The beginning of something new!

winter with Sigma 8-16mm

The history of Sigma and Foveon has in the past been somewhat clouded and the vision has in the past not been the most exiting – I remember when the SD10 came a year after the SD9 with the new sensor that had been updated with micro lenses (like all other players on the market at that time) but with a pixel count that stayed the same. Somewhat disappointed I didn’t upgrade directly as I didn’t really feel that the update was necessary and my budget didn’t allow it either to be honest. I had put a slight fortune on the SD9 just a year prior (I payed about $2900 for SD9 body only back in 2002 + Sigma 105mm, Sigma 15-30 and Sigma 50mm 2.8 which together was pretty expensive stuff). and it took me another year or so before I upgraded to SD10.

Now, around this time I exchanged email with people inside Foveon and even if they never really told me any “real” secrets I sort of read between the lines that their focus was divided – they wanted more market share (understandably) and when the SD14 sensor was released back in 2006 it felt like Sigma as their only real customer (yes there was some others but not for consumers) was placed really far down the ladder. Foveon was at this time focusing all their energy into the mobile market – making mobile sensors – Small, tiny sensors with really tiny pixels and though I cried inside about this and hoped that it would all play out well..

In the wake of the economic crisis Foveon had major problems with the economics and was close to bankruptcy, no mobile phones had used their tiny ones and all my own hopes and dreams about future cameras was about to go down the drain. I knew that CEO of Sigma, Michihiro Yamaki once said that he wanted to create the best cameras on the planet – but would that be possible with some bayern solution? In November the 11th of 2008 Sigma acquired 100% of the stock in the Foveon company and for the first time since the SD9 (I think) Foveon was about to concentrate 100% on camera sensors for one player only.

That was three years ago. It’s now 2011 – and in a few month we will (I still hope for Feb) see the new Sigma SD1 which is really the result of years and years of dedicated hard work – The new generation of sensors that will come out from the Foveon labs and starting with the SD1, are for sure the most interesting things sensors since the original SD9 and for the first time I really feel that this will change how people look at Sigma and three layered photography in general. Now I wouldn’t say this if I didn’t have a slight more insight than just looking at some prints and I will give you a little bit more.. :)

winter with Sigma 8-16mm

Back at Photokina 2010 I was talking to some of the brains behind the sensor development at Foveon and seeing their excitement about the future was really awesome! I had many questions to them as I felt the level of shadow noise was bigger with the SD14 sensor than with the SD10 – and with that bigger pixel count in mind now going forward from 4.6 to a whopping 15.5MP’s I wasn’t sure what to make of it. They drew some graphs (or at first actually one guy tried to explain in terms of mathematical equations but I had to stop him as it didn’t really make too much sense to me even if I love math) and they explained how big a wavelength of light was and how they now learnt more about how to capture it and also – how to make that digital noise which seams to be the biggest bad guy in terms of IQ, become less intrusive.

They spoke in terms of a hundred times better this and stuff like that and even if I didn’t really get what was a hundred times – I understood that they had come up with ways to make a better picture, even with three times the pixel count! And looking at those prints that I filmed and looking at those shadows – that looked sooo clean (especially that girls portrait, at the eye) and thinking about whatever a hundred times and I feel excitement just flowing thru my veins!

The year of 2011 will be a year to remember starting this very spring!

winter with Sigma 8-16mm

PS. My little brother Josef called me today and said that I just HAD to go out and take a few pictures – and so I did. I needed some groseries and stopped on my way and ran out in the winterland and took a few before people was honking about my car being badly parked. :)

All above was shot using the Sigma 8-16mm and SD15. All uploaded at full size and PLEASE have a look at those full sized versions as this lens is truly something extra!  Start HERE!

About Carl Rytterfalk

Welcome to my blog! I'm Carl Rytterfalk, a swedish photographer who loves everything that is interesting in the world of photography. In 2002 I fell in love with the three layered Foveon sensor and has since then been an addicted user of Sigma cameras. Though I use Canon and Nikon as well. :)
This entry was posted in 8-16, Full size, Link, Sigma Photo Pro, Sigma SD1, Sigma SD15. Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to The beginning of something new!

  1. Pingback: The beginning of something new! | X3 magazine

  2. I always like the film like Foveon sensor. However, from SD9 to SD14 Sigma cameras have not been user friendly to be a real marketing success yet. I can hardly wait for Sigma SD-1 to show up in my camera bag.

