Sigma SD1 Merrill

February 8, 2012 | Zoltan Arva-Toth | Digital SLR Cameras | 10 Comments | |
News image

Sigma has renamed its flagship digital SLR camera to Sigma SD1 Merrill, in honour of Foveon’s founding father, Richard B. Merrill. The rebranding was initiated by Sigma’s new CEO, Kazuto Yamaki, who wrote “a personal letter to the company’s loyal customers” announcing the name change and a reduction of the camera’s MSRP to $3,300. Given the typically huge difference between Sigma’s suggested retail prices and the actual retail pricing of their products, this means you can realistically expect to be able to purchase the Sigma SD1 Merrill for about $2,300 - which is a massive price drop considering that the camera used to sell for about $6,900.

Sigma UK Press Release

SD1 Merrill digital SLR camera
Flagship digital SLR with 46 megapixel Foveon X3 sensor

The Sigma Corporation is pleased to announce the new SIGMA SD1 Merrill, the latest high resolution and high image quality digital SLR camera featuring a 46 megapixel (4800×3200×3 layers) FOVEON X3® direct image sensor.

The SIGMA SD1 Merrill is the flagship model which incorporates a full-colour FOVEON X3® direct image sensor. It adopts a lightweight yet solid magnesium alloy body along with buttons and connected parts sealed with O-rings, enhancing the durability as well as preventing dust and water from getting inside the camera. The Dual TRUE II processing engine and DDR III buffer ensure high speed processing of images without lowering the quality. The 46 megapixel (4800×3200×3 layers) sensor ensures outstanding resolution and natural rendering with rich gradation as well as a three-dimensional feel.

About the generation-name “Merrill”
The Foveon X3 Direct Image Sensor uses technology originally developed by the late Dick Merrill (1949-2008), a brilliant engineer and talented photographer. This revolutionary image capture system reflects both the artistic and technological sides of Merrill’s personality. As an expression of Sigma’s passion for photography and in honour of Dick Merrill’s genius, we have named the latest generation of the Foveon X3 Direct Image Sensor the Foveon Merrill.

46 megapixel 23.5×15.7mm full-colour X3 Merrill sensor
The 23.5×15.7mm full-colour FOVEON X3® direct image sensor featured in the SIGMA SD1 Merrill, incorporates 46 effective megapixels (4,800×3,200×3 layers) and 44 recording megapixels (4,704×3,136×3 layers). The FOVEON X3® direct image sensor captures all primary RGB colours at each and every pixel location with 3 layers, ensuring the capture of full and complete colour.

Dual TRUE II image processing engine
The SIGMA SD1 Merrill incorporates a dual “TRUE (Three-layer Responsive Ultimate Engine) II” image processing engine dedicated to the FOVEON X3® direct image sensor. This improves the processing speed and overall quality of the final image. By incorporating two TRUE II processors, Sigma’s unique image-processing algorithm provides high resolution power and reproduces high definition images with richly graduated tones as well as a three-dimensional feel.

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

Intuitive user interface
The improved user interface provides intuitive operation. Aperture and shutter speed can be changed by their own dials. The functions such as 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

CF card
The SD1 adopts the TYPE I CF Card and is compatible with UDMA enabling fast processing of large amounts of data.

Magnesium body
The Sigma SD1 Merrill adopts a lightweight yet solid magnesium alloy body designed to withstand rough use and shocks in harsh conditions. Buttons and connected parts are sealed with O-rings to prevent dust and water from getting inside the camera body.

Two-motor system
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.

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

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

Four metering modes
The SD1 features 77-segment Evaluative Metering, Centre Weighted Average Metering, Centre Area Metering and Spot Metering. 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). The 77-segment AE sensor is coordinated with the 11 AF points to achieves accurate exposure even in difficult lightning conditions.

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 Merrill is equipped with a dust protector and the area around 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.

