The Blog: See what
Sigma is saying.

01.22.2019

Intro

If you are seeking super-high resolution images without investing tens of thousands of dollars in a medium format system, the Sigma sd Quattro H camera paired with legendary yet affordable Sigma Global Vision (SGV) lenses, may be the answer for you.

The Sigma sd Quattro H offers extraordinary resolution, accurate colors with smooth gradations, and an ergonomic body with excellent control of the camera’s settings. In addition, the sd Quattro H is made even more powerful when its files are processed in  Sigma’s PhotoPro software or, if using the
DNG file option, in Adobe Camera RAW.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the fall provides scenes full of colors, textures, and details, perfect subject qualities for captures with the Sigma sd Quattro H. Tennessee, USA. Sigma sd Quattro H, Sigma 85mm F1.4 DG HSM Art Lens. f/11, 1/6 second, ISO 100. Photo © 2018 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

The new sensor in the Sigma sd Quattro H utilizes the same three-layer approach to capturing color and luminance data as previous Sigma cameras. It has a ratio of 4:1:1 for the blue, green, and red, receptors. Other cameras typically use a single-layer photo sensor Bayer-type mosaic where the RGB value at each photo site is comprised of its own single-color capture plus interpolation of the other two colors from nearby photo sites.

The Sigma sd Quattro H features an APS-H Foveon sensor, which picks up RGB data on three layers and results in an image roughly equivalent to a 51 megapixel Bayer-type sensor.

While Bayer sensors often utilize a low-pass filter, the Foveon X3 Quattro image sensor does not use a low-pass filter. This helps increase image resolution.

The Sigma sd Quattro H produces spectacularly detailed and richly colored landscape images, such as this depiction of Grotto Falls, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee, USA. Sigma sd Quattro H, Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM Art lens at 18mm. f/11, 2.5 seconds, ISO 100. Sigma WR Circular Polarizer Filter. Photo © 2018 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

Blue is captured on the top layer at 6,200 pixels by 4,152 pixels. This top sensor layer records panchromatic luminance and the blue color information. Green is picked up on the next layer down, and red is recorded on the bottom layer. These bottom two layers are captured at 3,100 pixels by 2,076 pixels. Combined they form a total pixel count of approximately 44.7 megapixels. Sigma claims that the unique design of the Foveon sensor allows it to produce a file that is similar in resolution to a Bayer file of around, say, 51 megapixels.

The Foveon sensor in the Sigma sd Quattro H features three layers of receptors in a ratio of 4:1:1. The top layer picks up blue and luminance. The next layer down captures green. And the bottom layer reports red. This modification of the original sensor produces high resolution detail while making data transmission and recording more efficient.

Beyond the unique and powerful sensor in the Sigma sd Quattro H, the camera offers many of the same controls and settings found on most cameras, for example, phase detection and contrast detection AF, rear LCD and electronic viewfinder (EVF) shooting, a rear information LCD, an SD/SDHC/SDXC card slot, various cable ports, a hot shoe for flash photography, many ergonomically placed controls, and settings galore—various file formats, image sizes, color modes, and exposure modes.

The Sigma sd Quattro H sports a rear LCD and an EVF. The well-designed layout of the buttons and other controls makes changing settings a breeze.

If that’s not enough, there are other features, such as the Super-Fine Detail mode that saves seven consecutively shot images in Sigma’s high dynamic range-type X3I file format. And the updated circuitry in the sd Quattro H allows high speed captures of up to 8 RAW high resolution images in a row.

Rich colors and a wide tonal range are key to the success of this shot of the Monticello III canal boat on the Ohio & Erie Canal, Coshocton, Ohio, USA. Sigma sd Quattro H, 18-300mm F3.5-6.3 DC MACRO OS HSM Contemporary Lens at 18mm. f/11, 1/320 seconds, ISO 100. Sigma WR Circular Polarizer Filter. Photo © 2018 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

In The Field

While the Sigma sd Quattro H looks different from other D-SLR and mirrorless camera bodies, the unique design is comfortable, well-balanced, and efficient during shooting.

The sd Quattro and sd Quattro H employ the same SA-mount as the SD1 series of DSLRs. Their extensive line of more than three dozen SA-mount lenses fit this body, and there will be adapters for the upcoming L-mount lenses. These mount to the central barrel of the body, which provides a good balance point for shooting.

