circular photos

Cameras should take circular photographs.

Most imaging lenses project a round image, the image circle. In cameras and projectors we trim the round image down to a rectangle. And then, because we love to be arbitrary, we argue over what the aspect ratio should be: A squarish rectangle like 4:3, or a wider one like 3:2?

I’ve always maintained that the ideal camera would take circular photos. If you want to trim your image into some other shape, you can do it after the fact. The first order of business should be to make full use of your optics.

It used to be that any imaginative soul with a CNC machine and a few million dollars could make a camera.
— Nick Devlin

Meaning a commercial line of cameras. The point is that it’s no longer that easy in the digital age. To build the sensor you need expensive infrastructure, and then there’s the software.

I imagined that a circular-image digital camera would be too expensive to manufacture any time soon. But recently I realized that I hadn’t thought it through: A hexagon is not far from a circle. And hexagons tile. You can fabricate hexagonal sensors on a round silicon wafer as efficiently as rectangular ones.

I wonder how many pieces of semiconductor production equipment would need rework?

later note

There is an April 2010 report that a company called Rokton developed a circular digital image sensor. Specifically, the date was 1 April 2010. Draw your own conclusion, or see this report from PetaPixel.

Original version, October 2011.
Updated and added here November 2011.