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Sigma sd Quattro Review

We review the new Sigma sd Quattro - the mirrorless camera from Sigma with Digital SLR styling, and the unique Foveon sensor.

| Sigma sd Quattro in Mirrorless Cameras
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Sigma sd Quattro Review: Sigma Sd Quattro (8)

The Sigma sd Quattro is the new mirrorless interchangeable lens camera from Sigma, and replaces the SD1 Merrill, which was Sigma's Digital SLR camera. The sd Quattro features the same Sigma SA lens mount, making it compatible with all Sigma SA lenses. The sq Quattro features the same APS-C Foveon sensor as the dp Quattro series, and is available for £799 body only, or £999 with 30mm f/1.4 Art lens.

Sigma sd Quattro Features

Sigma sd Quattro Review: Sigma Sd Quattro (11)
The core of Sigma cameras is the Foveon sensor, something that is unique to Sigma, with no other manufacturer featuring a Foveon sensor. The Sigma sd Quattro uses the newly developed Foveon X3 direct image sensor (generation name: “Quattro”), as featured in the dp Quattro series.

The Foveon sensor features multiple layers to capture all of the colour information that visible light transmits, much like 35mm film, so that every pixel position on the sensor captures red, green and blue, compared to a normal sensor, which captures a single colour at each pixel, as shown below. 

Sigma sd Quattro Review: Sigma Dp2 Quattro Foveon Sensor Vs Bayer

The Foveon X3 Quattro direct image sensor differs from the previous Foveon sensor thanks to a new top layer with a higher 19 megapixel resolution, as shown below. This is said to give high resolution results, but with a lower resolution 4.9 megapixel green and red layer, that means image processing is said to be quicker and noise is also said to be improved. 

Sigma sd Quattro Review: Sigma dp Quattro Sensor
Sigma dp Quattro Sensor design (Image courtesy: Sigma)

Due to the sensor design, there is no low pass filter, and each pixel records full RGB colour information, thanks to a layered sensor, much like film. The previous Sigma dp Merrill series was said to give the equivalent of a 30 megapixel camera from a 15mp (x3) sensor, while the dp Quattro series is said to give the equivalent of a 39 megapixel camera when compared to a Bayer sensor camera, thanks to the 29.8 megapixel sensor (20mp + 4.9mp + 4.9mp), and full colour information for each pixel.

When Sigma introduced the sd Quattro, they also announced the sd Quattro H, which features a larger, higher resolution sensor, and we've run through the main differences between the two cameras below:

Sigma sd Quattro Sigma sd Quattro H
29.8 megapixel APS-C (23.4×15.5mm) 38.6 megapixel APS-H (26.7×17.9mm)
1.5x crop factor 1.3x crop factor
1.1x viewfinder magnification 0.96x viewfinder magnification
625g weight 630g weight

Sigma has added a new mode called "Super Fine Detail" - this mode takes a number of pictures, in a unique Sigma raw file format, and then you need to process this image to export it as a JPEG or the normal Sigma raw file. The mode is takes 7 shots for improved dynamic range with low noise. You can't view the result in camera, and the file is recorded with a .X3I extension. As the camera is taking a number of shots, a tripod is necessary. 

The rear of the camera features a 3inch screen, plus a secondary LCD display with camera settings displayed. There is a high resolution 2.36m dot electronic viewfinder (EVF) with dioptre adjustment, and 1.1x magnification. The camera has the usual P, A, S, and M shooting modes, plus 3 custom shooting modes. The camera does not feature built-in Wi-Fi nor a video mode. 

An optional battery grip, called the Power Grip PG-41 is available. The camera supports tethering with "Sigma Capture Pro" so that you can control the camera from your computer and shoot remotely, for example in a studio setup. 

A unique feature of the SD1 / Merrill series was the ability to remove the infrared filter from the camera, and this continues with the sd Quattro, meaning it's quick and easy to remove the filter, and use the sq Quattro for infrared photography (with the correct infrared filter to block visible light). 