The main barrel (with the power switch) the provides balance when hand-holding shots with the Sigma sd Quattro H.

The right-side grip, which holds the 1860 mAh BP-61 battery, provides a good grip for the right hand.

The right side of the body is a nicely-sized grip, which should fit small to large hands well. This houses an 1860 mAh battery that measures 2.25” x 1.5” x .6”. While you won’t shoot all day on one battery, it does provide hundreds of shots before needing a charge.

Phoebe is ready for class in the model one-room schoolhouse at Roscoe Village, Coshocton, Ohio, USA. Notice how the APS-H image sensor provides shallow depth-of-field when paired with a wide aperture lens. Sigma sd Quattro H, Sigma 85mm F1.4 DG HSM Art Lens. f/1.4, 1/250 second, ISO 400. Hand-held. Photo © 2018 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

Lining up an image with the sd Quattro H involves either using the 2.35 Mp rear LCD or using the EVF, which can be set to turn on (and the rear screen turned off) automatically when brought to your eye. The viewfinder includes a diopter adjustment for those who wear glasses.

A switch next to the EVF allows for all-time viewfinder, all-time rear LCD, or auto detection for the EVF. This arrangement makes composing customizable and efficient.

Choosing your settings during shooting is made efficient thanks to the Sigma sd Quattro H’s Quick Setting (QS) button. Pressing it allows instant access to often-used settings rather than having to search through menus.

The QS button brings up eight custom settings for quick adjustment during shooting. The eight settings disappear during framing, but exposure settings remain in the right info panel during shooting.

The QS options are customizable. By default, the QS button allows controls the following:

  • White Balance
  • Drive Mode
  • Image Quality
  • Image Size
  • Tone Control
  • Focus Peaking
  • Color Mode
  • Aspect Ratio

Additional QS settings that can be swapped in include the following:

  • Exposure Compensation
  • ISO Sensitivity
  • AE Metering Mode
  • Shooting Mode
  • DC Crop Mode
  • Bracketing Amount
  • Custom Bracketing
  • Flash Exposure Compensation
  • Red-Eye Reduction Flash Mode
  • Rear Curtain Sync Flash Mode
  • FP Flash (allows faster than sync shutter speeds)
  • Slow Sync Flash Mode
  • Main Monitor Brightness
  • Sub Monitor Brightness
  • View Finder Brightness

Sunrises and sunsets, full of brilliant color and fine tonal gradations, are no problem for the Foveon sensor in the Sigma sd Quattro H. Irwin Prairie State Nature Preserve, Ohio, USA. Sigma sd Quattro H, Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM Art lens at 22mm. f/8, 1/10 second, ISO 100. Photo © 2018 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

One of the interesting features on the Sigma sd Quattro H is the Super-Fine Details mode. When shooting in SFD, the camera takes seven rapid-fire images with different shutter speeds. This preserves a large amount of exposure data in one large X3I file. Sigma’s PhotoPro software (more on this later) then utilizes this data to produce an HDR-like image, a final file that combines an exposure range not able to be recorded in one single standard image.

The Super-Fine Detail mode on the Sigma sd Quattro H provides extraordinary resolution and an unusually wide exposure range. Seven exposures with different shutter speeds are taken in rapid sequence and then saved as one proprietary X3F file. This HDR-like file can then be processed in Sigma PhotoPro software to produce an image that captures details in bright area and in shadows. Ogle Homestead, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee, USA. Sigma sd Quattro H, Sigma 20mm F1.8 Art lens. f/8, various exposures, ISO 100. Photo © 2018 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

On a recent visit to Great Smokey Mountains National Park, I arrived early in the morning to photograph the Ogle Homestead cabin under overcast light and colorful foliage. Setting the camera to SFD mode, I shot the image above, which captures detail in everything from the treetops to the shaded area under the porch roof.

When shooting in SFD mode several things have to be kept in mind:

  • Shoot from a tripod.
  • Make sure no part of the scene is moving.
  • Make sure that your initial settings will capture the exposure range you will need for the final image.