    Sigma should speed up in sales with discount on the existing cameras to make room and make cash flow for the coming investment into next generation of foveon cameras(SD-1 and SD-100).

    Perhaps Sigma should consider to buy/to merge one of these camera makers to overcome the learning curve through capital markets.

    On the hand, Foveon perhaps should get in talk with Olympus and Pentax to have a bigger market share for this great sensor technology if possible.

    Best Wishes and Happy New Year for Foveon, for Sigma and for all the Foveon fans around the world.


  3. spalbird says:

    Somehow Yamaki-san is acting like me – I also want become a good piano player, but I am too lazy to practise every day and – if you want, I aim to become the best piano player in the world!!! ;) Looking at Sigma – they want be a wunderkind, achieving everything without effort, and this is even not true for a wunderkind…

    I am very concerned about the SD1. Not because of the achieveable image quality – but because of the useability. By increasing pixels the camera needs more support. There are some hidden features in the premium models like vibracy reduced mirrors (and what that means can be shown with high speed videoa – no vibration on the mirror), and very good autofocus, and there is a time when image stabilisation technology should be part of the body.

    From the specs it can be seen that the processing speed is actually decreasing, even dual processors used.

    If Sigma want increase the sold units they should offer a reasonably priced camere, e.g. the SD15 in Nikon and Canon mount. I have read all over the arguments speaking against – especially they don’t want sell a camera where other lens manufacturers make a fortune…

    Fact is, Sigma is very successful selling lenses for other manufacturers, why should this change? A SD15 with foreign mount could be a great promotion for the X3F sensor. The body sold around 500+ Euro is just as expensive as a good lens, it would be a no-brainer to acquire for many. Camera shops could show it without need to support Sigma mount lenses…

    I have bought a SD10 in 2005. In my small village (30.000 inhabitants) there was one shop selling this camera. I have seen the SD14 in a much bigger city (Stuttgart, 800.000 inhabitants) two years ago. Today I don’t know where to buy from a store, most possibly there is no anymore.

    Sigma should awake from their Dornröschenschlaf, it is 2011 and doing not enough has summed up to a high hill. The SD1 will not change anything as it is not in the budget and needs of many.

    Look at the DP1x – it should be a faster DP1s. The judgement of a professional photographer and a person with extremely tight contact with Sigma Japan judged, the improvements are barely noticible…

    To be among the best need a huge effort, as it is everywhere the case. It can be done -> Leica, but it cannot be done by wording, it doesn’t matter how beautiful they sound.

    Hopefully Foveon brings back or even betters color fidelity which became lost with the SD14 sensor… Most need to be improved with the camera body (electronics), easy to find out when comparing to recent models…

    2900 $, I remember I was looking at the SD9/10 and thinking I can never affort something impressive like this ;)

    Happy new Year!

  4. Dan says:

    I agree completely with Wolfgang. The camera is no longer the main cost for the vast majority of DSLR users. The lenses are. The camera gets replaced every few years but the lenses are kept and their number increases over time. So, SD1 should be made for different mounts, just like Sigma lenses are made for different mounts.

    The way to do it is to design it to accept different adapters to suit each major mount. That way, Sigma SD1 and later cameras will become the bridging camera for people to change brands or just to use some nice lens that is not available in one’s own brand. That would guarantee sales and this can be really BIG.

  5. Dan and Wolfgang, just want you to know that I too would like Sigma to support all major mounts – and I would like Sigma to make them with all connections working for AF and possibly even IS and VR.

    I’m pretty sure Sigma would gain quite a lot of users this way.

  6. Andreas says:

    Hallo Carl,

    thank you for sharing your thoughts on the things to come for the next few years. I myself have had a similar experience with Sigma/Feveon as you, but come to quite different conclusions.

    I used to photograph with a medium format Rolleiflex camera (6 x 6, like Hasselblad) as I did not like the “lifeless” impression of digital capture. That was until I saw pictures taken with the Sigma/Feveon camera at Photokina; I believe it was in 2004. That was the first time I thought, yeah, maybe digital is not that bad. When I visited Photokina 2006 and saw poster format pictures taken with the new SD14 I was convinced and bought one of the first SD14 sold in this country. Financially wise it was probably one of my worst buys ever (I paid Euro 1.500 for the body alone, within 1 year the official Sigma price slipped to less than 800 euro and on eBay dealers sold them of for less than 500 euro with lens), but that’s not the point I would like to make. I have been using the SD14 with different Sigma lenses since then but unlike you the introduction of the SD15 and the Photokina announcement of the SD1 convinced me to switch the other system. Let me explain.

