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Thread: Paper Sizes

  1. #1
    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Paper Sizes

    USA photographers have not quite adopted the international paper sizes. Our standard sizes have been (in inches): 4x5, 5x7, 8x10, 11x14 and so on while the International sizing is a letter value followed by a numerical value such as A4 and so on.

    I found a neat chart of international paper sizes which I have added to my digital photography notes. Here is the chart:

    http://www.papersizes.org/a-paper-sizes.htm

    BTW: Another interesting bit of trivia is the way we Yanks state sizes. We normally will state the smaller value first followed by the higher value, as an example 8-inches by 10 inches while the rest of the English speaking world, it seems, states the higher value first followed by the lowervalue such as 10 x 8....
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 25th January 2016 at 07:36 PM.

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    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: Paper Sizes

    Quote Originally Posted by rpcrowe View Post
    while the rest of the English speaking world, it seems, states the lower value first followed by the higher value such as 10 x 8....

    Nope - us Canucks follow the same naming convention as is used in the USA.

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    Re: Paper Sizes

    Quote Originally Posted by rpcrowe View Post
    . . . while the rest of the English-speaking world, it seems, states the lower value first followed by the higher value such as 10 x 8....

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    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Re: Paper Sizes

    Quote Originally Posted by xpatUSA View Post
    Ted...

    Thanks, that was a senior moment when I mistyped that!

    Manfred,

    I remember converting my wife's measurements to the decimal system when I traveled to the Philippines, only to find that the tailors there were using the English system of inches.

    BTW: shouldn't we rename that to the non-English system since the U.K. has gone decimal...

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    Re: Paper Sizes

    I grew up in the UK and NZ with the imperial measurements - not just feet and inches, but links, chains, furlongs and all those derived units like pressure, power etc. I embraced the arrival of the metric systems with enthusiasm when NZ converted in the 1970's (our currency went metric in 1967). Suddenly I could type in decimals on a calculator and add them up! Then we embraced the metric paper sizes and I loved the ability to scale up and down images and keep the proportions constant.

    Then I went to Canada, a country that has ostensibly gone metric, only to discover that many people cling to imperial and no-one seems to use metric sized paper! Apparently it is because the mills are geared up to cater for the US and 34 million people is not considered a significant market... The UK has issues too, as they often display speeds in MPH, and sell petrol in gallons, despite being "metric". I found the worst thing about the changeover was conversion of one unit to another. It is best to go cold turkey and just adopt the new units. In my engineering office I was appointed Mr Metrication. On the appointed day I collected every imperial scale ruler and replaced it with a metric equivalent so we could read m, mm etc off imperial drawings. It worked brilliantly.

    What I find most perplexing is that around the early days of the emergence of the US as a nation they were allied to France and at war with the UK. Yet they shunned the new French metric system and are one of the last hold-outs for the UK imperial system (except for US gallons, which are for some reason different from the imperial gallon!)


    Much of what goes on in the background in the US IS metric, but the consumer still seems to engage with imperial measures and sizes. One day I hope that will change and we can all speak the same numerical language.

    Dominance of metrics has led to some interesting issues with regards colloquial English. A friend of mine said within earshot of their kids "give them an inch and they take a mile" the kids wanted to know what that was all about. Somehow it loses a bit in translation when one says "give them 25.4mm and they take 1.6093km!"
    Last edited by Tronhard; 26th January 2016 at 08:52 AM.

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    Re: Paper Sizes

    The key to international paper sizes is the ratio between their edges. It's always the square root of 2, 1.414 give or take.

    That's why you can always get the next size down by folding in half, and why actual dimensions are such odd looking numbers.

    It's also why I have 1:1.414 in my Lightroom preset crop ratios!

    What is a bit odd with photo paper in the UK is that, while larger sizes are generally A3 or A4, smaller sizes are still sold as 6" by 4", or 150mm by 100mm. No idea why.

    Dave
    Last edited by davidedric; 26th January 2016 at 02:44 PM. Reason: Arithmetic error!

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    Re: A other oddity

    Going back to gallons and such, I learned in school that "a pint of pure water weighs a pound and a quarter". When I repeated this to an American friend, he told me he'd learned "a pint is a pound, the whole world round". So there.

    Dave

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    Re: A other oddity

    Quote Originally Posted by davidedric View Post
    Going back to gallons and such, I learned in school that "a pint of pure water weighs a pound and a quarter". When I repeated this to an American friend, he told me he'd learned "a pint is a pound, the whole world round". So there.

    Dave
    At my local club, we still have a running difference of opinion between wet darkroom workers who still print on 20"x16" (16"x20"US ) paper size and the digital community who print to a 500mm x 400mm size. In fact, the adoption of the metric system is not yet total in the UK. You can still find many products marked in ft, ins, lbs and oz in shops and supermarkets.

    It gets worse. I'm a passionate bread baker and often resort to the internet to discover something different. It's gets difficult however when US and Canadian recipes measure quantities in cup measures rather than grms and Kgs and even more frustrating when you discover that a US cup measure is not the same as a UK cup measure.

    But there again diversity is what makes the world interesting.

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    Re: A other oddity

    It gets worse. I'm a passionate bread baker and often resort to the internet to discover something different. It's gets difficult however when US and Canadian recipes measure quantities in cup measures rather than grms and Kgs and even more frustrating when you discover that a US cup measure is not the same as a UK cup measure.
    And how the heck are you supposed to measure out a cup of butter

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    Re: A other oddity

    Quote Originally Posted by davidedric View Post
    And how the heck are you supposed to measure out a cup of butter
    Easy. You take a pound and cut it in half.

