Every time I take a photo on the Sigma Quattro system it blows my mind. I download the image to my computer, open it in Lightroom, full screen that bad boy and just zoom in with the largest child-like grin on my face. If you are a photographer, you will know that feeling I’m talking about. You kind of feel like you just leveled up – or discovered a whole new realm of possibilities. Sometimes it even feels like you are cheating – like is it really this easy?
About ten years ago I upgraded from a point and shoot to a DSLR. I remember reviewing every photo at 100% on the computer just so I could bask in my newly discovered 12 megapixels of solid sharp imagery. Fast forward 10 years, I haven’t really done that in a while. Everything I shoot has been pretty similar in quality regardless of camera – until recently.
Let me tell you why I love the Sigma Quattro cameras, and what they’re good at (and also, not so good at). Actually, I am just going to get the not so good out of the way real quick – These are not the cameras for low light/high ISO situations and for shooting bursts. Easy enough – and now we can move on to the good: Just about everything else! Haha. These cameras are nuts, and I mean that in the best possible way!
Maybe you don’t know what I am talking about – maybe that’s why you are here. For the technical geeks, it all has to do with the Foveon Quattro sensor, which captures RGB for every pixel. Here’s a posting explaining it with lots of jargon like epitaxial silicon growth, that explains the “secret sauce” inside these Sigma cameras.
Soooo, as you have probably figured out by now – I am photographer, which means I am not going to just tell you. I will show you. The images in this blog are going to be taken on different cameras all using the Quattro system, I’ll make sure to specify in each caption.
When I started with these cameras I had no idea how they worked. So I took all three of the dp Quattros with me to Europe for a month while I traveled with a rock band and photographed our outdoor adventures.
Next step was to shoot some portraits. Luckily for me we were on tour with Blink-182 and Travis Barkers daughter, ‘Bama – had a new YouTube make-up light delivered…aka a ring light…aka the best portrait light one could ask for when stuck in a venue all day in Berlin.
So I traded her my Sigma 120-300 f/2.8 that she put on her Rebel series Canon camera and she couldn’t even carry – for her make-up light. Here are the results. And Travis also digs this camera—he’s borrowed one and totally gets it, too.
Now is when I started to understand the true power of these cameras: The details. The mind-blowing color nuances. I had to do a real shoot with these to tap into this magic. I had a cover shoot for Rock Sound Magazine later that year in LA. It was just solo portraits on a white wall and some other simple studio setups. I made sure to shoot most of the images with what was familiar to me – the Canon system.
However at the end for a good 20 shots I swapped over to the Quattro camera. The hardest part was the review time took a little while – but on the upside it kind of forced me to really think out my shots, as snapping a bunch, quickly reviewing and then moving on just didn’t make sense. These cameras make you think, frame, and the slow-down is actually very welcome. You find yourself making less frames, but better frames each time.
I also call this camera my museum camera. About a year ago I was with Major Lazer in Miami and they wanted to go to a museum. My job is to photograph anything and everything they do, so I went with them to the museum. They had a rule where we couldn’t bring in any cameras with detachable lenses. Shux. I didn’t have my Sigma on me, but since then I always have for situations like this.
I took it with me in Rio. In order to get to the hike we had to take an Uber to the bottom of a favela, and then we each hopped on the back of motorcycles and rode up about 10 minutes to the base of the hike…then hiked the mountain. It was important I had the small camera so that I could hide it… because, well, there’s a good chance you will get mugged if you don’t.
We also went to snowmobiling in Jackson Hole. The key part is the size of the camera, and how good the quality is. I LOVE it. Also everyone says it looks cool and I am always looking for help in that department!
All the Quattro cameras share the same Foveon Quattro Sensor. Only Sigma cameras have this. This stacked sensor is why there’s such crazy detail. Well, that and the amazing Sigma lenses. Every point in the image is captured in Red, Green, and Blue. No other digital cameras do this. When it comes to good light and low ISOs, the detail is mind-blowing. But if you crank up the ISO, it does get noisy. So these are specialty cameras. And that’s fine. It’s OK to be excellent at just one thing. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t have a career.
Shooting with this camera has really changed the way I think. I never shot film, so for me – this was as close as I could get. Images don’t process as fast and it forced me to slow down, and I really like that aspect of it. I know this camera won’t be for everyone, but for the people who are bored with how their DSLR looks and want something that isn’t good at everything, but very good at one thing – this is your guy. You think in terms of “chrome-like” and “print this huge” when you see the end results. They feel real, like you can crawl into the frame.