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07.29.2016

The Sigma sd Quattro is the first mirrorless interchangeable lens camera released to feature a Foveon X3 Direct Image Sensor. Matching the APS-C format Quattro sensor first seen in the dp Quattro line with a mount that accepts all Sigma SA-mount lenses in the Art, Sports and Contemporary line (along with many older Sigma lenses) is a potent pairing for photographers who demand the utmost in image purity combined with the flexibility to pair the camera with a wide range of Sigma interchangeable lenses.

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Replacing the SD1 Merrill in the camera lineup, the sd Quattro eschews a through-the-lens optical viewfinder; instead, eye-level visualization is achieved through a 2.6 million dot Electronic Viewfinder. The rear Live View LCD packs 1.3 million dots, and a three-way switch allows photographers to choose either viewer manually, or for automatic EVF operation when the camera is raised to the eye.

This is a full-color image, showcasing the fine detail and smooth tonal gradations that are keystones of the Foveon photography experience. Thanks to the stacked sensor architecture, Mosaic Artifacts aren’t an issue. 1/60 F5/6 ISO 100.

The quattro-generation X3 Direct Imaging Sensor, first seen in the dp-series compacts, is a three layer sensor that packs 19.9 megapixels in the top sensor and 5 megapixels in the middle and bottom sensor. The top layer captures luminance information for each of the primary color channels, as well as blue channel Chrominance information. The middle layer collects red chrominance information and the bottom layer collects green channel chrominance. This unique sensor architecture maximized detail and color information while minimizing data redundancy for swifter processing to 14-Bit X3F Raw files or in-camera JPEGs.

Empanadas captured at 1/3200 F2 ISO 100. Food and studio photographers will appreciate the fine detail and beautiful color gradations that are a keystone of Foveon-sensor imaging.

Empanadas captured at 1/3200 F2 ISO 100. Food and studio photographers will appreciate the fine detail and beautiful color gradations that are a keystone of Foveon-sensor imaging.

Autofocus on the sd Quattro pairs both contrast detection and phase detection for swift response in both single and continuous mode, and the nine focusing points can be varied from point to wide area focus zones. Thanks to the LCD displays, focus peaking—which gives the “marching ants” effect to highlight the zones in focus—is a option, and can be switched between four settings; helpful in a variety of photo situations.

Detail of the sun shining on the chrome of a 1926 Willy's Sedan. 1/200 F7.1 ISO 100. X3F Raw processed in Sigma Photo Pro.

Detail of the sun shining on the chrome of a 1926 Willy’s Sedan. 1/200 F7.1 ISO 100. X3F Raw processed in Sigma Photo Pro.

I was drawn to the subtle textures and tones in the white wall tire and spokes of this old car, and tuned it in Sigma Photo Pro specifically to pull out as much detail and texture as possible. 1/125 F5 ISO 100.

I was drawn to the subtle textures and tones in the white wall tire and spokes of this old car, and tuned it in Sigma Photo Pro specifically to pull out as much detail and texture as possible. 1/125 F5 ISO 100.

In the hands, the camera feels good, solid, and well-crafted. Buttons, dials, and switches provide the right amount of resistance without feeling rigid. Curiously, the primary On-Off switch is on the lens mount barrel; and many users, including myself, may find themselves needing to catch themselves from accidentally turning the camera on and off when intending to switch a lens to manual focus. While larger than the dp Quattro cameras, it is very well balanced and feels very natural in the hands at eye level.

My watch and old lumber. 1/1000 F3.5 ISO 100. Monochrome processing in Sigma Photo Pro 6.4.

My watch and old lumber. 1/1000 F3.5 ISO 100. Monochrome processing in Sigma Photo Pro 6.4.

The wide-format LCD on the rear of the camera is split into two zones: the Image zone, and the settings zone. Fans of the dp series will notice that there are more dedicated buttons for certain operations, such as ISO, that helps to simplify the in-camera Quick Settings interface, thanks to the larger size and increased real estate on the camera.

Available light shot of betta fish at 1/50 F1.4 ISO 100 for extreme shallow depth of field on the fish's body scales.

Available light shot of betta fish at 1/50 F1.4 ISO 100 for extreme shallow depth of field on the fish’s body scales.

I’ve spent the past few weeks working with the sd Quattro paired with the 30mm F1.4 DC HSM | Art lens, and this is a potent combination of compact design and total image sharpness. At the lowest ISOs, the sd Quattro produces the stunning image that are the hallmark of the Foveon sensor. We are talking about images with an exceptional presence, incredible detail and tonal gradations, and a tactile quality that truly needs to be writ large to be fully appreciated. With the sd Quattro camera, the focus is on the quality of each image captured, not the sheer volume of photos that can be burst-blitzed in a mega-frames-per-second explosion to be sifted through. This is a camera designed for methodical photography. The focus is on making each image count. That being said, the sd Quattro is much faster shot to shot (and in file writing time), than the SD1 Merrill, while adding 30% more pixels and increased resolving power to the equation. But do keep in mind, it is best compared to medium-format systems in terms of performance. These gorgeous images record a ton of color and detail information, and this does take some time.

