Sigma SD1 / SD1 Merrill In-depth Review
Raw and Raw Conversion
The SD1 is provided with Sigma Photo Pro (v5.2.1 at the time of writing) for developing its X3F raw files. Indeed for more than perhaps any other camera, SPP becomes a fundamental part of the overall experience of using the SD1. If you want to get the best out of the camera, you really need to shoot Raw, and to process Raw you really have to use SPP - there's not really another sensible option.
Sigma Photo Pro is like the camera in more ways than one - it's slow, quirky, and missing some standard features we've come to take for granted in Raw processors. But, again like the SD1, if you're prepared to take the time to work it out and play to its strengths, then it's capable of excellent output. But you'll have to be very patient - did we mention it's slow?
SPP has a number of impressive features - the 'X3 Fill Light' for dealing with high contrast scenes works particularly well, and the ability to display clipping on a per-channel basis is useful - but at the other end of the spectrum is is completely missing such basic functions as straightening or crop tools. There's also no means of correcting for lens aberrations, despite the camera only accepting Sigma's own lenses (for which the company even supplies correction profiles to Adobe). The upshot is that, if you're after the very best results - and there's little point in buying the SD1 if you're not - you'll probably need to export every image to Photoshop for fine-tuning. Needless to say, this is a tedious way of working if you regularly have lots to shots to deal with from a single session.
Once you've got the hang of what all of the sliders do, and how they interact, then you'll start to find that the image quality you can get out of the SD1's files using SPP can be spectacular. The software makes it remarkably easy to produce balanced images from scenes with high dynamic range, for example, by offsetting negative Exposure (to recover highlights) against Fill Light (to maintain shadow detail). You can finally tweak your tonality using the shadow and highlight sliders.
The big problem with SPP is its speed - it's very slow at rendering and updating preview images, and you're perpetually left feeling that the SD1's files contain too much data for it to handle comfortably. This is compounded by the fact that it's unable to process raw data in the background, or multitask in any meaningful way. One (minor) saving grace is that you can set up all your adjustments image-by-image, then leave the computer to batch-process its way through them while you have a cup of tea (or more likely a three-course dinner), but to be honest this sort of behaviour is years out of date.
When you first open an X3F file, SPP will initially display a preview based on the embedded JPEG, but you then have to wait several seconds for it to render a genuine preview of what you'll actually get, as the output is distinctly different from the camera's JPEGs. Basic tonal adjustments are previewed in real time, but if you choose a different colour mode or white balance then you have to wait for an updated preview to render all over again. Most frustratingly, to check fine detail you have to click the 'Full Res' button on the toolbar (SPP isn't intelligent enough to do this automatically in the background), then wait for what seems an eternity as the software processes the image just so you can examine it at 100%.
|When you first open Raw a file for editing in SPP, it first displays the embedded JPEG; you have to wait a few seconds for it to render a preview of the raw conversion. At high ISOs in particular the two can look very different; this is ISO 6400.|
Similar problems occur when you're trying to determine the best noise reduction settings. Normally this is best achieved by viewing the image at 100% magnification, adjusting sliders and deciding which combination looks best for your intended use. But SPP won't update its 100% view if you change the NR settings; it snaps back to full screen mode instead.
Overall Sigma Photo Pro's workflow leaves a lot to be desired; indeed it feels like it comes from a time before the concept was even invented. While the results can be excellent - indeed it's difficult to overstate just how good the SD1 + SPP combination can be at its best - we're not entirely convinced they're worth so much pain.
Normally we like to compare the supplied Raw conversion software with commonly-used third party Raw converters, most notably Adobe Camera Raw. However Raw support for the SD1 is currently limited to just Sigma Photo Pro, so for the moment that's all we can look at.
- JPEG - Large/Fine (default settings)
- SPP - Sigma Photo Pro (default settings)
Sharpness and Detail
At default settings and low ISO, the output from Sigma Photo Pro is quite similar to the camera's JPEGs, both in terms of detail rendition and (rather muted) colour palette. It's not identical though; most obviously shadow contrast is a bit higher, which makes images look a little less flat. But crucially, both JPEG and Raw offer exceptional rendition of dine detail.
|JPEG (Default settings, manual WB)
ISO 100 studio scene 100% crop
|Sigma Photo Pro, (Default settings, manual WB)
ISO 100 studio scene 100% crop
The out-of-camera JPEG and Raw file converted using SPP give essentially identical results in our resolution chart test. Because the Foveon sensor does not use an optical low-pass filter, the SD1 continues to resolve the lines of our test chart beyond the point that a conventional Bayer sensor of similar pixels count would blur the lines together. Inevitably it also shows aliasing and false detail beyond the sensor's Nyquist frequency (3136 lph); while this is technically a flaw, in practice it tends to give an impression of detail and texture that rarely detracts from real-world images. The Foveon design also means that the SD1 is immune to the colour aliasing we often see in these shots.
|JPEG from camera||Sigma Photo Pro (Raw)|
|Llyod's Building Elevators by Jonathan Shapiro|
from Your City - Elevators
|Fire Lake by bbadgett|
|Tail Fins...1961 Cadillac Sedan DeVille by J Warren|
from Car Shows 2018
The app's algorithms have been trained using using 200 million cropping data points from real photographers.
