Sigma SD15 Review

August 23, 2010 | Gavin Stoker | |

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#1 Alexei

Thank you for the review! This is first longer review in the net. Though, I do not understand one thing. Why you tested Sigma camera with JPEG format?

foveon is made for RAW shooting. Files are small and contains tremendous ammount of information. If you shoot jpeg you loose this information.

for example noise reduction. You checked JPEG out of the camera but it is a well know fact that you must copy sigma RAWs to PC and let SPP to remove the noise according your taste.

Really, this review targeted for people who never shot in RAW format. Not for photographers.

12:41 pm - Monday, August 23, 2010

#2 Paulo Plentz

Tks for this review! I really like Sigma SD15 and Foveon X3 Sensor.

I think it will be the future of photography. You have to look the same pic of normal Bayer sensor and compare with sigma. Foveon gives you a realistic look, no color problems, no aberration at all and the type of noise created by the sensor is the best to deal with, keeping the detail in.

As Alexei said, the review was a little directed to jpg photografers, read amateurs and/or general public.

But Sigma SLR is designed to people that will work with the pic and want the bes result out of the camera.

Btw, I own a Canon 50D.

12:56 pm - Monday, August 23, 2010

#3 John

Dear Alexei.
Hardly any review sites shoot RAW because it adds to the time needed to review the product.
There are RAW samples on the ‘Sample Images’ page for you to download and process according to your tastes.
And please don’t be so arrogant. Shooting RAW does not make you a photographer. Most professional photographers shoot jpeg, as they know how to set their camera properly. They do not have to rely on post to get things right.

3:04 pm - Monday, August 23, 2010

#4 Lawrence Rolograaf

Thank you for the review, I am missing some words about the size and thus the crop-factor of this Foveon sensor. I found out elsewhere it is between Canon ASP-C and four-thirds, so between cropfactor 1.6 and 2. Do you think it is not important to mention this?

Lawrence Rolograaf

3:58 pm - Monday, August 23, 2010

#5 adrian


With all due respect, the whole point of the Sigma Foveon camera is actually RAW shooting; the SD9 and SD10 only shot RAW, and jpeg was introduced with the SD14 as a compromise, but the real beauty, power and potential of this Foveon chip lies in the RAW images it produces. This compromise in the SD14 wasn’t great, and every serious user of a Sigma camera knew that the jpeg was not was this camera was all about. The SD15 may have improved the jpeg quality, but nevertheless, this camera, for anyone serious about this camera, is about its RAW potential.

A review that doesn’t truly look at the true intention of a camera, and its full potential, is not ultimately doing its readers a real service.

In that sense, this review comes up a little short. Why can I say this: because when opening the RAW images on this site in SPP, you can truly see how amazing these RAW shots are, not just by themselves, but also especially when compared to the jpegs by the SD15 as well.

I think Sigma Corp. has made is abundantly clear that the real strength of the Foveon chip is revealed when shooting RAW.

4:03 pm - Monday, August 23, 2010

#6 Anthony

John, I’m going to have to agree with the rest of the commenters.  I am not a Sigma owner, yet I too know that Sigma’s need to be shot in RAW for best results. It’s not a matter of “real photographers” or not.  It’s a matter of knowing your tools and using them to the best of their ability; Every professional Sigma Photgrapher shoots RAW. Should it be knocked for poor JPEG output?  Sure, however that should not dismiss you from commenting the stellar quality of the RAW files.

6:06 pm - Monday, August 23, 2010

#7 Adrian

The crop actor for the Sigma is 1.7

Thus, for example, a 14mm lens on the Sigma acts like a 24mm lens on a full-frame camera.

7:06 pm - Monday, August 23, 2010

#8 falsafay

A review with full of ambiguity, especially the conclusion. I never used Sigma camera, but as repeated by many commentators that if SD is known for its Raw feature, how can you review or reach to any conclusion without focusing on images from raw?

Second, crop factor is the key of any DSLR, especially those who are not familier with SD. It appears that reviewer completely missed it.

Reader expect that a review from a site like this would be comprehensive, unbiased and not ax to grind, but unfortunately it was not upto par.

7:26 pm - Monday, August 23, 2010

#9 Lawrence Rolograaf

thanks Adrian, Would you think Sigma will ever try a Foveon Full Frame, or would that be too pricey to be marketable>

7:26 pm - Monday, August 23, 2010

#10 Øyvind Strøm

Thanks for the review. Quite through.
One small error, the viewfinder shows 96%, not 98%. (Its 98% horisontally, and vertically)

I see your point, lot of people, including pros, prefer to get ready jpegs out of the camera. However, I must say that this camera simply isn’t for them. My experience with the SD14, for some 25.000+ images - also pro use - is that on any serious shooting, you will be shooting RAW.
Normally, you can batch process your images, so it should not slow you much, but RAW just gives you so much more to play with, should it be needed.
I think other cameras make it easier to achieve good JPEGs out of the camera. The SD15 just isn’t in-camera JPEG optimized. Noone would shoot a wedding with SD15 in JPEG only.

Foveon (owned by Sigma) s working hard on a new sensor. I expect it to be a 14x3 mp Full Frame. In a few years time.

8:15 pm - Monday, August 23, 2010


Reviewer concentrated on the exterior and easy of use and almost completelly ignored the topic how to make a good picture with this camera. Sad :)

8:16 pm - Monday, August 23, 2010

#12 Lawrence Rolograaf

Wow that would be interesting! I would not need an extreme increase of Mega-pixels, but it would be nice to be reasonably noise-free at high ISOs.