Focal Plane shutter
The durable focal plane shutter mechanism has a life cycle of over 100,000 exposures and dramatically reduces generation of dust. The photographer can enjoy taking pictures with confidence that the image sensor is clean and protected from dust or dirt originating inside or outside the camera.

Large, highly visible 3.0” TFT colour LCD Monitor
The SD1 Merrill camera features a 3.0 inch TFT colour monitor which ensures a great visibility even outside in the daytime. This approximately 460,000 pixel resolution LCD monitor benefits from a wide viewing angle, making it easy to capture detail and to check focusing and composition.

Built-in flash with 17mm angle of coverage
The Sigma SD1 Merrill camera’s built-in flash has a guide number of 11 to cover a 17mm lens angle (equivalent to 25.5mm on 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 Pro
The supplied image processing software, “SIGMA Photo Pro”, converts RAW data quickly and easily. While looking at photographed images, it is possible to render desired photographic expression by moving the slider from side to side. It incorporates functions such as a loupe, exposure picker, print, JPEG conversion, and batch white balance settings.

The SD1 Merrill will be available in the UK in mid March.

Sigma Corporation of America Press Release

Sigma Corporation of America announces new name, pricing for flagship SD1 camera
DSLR takes Foveon technology creator’s name, undergoes manufacturing improvements to reduce price

Ronkonkoma, NY, Feb. 8, 2012 – In a personal letter to the company’s loyal customers, Sigma Corporation CEO Kazuto Yamaki today announced that, starting next month, Sigma’s 46-megapixel SD1 DSLR will be renamed the SD1 Merrill in honor Richard “Dick” Merrill, the late co-creator of the Foveon X3 Direct Image Sensor technology. The otherwise unchanged DSLR will also be sold at a lower price that reflects new efficiencies in the camera’s production.

The SD1 Merrill will be sold for approximately $3,300 MSRP in the United States.

Today Yamaki wrote:

To our valued customers,

We would like to express our appreciation for your loyal patronage of Sigma products.

Today, we announced our new digital single lens reflex camera, the Sigma SD1 Merrill. This product has the same features, performance, and specifications as the Sigma SD1, however, the price is substantially revised. We are gearing up for its release in March 2012, and the market price is expected to be approximately $3,300 MSRP.

At the time of its introduction, the Sigma SD1 was a revolutionary product incorporating a 46MP* direct image sensor which provided the highest resolution in a digital SLR camera. As the world’s only full-color sensor capturing all three primary color components (R, G, and B) within each pixel location, the Foveon X3 Direct Image Sensor made it possible for the image quality of SD1 to not only demonstrate improved resolution, but also to obtain richer expressions of gradation, as well as to enhance the three-dimensional impression which is specific to Foveon sensors. *Resolution equivalent to 30MP on a color filter array sensor

However, even with this revolutionary image sensor, we could not solve issues related to some of the manufacturing methods before the start of mass production, and the production cost ended up substantially exceeding our originally expected price. As a result, we had no choice but to set the price of the SigmaSD1 high. This caused great discouragement to all of you who looked forward to its release, and wished to experience the very unique image quality of the Sigma SD1 in person; this has become our biggest disappointment and pain.

Since then, overcoming this situation has become the first priority for us and Foveon, and we have together made improvements to reduce production cost substantially. Even though this effort took nearly a year, at last, we achieved a reduction target close to the price we originally planned. Therefore, we decided to release Sigma SD1 as a new product, and were able to make our recent announcement.

The Sigma SD1 Merrill keeps the best image quality of the Sigma SD1, which has a unique identity, but comes with a substantially revised price. Although some of the manufacturing methods have been enhanced, the performance and characteristics of the sensor itself have not changed. There is nothing more pleasurable for us than enabling our valued customers to experience the Sigma SD1 Merrill in person, as a digital SLR camera of a new era which inspires photographers’ inner artistic sensitivity, providing “high image quality” and changing current perceptions of what is possible.

