Sigma was expected to introduce new gear as they do every year at the CP+ photo fair. What was not expected was a successor to the SD1. And definitely not two models at the same time. But that is exactly what they did. Sigma surprised us all with the SD Quattro and SD Quattro H. Two brand new cameras featuring the Quattro generation of the Foveon sensor technology.
But is it indeed a successor of the SD1? On one hand yes as it uses the same SA mount and thus takes the same lenses as the SD1. But the camera itself is a completely new type of camera. The SD Quattro models no longer feature mirrors. They are now mirrorless models with an electronic viewfinder and live view. Due to this technology the body could be made considerably thinner although the lens mount part is protruding quite a bit outwards. All in all the camera looks very different from what is available on the market today.
The Foveon cameras are mostly used for considered shooting, often on a tripod. So I guess that for such uses the live view and electronic viewfinder (2.36 mega-pixel) will be a good choice. The screen itself is also a very modern high resolution one featuring 1.6 million pixels. With the addition of focus peaking/confirmation landscape shooters should be enjoying this very much.
The SD Quattro features the same sensor as found in the dp Quattro series of cameras. This latest-generation Foveon X3 Quattro direct image APS-C size sensor offers 39-megapixel-equivalent resolution in combination with an optimal file size and efficient image processing speed. But probably the biggest surprise is the second model, the SD Quattro H which features a bigger, APS-H sized sensor (26.6 x 17.9mm). It offers 51-megapixel-equivalent resolution—the highest among sensor sizes smaller than full-frame. This is the camera for those looking for even higher resolution from SIGMA’s direct image technology. This brings the crop factor (compared to full frame) down to circa 1,35x in comparison to the 1,5x crop factor of the standard SD Quattro. What this means for the use of DC lenses on the SD Quattro remains to be seen. Probably vignetting will be increased but hopefully most will still be usable. It’s great to see Sigma still actively developing their sensors and working towards bigger sensors in the future. Hopefully one day we will see a full frame version of the Foveon technology.
The new cameras feature a combination of 2 autofocus detection modes. Phase detection AF is used for speed and contrast detection AF for accuracy. We will need to test to see if it is indeed how fast and accurate it is. From experience the AF in the dp Quattro cameras is very accurate but not really fast. In total there are nine AF points which can be set in 3 sizes for more accuracy. The cameras feature also a face detection AF and an AF assist light. to help in lower light situations.
An additional new file format
To get even more out of the Foveon X3 Quattro sensor Sigma created a new RAW file format called X3I. They call this a Super-Fine Detail (SFD) exposure mode. Which basically takes 7 exposures and combines them. As of now we have no information how big those files will be and how fast they can be processed. But I am surely intrigued by this. Sigma describe it like this:
The new Super-Fine Detail (SFD) exposure mode brings out the full performance of the Foveon X3 Quattro direct image sensor. One push of the shutter generates seven different exposures, creating RAW data in the X3I file format. Using this data with the SIGMA Photo Pro software package, the photographer can create noiseless images with an extensive dynamic range. With this new mode, the more detailed imaging potential of the Foveon X3 Quattro direct image sensor is fully leveraged. From each X3I file, individual X3F files may also be generated. The value of SFD exposure mode is especially apparent in studio photography. Note: To prevent camera shake, SIGMA recommends the use of a tripod.
Here we do see quite an improvement, at least on paper. Using two separate TRUE (Three-layer Responsive Ultimate Engine) III engines, the camera is able to process data from the Foveon X3 Quattro direct image sensor at extremely high speed. And with twice the capacity of that of the SIGMA dp Quattro of DDR III high-speed, high-volume memory the SIGMA sd Quattro can capture up to 14 RAW images (X3F files) in continuous shooting (SIGMA sd Quattro H: up to 10 images). The maximum continuous shooting speed is about 3.6 frames per second (SIGMA sd Quattro H about 3.8 frames per second). And when Low size is used continuous shooting speed of up to 5.1 frames per second and continuous shooting of up to 28 images (SIGMA sd Quattro H: up to 20 images) can be achieved.
In addition to the 1.62 mega-pixel 3.0 inch TFT LCD main monitor, the rear of the camera features a sub-monitor that displays the number of remaining shots on the SD card, shutter speed, aperture value, ISO level, and more. This extra monitor makes it easy to watch the live view and confirm key information at the same time.
Along with the camera Sigma introduced a battery grip which will hold two additional batteries. Together with the battery in the camera you will have the power of three of three batteries to keep you shooting for much longer. Knowing the power hungry dp Quattro cameras I guess this battery grip will be a must for most shooters.
I think this a pretty bold move by Sigma. But do think this is the right direction. The Foveon based cameras have never been sport shooter cameras. They have always been cameras for slow-shooters who shoot in a lower pace and very deliberately. Although for some an electronic viewfinder might mean some adjustment but I think it’ll prove very useful in the end. Personally I think Sigma is on the right track here. Now just let’s hope that the performance of SPP will be improved too and maybe some third party support will eventually come along. Looking very much forward to seeing what this camera can do.
PS. If you want to see the full specs just visit this page: http://www.sigma-global.com/en/cameras/sd-series/specifications/
PS2. All images courtesy of Sigma corporation