    When I bought the SD14 I did not mind that the camera did not have all the buttons and whistles of comparable prized cameras from Canon/Nikon; I did not mind that the LCD screen had a resolution that was less than that of even some point and shoot cameras; I did not mind that the body was made out of “plastic” and not Magnesium. I did not like the “slow” frame rate compared to Canon or Nikon cameras, but it was acceptable. But I did mind that the camera took ages to start up (especially from stand by) and did mind the camera regularly “froze up” (stopped working and had to be restarted). To me a camera which is not reliable is not acceptable! I eagerly awaited every new software update but unfortunately the problem was never totally resolved. Then in 2008 the SD15 was announced and I thought okay then, if that is what it takes, I will upgrade to the SD15. But month after month I waited and nothing happened; it took Sigma nearly 2 years (!!!) to bring the SD15 out. Even two years ago this camera was in many respects no match for comparable Canon/Nikon cameras, but in today’s market, where cameras have further evolved (live view, film functions etc.) the camera is a joke! Especially if you take in consideration it’s pricing. Originally it was announced that the body would coast 900 euro, but one week before the camera got available the price was raised to 1.200 euro! Off course you know as well as I do what will happen (look above). My answer is: forget it Sigma! A few months ago I switched to a professional full frame camera and never regretted it.

    As to the Foveon sensor: yes, in good lightning condition the SD14 is capable of producing stunning images. But in low light and also in extreme high lights the sensor has serious problems. The noise problems at high ISO’s are frequently discussed here and in other forums, but what is seldom mentioned is that even at low ISO’s colour noise in shadowy areas of a picture is quite noticeable. I am no technician but my guess is that in lower light the colour detection is not as clear defined as in a Bayer sensor. In a Bayer sensor the colour filter above the sensor (red, green or blue) let’s only light of that colour (wavelength) pass and that colour is there for clear defined. In the Foveon sensor on the other hand the colour is determined by the depth by which the light penetrates the silicon of the sensor. In low light situations, not only at high ISO’s but also in shadow areas of lower ISO pictures, this process does not separate colours as clear as in a Bayer sensor and I guess that this is the problem.
    But I have also encountered colour/noise problems in high light situations. Some colours, in particular reds, in bright sunlight could suddenly change to another colour. I can show you pictures of a person sitting in the blazing sun wearing a stark red, even coloured garment of which parts are suddenly rendered as yellow. I have tried all versions of SPP but did not get any acceptable result. Neither did I get any reaction to my mails to Foveon.

    These colour/noise problems really undermined my belief in the Foveon design. My experience is that accurate colour rendition, which is the essence of Sigma’s/Foveon’s superior sensor claim, is only true in good light situations. But if colour rendition is not as superior as claimed, why the heck should I accept an otherwise mediocre camera?!!!

    Finally some word on the SD1. Unfortunately I cannot share your enthusiasm. Based on the fact that it took Sigma always a second camera to get it right (the SD9 followed by the SD10, and the SD14 followed by the SD15) I am not that convinced that the SD1 will be the perfect camera you apparently expect. Probably you will have to wait for the D1 Mark II. And as to the new sensor, it is not that much bigger than the current one, a long shot away from a full frame sensor. And as Sigma pointed out themselves the small pixel design is based on the experience they gained from the design of mobile sensors. To me that is not a very good starting point for an upmarket professional camera!

    Anyhow, I wish you a smashing 2011, kind regards,


  7. nick says:


    please tell me that there is hope that this sensor will end up in a dp size compact. i would love to see such a camera steal the hype away from from the new darling of the internet, fuji x100.

  8. adrian says:

    I share my enthusiasm with Carl with regards to Foveon. I’ve been shooting with digital for a long time but improvements through the years in image output has not been inspiring, it’s just cleaner and bigger flat image.
    Anyways, to me,this is the future of high end digital imaging. Once the masses start to notice the image flatness of Bayer, competitors would just jump in.

