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.. :)
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!
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!