All About Aspect Ratios

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Your Fujifilm X camera has three aspect ratio options: 3:2, 16:9 and 1:1. You can see an example of each of those above. Have you ever wondered which one to use? Why these three? Why not others? Should you crop to a different aspect ratio? What do the numbers mean? I hope to answer these questions and more in this article!

Before moving on, I want to quickly discuss the aspect ratio numbers and what they mean. For instance, what does 3:2 stand for? It’s math, and it means that one side of the picture is 3 parts long (whatever the measure), and the other is two. It’s the shape of the image, and the shape matters when you print. A 3:2 image can be printed 4″ x 6″ without cropping, as well as 8″ x 12″, 12″ x 18″, 16″ x 24″ and 20″ x 30″. If you want to print at those sizes and don’t want to crop, the 3:2 aspect ratio is the right shape for you. The shape also matters for composition. What might look great with one aspect ratio might not with another. You will likely compose your pictures differently depending on the shape.

Let’s take a look at each of the three aspect ratios that Fujifilm gives you, plus some other common aspect ratios not found on your camera.

3:2

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The 3:2 aspect ratio is the native ratio on your Fujifilm X camera, and that’s because it’s the shape of the sensor. It’s the common aspect ratio of full-frame and APS-C sensor cameras, and it’s also the aspect ratio of 35mm film. The 3:2 aspect ratio is one of the most used, if not the most used, aspect ratios in digital photography. It’s a very familiar shape that most of us use every day, and it conveniently matches a number of different print sizes.

While the 3:2 aspect ratio is a very common shape, for some it’s too wide, and for others not wide enough. There are other shapes that might suite your photography better.

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16:9

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The 16:9 aspect ratio might seem cinematic, and that’s because it’s the shape of wide-screen televisions. When you watch your favorite TV show or movie at home, you likely view it in this aspect ratio. This is a common shape for video.

While mainly intended for video, the 16:9 aspect ratio can be used for still photography. The long, thin proportions are almost panoramic, and can be especially great for landscape photography. In order to create this shape, your camera crops a little off the top and bottom of the image and doesn’t use the whole sensor.

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1:1

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The 1:1 aspect ratio is square, but that doesn’t mean it’s lame. In fact, it’s the original shape of Instagram. The square picture has been around nearly as long as photography itself. There have been numerous cameras over the years that capture square images, including many 120 and 126 film cameras.

Magazine and newspaper editors used to prefer square pictures because they could crop them tall or wide, whatever would best fit the available space. On your Fujifilm X camera, some of the picture is cropped off the ends to make it square, so it doesn’t use the whole sensor.

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5:4

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The 5:4 aspect ratio is not found on your Fujifilm X camera. In fact, none of the rest are, only the first three. In order to get this shape, which is almost square, you’ll need to crop your picture using software.

This aspect ratio is from large format film, which commonly come in 4″ x 5″ or 8″ x 10″ sheets. You might note that this is the shape of 8″ x 10″ and 16″ x 20″ prints, which are common sizes. While it’s not unusual to print in this aspect ratio, it is a bit unusual to find a camera that captures it.

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4:3

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The 4:3 aspect ratio, which has its origins in medium format film, is very common. Most digital cameras with sensors larger than full frame or smaller than APS-C use this aspect ratio, including Fujifilm GFX. It’s not as wide as 3:2, but wider than 5:4. I wish that Fujifilm offered this as an option on their X-Trans models. Since they don’t, if you want to use the 4:3 aspect ratio you’ll have to crop using software. If you print poster-sized, you might make a 30″ x 40″ print; otherwise, the 4:3 aspect ratio will require some cropping to print common sizes.

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7:5

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The 7:5 aspect ratio is very uncommon. It’s a not-especially-popular large format film size. You can make 5″ x 7″ prints, too. Outside of that, this is a pretty much forgotten aspect ratio. With that said, it’s a nice in-between to the 3:2 and 4:3 ratios, which might make it a good option if you’re looking for something different.

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Your Fujifilm X camera has 3:2 as its standard aspect ratio, which is good because it won’t require cropping for many common print sizes. You also have the option of 16:9 if you want a wide picture, or 1:1 if you want a square picture, although the camera won’t use the whole sensor. Any other aspect ratio will require you to crop using software. You can make a picture any shape you want, but the more uncommon the aspect ratio, the more difficult it might be to print. Still, that shouldn’t stop you if that’s what you want to do. It can be tricky to discover what aspect ratio works best for your photography, so if you aren’t sure, I invite you to try different shapes until you find what you like best. You might find that you appreciate different shapes for different subjects or situations. There’s no one-size-fits-all aspect ratio, but the 3:2 aspect ratio is one-size-fits-most, which makes it ideal to have as the shape of your sensor.

