src="http://www.mirrorlessons.com/wp-content/themes/mirrorlessons SD Quattro & SD Quattro H – Sigma (slowly) bolsters ties to the mirrorless market - MirrorLessons
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Date: 23/02/2016 | By: Mathieu

Sigma (slowly) bolsters ties to the mirrorless market – The SD Quattro, SD Quattro H and more

Hasselblad H5D-200MS, 8192/273, f/ , ISO 50

Sigma (slowly) bolsters ties to the mirrorless market – The SD Quattro, SD Quattro H and more

Ahead of the CP+ Photoshow that will start in Japan in a few days, Sigma unveiled no less than four different products. We get a new mirrorless camera with Foveon technology that will be available in two versions, along with two lenses and one adaptor.

As usual, I’ve reserved our more personal thoughts about these products for MirrorLessons. You can find the individual news reports on our Curation Website.

The new SD Quattro and SD Quattro H

sigma sd quattro
The new cameras are dust and splash proof.

 

The most important announcement is definitely the new SD Quattro camera (hands-on here). We’ve had the chance to review the DP Quattro cameras and really appreciated the image quality they deliver.

Sigma opted to go mirrorless but kept the flange distance required for its DSLR lenses to avoid the use of adapters. This choice can be observed in the very design of the camera, starting from the mount that protrudes from the camera body.

sigma sd quattro

But let’s rewind a little bit. Sigma embarked on its Foveon adventure with the SD9 in 2002. There are now five SD models in total, the SD1 being the latest. In 2006, the brand also launched a series of compact cameras with fixed prime lenses, the DP series. So far, there have been four generations, the latest being the Quattro line-up.

One of the criticisms of the DP compact cameras was the lack of an interchangeable-lens option and EVF, both of which would make the series more attractive. The new SD cameras are a mix of both the DSLR and DP line-ups. The body is compact and we get a built-in EVF. Instead of designing new lenses, Sigma opted to use its existing SA mount to make these new cameras compatible with their existing lens catalog, including the popular Art series.

sigma sd quattro

Even though some lenses will definitely feel bulky and heavy on the new compact body, I think Sigma made a logical decision to start up a more serious business within the mirrorless segment. The Foveon sensor is not as versatile as other standard CMOS chips but it does excel for a few genres like landscapes or studio work thanks to its stunning detail rendering and colour accuracy. Designing a camera that is smaller and making it compatible with some of the best lenses out there is a good way to test the waters. I won’t deny that smaller lenses and a dedicated mount for a 100% mirrorless product would have been ideal but with Foveon products making up such a small niche, I understand why Sigma is being cautious.

sigma sd quattro
The dual monitor shows a second/smaller LCD on the right to display the most important settings.

 

You might be asking yourself why there are two versions of the same camera.

The SD Quattro has the same APS-C sensor as the DP Quattro series with the benefit of a new hybrid AF system and image processor. These updates should make the camera faster. The SD Quattro H has a larger sensor whose dimensions are between APS-C and full-frame. It is the same APS-H format that Leica used for its first digital M camera (M8) and that Canon used for some of its high-end DSLRs.

sigma sd quattro

The choice is rather curious. Why not go full-frame directly? I can only imagine that Foveon technology may not be at the stage where full-frame is possible, so they went with an alternative solution that would provide a smaller crop factor (1.3x with APS-H format). Being a new sensor, I am curious to see if any improvement has been made to dynamic range or high ISO performance (100-6400).

There is a new mode called Super Fine Detail exposure where the camera merges 7 shots to increase the dynamic range and get rid of any noise. The latter could be useful at higher sensitivities but of course, a tripod will be required.

New lenses and the new MC-11 adaptor

When it comes to lenses designed for mirrorless cameras, Sigma has been moving at very slow pace. Following the DN series (19mm, 30mm and 60mm f/2.8), we now have the new 30mm f/1.4 for both Sony E-mount and Micro Four Thirds cameras. The lens covers the APS-C format for an equivalent focal length of 45mm (or 60mm on m4/3).

sigma 30mm 1.4 dn

It is an interesting standard focal length for the Sony APS-C because of the 1.4 aperture. On m4/3 it can be a good portrait lens since it is supposed to have the same optical quality as the Art series.

At this point, I can only wonder why Sigma didn’t make a version for the Fuji X mount too. Doing so would have expanded their customer base. Plus, it would be nice to see a Sigma option for Fujifilm cameras. After all, it is just a question of changing the mount, something that Zeiss did with the Touit lenses.

