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After more than three years of rumours and promises, Sigma�s latest digital SLR camera, the SD14, sporting an improved Foveon X3 sensor, became available in April. Ian Andrews has had his hands on one for a trial.
I bought my Sigma SD14 used a few years ago. I got it for $350 with a 24-70mm f3.5-5.6 HR lens and three batteries. I am VERY happy with it. I got a Sony A55 after I used the Sigma for a while, but eventually I sold the Sony . . . not because I didn't like it, but because I needed money and I felt the old Sigma was adequate for my needs. I also liked the way the Sigma handles color more than the way the Sony did.
The Sigma SD14 is very slow to operate, and it only holds 6 photos in the buffer (I always shoot in raw mode). The screen on the back is not very good. They fixed most of what is wrong with the SD14, when they made the SD15. Unfortunately they ended up going a little backward in a way, when they made the SD1. Apparently the SD1 has a 7 frame buffer for shooting raw. That is really about the same as the SD14, and apparently the SD1 takes a long time to clear the buffer, just like the SD14. Hopefully Sigma will update the SD1 with a newer camera that operates more like the SD15 (bigger buffer). The SD1 shoots a lot faster (twice as fast) as the SD14 and SD15 (but only in bursts, until the buffer is full). The SD14 has a CF card slot, like the SD1 (the SD15 only has an SD card slot). Using a fast CF card makes the SD14 seem to work much faster. I use an old SD card, because I really don't need to worry about filling my buffer that much. I don't shoot so fast anymore. This is another reason why I decided to sell the Sony.
The SD14 can do ISO 50 . . . but the color does not seem accurate at that ISO. It is not easy to set the camera, so that it can do ISO 50 either. In fact, I believe I had to update the firmware in the camera to get it to do ISO 50. I don't use ISO 50, because the colors look inaccurate. I normally shoot at ISO100. I am a pixel peeper, and recently I have noticed color blotching even at ISO 100. This may be new, because the camera is getting old (I never noticed it when I first got the camera), or it could be as a result of all the pixel peeping I have been doing lately, comparing images from the SD1 and Nikon D800.
I LOVE how the SD14 makes practically noise-free images (less noise at 100 ISO than any other APS-C camera and less noise than the full-frame Nikon D800). They are very sharp, and hold a lot of detail . . . about equivalent to my Canon 5 D - more than a friend's Nikon D200, which I compared it against, doing test shots for sharpness.
The Sigma SD14 has an incredible dynamic range - much better than my Nikon D5000 or my Canon 5 D had. It does not seem to be significantly better than my Sony A55 was though. From what I have read, the Nikon D7000 and D800 capture a greater dynamic range, so there is more latitude for exposure and shadow adjustment with those cameras.
The viewfinder of my Sigma SD14 is good for an APS-C camera - about as good as a Canon 60 D - better than my Nikon D5000.
The buttons and other controls on the SD14 are good. The battery door is about the same as other cameras from other manufacturers. There is no weather sealing though. (Sigma upgraded their DSLR, placing weather seals in the Sigma SD1.)
Value for money is very good for my used Sigma camera . . . though if I wanted video capabilities or the ability to shoot at high ISO settings with good results, I would buy a used Sony A55 instead. (The Sony has a better quality review screen, and it folds out too. The Sony has about the same build quality and has a bigger buffer and built-in image stabilization too, both of which I miss.)
I plan to get the Sigma SD1 and a Sony A65 in the future.
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