I just received my new Sigma SD15, and I am excited to tell you how beautiful the images look. I have only just begun shooting with the much-anticipated, Foveon-chip equipped camera…and my first look leaves me impressed.
First of all, there is the rich color produced by the Foveon sensor, hues that are eye-popping, accurate, and finely-detailed. For my test shots, I strolled through my mother’s beautiful flower gardens, spending most of the time shooting a tiger swallowtail butterfly feeding on bee balm. Butterflies are hard to chase with a tripod, so I decided to shoot hand-held at ISO 400 with a Sigma 50-150mm F2.8 EX DC APO HSM lens.
I expected great color after my experience with the Sigma SD14, and the SD15 does not disappoint. All colors in my test shots are pleasing and accurate. The reddish-pink of the bee balm looks spot-on; more impressively, the soft yellow predominating the swallowtail’s coloration and the orange and blue patterns near the back edge of the lower wings are highly accurate.
But that’s not the whole story. The detail is excellent too. The tiger swallowtail’s body is captured with intricate detail. For example, you can see individual bristles or “hairs” on the thorax and abdomen. And you can discern separate scales on the wings. Wow! And these were just quick grab-shots, hand-held at 1/250 second.
During shooting I found the ergonomics of the SD15 quite satisfying. It is easy to change your ISO setting by pressing one button (marked ISO) and turning the command dial. The Quick Settings button makes changing white balance, file type, and JPG compression very fast. Altering shutter speeds requires only turning the command dial, and adjusting apertures is accomplished by pressing the conveniently-located +/- AV button and turning the command dial. Sigma’s engineers placed eight pips on this and other buttons to help in locating them while looking through he viewfinder.
I shot in RAW (sigma X3F file type) and processed my images in Sigma Photo Pro 4.1 (supplied on CD with the SD15). My experience is that Sigma’s software is your best conversion choice. One reason is that the Sigma Foveon chip does not have an anti-alias filter (as you find on other camera sensors, requiring complicated algorithms for the anti-alias conversion). Simply put, the Sigma/Foveon engineer/programmer team knows their sensor best.
If you need maximum resolution, I suggest that you use the “Double Size” option when saving files from Sigma Photo Pro 4.1. When you select “Save Image As”, you can increase the file resolution by selecting “Double Size” under the “Output Image Size” drop down menu. You can create a 16 bit, 5280 x 2520 pixel, 106 Mb file, which chock full of resolution.
Starting with sharp Sigma lenses, practicing proper shooting techniques—notably using a good tripod and the Sigma RS-31 Remote Controller—and processing your X3F files in Sigma Photo Pro 4.1 should allow you to achieve impressive results with the new Sigma SD15.
I know what I’ve seen so far is impressive. I can’t wait to see what else I can do with this exciting new camera!
For more information about Dave’s workshops, seminars, and other appearances across North America, as well as recent and upcoming publications, visit www.fitzsimmonsphotography.com.