Should Sigma make a 30 MP per layer full-frame Foveon instead of 20 MP per layer?

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Scottelly Forum Pro • Posts: 15,220
Should Sigma make a 30 MP per layer full-frame Foveon instead of 20 MP per layer?

In a recent thread I wrote, "Today I would make a full-frame sensor that captures 30 MP per layer, to compete with the 60 MP images from the latest high-resolution Sony camera. I think Sigma should still do this, though that would no doubt delay the new sensor a few months."

Someone replied, "There is very little real world difference between 40, 50, 60MP. The occasions when you could actually put those pixel count differences onto paper in a way that was unambiguously visible to most viewers must be very rare indeed."

It is true that there is very little difference between 40 MP and 50 MP, and even less difference between 50 MP and 60 MP, but the difference between 40 MP and 60 MP is significant, in my opinion. That is a 50 % step up, like going from 16 MP to 24 MP, and when I stepped up from my 16 MP Sony A55 to my 24 MP Sony A65 it was quite a visible and meaningful difference to me. Sure, in prints at or smaller than 24" x 36" there might be no visible difference from 40 MP to 60 MP, and there might be no visible difference from an SD1 Merrill to an SD Quattro H with the same size prints . . . but I plan to make much bigger prints, and while most people might not see a significant difference, I will see it, and a few affictionados will see it too, I'm sure.

One of the things we do, when we strive for excellence, is we push our limits, whether it be by staying a few minutes longer, just to see what happend in the sky, as we shoot the sunset, or by purchasing the best equipment we can for the job we think we're going to be doing. I recently bought a couple of Art lenses. I didn't do that because I'm the type of person to say, "Oh, the lenses I've got are good enough." I want more. I see something really good that someone else did/made, and I want to do better myself. I shoot a photo that I think is good, and I either wish I had shot it with a better lens or camera, or I am satisfied, because I shot it with the best I could afford at the time. Eventually I do believe we will hit a point of diminishing returns. We may be there now. Maybe I just don't need a 60 MP camera or even a 50 MP camera.

Maybe I don't need anything better than my Nikon D810, and I should just sell everything I have that doesn't work with that camera, because I know I can get a replacement for that camera for about the same price I can get a replacement for my Sigma SD Quattro H . . . but my Nikon is more versatile, faster, and has longer battery life (much longer). I can get lots of excellent, weather sealed lenses for the Nikon. I can get lots of accessories made to work with Nikons, and I know other photographers with Nikons, who I can work and travel with, so we can share equipment (i.e. lenses, such as a telephoto, macro, or super-wide, or batteries). Me having the same camera as a photographer who I get paid to assist from time to time helps to make me someone she likes to have around. The more Nikon equipment I have, the more that helps me with photographers who shoot with Nikon equipment. Having Sigma equipment doesn't help me in the same way.

But I don't think I want to use another Nikon as much as I want to shoot with my SD Quattro H. It would be cheaper for me to just get my SD Quattro H fixed or buy another one. Maybe that's what I'll do.

Anyway, as far as resolution goes, I think a bit more is always better than a bit less. I always think of having more, when I shoot with my SD Quattro H, rather than my SD1 Merrill. I wish I had a Nikon D850 or Z7, rather than my D810, because the D850 and Z7 both capture 9 MP more than my D810 . . . but for other reasons too, of course (i.e. speed of shooting, the tilt screens on those newer cameras, etc.).

So I think the 30 MP per layer idea is important, and I think there are a lot of other people out there who agree with me. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe 20 MP per layer is plenty, but I think it's be significantly better to have 30 MP per layer, producing a 30 MP jpeg (and native TIFF and jpeg images from the raw files) - not only from the standpoint that it would be a step up from my 25.5 MP jpegs from my SD Quattro H, but because I think it would be seen by most people out there as a more TODAY camera, rather than a camera of the past. I know it seems like the megapixel race is over, and I know there are new cameras out with 20 MP full-frame sensors (i.e. both Canon's and Nikon's newest and most expensive flagship cameras), but so many people think of 20 MP as a spec. for an old camera. It brings to mind the SD15. I remember thinking Sigma was crazy to put that "old" sensor in that camera in a time when 12 MP and 15 MP and even 16 MP were the norm. I thought at that time that Sigma should have stepped up to a 10 MP sensor, cutting the area of their photo-sites in half, or maybe stepping up to a larger, 1.5x crop factor sensor. Little did I know what was on the drawing board, and probably taking longer than expected to make (the sensor that eventually ended up in the Merrill cameras). I imagine Sigma was probably intending to put that true APS-C size sensor in the SD15, but eventually realized it would not be ready in time, and just put the sensor from the SD14 into the SD15 instead.

What do you think? Would it be worthwhile for Sigma to redesign their full-frame sensor to be 30 MP per layer, rather than 20 MP per layer, even if it means another few months in development? Do you think 20 MP per layer is enough today? What about next year, when entry level cameras in the 30 MP and even 40 MP range are commonplace? Today I can buy a Sony A7r II, with a 42 MP full-frame sensor in it, for less than $1,500. Would you pay $500 more for a camera with no tilt screen, slower focusing and operation, a lower resolution screen, less battery life, and a smaller raw shooting buffer, even though that camera makes 20 MP native photos? (though they are the best 20 MP photos, by far, of any camera out there)

Certainly Sigma may be wanting people to see the improvement from the 20 MP photos from their SD Quattro to the 20 MP photos from their full-frame camera, and it may make sense to keep the camera at 20 MP for people to see that difference (or lack of difference), but is this just an experimental camera, or is it a camera Sigma wants to make for a lot of people to use? I guess if Sigma really is just making the cameras with the Foveon sensors as experiments, it probably makes sense to make a 20 MP per layer camera first, followed by a 30 MP per layer full-frame camera one or two years later, possibly followed by a 48 MP top layer Quattro full-frame camera (which might be accepted by people, if the 20 MP full-frame camera makes images very similar to what today's Quattro cameras make).

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Scott Barton Kennelly

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Sony SLT-A65 Sigma SD1 Merrill Nikon D810 Sigma sd Quattro H Sony DT 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 SAM +23 more
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