Sigma sd Quattro Review: Sigma Sd Quattro (10)

Key Features

  • 33 / 29.8 megapixel total pixels (19.6 megapixel top layer), 39 megapixel max image size
  • APS-C Foveon sensor (23.5x15.5mm), 1.5x crop
  • 3.6fps - up to 14 continuous shots, 5.1fps with Low image size (28 images)
  • Sigma SA lens mount
  • Dual TRUE III image processor
  • New Super Fine Detail exposure mode
  • Combination of Phase detection AF and contrast detection AF
  • Focus peaking function, Quick set menu
  • 2.36m dot electronic viewfinder (EVF), 1.10x magnification
  • 3.0inch 1.62m dot screen
  • Magnesium alloy body, with dust and splashproof design
  • 14-bit RAW data, In-camera RAW processing
  • Higher precision white balance (new algorithm)
  • Colour modes, Monochrome options
  • Custom bracketing display
  • Electronic level
  • USB3 port

Sigma sd Quattro Handling

Sigma sd Quattro Review: Sigma Sd Quattro (4)

The sd Quattro is a fairly large mirrorless camera, with modern styling that makes it look quite different to anything else on the market. It doesn't feature the typical SLR shape with raised viewfinder triangle, instead the viewfinder is off-set giving the camera a flat(ish) top plate. The flash hot-shoe is in line with the lens mount. The on / off button is in a rather unusual position, and it can take a while to find it when you first pick up the camera, but once you've found it, it is easy to get used to this, and it feels solidly made. The camera has a metal body, that feels extremely well-built with rounded corners and edges, and the placement of the control wheels on top are very slightly moved away from the edges meaning you don't accidentally catch them. 

The sd Quattro weighs 625g without the battery or memory card. This is slightly lighter than the Sigma SD1 / Merrill, which weighs 700g, but more than the Sigma dp Quattro cameras weigh, at between 395-500g including the lens.

On top is the dioptre adjustment dial, control dial, lock switch, shutter release with another control dial, QS (Quick Set) button, flash hot-shoe, plus on / off switch next to the lens mount. The buttons and controls feel good, and the spacing between some of the smaller buttons makes it easy to change settings without accidentally pressing the wrong options. The QS (Quick Set) button makes it easy to change settings quickly on the rear screen, and you can customise what options are displayed so that you can access your favourite settings quickly. 

There are 9 focus points, and you can also use the "Free move" focus option to move the focus point more precisely.

Sigma sd Quattro Review: Sigma Sd Quattro (6)

The menus are well laid out and clear thanks to the high resolution screen, and the different sections are colour coded. There is no built-in help, so it's advisable to familiarise yourself with the manual. The back has buttons for the display, a switch for the viewfinder / auto / monitor, a playback button, S/C (single / continuous) auto focus, AF/AEL lock, sub monitor light on/off button, exposure compensation, ISO, metering, mode, 4-way controller with middle OK button, menu and focusing point button.

Sigma sd Quattro Review: Sigma Sd Quattro Rear Screen

You can switch the rear screen off if you want, and just use the small sub-display, and you can also switch this off, so nothing is displayed on the rear of the camera. The screen, secondary display, and EVF can be set to automatically adjust the brightness depending on ambient lighting conditions, or you can set it manually. The colour reproduction on the screen and EVF match each other, but the resolution is quite blocky. Viewing angles of the screen are very good, and visibility is quite good even outdoors. The EVF is a high resolution 2.36 million dot unit, with an impressive magnification of 1.1x making the view appear large, however the refresh rate from the sensor isn't very quick which makes the viewfinder appear jerky, and not very smooth, as well as being quite coarse. 

Sigma sd Quattro Review: Sigma Sd Quattro Battery

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Photographs taken using the Sigma sd Quattro

Love Me, Love Our DogDog in MonoStylish PoochJacquieOn the edgeSharp and frostyDown in the dark woodMorning bluesDunotter CastleHarbour SceneA Stroll Along The CobbThe Cobb On A Chilly DayHarbour Activity - Lyme Regis

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themak Avatar
themak 10 1.1k Scotland
5 Aug 2016 2:21PM
It's a great effort at a competitive price, and they have made some inroads into the noise problem. Slow focus and evf refresh rate are a bit off-putting, though.
Niknut Avatar
Niknut Plus
13 3.7k 82 United Kingdom
5 Aug 2016 4:56PM
Fascinating camera !!!......I rather like the refreshingly different design; though larger & heavier than some other mirrorless beasts !!

The test shots show amazing detail, though the colour-fringing is disappointing, as is the noise issue ??

I also like the back-focus distance, as per a DSLR, with a less acute angle for the image to hit the sensor near the outer extremes.

The one major drawback for me would be processing such massive computer to handle those megapixels methinks ??

