Smartphone camera question

So I was watching a Youtube video someone had shot on their smartphone, holding it vertically, and as usual there were dozens of complaints in the comments about how it wasn’t in the ‘proper’ orientation. I can understand their frustration; the image size is dinky and the black bars on either side are enormous. Holding the phone vertically, though, is more instinctive, especially a grab shot, and for me at least the grip is more secure.

Then I had a sudden thought. Why couldn’t the sensor the lens is projecting the image on be rotated 90-degrees so that when the phone is held vertically the image is landscape and when horizontally, portrait? The sensor can’t be much bigger than a postage stamp so it should fit either way, I’m thinking. The idea is so obvious that I can’t believe that no smart phone design engineer in all of history has thought if it before so it must have been thought of, then rejected. Any speculation as to why this is a bad idea?

Is it that hard to rotate it when you take a picture? Why should vertical be the default? It’s not for desktop, laptop displays or movies.

The sensor is tiny. Way smaller than a postage stamp.
There are several issues: the mechanical mount to rotate the sensor would be complicated, large, and failure-prone. If you really wanted to do this, the best was would be to make a square sensor, and change the cropping on the fly.
But, the best way to address this issue is to simply re-format websites to support portrait movies correctly.

Because that’s directly opposite to the way the image appears on the smartphone screen. The current approach is the display is showing the image in the same orientation as it’s being filmed.

Phones are typically fairly small, so rotating the camera 90 degrees from the phone would make the image so small that it would be difficult to see it clearly.

Seriously, it’s not that difficult to rotate your phone by 90 degrees. I do it all the time to take videos.

I think the OP is suggesting the sensor should be permanently oriented in the horizontal position when the phone is held vertically. This would get rid of the vertical video problem when the phone is vertical. Some people prefer to shoot in the horizontal position with a larger preview image, so the phone would have to detect this and digitally rotate the image.

Thank you for not answering the question, Musicat.

As Fear Itself said, I was not talking about a rotating sensor but one in a fixed position – just opposite of the way they are positioned now.

So? Is there some force of nature it has to be that way? After the recording is done the playback can be oriented the usual way.

So you’re trying to tell me those people holding their phone at arm’s length, usually over a crowd, really care if their view screen image width is two inches wide, or three? All they need is to know whether the center of attention is on the screen.

Good for you. Apparently it is difficult, or people are too stupid to think of it because, as I said in the OP, there are bunches of recordings out there with VVS.

Well, for me, that certainly is the most convenient and intuitive orientation. With your idea, if I’m understanding correctly, you’d have to hold the phone sideways to take a vertical portrait photo. And when I’m using stuff like Facetime/video chat on the phone, I want to hold the phone vertically and have the picture displayed vertically.

I used to hate (and it still annoys me) vertical video, but the fact of the matter is that many people are using vertical screens to watch video content these days via their phones and tablets, so I think the notion that “video must be horizontal” has become a bit outdated. Vertical video watched on phones and tablets is perfectly fine, and sometimes the better choice.

Well, as you put it, the image size is dinky and the black bars are enormous. Measuring my phone, the screen is about 3 x 2 inches. Rotating the camera without rotating the screen would put the image at 2 x 1.33 inches. That’s 6 square inches vs. 2.66 square inches. I think most people actually would care about that.

Alternately, you could fit the image to the vertical size of the phone, but then it would be impossible to tell when something on the side is in frame or not. I would think that this would be extremely annoying as well.

I think the issue is that if you hold your phone vertically and the picture is still horizontal (however you want to make that happen) the image will appear so tiny on your screen it’ll be hard to see what’s going on. Now that I think about it, it would be like watching a youtube video with your phone vertically.

As for why people do it, I think it’s just a lot easier to hold your phone vertical with one hand. Once it’s horizontal you really need to hands on it so you can grab it by the edges and see what’s on the screen. You’re probably also more likely to hit buttons (on the screen or the bezel) while trying to hold it horizontally with one hand.

You’re quite welcome, I’m sure.

My thought too - maybe a better solution would be a small handle on a hinge from one side of the phone; swinging it out would automatically engage video mode.

From a human psychology perspective:

  1. The orientation of the phone already reflects the orientation of the image. That makes things simple.

  2. If you’re bright enough to understand the proposed 90 degree mod and hold the phone properly you are more than bright enough to hold a standard phone properly.

  3. People get ticked off by stuff quite easily. This will definitely tick off a lot of people.

Just note that there are a lot of stupid, uncaring people out there and move on. Just look at the celebs that take hundreds of mirror selfies and hold the camera in front of their face. I would think that after 101st time you’ve done this you’d learn to hold the camera a tiny bit off to the side, but nope. Solution: just don’t care.

I don’t think it’s even necessary to make a square sensor - a 12 megapixel sensor is 4000 pixels wide and 3000 tall - there’s enough scope there to easily crop out a 1080p HD video frame - and you only need a 20 megapixel sensor to be able to crop out 4K in either orientation.

I do hate vertical video. I do however understand that it’s not a trivial problem to solve. As mentioned above, it’s how we normally hold our phones, and it’s also really the only way to hold the phone with one hand and easily access the controls. Also having the preview image fill the screen to match what’s being shot makes sense. I would even add that for phones with the camera sensor near the top edge or corner makes it harder to hold with both hands and also not have your thumb or finger covering the lens. On the other hand, with multi-megapixel sensors out there that can still crop to an HD resolution, would it be so hard to have a default “all videos (but not photos) are horizontal” preference regardless of orientation? If someone doesn’t like having a heavily letterboxed preview then they could turn off that preference, but so many people just do what the default is that it would certainly help.

I certainly find that is the case on the few occasions I have tried to take a horizontal video. Mind you, I am still definitely in the last century, skill-wise. Definitely no flying thumbs when I’m sending an SMS text.

I was thinking of that aspect. Make it an option in Settings, maybe?

The sensor orientation is “in hardware”. To have it in software, you would have to have a larger sensor. I.e., big enough in both orientations.

And then if you have a bigger sensor, people will want to use the full sensor to get a larger (square) pic, and then …

It’s a rabbit hole of tech vs. humans.

Industry is trying to normalize smart phones as the preferred personal computing device, and with it VVS should become the new norm. It is already often the case with amateur porn (usually a leader in tech). When more and more of your content consumers watch videos in portrait orientation, why would you want to cater to the old people still using their laptops? You’re not filming for them to begin with. Video orientation is just another age gap…

When Movies and TV are shot vertically, post back.

Why can’t there be both? Cell phone videos are usually shot for cell phone consumption, so it makes sense to keep it vertical there.

Movies and TVs are not.

The VVS syndrome thing was from an era when smartphones were still the minority. They’re not anymore, and it makes sense to cater to their orientation.