  9. Rob says:

    I just hope they don’t make the same mistakes that Contax made when they released their digital “N” system. It was many years ago but a very similar situation. Contax announced that it was going to release the “pro” photographers digital camera, then months of silence. Some wondered if a true “Full Frame” digital camera could be produced, and the silence slowly built into anger and disillusionment.

    Suddenly the camera appeared on the market, out of nowhere, no reviews, no press, no pro interviews, no anything. Like a wildfire rumors spread that the camera was a “Dog” incapable of functioning normally and having lousy, noisy image quality. Within a week the camera was withdrawn from the US market and regulated only for sale in Europe and Asia. All press interviews and requests by product reviewers were ignored by Contax, and the company never released any statements about the “problems” users were experiencing. Needless to say the camera failed miserably.

    If Sigma has working models of the SD-1 and plans to deliver them to the market in the next two months they need to be waging an all-out war-style campaign to to let people know about it. Well known photographers should be sent copies to test, use and report on. Review sites should be getting their hands on the cameras to see the improvements first hand so that they can relay the info to the general public. If Sigma has a PR division they should be running ads & making sure dealers have advertising materials in the stores to explain the camera’s technology and selling points. If the camera is as good as they say it it now is the time to let the world know!

    Silence can kill you…

  10. nick, I’m pretty sure that the current sensor has been used for the last time – but what sensor that will end up in the next DP I don’t know. Hopefully the SD1 sensor or, may I suggest a FF version of it? :D

    The Fuji is indeed a cool camera – I had a look at it at Photokina and well.. That one with a SD1 sensor inside! Jummy!

  11. Andreas,

    Thanks for your lengthy reply and I’m on my way out but just wanted to let you know that I read it and that Sigma most likely have done as well. Even if you’re a lost customer I’m sure your input is valuable.

    As to your final paragraph about the mobile phone thingi, to me that’s totally the other way around! The pixel size of a sensor made for a phone is so much smaller than what’s inside the SD1 and the work that they had to do in order to make the mobile phone sensor work is what gave them the break thru / knowledge needed to make a improved design. Not sure why that wouldn’t be a good thing.

    Anyways, I wish you a really good new year and happy shooting with your new gear!

  12. Jim Roelofs says:

    Hi, Carl!

    Thanks for the ‘heads up’ and your thoughts. I too am a disillusioned Foveon user, thinking of jumping ship

    The other interesting comment (for me) came from Laurence Matson when he stated that the SD1 is the beginning of a Sigma ‘reboot’ revival. I do hope that this equates into a ‘first-up success’, instead of users having to await a Mark 2.

    If the latter is the case, maybe they should negotiate with Pentax for the right to use the K9 designation, woof!

    Wishing you and Lin all the best for 2011

  13. Carl Rytterfalk says:

    Hi Jim! Hehe, Sigma ‘reboot’ revival.. Did LR say that? Well, it does make some sence doesn’t it? SD1 is the very first real camera since Sigma acquired Foveon.. Let’s he’s right!

  14. Richard says:

    To Andreas

    I suggest you to go to DPREVIEW website and look at the sample images of the new Nikon D7000, especially image 735862.jpg (the orange suit with a kind of airplane behind). Tell me if a SD14 would have done worse… or better than this. I own a SD14 and I bet you it would have produce a much better image… for a lot less money!

    The low light critic of the Foveon sensor is becoming a mantra-like criticism to some people that sounds more and more like a bad joke to me…

  15. Jim Roelofs says:

    You’re absolutely right, Richard. In the ‘OLD’ days we had to have a pretty good idea about the characteristics of each film’s emulsion.

    Translated to the digital age, we need to understand what our sensor is capable of.

    Trouble is, with newer cameras, the need for knowledge is getting less and less, what with HDR mode grabbing the best from 5 frames and combining that in camera etc, sheesh! Takes all the fun out of photography for me.

  16. My expectations are high at least we could make perfect food and studio photos soon in budget. 40 Mpix MF sensor has only 10 Mpix red sensors for red texture but SD1 has 15 Mpix of them. Test sites alway take account BW resolution I do not like. The blue and red really has big detail problems.

    Hopefully they have improved color accuracy even futher but SD15 was quite good already.

    I bayer two things suck totally: resolution of red and blue and wrong saturation coming from demosaiced images. Red areas interpolated from green sensors – no thanks.

