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Sigma SD1 Merrill Digital SLR Body 46 Megapixel Foveon X3 Direct Image Sensor

3.3 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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DPReview Tested
From the experts at DPReview
Overall score: 71%
See review summary and sample images
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  • 46 Megapixel
  • True II image processing engine
  • 3.0 inch TFT Color Monitor
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Technical Details


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This item: Sigma SD1 Merrill Digital SLR Body 46 Megapixel Foveon X3 Direct Image Sensor
Customer Rating 3 out of 5 stars (9) 4 out of 5 stars (6) 4 out of 5 stars (48) 3 out of 5 stars (57)
Price $2,199.00 $1,500.00 $849.95 $399.99
Shipping FREE Shipping FREE Shipping FREE Shipping $10.12
Sold By Amazon.com Amazon.com TheCameraBox Ace Photo
Sensor Size APS-C APS-C (20.7 x 13.8 mm) APS-C (23.5 x 15.6 mm) APS-C
Max Resolution 15.4 4.7 24.4 MP 14
Iso Range 100-6400 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600 (50 and 3200 with boost) Auto, 100 - 51200 100, 200, 400, 800
Display Size 3 inches 3 inches 3.2 inches 2.5 inches
Continuous Shooting Speed 6 3 8.3 Information not provided
Wireless Communication Technology None None Optional None
Image Stabilization None None Sensor-shift None
Item Weight 2 pounds 1.65 pounds 1.76 pounds 0.6 pounds
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Review summary from DPReview

DPReview Tested April 2012
The SD1 is, overall, quite straightforward to summarize - it's a camera that offers exceptional low ISO image quality in a competently-performing but quirky body.
Andy Westlake Andy Westlake Richard Butler Richard Butler
71%

Conclusion

The SD1 is a no-frills SLR with a very basic feature set that offers exceptional image quality at low ISOs (100-400). However it's let down by slow file write times and erratic control behaviour during this process. High ISO image quality is unremarkable, and there's no live view for tripod shooting. It's a specialist tool, but if you can live with its limitations, it's capable of excellent results.

Reasons to buy

  • Exceptional image quality at low ISO, especially in Raw mode
  • Very good build quality (including weatherproofing)
  • Straightforward operation, with external controls for all key functions
  • Large, clear viewfinder
  • Excellent grip, extremely comfortable to shoot for extended sessions
  • Near-perfect implementation of mirror lockup (for tripod work)

Things to consider

  • Extremely slow file write speeds, with erratic control behaviour while writing
  • Poor image quality at high ISO, with green and purple colour blotching in shadows
  • Evaluative metering somewhat prone to highlight clipping
  • Overly-conservative highlight clipping warning (can encourage underexposure)
  • No Live View (which makes accurate manual focus harder than it could be)
  • Unimpressive AF compared to similarly-priced competitors

Suggested for

Photographers looking for exceptional low ISO image quality, and willing to spend the time processing RAW to achieve it.

Not suggested for

Sports, action, or any kind or photography requiring high ISOs
Poor Excellent
Build quality
Ergonomics & handling
Features
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (RAW)
Image quality (JPEG)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Performance
Value
Scoring is relative only to the other products in the same category.
DPReview is the world’s most popular dedicated enthusiast digital photography website. Since 1998 its mission has remained unchanged: to deliver the best reviews of cameras and lenses anywhere on the Internet, and help you find the right gear for your needs.

Product Description

Product Description

SD1 Merrill Digital Camera

From the Manufacturer

46 megapixel 23.5×15.7mm APS-C X3 Full-color image sensor

46 megapixel 23.5×15.7mm APS-C X3 Full-color image sensor

The 46 effective megapixel (4,800×3,200×3 layers) and 44 recording megapixel (4,704×3,136×3 layers) 23.5×15.7mm APS-C X3 direct image sensor featured in the Sigma SD1 captures all primary RGB colors at each and every pixel location, ensuring the capture of full and complete color. Using three silicon-embedded layers of photo detectors, stacked vertically to take advantage of silicon's ability to absorb red, green and blue light at different respective depths, it efficiently reproduces color more accurately, and offers sharper resolution, pixel for pixel, than any conventional image sensor. Since color moiré is not generated, the use of a low-pass filter is not required, meaning light and color, generated by the 46 megapixel APS-C X3 direct image sensor is captured with a three-dimensional feel.

Dual TRUE II image processing engine
Dual TRUE II image processing engine

The SD1 incorporates a dual "TRUE (Three-layer Responsive Ultimate Engine) II" image processing engine which improves the processing speed and overall quality of the final image. The unique image-processing algorithm provides high resolution power and reproduces high definition images with richly graduated tones. In addition, the SD1 is Sigma's first camera to allow simultaneous RAW and JPEG recording.

