Sigma sd Quattro Reviews
Not For The Faint of Heart
Rated 5 out of 5
Echoing some of what others have said... This is a specific solution/tool for specific problems. If any of the following jabber bits are a deal-breaker, skip this rig and move on:
/ You are buying a camera with a Foveon chip because you are interested in a more accurate color output than what a Bayer Filter chipped camera (ie, just about everything else made) can do;
/ You want a camera for taking stills, not something that doubles for video;
/ You don't want GPS, Bluetooth, or any other kind of getting ratted out by you tech nonsense;
/ You are not looking for a high-speed shooter. Process wise, this camera is relatively slow. You are some kind of set piece / portrait / act-like-you-have-one-roll-of-film-to-your-name kind of shooter;
/ You are much more of a manual shooter than automatic;
/ Set the ISO at 100 and forget about moving of it. You will be disappointed if you do;
/ Get a couple extra batteries. This camera is a pig w/r/t power consumption;
In closing, I haven't had this much fun since the 1980s, when I was doing B&W work using 35mm Medical Recording film.
Am hooked on Foveon
By Robert B.
Rated 5 out of 5
It seems some of us can't get enough of the Foveon sensor-- and that is true for me. Photos tend to have a clarity and integrity that is distinctive and almost ineffable. I have been very unhappy watching the dp Quattro line disappear, and I bought this sd camera because I was afraid it might disappear too. I wish someone could tell me what dp and sd stand for. Sigma's nomenclature is very odd and confusing for the uninitiated!
Sigma's product designs are all pure genius-- this camera is no exception. One must admire the quality and attention to detail. They are far more capable than detractors know. No, it does not take video, have image stabilization, or easily talk to the Googleverse. That said, I believe the merits and weaknesses of this camera and other Foveon sensor cameras have been analyzed and discussed (mostly superficially) ad nauseum.
Be forewarned: accessories for this camera are getting harder to find. The external battery pack appears to no longer be available which nullifies the ingenious body design. Also lenses with the SA Mount are becoming dearer. I hope Sigma will try to maintain its Foveon lines.
My camera was rather hard to obtain. I waited almost a month to have it delivered. The worst part was waiting on FedEx which was extraordinarily frustrating and seemed intent on losing my purchase. Increasingly, I want to deal with real people, not bots or (in the case of FedEx) friendly but unempowered service people in far-flung call centers. I would love to see B&H open a branch or outlet in San Francisco! There is a market here.
The larger battery on the sd Quattro appears to last much better than I expected. It generally gets me through a morning or afternoon of less than feverish shooting. Despite Sigma's phenomenal attention to detail, I was disappointed that the camera lacked a simple slide cover for the flash mount. Seems like such a simple thing would have made the camera more complete. I often wonder if Sigma was forced to cut costs to the bone to provide the quality the rest of the camera has.
Also instructions could be better. I was eager to explore the camera's infrared capabilities-- be careful. It is easy to remove the sensor protector, but not so easy to replace it without a bit of practice! Sigma has excellent websites which seem to (oddly!) steer people increasingly away from Foveon. I wish they could provide more info about best practices-- or more in-depth tutorials. The best info I have seen originate from Rino Giardiello's Nadir Magazine in Italy. I have to credit him most for getting initially excited about this camera.
Rated 5 out of 5
There are rare times when you find something that is so unique, and outstandingly unique, that it deserves to be compared to the most iconic example of uniqueness ever spoken of or written about. The Unicorn. The Sigma SD Quattro is a perfect example of something that is worthy of the metaphor. It is not only unique, but ironically it is completely off base for an era of cameras that do everything and anything for you without you ever thinking about it. This camera requires you to think about being a photographer so it can focus on doing what it does best, being a camera that captures amazing images.
To say it is merely solid is an understatement. If a camera could be a tank this is the tank of cameras. Take the 1976 Canon AE-1 for comparison. The one I own got rolled over by the back wheel of a 2004 Ford Taurus (don't worry about how this happened) and after a quick lens replacement it was back in action and still works in 2022.
The SD Quattro is made out of metal, it's square, and it's heavy. It's weather sealed, and it is not light in any sense of the word. It's conspicuous, obtrusive, and something that stands out. It's not retro nor is it futuristic. It just exists, clad in black with plain white markings. Keeping a Sigma Contemporary or Art lens on it will only enhance the scientific like effect. The grip is firmly comfortable and explains the odd indentation in the shape of the camera body. The two click wheels align perfectly with my fingers and are programmable. If Batman needed a camera, this would be the one for him.
Possessing the knowledge of taking a picture with a camera that has film in it will the best way to approach this camera. It's most effective mode is Manual and in Program mode (the closest you have to full auto) it will almost get you there almost all of the time. The viewfinder is not particularly great but if you know what you're looking at you'll see all you need to see. It could be compared to a fly by wire setup. For example, if you know what peaking is then it works just as good as a split image for focus. I also love the built in level. It's cool looking. The SD Quattro doesn't even take video so there's no need to comment on that. It does take forever to save and preview pics but what's forever if you're counting in milliseconds to start? Good things take time and with the 39 Megapixel Foveon 3 sensor inside this beast of a camera it's going to take time to get pics saved.
