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A wealth of Sigma SD1 info


Last week the CP+ fair was held in Japan, home country of Sigma. It also was the first new outing of the SD1 since it’s introduction at Photokina, September 2010. Sigma used the fair to release new info into the world. They updated the microsite for the SD1 and released one picture for download. The introduction movie on the site now features actual photos made with the SD1 taken by photographer Rowland Kirishima. The photos were made in a studio and are mostly fashion shots. Powerful and above all very colorful shots. Of course it is hard to really judge the quality based on these low resolution and moving shots but it looks that the SD1 will deliver.

Sigma had 11 big sized prints on display in their booth. And they were according to several reports on the web, simply amazing. Outclassing prints from leading current top DSLRs. They also had the images on display on an iMac. According to Maro they were tremendous. He tried increasing the saturation in Photoshop and there was no chroma noise appearing. According to Kazuto Yamaki the Sd1 will be totally usable at iso400 and will be even quite good at iso1600, comparable to iso400 on the current cameras! The new recommended iso seems to be iso200 with iso100 taking over the place of the old iso50. As at iso100 the highlights will easily clip. On the other end there will be iso6400 available in extended mode. And auto iso will presumably run from iso100 to iso800.

The files that the SD1 will crank out will be enormous according to The X3F file sizes are coming in at ca. 50MB. New is the RAW+JPEG mode where the JPEG will be around 7MB. Using UDMA Mode 6 cards RAW files take at present around 10 seconds to write to the card. Using RAW+JPEG mode has very little (negative) effect on write times. To process the files a new version of SPP will be needed as the RAW processing algorithms are completely different. That means of course that other RAW processors that currently support X3F will have to be updated too. For the SD1, Sigma has gone back to having size options for the RAW again, a very welcome return. It will have a HI, MED and LOW resolution setting. To achieve that they use a technology called VPS. Which result in faster read outs of the sensor and (hopefully) a better noise ratio. Using the lower resolution setting higher frame rates are achieved. And more frames will fit into the buffer. At the HI setting files will be 4800×3200 at approx. 3.5 fps and 7 to 8 frames in the buffer. MED resolution will be 3264×2176 at approx. 4fps. And LOW will come in at 2400×1600 at 5 frames per second with 15 or more frames fitting in the buffer. Interestingly enough that is a resolution higher than the SD9/10 and only just below that of the SD14/15!

The body itself is a big improvement to the current SD15. I found the grip very solid and comfortable. This was confirmed by several people who were able to handle one at CP+. The new AF system has 11 points with twin-cross sensors and each sensor is equally sensitive. The focus aid squares have been made much smaller. Autofocus on the demo cameras was clearly faster than the on the SD15 might even improve over time. Micro-adjustment of the AF will be available on a per lens basis. How many lens settings can be stored remains to be seen. Even though the camera might record the lens information, Sigma does not and will not apply and lens corrections to the files in-camera. The viewfinder looks even brighter now that the crop-factor went from 1.7x to 1.5x in the new camera. In the viewfinder you can now see the number of pictures left before the buffer is filled (although some describe it as how many files are still in the buffer and not yet written to the card. I believe it is about the burst available).

The shutter is still very quiet, some say even quieter than the SD15. Yummie :). A little bit of confusion has been about the LCD display on the back. According to the released specifications it is the same as on the SD15 but reports state that the LCD on the units at the show seemed to be different and much better. The batteries used are the same as for the SD14/15. A new enhanced version of the battery pack annex vertical grip is said to be in development. According to Carl Rytterfalk the old one from the SD14/15 supposedly will fit too but I wonder about the ergonomics in that case.

There is one more whisper I overheard. Sigma might be considering developing tethering software for the SD1. This would be welcomed by a lot of (studio)photographers I guess. With the quality that has been shown till date I think this camera might be very popular among (studio)photographers. And tethering is kind of a necessity there.

That more or less wraps up what is known about the SD1 at the moment. Most of the info in this article is based on preproduction models with early firmware (version 0.5). So nothing is set in stone and a lot can still change between now and the final release. Which will hopefully be in time before the wedding season starts again this summer.

Thanks to Scott Alan Greiff for the human translation of several Japanese blog postings to English.

If you found out something new about the SD1, please leave a comment below.


  1. A DSLR with such a high resolution will need to be used on a tripod to get the most out of it.
    Yet Sigma doesn’t provide an internal shutter to close the viewfinder (like a Nikon D700).
    Seems we will still have to get around with some little plastic cover….sigh.

  2. Please, have a look at the nose of the dog of the example picture. You will find an artefact which shows a sensor failure in my opinion. It’s not a good idea to take this as a demonstration of the product proof.

  3. I think they should stay quiet until the product is closer to a release date…this waiting is killing me…

    1. Basically tethering means controlling the camera over computer connection. You can change settings from the computer and fire the camera. The photo will then be transferred to the computer directly for review. This is very helpful especially for studio photography.

  4. Well, for the past 1 month (and probably even more) Sigma has been telling us the SD1 is ‘coming soon’. While we are Sigma enthusiasts and willing to wait, but I really hope this wait ain’t gonna last for 1 year. Or even 2, like the SD15!

    Maybe Sigma can at least update us on the developments of the camera so we know what we are in for? And like estimated how many months to wait for?

    Hope Sigma can understand our patience does not last forever!

    1. Hi Bryan, there is unfortunately no definite info about the release date. But most rumblings point to a June release. The earthquake did cause a bit of a delay but as it looks not too severe. As soon as we know more we will of course let every one know 🙂

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