Lawrence Rolograaf

8:43 pm - Monday, August 23, 2010

#13 sam

A full frame Foveon sensor is wishful thinking. Most full frame sensors today are made with more than one pass because the steppers that fabricate the chips cannot make a single exposure for a chip that large. A full frame single layer chip is expensive and difficult enough, but a three layer chip with everything lined up perfectly in multiple passes is difficult to impossible.

At some point it will be possible to make larger sensors in one pass, but it’s going to be Nikon and Canon who do it first, not Sigma, but even if Sigma did manage to do it, 14 megapixels a few years from now is too little, too late with the likes of Canon having a 21 megapixel full frame camera and Nikon expected to have something similar in a few weeks.

Plus, given the low sales of Sigma cameras, it’s not really a good business plan to even try for full frame. They won’t sell enough to recoup their expenses.

There’s a reason why Foveon has been 1.7x all along. The sensor is difficult to make and grows more complex as the size gets bigger.

10:05 pm - Monday, August 23, 2010

#14 adrian

A lot of camera reviews leave me kind of cold, as they often seem subjective, biased, repeat popular feelings for no good reasons (e.g. camera has no live view? Is that really so important?).

Sigma proudly caters to the purists among photographers, perhaps a dying breed. But this is an aspect of Sigma that should be celebrated, or at least acknowledged positively, and not criticized by comparing it to other brands with all the bells and whistles, which confuse users, is total overkill in most cases, and doesn’t really serve the purpose of photography.

Sigma doesn’t want idiot proof photography. it wants photographers to be totally involved with what they are doing. A bad thing? No, I don’t think so. For everybody? Of course not, and it doesn’t have to be.

Yes, many professionals shoot jpeg only, e.g. news photographers, because their dissemination format is jpeg. So they need fast acting cameras that take great jpegs. Great. Nikons and Canons for them out there galore.

Sigma caters to a different crowd, and I commend them for that wholeheartedly. I am very happy that there is a manufacturer that uses the great Foveon chip. Without anyone out there using this chip, photography would be the poorer for it.

My 2 cents.

12:01 am - Tuesday, August 24, 2010

#15 William Wilgus

Yes, the Sigma dSLRs are all about shooting RAW.  With the Foveon sensor, you don’t need as many pixels as with a Bayer sensor to get high quality large prints.  I’m an amateur and bought a SD-9 because it was the most affordable of the choices I had.  I count myself lucky to have gone with Sigma, and have gotten the SD10 and SD14.  I’ll soon be getting the SD15 as well.  One thing about the Foveon sensors that everyone seems to miss, however, it that it’s more sensitive to camera shake.  If you want sharp pix, you need to minimize shake.

12:16 am - Tuesday, August 24, 2010

#16 Tim

I think I’m glad to have got the 550D then!

In this review it seems as though everything the SD15 does is half-hearted, sub-par or worse. I don’t mind the idea of a simple P,M,A,S-only mode-dial, although that’s not for me these days - the mode doesn’t make your photos any the better for being oh-so-manual-all-the-way, it’s only supposed to help make it easier for you to achieve what *you* visualise and if a “landscape” preset gets you there, that’s fine by me.

I had a SD9 and its exposure-metering was whacked. Always needed +2/3rd EV compensation, at least. Reviewer comments please?

I’ve been using a Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 lens for a few years on a Nikon D200 and I think it’s gone soft on me, somehow. Further information about that lens would be valuable; the review should compare a couple of lenses to be on the safe side before blaming the sensor, as previous SD-series dSLRs have been notably *sharp* due to the lack of bayer anti-alias filtering.

And ultimately, as the review rightly hints, you get naff-all megapixels for your £900. The money can do better elsewhere, so I really don’t see why anyone would want it.

12:21 am - Tuesday, August 24, 2010

#17 raist3d

Tha ms for the review. I think you u covered some interesting observations.  One oo t of co te toon that has been brought already though: 

To asses the quality of this cAmera raw shooting was a must.  Unlike some other comments, I don’t believe for a second you need to ‘shoot raw to be a pro’. The real problem is that the sigma jpeg engine is not i. The same class as some competitors and doesn’t do justice to the foveon for the mos part

Fir example with my dp2 I notice tons of crisp detail shooting fro. Raw. now this was an sd 15 so maybe the lenses being zooms and not single focal aren’t as sharp but I can vouch there is a big difference. Between the raw output of the sigma and it’s jpeg engine

I really wish the review was updated to take this Into account, but at least I am very grateful that as always you included raw files I. The review.  Thanks for reading.


1:01 am - Tuesday, August 24, 2010

#18 Action

It is a real shame that the author focused on the jpg component of the camera.  SPP is an amazing part of the Sigma process.  It is free and regularly upgraded, which Canon and Nikon cannot say.  To optimize RAW images for the Canon or Nikon in a similar fashion you have to either go the Adobe route or the DxO route, both of which add $$$ and upgrades cost.

Having owned an SD9 and really loved its output when properly metered (-2/3 stop is about right) and shot with a low iso, I applaud Sigma for sticking with development of the Foven sensor.  While I have since moved onto Nikon (kid shots were just too difficult to get just right with the older Sigma with its limited iso range), the potential of Sigma in landscapes and particularly macro photography is pretty hard to beat.  Images out of Foven sensors shot properly are hard for full frame bayer sensors to beat.  It really is a major shame that the author missed the boat in comparison as jpg is not really the point with this camera.

1:56 am - Tuesday, August 24, 2010

#19 Yum

No wonder it’s so cheap. I guess it doesn’t matter whether it has a super sensor or not, if the photos look like shite. Why is the ISO 1600 so damned noisy? 3200 looks better!

Very disappointing. Especially now that we’re so used to seeing some super cameras.