Thanks to a software update, the Loupedeck+ editing console can now be used for video editing.
British photographic engineer MTF Services is claiming the world’s first third-party lens adapters for the new Nikon Z system with a collection of four units designed to allow cinema lenses to be mounted on the mirrorless full frame bodies.
Think Tank Photo has updated its line of heavy-duty rain covers and introduced a new, compact version for emergency situations.
The X-T3 is our first opportunity to analyze what's likely to be Fujifilm's next generation image sensor. Take a look at how it performs next to the competition in our studio test scene.
Canon's new normal is seriously sharp wide open. After shooting with it for a few days, we've prepared a gallery of real-world sample images.
Nikon will cease offering Brazil-based customer service and technical support, though the company stresses that it will still offer technical assistance and warranty repairs for valid warranties.
Two years ago, CatLABS of JP announced a plan to save Packfilm from the dead. Now, it's announced it's giving up its efforts to better focus its resources elsewhere.
The GoPro Fusion is designed to make it easy to capture 360-degree video and stills. We took it out recently on a typically hot Seattle summer day to see what it can do.
We've got our hands on a full-production Nikon Z7 camera and have updated our gallery with additional samples.
A new Kickstarter campaign seeks funding for Chroma Chrono, a programmable RGB camera flash that emits multiple colors during long exposures.
Think Tank Photo has launched a new lineup of six dual-access, water-resistant protective lens cases it calls Lens Case Duo.
Canon and Nikon finally entered the full-frame mirrorless market this summer with the brand-new RF and Z mounts. Now that we've had some time with the cameras, we wanted to revisit our earlier predictions and take stock.
The devices' camera specs look pretty much identical to last year's iPhone X but under the hood a number of important improvements have been made.
Blackmagic Design has announced the public beta of its new Blackmagic RAW video codec. The company says the new format combines the benefits of shooting Raw video with the ease of use and smaller file sizes usually associated with non-Raw video files.
Serif, the company behind the Affinity suite, has announced the latest update for its mobile Photoshop competitor Affinity Photo for iPad.
The Atomos Ninja V external video recorder and monitor will be ready to ship at the end of this month. The 5.2in Ninja V is designed to provide a smaller option, while still offering many of the features of the larger 7-inch models.
Having shot with the camera, spoken to Canon and read the tea leaves, here's what DPR Technical Editor Richard Butler thinks the EOS R tells us about Canon and the RF's mount's future.
After last week's teaser, lighting manufacturer Profoto has announced its 'small big' new product. The B10 is designed to be used as studio flash head but in a very small body, and has a powerful continuous light source for videographers as well.
Konseen has launched Photo Studio, a new light box tent large enough to photograph people, as well as objects.
Seagate has introduced new high-capacity hard drives for Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices: the 14TB IronWolf and 14TB IronWolf Pro HDDs.
The case was first announced earlier this year as a Kickstarter campaign and comes with a range of features aimed at iPhone photographers.
Manfrotto has introduced a new two-in-one tripod to its Befree lineup. Called the Befree 2N1, this new addition is both a tripod and monopod in one and is available with both of Manfrotto's locking mechanisms.
This new high dynamic range editing software comes with an AI-powered Quantum HDR Engine for improved photo merging.
Apple has unveiled the next generation of its iPhone X in the form of three variants: the 5.8" iPhone XS and 6.5" iPhone XS Max with OLED screens, and the 6.1" iPhone XR with an LCD and single rear camera.
Ahead of the launch of the CamRanger II the company has announced a mini version of its wireless remote control system that it says has a longer range than the original in a body half the size.
Lens manufacturer Sigma has announced a trio of fast cinema lenses for full-frame camera systems, that it says will also be available in the future in the LPL mount for Arri’s large format camera system.
LumaPod is a a new tripod being funded on Kickstarter that takes just four seconds to set up and uses patented tension technology to keep your shots steady in a compact design.
X-Rite ColorChecker Video XL is an oversized color target for wide-angle, long distance, and aerial shooting.