A week plus with the SD1 (long.....very long)
What can you expect taking the SD1 with you on vacation and doing a week or so of shooting?
I just finished a trip with my wife and daughter to Amsterdam and the fjords of Norway (cruise). To give you a sense of the camera, I have posted a gallery of 50 full-size images. Pick and choose what you want to look at. The photography is a mixture of hand-held and tripod. I had 4 lenses – the 8-16, 18-50 f2.8, 70-200 OS, and the 18-250 which was for my daughter although I used it one morning in Amsterdam. Much of the morning photography in Amsterdam was ISO400. I have also included a few ISO800 shots. Weather for the trip was generally overcast and/or misty and/or rainy. We had some sun when we left port and had one day of mixed sun and clouds in Stavanger which happened to be hosting the international beach volleyball championships. The camera I was using is a production camera with production software.
Some thoughts and comments about the camera and SPP (Windows):
The in-camera jpeg looks very noisy from ISO200 up. This jpeg is a portal to the camera, as a cover is to a book. It should have some/more NR done in the camera.
The camera with SPP produces better ISO200, 400, and 800 than any of its predecessors.
AF is improved both single point and multi-point. However, I tend to agree with the person who said that it is still not equal to an entry-level DSLR by Nikon or Canon.
The SD1 is more difficult to manually fine-focus in low light than is the SD15 – especially with slower lenses such as the 18-250 OS. The image as seen through the viewfinder is darker than that of the SD15.
At medium res, the buffer can hold 14 shots. At low res, the buffer holds the same amount. Time to fill buffer was 3 seconds for each. At high res, the burst speed is considerably faster than that of the SD15.
The diopter adjustment rubs on the rubber eyepiece cup.
The battery icon does not come up when you turn the camera on. I am not sure what causes it to display; it just comes on after a while.
Burst mode or continual shooting will drain the battery enough that it will temporarily drop down a bar and then come back up a short time later.
I generally changed or recharged batteries before they ran down. I suspect that 200 shots is about the maximum you can expect out of a battery.
Time to process and save one full-size image with a Lexar Professional 8gb 133x speed card is about 18-19 seconds. From one source shooting the latest and greatest and fastest 16gb UDMA, it is 14 seconds.
There are some significant differences in the implementation of SPP for the SD1 versus earlier cameras. Foremost is that Vivid and Landscape are much more usable with the SD1 images. My experience with the SD1 is that when shooting scenes with a lot of grass, “Neutral” often leaves me with greens that are weaker than I would like – too much blue and not enough green/yellow. The best color setting to correct for this is “Landscape”, although “Vivid” produces very similar results.
SPP Auto produces a different result with the SD1 than with previous cameras. Gone are the days when “Auto” would produce an image popping with contrast. Very rarely does Auto apply any tonal adjustments other than exposure. A significant percentage of my images had an exposure adjustment of -.7. It appears that, for the SD1, Sigma has decided to export a flatter image out of SPP Auto (relative to other Sigma cameras) and to let the user handle the tonal adjustments rather than trying to export a fully-processed image.
Activating the magnifier and eye dropper can be a pain in the neck. You have to hit the “full res” button at least once, meaning that SPP then does a full processing of the RAW file based on your settings. When SPP first displays the image, it is a scaled-down version done in order to improve performance, enabling you to decide if you want to have SPP spend the time (you too) processing the full image or want to skip it. If you decide to change certain settings (Noise, WB, Color), the image is re-set to a scaled down version and the “full res” must be hit again to activate the magnifier and eye dropper.
I don’t like Sigma’s decision to have the NR sliders default to the middle tab. I see a conceptual difference between the NR sliders and the tonal sliders (which default in the mid position). I would prefer to have the NR sliders default to the left-most position – the least noise reduction. If you forget to set these sliders you have to go through the whole processing procedure all over again.
Because there is a flatter image coming out of the camera, more work needs to be done to produce the desired results and more care needs to be taken. I found (more cases with this camera than with other Sigma models) that SPP could not give me the desired results that I wanted. Many of my images have been enhanced with the NIK filter set.
