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Sigma’s SD1 has been a hot topic on the online photo forums, in part, for its remarkable Foveon X3 image sensor and, in part, for its equally remarkable price. The sensor offers three times the pixel count of previous Sigma DSLRs and a rugged, straightforward body. The unique Foveon X3 sensor records all three primary colors (red, green and blue) at every pixel site, not just one primary per pixel like conventional sensors. This does away with moiré problems and the resulting need for a blurring low-pass filter, giving the Foveon sensor potentially better color reproduction and higher resolution than a conventional sensor of equal horizontal-by-vertical pixel dimensions.
Sigma bought Foveon in 2008, and the new sensor in the SD1 is the first issued since that acquisition. It produces images measuring 4704×3136 pixels (about 15 megapixels), but contains three such layers for a total of 48 megapixels. With the X3 sensor’s unique properties, this should mean images equivalent to those of a 30-megapixel conventional sensor. We’ll have to see when we get a test camera. The new TRUE II (Three-layer Responsive Ultimate Engine) image processor optimizes output from the X3 sensor.
Like previous Sigma DSLRs, the SD1 is a straightforward camera, with few bells and whistles. The dial to the right of the finder directly selects the exposure mode (program, shutter-priority or aperture-priority AE, or metered manual) and three user-chosen custom settings. The dial to the left of the finder provides direct access to drive modes, mirror prelock and auto-bracketing, and also serves as an
Sigma is best known as a lens maker and offers a wide range for the SD-series cameras, including the new SD1. These currently number more than 50, from a 4.5mm ƒ/2.8 circular fisheye and an 8-16mm superwide zoom to an 800mm ƒ/5.6 supertele and the world’s fastest 500mm, the 200-500mm ƒ/2.8 zoom. Many feature Sigma’s OS optical-stabilizing system.
Few pro-oriented DSLRs have a built-in flash unit, but the SD1 does (GN 11 in meters, ISO 100). The camera has a hot-shoe for dedicated flash units and a PC terminal for studio flash systems. Maximum flash-sync shutter speed is 1⁄180 sec.
Featuring a magnesium-alloy body, the SD1 is the first weather-sealed Sigma DSLR.
Image Sensor: 48 MP (4800x3200x3) Foveon X3 CMOS
Max. Resolution: 4704×3136 pixels
Sensor Size: 23.5×15.7mm (1.5x)
LCD Monitor: 3.0-inch, 460,000-dot
AF System: 11-point
Shutter Speeds: 30 to 1⁄8000 sec., B
ISO Settings: 100-6400
Continuous Firing Mode: 5 fps
Recording Format: RAW, JPEG, RAW + JPEG
Metering: 77-segment evaluative, CW, spot
Storage Media: CompactFlash (UDMA-compatible)
Dimensions: 5.7×4.4×3.1 inches
Weight: 24.7 ounces
Power Source: BP-21 Li-ion battery
Estimated Street Price: $6,899
Contact: Sigma, (800) 896-6858, www.sigmaphoto.com
The phase-detection AF system features 11 user-selectable points (you also can let the camera select the point, if desired). You can choose among single-shot AF, continuous predictive AF and manual focusing.
Images are stored on Type 1 CompactFlash cards, including UDMA-compatible cards.
The SD1 doesn’t do video, or even Live View, but the big, 3.0-inch, 460,000-dot LCD monitor and simple user interface make it easy to use the menus and view images after shooting them.
An ND filter lets you control your shutter speed to capture motion blurs, especially useful for blurred water with colorful leaves. This HOYA PRO1 Digital ND16 gives you a four-stop light loss.
Fast, wide-angle lenses like this Sigma 17-50 F2.8 EX DC OS HSM with Sigma’s optical-stabilizing technology let you shoot dramatic autumn landscapes handheld.
We love versatile camera bags like the Tamrac Evolution 8. It holds a DSLR and just the right amount of lenses and accessories, and it can be carried as a backpack or shoulder sling bag.