Aspect ratio is defined as the ratio of width to height of an image. A 4:3 aspect ratio means that for every 4 inches of width in an image, you will have 3 inches of height. In mathematical terms, that comes out to the screen being 33% wider than it is high. A 16:9 aspect ratio means that for every 16 inches of width in an image, you will have 9 inches of height. Unlike the 4:3 aspect ratio, a 16:9 aspect ratio is 78% wider than high.
History of the 4:3 Aspect Ratio
The 4:3 aspect ratio has been around since the early days of television in the 1940's and 1950's. A television that has an aspect ratio of 4:3 is often referred to as being NTSC, or pan and scan. The majority of analog cable channels still broadcast in 4:3.
History of the 16:9 Aspect Ratio
The 16:9 aspect ratio is a product of movie producers. They wanted to find a way to make their movies bigger and better in order to attract more customers. The widescreen format of the 16:9 aspect ratio allows users to view a bigger picture when compared to the 4:3 aspect ratio. The 16:9 aspect ratio also enhances the quality of the image by allowing for bolder backdrops and scenery. The 16:9 aspect ratio is not as wide as what you would see in a cinema, but it is close.
Difference in Television Watching
Both the 4:3 aspect ratio and 16:9 aspect ratio remain popular today. A 4:3 aspect ratio will produce a more box-like picture, because the screen is only slightly wider than it is high. A 16:9 aspect ratio will produce a widescreen, or letterbox, picture. If you are watching only analog cable, a 4:3 aspect ratio is for you. Being that 16:9 is the standard aspect ratio of HD televisions, you will need a television that is compatible with the 16:9 aspect ratio in order to benefit from the high definition picture.
When it all comes down to it, aspect ratio is really a personal preference. Some people do not like that newer movies have to be cropped to fit within a 4:3 screen, while others may not like the black bars that come with a 16:9 widescreen television.
When it comes to digital photography, you need to pay some attention to the aspect ratio. Many digital cameras and camcorders are now shooting and filming in 16:9. This may be detrimental if you do not have a television or computer monitor that supports a 16:9 aspect ratio. If you are simply shooting still photos, then you want to ensure that your digital camera has an aspect ratio of 4:3.
The aspect ratio you choose for digital photography will have an impact on the size of your pictures. If you want to shoot 4x6 photos, then you should use an aspect ratio of 3:2. However, if you are looking at printing 5x7 or 8x10 photos, you want to use the 4:3 aspect ratio.