  17. Ricky says:

    I appreciated a lot the Andreas’ post. I think the digital Sigmas have never been flexible in all situations like Canikon, until now.
    For example, I imagine the B/W photos of the “Skurk” post in colors (!).
    We all know what means ISO 400+ in colors with these Sigmas.

    Incredible auto-focus, great display and other non-directly-IQ details on are on Canikon because of they are colossus, they have colossus money.

    However, if there is space in the market for Medium Formats, there is space also for Sigma.

    SD1?? I hope it’s the “best camera on the planet”.
    But, because “best” is subjective, I find difficult to make on this planet a camera better than my DP2 ;).

  18. Jürgen Krüger says:

    Hey folks,

    a Diva is a Diva is a Diva.
    Foveon based cameras are Divas – and also bitchy.

    But if a Diva meets the point – great! Not comparable with others.

    Thats the reason why I use Sigma’s :-))

    And if anyone wants other mounts he should look at “”.
    I use a modified SD14-Body with Olypus OM-Lenses and got wonderfull results.
    But be warned: no automatics – you have all to do by hand.

    Kind Regards

  19. Luís Vives says:

    Hi Karl,

    I have been able to meet you by looking at the photographs that you so kindly show us (it’s a real luxury to have access to your RAWs). I would like to ask you a couple of technical questions.

    I have a DP1 and I am very satisfied with it, as it meets all my requirements (my EOS 5D no longer walks around town or climbs any mountain; it actually sleeps soundly on a shelf). I do my developings with SPP 4.2 – it’s amazing the interpolation it makes twice as big when keeping the document – and later with CS5. First, I do it by using an automatic task – it’s one of the advantages of prime lens – where I always correct some halos, a little bit of noise and structural diversions in reds and in cyans of DP1. Moreover, I do some more adjustments, this time by using the tools in Photoshop, as I view the process better (I never use RAW Camera).

    However, in my opinion what is good can be improved. Maybe adding an x would be the way. I am interested in the image. But I have some questions about the differences between TRUE and TRUE II (DP1 and DPx). The information available in the net hasn’t answered my questions so far. The evaluations and the oficial information in SIGMA about how to improve TRUE II, deal with focus, speed and other topics that are not essential for me. They also seem to imply the existence of algorithms to improve image… but which ones?

    I have been working with the photograph of the stopped, blue tram from your latest “DP1x winter RAW pack”. I have been able to obtain the natural blue of the sky, and it hasn’t turned red as it usually happens to me. Have I discovered TRUE II? My impression is that TRUE doesn’t have any hidden sensitivity as CCDs and CMOS and TRUE II do. Is this defect in TRUE the same that produces those unpleasant, red halos in photos against the light? I would be thankful if you could confirm my thoughts and gave me your opinion. Does the same happen between SD14 and SD15?

    To finish, let me ask you one last thing. I have some Carl Zeiss prime lens in an old analogic CONTAX: 28, f2,8 – 50, f1,7 and 135 f2,8. Is it true that they can be used in a SIGMA SLR mount? An SD1 for example? Would it be worth doing it?

    I attach a couple of photographs that I have done with my DP1 – different lights in the south- which I hope pay for your time.

    Luís Vives from Spain
    [img]òs CS.jpg[/img]
    [img] CAT.jpg[/img]
    [img] CS.jpg[/img]

  20. photoSmart42 says:

    I, too, am anxiously awaiting the arrival of the SD1. I’m not a current Foveon camera user, but I’ve seen enough to be impressed with the potential of the technology. I also believe that in order to be a real contender, Sigma has to think not simply about releasing a great camera, but about a camera system that’s competitive.

    I also wish that Sigma would consider building adapters for their camera system that would allow the fitting of other branded lenses to their system with full functionality. The differentiation in the market place HAS to go beyond simple IQ, especially when even the flagship SD-1 will be missing a ton of the features other pro camera bodies have. Having the flexibility to use a number of other lenses would be that differentiator, and frankly it was a HUGE factor in the success of the m4/3 format when it came out. To be successful sometimes you have to put pride aside and do what’s necessary to succeed.

    Along the same lines I still don’t know why Sigma doesn’t build lenses that are cross-compatible across all the different formats they support, even if they choose to make their own camera mounts proprietary. How difficult would it be, for example, to come up with a modern-day equivalent of the Tamron Adaptall concept that allows users to swap out the mount section of their lens and use it across a number of camera systems? Not very I bet. Plenty of users out there have a mix of brands, and plenty more would buy Sigma lenses if they didn’t have to buy one each for each system they own.

