Operation and Controls (cont.)

While the SD1 is, in most respects a very traditional camera in its operation, it also includes a couple of Sigma-specific traditions that will be immediately familiar to users of the system but might seem a touch alien to newcomers. The most noticeable of these is the provision of two different rapid-access screen systems.

While it has become commonplace for DSLRs to offer either some form of interactive status panel or quick menu to easily change key settings, the SD1 provides both. Pressing the Func. button brings up an interactive settings display (with a fair amount of button pressing to navigate around it), while the 'QS' Quick Set button offers an alternative method for achieving much the same thing. In a way it's lucky that the camera has this redundancy, because the 'Func' screen becomes unavailable when the camera is writing to card (more on this later).

Function display

Pressing the 'Func' button brings up an interactive settings screen. All the shooting settings are listed, along with a diagram showing both the selected AF point and how the light metering pattern relates to it. Initially, the Function screen always provides control over the AF point - pressing the 'OK' button allows you to interact with all the other settings.

This is the Func. display in its initial AF Point selection mode. Pressing 'OK' lets you cycle through 10 other camera settings using the left/right keys, and change them using the up/down keys.

Once you've moved away from setting the AF point, you can navigate your way through 10 shooting options, starting with ISO and running through the other eight options available in the QS menu, plus two additional flash choices (first/second curtain sync and slow sync on/off). Pressing left and right navigates between the options, while up and down changes the setting of the current option.

The camera remembers which option you last changed and will revert to it when you return to the function menu, although you do have to disengage AF-point selection each time.

QS Menu

Alongside the function display, the SD1 also offers a 'Quick Set' menu that will be immediately familiar to existing Sigma owners. It's accessed by pressing the QS button on the back of the camera, at which point the buttons of the 4-way controller act as shortcuts to specific functions. A second press of the QS button cycles to another set of options.

The blue QS.1 screen offers the following options (clockwise from top)
  • ISO
  • Metering
  • AF drive mode
  • Flash mode
The orange QS.2 screen offers the following options (clockwise from top)
  • White Balance
  • Image Size
  • Color mode
  • Image Quality

In each instance, pushing one of the directional arrows of the four-way controller cycles through all the available options for that parameter. So, for instance, in the first (blue) QS screen, pressing right will cycle through the four metering options. There is no indication of what the other available options are, however, or in what order they occur - so you have to pay close attention to the screen until you've learned the arrangements.

Probably the biggest problem with the QS menu is that if you navigate past the setting you want (which is all too easy to do), then your natural reaction is to press the opposite button in an attempt to go back. But this results in an undesired change to another parameter, which you then have to correct - and this means lots more button-pressing. For this reason we tend to prefer the Func menu, which behaves much more sensibly. However the QS menu does have the advantage of always being accessible, including while the camera is writing to the card.

Playback mode displays

The playback options are more or less as you'd expect - you can choose how much information you want to see about the shot you've taken using the 'up' and 'down' keys, and you can zoom in or jump out to a series of thumbnails using the thumbwheel. You can also opt to show a highlight clipping warning, and configure the OK button to toggle the warning on and off. Meanwhile, pressing the (i) button brings up more detailed shooting info, including histogram and selected AF point.

One nice feature is that, in the detailed view, the histogram updates to reflect the displayed area when you zoom in, allowing you to check for potential channel clipping in specific areas.

In full-screen view you can cycle through various information displays, using the up and down keys. You can opt to show overexposed highlights as red 'blinkies', and can assign the OK button to toggle this on and off. This clipping warning is very conservative, kicking in when the JPEG luminance is 248.
You can zoom in to the image using the rear dial, in 10 steps up to 10x... ...and 'zoom out' to a 3x3 thumbnail display.
When the highlight clipping warning is turned on, you can zoom in to check in more detail precisely which regions the camera thinks are overexposed. Oddly, though, if you opt to rotate portrait format images for on-screen display, then the zoomed-in view doesn't use the entire screen.
Pressing (i) brings up a detailed view, with RGB histogram and the selected AF point. Zooming into this view usefully shows a histogram of just the displayed area.