Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Sigma's New DP Quattro Impresses Impressively

Sigma is a company that has made one major mistake: the initial pricing of the SD1. Aside from that, they have been doing nothing but great things. Their Art lines of lenses is superior and cheaper to alternatives from other companies. Their 18-35mm is the only must-have lens for APS-C SLR cameras. And their Foveon sensors are beloved by those who don't mind how cripplingly slow they are. I like Sigma.

While I made fun of their SD1, I wanted it. I couldn't bring myself to buy it, even at its not-entirely-unreasonable $2,000 price, but I did want it.  The color and detail of low-ISO Foveon shots is amazing. Unparalleled. Eye-popping. And other such words as well.

Likewise, I wanted their DP1, DP2, and DP3 Merrill cameras, which I actually consider steals at their prices of $899. They are Medium Format-quality landscape cameras that fit in your pocket. Just amazing.

As with the SD1, though, they were special-purpose cameras with many concessions in design. I have limited funds and have to make decisions based on how often and widely I will use my purchase. A camera that is slow as a snail and essentially useless over ISO-600 isn't high on my priority list... although how I wanted it to be.

The new DP Quattro apparently goes some way toward alleviating the issues. Well, color me excited.

In case you don't know, Foveon sensors don't work with the standard array of red, green, and blue sensor sites as in most cameras. Instead, there is a red layer, a blue layer, and a green layer of sensors all stacked on top of one another. As such, each pixel that is recorded in the final picture contains red, green, and blue data.

Previously, the Foveon sensor used a full array of red, green, and blue on each layer. According to Sigma, this was one of the reasons for the slow speed of the cameras; there was a butt-ton of data to be processed. To me, the solution to this is a better processor, but I digress. Sigma's solution involves redesigning the sensor and making only the topmost blue layer a full array.
According to Sigma, this results in no loss of image quality. I have to admit, I'm not sure how that's possible, since data is being chucked away, but I will await judgment. I tend to believe them since a lie like that would kick them in the ass.

They have also put it in one of the coolest-looking cameras that I've seen in a long time. Not since the Fuji X100 has a camera been so eye-catching and different. I cannot wait to wrap my hands around one. That's because this camera is different. It looks like the future of imaging. Unlike so many others... apparently... I do not get a thrill out of holding a digital camera that looks like an old camera. I don't need some nebulous romance based on the past to be attached to my cameras. I want a tool that produces images. I get a thrill out of holding the newest, best, most advanced image-producing tool that the industry has. I want something that dares to be different so I can see what I can do with it. I know what I can do with an SLR or yet-another-mirrorless camera! I want to discover what I can do with something new. I get that thrill from this.

Good show, Sigma. Good show.

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