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2008.09.06

Widescreen displays are everywhere now, in laptops, desktop monitors and television. As a matter of fact, it is now nearly impossible to get a standard aspect-ratio (4:3) laptop and most displays sold are widescreen (16:10 or 16:9). Widescreen came first to television in order to match the aspect ratio of movies in their original format. This avoids letter boxing for most movie and pan-and-scan for turning movies into full-screen editions.

Now, who had the idea that what is good for entertainment is good for computers in general? Probably some technology execs who thought computers would be used to view movies more than any other use… Needless to say, this trend seems wrong. Since widescreens have started dominating the computer industry, we have lost vertical resolution except for going to the extreme size of 30″. While 4:3 monitors features 1600×1200, 1920×1440 and 2048×1536 resolutions, the widescreen equivalents are 1680×1050, 1920×1200 and nothing, respectively. Therefore, the only way to not have less vertical resolution that 1536 is to go to a 2560×1600 30″ display. Pictured above is the NEC LCD3090WQXi, the current top-end high-resolution display.

Photographers switched places with users of computers as DVD players. Since most digital cameras shoot 4:3, most images and slideshow feature the infamous letter-boxing, two large black bars on either side. Even 3:2, which is the aspect ratio shot by all DSLR cameras not made by Olympus or Panasonic, features larger black bands on a wide-screen monitor than on a 4:3 one.

There is not much to about this but at least one can hope that either photographer-oriented monitors will stay with a better aspect ratio as a niche market or that image viewers and slideshow programs will make good use of the available horizontal space. Particularly, it would be nice if full-screen slideshows would optionally present a column of image information such as EXIF data and a histogram.

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