According to the Sigma Specs "...it offers 39-megapixel-equivalent resolution". Not only that but some of the most beautiful images that remind of Kodak Ektachrome film from days past but in a digital format. I just can't believe it. The images that this camera produces just blows me away. Do a quick google search about the Foveon3 sensor and you'll understand why. Is it fast? No. Your best pics will come at a cost of 100 ISO but there's an interesting catch. Like film, moving up the ISO numbers will affect your picture quality with noise (grain) as with film speeds (ASA). As I see it, who said that's bad? The grainy weird look of really fast film is what I like. It also takes some of the best black and white pics I've ever seen in a digital format. It's very reminiscent of Kodak T-Max film in this respect.
Knowing your environment, f-stop, shutter speed, focus, and limitations of your ISO (ASA) will get you the pic you want and you will have to explicitly explain that to the camera. I love this. It's how I learned to shoot and how I will always shoot. It pretty much functions like a film camera and not a digital one. It's the thing I like most. Yes, there are cameras that do more, and I've owned them. Is there a camera that focuses faster? Yes, many. Is there a camera that shoots video (it does not shoot video) and takes pics faster? Yes. Is there a camera that takes beautiful filmic pics at 39 Megapixels that costs under 2k? Absolutely not. Is there another camera that serves it's purpose as well as a self defense apparatus? Definitively no. The SD Quattro is a joy and a delight that really makes me want to be a better photographer than I already am. Purchasing the kit will also get you the 30mm f:1.4 Art lens for $100 bucks (it's $399.99 on it's own). Kinda priceless.
There's a readily available M42 Screw Mount adapter on Amazon that will allow you to attach some cheap vintage glass to really get a great film look. It's fun but with an APSC sensor remember to multiply your focal length by 1.5. A 50mm is equivalent to a 75mm so be careful what you buy. I got a 50mm Ricoh 1.8 and it's a great macro lens at 75mm equivalent. The advantage is when I'm doing street photography it gives me a good distance to not be obtrusive or disturbing to what I'm shooting without having a giant zoom lens attached. I have a few great lenses that I was able to find for this setup and it's going to be with me a long time.
Not for everyone. Great images.
Rated 5 out of 5
With its slow operations and less than stellar operational specs, this is not a camera meant to compete with other contemporary digital cameras. But it is still a well-built camera that, with patience and care, will create images that I really like.
A full spectrum camera.
Rated 4 out of 5
The ergonomics on this device are great (if you are right-handed) and the construction feels very sturdy. The autofocus may be a bit on the slow side and the battery does feel like like it runs out fairly quickly. Finding used lenses with Sigma AS mounts is a bit more difficult, unless you're in South Korea or Japan (at least according to some popular online marketplaces) but Sigma are still making new lenses fitting this mount, even of they have announced it to be phased out for their newer camera models in favor of the L-mount.
However, all these perceived shortcomings are immaterial for me.
If it hadn't been mentioned as a passing remark in some promotional material and in select reviews, you wouldn't know it (the manual makes no mention of this either) but with a few seconds of time and a pair of tweezers you can remove the hot mirror IR-blocker (a.k.a. sensor dust protector) and convert the sd quattro into a full-spectrum camera. Your choice of lens filter then determines the wavelengths of light you want to keep.
The foveon x3 sensor ensures that your IR or UV photo will actually have measurements on each pixel. This makes this camera's effective resolution for specific wavelength 4 times larger than another converted digital camera, with a single-layer Bayer filter.
If you accept that you won't be swapping the lenses out in the field, to avoid damaging the naked CMOS sensor array inside the heart of this device you will have an incredibly fun camera with incredible image quality for your desired application, at a bargain.
Captures more of the visible spectrum
Rated 5 out of 5
I've had the Sigma SD Quattro about 6 months and after owning a Sony, Canon, Fujifilm and Nikon Z50 (which I still own), the Sigma has been a revelation of how much COLOR you can actually capture but are prone to miss with the standard Bayer filter array sensor. (Fujifilm is the exception with their slightly different X-Trans sensor.) What sets the Sigma apart is the Foveon sensor that captures MORE of the visible spectrum. Typical cameras using the Bayer filter array try to make up for the elusive colors by tweaking the color science of their software. I have shot comparisons with the Nikon and there is always a noticeable difference in the hues captured by the Sigma (Foveon). Sigma will surprise you with its capture of lilacs, variety of yellows, the subtlety of pastel colors, and intense blues. The SD Quattro is the highest perfection to date (Oct. 2021) of the Foveon sensor.
Where the Nikon will capture the green in a plant, shaded with a consistent light to dark green, the Sigma (Foveon) might capture a light avocado green in the highlights, some forest green in the midtones, and a cooler lime green in the shadows because of more blue in the shade. More color within the hue is typical of the Foveon and is noticeable as visibly dynamic color. It is much more than a gradation from light to dark.
