Why DSLRs Use a Different Aspect Ratio than Most Digital Cameras

Ever wonder why most DSLR cameras capture images with a 3:2 aspect ratio, while most other cameras use 4:3? It’s because they were designed to match different things:

Common aspect ratios in still photography include 4:3 (1.33) used by most digital point-and-shoot cameras, Four Thirds system cameras and medium format 645 cameras; 3:2 (1.5) used by 35 mm film, APS-C (“classic” mode) and most DSLRs;

[…] The reason for DSLR image sensors being the flatter 3:2 versus the taller point-and-shoot 4:3 is that DSLRs were designed to match the legacy 35 mm SLR film, whereas the majority of digital cameras were designed to match the predominant computer displays of the time, with VGA, SVGA, XGA and UXGA all being 4:3. [#]

Prints have been around longer than digital cameras, so that’s why your compact camera photos are cropped when you try to have them printed as standard 4×6 prints (4×6 prints have an aspect ratio of 3:2).

Aspect ratio [Wikipedia]

Image credit: Aspect Ratio by schani

  • John Cornicello

    Of course, neither 2:3 or 4:3 matches 5×7 or 8×10 prints. Almost all images need to be cropped to fit the “standard” photo print sizes.

  • Amcourduff

    Going by “standard” print or paper sizes has always been goofy. I remember my early 35mm days and taking film to be processed & printed at Fotolab booths. The standard print size was 3.5″ x 5″ didn’t match the 35mm frame. The standard 110 film prints were 3.5″x4.5″ – close to aspect but already crummy quality. The 4×6 inch prints really did not popular until the 1980s and were advertised as being true 35mm ratio, even if they did crop off the image to get borderless prints.

    I think the 3:2 ratio was a favorite of many film shooters was due to slide film, where you felt like you got a broader image. You could also make neat looking uncropped prints (when yo had your own dark room)

  • Gondwana

    LX3 – I still like this cam with all its aspect options…

  • sofa0ne

    There are places that print a 4.5 x 6 frames and albums will be harder to find.

  • Eric

    Aspect ratio of 3.2 works perfect for 11×16 but crops 11×14