Sigma SD15

Continuing with the unique Foveon X3 image sensor, the latest DSLR from Sigma has new features and improved image quality
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This Article Features Photo Zoom

Most photographers know Sigma as a lens manufacturer, but the company also makes cameras, including a line of DSLRs that began in 2002 with the SD9. The new SD15, like its SD9, SD10 and SD14 predecessors, stands out for its unique Foveon image sensor and straightforward, no-nonsense design concept.

Unlike the sensors used in all other DSLRs, the Foveon records all three primary colors at every pixel site. This eliminates the need for a Bayer-array filter grid over the pixels, an image-softening, low-pass filter to minimize the resulting artifacts, and the complex demosaicing algorithms that interpolate the missing colors at each pixel site by using information from neighboring pixels. The result is images with detail beyond their horizontal-by-vertical pixel count, and natural-looking fine details—especially nice when photographing bird feathers and foliage. Sigma purchased Foveon in 2008 and so is likely to continue to be the only brand offering the X3 sensor.

Convenient Mode Dial
Some of the bells-and-whistles DSLRs require locating and pressing a button while rotating a dial to set the desired exposure mode. With the SD15, just rotate the mode dial to P(rogram AE), A(perture-priority AE), S(hutter-priority AE) or M(anual), and you’re there.

Built-In Flash
Fill-flash is an important outdoor tool. The SD15 has a built-in, pop-up flash unit; and two shoe-mount accessory units are available—one with wireless, off-camera capability.

Drive Dial
Again, selecting a drive mode or locking the mirror up for a shot can be a tad complex with many DSLRs. With the SD15, just rotate the drive dial to single-shot, continuous, mirror up, etc.
Dust Protector
There’s no sensor-shake dust remover as found in other DSLRs, but the SD15 features a dust protector that can be removed for easy cleaning—and infrared photography.
Foveon X3 Sensor
The Foveon X3 Direct Image Sensor records all three primary colors at every pixel site, yielding images with fine detail beyond their horizontal-by-vertical pixel count—perfect for photographing bird feathers and foliage

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Wide Range Of Lenses
Sigma made its name as a lens manufacturer, and offers nearly 40 lenses for the SD15. These include circular and full-frame fisheyes, many close-up lenses, macro lenses in 50, 70, 105, 150 and 180mm versions, and zooms from 8-16mm to 300-800mm. There’s even a 200-500mm ƒ/2.8 zoom, the fastest 500mm DSLR lens around. Many incorporate Sigma’s HSM focusing motor for quick, quiet operation; and several offer Sigma’s optical stabilizer (OS) for sharp, handheld shots.
3.0-Inch LCD Monitor
The SD15’s 3.0-inch, 460,000-dot LCD monitor is the largest and highest-resolution to appear on a Sigma DSLR. A simple, intuitive user interface makes it easy to use the monitor menus.
SD Media
The SD15 stores images on SD cards, and is compatible with SDHC media.

Improved Buffer
An improved buffer permits the SD15 to shoot up to 21 RAW images at 3 fps.

No-Nonsense Design
The SD15 is a photographer’s camera, not a bells-and-whistles enthusiast’s device. Its rugged body features a clean, straightforward design that makes it quick and easy to set everything, and it doesn’t require an evening with an owner’s handbook to figure it out.

Specifications

Image Sensor: 4.7×3 MP Foveon CMOS
Max. Resolution: 2640×1760 pixels
Sensor Size: 20.7×13.8mm (1.7x)
Video: none
AF System: 5-point phase-detection
Shutter Speeds: 30 to 1/4000 sec., plus B
ISO Settings: 100-1600, plus 50 and 3200
Continuous Firing Mode: 3 fps
Recording Format: RAW, JPEG, RAW + JPEG
Metering: 77-segment, 8.8% central area, CW average, 1% spot
Storage Media: SD/SDHC
Dimensions: 5.7×4.2×3.2 inches
Weight: 24.0 ounces
Power Source: Rechargeable BP-21 lithium-ion battery
Estimated Street Price: $1000
Contact: Sigma, (800) 896-6858, www.sigmaphoto.com