The SD Quattro does have its limitations such as being optimized for Base ISO of 100, no tilt of the rear LCD, shooting at one-frame-per-second, no Face AF, etc., but it is built like a tank, solid, and handles great. If you prize accurate EXCELLENT color rendition above all else, this camera is an amazing tool.
Exceptional image quality with a lot of quirks
Rated 4 out of 5
This is very different from the swath of bayer sensor cameras out there. So if you are deciding if you should buy this, you are at the right post, cause I'm gonna lay out all the quirks of this camera, and what you will get if you can workaround those quirks.
To start off, exposure. If you can get exposure right the image quality out of this camera is exceptional. To achieve the same level of image quality from a bayer sensor, it will need to have a much higher resolution, then gets downsampled. The difficulty however, is exactly getting the exposure right. I normally do exposure to the right (ETTR) with a bayer sensor camera. This means I make sure the brightest highlight that I want to preserve details is at the right end of the histogram without being clipped, then in post I reduce exposure and/or pull up shadow. That does not work with this camera with high contrast scenes. You will find out that a lot of scenes you deem moderate or even low contrast become high contrast for this camera due to its limited dynamic range. Shadow can only be pulled up 1 stop before there is noticeable uneven noises and color patches, while there are only two stops above middle grey before the highlight is clipped. This camera makes me really question hard what exactly is the brightest highlight that I want to preserve. Knowing this limitation, the camera provides a mode call Super Fine Detail. But it's a workaround that either works extremely well or not at all. (More on that in a bit.) This camera is really a slow pace camera in the sense that it works really slowly and you will also have to slow down to think a lot. A graduated ND filter is probably needed for this camera. But I want to talk more on the SFD mode I mentioned above. This camera has a very limited buffer that doesn't allow many photos to be continuously taken before it has to pause. This has a bad implication on its SFD mode, which takes 7 photos with different exposures and then combines them into a single raw file. I wish it had a lite mode which takes only 5 photos, because with 7 photos and the small buffer, there is a large delay between the second last and the last photo. This means, while SFD mode creates extraordinary fine detailed images, it requires an absolute stationary scene (and of course a tripod). Water surfaces, people, vegetation in a breeze, all of these are problematic.
I also need to talk about the file format. Its raw format is not accepted even by macOS. Affinity Photo is able to open its raw files, but you can see the interpretation is a little different from Sigma's own software. If you use SFD mode then even Affinity Photo calls it quits. DxO PureRaw doesn't understand the raw file whatsoever. Even Adobe DNG converter crashes right away when being fed with its raw files. The camera does offer DNG format recording, but they are 2-3 times as big as the native format for the same photo, and color depth is reduced from 14-bit to 12-bit. It's still more than enough I think. But if you use SFD mode DNG is out of the picture. My workflow with SFD is that I do some initial adjustment with Sigma Photo Pro then export the file to 16-bit tiff, then from there I use Pixelmator Pro (Affinity Photo works terribly with non raw files).
Being a mirrorless camera this thing is big, with a protrude chamber to accept Sigma SA mount lenses because they are designed for SLRs. The camera itself is not heavy, but the SA mount lenses are (with the bundled lens the only exception, ironically). So you probably don't want to tote this thing around especially if you wanna do substantial amount of hiking, which is a shame cause this camera is otherwise ideal for landscape photography.
Some minor complains about the LCD screen. It's fixed, and it's not a touch screen. They are not dealbreakers but I really wish it had them to speed up just a bit an already very slow workflow.
Now let's talk about the sensor. I'm not gonna spend too much time on what Foveon is, you can look it up. What I want to talk more about is the Foveon Quattro sensor that powers this camera. Right, not all Foveon sensors are the same. The Quattro sensor has its green and red layers only 1/4 of the resolution of the blue/luminance layer. So some guess work will need to be done to work out the green and red components of a pixel. Some say this contradicts with the promise of Foveon, but this guess work is simply not the same as the bayer guess work. The image quality from a similar pixel density bayer sensor is no comparison with the Quattro sensor. That said, is it worse than Sigma SD1, of which all 3 layers have the same resolution? I have no idea cause I do not own an SD1. But image details out of this camera outperforms all the bayer sensor cameras that I own. That's for sure.
After all the quirks I still give 4 stars to the camera because the camera does well for what it promises and if you want to pick it up you need to keep all these quirks that I mentioned in mind. You can capture phenomenal images if you know how to deal with its quirks.
Excellent Camera with Limits
Rated 5 out of 5
This camera will take incredible pictures of your take your time. The sensor needs a lot of light, and high iso will result in loss of detail and poorer image quality. And focusing is a little tricky sometimes. Nevertheless, in my opinion, it's worth the sacrifice. Color and detail are exceptional, especially considering the modest price of the body.
I have several Sigma SA lenses, and I am quite pleased with them. I also use one sd quattro body as a full spectrum camera. However, choose a different body if you want to capture action or fire off multiple shots in quickly.