Converting D700 to Square format ? (Is this a mad idea?)

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by wm, Jul 17, 2013.

  1. WM


    Hi all,
    OK, so there isn't a square format SLR out there, and many of the compacts that can shoot square format just doesn't cut it in terms of image quality, noise, shooting performance, etc. I'd imagine that with medium format digital, that's probably available but at a cost that is prohibitive for most.
    Does anyone have any experience converting a dSLR into square format ?
    Namely, I have a D700 that I'm thinking of experimenting with, but it could be potentially disastrous if not done right !
    Will be good to get some thoughts.
    Cheers, wm
  2. How would you like to "convert" the camera? Perhaps it is more practical to do this in post processing, as lots of people do.
  3. WM


    I should clarify, that, I would like to 'capture' the images in square format, so what comes out of the camera will be in a square format, with the sides cut off. I know that I will lose quite a lot of pixels but that is not a problem.
    I know that there are focusing aids or screens, etc to compose in square but that still gives you a 3x2 image out of camera.
    The options that I have seen so far are:
    1. Post processing------no fun, really !
    2. Tape on the focusing screen-----the image is still 3x2 format, so no go there.
    3. Square eye cup or change focusing screen-----the image is still 3x2 format, so no go there.
    4. Permanent ink/tape on sensor----this could work, but DANGEROUS !
    5. UV lens filter with the sides blacked out----could work ? Minimal risk. (Only for non-rotating front element lens)
    Any other ideas ?
  4. "Converting" a FX format into a square one by eliminating the recording of the sensor is, -at least-, not so practical for many reasons.
    It is like buying a pair of expensive running shoes and converting them to sandals via scissors.
    Or like using a bike with the handlebar attached like a boat tiller.
    Or like cutting two blades out of four in your blender just because you want it to look like an aeroplane`s airscrew.
    Or to cut the legs of a chair to sit at the floor`s level.
    Or... :D :D
    Well, I`m afraid you are getting bored this summer... what about shooting out to enjoy photography? :)
  5. Short of putting tape or ink on the sensor I doubt there is an easy way to do this.. I would go for a modified focusing screen, a mask on the camera LCD display for reviewing images and live view that needs to be removable so you can read the menus and automate the import process to include cropping to square when you bring the pictures into you computer.
  6. 1. Post processing------no fun, really !​
    Make a Photoshop 'Action'. Assign a F* button to do it..........or batch-process 1000 at a time. About 1 sec per image. Doesn't have to be expensive Photoshop either, Irfanview does some great batch process options too.
    You could probably find a focusing screen ready etched for 'square', or get an old one and mask off the sides with black tape.....:)
    Or to cut the legs off a chair to sit at the floor`s level.​
    Jose......He He! Very Zen. I quite like the blender option too.....!
  7. Another topic could be replacing the sensor format with a full sized 4:5... even a squared one in this case. The image circle will be kept, the coverage of the lenses will be not wasted, etc. For some tasks it could be interesting. But I`m not sure about the technical feasibility of this... the cameras will probably need to be much larger, the flange will increase... so at the end, our lenses could be useless.
    Time ago I was wondering about the future or preservation of the traditional "full-format" format, once we are immersed into digital. Looks like it is still very convenient.
  8. You are really making this much more difficult than it needs to be. Get a square eye cup, and then use your favorite organizational program (I like Lightroom myself). Shoot all your photos, using the eyecup to compose. Upload your photos in Lightroom, select the first photo, crop it to square, and then batch apply the crop to all the photos in your collection. Or, just make a macro that 1:1 crops your 3:2 photos in Photoshop, and you're set. It's about as fire-and-forget as it gets.
    With either of those ways, even if you added up all of the time that you would ever spend post-processing (it really isn't that much time, order of less than 2 minutes per upload), it would still be less time cumulatively than you would spend planning this game that you've concocted, much less the execution phase of your plan. It would also be much much cheaper to simply buy Lightroom and an eyecup, than this 8 megapixel conversion. There is also no risk to your camera. Last, unlike your project, my solution will actually work. You really want to re-design the sensor layout of your SLR? Have a cool 10 grand laying around? Your solutions like ink on the sensor or a squared-out UV filter will still give you a 3:2 image, just with black borders, and you're going to have to go into your favorite editing program and crop it down anyway. Stop putting artificial restrictions on your solution and follow the KISS principle.
  9. Apart from the baffles on the rear of some lenses, oh and the actual shutter format, the biggest chip you could have would be about 30.5mm square and get no more vignetting than you do now on the 24 x 36mm format.
    I've often wondered at format's of everyday stuff for looking at....:)
    Most adult books and pretty much all printed paper for reports, bills etc are portrait. That's said to be because in reading lines of text you don't have to scan so far left-to-right.....or right-to-left.
    There's a much higher proportion of children's books in landscape, because they have more pictures. Pretty much all bank notes are printed landscape....more pictures.
    The vast majority of images are taken and printed in landscape. That's usually ascribed to 'That's how we see the World'. Portraits are usually, well, taken in portrait orientation, because people are usually up-and-down shapes. However, 4 friends are square.
    I've heard people refer to using a 6 x 6 camera as 'Keeping your cropping or framing options open at the moment of capture'. You have enough film real-estate to print what you like!
    Where the square digital format fits in, in the 'bigger picture', is harder to say.
  10. Why not do what I did? I just bought a very nice Rolleiflex and scan the negs.
    Kent in SD
  11. "4. Permanent ink/tape on sensor----this could work, but DANGEROUS !"
    You still don't have retangular pic and stil have to cut them in pp.
  12. Short of replacing the sensor with a custom square sensor (with accompanying custom firmware) that is equal in x-y dimensions to the y dimension (24mm) of the existing sensor, or the perhaps less complex option of coding custom firmware to apply an in-camera square crop of the existing 3:2 image file, post processing is the only practical way to do this. And frankly, it's the easiest and simplest way to do this as others have already described above. Alter a focusing screen as a composition aid by either etching grid lines marking a 24x24mm format, or apply a square overlay mask on the screen (a square eyecup or otherwise masked viewfinder eyepiece won't work as a composition aid). Then create square photos by cropping the 3:2 image files in post.
    "4. Permanent ink/tape on sensor----this could work, but DANGEROUS !"
    Sorry, but as with option 2. and 3., to quote ---- "the image is still 3x2 format, so no go there."
    This won't work, at least not in the sense that you intend. Masking the sensor will still produce a 3:2 image file (as below, with unexposed margins) that you will still have to crop in post processing for printing or digital display. You might as well just crop an unaltered 3:2 image.
    Output from a masked sensor. Still a 3:2 file ... but with un(der)exposed edges.
    "5. UV lens filter with the sides blacked out----could work ? Minimal risk. (Only for non-rotating front element lens)"
    Same as above, only worse, as rather than crisp lines at the edges of the unexposed parts of the 3:2 image file you will have soft, blurry edges.
    Learn to do option 1. in an efficient manner. Otherwise, you're just looking to make things more difficult than necessary for no real practical benefit. :)
  13. pge


