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Sigma break new ground with SD9 digital SLR

Sigma break new ground with SD9 digital SLR, with Foveon sensor.

|  Sigma SD-9 in Digital SLRs
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Sigma have today announced their first Digital SLR, the SD9. It uses a radical new CMOS technology by a Californian company called Foveon combined with a lightweight body using a Sigma SA lens mount.

The image sensor is 20.7x13.88mm meaning lenses will have their focal length multiplied by 1.7x. The Foveon CMOS uses a very different technology to any previously seen in digital cameras. It allows for the capture of red, green and blue light at each and every pixel. Typically a digital camera CCD or CMOS would record just one colour per pixel. The result is increased sharpness, better colour detail and greater resistance to unpredictable colour artifacts.

We have more information on this new technology on a separate news story, or you can view the Foveon web site here. There are samples there of photos taken with Foveon technology, but as these aren't from the SD9 they only give a ball park indication of the quality that will be available. Still they look impressive, and Sigma and Foveon should be applauded for introducing what promises to be one of the most innovative products to be released in several years.

Combining this great new CMOS sensor with Sigma's excellent range of lenses should ensure this camera is very popular. Pricing has not yet been announced for the UK, but judging by the rest of the Sigma range it is likely to be good value for money. If the image quality is going to be as high as it appears to be, then this Camera will cause quite a stir in the whole photographic community. We should hopefully be able to handle the SD9 at the Focus show and aim to be updating the web site remotely with all the latest news in the evenings.

The SD9 provides all the important features a buyer of a camera like this would require: Lossless compression RAW files, Fast FireWire and USB interface, Microdrive compatibility, Shutter speeds of 1/6000 to 30sec, Hot shoe for external flash and an optional extra battery grip. The full technical specifications and press release are listed below.

Sigma SD9 Press release

1. SIGMA SD9 with FOVEON X3 Technology
The breakthrough Sigma SD9 camera with Foveon X3 technology has the worlds first image-sensor that features three layers of photodetectors. The layers are embedded in silicon to take advantage of the fact that red, green and blue light penetrate silicon to different depths allowing full-color to be measured at every pixel. The layers are positioned to take advantage of the fact that silicon absorbs different colors of light at different depths, so one layer records red, another layer records green and the other layer records blue. This means that for every pixel on a Foveon X3 image sensor, there's actually a stack of three photodetectors, forming the first and only full-color capture system.

SIGMA SD9 powered by Foveon X3 image sensors capture red, green and blue light at each and every pixel. All other image sensors feature just one layer of photodetectors, with just one photodetector per pixel. To capture color, pixels are organized in a grid, or mosaic, resembling a three-color checkerboard. Each pixel captures just one color-red, green or blue. The filters let only one wavelength of light (red, green or blue) pass through to any given pixel, allowing it to record only one color. As a result, mosaic sensors capture only 25% of the red and blue light, and just 50% of the green.

That approach has inherent drawbacks, no matter how many pixels a mosaic-based image sensor might contain. Since they only capture one third of the color, mosaic-based image sensors must rely on complex processing to interpolate the two-thirds they miss. Interpolation leads to color artifacts and a loss of image detail. In fact, some digital cameras intentionally blur pictures to reduce color artifacts.

That 's why the SIGMA SD9 powered by Foveon X3 technology delivers twice the sharpness, better color detail and greater resistance to unpredictable color artifacts.

2. RAW Image Format
With the RAW data recording system of the SIGMA SD9, it is possible to obtain high picture definition and compact file size. Lossless compression system of RAW data, eliminates image deterioration, provides superior pictures without sacrificing original image quality.

RAW data is convertible into high TIFF and JPEG formats by dedicated image processing software 'SIGMA Photo Pro'. According to the requirements of the photographer, it is also possible to change the characteristics of the image, such as white balance, brightness, contrast etc. when they are converted into TIFF and JPEG formats. Even if the photographer makes some additional adjustments to the image, the quality of the image will not deteriorate, if the photographer makes the adjustments based on the saved RAW data.

3. Image Recording With Three Resolution Settings
Depending on the intention of the photographer, the SIGMA SD9 allows photographers to select the resolution of RAW data images in one of three resolutions.

Hi mode delivers highest resolution image performance with (2263x1512 pixels) x 3. MED mode has high definition and recording capacity. LOW mode allows consecutive shooting.

4. Sports Finder
The coverage of a viewfinder of a digital SLR camera with interchangeable lens is almost the same as the picture seen on its image sensor.

However, the coverage of viewfinder can be maximum 100%, and no portions of the outside area reflected on the image sensor can be seen. SIGMA SD9 is equipped with a 'sport finder' for easily following the situation outside the picture area.

The range that is out of the image sensor coverage range is marked by transparent light gray, to distinguish it from the active picture taking area.

It is also important to control the surrounding situation of the photographic subject. In this respect, the sports finder will be ready to provide a good opportunity to take a good picture anytime. When taking a picture of a fixed object or close-up photography, composition can be easily determined because the outside of the range of the picture can be seen.

5. Dust Protector
Dust and dirt entering through the lens mount of a digital camera, can create serious defects in image quality. If dust and dirt adhere to the image sensor and are not removed, it will deteriorate the image quality. In order to prevent dust entering and adhering to image sensor, the body mount of SIGMA SD9 is equipped with an integral dust protector. The dust protector of the SIGMA SD9 prevents dust from entering and adhering to the image sensor. Even if dust adheres to the dust protector it will not have an influence on image quality because the dust protector is located away from the image sensor.

