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For creators who wants to make videos for platforms like IGTV and youtube as examples you have two totally different formats. Portrait and landscape. You could obviously crop a video or photo from either orientation to the other. But lately I keep thinking that having a camera with a square sensor would make sense to be able to support both formats from the beginning then use the footage for either orientation without loosing out on quality on one of them.

Does this exist?

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    Better yet, why not a circular sensor that covers (almost) the entire image circle, and you can crop to rectangular, square, or any other shape you want in post...? – twalberg Jul 10 at 14:04
  • Does a circular sensor exist? – just_user Jul 10 at 14:18
  • This is what I found wonderful about the Hasselblad 2¼ x 2¼ square format. – Stan Jul 10 at 15:33
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    Circular sensors would be a wasteful manufacturing nightmare, unless you made them whole-wafer sized. – rackandboneman Jul 10 at 16:03
  • @rackandboneman It could be a patchwork sensor in a cross shape. – xiota Jul 10 at 16:42
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Even if you had a square sensor, composing for landscape and portrait simultaneously would require leaving a lot of room around the edges for cropping, which would cause you to "lose quality" for both formats.

Use the format most suitable for the target platform. If you really need multiple, incompatible formats, consider using a multi-camera setup.


Apparently square sensors are made and used in the aerospace industry, and many cameras do provide a 1:1 crop setting. However, I am unaware of any consumer camera that contains a native 1:1 sensor.

  • There are medium format cameras with a 5:4 aspect ratio.

  • The closest, commonly available format is 4:3, found in micro-four-thirds cameras, many medium-format cameras, compact cameras, and cell phones.

When the desired aspect ratio is known ahead of time, it's "best" to make a sensor directly in that aspect ratio to fit within the imaging circle. The problem with square sensors, when non-square, rectangular aspect ratios are desired, is...

  • A non-square crop from a square sensor that fits within the imaging circle would leave large portions of the imaging circle unused.

  • A square sensor that completely covers the imaging circle would have unusable corners. It would also have to be larger than necessary, which would increase manufacturing costs and defects.

    A camera with such a sensor would likely also be unmarketable. Consider what would happen if a manufacturer put a medium-format sensor in a full-frame body, or a full-frame sensor in an APS-C body. Consumers would consider the unused sensor area and lack of lenses capable of using the full sensor to be defects.

image

  • Regarding the first point - the largest rectangle that can be inscribed in a circle is a square. So in that sense, a square sensor would actually maximize the portion of the image circle in use. You're right, though, that any rectangle will leave quite a bit of the circle unused... – twalberg Jul 10 at 15:35
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    @twalberg - "if a non-square, rectangular aspect ratio is desired" - so you'd have to crop within the square, reducing the used area compared with if a rectangle with the proper aspect ratio were used in the first place. – xiota Jul 10 at 16:34
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    The only case where a square is the maximally-useful area is when the result you want is also that same square. – mattdm Jul 10 at 22:01
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    It is trivial that, if you want to make arbitrary crops and are constrained to use a rectangular sensor, then a square is indeed the best choice in terms of losing the least sensor area. – tfb Jul 11 at 9:51
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    @tbs That's manifestly not true. Look at the diagram in this answer. For any given non-square aspect ratio, you can fit a larger rectangle in the image circle than you can fit into just the square. And consider that cameras can be easily designed so that 90° rotation is a simple matter. And additionally, excepting the special case where shift is wanted, a center-aligned rectangle is preferred. – mattdm Jul 11 at 11:51
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The Panasonic DMC-LX100 does not just provide for several different aspect ratios ("Multi Aspect Ratio") covering the image circle with about 12MP in more or less all aspect ratios except 1:1, it also offers "aspect ratio bracketing" which produces several images in different aspect ratios at once.

Panasonic has a few cameras with that feature. It doesn't, though, provide for landscape and portrait at the same time. Haven't heard from others doing the same, but then I haven't actually looked.

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    OP asks about a camera with a square sensor. Your answer describes a camera that doesn't even allow for 1:1 crops. – xiota Jul 11 at 0:54
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There are cameras with sensors that are much closer to square, namely medium format cameras, though they’re admittedly not perfectly square. (See https://www.adorama.com/alc/5-best-medium-format-digital-cameras). But the shape of the sensor turns out to be largely of academic interest as medium format cameras are overkill for your need, they’re not cost-effective, and they entail all sorts of practical limitations with respect to video capture.

It’s going to be best to just use a standard digital camera and crop. Some cameras offer in-body cropping, but but likely not in video. More likely, you’ll just crop in post. But to facilitate composition during capture, some cameras offer square grids on the monitor while shooting. Even this is, admittedly, a bit hit and miss. (E.g. the “square” gridlines on Sony a7Rii are fine for stills, but are a bit off in video).

Regarding how to perform square crop in post, it just depends upon your video processing software. For example, in Premiere Pro, you can just go into “Sequence” » “Sequence Settings” » “Video” » “Frame Size”.

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