The second lens is a stunning 50-100mm f/1.8. It is the second zoom lens from the brand with a constant aperture of f/1.8 after the 18-35mm. This lens has been designed for DSLRs and will be available for Sigma, Canon and Nikon mounts.

sigma 30mm 1.4 dn

However given its attractive price I can also see it becoming an option for the upcoming Sony a6300. If the new hybrid AF system of the camera can perform well with DSLR lenses via an adaptor, the Sigma lens could become an interesting option. The 70-200mm f/4 is slower while the new 70-200mm f/2.8 will be much more expensive.

Sigma’s decision to bolster ties to the mirrorless market is also evidenced by the new adapter (MC-11), which has been designed for Sony E-mount cameras and follows the trend of adaptors being used on the A7r II in particular.

sigma mc-11 adapter

Update: according to latest reports, the MC-11 seems to enable all the AF modes on Sony cameras including Eye AF (which is great news!).

However, before anyone starts celebrating, it is worth noting that the new adapter currently doesn’t support Continuous AF. I honestly don’t understand this decision. Other adaptors such as the Metabones Mark IV give good results in C-AF with Sony cameras (check out this article for example).

It is hard to understand why Sigma didn’t plan to make its adaptor at least as complete as its competitors’ products. My hope is for a firmware update since the MC-11 is capable of being updated via a USB dock. If Sigma wants to approach Sony users, I think that C-AF is in order.

Conclusion

Although I enjoyed reading about these new announcements and I am very curious to try out the new SD Quattro H, I still feel that Sigma is approaching the mirrorless market a little too cautiously.

I understand that the mirrorless market brings in less profit than the DSLR market. However, because most mirrorless systems are young, they lack a complete lens offering. Sigma should see this as an untapped market. They could release lenses that either aren’t available or that are available but are more expensive (which is something that Sigma already does with its Art series).

I am sure that Sony users would appreciate an affordable 35mm 1.4 or 85mm 1.4 and Fujifilm users would be interested in a 56 or 60mm 1.4 just to name a few.


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About the author: Mathieu Gasquet

Mathieu Gasquet is a professional photographer with French and Italian origins. Besides running his own video and photography studio 3Dit Lab, he is also the official photographer for the National Cinema Museum in Turin. You can follow him on Google+, Twitter or Facebook!

  • http://www.mirrorlessons.com Mathieu

    They could. But as soundimageplus says there might be royalties involved or Sigma simply prefer to prioritise its own mount. But an EF or F mount would attract more customers in my opinion.

  • Bob Bowne

    That is a brilliant idea. If Sigma produced the new Quatro cameras with an EF mount I bet that their sales would increase significantly. Right?

  • soundimageplus

    If an adapter is possible, then the Chinese will make one. Kipon or somebody like that would put one out if it can be engineered. The issue is probably what kind of sales can the Sigma camera achieve. All their Foveon sensor cameras sell very little and loose their value. The H may well do better, but it is never going to get anywhere close to other mirrorless or DSLR cameras. The versatility and ISO performance just isn’t there.

    It also kind of signals a bit of a cop out if Sigma came up with some system that prioritised other mounts over their own. Plus there are I imagine royalties to be paid. Certainly their own mount lenses have very little opportunity to show their paces, those DSLR’s haven’t sold very many at all, so it makes sense to provide their huge range of lenses in that mount for the system. Sony have a poor lens range but they don’t actively encourage the use of other mounts, though they don’t make it particularly difficult either.

    It may well be an area that Sigma are considering and it’s interesting that they have just come up with their own adapters for Canon EF and Sigma SA mounts to be used on Sony e-mount cameras. Presumably because some of their Canon FE mount lenses don’t actually AF using the Metabones smart adapter. So they are ‘suggesting’ that one of their own mount lenses can be used on the new Quattros AND on a Sony FE camera. Obviously that doesn’t help Bob B out, but it does seem a recognition of the realities of the camera / lens marketplace.

    I guess they have to believe that they can make the Foveon sensor a viable commercial proposition and this seems to be their best shot yet. I think they can be forgiven for trying to put out an all-embracing system themselves. And at least they are not putting photographers into the same position as Sony e-mount and Leica SL (Typ 601) potential customers in releasing cameras with very poor lens support. This nonsense has been going on for years and I for one am pretty fed up with it.

    A universal lens mount as well as the .DNG standard across the board would be a great answer, but that, although a nice idea is about as likely as Donald Trump’s head exploding. Though we can all dream!!

  • http://www.mirrorlessons.com Mathieu

    That’s not a stupid question at all :) Actually it brings some more thoughts to be made.