    So while I ponder the decision to get into the Nikon professional camera bodies and lenses, one of the factors is waiting to see what Sigma will do with the SD-1 as a larger strategy. I and many others won’t buy a bunch of quality, expensive lenses for two different systems, and the safe bet is to go with the established player like a Nikon or Canon. Be smart, Sigma, and you’ll get my money (and that of many others who are waiting for you to come out swinging). Be limited, and you’ll be relegated to a specialized system that only the die-hards will embrace.

  21. Emaad says:


    Its really looking to be a very fine addition to DSLRs.

    What about 3 layered RAW files. Please! Ask Foveon team to add option of RGB Raw. It will provide unlimited opportunities to a photographer.

  22. Hi Emaad,

    Not sure what your request is – do you want the file to be separated in a different way? Like three files, one for each color? As it is now, the RAW of any Foveon Sigma camera has an RGB file, created from the three layered foveon sensor. And if you wish to separate those layers you can go into photoshop and do so.

  23. Chunsum says:


    Emaad mean 3 rawfiles for each image. interesting ideas. but I see more of a software implementation where you can select which layer or layers to use. Not sure if this will be much different from a channel mixer. but an interesting idea.

  24. Mike Earussi says:

    Carl, just a simple request. If you have any contacts at all within Sigma please tell them that I, and probably many others as well, would prefer the SD1 work correctly when released rather than rush its release to Feb. I’d rather wait until March, April, May, or longer if necessary, if that’s what it takes. Thanks

  25. Ricky says:

    The RAW by definition contains all the informations that the sensor receive. That for Foveon means what every photosite receive: every blue photosite, every red photosite and every green photosite. 3 rawfiles makes no sense for me, because we all of that in 1.

  26. I’m thinking about jumping abord !

    I want to leave the boring Nikons behind. I want something with a soul. today I look at Pentax K5 or Sigma SD1 ….

    I want more Sigma news… it’s awfully quite “out there”

  27. Tom says:

    While the sd1 looks interesting my interest is not at the same level as it has been in the past. I was very impressed with the sd9 images, enough so that I bought an sd10. It was my first dslr and I still like the images it produces. When the sd14 was released I was one of the early buyers, but quite frankly it did not live up to my expectations.

    Not that I was unhappy with the image quality, but by that time I had a Canon 1d2. The 1d2 allowed me to shoot in lower light with better AF and a much faster burst rate. This is not to say under the right conditions the sd10 or sd14 can not produce better image quality than the 1d2, just that for lots of the wild life images I try to capture the animals move quickly in poor lighting.

    The real game changer was when I got the 1d4 and the great Canon 500/f4 lens with what seems to me to be real 4 stop image stabilization. Not only is this a great wildlife setup, but it has also been making inroads into what I use to consider the biggest strength of my Sigma bodies, macro work. I can stack 87mm of extension tubes on the 500 and have a long focal length macro lens. But the back breaker for Sigma so far is that the 1d4 has live view. I was not that big a fan of live till I started using it at 5X or 10X to get critical focus. Especially for macro work where the center of the image may be the middle of an insects body and the eye, which is what I want in focus close to the side of the FOV. Not only do Sigma bodies lack live view, but there are no store bought extension tubes for SA mounts.

    Since I have modified two Sigma TCs (one EF and one SA mount) by switching the rear plates I can mount all my Canon lens on my Sigma bodies (and extension tubes if I use a TC) and all my Sigma lens on my Canon bodies I will most likely get an sd1. But I view the sd1 as being behind the curve in AF, AI, IS, and features like live view and no extension tubes. It would be a lot more attractive to me with these updates.

  28. Emaad says:

    Yes, Carl I was asking for three layered RAW file. RedRaw blueRaw and GreenRaw all in different layers to have pure Foveon data. As you said its already there.

  29. Andreas says:

    To Richard

    Hallo Richard, I just wanted to share my own personal experience. Based on nearly 4 years of picture taking with the SD14, my opinion is that Sigma’s claim that the Foveon sensor is “superior” in colour reproduction is only valid, if at all, in optimum lighting situations. If you think otherwise, that’s fine with me. I am not trying to convince you that any other camera/sensor is “better”. In fact I did not even mention the camera brand I switched to, exactly because I did not want to get into a discussion whether Sigma/Foveon is better or worse than Canon-Nikon etc./Bayer. To me that is a very personal choice and if you feel that Sigma/Foveon suits all your needs (as I did for some time): that’s great!

