By Michael J. McNamara, Popular Photography & Imaging
If patience is a virtue, photographers shopping for a new Sigma DSLR are saints. After all, it’s been three years since the last Sigma digital (the SD10), and it was more than six months between the announcement and availability of the new Sigma SD14 ($1,600, street, body only).
Clearly, a truly unique camera takes time. And the SD14 is unique. It’s the first and only DSLR to use a second-generation Foveon X3 sensor, which has a 1.7X lens factor, boasts 14.1 megapixels, and is promoted as a color-accurate, detail-obsessed, low-noise alternative to the CMOS and CCD sensors used in other DSLRs....
Featured Comment by Craig Norris: I find the Pop Photo review somewhat lacking in imagination. The reviewer only compares what the SD-14 can do that a Nikon D200 can also do, under general consumer snapshooting conditions, and finds the Nikon D200 the better camera. Fine. If I was a general consumer, I might agree.
In my photography business, I often shoot executive portraits, mostly head and shoulder, with a Canon 5D at about 70mm focal length. I always shoot at ISO 100 in the studio for maximum quality, because I do see noise and other image degradation at any higher ISO, even with a Canon 5D. But I am plagued in almost every session by moire patterns in the texture of some people's clothing.
The Sigma SD-14 would solve my problem, because it is free of moire artifacts, an important fact not mentioned or tested by the Pop Photo reviewer. What the SD-14 lacks is a tethered shooting facility, and that's the only reason I'm not rushing out to buy the SD-14. The lack of high ISO range is not an issue for me. I'll use my Canon 5D when I need to shoot at high ISO settings. Use the right tool for the right job.
My point in making this post is that camera reviewers often do the general public a disservice. They sometimes publish a rather negative conclusion about a camera, without really understanding that there is no such thing as a perfect camera (that's why I have 16 cameras) but each camera has some great strength that suits it to a particular application. The reviewer should highlight what that great strength might be for each camera under test.
My other gripe is that I've never seen any of the usual camera reviewers test high ISO image quality under low levels of tungsten lighting—which is the most common scenario when a general user needs a high ISO. The published tests, such as the Pop Photo review under discussion, waste space by showing high ISO images of outdoor scenery, or high ISO performance under daylight colour studio lighting. What's the point? Who shoots at high ISOs in the bright outdoors? Who shoots at high ISO with daylight white balance? Shift to tungsten white balance where the blue channel gets amplified inside the camera significantly, and the results are somewhat different, and infinitely more relevant.
I'm prompted to write today because I'm becoming very jaded and dissapointed by the generally poor quality of today's camera reviews. The only good camera reviews I regularly see are in Japanese camera magazines. I'm fortunate in being able to read a little bit of the Japanese text, enough to gain an insight into the reviewer's reports and findings.
After reading Japanese camera reviews for several years now, I feel embarrassed at the poor standard of most camera reviews published in Western countries. (Perhaps I'll start a new business publishing translations of the Japanese magazine articles....)