Any movement during SFD exposures, from my experience, will result in artifacts in your image. While you may have a steadier hand than I do, keeping your camera in exactly the same place for seven exposures is impossible without a steady tripod. Moving objects in your scene will produce artifacts just as camera movement will.

When shooting in SFD, pay attention to your initial settings. For the exposure of the cabin, I made sure to start with settings that would assure the bright sky would be tamed with the SFD mode’s faster exposures.

Macro

For those who love to shoot macro, the Sigma sd Quattro H is a great choice. With excellent color renditions and amazing details, close-up photography has never looked so good.

The Sigma sd Quattro H captures the beautiful textures and colors of hand-carved wooden spoons made by Brian Niedermier of Hickory Daiquiri, New Washington, Ohio, USA. Sigma SD Quattro-H, Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM Art lens. f/4, 1/30 second, ISO 400. Photo © 2018 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

Consider the detailed shot above of wooden spoons. This image was taken during the Apple Butter Stirrin’ Festival at Roscoe Village, Coshocton, Ohio. Brian Niedermier of hand-carves spoons from a variety of woods. For this shot he arranged a particularly nice range of woods and patterns in a row to showcase his work. Notice how wonderfully the colors and gradations are reproduced by the Sigma sd Quattro H.

One of my ongoing projects is my Curious Critters animal portrait series, where I depict animals close-up and with white backgrounds. The bright studio lights and high key approach helps highlight colors, textures, and details of various wildlife. Recently I decided to put the Sigma sd Quattro H to the test with some new Critters at the Ohio Bird Sanctuary.

First the sanctuary staff and I worked with Alice, their newly-arrived juvenile bald eagle. Having not reached her adult plumage of white head, dark brown feathers, and yellow feet, this was a good test of capturing accurately the broad range of browns throughout in her wings and breast during this immature stage.

The Sigma sd Quattro H makes this juvenile bald eagle shine. Ohio Bird Sanctuary, Lexington, Ohio, USA. Sigma SD Quattro H, Sigma 50mm DG HSM Art lens. f/13. 1/125 sec. ISO 100. Photo © 2018 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

During the summer, I share my work at art festivals, producing large prints of my Curious Critters photos. So producing highly-detailed images is of paramount importance. The shot of Alice shows how well the color gradations and patterns of her feathers were reproduced with the Sigma sd Quattro H. Notice the deep browns, mottled wing feathers, and light areas under her beak. In addition, the Sigma sd Quattro H produced amazing details of Alice.

At 200% magnification (or just under 1.5% of the original image), look at the amazing detail of Alice the bald eagle. Ohio Bird Sanctuary, Lexington, Ohio, USA. Sigma SD Quattro H, Sigma 50mm DG HSM Art lens. f/13. 1/125 sec. ISO 100. Photo © 2018 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

The image above shows a 200% crop of Alice’s head in the side-view portrait. This is just under 1.5% of the original file produced from the X3I file. Look at the incredible details in her eyes, beak, and feathers.

After photographing stately Alice, we decided to turn to a bit more whimsical subject: a silkie hen named Hazel. Our little dancer, Hazel, produced some hilarious portraits.

Hazel, a silkie hen, struck funny poses during my recent Curious Critters photo session at the Ohio Bird Sanctuary, Lexington, Ohio, USA. Sigma SD Quattro H, Sigma 85mm F1.4 DG HSM Art lens. f/16. 1/125 sec. ISO 100. Photo © 2018 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

If you can get past her LOL-expression, consider the beautiful colors, fine color gradations of her yellowish feathers, and the spectacular details. Even more, the Foveon sensor and PhotoPro software readily produced pure whites (255, 255, 255) for the background while keeping lots of detail in the barnyard beauty.

Landscapes

The Sigma sd Quattro H excels at capturing extraordinary detail in landscape photography. In fact, the sensor on the Sigma sd Quattro H captures such high resolution that you have to make sure every part of your technique is spot-on. Shoot from a tripod. Use a wireless remote or cable release. And shoot with your best lenses and at their sharpest apertures. Finally, shoot in RAW or DNG and process the shots carefully afterward.

