We Can Go Back To Using Plain English If You Like

Remember when the 35mm film camera was the most common size of amateur photo  taker? Whether it was a Leica, Contax, Retina, Nikon, Edixa, or some other exotic name, the size of the film was fixed and the gate presented to exposure was pretty much decided upon; 24mm x 36mm. Oh there were oddities and impractical choices by some makers, but eventually they all worked around that.

Then the Japanese makers decided to gate and drive cameras for an exposure of 18mm x 24mm and called it ” half-frame “. It made for smaller lenses, smaller camera bodies, and more shots per roll of film. A little more fuss in getting half-frame slide mounts and prints but the labs soon sorted that out and it was a very succesful subset of film shooting.

Wind on to digital days and after the first weird confusion of small sensors, we got 18mm x 24 mm sensor panels and suitable cameras to house them. But no-one called the size ” digital half frame “. They came up with APS-C as an acronym and then had to modify it to APS-H for a slightly different size. The real foul balls of nomenclature started to fly with the Olympus company’s decision to measure a sensor with an archaic television standard for round tubes and call it 4/3rds. Then micro 4/3rds.

Then Sony finally grew a chip big enough to make a 24mm x 36mm sensor and the cameras using it were called ” full-frame “. The fact that many of them look like and bear model names similar to the smaller-framed types does not do the consumer nor the sales assistant much good.

Professional bodies that govern language probably do not have any actual power over manufacturers. If a Japanese camera company wants to call its new sensor the ” Lotus ” size presumably the only rude letters they will receive will be from Waldecks Garden Centre and Colin Chapman. And Colin ain’t writing all that much these days.

I should be bold with this. ” Full Frame ” and ” Half Frame ” are honourable and clear terms for their respective sizes. Micro 4/3 is a good sensor size but Olympus and Panasonic might put their heads together and come up with a better descriptive title – one that can be referenced to the other two without drawing diagrams and having to discuss the cathode ray tubes of the 1940’s.

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