CF card
CF card

The SD1 adopts the TYPE I CF Card. This camera is compatible with the UDMA enabling fast processing of large amounts of data. * It is not possible to use Microdrives and TYPE II CF cards.

Advanced DDR III buffer
Advanced DDR III buffer

To handle large volumes of color data at high speed, the SD1 uses DDR III buffer memory technology, which delivers class-leading performance. The SD1 features a continuous shooting speed of 5 frames per second and can capture up to 7 RAW images per sequence in continuous shooting mode.

Magnesium body
Magnesium body

The Sigma SD1 adopts a lightweight yet solid magnesium alloy body designed to withstand rough use and shocks in harsh conditions.

Intuitive user interface
Intuitive user interface

The improved user interface provides faster and more convenient operation. Aperture and shutter speed can be set by their own dials. The exposure compensation button and exposure mode button are on top of the body for quick access. A Quick Set (QS) menu lets you easily change commonly used functions. To display the QS menu, simply press the QS button. QS menu 1 is for ISO setting, flash mode, metering mode and AF mode; QS menu 2 offers white balance, image quality, image size and color mode.

Bright, wide-coverage viewfinder with integral pentaprism
Bright, wide-coverage viewfinder with integral pentaprism

The SD1 features a pentaprism viewfinder with 98% (vertical and horizontal) coverage, 0.95x magnification and an 18mm eye point. Diopter adjustment is provided over a range of -3 to +1.5 dpt.

Splash proof design
Splash proof design

Buttons and connections benefit from O-ring sealing connections to prevent dust and water getting inside the camera body.

Four metering modes
Four metering modes

The SD1 features 77-segment Evaluative Metering, Center Weighted Average Metering, Center Area Metering and Spot Metering. Exposure can be manually adjusted to suit your needs. When difficult lighting conditions make appropriate exposure unclear, auto bracketing lets you take a sequence of shots of the same subject at three or five different exposure levels. Bracketing can be set in 1/3EV increments up to ±3EV(3levels) or ±1.7EV(5 levels).

11 point twin cross sensor
11 point twin cross sensor

The autofocus system features an 11 point twin cross sensor. The shifted twin cross type sensor improves AF accuracy. Selecting the AF point can be done manually or automatically.

Dust Protector
Dust Protector

Most digital SLR cameras are vulnerable to dust entering the body. If dust and dirt adhere to the image sensor, it may appear in the photos. The lens mount of the SD1 is equipped with a dust protector and the area around it is sealed to prevent dust from entering the body. Even in the unlikely event of dust adhering to the image sensor, the dust protector can be removed easily for sensor cleaning.

5-point AF
5-point AF

Using a two-motor system with dedicated motors for mirror-drive and shutter charge reduces the vibration of mirror movement, thereby preventing camera shake. A mirror lock-up mechanism prevents further vibration when the shutter is released. Preventing camera shake is especially important for macro photography and when using ultra-telephoto lenses.

Large, highly visible 3.0" TFT color LCD Monitor
Large, highly visible 3.0'' TFT color LCD Monitor

The SD1 camera features a 3.0 inch TFT color monitor. This 460,000 pixel resolution LCD monitor benefits from a wide viewing angle, making it easy to check focusing and composition.

77-segment AE sensor
77-segment AE sensor

The SD1 features a new 77-segment AE sensor using advanced AE algorithms to improve exposure accuracy. Exact control coordinated with the 11 AF points achieves accurate exposure even in difficult lightning conditions.

Focal Plane shutter
Focal Plane shutter

ISO sensitivity can be selected from 100 to 6400. The SD1 captures light effectively and ensures noiseless image processing. The image sensor provides high definition with rich, graduated tones.

Noiseless image processing

The SD1 features a new 77-segment AE sensor using advanced AE algorithms to improve exposure accuracy. Exact control coordinated with the 11 AF points achieves accurate exposure even in difficult lightning conditions.

Built-in flash with 17mm angle of coverage
Built-in flash with 17mm angle of coverage

The Sigma SD1 camera's built-in flash has a guide number of 11 to cover a 17mm lens angle (equivalent to 25.5mm with a 35mm camera). The built-in flash can be synchronized to a shutter speed of up to 1/180 sec. The S-TTL automatic exposure system enables control of advanced flash photography.

SIGMA Photo Pro5.0 (Supplied)
SIGMA Photo Pro5.0 (Supplied)

The supplied image processing software, SIGMA Photo Pro 5, converts RAW data quickly and easily and describes full data of 46 megapixel resolution. A renewed interface design provides functional and convenient operation. Sigma PhotoPro allows easy operation, simply by moving a slider from left to right while looking at the particular image you took, you can get a photographic expression just as you like. In addition, other functions such as Loupe, Slideshow, Print, Convert to JPEG file and Batch White Balance settings are incorporated into this software.