19 comments

  1. l · April 27

    How to use film simulation Kodachrome, kodagold

    Like

  2. Mark Healey · April 27

    Thank you, I found this useful. Maybe you could do a follow-up on re-sizing and what 100% cropping means, something I find confusing and your explanations are always easy to follow.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ritchie Roesch · April 27

      I appreciate your feedback! I will consider doing a future article explaining that, thank you for the suggestion.

      Like

  3. Mark Healey · April 27

    Also regarding aspect ratios; Laptop screens are not 3:2, the most common printing paper standard A4, A3 etc are not 3:2 and photobook pages are not 3:2 so I wonder why 3:2 is the ‘default’ aspect ratio.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Khürt Williams · April 27

      Like the metric system, the A4, A3 etc. sizes are mostly irrelevant in the USA.

      As Ritchie mentioned, the 35mm film format, the most popular format for photograph in the 20th century, is 3:2 ratio.

      The 1:1 ratio, the one chosen by Instagram, was made popular when people started using the rudimentary cameras in their mobile phones to captures images. The screen ratio of those easy camera phones was 1:1.

      The 4:3 ratio originated from the ratio used in pre-digital television screens. However, most modern laptop and desktop computer screens are 16:9 or 16:10 raios because of the popularity of HD/4K TV.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aspect_ratio_(image)#Still_photography

      Liked by 1 person

    • Ritchie Roesch · April 27

      The 3:2 aspect ratio comes from 35mm film, which traces its origins to the silent film era. APS-C film was also in this aspect ratio, so I guess it makes sense that full-frame and APS-C sensors are made in this same shape.

      Like

  4. Khürt Williams · April 27

    Thanks for this reminder Ritchie. I think I’ll experiment with the 1:1 ration. I had forgotten that the X-T2 could shoot 16:9 but I prefer my landscape images in 3:2.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ritchie Roesch · April 27

      3:2 is my favorite aspect ratio, too, but it is fun to try others sometimes.

      Like

  5. kd5urs · April 27

    (1) “The 1:1 aspect ratio ….There have been numerous cameras over the years that capture square images, including many 120 and 126 film cameras.” — you forgot the Hasselblad!
    (2) I always found it odd that while 8×10 and 4×5 were the leading sheet film sizes, that when 35mm became so popular, there was a tussle over the format, and that the 24×36, which won, isn’t 4:5
    (3) the classical expression is the Golden Ratio, φ, about 1.618:1 (like π it is irrational) and gives rise to the Fibonacci sequence.

    Like

    • Khürt Williams · April 27

      Keeping in mind that the cost of the early film developing and printing was not inexpensive and setting aside sensor/film sizes I wondered about the origins of photographic print sizes. It seems that 8×12″ photographic print sheets were “standard” and the popularity of standard print sizes (at least in North America) was most likely determined by how many prints you could get from one photographic sheet: e.g. nine 4×4″ square prints, four 4×6″ prints, sixteen 2×3″ walltet sized prints, or one 8×12″ or 8×10″ print.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ritchie Roesch · April 27

        Those are good points. A lot of what we use now (not just in photography), but don’t really understand why, came about because of the cost, and attempts at maximizing it. I am reminded of the old saying, “If we didn’t use every inch, we wouldn’t have a profit.”

        Like

    • Ritchie Roesch · April 27

      Those are very good points. The Hasselblad was a popular camera indeed! I’m not mathematically inclined, but a whole post could be made on the golden ratio. Photography is art, but it is just as much math and science. I appreciate the input!

      Like

  6. Pingback: Isolation Photo Project, Day 36 by Khürt Williams
  7. Pingback: My Fujifilm X-T30 Kodacolor II 126 Film Simulation Recipe | Fuji X Weekly
  8. Alan Millar · April 28

    I really wish all Fuji-X cameras gave you more options for aspect ratio. I use 4×5 almost all the time. I got to like it from my Pentax 67 (which in real life is actually a 4×5 ratio format). And a proper panoramic format would be great too. Coincidentally I discovered it’s also the most frame-filling format for instagram portrait orientation too.

    In fact, my perfect digital camera would be a modular, Hasselblad type of deal with a square medium format sensor to not have to rotate the camera from landscape to portrait (as envisioned by the square format 120 cameras) but with EVF and rear display masking for a host of ratios.

    Like

    • Ritchie Roesch · April 28

      I agree! It seems like it wouldn’t take too much programming effort to offer a few more aspect ratio options. The 3:2 aspect ratio isn’t for everyone or every picture.

      Like

  9. Udo · April 28

    Thanks for this interesting post! What I like most is, that in case you do JPEG and RAW in parallel the JPEG get’s saved in the selected aspect ratio, while the RAW stays in 3:2. Giving me the freedom to change my mind concerning aspect ratio at a later point in time.

    Kind regards from Switzerland,
    Udo

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ritchie Roesch · April 28

      Yes, that’s very true. Even reprocessing in camera you can choose the aspect ratio.

      Like

  10. Pingback: My Fujifilm X-T30 Kodak Vision3 250D Film Simulation Recipe | Fuji X Weekly

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