 3:2 picture frame to display my DSLR pictures without having to crop. I had briefly looked for one when I bought my last 15″ frame – no luck finding any and I had not yet had the pleasure of going through every photo I wanted to put on the frame and tweaking it. Now that I’ve done some of that, I REALLY want a 3:2 frame. Surely by now there is some “professional grade” digital photo frame to satisfy the picky photographer like me?

My initial search turned up nothing. Barely even a mention of photo ratios out there. Tuning my search to a discussion of photo ratios – I find I was wrong – – it turns out that Philips did make a 7″ 3:2, yet they dropped it, probably because people like me never found their product in a sea of generic and brand name frames available today.

What surprises me is that a company like Sony, which has absorbed Minolta, has not had the camera people talk to the digital frame people and point out that a quality 3:2 digital frame might be a high margin seller with all the consumer SLR owners out there who have a bit of dosh to spend for convenience and quality. Actually, working for big companies myself, I’m not *that* surprised that the left hand hasn’t talked to the right hand.

At any rate – Sony, Canon, Nikon – you have a niche you have not filled yet – high end frames tailored for your high end DSLR’s. 3:2 ratio – better LCD’s of computer display grade – I know I’d pay 2X over the current price of a 15″ if I could get something like this.

About ralph

Just another blog to share some thoughts with the world.

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