Ben Hope, Sutherland, Scotland, 2017

I'm in the far north of Scotland this week. I've rented a cottage and I'm here relaxing and spending some time with two very good friends. There has been some snowfall the past day or so (this is officially a La Niña year - so cold fronts seem to be on the horizon and best you be ready for a cold winter!).

 Ben Hope, Fuji GFX 50s, 32-64mm lens Image © Bruce Percy 2017

Ben Hope, Fuji GFX 50s, 32-64mm lens
Image © Bruce Percy 2017

I made this shot today of Ben Hope - the most northerly Munro in Scotland. (a Munro is a Scottish mountain over 3,000 feet high. Scottish mountains aren't that big in the scheme of world sizes, but they are beautiful and we like to walk them. So we have given any mountain over 3,000 feet the status of being a Munro).

I can't say that I particularly like digital capture. I am a dyed in the wool Film shooter, much preferring the process of living with the captured image in my mind's-eye, and having to trust my intuition that I've got it on film. Still, I was lent a GFX 50 megapixel medium format camera by Fujifilm for this week. It has, in my opinion, one of the nicest interfaces in a modern camera for composition. Namely: they have considered aspect-ratios as part of the integral design of the camera. All the usable aspect ratios that you could want are here: 3:2, 4:5, 4:3, 6:7, 6:19, 2:1. They can be dialled up at a moments notice by one of the many configurable buttons on the camera body and get this - the aspect ratio is identical in both the eye-piece and live-view preview screen. Aspect ratios are no after-thought on this camera. I wish other camera manufacturers would implement aspect ratios as a major part of their camera designs. At best I often find that they have been implemented in non-standard ways across the entire range of models they offer. Some crop destructively the final image while others allow you to undo the crop to retain the entire sensor area. Others don't even record the aspect ratio you shot in, and many of them have clunky interfaces with which to move between aspect ratios or at best, only offer a handful of useful ones which are only viewable on the preview screen and not in the eye piece.

One of the most important features for anyone when they buy a camera should be whether the camera has at the very least an aspect ratio that suits their eye, and at the very most, a nice interface to allow them to switch between many of the more popular ratios available. 5:4, 6:7, 4:3, Square, 1:2, etc. I would personally never buy a digital camera that came with just 3:2 on it, and I would have to have at the very least 1:1 and also 4:5. I would also reject a camera if I found it requires more than one button press to get to the aspect ratios to change them.

When choosing a camera, aspect ratios should be high up on my list, well before resolution or any other feature as it is the aspect ratio of the camera that either aids you in composition, or hinders you.

I think the journey from the car to the final composition is decided by the use of the chosen aspect ratio. It is in my opinion folly to assume we can work in 3:2 with the aim of cropping to 5:4 or 1:1 once we get home. The final compositions are just never as tight. No, instead, by going out in the field with a camera that works in your chosen aspect ratio can you excel at your compositions. And that is one thing that the GFX does very well.

Before you think that I am giving up film for digital, I would like to reassure you that I am not. I have been a strong believer that if something works : don't mess with it. I love what I do with film and as much as it has its own limitations (it really does, trust me), so too does everything. But I know it well, I know how my film responds to what I'm shooting and I love the process. I just don't get the same vibe or excitement when I have a preview screen that gives everything away. I much prefer to live with the image imprinted on my mind, and with a hopeful expectation of a nicely processed image in a few weeks from the time I've captured the work, but that's just me. Your mileage will vary for sure.