On the other hand, we fully understand that it is not acceptable to current Sigma SD1 users that a new product with exactly the same specifications as their camera is being released with a substantially revised price a year later. After all, those customers committed to purchasing the Sigma SD1 with great expectations.

During this period, we have seriously considered how we can express our appreciation for our Sigma SD1 customers. Currently, we have a plan to offer a support program for current Sigma SD1 owners. This support program will provide points that can be exchanged for our products. This program is expected to be valid after the release of Sigma SD1 Merrill and it will last until the end of this year, 2012. It will be applicable for all Sigma products including both current and new products to be released this year. More details will be available soon; we appreciate your kind understanding as we finalize this program.

We would like to once again express our appreciation to current Sigma SD1 owners, and other customers who are looking forward to our next DSLR camera, for your loyal patronage to Sigma. We will continue doing our best with the aim to design and manufacture ideal photographic equipment that inspires the artistic hearts of photographers everywhere. We sincerely value your continued support.

Kazuto Yamaki
Chief Executive Officer


Sigma Corporation of America will soon contact current Sigma SD1 owners in the United States to discuss the support program and the redemption of points with the company as a result of this pricing change. In the meantime, SD1 owners in the United States may contact Director of Marketing Christine Moossmann by emailing with questions or concerns about this announcement.

To locate an authorized Sigma dealer nearest to you, visit For information about Sigma Corporation of America, visit

About Sigma Corporation
For more than 50 years, Sigma Corporation’s expertise and innovation has driven the company’s core philosophy of “knowledge, plus experience, plus imagination,”with anemphasis on producing high-quality, high-performance photographic technology at moderate prices. This family-owned organization is the largest, independent SLR lens manufacturer in the world, producing more than 40 lenses that are compatible with most manufacturers, including Sigma, Canon, Sony, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic and Pentax. Sigma Corporation also produces digital SLR cameras and high-definition digital compact cameras. The company is headquartered in Japan, with offices strategically located throughout Europe, Asia and North America. For information, please visit

Tracker Pixel for Entry

Your Comments

10 Comments | Newest Oldest First | Post a Comment

#1 Philip Aucott

I have never met anyone using a Sigma DSLR, I get the feeling that they are the skoda of the camera world, nothing wrong with them just the badge and name.

1:22 pm - Wednesday, February 8, 2012

#2 Digital Camera World

I'd be interested to see Sigma making more consumer accessible DSLRs.

3:58 pm - Wednesday, February 8, 2012

#3 Nika wedding photo

If sigma wants to build SLR bodies, they should build bodies that can use canon or nikon lenses, that would work, buying a body is one thing, but investing $5,000 on sigam mount lenses that you'll never be able to sell makes no sense. I'm a wedding photographer, and I've got at least $5,000 invested in Canon glass.

4:37 pm - Wednesday, February 8, 2012

#4 rob

Well, the Titanic has sank already, taking the wonderful Foveon technology to the bottom with it. Renaming the camera after the guy who invented Foveon will have "zero" effect.

As to Nika's suggestion: Sigma will probably never make a camera body that can take competitors' lenses, because that would mean the end to their lens-making business.

11:21 pm - Friday, February 10, 2012

#5 pianowerk

Well I use a Sigma SD14; I will buy the Merrill. Skoda now produce fantastic cars (owned and run by VW)so it must follow that the SD1 at the new price must be a fantatstic camera!
Canon/Nikon don't make cameras that take Sigma SAF lenses so why would Sigma make for their competitors?

I don't know if any of the previous 4 comments were made by people who have actually used a Sigma DSLR? By the way I also use Canon and Sony DSLRs as well.