2:19 am - Tuesday, August 24, 2010

#20 Frank


the reviews on this site are quite OK, until it comes to image quality. No serious photograph - or even hobbyist - takes jpeg images. Everybody knows that you can get better quality with RAW and some work on your computer.

So all you do is sort DSLRs regarding the quality of their built-in jpeg converter. This is dramatical with Sigma, but also with all the others, since Canon and Nikon are known for too much denoising in theierr jpegs, Pentax does less and has therefore more noise, and Sigma has no good jpegs at all. But try the RAW instead, you’ll be astonished!

Sadly, this is the first SD15 review, but unfortunately a crappy one.

6:26 am - Tuesday, August 24, 2010

#21 Raist

@Frank - I am sorry but this “serious/pro photographers don’t shoot JPEG” myth has to die. This is not true at all! there are several professionals that shoot JPEG for many reasons, in particular workflow and it all depends on the JPEG engine.

Fuji S5 pro has a fantastic JPEG engine capturing tons of DR (more than the Sigma Foveon). Olympus has a great JPEG engine also. I agree the SD15 should be shot in RAW but that’s not because its’a pro photographer thing or not, but because on the Sigma the difference between JPEG and RAW is night and day- this reflects on the poor JPEG engine, not on the “professionalism.”

IN fact this actually means for some pro works, the SD15 won’t be adequate as a JPEG workflow is best for those.

6:56 am - Tuesday, August 24, 2010

#22 kelsci

I looked at the sample JPEG pics posted here.  Image quality of 3!  When enlarged these pics looked sharp and colorful to my eyes; in fact better color and sharpness then many of the cameras tested on this site.

7:10 am - Tuesday, August 24, 2010

#23 CharlySierra X3F

Hi John

About the image quality this is a not serios review. I quote Lawrence and others….You must do it with a RAW file and with a paragon of the same image made with the same Sigma lens with Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sony etc…etc…

The color quality of Foveon and his tridimensionality are uniques…..

All the bests


7:13 am - Tuesday, August 24, 2010

#24 Max Lane

As a longtime owner of Sigma Foveon cameras, from the SD9 to the SD15, I was stunned at your focus on JPG images, and your failing to even mention Sigma’s image processing program; Sigma Photo Pro.

As others have mentioned, the Sigma SD series has always been a RAW image camera, first and foremost, with JPG capability added-on late in the series. Of the hundreds of thousands of Sigma images I’ve shot over the years, less than a dozen have been JPGs, if that.

But you really shot yourselves in BOTH feet with this comment:  “Most professional photographers shoot jpeg, as they know how to set their camera properly.”  Correction: Most professionals who don’t have the time to process RAW images shoot JPG, such as those working under deadlines.

Choosing to shoot RAW has nothing to do with “knowing how to set their camera properly”, but has everything to do with knowing that a RAW image file has far more information available for post processing than does a JPG. As any imaging professional knows, you can never have too much information. And ignoring that basic truth is what’s truly arrogant.

7:21 am - Tuesday, August 24, 2010

#25 Raist

@Max Lane

While I agree with a lot of what you said I take issue with this:

“As any imaging professional knows, you can never have too much information.
And ignoring that basic truth is what’s truly arrogant.”

I am sorry but this is pretty arrogant too. Yes, sometimes you can have too much information. A professional knows when too much is too much. There’s some truth to setting the camera right and shooting a JPEG ready to go also.

A lot of people out there shoot RAW simply because it has more “math bits” disregarding that the JPEG while being 8-bit is not a linear distribution of data like RAW, so the 8bits have more weight than many think (just take any Sigma RAW image, convert it to JPEG once you are done with it and see what I mean. You can surely represent it that way right?).

  And some cling to RAW on this as if for some reason in the future there will be this magical raw converter that will make their images better- if the image wasn’t compelling to begin with, no RAW converter is going to do anything.

  Now, I say this in response to the blind rule that “more bits = better” by itself. I quite frankly find both positions arrogant. Both have their use.

7:31 am - Tuesday, August 24, 2010

#26 Ed

I have had a SD14 for the last 6 months and have a love hate relationship with it. Yes the image quality is excellent but the camera is fiddly and mine has a terrible yellow colour cast that no amount of pp seems to be able to remove. So I have been scrounging the net for a SD15 review hoping to read about how the camera has been improved since the SD14 and how the issues I stated (quite common with SD14) have been fixed.

Now reading the comments there seems to be a lot of flaming about the reviews focus on JPG quality etc. I must say I agree with Raists comment that a camera should be able to produce JPGs out of the box without having to fiddle with them in PS/LR/SPP afterwards.
BUT (and it is a big BUT) Sigma has still not optimised their jpg quality algorithms for this camera! A simple test is try and achieve the same amount of sharpness from an in camera JPG, RAW and JPG from RAW file. You simply cannot retrieve the same amount of fine detail from the in camera JPG that you can from a X3F. This is just one issue. White balance has always been a problem with JPG and we all know that Sigma’s cameras have not been the best with WB!

A few other nitbits about the quality of the sample images in this review. Most were taken under horribly overcast conditions, many are incorrectly exposed, completely out of focus and alot were taken at aperture where the lens could simply not resolve enough detail to show off the Foveon sensor.

And that is my last point. This camera is all about the Foveon sensor, its colour accuracy and the amount of fine detail it can resolve!!!

All in all, thank you for the review. It was nice to see that Sigma has at least improved the body design and improved the LCD!

PS Where is all this generalisation coming from that “Pro’s mostly use JPGs”????? I have NEVER used JPGs and most of my friends don’t either. I can understand if your a high speed action shoot but then you are definately looking at the wrong camera!

