Sigma SD9 SLR Review

Steve's Digicams

Sigma SD9 SLR

First Look posted 11/6/02
Full review posted 11/29/02
Sample photos updated 6/2003

Click to take a QuickTime tour of the SD9

The Sigma SD9 is the first digital camera to use Foveon's revolutionary new X3 image sensor that features three layers of embedded photo detectors. They take advantage of the fact that red, green and blue light penetrate silicon to different depths and this allows full-color to be measured at every pixel. These layers are positioned to absorb different colors of light at different depths, so one layer records red, another layer records green and the other layer records blue. This means that for every pixel on a Foveon X3 image sensor, there's actually a stack of three photo detectors, forming the first and only full-color capture system.

Conventional CCD and CMOS image sensors use only one layer of photo detectors, with just one photo detector per pixel. To capture color, pixels are organized in a grid, or mosaic, resembling a three-color checkerboard. Each pixel captures just one color-red, green or blue. Filters let only one wavelength of light (red, green or blue) pass through to any given pixel, allowing it to record only one color. As a result, mosaic sensors capture only 25% of the red and blue light, and just 50% of the green.

That approach has inherent drawbacks, no matter how many pixels a mosaic-based image sensor might contain. Since they only capture one third of the color, mosaic-based image sensors must rely on complex processing to interpolate the two-thirds they miss. Interpolation leads to color artifacts and a loss of image detail. In fact, some digital cameras intentionally blur pictures to reduce color artifacts. That's why the SIGMA SD9 powered by Foveon X3 technology delivers better color detail, sharpness and greater resistance to unpredictable color artifacts.

To further insure the best possible image quality the SD9 stores its image data in Lossless compressed RAW format. In addition to preserving the image quality, this RAW format also helps minimize storage requirements because of its compact file size. The RAW data is easily converted into high-quality TIFF and JPEG format with the supplied Sigma Photo Pro software. According to the requirements of the photographer, the characteristics of the image (white balance, color, brightness, contrast, sharpness, etc.) are highly modifiable before the conversion process. And there's no loss of image quality because the adjustments are performed on the RAW data.

Sigma SD9 SLR

Sigma SD9 Features:

  • Foveon X3 Technology CMOS sensor yields 2263 x 1512 images
  • Compact and lightweight digital SLR camera
  • Images stored as lossless compressed RAW, 3:2 aspect ratio
  • Sigma SA-mount lenses (1.7x multiplier)
  • Program AE w/shift, Shutter priority, Aperture priority and Manual
  • AE Bracketing, 3 frames +/-3EV in 1/2 steps
  • 8-segment Evaluative, Average or Center area metering
  • Single AF or Continuous AF w/Predictive AF
  • 1.8-inch color LCD with 130,000 pixels
  • Onscreen menu for Shooting and Setup
  • Review with zoomed-playback & pan, histogram and highlights
  • ISO sensitivity 100, 200, 400
  • Shutter speeds from 1/6000 to 15 sec, Bulb, X sync 1/180
  • TTL white balance, 7 presets and custom set
  • CompactFlash Type II storage, Microdrive compatible
  • Selectable video output, NTSC or PAL format
  • Both FireWire and USB 1.1 data interfaces

The Sigma SD9 SLR will be available by the end of November 2002. At the time of this review it is the lowest cost, interchangeable lens digital SLR camera with an MSRP of just $1799.

Physical Views

Sigma SD9 SLR

Sigma SD9 SLR

Sigma SD9 SLRSigma SD9 SLR

Sigma SD9 SLR

Sigma SD9 SLR

Compare the Sigma SD9 and Nikon D100

Fujifilm FinePix S2 Pro SLR

Fujifilm FinePix S2 Pro SLR

Fujifilm FinePix S2 Pro SLR

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Sigma SD9 Specifications

Camera type Interchangeable Lens SLR Type Digital Camera
Storage media CompactFlashTM (CF) (Type I/II), MicroDrive
Image sensor size 13.8 x 20.7mm
Usable lenses Sigma SA Series
Angle of view Equivalent to 1.7x the focal length of a lens when used on a 35mm SLR camera.
Image sensor FOVEON X3 Pro 10M (CMOS)
Total pixels: 3.54 Megapixels x3
Effective: 3.43 Megapixels x3
Aspect ratio 3 : 2
Image recording format Lossless compression RAW data
Resolution HI: 2268x1512 x3
MED: 1134x756 x3
LOW: 756x504 x3
Interfaces IEEE1394, USB 1.1, Video out
White balance 8 types
Viewfinder type Pentaprism SLR viewfinder
Viewfinder frame coverage 98%
Continuous shooting HI - 1.9fps up to 6 frames
MED - 2.4fps up to 14 frames
LOW - 2.5fps up to 30 frames
Viewfinder magnification 0.75x
Eye point 22mm
Diopter adjust range -2dpt ~ +1dpt
Focusing screen Fixed, Full matte screen
Auto focus type TTL phase difference detection system
AF operating range Ev-1 ~ +18 (ISO100)
Focus mode Single AF, Continuous AF (AF predict function)
Metering systems 8 segment evaluative metering, Average metering, Center area metering
Metering range Ev1-20 (with 50mm f1.4 at ISO 100)
Exposure mode P: Program AE (with program shift function),
S: Shutter speed priority AE, A: Aperture priority AE M: Manual exposure
ISO sensitivity ISO 100, 200, 400
Exposure compensation +/-3Ev (in 1/2 steps)
AE Lock AE Lock (Exposure settings are locked while the shutter button in depressed.)
Auto bracketing Three different exposure levels: Appropriate, Under and Over exposure: Maximum variation of +/-3Ev
in 1/2 steps.
Shutter type Vertical traveled metal focal plane shutter, electronically controlled through entire speed range.
Shutter speed 1/6000 to 15 sec., Bulb, X=1/180 sec.

The range of available slow shutter speeds varies according to the ISO sensitivity selected. At ISO 100 shutter speeds up to 15 seconds are available. At ISO 200 and 400 shutter speeds up to 1 second can be used.

External flash synchronization Hot shoe (contact X synchronized at 1/180sec or less with dedicated flash linking contact)
LCD monitor display 1.8" Color TFT LCD with 130,000 dot low-temp polysilicon
Reviewing images Single-image display, Zoom-in display, 9 segments simultaneous display, slide show
Language Japanese/English/French/Germany
Power source Battery Lithium CR123A x 2 pcs
Lithium CR-V3 x 2 pcs. or "AA" alkaline dry cell x 4 pcs or Ni-Mh x 4 pcs. or AC adapter
Dimensions and weight 152mm/6" (W) x 120mm/4.72"(H) x 79mm/3.1" (D)
Weight: 803g/28.4oz

*The appearance and specifications are subject to change without notice.

Optional accessories for SD9
Remote controller RS-21
Dedicated flash Sigma EF500 Super SD
Battery grip Power pack SD
eight AA cells or
four CR-V3 type

Specifications are as represented by the manufacturer.

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