Sigma SD1 and the Foveon sensor















http://www.dpreview.com/news/1009/10092129sigmasd1.asp

Photokina 2010 is interesting in that the gear that is stirring up lots of interest is not from the big two, Canon and Nikon but some of the smaller companies. Certainly the Fuji X100 has created a real stir. That was a surprising announcement and equally surprising and welcome news is that Sigma have finally come out with a Foveon Sensor that produces images of a decent size.


The Foveon works differently in that it layers its pixels vertically in colour layers. What this means in real terms is that the figures that Sigma quote for MP need to be divided by three to indicate how big their camera files are. So the SD15 with its advertised 14MP in fact produces a file in terms of size of just over 4.6 MP. The full size of an SD15 file is 13.3 MB. 


Because of the three colour layers and the lack of an Anti-Aliasing filter the images are sharp with wonderful colours but are only just under 9 x 6" at 300 ppi. They can be slightly interpolated but this reduces the quality substantially.


I had an SD14 and loved the look of the images. I shot mostly multi image panoramas with it since the single files couldn't be made large enough to use for my stock work. 


However it produced beautiful looking pictures.


Sigma SD14


Sigma SD14


Sigma SD14


Sigma SD14


Sigma SD14


Sigma SD14


The colours weren't particularly accurate but had a lovely warm glow, which I liked. When I bought my Leica M8 that camera reminded me very much of the Sigma. Same sharpness and lovely colour.


Ultimately I stopped using the Sigma and sold it. The small file size was very frustrating. Now nearly three years later, out of the blue they come up with a 46MP camera. This means that it will produce files 15MP in terms of size. Thats very useable. I always thought that if they could get the foveon sensor to produce larger files then it could produce sensational results. It seems however that the SD1 isn't yet finished and there are certainly no samples to view at the moment. 


I'm still interested in what they can come up with, though in many ways the Leica M9 does everything that the foveon sensor promised. It could be a disappointment, since there are obviously reasons why its taken them so long to come up with this. However if they do get it right we could be on the verge of something quite special.


D