9:24 am - Tuesday, August 24, 2010

#27 Saturn

Sigma SD15 Review???
No, it is a joke

5:02 pm - Tuesday, August 24, 2010

#28 Max Lane

Replying to Raist:

“As any imaging professional knows, you can never have too much information.
And ignoring that basic truth is what’s truly arrogant.” - me

“I am sorry but this is pretty arrogant too. Yes, sometimes you can have too much information. A professional knows when too much is too much. There’s some truth to setting the camera right and shooting a JPEG ready to go also.” -

No need to apologize, really, but thanks. I think we may be talking about two different types of information. I don’t mean a cluttered shot, ... I mean basic information gathered by the camera’s sensor, of which you can never have “too much”.

“Just take any Sigma RAW image, convert it to JPEG once you are done with it and see what I mean. You can surely represent it that way right?” - you

How you ultimately present the image to the audience has nothing to do with this issue. Conversion to JPG, or another “printer friendly” format, is simply a final step. Going directly to JPG (unless you have to) is like shooting single-pass Polaroids (the type without negatives) just to prove you can. Worse yet, JPGs deteriorate, and RAW files don’t. 

  “And some cling to RAW on this as if for some reason in the future there will be this magical raw converter that will make their images better- if the image wasn’t compelling to begin with, no RAW converter is going to do anything.” - you

Magical converters in the future? Got some news for ya; ... the Sigma RAW converter has been updated and improved a number of times. Nothing magical about it. The latest of these can noticeably improve older RAW images, ... and any image, shot by anyone, no matter how compelling, can be improved by state-of-the-art imaging advancements. Comparing it to film; ...better paper, better framing, better glass, better inks, etc., none of which changes the “art” involved, just the presentation. And on a related note, when shooting film, did you save your negatives and slides?

  “Now, I say this in response to the blind rule that “more bits = better” by itself. I quite frankly find both positions arrogant. Both have their use.” - you

If all other things are equal, in imaging “more” is always better. It can’t help but be so. You can always toss what you don’t need, but you can’t add what you don’t have, ...well, not without PhotoShop, of course.

5:07 pm - Tuesday, August 24, 2010

#29 Alexei

IMHO, another reason it is a bad idea to use JPEG on sigma is a resolution of the final image.

When you take traditinal 14MP Bayer camera image it has 4times more pixels (bad ones) then 14mp foveon (good ones)

when you encode that ammount of bad bayer pixels with JPEG, artifacts introduced by JPEg are just hidden inside those bad pixels. In case of Foveon incamera JPEG just destroys it sharpnes and details since it introduce same artifacts but to 4 time less pixels - so 4 times more artifacts.

If you want to print Foveon image it is better to keep it in RAW format and printer will use all RAW information to print beautiful picture.

5:14 pm - Tuesday, August 24, 2010

#30 Raist

@Max Lane

“No need to apologize, really, but thanks. I think we may be talking about two different types of information. I don’t mean a cluttered shot, ... I mean basic information gathered by the camera’s sensor, of which you can never have “too much”.”

  Yes, I am also talking about shot you get.

“How you ultimately present the image to the audience has nothing to do with this issue. Conversion to JPG, or another “printer friendly” format, is simply a final step. Going directly to JPG (unless you have to) is like shooting single-pass Polaroids (the type without negatives) just to prove you can. Worse yet, JPGs deteriorate, and RAW files don’t.

  My point is that if you can create a JPEG out of SPP that looks superb, you could in theory create one out of camera. JPGS *do not* deteriorate- only if you resave as JPEG. You can save back as PNG or TIFF. This is another myth, imho.

  More importantly this isn’t “to prove you can”- is because for workflow reasons, as a professional, JPEGS do have many benefits. And yes, it is true many pros *do shoot JPEG*. This whole thing that “pros shoot only RAW” is a myth.  If you are doing something where you are good with exposure and can get consistent results to get a good job done JPEG can certainly be the way to go and will give benefits.

“Magical converters in the future? Got some news for ya; ... the Sigma RAW converter has been updated and improved a number of times. Nothing magical about it. The latest of these can noticeably improve older RAW images, ... and any image, shot by anyone, no matter how compelling, can be improved by state-of-the-art imaging advancements. Comparing it to film; ...better paper, better framing, better glass, better inks, etc., none of which changes the “art” involved, just the presentation. And on a related note, when shooting film, did you save your negatives and slides?”

  Yes, I said magical converters in the future. What I mean is if your shot wasn’t good enough to begin with nothing will save it Yes, I know SPP has been improved (or made worse- check out how the nice B&W conversion at high ISO is much much worse under the latest SPP’s- something even Carl Rytterfalk commented on and I totally agree with him). But the problem here is that yes, the Sigma JPEG engine is pretty bad. This is I totally agree that using a Sigma camera = using RAW to show the Foveon at its best.  Make no mistake, I wouldn’t be saying the same shooting Olympus or Fuji for example- because their JPEG engines are that good.

  But an image say with SPP 3.3/3.5 in color that looks great won’t benefit much moving forward at all- unless you mean something more high ISO which is always a problem with the Foveon and more R&D could be done there.  On other cameras RAW conversion has hit for the most part diminishing returns on well exposed shots.  With the Foveon there still seems a more reserve for a bit more R&D simply because it wasn’t the popular option (and still isn’t) so less money was put into that.

  Shooting a JPEG is more akin to shooting a slide, and there are photographers who did shoot and shot slides. And yes, there are professional photographers that do shoot JPEG- this is the big myth- that there aren’t. Why else do you think a camera as expensive as a Nikon D3X would still support JPEG output?  Did you read Carl’s Rytterfalk article when he had to shoot JPEGs with his Sigma and why in a studio environment?

  “If all other things are equal, in imaging “more” is always better. It can’t help but be so. You can always toss what you don’t need, but you can’t add what you don’t have, ...well, not without PhotoShop, of course.”