Conditions were demanding at times. The fjords were narrow with steep rock walls. The light was very “cool” despite overcast conditions which should have warmed the light. Resulting low contrast was a big challenge for the camera and resulted in images needing more-than-average work.
The images are full-size and are at:
Thanks for the great post and excellent images Rick. Much appreciated.
If you can clarify. In simple terms, after taking one shot, you would have to wait this amount of time before taking image number 2?
"Time to process and save one full-size image with a Lexar Professional 8gb 133x speed card is about 18-19 seconds. From one source shooting the latest and greatest and fastest 16gb UDMA, it is 14 seconds. "
Thank you for the report Rick,
To me, in a way it still sounds a little like an SD14. As in, it'll produce some stunning results but you have to be willing to work at them in SPP. I actually enjoy the process, so I know that I'd love the SD1. However, at this time it just isn't happening for me.
The masterpiece is created by the artist, not the camera.
some very nice images in there, but I do feel the over-sharpening is pretty brutal and isn't giving you the foveon look.
anything higher than -1.2 (IMHO) creates scratchy noise and really screws with edge rendering.
No you don't need to wait and you can change settings. Those days (DP1) are gone.
If you shoot a burst of 7 (or 14 for med and low res) and fill the buffer then you have to wait until one image is processed before you can take the next shot and then you need to wait again and so forth. To put it nicely, this camera is not the ideal camera for the serious action/sports photographer.
All of my images had sharpening set to "0" and were not sharpened in any pp that was done.
I will post one sample of images with 0, -1, -2 and also "0 with contrast work". I wonder if the levels/contrast work contributes to the oversharpened look.
Thanks for the pictures - have you ever been to Alaska? I was wondering how you thought the scenery compared from the Fjords of Norway to the seascape of Alaska...
petr marek wrote:
It sounds like a joke. It´s a camera for a very brave and rich man with lots of time to wait for another photo and lots of time for postprocessing.
For the price it’s asking now, I have to agree with you on the joke part. But extra time and money may be a fair price to pay since it has no rival in overall IQ from comparable sensor size, right now. But pretty soon 24mp APS-C sensor will arrive that could be an interesting alternative proposition, even though it may not be “up there”..
I like many of the images a lot. The ones shot with the 70-200mm lens are superb. Again this batch reaffirms my earlier observation that wide lenses, including wide end of normal zooms, are seriously challenged. I’m yet see one wide lens that’s sharp from edge to edge with SD1. The highly regarded 18-50mm at 18mm, for example, starts to get soft more than 1/4 of the way from the edges, meaning more than half of the image is soft. The 8-16mm does better, but still not doing justice to the new sensor.
Hi Rick; been a while since I have been on this forum.
Great discussion on your finding so far with SPP and SD1.
From what I can see with the images there is certainly no issues with your composition and the SD1 seems to be providing excellent detail, but I believe that the lenses are not holding up to the quality of the sensor and may be the SD1's biggest limiting factor at this point in time.
I know this a matter of taste but, IMHO, I believe some these shots would benefit from a little boost in the mid tone contrast and clipping the left histogram tail a little to bring up the blacks. A little boost in the sharping wouldn't hurt either, might as will take advantage of that lack of a AA filter and all those MP's.
Thanks for posting these excellent images.
My first reaction is that the images look very crisp and interesting, and, as you say, the new sensor produces a different, flatter, image from the previous cameras. That it is different is not really very surprising. Those who prefer or expect the more vivid colors from the earlier cameras will be disappointed. Of course, part of it could be the grey skies and fog.
My second thought is that what we may be seeing is an illustration of diminishing returns, something along the lines of a sigmoid or "S" shaped curve, where we (meaning Sigma and Canon and all the rest, and the consumers) are simply getting near what can be captured by a DSLR camera and shown on a screen. The SD1 is better than the SD15, and maybe even close to a Medium format, but how much better, and in what uses will the improvement show?
