Today’s Question: I need some help deciding which [aspect ratio] format to pick in my camera’s menu. I shoot with a Canon and have the choice of 3:2, 4:3, 16:9 or 1:1. I’m guessing nothing really changes with the sensor; it just changes how the image is cropped in the camera. My thought is to choose the format that gives me as much possible image area and then do any cropping in Lightroom. Are there any advantages to one format over another that aren’t readily apparent?
Tim’s Quick Answer: The “native” aspect ratio of the image sensor in Canon digital SLR cameras (as with many other cameras) is 3:2, and so I recommend this option for purposes of capturing the maximum pixel dimensions, with the understanding that you can always crop later. However, it is also important to keep in mind that the option to change the aspect ratio on Canon cameras will not affect RAW captures.
More Detail: As many photographers are aware, most of the various adjustment settings available on digital cameras will not affect RAW captures. They will, however, affect JPEG captures. This holds true for the aspect ratio setting available on some cameras.
If you’re using JPEG capture, you can certainly adjust the aspect ratio setting on your camera, and the image will be cropped in the camera based on that setting. But again, since the native aspect ratio of the sensor is 3:2, that setting will ensure that you are capturing the maximum pixel dimensions for the image. Thus, in general I recommend using this option.
If you’re shooting in RAW mode then the images will always be captured in the 3:2 aspect ratio. The Live View preview will reflect the aspect ratio you have set, but the RAW capture will still be in the native 3:2 aspect ratio. You can, of course, crop the image to any aspect ratio you like when processing the final image.