2:30 pm - Saturday, February 11, 2012

#6 Gary Mercer

I was able to do a month long test shoot using the SD1. See the link above for images I shot with it. I find it ironic that people who've never used this camera system or technology know what is best for everyone else. Here are some Sigma SD1M facts:
1. The SD1M is the highest resolution APC sized sensor on the market.
2. The micro contrast image detail and soft image detail bests anything I've shot with including my own Canon 5D MK II
3. I don't need to have a herd mentality and buy only big name brand cameras in order to get the best results. If you haven't experienced the excitement of producing a world class foveon image----you are missing out on a very rewarding experience.
Sigma also produces top notch lenses to go with the SD1M that rival many Nikon, Sony and Canon offerings.
If Sigma offered a Canon or Nikon mount SD1M---it would not ruin its lens sales business--for example. I still would buy Sigma lenses to use on my Canon cameras etc. Sigma simply makes very competitive super high quality lenses at more reasonable prices than the big three. I say shoot with what you want and buy whatever lens you want but don't be critical of people who choose to purchase alternative camera systems and lenses. If you want to join the Nikon/Canon herds----go for it. :)

10:25 pm - Thursday, April 5, 2012

#7 rob


Obviously, you couldn't have been on the photographic scene long enough to experience many different camera/lens/accessory systems to make an educated choice, if you insist that Sigma lenses can compete with Nikon or Canon, you are dead wrong. Sigma has some very good lens designs, but their abysmal manufacturing quality and virtual lack of *Quality Control* makes them useless for any but the least demanding professionals (and even serious amateurs). If you measure the value of a product on the merit of its price, than you don't care about the quality of that product. That says a lot about your approach to photography (same goes for just about any other aspect of life, where you are using some kind of technical equipment or another). And besides, just how do you justify the ridiculously high price of the Sigma SD1 body? The big sensor alone? Like I said before, Foveon sensors are great, but they do not make a whole camera. There is much more to it than the sensor alone...

Just because you used Sigma camera and you liked it, does not mean that it's a good choice for other photographers. If you want to be a contrarian, be my guest, but do not try to convince me that I should follow your personal preference, however educated or uneducated it may be. If I did, then you could call it a "herd mentality".

I've been involved with photography for over 40 years - as an amateur and as a pro. I've used cameras and lenses from companies like Hasselblad, Linhof, Sinar, Mamiya, Olympus, Nikon, Canon and SIGMA. Believe me, the only one brand that I never want to deal with again is SIGMA.

12:28 am - Friday, April 6, 2012

#8 Gary Mercer


So anonymous Rob--who says he is a professional photographer for 40 years. I'm also a professional photographer and have been featured in Outdoor photographer magazine, Popular Photography magazine and my 5 by 7 foot photograph is hanging in the permanent collection of the Frost Museum---a Smithsonian affiltiate museum. I also one of Sigma's featured photographer in their 2007-2008 advertising campaign. My fine art photography is sold in local Miami galleries. I'm been involved in photography for 25 years---you are obviously much older than me, so I need to also keep in mind that you probably have a different experience with Sigma lenses from their early years. You also might have missed the fact that I own one of those herd cameras, a Canon 5D mK II which I like very much. I also own number of Canon EOS-1V pro film cameras not to mention my complete Mamiya RB567 studio camera system which I use in the studio. The purpose of my post is to address the comments made regarding the SD1M which were very negative. I have no proof how competent a photographer you are--but your opinion that Sigma produces only inferior products that wouldn't benefit any photography is incredulous. I base my opinion on Sigma based on my first DSLR purchase I made from them, the Sigma SD9 when it was introduced til the introduction of the SD1M of late. My experience is completely different and continues to be a good one. I love Sigma lenses and am very fond of the foveon technology and their cameras regardless how The price of the SD1M has dropped recently and while this niche camera isn't for everyone---Sigma sent me one to shoot with for a month and I will own one very shortly. I'm sorry you hate Sigma and you believe that Sigma lenses and products are not good choices for photographers--that is your opinion and I respectfully disagree. Regarding herd mentality--this phenomena does happen in the photography world--people so set on one particular brand with rigidity. Sigma lenses and cameras are extensively tested by third party magazines and photography related websites like etc and the glowing reviews are too numerous to count for Sigma lenses. My personal experience which is my own opinion is positive. There are hundreds of reviews on Sigma ex pro lenses that if you add them up---you might realize that Sigma has grown up from its early years and is the largest privately owned third party lens manufacturer in the world. Things do change, companies can and do create better and better products---but unfortunately for Sigma--the herd mentality is something its marketing department has to overcome. Thousands of photographers including myself have had very positive experiences with Sigma lenses and products. I do actually care about quality and only insist on purchasing very high quality equipment and lenses for my photography business but also like value for my money. I know of dozens of worldclass pro photographers including my friend Jim Maxwell who is in my opinion one of the best glamour photographers in the U.S---and he uses Sigma professional lenses on his Nikons as well. The proof is out there that Sigma produces awesome products if someone will actually have an open mind and do some homework. Two of Sigma's lenses are absolutely amazing. Here is a list of some of Sigma's best lenses:
70mm f2.8 Ex macro
105mm F2.8 Ex macro OS
50mm f1.4
the new 70-200mm f2.8 EX OS
8-10mm f2.8 ex super wide.
The SD1M is shooting resolution in the 24-27MP range. Not bad for an APC sensored camera. I however is a very niche product and is not for everyone---but its lack of a low pass filter ( anti aliasing filter) makes for extreme soft image detail and lovely micro contrast. Enough Said. Take care and good shooting!