  That’s not true at all. If you are getting the results you want with a JPEG you are just wasting your time with RAW.  You can toss out what you don’t need at the time of capture for many jobs and situations, and keeping “more” is just more time on your workflow.  Do some research and check out the pros that shoot JPEG_ they exist. And they aren’t producing bad work.

6:48 pm - Tuesday, August 24, 2010

#31 Raist


“When you take traditinal 14MP Bayer camera image it has 4times more pixels (bad ones) then 14mp foveon (good ones)

when you encode that ammount of bad bayer pixels with JPEG, artifacts introduced by JPEg are just hidden inside those bad pixels. In case of Foveon incamera JPEG just destroys it sharpnes and details since it introduce same artifacts but to 4 time less pixels - so 4 times more artifacts.”

  That may be true but that doesn’t have to do with JPEG- that has to do with Sigma’s JPEG engine.  If you can have SPP save a beautiful JPEG from RAW you could in theory have the same algorithm in camera do the same.  Of course, maybe it’s too complex to handle on the “True II” processor but that’s not a limitation of JPEG, but a limitation of Sigma.

6:50 pm - Tuesday, August 24, 2010

#32 hannes

pro and jpeg:
for sure there are pros shooting jpegs, especially in journalism, but i guess sigmas lend themselfs more to slow but thorough work as in studio.

jpeg and foveon:
foveon packs a roughly equal amount of light sensing spots on an array of 4.6 mio cells (3 colours on top of each other in 1 cell), while standard sensors pack theirs on 3 times as many cells (one/cell); in turn their output requires a great deal of post processing (starting form interpolation of 2/3rds of its final pixel count, anti-aliasing filter etc) to blow up the picture to the tag mega pixel count. This “excess” of information (66%!!) justifies usage of compressed file formats as jpg (as adjacent pixels don’t differ much), while to a foveon sensor output this would do harm image quality as the latter does not contain (as much) redundant information.
Aside of pixel counts, developing from Raw permits to control & monitor (on a calibrated 27” device) the conversion process, and make use of tremendous dynamic range rather than leave this job to some in-camera processor and std. setting. despite top computer hw, spp processing times suggest usage of quite elaborate conversion algorithms that i can hardly imagine to run in-camera (performance, battery drain etc).

now you may not be too surprised to read that i actually prefer 16bit tiffs over 8bit jpgs ;o).

8:31 pm - Tuesday, August 24, 2010

#33 Raist


Yes, again, on the Sigma, it’s much better to do the RAW because the JPEG engine isn’t very good. The Fuji S5 Pro has far and away more DR than the Sigma Foveon, and its JPEG engine does a fantastic job of making sure the highlights don’t burn. You even have control as a photographer to set the camera when you want the super dynamic range and when not (another common misconception- that more DR is always unequivocally better). Fuji clearly understands this well.

The reason the algorithms are not running in camera is a technology issue. Clearly Sigma doesn’t have the resources for it. Fuji’s S5 Pro doing all the stunts for dynamic range and the Fuji honey comb interpolation isn’t trivial either, yet it does a superb job with the JPEGS.

The whole bit thing is again hugely misunderstood. 8/16 bits of TIFF’s cant’ be really compared to saying “8 bit jpegs” because the color/luminance space on those tiffs is divided linearly while the JPEG’s is non linear per section. This means the JPEG’s are actually representing much more data that it may seem at first.

But this is very simple- do this test: get a RAW to 16 bit- an image of your preference. Now get Adobe Photoshop or Elements (not SPP) to convert to a JPEG at its highest quality setting.  Look at both images and tell me the differences you see.  Print both and tell me when you notice a difference.

Theory is good. Practice is always better.

8:39 pm - Tuesday, August 24, 2010

#34 Alexei


JPEG is a lossy format. It groups pixels for example 16x16 and then record them as an aproximate function that takes much less space. During this process JPEG loses data about individual pixels whater JPEG quality your choose. On Bayer camera it is not really critical since Bayer images are inflated 3x times due to bayer pattern. But this is bad for Foveon images.


8:52 pm - Tuesday, August 24, 2010

#35 Raist


Yes, JPEG is a lossy format but you can do very high quality compression. That it is a non issue for Bayer as it isn’t for Sigma (assuming JPEGS were an issue) is not true. You need to inflate the Bayer as you say but you also have extra spatial data that the Foveon doesn’t have. This is why a high megapixel count Bayer still does capture more detail than the Sigma and it’s not 3x but more like 2x.

  And as for “bad for Foveon” just do the experiment I described. Convert with SPP your favorite image to 16 bit, then save it as a high quality JPEG form Photoshop (even saving directly from SPP would work actually) and look for the differences. If you need to pixel peep for more than 5-10 minutes then it isn’t a real issue.

  Also JPEG doesn’t compress in 16x16 blocks - it’s 8 x 8 blocks. The data here is encoded and non-linearly transformed, so those 8bits have more weight than the bits alone would suggest. And this varies per block so a block on the shades is encoded differently from a block in the light.. meaning you have a far richer image than “8 bits” would suggest.

  But enough theory- just do the experiment. After all all the “ooh and aah’s, the Foveon is great pictures” images that people look at are all JPEGS pretty much, not 16 bit TIFFS.  What you think is in hour computer screen usually? Decompressed JPEGS.

9:00 pm - Tuesday, August 24, 2010

#36 hannes


re tiff vs jpeg i am quite sure you’re right as far as colour precision is concerned (then again .. a clear sky with near zero noise and your test procedure should tell.. am too curious on that!), but my experience tells there is a slight lack of sharpness that comes along with converion to jpeg. sharpening (um) might help but what are the exact settings (throughout the image) to compensate for jpg’s little flaws.
Admittedly, i do save most of my files as 8bit-jpgs.

and thanks for the interesting discussion!! one never ceases to learn..


