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Saturday, 05 April 2014


The Foveon sensor has always intrigued me. As an analogue enthusiast, I can't help noticing this sensor emulates the colour negative film rationale, but there's more to it.
Having never had actual contact with a Sigma camera, I can only make statements based on comparative tests such as the ones carried on by DPR, so what follows should be taken 'cum grano salis.' The first reaction to the images produced by Sigma cameras is that there's something wrong with the colours, but then it gradually dawns on me that it's the other cameras that oversaturate colours in order to make them look punchier and more attractive. Sigma's images look a little stark in comparison, but they're actually much closer to reality.
Yet it's in the resolving of the finest detail that the Sigmas really shine. Their performance in this respect is mind-blowing, begging comparison with the best full frame sensors.
It's hard not to like what the Sigmas can do. Sigma's problem is that the photographic community doesn't take them seriously as a camera manufacturer. What goes on in the minds of prospective buyers is that Sigma is a lens manufacturer whose lenses are OK, but they'll be better off buying Canikon bodies. Which is a shame, but it's also true that Sigma never made a camera that hit the right spot: the DP's are point and shoots with fixed focal length and the SD1 was launched with a ludicrous price tag that killed Sigma's ambitions instantly.
And the DP's are ugly. There's no escaping that. The DP2 could have been the new Minolta 7S, but Sigma decided to offer it in a rather clumsy package. (The recent 'Quattro' redesign won't do it any favours.)
Still I wonder why such a great sensor is so underrated. By rights it ought to be a winner.

It's the measurebators that keep the wildly romantic enthusiasts coupled to reality.

Mike, when you say you've been diddling around, I wonder if you have been using the Sigma software, SPP, or possibly the MAC Iridient Developer to process raw files. Also, whether you have delved into color, or just monochrome.

In my own short experience, the Auto setting for color development in SPP gives me that look I like so much, whereas, Iridient Developer doesn't, as much. For some images, I need to add a little of what SPP calls fill light to lighten shadows. Usually, though, the Auto setting by itself does a fine job. I haven't tried monochrome, but i hear that its valuable for those shots that require higher ISO such as 800 and above...

On the other hand, and there always is one, the IR processor is much more flexible than SPP and someone with the patience to learn it might get better results that way. I've stopped waiting for Adobe to do anything.

A friend recently bought a FujiFilm X-Pro1. Nice feel to the camera. But after doing the manual focus thing with a Fuji lens, it was disconcerting (to say the least) following a swap to a Zeiss lens, to find there was no auto-focus. The Zeiss (for Fuji) lens does not have the MF/AF switch. That required re-mounting the Fuji lens.

Fun interview with Sigma's CEO containing a few tantalising comments...

Yes, it is an amazing visual experience to see the accutance (probably a combination of the Foveon sensor and the matched fixed lens on the DP Merrill cameras). It is especially strong in medium-distance landscapes.

After awhile, though, you notice that an image resembles what a microscope might see, moving over the scene, showing each detail underneath it so clearly. That is one aesthetic experience, but it is specialized.

Then if you look at a shot from another camera and a lens that has the old-fashioned magic of smooth transition from sharp to out of focus, you are likely to wake up from the Foveon trance.

If you follow soccer, WAG = Wives and Girl Friends in the popular press

In England WAG is an abbreviation for Wives And Girlfriends, specifically those of footballers (soccer players). While some of the footballers are referred to by names such as frying pan face, the WAG's are invariably glamorous, long haired blondes. I prefer this to Ctein's alternative.

I know agreeing isn't 'good copy' in this day and age, but I agree.

What is especially surprising to me is this: I know you looked at the fredmiranda thread, in which many of the posts were devoted to how to get the best results from the raw files. I haven't attempted a raw conversion yet, but the jpegs to me are just fantastic on their own. Even wide open, the DP3M lens is ridiculous. It acquits itself very, very well even next to the lauded FE55 1.8, which I also just purchased today.

I think Michael Reichmann mentioned that this was the camera that makes him shoot everything, just so he can see what the pictures look like (paraphrasing).

Anyhow, thanks for the nudge towards this. I really enjoyed working with a simple fixed lens camera today myself.

It's just a WAG because the "evidence" is all subjective opinion. Add a a few objective numbers and you can make it a SWAG - "S" is for scientific. ;-)

I don't like the way these new "smaller" camera bodies render colours.

All of them ~ Fujifilm, Olympus, Panasonic, Sigma, etc. ~ make the grass look greener.

Cheers! Jay

Why Sigma doesn't make a FF Foveon sensor camera is beyond anything...

I attended to a young photographer presentation last month: his b/w A3 prints from his Dp2 M blowed my mind... I was shure they were from a MF film camera. So I started to consider it as an affordable digital replacement of my Mamiya C220 because I was already used to its slow workflow. In the end, I simply decided to get a much needed lens for my digital camera... But the Merryl still intrigues me.

hi Mike,

I find it a joy that you (finally) seem to like Foveon as well :)

I still remember your DP2 review ("The World's Shortest Camera Review")...

have fun with the DP2m!


PS Perhaps you should also get a DP3m - which may be a good tool to continue your b&w portrait work from the past...

I've never actually held a camera with a Foveon sensor, but I can say I've spent over 40 years looking at film (and still look at it), and went through the process of bringing a large photography studio into digital, and I can say without blushing, that until I saw the output from Foveon, I never saw anything that made me think that digital was going to be a direct replacement for film. And this was as soon as I saw the output from the earliest Foveon sensors. Strong statement, but between the subtleness of color, the sharpness, accutance and detail, and all the other properties of the chip, I will say that if a major camera manufacturer like Canon or Nikon had embraced the Foveon chip, we'd all be using it, as the other manufacturers would have had to embrace it too. Or if Sigma had made a Foveon DSLR in the Canon Rebel price range, a major marketing flaw on their part, we'd again, all be using it.

I can tell you I feel digital is what it is, it's made a couple of generations of people, passable technical photographers, people that prior to that could not expose film properly, or found using color filters to get decent color, too ponderous or confusing. The market is now flooded with technically acceptable photographs well rendered, altho most with badly boosted color, contrast, and sharpening too highly set. A generation of people that can spend hours messing with images on a computer screen until they get something they like.

I can tell you that early in the digital process, most engineers I talked to from companies that were trying to sell us digital would have NOT maintained that the process would have replaced film entirely, and looked at it as a reproduction media only, best suited for getting a screened image made and being reproduced in a catalog, or used on the interwebs. They viewed digital output acceptable for those purposes ONLY, and you should have seen what they were showing as samples, from cameras in the $75,000 range.

The Foveon sensor's output is the only thing that makes me feel like I can get the things out of it I need to, to replace film directly, and if I had had the money at the time, and no useable lenses for the other systems, I would have embraced it whole-heartedly. As it is, the advent of digital, was also the advent of the "looks good enough" mentality of the modern media world, and I just carried that right into buying a camera I could afford whose results were "good enough", not the Foveon camera I would have felt would be my best chance to reproduce what I was doing on color transparency.

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