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    Re: A other oddity

    Trev,here is a sign still in use today on Loch Lomond roadside....Paper Sizes

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    Re: A other oddity

    Time for a rant.

    While there are a few countries with incomplete transition to the metric system, Wikipedia lists exactly three countries that are not officially metric: The U.S., Myanmar, and Liberia. I had recalled one in the Carribean, but apparently it must have switched.

    This means that kids in the US have to learn two systems, since all of science, including in the US, is in metric. Anyone who wants to produce goods for sale almost anywhere else in the world needs to use metric. US tourists have trouble even with outdoor temperature when they travel anywhere outside the US. I keep two sets of tools, since things manufactured for use here require imperial wrenches but damned near everything else, including my cars, require metric.

    And the US system is much harder to use. Quick: a recipe calls for 1 pint and 5 ounces of liquid. Cut it in thirds. This is made worse by the arbitrary convention of using fractions rather than decimals in the 'Imperial' system (which I find a big nuisance when framing, e.g., when figuring out the overlay of a mat board).

    Recognizing the foolishness of this, Congress passed legislation to begin the transition to metric fully forty years ago. Ronald Reagan killed it by executive action.

    John--even though I am in the US, my solution to the recipe problem is that when it is complex, I just translate the recipe to metric to start. Many of the approximate conversions are fine (although perhaps not quite accurate enough for some baking). E.g. 1 tablespoon is very close to 15 ml. Cups are not as close, but they aren't that different. A metric cup is 1/4 liter, which isn't much larger than a US cup.

    Even on this site, the US system is a PITA. If one wants to explain dimensions, which system do you use? I have started using both.

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    Re: A other oddity

    At a time when pins on the edge of integrated circuits were always 1/8" (or was it 1/10"?) my girlfriend, who laid out circuit boards for our recently-metricated UK company, stated often and vigorously that converting the pins' pitch to metric was really stupid and refused to do it.

    At that time (mid to late 70's) we were dutifully buying cloth by the meter - but still one yard or 4 ft wide.

    I like the US Customary System of Units, having grown up with the Imperial system. I also like the ISO Metric system for stuff like photography and am generally happy with whatever system is appropriate to the job at hand. Hey, doing fractions for carpentry keeps the brain active and I can always turn to my Casio fractional calculator if in doubt . . .

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    Re: A other oddity

    Another anecdote ( and apologies to Richard who must be wondering how his original helpful post led to all this joshing).

    I spent some time as a voluntary assistant in adult numeracy classes.

    Working with learners who were essentially inumerate, decimal arithmetic was much easier to grasp than fractions, even though in normal language they (and I) would refer to a half, or a quarter (also the same in other European languages I am acquainted with)

    Dave

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    Re: Paper Sizes

    Quote Originally Posted by davidedric View Post
    The key to international paper sizes is the ratio between their edges. It's always the square root of 2, 1.414 give or take.

    That's why you can always get the next size down by folding in half, and why actual dimensions are such odd looking numbers.

    It's also why I have 1:1.414 in my Lightroom preset crop ratios!

    What is a bit odd with photo paper in the UK is that, while larger sizes are generally A3 or A4, smaller sizes are still sold as 6" by 4", or 150mm by 100mm. No idea why.

    Dave
    Probably due to the same ratio as a sensor/film: 24x36 or 2x3.

    George

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    davidedric's Avatar
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    Re: Paper Sizes

    Probably due to the same ratio as a sensor/film: 24x36 or 2x3.
    Yes, but the silly thing is that if I crop to "A" sizes, I can print one up to A4, but if I want the same crop but smaller, I usually print two up on A4.

    Is A5 paper readily available in the Netherlands?

    Dave

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    Re: Paper Sizes

    While I agree as an American that the U.S. system is usually more difficult to use, at least the details about paper size are an exception because the size is expressed in inches rather than code made up of a letter and a number.

    And you folks thought the thread would never get back on topic.

  18. #18
    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Re: Paper Sizes

    I mentioned to a Navy buddy that we should have converted to the decimal system years ago.

    He asked, "Why should we have done that?"

    I said, "O.K. How many feet in a mile?"

    The answer was "How should I know?"

    I answered, "EXACTLY!"

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    Re: A other oddity

    The thing about the Imperial system is that it was never really designed, it evolved. Furthermore it suited a society that wanted to work on fractions because they were easier to use in the pre-digital age. However I like the consistency of the SI (Systems International) system which is based on decimals and therefore excellent to use with digital calculating devices, which is certainly not true of fractions - when I get measurements in feet and inches I have to convert them to parts of a foot and then I can add them up in Excel.

    For A-sized paper I definitely like the idea that as I reduce or increase the paper sizes the proportions remain constant, not just for photography but for all sorts of applications including sizing technical drawings.

    The seeming oddity about A series paper is that it is based on the idea that an A0 sheet is pretty much exactly 1sqm in area. Take into acount the required ratios to achieve that and we get the seemingly weird dimension. Each smaller sheet is half the area, each 2x smaller sheet is half the dimensions and so on.
    Last edited by Tronhard; 27th January 2016 at 01:16 AM.

  20. #20
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    Re: Paper Sizes

    And to further your point Richard... Which kind of mile - terrestrial or nautical? There is only one kind of km!

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