My small gallery: http://www.pbase.com/richard44/inbox
Alaska has the glaciers and beautiful scenery and more wildlife (ocean and land). The few towns they have are generic and not very photogenic. The fjords of Norway are more dramatic in that the larger cruise ships can get right in them. As I understand it there are many glaciers in Alaska not accessible by large cruise ship. The towns in Norway are more photogenic...several small villages nestled in the fjords are very quaint and pretty. I didn't see any life but pigeons on the Norway cruise. The narrow fjords with their steep walls are overpowering but not something you can take a good picture of. Lots of down time on both (long cruising without stopping). The quality of the light at Flam was spectacular. I just stood there and looked up at these low clouds on the walls of the fjord. It was electrifying.
I have been to Alaska 3 times and Norway once. Although there are more photo ops on the Norway cruise and the fjords are more dramatic, I would opt for Alaska again. The glaciers are very special.
thanks for the review and pictures. Sure, that was the first SD1 here in Holland and even not far from my house...
The pictures are sharp , but indeed the greens of the trees look flat , even in Amsterdam there are much more nuances in this color (even under rainy weather). The camera seems also to struggle with skin tones.
More and more I get the impression that there is a great potential in the sensor, but the wooow - effect isn't there (yet),
Hi Mike...long time. We miss you here on the forum (us old timers - the newbies probably have never heard of you). I miss your spectacular landscapes.
Thanks for the advice. What is probably needed is a 5 day seminar on shooting with the SD1 and processing with SPP. With something such, we could hammer out the best way to get the most out of the camera. It just seems to be tougher with the SD1, compounded by the long processing times due to the large file sizes and (as I understand it), the design of SPP.
So if you have a gallery of your recent (Nikon if I remember correctly) shots, send me the link. Do you still have that great 24-70 or did you sell it?
Thanks Rick, I have retired and now live in Las Vegas. If you guys are going to be at PMA in January I will come by and visit. Maybe if you have time we can go out and do a little shooting.
My new gallery site is http://www.distantvistas.com/ Still a work in progress, have about 50 galleries still to publish. Have a some of the old SD10 stuff on there also. Been doing a lot of fine art printing.
Still have all my SA Mount lenses. Was hoping that Sigma would come out with something like the SD1 to put them to good use. Might have to wait till the price comes down some now.
Without any wishful thinking, because I'm a very very very pragmatic guy, I see that this camera is NOT FINISHED YET (hardware & Software).
At first, there is close to NO lenses who can work on it. Whatever the lens, 17-70, 17-50 ... prime, EX or not, I never seen for now any photo that go beyond SD15, DP2/DP1, SD14, K5, 7D Image Quality.
When I look at the photos, Rick, Yes they are Huge files but all have some MAJOR issues, compared, let say, at an Iphone4....
They sux. Its not your fault Rick, at all, this camera just don't deserve you. With a DP2x and a DP1x U will have done FAR BETTER image during this trip.
My guess is:
SIGMA bought Foveon > > SIGMA developed the Technology > > SIGMA showed the world that they can do a 15Mp Foveon > > SIGMA want his DSLR and Compact department bought by a big one, like Ricoh did with Pentax.
The SD1 is the worst finished camera that SIGMA ever did. Even the first SD9 was less bugged and totally cool by his colors and resolution.
This is a big big joke, a big Joke at 6999 € without lens.
This is a pragmatic thinking.
Fabulous Rick - excellent writeup and even better pics !! . a really good showcase for the camera .. Sorry to see the weather could have been a lot nicer, hope it didn't dampen the holiday too much, if you'd wanted rain you could have visited the UK, almost any time ...... ..
A Problem is only the pessimistic way of looking at a challenge
And of course, I will prove in some days/weeks that the first gen Foveon can do this kind of huge file in a far better quality, in portraiture at least. Sounds like you are all smoking too powerful weed.
The SD1 is the worst finished camera that SIGMA ever did.
What, worse than the SD14 ? - that didn't even Smeggin' WORK properly ! Sigma never fixed it and even after soldering pink wires in and fnding the best sample, it's still 10X more flakey than an 11yr old Pro thrashed Nikon D1 with 250K on the clock running on a worn out battery on original firmware - heck even a Kodak 14N is more reliable.
A Problem is only the pessimistic way of looking at a challenge