Opinion: Shooting DNG on the Sigma sd Quattro H is a game changer
|With the changing of the seasons comes a big change in how I shoot Sigma cameras.
ISO 100 | 1/1600 sec | F5.6
Photo by Carey Rose
That's how long it's been since the release of the SD9, Sigma's first digital camera, which was also the first camera to use the layered Foveon sensor design. From then on, for better or for worse, Sigma has continued to refine its unique layered sensors. While no one will argue that their cameras are capable of insanely sharp output, you still have to put up with an awful lot of shortcomings.
Early on, there was the low pixel density. And there's still poor battery life. And Huge file sizes. Long card write times. Heat. Lots of heat. (And there's plenty of other image quality concerns, as well).
But significantly, fifteen years is also the length of time we've had to use Sigma's Photo Pro software to get any sort of decent results from these cameras. In the early days, you were almost forced into it, as the SD9 didn't shoot JPEGs and Adobe Camera Raw support that was present up until the Merrills was laughable or simply non-existent. So until now, if you wanted to shoot Raw on a Sigma digital camera, you'd have to fire up Sigma Photo Pro and wait. And wait. And wait some more. And then relaunch it once it crashes, because crashing was a foregone conclusion (though to be fair, it is far less stable on Mac OS than Windows).
We as a staff collectively find, even above and beyond all of Foveon's shortcomings, that the biggest hurdle to using Sigma cameras is their very own software. Even now, in the year 2017, Sigma Photo Pro is just painfully slow and unstable.
But Sigma is that rare company that listens to its customers. Last year while at CP+ in Japan our Technical Editor Rishi Sanyal was afforded a rare opportunity to sit down with the ever-charming, warmly receptive and almost unusually frank Sigma CEO Kazuto Yamaki and talk all things camera and optics. One of the topics covered was the usability of Sigma cameras, where we re-stressed the common request for wider Raw support of Sigma cameras but, more importantly, outlined what might go into making the most flexible DNG possible from Foveon Raw data. Just a short year later, the new sd Quattro interchangeable lens cameras can shoot DNG format Raw files straight out of the camera.
A hearty thank you.
And this just might be what Sigma needed to do to bring Foveon tech to the mass market - a place it really hasn't been before.
Sigma + DNG = <3
The sd Quattro cameras' ability to shoot in DNG means is that you can finally edit your Foveon Raw files using a converter other than Sigma Photo Pro. As you might expect, there's a few caveats. When you enable DNG capture on the Quattro H, you don't have an option to simultaneously capture a JPEG (although there is a whopping 13MB JPEG embedded in every DNG, should you want to dig it out).
The highest resolution output you can get from these is 25.6MP, which is the same resolution as the top sensor layer, as opposed to the upscaled 51MP files that are possible when shooting JPEG in-camera or using Sigma Photo Pro with an X3F file (but if you think you might want those files, check out the comparison at the end of our samples gallery). And while upscaled 51MP may sound suspect, the pixel-level sharpness of the Foveon files means it may not be as gimmicky as it initially sounds (we'll reserve final judgement until after our in-depth testing).
Lastly, you'd better have a big memory card - the DNG files weigh in at around ~150MB each*. For comparison, uncompressed Raw files from the Nikon D810, Sony a7R II and Fujifilm GFX 50S weigh in at around 70MB, 85MB and 110MB, respectively (and two out of those three offer lossless compression to bring those sizes down anyhow).
|Out-of-camera white balance||Adjusted in Adobe Camera Raw|
Okay, enough with the caveats. Opening these DNG files in Adobe Camera Raw is an almost surreal experience. You still get the absolutely astounding crystalline sharpness Sigma's cameras are known for, but now you can make any adjustment you'd ordinarily make to a Raw file, and with a decently powerful computer, it all happens in real time. No more making a small adjustment and waiting ten seconds (or thirty) for a full re-render.
So far, the files appear as flexible as one would expect from Raw: white balance works wonderfully, and you can turn all noise reduction and sharpening off. We're still examining if the 12 bit DNGs are losslessly gamma compressed 14-bit data as we'd asked for, but it's not clear this would matter anyway: 12-bit DNGs and 14-bit X3Fs show similar flexibility thus far, which makes sense given the comparatively lower base ISO dynamic range of these cameras.
The fun factor
So editing the DNG files is great, even if you need to pick up a couple extra hard drives to store them. But the real kicker for me is that it changed the way I shoot this camera relative to previous Sigmas. It's just more fun.
|ISO 100 | 1/500 sec | F4
Photo by Carey Rose
I ended up using the camera more and taking more photos just to see how the camera would render various scenes - and I was regularly blown away. I no longer had to worry about living with the JPEGs and poor white balance, and I didn't have to go through a whole batch of X3F files over the span of an entire evening with Sigma Photo Pro.
Previous Foveon cameras I've used were good for some quirky fun, but I never really considered picking them up off the shelf after we'd put the wraps on our older sample gallery. But now, without the workflow woes of the past, the sd Quattro H is something I'm going to be using a lot more often. If you've never tried a Sigma camera before, now is the time to pick one up and have a go for yourself.