9:26 pm - Tuesday, August 24, 2010

#37 @hannes

“experience tells there is a slight lack of sharpness that comes along with converion to jpeg. sharpening (um) might help but what are the exact settings (throughout the image) to compensate for jpg’s little flaws.”

  That’s usually because JPEGS are compressed not at their highest quality settings. Try “12” in SPP or “100” in Photoshop.
  And I want to make one thing clear, there are their advantages to 16 bit Tiffs, in particular if you are going to post process (or RAW for that matter). I just think JPEG has a myth/bad rep about it though and I feel it’s important to correct it. Many pros do shoot and sell work in JPEG and it looks great.

  I really think often the “but this has extra bits” is more a “what if” obsession more than real world use.

9:34 pm - Tuesday, August 24, 2010

#38 Max Lane


It appears we’ve gone full circle.

If, as you’ve mentioned, “the Sigma JPG engine isn’t very good”, and if, as we Sigma users have mentioned, we didn’t buy our Sigmas for their JPG output, but rather for their RAW output (which is what the camera was designed for from the very beginning), why focus so much of your review of their newest camera on something you admit knowing was not THEIR primary focus when designing that camera?

In short, if you don’t like cameras that choose not to use JPG’s as their primary imaging format, then so be it. But please don’t let your pro-JPG bias cloud your opinion of those who think otherwise.

We all made a specific choice when we bought Sigma equipment, as did Sigma when they designed that equipment. If you review their products, at least have the courtesy to test their primary imaging system, rather than one you deem superior.

3:37 am - Wednesday, August 25, 2010

#39 Raist3d

@Max Lane

Pardon me if it seems we have gone in full circle. I think you and I totally agree that if they were going to review the Sigma, they needed to use RAW because the camera far and away shines more that way.

The reason I mention that the Sigma JPEG engine is not very good is because it’s very different to say “you shoot Sigma in RAW because its JPEG engine isn’t as good” vs “real pros shoot RAW anyway.”  It is the last statement I have an issue with.

You and I both agree that the review should have used RAW for this camera, to asses what you can do with it.

I am not letting my pro-JPEG bias cloud anything. I have and love my DP2 and I use RAW for that reason. While I like JPEG, I use RAW for the DP2 because the difference in it and its JPEG engine is huge, and it’s the way to really show what the Foveon can do.

But the reason shouldn’t be “because pros use RAW”, “Because RAW is simply better” or worse “oh jpeg is only 8 bits” without taking into consideration the encoding an linearity vs non linearity.

Also please don’t say “you review” - this isn’t my review. We are discussing photoblog, I didn’t do their review.

Anyhow we both agree they should have used raw.

4:04 am - Wednesday, August 25, 2010

#40 Max Lane


Please accept my apologies. Somehow in all the back and forth here, I mistakenly thought that you worked for Photography Blog, or that you were involved in the review.

Anyway, it was a fun debate. And again, my mistake.

5:59 am - Wednesday, August 25, 2010

#41 Raist3d

@ Max Lane

No worries, it’s the internet. It can be all confusing ;-) Anyway I agree with you, they should have assessed the camera in RAW.
It makes for the Sigma such a HUGE difference and SPP is actually a pleasure to use as far as RAW conversions go.

6:26 am - Wednesday, August 25, 2010

#42 Robin

Well, what could we expect from this site? Give a special DSLR to reviewers usually testing consumer cams (and rating 4 out of 5 IQ) ... and that’s what you get!

Let’s wait until this cam is reviewed by a site knowing about foveon.

12:30 pm - Wednesday, August 25, 2010

#43 Rich

People who read the review and made comments here are those die hard fans wanted Sigma to succeed.  Why are there so few reviews and user reviews?  Not enough people bought the cameras.  Sigma should set the price to $599.99 to get everybody on board.  So there are enough SD15 related postings with photos taken with SD15.

6:46 pm - Wednesday, August 25, 2010

#44 Alexei


cannot agree with you more. My DP1 camera died. I would have bought SD15 if the price tag is ~500-600 Euro. But it is 950 Euro in Finland for body only. No way I’m going to shell so much money. I do not have any sigma lenses , so I have no reason to buy SD15 for such big money. Still I want Foveon. So, I’m considering Sigma DP2 + Canon 550D combination.

7:01 pm - Wednesday, August 25, 2010

#45 Juraj

SD15 should have costed some 3000-4000 USD, and the review should havebeen made with some quality prime. Noimages except monocrome CCD or MOS (with, or without color filtering) can produce images of such a precise microcontrast, like X3 sensors.
Ofcourse X3 have a lot of problems, but this is still the best technology for capturing images of outstanding 3D look.
This camera, as goes with other Foveon cameras shouldn’t be reviewed and compared to Bayer sensor cameras, and vice versa.
Different cameras are made for different things. Mind that Medium frame cameras have high ISO as crappy, or worse than X3 cameras, and are highly appreciated exactly because of details and colour fidelity that X3 cameras also deliver.
Instead of attacking Sigma, one should prise them for bringing cutting edge technology to people at cheap prices. Minad also that they need to do all of their R&D, and that isn’t cheap at any point.
Regarding the RAW/JPEG pro shooting comment - this is a pure nonsense. Lightroom, DxO and other RAW programs ease and streamline RAW development, producing distinctly better quality results of a much higher color gamut than most of the cameras are able to output.

1:07 pm - Thursday, August 26, 2010

#46 Raist3d


  If the SD15 costed $3,000-$4,000 USD it would have never sold. As you said the X3 does have its share of problems and the Foveon used is like 4 years old. In technology that’s quite a long time and the sensor is only one aspect of the camera.

