On paper, the unique Foveon X3 sensor in Sigma’s new SD14 D-SLR offers several benefits for the outdoor photographer: a wide dynamic range, important when shooting contrasty scenes or subjects; great detail, handy for those landscapes and close-up detail studies; and accurate color rendition, useful for all outdoor subjects.
Sigma’s catalog for the camera contains gorgeous photos, but they’re all studio shots made with flash. So naturally, we wondered how the new D-SLR and its Foveon X3 image sensor would handle outdoor subjects and light.
Before revealing the answer, a few words about the X3 image sensor. While the sensors in other D-SLRs record one primary color (red, green or blue) at each pixel site and interpolate data for the other colors from neighboring pixels via complex algorithms, the X3 records all three primary colors at every pixel site. This results in image quality well beyond what one would expect from the sensor’s horizontal-by-vertical pixel count.
For the X3 sensor in the SD14, that horizontal-by-vertical pixel count is 2640 x 1760, or 4.7 megapixels. However, there are three layers (hence the X3 name)—a top layer records blue, a middle layer records green, and a bottom layer records red. Thus, Sigma claims that the sensor contains three times 4.7 megapixels, or 14 megapixels.
However you count them, the SD14 provides 35 percent more pixels than previous Sigma D-SLRs. The camera shoots JPEG images as well as RAW, including Super Hi JPEGs at an interpolated 4608 x 3072 pixels. You can’t shoot RAW + JPEG images simultaneously, but you can shoot RAW images at three resolutions (2640 x 1760, 1776 x 1184 or 1296 x 864 pixels), handy when card space is an issue or you don’t need full resolution. JPEGs can also be shot at several resolution and compression levels.
Sigma offers a full line of more than 40 lenses for the SD14, from an 8mm fish-eye to an 800mm super-telephoto. With the X3 sensor’s 1.7x focal-length factor, this means SD14 users can obtain focal lengths equivalent to 13.6mm through 1360mm on 35mm cameras.
So how did the SD14 do outdoors? Quite well. Images that were properly exposed and focused made exceptional 14x21-inch prints—close to what one might expect from a 14-megapixel image and certainly bigger than one would expect from a 4.7-megapixel image. Best results are obtained by shooting RAW images at 2640 x 1760 pixels, at the slowest ISO (100), with the camera on a tripod and the lens focused manually—the same way many landscape and long-lens wildlife photographers like to work. Estimated Street Price: $1,599.
Contact: Sigma, (631) 585-1144, www.sigma-photo.com.
[ Specs Of Note ]
Image Sensor: 4.7 x 3 megapixels
Power Source: Li-Ion with charger
Metering: 8-segment, Average, Center-Area
Flash Sync: Up to 1⁄180 sec.
Built-In Flash: Yes
Shooting Speed: 3 fps
Dimensions: 5.7x4.2x3.2 inches
Weight: 24.7 ounces
1 Foveon X3 full-color-capture image sensor
2 2.5-inch LCD monitor with easy-to-use control pad
3 Removable sensor-dust protector (camera can be used for infrared photography when protector is removed)
4 Full line of lenses from 8mm to 800mm
5 PC sync terminal for studio flash
6 Quick Set button for setting ISO, white balance, image resolution and image quality