Stop the Press! News has arrived of the price and release date of the Sigma SD Quattro H, the big brother of the SD Quattro, with a its APS-H size Foveon X3 Quattro, 51 megapixel sensor.
The Sigma SD Quattro H will retail at £1,499.99 and it’s due to arrive in UK shops in January, not quite in time for your Christmas stocking, but close enough to use the excuse of a late Christmas present to yourself.
But the surprise news, and real festive treat for all long suffering Sigma users, is that the H will capture RAW in DNG format!!! (see extract below). Whether you’re a fan of SPP or not this has got to broaden the appeal of the camera, and if those clever people at Sigma can do this for the H …
DNG format In addition to SIGMA’s original RAW format (X3F), DNG (Digital Negative) format is available.DNG is the RAW image data that is developed by Adobe Systems Incorporated. DNG file makes it possible to develop images on other softwares, which gives more choices of expression.
Read the full press release herePress Release that has just been emailed to Technical Editors and Magazines.
To compress or to uncompress? That is the question.
Since I starting shooting with the RX1rII I’ve always had the format firmly set to uncompressed RAW on the (not unreasonable) assumption that though my memory cards might now hold only half the images, my disk drive is constantly full, and my post-processing time is twice as long, for an IQ gain, however marginal, it has to be worth it, right?
But for my upcoming trip to Nepal and 10 day trek to Everest Base Camp, I’ll need to squeeze as many shots as humanly possible onto each memory card and can’t waste valuable power reviewing, editing and deleting images. It was time to test the (not unreasonable) assumption and so I stole off into Leeds for 40 minutes of shooting, using both compressed and uncompressed formats.
The result? Absolutely no difference in IQ whatsoever. The only way I could tell which were which was the load times in Lightroom. The test might have been quick, and might have been unscientific, but for me it’s absolutely conclusive. I’ll head of to Nepal with the format set to compressed and happy that the resulting images might be half the size, but every bit the equal of their uncompressed brethren.
But it does leave one question, what the hell are those other 40 gigabytes doing?
All shots were taken hand held in Aperture mode. Post processing adjustments in Lightroom were exactly the same (copy settings) for each pair of images except when taking into account different shutter speeds and therefore exposures.
On our recent trip to Lofoten, Sigma asked me to check out their 18-300mm travel zoom on the SD1 Merrill. The resulting article was published on the Sigma Lounge blog at: http://www.sigma-imaging-uk.com/sigmalounge/lofoten-islands-richard-walls-sigma-18-300mm-c/ . It was also featured in Geographical Magazine’s newsletter, and the images were shared by Sigma Japan to all the worldwide Sigma subsidiaries.Fame at last 🙂 If you’ve not seen it the article, and are interested in the lens, it’s published in full below.Richard
The Sigma 18-300mm Travel Zoom
A few years ago I threw all my zoom lenses under a bus and become a prime man, preferring to zoom in and out using one of the best, recent (in geological terms), innovative advances, human feet. The zooms had become too heavy and unwieldy and I never once regretted my decision.
But lately, with a three day voyage to the Lofoten Islands looming, I was becoming more concerned. Zooming with my feet was all well and good on dry land, but if you’re on a ship wasn’t there a serious danger of those feet, and for that matter the rest of me, becoming very wet?
And there was another problem. The small army of cameras I’d packed were all wide angle, so while all the talk in the evening bar would be of hair-splitting close-ups of sea eagles and hump back whales, all I’d have to show was a small brownish dot on the horizon!
Fortunately Sigma came to my rescue and so as the ship set sail I was fully equipped with a SD1 Merrill paired with a 18-300mm F3.5-6.3 OS HSM travel zoom, and this zoom wasn’t big and bulky at all, in fact is was a relative lightweight!
Lofoten is an unsurpassable place, a place where around each corner the scene takes your breath way, a place where a ten-minute journey stretches into hours as you stop and reach for your camera again and again, a place where you need to be prepared for that chance moment …
… that instant when the last rays of the sun kiss a cliff face; or above your head sea eagles tumble in the sky; or the sun’s rays burst through an overcast sky; or a trawler shatters a perfect reflection. It was at those moments I reached for the lens.
Sadly the whale never showed its hump, but the 18-300mm was there to capture my favourite image of the entire trip; the most perfect, Foveon, sunrise above the mountains of the Norwegian coastline.
Without the travel zoom I’d have lost the shot, instead I’d have just been able to stare and wonder, shake my head, turn, and walk back home. I guess there are times even a prime man needs a zoom.
Driving around Lofoten I had plenty of time to muse on the email I’d received from Sigma UK that morning, announcing the new SD Quattros, especially the H. Where the heck did that come from???
As I was carrying around an SD1, 2 Merrills and a Quattro, my first thought to dump them all in a lake, hire a plane, fly to Japan and snatch one from the secret Sigma lab. The H, combined with a fast Art prime or two, wouldn’t that be the thing? I was genuinely, nurdishly, excited; a big sensor, a proper viewfinder, clever auto-focus stuff, a cool shape, weather sealing, what’s not to be excited about!
And then I started to worry …
I’ve bought into the whole small camera, carry around everywhere, thing, and the H combined with an art prime, is it just going to be too big and heavy?