At the $3,000-$4,000 bracket you can get cameras that can capture also quite the look and a lot more detail.

As for color gamut, may I remind you the Sigma’s are stuck at 12 bits while there are cameras now using14 bit ADC’s.

The *only* think the SD15 has “special” is the sensor. Everything else was pure catch up and it’s still lagging behind.

7:21 pm - Thursday, August 26, 2010

#47 Juraj


Yes, yes, your points are good, tho I still have a bit different opinion. Here are the replicas:

4 years doesn’t matter. The internet is filled all over with loads of studio and generic tests, that don’t show much, as much you can’t test.

Regarding the price; yes, it would sell. Go and look how much Leicas cost. And they don’t bring that radically much like X3 does.

I will quote a recent conversation from industry specialist, after I’ve sent in DP1 image: “Could not get that 3D effect with any camera body or lens I have used.” - The guy uses D700 and top level lens.

Regarding bits: it is like buying a car. Or a mobile phone: “Look! Is has more megapixels!” or “My car has xxx HPs.” It doesn’t work that way. I would like it worked that way, but unfortunately, it does not (would make everyones life much simpler). Sigma RAWs pack incredible amount of “meat.” It is almost impossible to stripe the image. The only way I could get such rich tonalities is by using exposure stacking (or using some of the older CCD cameras, but they are still much poorer performers than X3).

The “only” thing I mind is image quality.
Camera drains batteries? Take several, and bring a charger.
Camera is slow? - Learn to use it better.
Camera is quirky? - Avoid quirky situations.

I will mention Leica camera again; their cameras are regarded as ultimate photographic instruments.  Take a look how many features their M9 7500 USD model sports.

Photography is simple by nature, photo companies made it complex.

8:36 pm - Thursday, August 26, 2010

#48 Raist


  In the sense that four years matter is that technology marches forward. The Foveon is overdue for an update honestly. High ISO performance is bad (and that with the alleged really big photosite areas), and a camera in the $3,000-$4,000 USD bracket is expected to perform better.

  Oh and yes, Leicas cost a lot. Yet they are far better built than many cameras around. Same goes for their lenses.  The Leicas also have Bayers without AA filters and the detail is superb.

  On the industry specialist- for every guy you quote like that there’s one that says Foveon has its issues and the difference in megapixels is so high that with a larger megapixel Bayer you can get more resolution and 3d look (also because there are Bayers with more dynamic range than the Sigma).

  I am not trying to knock down the Foveon but like you said it has its issues and at $3,000-$4,000 doesn’t seem to be it would are too well in many aspects vs the competition (the camera, the SD15).

  Finally a camera is much more than a sensor. If the camera doesn’t allow a particular photographer to take the shots, the sensor is useless. I don’t believe the SD15 is a match for everything out there and there are other cameras that are a better match.

  Please spare me the gospel on the “look! it has more megapixels”- I know it doesn’t work like that. But likewise when you have so much more megapixels (18/24) you do start getting to do things that even a Foveon 4.69 megapixels can’t match, even if the Foveon can still hold its own in some areas.

  oh and btw as for “raw having meat” - again you only have up to 12 bits. Many cameras now have 14 bits and a camera like the Nikon D3 sure seems to have real data there. But let’s go back a bit- take the Fuji S5 Pro SR- that camera has far and away vastly more dynamic range (or “meat” as you put it) than the Foveon RAW, at least where dynamic range is concerned.

    “Camera drains batteries? Take several, and bring a charger.
Camera is slow? - Learn to use it better.
Camera is quirky? - Avoid quirky situations.”

    I am sorry but there’s a point where you can’t compensate here. If for example you have a camera that does far better high ISO, it will be a great advantage well above an SD15 for shooting that wedding in side dark chapel or reception at night. You can’t compensate in all points. You can compensate up to a point and it depends what you are doing.

  As for the Leica M9- yes, it has the basics but has them done *very well*.  You won’t have better manual focusing than that range finder in many if not all DSLR’s.  And the image quality in many areas most likely exceeds the SD15, having a 18 megapixel AA less Bayer with better high ISO performance.


  All of this said, I don’t want to come across like I don’t see advantages for the Foveon. I do. But yes, I think an SD15 at $3k-$4k is marketing suicide.

9:05 pm - Thursday, August 26, 2010

#49 Juraj

Well, no camera is good for everything.
Mind that I am not a preacher for Sigma, nor I care too much about them. They produced a tool I use to make photos and that I regard highly. That is all, and thus there goes my opinion. May someone other make better camera in my opinion and I would buy it.

Megapixels - what for would you use 24 MPs? 5 MP of high quality is enough to get detailed prints meter of two across without any problems (Oly E1 as an example). Quality 10MPs gets you printed on a building. Sigma’s 4.7MP in quirky DP1 gets one into high-level stock business easier than any 10 MP Bayer camera. I needed to get DR lens for my 10MP system get through, and joke of a cheap DP1 produces 70% of the images good to go.

And to be honest, I feel like an idiot when I make flawless 50MB+ files that get used for websites.

For “meat:” I do use 14 bit system, and it is not better than X3s 12 bits. Borrow some X3 camera and try for yourself.

High ISO don’t touch me much, as anything about 800-1200 hardly gets good enough quality, except for most expensive system/lens combinations. I usually work up to 400 where most cameras do a good job.

“Older” X3s do exhibit problem at higher ISOs (under exposures), that manifested as “blotching”. This can easily get cleaned in postprocessing.

