Pros:

  • Impressive resolution and detail, thanks to Foveon sensor
  • DNG support broadens accessibility
  • Comfortable ergonomics
  • Straightforward user interface
  • Excellent build quality
  • Seemingly good battery life

Cons:

  • Limited dynamic range, and significant noise at high ISO
  • We have some concerns about color separation
  • Exposure preview not always representative
  • Full depth SA mount makes the camera quite large

Overall Conclusion

In just about every respect, the SD Quattro H is the best camera Sigma has ever built. If you're onboard with the Foveon concept, you can pretty much stop reading now: you'll love this camera. That isn't to say it's a great camera or a camera for a wide audience, but it does what Foveon does, and does it really well.

Foveon purists may be concerned about the color resolution that the Quattro design gives up, but in practise it's able to give ground on that front and still deliver images that are distinctly un-Bayer-like in their appearance. And, since Bayer sensor output is what most people think of, when they think about digital photography, this is something akin to saying distinctly un-digital.

Processed in Adobe Camera Raw from DNG | Sigma 35mm F1.4 Art | 1/200th | F8 | ISO 100
Photo by Richard Butler

For the unconverted, it's a little more difficult. Even in its Quattro incarnation, Foveon sensors are challenging to shoot. The performance in all but the best light is poor by modern standards and, even at base ISO, there's less dynamic range to play with in processing than we've come to expect. But, with all that said, there's nothing on the market that produces such realistic levels of detail.

System adoption

The good news is, that while you have to be a bit careful when you shoot your images, the arrival of DNG compatibility means that processing is no more difficult than for any other camera. You'll probably need to take a little time to fine-tune the color response to your tastes (and you may occasionally find a subject that the camera can't capture properly).

However, so long as you're aware of these limitations, the SD Quattro H is a very nice camera. Its user interface is remarkably polished and responsive, the ergonomics are rather good and the build quality is top-notch.

The adoption of the DNG format does wonders for broadening the system's appeal. Sigma Photo Pro isn't unworkable but it's yet another hurdle standing in the way of the system's adoption, so it's nice to see it circumvented. It's still likely that you'll find yourself having to work a little harder to get the best-possible image results but at least you're more likely to be able to do so in a familiar piece of software.

Processed from DNG | Sigma 35mm F1.4 Art | 1/13th | F10 | ISO 100
Photo by Richard Butler

This is Sigma's first camera to gain DNG support so it's no surprise it feels a little tacked-on. We'd love to be able to shoot DNG and JPEG or to be able to convert DNGs to JPEGs in the camera, but simply having the option to use a broader range of Raw converters is a huge step forwards.

We also think it's bit of a shame that Sigma didn't take the opportunity to build a camera with a shorter flange-back distance and then include an adapter to the SA mount. This would not only make the camera smaller, it would also allow adaptation to other popular mounts. It's understandable that Sigma would want you to buy into their system (after all, that's what every other manufacturer expects) but, since their Art range of lenses is superb and available in other mounts, they could do this and still have the opportunity to sell their own lenses.

As it stands, you have to take the double risk of investing in an unusual sensor technology and that of buying into a less widely adopted lens system. Sigma offers a program to change the lens mount on its latest 'Global Vision' lenses, which means you could salvage some of your investment if you ever moved away from SA mount, but that's not the same as being able to use your lenses across multiple cameras (for those people who don't solely shoot in good light).

The Final Word

The SD Quattro isn't for everyone and it isn't even likely to be many people's 'only camera.' Focus is slow. There's no movie mode. It's only really useable in good light or with strobes and, even then, the dynamic range isn't great. We also have some concerns about its ability to distinguish between yellow and orange. Yet despite this, we think it provides something unique and attractive. It's a very specific tool, but one with few direct alternatives, especially for the price.

It might not be competitive against the latest technology and it might not be the most flexible option available, but that doesn't mean it doesn't possess a certain appeal.
Processed in Adobe Camera Raw from DNG | Sigma 35mm F1.4 Art | 1/250th | F8 | ISO 100
Photo by Richard Butler

$1199 isn't cheap but it's far from unreasonable. The larger-than-typical APS-H sensor helps maximise the camera's image quality and the solid construction makes it immediately apparent where your money's going.

Overall, then, the SD Quattro H is Sigma's best ever camera. This makes it easy to wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone already invested in the SA system and, perhaps for the first time, to suggest it's worth a look for a broader audience than that. If you bear all the drawbacks in mind, it's worth considering whether it'll suit your type of photography.


Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category.
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Sigma sd Quattro H
Category: Semi-professional Interchangeable Lens Camera / DSLR
Build quality
Ergonomics & handling
Features
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Performance
Value
PoorExcellent
Conclusion
The SD Quattro H is Sigma's best ever camera, offering the impressive detail levels its Foveon sensors are known for in a well-built, well-polished body. The sensor has significant noise and dynamic range restrictions but if you want what it offers, the SD Quattro H may be the highly specialized tool for the job.
Good for
Landscape shooting or anything that requires the ultimate detail.
Not so good for
Anyone looking for a fast, flexible, do-anything camera.
77%
Overall score

Sigma SD Quattro H Sample Gallery