Product Information

Product Dimensions 5.8 x 3.1 x 4.5 inches
Item Weight 2 pounds
Shipping Weight 3.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
ASIN B007C1KYWE
Item model number C26900
Batteries 1 Lithium ion batteries required. (included)
Customer Reviews
3.3 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
Best Sellers Rank #36,938 in Camera & Photo
#998 in Camera & Photo > DSLR Cameras
Date first available at Amazon.com March 8, 2012

Warranty & Support

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Customer Questions & Answers

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Most people are not aware that when they buy a conventional (e.g. Canon or Nikon) digital camera, the sensor is what is called a 'Bayer array' and has a fundamental shortcoming: each sensor only recognizes one of the three primary colors (red, green, or blue). For example, in a 20 megapixel Bayer array, there are typically 10 million green sensors, 5 million red, and 5 million blue. Using a built in processor, each sensor element reports values for all three colors, by polling its neighbors and interpolating.

The Sigma Foveon cameras are all based on the idea that the above is fundamentally fudging the result, and a truly accurate digital camera ought to be measuring all three primary colors at each sensor location. They use Foveon sensors, with three overlapping arrays, one for each primary color. This closely mimics the way color negative film was designed.

My experience, having owned the Sigma SD9, SD14, and SD1, as well as each of the top line Canon DSLRs (including a 5D Mark II which I now use interchangeably with the SD1), and multiple large and medium format cameras over decades, is as follows:

Pros: There is an almost ineffable 'you are there' quality to SD1 images, more obvious to some than others. Much more tonal subtlety and detail because of the accuracy of the values at each sensor location. Much less need for sharpening, because of both the multiple sensor arrays, and the lack of need for an AA ("antialising" or "blurring") filter, which is required for Bayer array cameras. In resolution tests, the SD1 meets or even exceeds Nyquist theoretical resolution limits, not surprising. At its best this yields results that many of us find truly exciting.
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The ultimate Foveon-based digital SLR, loaded with features and of an excellent build quality. I gave it only 4 stars as it doesn't have "live view" of the image you plan to capture using its LCD screen, only the viewfinder. Its an unexpected omission and one I hope they correct in any future model.
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So far as I can tell, anyone that has actually used this camera loves it. The knockers seem to base their opinions on other people's reviews, or on sub-standard images that have been posted on the web and do not do justice to the camera's abilities. Unlike some reviewers that have only read about this camera I actualy own one and use it. I have been taking photographs for 50 years and this is the camera I have been waiting for. Nothing this side of a very large medium format camera comes close in image quality.

It has all the handling issues that have been reported, but they simply do not matter. It may not have the amazing AF, battery life and high-ISO capability of the latest offerings from Canon, Nikon and others, but they are good enough. In real life it is quite a nice camera to use, and the "issues" are not as intrusive as some reviewers would have you believe. It is an awful lot more practical than any film SLR ever was. Who remembers the days when we could only get 36 shots at a time on expensive film, and anything shot at an ISO over 400 was simply awful?

And why is it an issue that it does not shoot video? This is a stills camera. It is not intended to shoot video!

The alternative is a smaller and lighter DP1 Merrill, DP2 Merrill or DP3 Merrill. I chose the SD1 because it has Image Stabilisation, much better battery life (unlike some reviewers I get 300 shots per battery - but then I don't waste battery power by pixel peeping at every shot on the rear screen). With Sigma's 17-70 zoom I have the capability of all three DPx Merrills in one body - but as the lens is not precisely matched to the sensor as in the DP series that is at the cost of a tiny anount of distortion and CA at the extreme focal lengths.
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The Sigma SD1 can give out-of-this-world results in terms of resolution & Clarity...but you have to accept some shortcomings. The operation and write times are from a bygone era...and users of modern super fast cameras will be frustrated. The high ISO performance is nothing to write home about with noise getting really ugly at and after ISO 1600. The worst part is probably the proprietary raw format which is not supported by any of the popular raw converters and you are stuck using the archaic Sigma PhotoPro.

Now that I have gotten the bad stuff out of the way - let me tell you that this is one of the best Cameras I have ever used, in terms of image quality and handling. The grip is absolutely the most comfortable I have ever held...superb. Sigma's unique Foveon sensor, when coupled with great Sigma lenses such as the 70-200 EX OS or the 8-16 DC EX can produce pictures that are, to repeat myself, out-of-this-world. There is depth and clarity that will make it difficult for you to go back to the regular Bayer-based APS-C cameras. And the color of the images is something unique...especially the blues, yellow and greens. The images pop with superb contrast and grading. The B&Ws are amazing too.

So, in summary, if you are willing to accept a few quirks and are prepared to wait for common operations like previewing the image you just clicked, then this camera will give you a picture taking experience that is different and ultimately satisfying in terms of sheer image quality. Isn't that why we shoot pictures?

A solid 4 stars.
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