The Sigma sd Quattro H captures the glory of sumacs at sunrise, Irwin Prairie State Nature Preserve, Ohio, USA. Sigma sd Quattro H, Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM Art lens at 18mm. f/11, 1/4 second, ISO 100. Photo © 2018 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

In the fall I visited Irwin Prairie near Toledo, Ohio. Golden light of early sunrise illuminated a stand of sumac tress dressed in bright red. Behind them arose delicate grasses and oak trees. Shooting with the super-sharp Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM Art lens at f/11 from a tripod with a Sigma Cable Release CR-31 assured a highly detailed image with lots of depth-of-field (above).

Another good test of the Sigma sd Quattro H is shooting the vibrant colors and broad range of light intensities at Chinese lantern festivals. One recent late fall afternoon, I stopped by Dragon Lights Columbus, a lantern festival at the Ohio State Fairgrounds. After scoping out locations, I began to shoot as night began to fall. (Click here to read my longer how-to on Photographing Chinese Lantern Festivals.)

Dragon Lights Columbus provides spectacular scenes for shooting with the Sigma sd Quattro H. At dusk and into the night, lanterns glow with a rainbow of vibrant colors. Columbus, Ohio, USA. Sigma sd Quattro H, Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM Art lens at 18mm. f/1.8, 1/50 second, ISO 100. Photo © 2018 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

The centerpiece of this year’s Columbus festival is a giant, multi-colored dragon that stretches along the main walkway. Using a tripod and the Sigma 18-35mm zoom, I depicted the fire-breathing monster with other lantern displays appearing in the background. The above image shows not only amazing colors but also smooth color gradations.

Color gradations can be captured so smoothly by Foveon sensors because colors are recorded unlike they are with Bayer-type sensors. The three-layer approach to receiving colors on the Foveon chip means you don’t have the kind of interpolation of data that occurs with other sensors.

Examine the beautiful color gradations captured by the three-layer Foveon sensor in the sd Quattro H. Dragon Lights Columbus, Columbus, Ohio, USA. Sigma sd Quattro H, Sigma 100-400mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary lens at 270mm. f/11, 1/5 second, ISO 100. Photo © 2018 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

To see even more how beautifully colors can be reproduced with the Sigma sd Quattro H, look at the close-up of the dragon’s head (above). Here small changes in the color values of the blue around the eye, the reds in the mouth, and the deep turquois of the lips is what makes this photo shine.

The Super-Fine Detail (SFD) mode of the Sigma sd Quattro H allows for the production of an HDR-like image. Seven photos were taken in rapid succession of these three African-themed Chinese lanterns and then saved as one exposure-rich X3I file. The result is a shot the replicates the viewing experience. Dragon Lights Columbus, Ohio, USA. Sigma sd Quattro H, Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM Art lens at 18mm. f/16, various exposures for 7 SFD shots, ISO 100. Photo © 2018 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

One of the challenges of Chinese lantern photography is the wide range of light intensities in any given scene. The brightness ranges from white LED bulbs shining through the material covering the lantern frames (often silk, rayon, or other translucent fabrics) to dark areas around the sculptures. For an African Safari scene featuring a lion, a lioness, and a hippopotamus, I turned on the Sigma sd Quattro H’s SFD mode. Shooting from a tripod, the camera produced seven exposures, all saved in one large X3I file.

Sigma PhotoPro software allows for efficient HDR-like processing of SFD files (X3I) produced with the Sigma sd Quattro H. This screen shot shows the seven photos taken in rapid succession of the lion lantern at Dragon Lights Columbus, Ohio, USA. Sigma sd Quattro H, Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM Art lens at 18mm. f/16, various exposures, ISO 100. Photo © 2018 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

Using Sigma’s PhotoPro software, I processed the file to reduce the brightness of the bulbs and bring out details in the fall leaves below the lanterns. The result is a highly detailed image that preserves tonalities in a way that replicates the viewing experience.

Even better, all this can be done without using a separate HDR program or multiple image files. One X3I file, processed in the free-of-charge Sigma PhotoPro app, allow photographers to generate all kinds of images with super-wide ranges of light intensities.

Indoor elephant lantern, Dragon Lights Columbus, Ohio, USA. Sigma sd Quattro H, Sigma 50mm F1.4 DC HSM Art lens. f/5.6, 1/8 second, ISO 100. Photo © 2018 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

Post-Processing: PhotoPro and DNG

Sigma gives users multiple file types to choose from, ranging from in-camera JPGs to Sigma’s RAW file type (X3F) to the industry standard DNG.