    The SA is the Sigma proprietary mount used on its DSLR series (SD1 etc). But it is also true that the most popular mount used with Sigma lenses are the Canon EF and Nikon F. So it would make sense to make the SD Quattro cameras available with either the SA, EF or F mount. Someone buying an SD Quattro is likely to own another camera system as well since the Foveon sensor doesn’t excel with high ISO as you said. The SD quattro could be perfect as a second camera for specific jobs and that is where having the same mount as a Canon or Nikon camera can be useful because you can use the same lenses. I am not sure if such a SA to EF or F adapters exist because the flange distance is probably very similar on both systems.

  • Bob B.

    I have a question…which may sound REALLY stupid…but hear goes. I have always been intrigued with the Sigma Foveon cameras, but like many (or most) did not want to make an investment in 3 (think) camera bodies to have some focal length range, and then have 3 cameras that were very limited in ISO ability. When a shooter is working in the sweet spot of this tech it is incredible, and when those specific parameters can not be met, on MUST have another kit on hand. They soooo do produce incredibly uniquely rich and beautiful images, though. WOW!
    OK..so I own 3 art lenses in Canon EF mount for my 5DIII, 20mm, 35mm and 50mm Art series. This new Foveon camera has an SA mount. Is that a proprietary Sigma mount? If so..I would have to use the Sigma “Re-Mount Service” and have my lenses changed to accommodate this camera (and then NOT my 5DIII), or I would have to use an adapter? (I that possible or not? If an adapter is used it would greatly limit the function of my EF mount lenses on this camera, right?).
    This may sound very obvious to many…but I just have no experience with SA mount or the Foveon Camera….so I will probably just drool from afar at the results as I cannot justify the expense against the many limits of the Foveon cameras. For those that can …..HAVE FUN!!!! LOL!

  • soundimageplus

    I’ve just published a post – http://www.soundimageplus.com/soundimageplus/2016/2/24/the-sigma-sd-quattro-h with a diagram showing how much bigger the new sensor is. It’s a relatively small difference in terms of coverage, so hopefully the newer APS-C ART lenses will work, though as you know forward planning and camera manufacturers don’t necessarily go together. Sigma have used their existing DSLR mount and there is a reason for that I imagine. It would seem a bit odd to do this and then only work with their FF lenses. I’m sure the camera does have an APS-C mode, though it would be disappointing if lenses like the 18-35mm 1.8 can’t take advantage of the larger sensor.

    Incidentally, I’ve also Photoshopped the grip and camera body together to get some idea of what it’s like.

    Hopefully, Sigma will have one on show and more info. at the Photography show. Though again, assumptions like that can prove unfounded. VERY interesting camera though.

  • http://www.mirrorlessons.com Mathieu

    I do wonder if the 18-35mm 1.8 will cover the APS-H sensor or the camera has an APS-C mode?

  • soundimageplus

    Have to say the prospect of the SD Quattro H + ART lenses with a 1.3x crop is exciting news for me. This won’t be a light system (nor I imagine a cheap one) and it is obviously going to be very specialist kit. For all intents and purposes it looks like DSLR size with some mirrorless features.

    The ART lenses I’ve used on DSLR’s have been pretty spectacular and hopefully some of their recent APS-C lenses like the 18-35mm f/1.8 will cover the sensor. However, the FF ART lenses would make for a series of quality options, since it’s a 24MP sensor. (I’ll leave Sigmas claim about 51MP equivalent to one side) 20mm f/1.4 = 27mm, 24mm f/1.4 = 32mm etc. Even the old 12-24mm warhorse would be a 16-32mm, though it’s probably too much to hope that the 8-16mm would cover the new sensor.

    Certainly it’s a move in the right direction and one that both you and and I have been calling for. Personally I think that keeping the SA mount is a great move. Saves on all that slow roll out of new lenses and I’m hoping that the forthcoming Nikon and Canon cameras will do this as well. There is actually no reason why mirrorless should be small and light and I’m currently walking around with a Sony A7r II + Metabones adapter and some Canon EF L lenses, which is only marginally smaller and lighter than a DSLR.

    I have no problem with a high-end, high quality mirrorless system that doesn’t have a compact camera aesthetic, the Leica SL (Typ 601) being a prime example. After all there are plenty of light, small, mirrorless options. What there aren’t are options for those of us who put image quality above everything else. Hopefully this is going to be the class leader for low ISO photography.

    Finally I do have to say that the modern ‘industrial chic’ look is a refreshing change from the endless ‘lookaleicas’ that currently inhabit ‘planet mirrorless.’ Though that EVF is in a strange place, though I’m a left and right eye user so it’s not that much of a problem. The battery grip is obviously handy with the poor battery life for Sigma and from the size it could (should!!) be a three battery option.

    Most exciting camera announcement for years as far as I’m concerned.

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