4:18 pm - Friday, April 6, 2012

#9 gary mercer

I'm one of Sigma's featured pro photographers from advertising campaign 2007-2008 and have extensive experience with Sigma Professional lenses and DSLRS. My work is sold in galleries in Miami and also is in the permanent collection of the Frost Museum. I will address your very negative comments and opinions regarding Sigma.
Fact: Sigma is the largest privately owned third party lens manufacturer in the world
Sigma's newest pro ex lens offering reviews are extremely positive.
Just read the reviews--that tells the real truth about Sigma pro EX lenses compared to the big three in addition to the fact that these lenses are a great value and have five year warranties in the U.S.
I would like to encourage other photographers and hobbiests to think outside the box, outside the herd mentality that send the message that only Nikon and Canon reign supreme. There is a place in this world for other camera manufacturers---it creates competition and this is good for consumers. The SD1M is a quirky camera but those like myself who have had the opportunity to shoot with it for an extended period of time love it. Regarding your comments that the SD1M isn't a good choice for any photographer to purchase---my images and work is proof to the contrary along with many other photographers using Sigma professional DSLRs and Pro EX lenses. I own other systems as well for my photography business. I use the right camera for the job. I have a complete Mamiya medium format system for use in the studio and of course, Canon pro cameras and DSLRs as well and a fair amount of very nice Canon L glass so I certainly don't have the herd mentality of only purchasing one brand of camera and lenses. By the way--the SD1M is much more reasonably priced, has one of the quietest shutters of any DSLR I've shot with and its other pro features make it an outstanding camera providing images in the range of 24-27MP in detail---I'm impressed by the images I shot with it and have posted some in my test gallery for people to peruse. HAPPY SHOOTING!

4:40 pm - Friday, April 6, 2012

#10 rob

Well, Gary, the article was not about you - it was about a piece of photographic equipment. And yet, you take it so personally, as if I attacked you personally.

My point was and is that Sigma is a second-grade (perhaps even third-grade) manufacturer who has some very good designs but they blow them at the production stage. Careless manufacturing (lack of lens optical alignment is their common problem) and lack of quality control made me miserable while I've attempted to use their lenses. True, it's been a while ago, but I read reviews and users opinions on numerous fora, so it's safe for me to say at any time, that I would never again buy any product from Sigma.

BTW, I never said I was a professional for 40 years. I said, I was involved with photography - as an amateur and as a pro - for that amount of time. You must have missed that...

So, don't take this issue so seriously. Sigma sends you their equipment for testing, so - obviously - you like them. I don't. That is about all we can say in this matter. I am not going to return to this topic.

9:53 pm - Monday, April 9, 2012