    Maybe the solution is to hack the firmware and add a square option. They have hacked firmware for other purposes. And this solution would be reversible.
  14. I've gotta say, IF you're going to do this, use a D3200 or D5200 with enough pixels to dump. The D700 has never been overly blessed with bizzilions of pixels. That kinda crop is just dumping 1/3 of the info.
    You could sell the perfectly good D700, and get one of each to play with....and get some change!
  15. I can't see any purpose to reducing the size of the sensor or using only part of the sensor. If you want square pictures, just do what everybody has said and crop the file in Photoshop. You could even print the photos out at normal proportions and cut the print for that matter.

    Now if you were talking about putting a larger sensor into the camera -- one that would be roughly 36x36mm rather than trying to use a 24x24 piece out of a 24x36mm sensor (I'm using full-frame FX dimensions for sake of argument) -- that would have a point to it. That would give you the same ability 6x6cm film shooters have always had to be able to decide after the fact whether to print horizontal or vertical. And it would give you a larger original if you wanted to print square. I'm not saying it could be done -- there's probably not enough room in the camera for the larger sensor, and most lenses would probably not cover the larger chip.

    This reminds me of the fake "panoramic" cameras that had blades that would flip into place to crop off the top and bottom of the 35mm frame. As opposed to real panoramic cameras that shot the full height of the frame and two frames wide.
  16. Perhaps it is more practical to do this in post processing, as lots of people do. --Jos van Eekelen​
    That is, shoot bigger files than you need, and then crop. Let's not make this unnecessarily difficult.
    You will need more than the 12 mp of the D700 to do that for many applications.
  17. Actually there are several square format slr's out there. I prefer a Hassy 503 CW
  18. Does it have to be a D700? Or a Nikon? For this use, I think a mirroless camera is a better candidate. I don't know of any DSLR that offers selectable aspect ratios, but several mirrorless cameras that do.
    I completely understand the appeal of shooting square, with instant results and no turning back. I actually feel the same about shooting digital black & white. The instant feedback helps me visualize and shoot for the format.
    These are some of the reasons I bought a Pentax K-01, which offers selectable aspect ratio (including 1:1 square), black & white mode (JPEG only), a colour filter mode which lets me add a yellow, orange or red filter prior to the black & white conversion (JPEG only), and offers RAW+JPEG shooting. I love being able to walk around, visualizing and shooting in a square format black&white image, with colour contrast filtering, and get both the rendered JPEG and an unadulterated RAW file that lets me reconsider my choices in post production. I have yet to actually touch one of the RAW files... I have set the in-camera JPEGS to look an awful lot like T-MAX shot on a Hasselblad or Rollei.
  19. WM


