Feb 262016
 

What Hath Sigma Wrought?

On February 22, 2016, Sigma Photo of Japan formally announced their entry into the mirrorless interchangeable lens camera market. They introduced not one, but two camera models: the SD Quattro and the SD Quattro H.

sd Quattro System

Not only did they introduce two mirrorless camera models, they introduced an entire camera system with some very professional looking specifications. A magnesium based body that is sealed against splashes and dust, two sensor sizes: APS-C (sd Quattro) at a 1.5x crop factor sporting 29 megapixels and APS-H (sd Quattro H) at a 1.3x crop factor sporting 45 megapixels, a battery grip that adds two additional batteries effectively tripling the battery life of the camera, a very nice speed light flash with a guide number of 63, on sensor AF using hybrid phase detect and contrast detection, and compatibility with Sigma’s entire line of SA mount lenses.

Wait a minute…

Yes, you heard me correctly: this camera mounts DSLR lenses natively. Sigma has made some very interesting design decisions with the sd Quattro cameras. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Mirrorless design that natively mounts DSLR lenses – the sd Quattro and sd Quattro H are both SA mount cameras which means they can take any of the Sigma DSLR lenses already made. This may sound like an odd choice as most mirrorless cameras sport very short flange distances and can use pretty much any lens with an adapter, but in this case Sigma decided to leverage its arsenal of new lens designs with having to create a new mount or mount adapter (like they did for Sony E-mount). Korean lens maker Samyang does this a lot with their lenses. The mirrorless versions are usually longer than their DSLR counterparts as they have permanently bolted an adapter on the back of the lens, which kind of kills the mirrorless design ethic. The sd Quattro and sd Quattro H therefore have the adapter included in their body design. To wit: sd Quattro H Bottom View The only drawback to this is that the sd Quattros cannot easily adapt legacy lenses.
  • This is not a small camera – Unlike most other mirrorless cameras, the sd Quattro are big. Even bigger than the Leica SL. Add the grip and this camera will go toe-to-toe with any other full-bodied professional DSLR. Camera Sizes This image shows the sd Quattro H on the left, the Leica SL in the middle and the Olympus Pen-F on the right. All three cameras are sporting fast 50mm lenses (or their native equivalent). The sd Quattro is even larger than the Leica SL and absolutely dwarfs the Olympus Pen-F. Mount one of Sigma’s big lenses on it and you will have yourself a kaiju-sized mirrorless rig.
    sd Quattro H + 500mm f/4.5 APO HSM
    Bring a monopod.
  • Dual Rear Displays – The back of the sd Quattro actually sports two displays: a 3″ main display and a smaller display right next to it showing important system parameters. This is a very interesting choice as it puts all of the pertinent information in one place as opposed to having the secondary display on the top of the camera. sd Quattro displays
  • Foveon Quattro Sensor – Sigma digital cameras do not use standard Bayer-type sensors. Several years ago Sigma purchased sensor start-up Foveon lock, stock and barrel. The Foveon sensor captures red, green and blue color information at every pixel site and thus does not require interpolation to calculate a color image. The Quattro design refines this technology even further. The result is super sharp images with an extremely high level of color fidelity. The drawback is that Sigma has not chosen to share the conversion algorithms with any other software maker so users are forced to convert RAW files using the free Sigma Photo Pro software. This will add another step in your existing workflow as the Sigma Photo Pro software is pretty basic.

Preliminary Conclusion

Not having personally handled the camera, I cannot give you any impressions as to its balance and overall ergonomics. If the sensors in these cameras are anything like the Quattro sensors in the DP series, you can expect very spectacular imagery out of them. For now I will give you my shortlist of pros and cons:

Pros

  • Fully baked system at launch. Cameras, lenses, flash and other accessories will ship with the cameras.
  • Complete line of lenses. By using the Sigma SA mount, the sd Quattros have a large selection lenses to choose from. Especially the newer Art, Contemporary and Sport lenses.
  • Solid Build. At least on paper. Preliminary reports from sites attended the CP+ show are confirming this.
  • Weather sealed. This does not mean waterproof. Do try to keep it dry anyway you can.
  • Large sensor. While not full-frame like the Sony A7 series, the sd Quattro has an APS-C sized sensor and the sd Quattro H has an APS-H sized one.
  • High pixel count. According to Sigma, the sd Quattro produces a 30 megapixel image while the sd Quattro H produces a 45 megapixel image.

Cons

  • Big. and likely heavy compared to other mirrorless system cameras.
  • Limited Adapter use. The built-in lens tube pretty much locks in the camera to SA-mount lenses. Sigma offers a mount conversion service for your existing Sigma lenses.
  • Weak software. Let’s face it: SPP is not Adobe Lightroom nor is it Capture One Pro. It is a basic converter used to turn your raw X3F files into TIFFs for editing in Lightroom, Capture One Pro or Photoshop.
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Oct 262012
 

October 25, 2012 – PhotoPlus Expo 2012 opened formally this morning to fairly sizable crowds. As usual, the main entrance was dominated by the Big Three (although Canon and Nikon would call it the Big Two Plus One). Needless to say, the Canon, Nikon and Sony booths were completely stormed by the early onrush.