*Foveon sensors don't directly capture red, green and blue information, nor do they require the demosaicing process required by Bayer sensors, so they require totally different processing (hence the historic lack of good Raw support). The Quattro H performs the necessary deconvolution and interpolation process required to derive red, green and blue information for each pixel, so that the Raw processing software doesn't need to. Unfortunately that means having to save three 12-bit values for every pixel (which, given the lower resolution of the camera's lower two layers, means storing twice as much data as was actually captured), resulting in 150MB files.
Jul 18, 2017
Apr 4, 2017
May 31, 2017
Apr 9, 2017
|Nectar Dancing by Lensmate|
from A Big Year - birds
|Foggy morning by LassiM|
|Sad clown by PEB|
|Mtl Gen X 2015 DP by MarioSS|
from - Gen X - (In Full Colours+ Border)
In this article, expert macro photographer Thomas Shahan shares advice for successful closeup photography of bugs, insects and small animals.
DJI's new firmware makes it difficult to fly in restricted airspace, even when you have proper clearance. Is DJI placing themselves between professionals and the FAA?
Go behind the scenes with National Geographic photographer Renan Ozturk and see what it takes to capture a dangerous, harrowing, stunning Nat Geo photo essay.
Erez Marom tells the story behind this ominous photo of the sand 'reaching up' towards the mountains at Skagsanden beach in Norway. He calls this photo 'Torment.'
DPReview staffer Carey Rose has taken the Panasonic Leica DG 15mm F1.7 along for everything from a city-side boat ride to a bachelor party across the mountains. Find out how the little Leica fared.
Canon just unveiled the largest 12-ink printer on the market. The new imagePROGRAF PRO-6000 printer can make prints from 17 all the way up to 60 inches wide.
"Standing in one of the holiest places on earth, I felt uneasy," writes Wired's Jason Parham. "Most of my fellow visitors, I realized with a brief bloom of nausea, were taking selfies."
Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk has been receiving great reviews, but it's a challenge to see it in its full glory. This handy infographic reveals the aspect ratio chaos that is wrought as the industry retreats from film.
Anti-bullying organization Ditch the Label's Annual Bullying Survey 2017 reveals yet again that Instagram, more so than any other social network, has a the worst effect on youth mental health.
It's been a crazy day for innovative patent news. Apparently Sony is thinking of developing a medium format curved sensor camera.
An update to the Silkypix Raw converter fixes some bugs and adds support for several popular new cameras.
This crazy custom-built underwater camera shoots 8x10 large format film. It's supposedly "the first successful underwater 8x10 ever made," and it can be yours for $5,800... plus shipping.
Blackmagic just reveled a new accessory for their Cintel Film Scanner. The Cintel Audio and KeyKode Reader can capture KeyKode data and high-quality audio from film in real-time as it is being scanned.
A new Nikon patent shows a lens designed for a curved full-frame sensor. Could this be the high-end Nikon mirrorless camera people are hoping for?
The ability to shoot images at 1,000 fps first appeared in a Sony smartphone sensor. Now the Japanese manufacturer is using the same feature for industrial applications.
Astronomy expert and photographer Dr. Tyler Nordgren thinks you should "see your first eclipse, photograph your second." But if you do plan on taking photos this August, here are a few tips from someone who's been there.
How confident are you that you can spot a manipulated photo? A recent study at the University of Warwick shows that many people are pretty bad at it.
If you purchased a Leica TL2, do NOT attach Leica's Visoflex electronic viewfinder. Leica is working on a fix, but for now, it's possible the viewfinder will break your camera.
Google just released Motion Stills for Android. Unlike the iOS version, the Android app uses a redesigned video processing pipeline that processes each frame of a video as it is being recorded, creating instant results.
A huge copyright lawsuit between photography firm VHT and Zillow Group is heating up again, as both sides appeal a court ruling that granted VHT $4 million in damages.
European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet spent 6 months on board the International Space Station where he worked with Google capturing spheric panorama images that are now available in Street View.
It's official. PDN has confirmed with parent company Aurelius that 94-year-old lighting company Bowens is indeed going out of business.
The newly launched firmware version 1.06 fixes AF-issues that can occur with some lenses that are not officially compatible with the MC-11 converter.
Voyager is a waterproof smart light stick you can control entirely from your phone. The light has already blown past its $300K funding goal on Indiegogo.
2018 is the last year Photokina will take place during the traditional end-of-September dates. In 2019, Photokina will take place from the 8th to the 11th of May.
The Canon IXUS 50 (known as the SD400 Digital ELPH in North America) was one of a string of high-performing, pocketable PowerShots of the mid-2000s. In this week's throwback Thursday, Barney casts his mind back to 2005.
A close look at the EOS 6D II's Raw files suggest its dynamic range has taken a significant step backwards compared with the company's recent DSLRs. We look at how much difference this might make for your photos.
With a full-production review unit in our hands, we've got over 100 production samples from the new Canon EOS 6D Mark II to share.
Need a break from your day? Kick back and watch the making of a somewhat unconventional mojito filmed on Canon's new EOS 6D Mark II.
The Bonfoton Camera Obscura Room Lens can turn any room into a camera obscura, projecting the view from your window onto the walls of your room.