6. Easy To Use Interface
Each button of the Sigma SD9 is devised and arranged to provide a functional and easy-to-use setting.

By means of the 4-Way Controller on the back of the body, menu settings and camera settings can be adjusted very quickly.

By using the Zoom-in View mode, the details of the image can be magnified by moving the cursor and choosing the location with the 4-Way Controller.

The command dial can quickly select the resolution settings, and the ISO sensitivity setting. It is also possible to make program shift in the Program AE Mode.

7. 1.8type TFT Monitor
The SIGMA SD9 is equipped with a large 1.8 130,000 dot low temperature polysilicon TFT-LCD monitor with white LED on the back panel, which displays images, menus and histogram. The coverage area of the LCD monitor is 100%, and it will have similar coverage to that seen from the viewfinder and thanks to the LCD-monitor, the composition can also be seen easily.

By operation of +/- Controller, three types of screen display can be chosen; thumbnail display (9 segments simultaneous display), Single-Image display, and a Zoom-in display (the area to magnify can be freely chosen by the 4-Way Controller). By pressing the INFO button, detailed image information can be displayed on the TFT-LCD monitor, such as shutter speed, aperture value.

8. IEEE1394 & USB(1.1) Interface
The SIGMA SD9 can transmit the images from camera to computer with high-speed IEEE1394 (S400) and widely available USB (1.1) interfaces.

SIGMA SD9 is equipped with IEEE1394 interface to deliver super-high-speed image data transmission rate.

9. Image Storage Media; Compact Flash TM Card.
SIGMA SD9 employs CF card as an Image Storage Media. Since the SIGMA SD9 is compatible with the Compact Flash TM Type II card, use of IBM MicrodriveTM is also possible.

The outstanding storage capacity of IBM MicrodriveTM enables photographers to use the camera even more effectively.

10. CR-V3 Batteries
Two CR123A batteries, which are located in the grip part of a camera, are used as a power supply for the camera drive part. In addition, two CR-V3 lithium batteries located in the lower part of the camera, are used as a power supply for the digital parts, such as a display of LCD, and image processing. Lithium batteries enable photographers to shoot many images.

A shutter release button is supplied with optional Power Pack SD for vertical shooting.

Since this Power Pack SD can be equipped with four CR-V3 batteries, extensive photography can be attained.

SIGMA SD9 cameras video output system can be switched between PAL system (used in Europe, etc.,) and NTSC system (in Japan and the U.S., etc.). This means that video output of the SIGMA SD9 Picture is possible anywhere in the world.

Technical specification

Camera Type

Interchangeable -Lens SLR-Type Digital Camera

Storage Media

CompactFlashTM (CF) (TypeI/II), IBM MicrodriveTM

Image Sensor Size

20.7 x 13.8

Usable Lenses

Sigma SA mount lenses

Actual Field of View

Equivalent to 1.7x the focal length of lens when used on a 35mm SLR

Lens Mount

SA Bayonet Mount

Image Sensor



Total Pixels: 3.54 million pixels x3  Effective 3.43 million pixels x3

Aspect Ratio

3 : 2

Image Recording Format

Lossless compression RAW Data (12bit)


(1) HI 2268x1512 x3  (2)MED  (3)LOW


IEEE1394, USB (1.1), Video Out (NTSC/PAL)

White Balance

8 type

Viewfinder Type

Pentaprism SLR Viewfinder

Viewfinder Frame coverage

98% horizontal, 97% vertical

Viewfinder Magnification

0.77x (50mm F1.4)  



Diopter Adjustment Range

-3dpt ~ 1dpt

Auto Focus Type

TTL phase difference detection system

AF Operating Range

EV2 ~ +18 (ISO100)

Focus Mode

Single AF, Continuous AF (AF Predict function)

Metering Systems

8-segment Evaluative Metering, Center Metering, Center-Weighted Average Metering

Metering Range

EV-1 ~ 20 (with 50mm F1.4 at ISO100)

Exposure Modes

(P)Program AE with program shift function, (S) Shutter Speed Priority AE, (A) Aperture Priority AE, (Metered)Manual


ISO Sensitivity

ISO 100, 200, 400

Exposure Compensation

3EV (in 1/2steps)

AE Lock

Pushbutton type (exposure settings are locked while the button in depressed)

Auto Bracketing

Three Different Exposure Levels; Appropriate, Under and Over Exposure; Maximum variation of 3EV in 1/2 EV steps

Shutter Type

Vertical-travel metal focal plane shutter electronically controlled through entire speed range

Shutter Speeds

1/6000 to 30sec., Bulb

External Flash Synchronization

Hot shoe (contact X, synchronized at 1/180-sec. or less, with dedicated flash linking contact)


LCD Monitor Type

1.8', Color TFT LCD with 130,000dot low-temp. polysilicon


Coverage Area : 100%  Backlight : White LED

Reviewing Images

Single-Image Display, Zoom-in Display, 9 segments thumbnail display, Slide Show



Japanese / English / French / German

Power Source

Battery: Lithium CR123A 2pcs batteries

Lithium CR-V3 2pcs, or AA Alkaline Dry Cell X4pcs or Ni-MH X4pcs


AC Adapter

Dimension and Weight

Dimensions : 152(W)mm 120(H)mm 79(D)mm


Weight : 803g


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Photographs taken using the Sigma SD-9

Peregrine FalconSidestepNatural lookIntricacySaturday-shadowed Clayre:)Orange flowersSmall street...A view of the Falkirk WheelLunan Bay Scotland.Fishing netsHauntedSedlec Ossuary

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