White Balance

The SD9's automatic white balance proved to work very well, even under incandescent light (which is normally beyond most digital cameras) balance was good with no visible hue shift. The pre-programmed white balance settings also seemed to work well, remember the beauty of RAW files is that you can always alter white balance later. Manual preset of course gives the best results. Note the desaturated look of images shot under fluorescent light, this is not unusual.

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Photo Pro Adjustments: Default

Outdoors, Auto Outdoors, Overcast Outdoors, Manual
Incandescent, Auto Incandescent, Incandescent Incandescent, Manual
Fluorescent, Auto Fluorescent, Fluorescent Fluorescent, Manual

Night Exposures

Our experience taking night exposures with the SD10 was no better than that of the SD9, indeed if anything potentially worse. Long exposures (anything more than 10 seconds) lead to very noisy images, noise which is not only random but blotchy in appearance (very difficult to clean). So a shroter exposure is required, however that will typically mean a larger aperture, less depthof field, less sharpness. Pretty poor.

ISO 100, F11, 30 sec
ISO 100, F8, 15 sec
ISO 100, F5.6, 8 sec

Overall Image Quality / Specifics

Just like the SD9 the SD10 delivers extremely sharp and detailed images, the X3 sensors ability to capture the distinct color of a single pixel without being influenced by neighbouring pixels means that we see levels of detail not achieved by any other sensor. One of the primary differences between the SD9 and SD10 is the sensor, it's an improved verision of the X3 Pro 10M sensor which is supposed to yield improved dynamic range and color response as well as increasing sensitivity by utilizing a microlens over each pixel location.

In addition to addressing sensitivity and noise the SD10 also appears to have fixes for at least two of our major SD9 complaints, unnatural blue skies and color clipping. The later of which is actually a fix implemented in the Photo Pro 2.0 RAW converison software.

Single Pixel Resolution

A pixel on a traditional 'Bayer pattern' sensor contains information about just one color channel, either red, green or blue. To work out the approximate color of that pixel location after capture the camera must employ a 'demosaic algorithm' which combines the pixel with the values of neighbouring pixels, this means that on a standard Bayer sensor any single output pixel is always influenced by the color of those pixels surrounding it.

The Foveon X3 sensor captures full color for each pixel location and thus requires no demosaic processing, a single individual pixel has its own distinct color without influence from neighbouring pixels. This leads me to the term 'Single Pixel Resolution', the X3 sensor's striking ability to capture image detail down to a single pixel level, such as a wire which in the image is just one pixel across.

You can of course produce similar results from a Bayer sensor camera by downsampling an image by 50%, this is (approximately) the same as combining two green, one red and one blue pixel together. To achieve this and be left with an image of the same size as the SD10 you would need 4536 x 3024 (13.7 megapixel) input image.

Anyone who is used to viewing 'traditional' digital camera images at 100% will immediately see the improvement in sharpness and resolution delivered by the X3 sensor, it can take a little getting used to as there is far less aliasing between contrasting elements. Below are two examples of 'Single Pixel Resolution', very fine details which measure just a pixel across are rendered faithfully.

Color clipping / Gray halos (Photo Pro 2.0 fix)

As you can see from the image below Photo Pro 2.0 handles the transition from pure color to overexposure in a much more elegant manner, avoiding the gray halos we saw from version 1.0 and indeed continuing color detail by at least one more pixel closer to the clipped area. What's even more exciting is that this is a perfect example of the power of shooting RAW, we simply reprocess the same RAW image and get a much improved final output (whether it's a bug fix or an algorithm improvement). The crops below are magnified 200%.

Photo Pro 2.0 (Sigma SD9 image) Photo Pro 1.0 (Sigma SD9 image)