  30. Andreas says:

    To Carl

    Hallo Carl, let me explain why I am sceptical about a technic based on mobile design. In most mobiles the camera is not the main feature and picture quality is not the top priority. I am sure that you will agree with me that in most mobiles picture quality is not up to the level of a dedicated camera. Such an engineering environment is not the breeding place for a “new standard for ultra-high image quality” as Sigma puts it. For the same reason I do not expect Volkswagen (which I love, don’t get me wrong, I owned one myself) to come out with a 12 cylinder race car, a Ferrari-killer. If you build family cars you simple do not have that kind of experience. And the development of mobile devices does not give you the knowledge and experience to build high quality cameras.

    But, although I am not very optimistic about the SD1, I do hope that Sigma will carry on and eventually succeed in building a competive camera. We have so little real choices today that I would hate to see Sigma fail. The “digital revolution” has killed off so many fine camera producers (Minolta, Konica, Contax, Bronica, Rollei etc.), others are struggling to survive (Leica, Minox, Mamiya, Hasselblad) and again others have reduced their portfolio, such as Fujifilm who discontinued their Pro DSLR’s. And mind you Fujifilm was, next to Sigma, the only manufacturer who used an own sensor architecture: the Super CCD SR.

    So let’s wait and see what the future brings, 2011 is going to be an interesting year!

    Regards, Andreas

  31. Andreas says:

    Sorry Carl, one small but important word was left out in my last mail: In most mobiles the camera is not the main feature and picture quality is NOT the top priority.

  32. Hi Andreas,

    First of I just want to tell you that you’re welcome to write anything you like, and honesty will take us all to higher ground.

    And.. IQ is such a large concept with so many variables that I often have problems to choose wich camera to bring on an assignment. Foveon or not – all depending on client and subject. For me, foveon is the only sensor that gives this special reality filled, grittiness that makes things look almost 3D – but that’s also hard to do if you have bad light as higher ISO really is so so on todays Sigmas. Hopefully this will change, at least some with the SD1 and others.

    A thing I noticed when browsing my images is that the only images that I really love, the ones I come back to – 100% has been taken with a Sigma. SD9, 10, 14 – and some DP’s. I like my shots from the Nikon D300 or Canon 5D M2 but it’s just not the same thing – it’s different.

    But the other cameras save me a couple of times when light was bad and flash wasn’t an option – I would go home without anything if I only brought Sigma..

    Anyways. Thanks for your post Andreas and your insight. Different perspectives are always welcome. I also second that sorrow about dying brands.. it’s really sad.

  33. Matthias says:

    To Andreas

    Regarding Volkswagen:

    This gives high hopes for the SD1 :)

  34. Richard says:

    To Andreas,

    When you write in your first post, about the SD14, that « in today’s market, where cameras have further evolved (live view, film functions etc.) the camera is a joke! », it is hard to believe that you only meant that you disagree with « Sigma’s claim that the Foveon sensor is “superior” in colour reproduction is only valid, if at all, in optimum lighting situations », as you state in your reply to me.

    I agree with Carl, feel free to write and criticize Sigma and Foveon as much as you wish, but could you please try to stay objective as much as you can also. I read many blogs on photography and, honestly, this so-called low light limitation of the Foveon sensor is becoming a stereotyped criticism that people just repeat, even when they don’t own a Sigma camera or have never tried one. I’m sorry, but in low light condition, based on my own experience with my SD14 AND other camera brands, the Foveon sensor does not do worse (or better) than all the Nikons, Canons or Sonys of this world. Expose right, and there is no major problem with the SD14.

