Sigma SD Quattro

vm666

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Jan 19, 2013
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I'm badly affected by GAS and before Christmas, eBay tempted me with a 15% discount (max 100€). I'm weak :-(
I bought a Sigma SD Quattro + 30 mm f/1.4 ART kit from a Spanish guy who was selling it after 50 shots. It came in its original box, in a mint condition. I'm still wondering if I am going to keep it...

This is an APS-C camera (crop factor x1.5) with a three layers "Foveon" sensor. There is also an APS-H version (crop factor x1.3) which needs "full frame" lenses.
The top layer (blue) has 19.6 Mp, the two other layers (green and red) have only 4.9 Mp. I'll come back to that.

Bad news:
  • This is a MILC, but it uses the very long "Sigma SA" DSLR mount. The camera is uselessly thick, and it is nearly impossible to adapt third party lenses.
    M42 and Tamron are compatible; or Pentax K once you remove the aperture lever, otherwise it will hit the IR / anti-dust filter.
  • It is big and heavy. This is nearly a quality, because this makes the beast more stable.
  • The sensor is noisy even at 100 ISO (sometimes).
    Moreover, this is colour noise which creates ugly green or purple zones in the shadows. When this happens, you have to push the Chroma Noise Reduction cursor in Sigma Pro Photo (SPP).
    By the way, the Luminance Noise Reduction does not seem to do much.
  • The dynamic range is pathetic, which explains the trouble with the shadows even at 100 ISO, but you can improve the result with a kind of HDR mode called "Super Fine Details" which takes 7 pictures and put then in a "X3I" raw file. Of course, the subject must be static and the camera on a tripod. SFD forces 100 ISO by the way.
  • The camera is useless above 650 ISO. SPP exports in 9.5 Mp at 800 ISO and 5.25 Mp at 1600 ISO. Even then, the results are horrible.
    See Index of /tmp/20180107
    Edit: SPP has an option to export in full resolution at high ISO. This has no good effect on the noise, of course.
  • Sigma X3F raw files are huge, about 50 MB. X3I are more than 350 MB.
    Recording on the SD card is sloooooow, especially the X3I. Meanwhile, many functions are disabled.
  • Most software cannot read X3F or X3I. You have to use the very limited, slow and buggy "Sigma Pro Photo" software to export in TIFF or JPEG.
    It is possible to switch to DNG. As far as I know, the files are even bigger than X3F. Some people say that the quality is lower, which implies that DNG are not true raw files but are somehow processed by the camera firmware.
    In any case, SFD mode will still produce X3I files, not DNG.
  • I somehow suspect that it is noisy in long exposure, although it obviously uses dark frame subtraction -- you cannot disable it by the way.
  • It has a big battery (the same as the Panasonic GH5) and drains it at an amazing speed. I'm not sure you can do 200 shots with one battery.
    Of course, SFD = 7 shots :biggrin:
Less dramatic:
  • No video at all. The Foveon sensor is too slow for that.
  • The last firmware includes a "hidden" update. Links to two ".bin" files are included in a PDF. When you flash the firmware with one of these optional bin files, you can choose to enhance the details, or to reduce the noise. If you change your mind, flash the firmware again. Obviously, this was a last minute modification.
    This only affects the JPEG made by the camera body, not the raw files.
  • JPEG from the body are far from perfect. Considering that the camera is slow, spending some time with SPP is not absurd. It would be OK if only this software could do batch processing :(
  • The screen is fixed and not touch sensitive.
  • The EVF is oddly placed. For those who use their left eye, it must be a huge PITA.
Nearly good news:
  • the screen is split in two parts with a small black and white screen which gives the common parameters (mode, ISO, speed, aperture...). You can switch the main screen off to save the battery and keep the small screen on. That's rather a good idea. Generally speaking, handling this camera is a pleasure. It looks like it was designed by photographers.
    IMHO, the screen and the EVF are quite good. The screen is small, though.
  • Although it is not lightning speed, the autofocus is not as crappy as I expected after reading some reviews. However, it has 9 zones but only uses one at a time; you have to choose, this is not a multizone AF. I always use the central zone and see no point in this odd feature.
    You can change the size of the zones, that's useful at full aperture when you don't have much depth of field.
  • SPP (Sigma Pro Photo) is not quick, but at least it is less buggy on Windows that on MacOS X. The Mac version may well explain the horrible reviews.
    However, it is rather limited, slow, and not well designed.
    On Windows, it is supposed to be able to use the graphic card to speed up processing. I have a nVidia GTX 680 and saw no real difference.
    If you are allergic to SPP, the camera can do DNG, but not in "Super Fine Details" mode.
  • SFD mode is great to add dynamic range when the sensor cannot. I tried at night in Paris and the results look good.
    https://ks5.hofud.com/tmp/20180105/SDIM6784-SHI.jpg
  • The sensor is not really more noisy at 400 ISO than at 100 ISO. After that, noise suddenly explodes. 800 ISO? Forget it!
  • You can remove the IR filter very easily if you like IR photography.
    Note that as the red layer has only 4.9 Mp, IR pictures are less sharp than what the older Sigma SD1 or SD15 could produce:
    Sigma SD1 vs SD Quattro Infrared Comparison
  • The camera is weather-resistant and built like a tank. Sigma ART lenses are weather-resistant too.
Now the magic:

Some tests (39 Mp JPEGs):
Index of /tmp/20171230
Index of /tmp/20180105
Index of /tmp/20180114

I'm not really sure I'll keep it...
 
Last edited:

ivoire

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I have the same camera and lens plus the 24-105mm. Incredibly quirky camera that will frustrate even the most diehard user. I'm definitely keeping mine as the images are worth the effort. As everyone knows you can only use it for landscape, portraits and product shots.

40089755171_d234e07e7c_c.jpg
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The Conversation by Michael Wolf, on Flickr

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5220917 by Michael Wolf, on Flickr

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_SDI0839 by Michael Wolf, on Flickr

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_SDI0880 by Michael Wolf, on Flickr
 

Turbofrog

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Mar 21, 2014
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I constantly come back to the Sigma Foveon cameras, but can never bring myself to actually buy one.

The low-light aspect doesn't really bother me, but the lack of dynamic range is the disappointing thing for me. I really don't find that M4/3's resolution lets me down (honestly, it's hard to be let down by the resolution on almost any camera these days), but I do occasionally wish I had a stop or two more DR.

It seems like the Sigmas are really screaming out for IBIS, or perhaps really great IS...

Also, try as I might, I don't think that I actually prefer the image quality of the Quattro sensor compared to the earlier Merrill. I say "try as I might" because the Quattro cameras, particularly the SD Quattro, are the first Sigmas that actually seem sort of like real digital cameras made in the 21st century, rather than being full of outrageous deal-breaking compromises and implementation problems at every turn...
 

ivoire

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I have the DPM2 and 3. I do like the images from them more than the SD Quattro. The quattro does offer more versatility and at $799 with the 30mm f1.4 lens was too hard to pass up. I enjoy my M4/3 gear very much and it is hands down fun to shoot with. Each camera has its use. "Shoot with whatever makes you happy. Anything less will make you unhappy"
 

jyc860923

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贾一川
I suggest that you sell it. Looking at the pictures, they are not what I'd expect from a fovean sensor camera, I may get a cheap DP2M someday but that is it, not worth investing serious money into the system. When I look at the images it's not the colours/details that I see, it's noise and artifacts and that's not doing anything for the image.
 

vm666

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When I look at the images it's not the colours/details that I see, it's noise and artifacts

I may have aggravated the problem by keeping noise reduction at the minimum on many images. The development process with SPP is definitely slow and after a while, I got bored and did not want to move yet another cursor and wait 30 s or more to see the resulting image.
 

spdavies

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I just cull the images in SPP,
then take the winners and batch process them out as high quality TIFFs.
I do the post-processing in Photoshop - much faster.
 

jyc860923

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I may have aggravated the problem by keeping noise reduction at the minimum on many images. The development process with SPP is definitely slow and after a while, I got bored and did not want to move yet another cursor and wait 30 s or more to see the resulting image.
I remember seeing somewhere that Sony's developing their own Foveon-like sensor? So for ultimate details/sharpness an X3 sensor as well as the hi-res mode in Oly/Pan/Pentax are ideal, but they just can't compete the convenience of using conventional sensor reading, look how many polarised opinions on what Fuji does with the X-trans array, the reason I think I can buy a DP series is that it's a fixed lens camera hence it's optimised, of course there are beatiful Sigma lenses to choose for the Sigma mount but I have my doubt since Sigma is the only manufacture that's producing SA moung lenses?
 
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