Fabled Sigma SD14 Camera: "First" Review

Illustration for article titled Fabled Sigma SD14 Camera: First Review

We first talked about the Sigma SD14 SLR last year, reporting that it would be released in Sept 2006. Evidently things were pushed back a bit.

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But the camera retained its promise nonetheless. Using a multi-layered Foveon X3 image chip, the SD14 promised superb color capture by allocating a separate analog chip to each of the 3 primary colors, allowing 3 color properties per each pixel of the image instead of the normal 1. While Sigma had debuted the chip in the past, their last camera was released back in 2004. And things have changed a bit since then.

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Pop Photo got their hands on one of the first Sigma SD14 models and posted a quick review. So what did they think?



Summary

- Build on par with Canon 30D
- Image eyeballed at 9 megapixels
- Autofocus improved over predecessor
- Capture JPEG and RAW
- Excellent color verging on "sometimes...translucent"
- ISO 800 showed virtually no grain or mottling
- IR filter pops out with ease

While these screenshots don't show full resolution, you can still make out many of the cameras tendencies.

Illustration for article titled Fabled Sigma SD14 Camera: First Review
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Color is extremely lifelike. It's accurate and avoids oversaturation.

Illustration for article titled Fabled Sigma SD14 Camera: First Review
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Shadow detail is excellent.

We're excited to see more reviews as they come. The 3 CCD philosophy has been in consumer camcorders for years and there is no reason that the philosophy still couldn't make a splash in the work of photography.

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We Got it First: Our Hands On Impressions of the Sigma SD14 [popphoto]
That Might Not Exactly Be True [photoreview]
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DISCUSSION

This is not the same as a 3 CCD system. In a 3 CCD system there's an optical beam splitter and total separate CCDs for red, green and blue. The Foveon sensors have stacked photodiodes. Separation of the colors relies on the fact that different wavelengths penetrate different amounts in to the silicon.

While this may sound equivalent to 3 CCDs it isn't. As the separation between the different diodes in the stack isn't perfect. As a result, the blue diode picks up some green light, the green diode picks up some blue and red light and the red picks up some green.

Of course this is also true to a degree in a conventional single sensor system, as the RGB filters deposited over each detector are imperfect, but the Foveon system is "more imperfect"!

The effect can be mitigated using tricks during the image processing, and to be honest Sigma and Foveon have done a pretty amazing job at squeezing impressive images from the sensor. However, that's in comparison to a conventional single CCD/CMOS sensor with a Bayer color filter array, not a three sensor system.