    This now widely shared opinion about the Foveon sensor is just a lie that has become a truth, only because people keep repeating it, despite the fact that many of them have never used one!! This is the pure definition of a myth…

  35. Tom says:

    I have to disagree with a couple of things posted here. My 1d4 (even my 7d) does much better in bad light than my sd10 or sd14. Part of it is less noise, but there is more to it than that. I can consistently shoot at higher ISO with my Canon bodies than with my Sigma bodies. There is really no contest with AF and AI, the Canon body/lens combination capture much better images. I also like what I am able to do with flash using my Canons. I have four Pocket Wizards, two Canon speed lights, and two Sigma speed lights. There is no way I can control the lighting using a Sigma body the way I can with a Canon body. I can shoot at 1/8000 with four speed lights and catch humming birds in flight at the feeder, or light insects for extreme close up/macro shots at fast shutter speeds at f16 or f22. I am also able to do rear curtain sync consistently with a Pocket Wizard (

    I still like the Sigma’s for flexible macro single speed light flash work, especially for active subjects. I am hopeful the sd1 will address some of these issues. I remain a Sigma user, I just wish they would start trying to catch up with Canon.

  36. Emaad says:

    Richard I have not used Sigmas. But I thought that Foveon must perform far better than other cameras in term of noise. Noise occurs to Pixel sensing and guessing by single layer sensor pixels. So technically when foveon is free from pixel guessing than why noise level is equal to other brands. It must have clear advantage.

    Concept of Foveon has always inspired me. But making good sensor is not enough. Good Algorithms can also make difference. Canon Sensor plus algorithms are on top. They have done so well with just one single layer.

  37. Richard says:

    To Tom,

    The Canon 1d IV cost around 4000$ USD, according to a quick Internet search, the 7d around 1600$ USD (all prices for body only). I paid my SD14 brand new 700$ USD… The SD15 is currently sold for less than a 1000$ USD. We are not talking of the same camera range, here…

    Again, I don’t say that Foveon/Sigma is better, or superior or claim that Sigma cameras are perfect… What I am tired of reading, though, is that Foveon/Sigma sensor has a problem in low light condition that ANY Canon, or ANY Nikon, or ANY other brand don’t have… This is simply not true. If you keep saying the opposite, then I will have to ask you to define clearly what you mean by low light condition and then bring me evidence (photos) that in such condition, a SD14 or SD15 cannot perform as well as or outperform any Canon or Nikon OF THE SAME PRICE. I have several urban photos taken at night with my SD14 on a tripod, no flash and long exposure, that are simply gorgeous. Each time I show them to friends, they just cheer them with WOWs and HOs!!

    I readily believe that your 4000$ Canon gives you excellent results, I would never expect less from a camera that cost a fortune… However, I am still convinced that Foveon/Sigma offers the best price/image quality ratio on the market.

  38. Marfalkov says:

    Hi Carl,

    I can’t wait to see your first SD1 raw pack! :)

  39. Tom says:


    I agree that Sigma bodies provide good bang for the buck. My point was that the new Canon bodies have cleaner high ISO (I often shoot 6400), better AF, AI, burst rate, buffer depth, and live view (which I really need for critical focus when doing macro); and as you point out you have to pay for it. I think Sigma really needs to address the live view issue, because often critical focus for macro or landscape can only be done at 10X using live view. Even for shooting birds on a stick it is nice to play around and get the eye in critical focus, as opposed to the breast feathers. Here is a link to the first of a four sequence series of an adult White Ibis playing a game of musical chairs with a juvi White Ibis playing musical chairs with a common black Crow. It was shot at dusk and the setting sun was only hitting the tops of the trees. I would love to be able to capture this type of image with my Sigma, because it seems to have better angular resolution, but the AF, AI, burst rate, and deep buffer of my 1d4 and the reliable IS of my 100-44 produce better IQ shooting at high ISO than my Sigma.

  40. Marfalkov, you’re not alone. Count me in! :D

  41. Tom, just wanted to second your wish for live view as that’s been among the top three wanted features, if not the very top one! And the reason is the ability to fine tune focus, today when shooting the tiny Kingfisher I really wanted it – badly!

  42. Richard says:

    To Tom,

    I cannot do otherwise but encourage readers of this blog to follow the link of your last post and go see your photos of the white Ibis. These are very beautiful images!

    I don’t have these kind of birds where I live, but your photos encourage me to put my SD14 to the test of capturing wildlife images. Let’s see the results in the next few months… unless the SD1 is out by February, as rumour has it! (But honestly, I doubt!)

  43. Emaad says:

    Richard I had no intention of letting down sigma or praise Canon, Nikon. I was only comparing technologies i.e. Single layer and Foveon layered sensor. Sigma’s results are promising and I really admire colours with 3d depth.

  44. Tom, nice shot btw! :) (Thanks Richard for reminding me).

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