    Hello folks,
    Thanks very much for your responses and interest in this topic. This is excellent ! OK, here are some answers/thoughts:
    1. The reason why I am using the D700, in spite of the paltry 12 Mp, is because that's the only camera I have. Of course, it would be better to get the D800 with a 36Mp, to do something like this to crop with, but alas, I don't have a D800.
    2. I tried last night doing a batch processing (using actions, only took a few minutes to do hundreds) of photos into a 1:1 format in Photoshop, and that was pretty easy, so thanks for that suggestion, so it looks like post processing is the way to go, so one problem solved.
    1. What is the best way to help compose in square then? Eye cup with 1:1 ? Viewfinder with 1:1 crop? Where on earth can I find something like that ? (No, I am not a fan of using the LCD to compose, so the tape on the LCD idea is not that appealing).
    2. Use the gridlines in the D700, and hope like hell that two of the vertical gridlines corresponds to the square format ? I'll need to do some 'tests', and report back to this thread.
    Keep the ideas coming folks. This is a great forum as always !
  20. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    The main problem with the D700 is that its viewfinder is not 100%, and when the viewfinder is not 100%, it is not quite centered. It is not off by a lot, but you may need to leave some room to crop, and you are back to doing manual post-processing again.
  21. 1. What is the best way to help compose in square then? Eye cup with 1:1 ?
    Forget about anything, such as an eyecup or anything else, that you attach to the viewfinder eyepiece. Even if such a square eyecup existed, as soon as you put your pupil (eye) to the center of the eyepiece, you will see the full 3:2 focusing screen image.
    The easiest way to do this (1:1 composition aid) is to make a removable mask for the rear LCD, and use live view to compose. Next easiest option is probably to make a similar paper mask for the focusing screen, which would require some trial and error fitting to compensate for the slightly de-centered focusing screen alignment that Shun described above. Obviously the second option involves removing and reinstalling the focusing screen, and the inherent risks of potentially damaging the soft matte upper surface of the screen each time it is handled.
  22. 2. Use the gridlines in the D700, and hope like hell that two of the vertical gridlines corresponds to the square format ?
    Should work as almost an exact 1:1 composition guide if the image in the D700 manual is accurate. It makes sense, as the vertical guidelines for DX crop (23.5mm horizontal) correspond almost exactly to the FX frame height (23.9mm). Basically, "close enough".
  23. I love topics like this - my first thought was to modify a medium format "sports finder" or make your own. to clip into the flash bracket. That would at least give you the experience of seeing "square"
    But as I searched I found this
    Coud be quite helpful and relatively easy to implement - I like the guy's argument about why he uses his camera in portrait orientation.
  24. All your options don't make sense. Crop in post makes the most sense and easiest.
    The real thing is to replace the sensor with a 30.5 x 30.5mm sensor. You can still use the same lenses and the sensor is bigger than the 24x36mm sensor. It would be the most difficult.
  25. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    The real thing is to replace the sensor with a 30.5 x 30.5mm sensor. You can still use the same lenses and the sensor is bigger than the 24x36mm sensor.​
    Unfortunately, not exactly.
    Most modern lenses have lens hoods that are designed for the 3:2 format; they are no longer round. Those hoods will cause vignetting on a 30.5x30.5 sensor. Worse yet, on lenses such as the 14-24mm/f2.8 AF-S, you cannot even remove the hood.
    We are merely looking for very complicated solutions to a very simple "problem." :)
  26. Re: issues related to composing square pics, it is interesting that it has been acknowledged for centuries that the square places a great deal of pressure on composition, far more than on the rectangle. The fact that it is symmetrical is the cause of this pressure.
    I have often wondered what it is about many square format photos that give them such presence and look as if they really mean business, I suspect it that sense of authority that the square implies.
  27. Crop. Super easy in Lightroom (and non-destructive, too!). Easy enough in many other programs. Train your eye to see the square before you shoot. No need to muck around with "composition aids."
  28. We are merely looking for very complicated solutions to a very simple "problem." :)
    Yes :)
  29. David, yes, also the little Ricohs offer that too, or at least the GRDs do.
  30. "Maybe the solution is to hack the firmware and add a square option... "

  31. Get a canon s95, shoot 1:1 format, make small prints.
  32. Try a Sony RX100 in 1:1 mode. Not Nikon, but it works well for me.
    And it is better than taking the chance that your D700 gets damaged.

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