I’ve bought into the matching lens / sensor combo, and just the thought of cleaning sensors again gives me the shivers!
Is low light performance and noise going to improve? When the sun goes down it’s bedtime for my DP0 Quattro, and on a 30 second exposure I’d be hanging around a while for seven shots to finish (3 minutes, 30 seconds to be be exact) and a lot wind can blow in that time!
Would’t it have been great with a mount that let you attach it to some small, high quality lenses, like Leica’s (if I could only afford it)! Wouldn’t a Foveon / Leica look be awesome?
The nightmare of SPP! I fall asleep processing each Quattro raw file now, and that’s with the bare minimum in my rush to Lightroom. How many more hours sleep will I get with H size files? Perhaps each H needs to come with the latest Mac Pro for free.
And how much is the darn thing going to cost?
But hey, what’s the point of worrying? I want one of these beauties and can’t wait to get my hands on one. If the image quality lives up to the promise, and lets me print Foveon images super-size, and I can afford it, I tell you now it’s going in my bag 🙂
The comparisons of the Sigma Merrill and Quattro have remained by far the most popular posts on this website throughout 2014 and 2015, with the test shot of Leeds (below) the most clicked upon.
The two shots below, taken a few days ago, complete the set with a comparison of the Sigma DP1 Merrill and Sigma DP0 Quattro. Both shots were hand held. Both have been post processed in SPP and Lightroom, using the same settings. Both shots were taken at ISO100 at f5.6. On both the colours come straight from the camera. The Quattro shot has been cropped to aid the comparison.
With the Quattro I’ve struggled to control highlights, but a B&W graduated ND filter, soldered onto the camera, seems to have sorted the problem.
On previous comparisons the Merrill has always come up trumps on resolution and micro contrast, but taking into account the different focal lengths between the DP0 and DP1 to my eyes it’s too close to call. Both are fantastic image producing machines and both deserve a place in my camera bag.
Please note the above is an unapologetic, unscientific comparison.
I’ve finally put my money where my mouth is and bought the Sigma DP0 Quattro. Unfortunately, since it arrived, the North of England has been shrouded in mist, fog and rain, perhaps not the Quattro’s natural element. But I couldn’t resist taking the camera out just after dawn around Sheriff Hutton, near York, when we stayed at Polly’s cottage (www.ascotcottage.co.uk) last weekend.
In the last of series of 3 posts on Sigma’s DP0 Quattro I couldn’t resist a cheeky comparison against the Sigma DP1 Merrill.
… But first let’s get the disclaimer out of the way!
Anyone looking for a technical, scientifically rigorous, thorough, review should look away now!
Ok, so now we’re rid of those pesky pixel peaking folks, for those still curious let’s press on with the comparison.
Now we’re told that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and for that I’m personally thankful … but not holding an opinion, where’s the fun it that!
To my worn eyeballs the Merrill has the edge on resolution, but when I say edge I mean a razor sharp knife-edge of an edge, a micron of an edge, an edge just one atom thick. More importantly I seem to be able to pull more from the highlights and the shadows, an issue amplified when I don my Dracula cape and go out shooting at night (but to put this in perspective, neither camera is a Sony A7s). Finally, if I’m going through a moody, arty, monochrome phase, the Merrill has a touch more tone.
In the Quattro’s favour I love the colour rendition that comes out of the camera, the images seem warmer, richer, less harsh and more forgiving than the Merrill, especially with people and skin tones, and there’s something about the look of the landscapes, a dreaminess, a timelessness, that I can’t quite put my finger on (Lee, if you ever read this please publish your balloons picture so I can link to it and people can see for themselves).
But with the margins so thin a little post processing either way allows you to match one with the other as near as makes no difference, except for the night-time shots, and if you’re serious about this genre of photography you’re salivating over the Sony A7SII rather than reading this.
So I was pushed into a corner; had a camera bag just for one; had gun held to my head; what would I choose? Well if I find myself running to the door to catch that magic moment, I think … I might … just find myself … unconsciously … reaching for the DP0Q … I just love the look of the landscapes.
All things considered
A whole set of factors combine to make this comparison not worth the (virtual) paper it’s written on, including but not limited to:
the different length of the lenses
the wholly unscientific (for many reasons) nature of the comparison*
the lack of time I had to get to know the Quattro
an extremely subjective take on what good looks like
the price difference of the cameras
the relative sizes of the cameras (the Merrill is tiny in comparison)
the superiority of the Quattro as a camera
the relative size of the RAW files and consequent time to process in SPP
the limited subject matter
the dreariness of the weather during the time I had the Quattro.
I make no apologies, the aim of the comparison is to look at the camera against my set of needs, not yours! That said I’m sharing it because people seem to be interested in this sort of thing, and hopefully it contributes to the discussion. IMHO both cameras are immense considering the IQ, the price point and the unique look they produce. I don’t care which you’d choose, just spare a moment to look beyond the pile of bayer sensors and give them a go.
*Despite the unscientific nature I’ve tried to make the comparisons as fair as possible. Unless otherwise stated comparison shots are: the same ISO, same aperture, exposure matched by varying shutter speed, shots taken seconds apart, same processing SPP (noise reduction at zero everything else neutral), same post processing in Lightroom, and cropped to make the comparison easier.