Some shooters prefer to choose settings in-camera, produce JPGs on the spot while shooting, and move on. For those people, the Sigma sd Quattro H’s in-camera JPGs are great. In fact, shooters seeking super-high resolution images can choose the JPG setting and select the S-HI option. This produces an in-camera file that is 8,768 x 5,480 pixels!

Those interested in doing post-processing have several options. First, you can shoot in RAW (X3F) + JPG. The X3F files can be processed in Sigma’s provided PhotoPro software. If in-camera JPGs are not necessary, you can save files as RAW (X3F) or DNG.

The controls for processing RAW (X3F) files in Sigma’s free PhotoPro software allow for a wide range of image adjustments. Here, increasing the Fill Light and Highlights and decreasing the Shadows and Exposure toned down the LED light bulbs inside and kept good detail and color of the lantern fabric. Dragon Lights Columbus, Ohio, USA. Sigma sd Quattro H, Sigma sd Quattro H, Sigma 100-400mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary lens at 135mm. f/6.3, 0.3 seconds, ISO 100. Photo © 2018 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

The Sigma PhotoPro browser and image processor is a pro-level package. Besides allowing for adjustments of SFD (X3I) files (mentioned above), PhotoPro is a powerful RAW converter. From custom white balances to precise controls over details, from various tone settings to noise reduction, and from chromatic aberration to fringe correction, Sigma PhotoPro gives photographers a high level of control over the look of their final images.

If you prefer to work in a more familiar environment, such as within Adobe products, the Sigma sd Quattro H also allows photographers to save files in the DNG format. This can be opened in any number of converters, including Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom.

Elk during the rutting season, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cherokee, North Carolina, USA. Sigma sd Quattro H, Sigma sd Quattro H, Sigma 100-400mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary lens at 300mm. f/8, 1/500 second, ISO 400. Photo © 2018 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

All Kinds of Subjects

Other subjects benefit from shooting with the Sigma sd Quattro H. These range from architecture and travel to portraits and wildlife…plus many more.

Even though there are faster cameras on the market, the Sigma sd Quattro H can produce stunning wildlife shots. While shooting fall foliage in the Smoky Mountains, we came upon elk in the midst of the fall rut. Mounting the Sigma 100-400mm, I zoomed in on a male with bits of plants hanging from his antlers. And notice how the Sigma sd Quattro H’s fine color gradations are a real plus for depicting the subtle variations of mammal fur.

The sd Quattro H is also good for portraits. Above is a portrait of Phoebe in period costume sitting in desk in a one-room schoolhouse. With it’s fairly large sensor, the Sigma sd Quattro H shows Phoebe’s beautiful smile while throwing the background out of focus. Paired with wide-aperture lenses, the APS-H sensor can create the kind of shallow depth-of-field needed for fine portraiture.

For the shot of Phoebe, I mounted the Sigma 85mm F1.4 Art lens and shot wide open. The image’s bokeh is the result of the design of this fabulous optic working with the APS-H format sensor. Smaller sensors produce relatively speaking greater depth-of-field than smaller sensors. So, the APS-H, while not producing as shallow of depth-of-field as full-frame sensor, is a marked improvement over an APS-C sensor for portraiture.

Stunningly smooth color gradations are one of the many great assets of images produce with the Sigma sd Quattro H. Dragon Lights Columbus, Ohio, USA. Sigma sd Quattro H, Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM Art lens at 18mm. f/1.8, 1/250 second, ISO 100. Photo © 2018 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.

Conclusion

If you want amazing high resolution images and don’t wish to invest tens of thousands in a medium format system, the Sigma sd Quattro H camera may be just what you are looking for. With knock-your-socks-off resolution, brilliant colors with smooth gradations, and ergonomic control of pro-level settings, the Sigma sd Quattro H is a standout among a new crop of mirrorless cameras. Pair it with the highly acclaimed optics of the Sigma Global Vision series, and you have world-class gear ready for a wide range of photographic opportunities.

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1 comment so far

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  1. This sensor at full frame size should produce some phenomenal images. Always wanted a Sigma Camera with this sensor.
    I have been wondering how this sensor would be for video. It should excelling believe. Especially if treated as though it was a film camera .