Friday, August 26, 2011

Auto Image Rotation vs. Rotate Tall


There are a couple of functions in Nikon cameras that sound somewhat similar and subsequently confuses many Nikon users. They are Auto Image Rotation and Rotate Tall. To make it clearer how these functions work, are related to each other, yet are different from each other; let's consider them both.

Auto Image Rotation

Auto image rotation is concerned with how vertical images are displayed on your camera’s Monitor and later on your computer. Horizontal images are not affected by this setting. The camera has a direction-sensing device, so it knows how the camera was oriented when a picture was taken.

Depending on how you have Auto image rotation set, how the Playback Menu > Rotate tall setting is set, and the direction you hold your camera’s hand grip, the camera will display a vertical image either as an upright portrait image, with the top of the image at the top of the Monitor, or lying on its side in a horizontal direction, with the top of the image to the left or right of the Monitor. The two selections are as follows:

  • On – With Auto image rotation turned On, the camera stores orientation information within each image, primarily so the image will display correctly in computer software, such as Nikon Capture NX 2 and ViewNX 2. In other words, the camera records, as part of the image metadata, whether you were holding your camera horizontally or vertically (hand grip down) or even upside-down vertically (hand grip up). The image will display in the correct orientation on your camera’s Monitor only if you have Playback Menu > Rotate tall set to On. Auto image rotation lets the image speak for itself as to orientation, while Rotate tall lets the camera listen to the image and display it in the proper orientation.
  • Off – If Auto image rotation is turned Off, the vertical image will be displayed as a horizontal image lying on its side in your computer software. The top of the image will be on the left or right according to how you held the hand grip—up or down—when you took the picture. The camera does not record orientation information in the image metadata. It will display images horizontally, even if you have the Playback Menu > Rotate tall function set to On.


Figure 1 – Auto image rotation settings

Use the following steps to set the Auto image rotation function:

  1. Select Auto image rotation from the Setup Menu and scroll to the right (figure 1, image 1).
  2. Choose On or Off from the menu (figure 1, image 2).
  3. Press the OK button to lock in your selection.

If you’re shooting in one of the Continuous-servo release modes (CL or CH), the position in which you hold your camera for the first shot sets the direction the images are displayed.

My Recommendation: If you want your images to be displayed correctly on your camera’s Monitor and in your computer, you’ll need to be sure that Auto image rotation is set to On. I always keep mine set that way.


Rotate Tall

When you shoot a portrait-oriented (vertical) image, with the camera turned sideways, the image can later be viewed as a horizontal image lying on its side or as a smaller, upright (tall) image on the camera’s horizontal (wide) Monitor.

If you view the image immediately after taking it, the camera’s software assumes that you are still holding the camera in the rotated position, and the image will be displayed correctly for that angle. Later, if you are reviewing the image with the camera’s playback functionality and have Rotate tall set to On, the image will be displayed as an upright, vertical image that is smaller so it will fit on the horizontal Monitor. You can zoom in to see sharpness detail, if needed.

If you would rather have the camera leave the image lying on its side in a horizontal view, forcing you to turn the camera 90 degrees to view it, you’ll need to choose Off.

The following two settings are available on the Rotate tall menu (figure 2):

  • On – When you take a vertical image, the camera will rotate it so you don’t have to turn your camera to view it naturally during playback. This resizes the view of the image so that a vertical image fits in the horizontal frame of the Monitor. The image will be a bit smaller than normal. When you first view the image after taking it, the camera does not rotate it, since it assumes you are still holding the camera in a vertical orientation. It also senses which end of the camera is up—if the Shutter-release button is up or down—and displays the image accordingly.
  • Off – Vertical images are left in a horizontal direction, lying on their side; you’ll need to turn the camera to view the images in the same orientation as when they were taken. This provides a slightly larger view of a portrait-oriented image.


Figure 2 – Playback Menu – Rotate tall

Here are the three steps to choose a Rotate tall setting:

  1. Choose Rotate tall from the Playback Menu and scroll to the right (figure 2, image 1).
  2. Select On or Off from the Rotate tall screen (figure 2, image 2).
  3. Press the OK button to finish.

My Recommendation: I leave Rotate tall set to On. That way I can view a portrait-oriented image in its natural, vertical orientation without turning my camera. Be sure you understand the relationship between this function and Auto image rotation, which stores orientation data with the picture. I always set Rotate tall and Setup Menu > Auto image rotation to On. That lets me view images in the correct orientation on my camera’s Monitor and my computer screen.

In Summation

Basically, Rotate tall and Auto image rotation work together to display your image in the correct orientation. Rotate tall gives you the choice of how the image is viewed based on the orientation information it finds in the image’s metadata. Setup Menu > Auto image rotation causes the camera to store how the image was taken so it will know whether the image has a vertical or horizontal composition. It can then report this information to the Playback Menu > Rotate tall function.

Hopefully, by comparing these two functions side by side, you will learn to use them both to effectively support your style of photography.

Keep on capturing time...
Darrell Young

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