To be perfectly honest, the Canon and Nikon booths garnered the lion’s share of the visitors. The Sony booth saw a fairly steady stream of visitors. Not surprising considering the number of new products they introduced recently.
Nikon 1 Models V2 & J2

As you can see from the photos, the cameras were under glass. All of the V2’s & J2’s were prototypes and none were availble shots or even handholding. Diasppointing, really.
More frustrating though was the interminalble crowds clogging the Canon booth. If I had to call it, it would be Canon, Nikon, and then Sony.
Undaunted, I proceeded to my first interview of the day:
Datacolor
I had the pleasure of speaking with Mr. David Tobie, Global Product Technology Manager for Datacolor. This man loves color. The product he was so passionate about is the Spyder Capture Pro.
The Spyder Capture Pro is an end-to-end color management solution consisting of the following products:
Spyder Lenscal – Camera lens focus calibration tool. David explained that with Spyder Lenscal you can adjust a zoom lens very specifically. For example, a 70-200 lens can be adjusted to front-focus at the short end  for portrait work and back-focus at the long end for landscape work.
Spyder Checkr – is the ultimate color patch tool. Combined with software, the SypderCheckr will profile your camera’s sensor giving you a preset that can be applied to all photos from that body. This assists in correcting the dynamic range of a photo.
SpyderCube – this is a white balance adjustment tool for color correcting your shots. According to David, most shots only really need adjustment of their dynamic range rather than their color balance.
Spyder4Elite –  this is Datacolor’s best known product, their monitor calibration tool.
These four components, when taken together, allow you to control and calibrate the one piece of the image capture workkflow that was never previously calibrated: the camera.
I will be providing a complete review of the product once my review sample arrives.
 
Cullman Titan Tripods
On my way to another interview, I passed the Cullman booth where they were showcasing the Titan line of tripods. The Titan tripods are kind off unique that the lower leg sections are thicker than the upper pieces. The leg segments are not round but rather a gentle curved trapizoidal shape. When put together, the three legs form a cylinder, making it easier to store.
Tiffen
Tiffen is an umbrella company for a large number of brands. I will need to go through their press releases when I get home to properly report on all that I saw.
Fotodiox

Camera accessory maker Fotodiox introduced two new productsL the WonderPana Filter System for super wide-angle lenses and the WonderBurst wireless photo/flash trigger. The WonderPana comes in two models: the WonderPana 145, which sports 145mm circular filters; and the WonderPana 66 (pictured above) which adds on to the WonderPana 145 and allows it to mount square filters. These square filters can be used alongside the 145mm circular ones.
The WonderBurst also comes in two flavors: the plain WonderBurst for NEX cameras without a standard hotshoe and the WonderBurst HS8000 for cameras with a standard hotshoe. The latter has been tested on Canon and Nikon cameras and it is highly llikely that it will work with the Sony NEX-6 and SLT-A99V. I will test the HS8000 on those cameras once all of that kit arrives.
Sony
Sony had all three of its big Photokina announcements present and available to touch/fondle/drool over. Pictured above is the SLT-A99V aka the Alpha A99. Currently the “king of the hill” in Sony’s SLT offerings, the A99 is made for professionals. I will be providing a full review of this product in the near future.
The Alpha NEX-6 is the newest member of the NEX family, sits squarely between the NEX-5R and the NEX-7. However, is sports some features that the NEX-7 does not have like built-inn WiFi and camera apps.It does have a built-in electronic viewfinder like the one in the NEX-7 and A99. The sensor is 16 megapixels instead of 24 megapixels and has much better high-ISO characteristics. Again, a full review is pending once my copy arrives.
The Sony Cybershot RX1 is a bit of an odd duck. A point and shoot camera with a full frame sensor (the only P&S camera with a sensor that big) a super-high quality fixed Carl Zeiss lens (35mm). I think that this is a  marketing experiment on Sony’s part to gauge the market’s receptiveness to a full-frame interchangeable lens camera. I say bring it on.
Fujifilm X-E1
Fujifilm shook the photographic world up with their X-series of digital cameras. Last year they introduced the X-Pro1 a surprisingly high-end model. This year they brought us the X-E1, a camera with all of the best parts of the X-Pro1 minus the really expensive bits. I hope to have a review sample sometime in the future as well.
That’s it for Day 1. Stay tuned for Day 2.
May 162012
 

COPENHAGEN, May 16, 2012 — Phase One is launching a series of one-of-a-kind online events entitled “Phase One Live; Your Inspiration Stream.” Hosted by Phase One and some of the world’s leading photographers, each event will showcase a specific photography project — tracking each step in that project’s workflow from conception through completion. The premiere event on May 23 features award winning British landscape photographer, Joe Cornish.

 

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Jan 162012
 

TOKYO and TEL AVIV, January 16, 2012– Mamiya Digital Imaging, a trusted manufacturer and developer of medium-format cameras and optics, and Leaf Imaging Ltd., a leading manufacturer and developer of digital backs for the medium and large-format photography markets, today announced that they have created a new, worldwide Mamiya Leaf brand that integrates both companies’ product lines into one complete medium-format digital camera system offering, streamlines new product development and establishes more efficient customer sales and support.

 

MamiyaLeaf_Logo_RGB_100dpi.jpg

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Dec 262011
 

Sony has finally started shipping its NEX-7 compact system camera. Not being one of the big fish, I got mine the old fashioned way: I got on a waiting list and waited.

Patience paid off and I was graced with a UPS box a week ago containing a Sony NEX-7 body and a spare battery. No lens. I am still waiting for this to arrive. Fortunately, I had planned for this and acquired a couple of lens adapters allowing me to fit legacy glass on my shiny new NEX-7.

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