Geek note: hip to be square with Ricoh digital

If you have an eye for this sort of thing, you may have noticed that many of the photographs featured here on limeduck are square, having a width to height ratio of 1:1. Not all of them, but lots of them, and more recently, nearly all of them. We all know that I either take digital photos or scan them, so the aspect ratio is definitely under my control.

I've owned and used a variety of cameras over the years, most of them 35mm or digital, with occasional use of other film formats and polaroids. I've never used a Lomo or a Hassleblad. Each format has its own particular aspect ratio: 35mm is approximately 3:2 (1.5:1) and most digital cameras (including cellphone cams) are around 4:3 (1.33:1) like televisions and computer monitors used to be before the current craze for various forms of widescreen, mostly around 16:9 (1.78:1), closer to the 2:1 and more seen in some classic movies via cinemascope and related processes.

I'm not quite sure when I started cropping both digital photos and scans to square, but the first one on this blog looks to be from February 24, 2007 with a rectangular pic just a few days earlier on the 19th . Both are scans from 35mm film (Tri-X) shot with my trusty Ricoh GR-1.

When I used to make actual photographic prints in the darkroom from negatives, I was very particular about using the full frame. It's a photo-geek thing, all about authenticity, since you're printing everything you shot. There are several reasons why this logic is crap and all photographs are lies, but I won't go into that here. I will say here that cropping to square from a rectangular shot is sometimes tough, since when you compose through the viewfinder (or screen) you're seeing what you're seeing, and leaving out what you're leaving out.

I got to like the square thing, and it became a bit of distinguishing mark for the blog. Eventually, I was happy to discover a flickr group called squareFormat - with over 10,000 members and 180,000 photos as of this writing. The group rules are wonderful:

Alain Astruc (a group admin) says:

Square photos taken with a square format camera.
• 6x6 square format rolleiflex, hasselblad etc.

Almost square photos or square photos taken with a non-square format camera
• 600 type polaroids, cropped 35mm or digital, etc.

Scans or compositions containing square photos.
• Polaroids scanned with the frame, dyptichs, mosaics of square photos etc...

On one of this group's message boards, after lots of posts about $15k digital cameras and the merits of using different kinds of tape to mask a camera's viewfinder, I read about a digital camera that had a square format shooting mode. Even better, the camera was the new digital version the Ricoh GR-1, appropriately named the Ricoh GR Digital II. This means I could compose square photos in the viewfinder and "print" them later without cropping and graduate from Squarish to Square in Alain's hierarchy. I had to have one.

And a couple of months ago, I got one. It's really really great, and not only because it shoots square. Sharp fast lens, good color, takes standard AAA batteries in a pinch, standard tripod mount, lots of manual control plus full auto, convenient size, RAW shooting, good no-nonsense mini-USB cable connection, interval shooting mode, level(!), unobtrusive size and color. I miss the lack of viewfinder and wish the lens were a little wider, but that's about it. There's no food mode or whiteboard mode, but I can work around that. At 10 megapixels, I find there's plenty of information to work with when I do choose to crop or print. Of course, if you choose square shooting mode, you get only about 7 of those 10 megapixels. I can live with that.

If you want to own a piece of limeduck history, bid on my soon to be former digital camera, a Kodak V570 dual-lens. This is also a fantastic pocket digital camera, but a little dated with only 5 megapixels. It has two lenses, a very wide prime and a 5x zoom. Mention this blog and I'll upgrade that 1GB SD card to 2. I don't use it as much, but I'm not ready to give up my film Ricoh.

2 Responses

  1. Bishop22
    <blockquote> I’ve never used a Lomo </blockquote> I know for a fact that you had a lomo fisheye, you acquired one a year ago. And I'm pretty sure you used it when you first got it, even if it was just to experiment with. Does that not count as a Lomo?
  2. I meant a medium format, the classic Lomo or Diana type. I have two Lomo cameras, both 35mm. See for one.

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