Infrared experiment with the sd Quattro. 1/160 F11 ISO 100, IR cut filter removed, 720nm IR passing filter in front of lens. Monochrome processing in Sigma Photo Pro 6.4.

The sd Quattro introduces a new RAW file type, the X3I, which encapsulates seven X3F files captured at one EV spacing, to create a single output image with incredible detail and virtually no noise anywhere in the tonal range, thanks to the extended dynamic range process. Captured exclusively at ISO 100, this is a process that is designed for photorealism and noise elimination across a very wide dynamic range and high-end architectural and real estate photographers in particular will appreciate the total dynamic range enhancements, perfect for showcasing interior detail and exterior views in a single, crisp photo.

Super Fine Detail captures seven exposures of the same frame at one EV spacing. Sigma Photo Pro then merges these to a single X3I file to be toned and processed for images with a very wide dynamic range and virtually no image noise. It is perfect for indoor/outdoor images for real estate and architectural photography, as the rendering intent of Sigma Photo Pro is focused on photorealistic results in the output file.

Super Fine Detail captures seven exposures of the same frame at one EV spacing. Sigma Photo Pro then merges these to a single X3I file to be toned and processed for images with a very wide dynamic range and virtually no image noise. It is perfect for indoor/outdoor images for real estate and architectural photography, as the rendering intent of Sigma Photo Pro is focused on photorealistic results in the output file.

Obviously, as a multi-shot format, this is best accomplished with a tripod or other solid stabilizer to ensure shot alignment; and either the remote cable, timer release, or Sigma Capture Pro should be employed to avoid introducing camera-touch movement into the frame. We will cover SFD photography tips and HDRI photography with the sd Quattro in much greater detail in a follow-up blog posting.

Super Fine Detail mode excels at expanding the dynamic range of the scene while eliminating noise. Notice how sharp and crisp the pixels are in the pocket braiding and leather. This multi-shot process requires a tripod and either self-timer or cable release to avoid any camera shake during the capture of the burst sequence.

Super Fine Detail mode excels at expanding the dynamic range of the scene while eliminating noise. Notice how sharp and crisp the pixels are in the pocket braiding and leather. This multi-shot process requires a tripod and either self-timer or cable release to avoid any camera shake during the capture of the burst sequence.

Other key features and upgrades worth noting include HDMI port, USB 3.0 port for Sigma Capture Pro operation and direct image download, and high-speed focal-plane flash operation up to 1/4000 second with the new EF-630 flash. The pc sync terminal allows maximum x-sync of 1/180.

The Sigma sd Quattro is far and away the most impressive interchangeable lens camera to pack a Foveon sensor to date. The combination of cool modern design and total image quality will appeal to both longtime Sigma DSLR fans, as well as newcomers who have come to discover the tactile feel and stunning visual characteristics that are the hallmark of the Foveon sensor at the heart of Sigma imaging technology. All Sigma Art lenses are designed with and tested on Foveon sensors, which is why these lenses are so sharp and crisp. And when paired with the sd Quattro, the 30mm F1.4 DC HSM | A is a modern classic.

6 comments so far

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  1. Thanks a lot for your hands on report and the great sample images. Owning a DP2M, I am truly fascinated by the IQ a Foveon sensor paired with a Sigma prime lens is able to deliver in good light.

    From what I see on Sigmas Lens usage notice for the SD Quattro only 5 prime lenses -all in the 20 to 50mm range- will perform without AF limitations on this camera. Moreover the low priced 19, 30 and 60mm f2.8 Art lenses which gathered excellent reviews are not available in SA mount.

    I would see the Quattro SD with the three f2.8 fixed Art lenses an excellent kit to start off with.

    Is there a roadmap of lenses Sigma intends to add to SA mount in the short term? Will Sigma release adaptors to use M42, MD etc mount lenses on the Quattro SD?

  2. Looks good, but I would like to have some raw files to really see if it’s better than the SD1

  3. I like how the dynamic range is increased in those photos of the pool table. It’s impossible to tell whether the noise reduction is significant, considering the small size of the photo. It would make sense to include some crops, no? What is wrong with the color of the first photo? The clouds appear to have a green color cast.

  4. When reading this article i can appreciate this camera but the review is not realistic i am sports photographer dealing with sometimes harsh conditions and horrible light and reviewing a camera at only 100iso is not challenging the camera how would i know if this camera could be for me are there any other reviews?

  5. @Dierk

    Despite this being a mirrorless camera it is designed with a flange distance of a dslr. That is why it can only be used with their line of lenses for dslr cameras. This is why it can’t be used with the 19, 30, and 60mm f/2.8 lenses. Those are designed to be mounted to mirrorless cameras with much shorter flange distance than this sd quattro has.

  6. I owned both the DP1 and DP2 back in 2009. Seven years later I still find the color and sharpness of those images to be remarkable. The drawback, of course, was how ergonomically cumbersome the cameras were to work with. I say that as someone who has owned Nikon’s, Canon’s, Sony’s and many other brands, both 35mm and medium format. What I noticed was that with the Sigma I did a lot less tweaking of color to achieve the look I wanted. It looks as if Sigma has made major strides in designing this SD Quattro. I look forward to handling this new Sigma. And by the way, this IS NOT a camera for sports photography!