Would love to try one though, & see how the results would compare to my existing set-up !!......."perchance to dream" I reckon !!!!.WinkGrinGrin
Just Jas Avatar
Just Jas Plus
21 26.4k 1 England
11 Aug 2016 10:14AM computer to handle those megapixels methinks ??

The one reviewed last news letter?

Get both....
Go for broke! Grin
ElSid Avatar
ElSid 15 11 United Kingdom
11 Aug 2016 10:54AM
Slow start up time, slow focus and dire noise performance yet you still manage to rate this camera at four stars - I think not...

The noise issue is the thing that really lets this camera down - I have an ancient EOS D30 from the edge of digital prehistory that is less noisy at ISO1600 than your tests indicate the Foveon sensor appears to be at 400. Clearly Sigma have paid too much attention to chasing the pixel race than sorting out the sensor designs known noise issue. In this day and age and when compared against Sony, Nikon and even Canon's high ISO performance the Sigma is so far off the pace as to be going backwards.

Just Jas Avatar
Just Jas Plus
21 26.4k 1 England
11 Aug 2016 6:46PM

Quote:Go for broke!

Perhaps not then! Sad
themak Avatar
themak 10 1.1k Scotland
11 Aug 2016 7:30PM

Quote:Clearly Sigma have paid too much attention to chasing the pixel race than sorting out the sensor designs

The noise problems with the Foveon sensors has got nothing to do with any 'pixel race' - it's inherent in the sensor design and obviously a major handicap. No doubt why nobody else wants to develop it. Pity, it seems (seemed?) potentially ground-breaking.
Niknut Avatar
Niknut Plus
13 3.7k 82 United Kingdom
12 Aug 2016 3:03PM

Quote:Go for broke!

Perhaps not then! Sad

Cash flow !!....or lack of, determines my purchases !!!!!SadSadSadSadWink
Just Jas Avatar
Just Jas Plus
21 26.4k 1 England
13 Aug 2016 12:51AM
Tell me about it! Smile
ozy1ozy Avatar
19 Nov 2016 1:47PM
I bought the old DP3 on Ebay and boy, is the resolution great. Unfortunately, that's the only thing going for the camera. The rest is pure rubbish. I saw all the promo stuff for the DP3 and it really stinks how bad the camera is against how much promo is put out. Shame on Sigma.
I use the DP3 as if it were a high quality portrait lens with a camera attached - in good lighting you can't beat it. So would I now spend bigger bucks for a new one? - NO. I'd need to prove the camera first and ignore all the promo web stuff.
Steevytee Avatar
10 Mar 2019 11:10AM
Gave up on DSLRs around 10 years ago - mainly because of menus becoming even more complicated and largely irrelevant. The technical aspect of photography then became less significant and I was able to concentrate more on getting the image right which is after all what photography is all about. I had reasoned that different cameras are better at different aspects of photography - for instance close up photography is easier and better handled by compact cameras with a smaller sensor, lower focal length lens and vastly increased (typically between 5 and 7 times) depth of field. You have to limit the ISO to a low value to prevent noise becoming intrusive but as I started with film cameras where ISO 100 was considered a fast film this was not a problem.

I had been watching the Sigma Foveon sensor since it was introduced around 2002 but was deterred ever since by the high prices. when I discovered the Sigma quattro series recently this renewed my interest especially when a used SD quattro with 2 lenses at a very good price became available.
As a landscape camera this beast is absolutely unbeatable in terms of image quality and value for money. So it is noisy above 200 ISO - so what? With patience you are getting full size sensor resolution, superb SOOC colour quality and detail at a fraction of the cost of a full frame DSLR. Above all the SD quattro is obviously designed with photographers in mind for ease of use. It has everything a landscape photographer needs with regard to menus and controls, no extra 'bells and whistles' and photography becomes simple once more. Ask yourself 'how much of the tedious pages of a modern DSLR do you actually use?'
To get the best you really need to shoot RAW either in Sigma format or as DNG but on 'pixel peeping' the JPG files are perfectly usable certainly for initial processing. So it is a slow camera in terms of writing images to card and post processing but experience over the years has shown me that good things in life are worth waiting for.
I did consider initially the DP quattro series of compact cameras but the SD mirrorless is a much more workable solution. In fact I am so pleased with the SD quattro I am seriously considering an SD quattro H with a larger sensor. This should provide me with medium format quality at a fraction of the cost and slow me down to medium format speed which is not a bad thing.

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