Mind that there are only a few cameras on the market that produce nice grain on higher ISO values, and X3s do that by default. One of the features I liked very much is the ability to photograph dark. Dark is dark. Take Canon 5D MK2 and photograph a hole, and you will get horizontal and vertical banding. Take Oly E3, photograph a Moon, and you will get the ugliest horizontal bands the world have seen. With X3 you get nice grain.

For M9 - yes, you are right, I just wanted to prove a concept. Mind that we are just comparing SD15 with a 7500$ camera.

Essentially, it doesn’t matter what you take pictures with, but camera with a good sensor (and lens, but with X3 that doesn’t matter that much, due to large photo-sites) gets you, or gets you not through the QC.

9:38 pm - Thursday, August 26, 2010

#50 Doug Barry-Martin

3 out of 5 for image qualities completely invalidates the (rather boring) review. This is a niche camera for image quality connoisseurs who shoot in RAW. Leave jpg for the P& S cameras. My SD14 easily outperforms my Canon 5D on a sunny day. The 5D is more versatile and has a better lens on it but the images I really love often come from the SD14. It produces very clean sharp (not soft), colorful and rich images straight from Raw with little working up in photoshop (unlike the 5D which needs a fair bit of massaging). The SD15 seems to have addressed many of the issues with the SD14 (slow write speed and poor battery life the main ones) and sounds like a worthy camera. My wish list of cameras include a Leica M9, Nikon D3x and of course SD15.

10:27 am - Friday, August 27, 2010

#51 Alexei

DPREVIEW.COM is going to review SD15 soon. It is in a review queue now.  Then we will see another, hopefully, more targeted for professional photographers, review.

12:13 pm - Friday, August 27, 2010

#52 Juraj

Yes, I think everyone awaits for DPreview take on SD15. However, no review is absolute. - How can you review 3D-ness of images? If there would be something to test that, X3 sensors would literally kick behinds.

12:45 pm - Friday, August 27, 2010

#53 Juraj

I don’t need to borrow a Foveon camera, I have had my DP2 for over a year.  I like it quite a bit.  But likewise check out a Fuji S5 Pro RAW file- it has much more dynamic range.

It’s great when you don’t want nor need higher ISO, but in my case both for my hobby and for paid work, higher ISO is often pretty much a must. I have had some luck with the DP2 in black and white in the version before SPP4.xx

Not sure what you mean by blotching but sounds like what the DP2 gets.

I have experience with the E-3 and the E-3 will give you bands at high ISO depending on the subject. For the moon I don’t see it as a big deal since the moon runs “hot” and you don’t need the high ISO. That said, just because the E_3 has that issue at high ISO in some situations doesn’t mean in my book it’s worse than a Foveon at high ISO.  Also there are other models that don’t have that issue like the E-30 and E-620.

I agree you can take good pictures with any camera.

@Doug- why bother waiting for dpreview. Look at the reviews of dpreview in the past of Sigma.. doesn’t seem like they will do anything special with it.

@All - Anyway, don’t want to come across as if Foveon had nothign going for it. I love the images I am getting with my DP2. Just think the market of the SD15 starts to compete in usability with others and in some areas for some photographers it will be a losing proposition. Which is why I think $3k-$4k would be suicide…

2:22 pm - Friday, August 27, 2010

#54 Juraj

*Please watch the name when you write a Re:
**Upper Re: was not written by Juraj (Me)

High ISO sensitivity is just a way to say that image is internally pushed. You can get any ISO value by underexposing. I.e., ISO 100 ant -5EV compensation is ISO 3200 (in camera pushing is higher quality than just underexposing, tho you can get similar results). If scene holds a lot of shaddows, you will get bands there. With certain Olympus cameras - a lot. Newer ones are better, but the problem is not eliminated completely.

S5Pro is an amazing camera, but the output is soft on pixel level. I used it for a while, but did not preferred it.

Regarding usability - if Leica is usable, everything is usable, as every camera have the same settings. What is extremely important, apart from the sole moment of picture taking, is post processing. X3Fs are processed like a breeze.

Now, to note that not everything is peachy; color-calibrating output from X3Fs is a pain. It can be done, but it requires a lot of work and knowledge. One is generally better off with Bayers that have a lot of supporting software.

3:50 pm - Friday, August 27, 2010

#55 me and you

unprofessional, very unprofessional

12:26 am - Saturday, August 28, 2010

#56 sam

@alexei “DPREVIEW.COM is going to review SD15 soon. It is in a review queue now.  Then we will see another, hopefully, more targeted for professional photographers, review.”

first of all, professional photographers get nikon and canon cameras, so a review targeted at pros isn’t going to be about sigma.

second, dpreview reviewed the dp1 and dp2 and they only managed to get above average and that was only because they were up against compacts with tiny sensors. they said that the dp1 did not even come close to a 10 megapixel nikon d40x.

the sd15 is up against other slrs with bigger sensors than what’s in the sd15. if a dp1 could not match a 10mp d40x, then an sd15 with the exact same sensor won’t be able to match something better, such as a 12 mp d5000 or an 18 mp canon t2i, both of which cost LESS than the sd15.

one thing is certain, the sigma fans are going to hate the review because it won’t be favorable.

7:20 pm - Saturday, August 28, 2010

#57 Chris

I bought once an audio product recommended highly by a reviewer - it was a mistake. Obviously someone got paid for a such review.
I don’t feel any bias in this review, sure it’ negative, but a touch of ignorance. Once I had the same thoughts about Sigma cameras.
I was ignorant buying Sd14, lured by the superb images taken with this camera that i found on the net. When I started using it, I wanted to return it because of it it inconsistent output (different results with the same settings) and the awful noise… but slowly learned to use it and like it. It included changing my perception of color. If the SD 15 is used wisely, it could be good enough for weddings - the pros.

10:15 pm - Saturday, August 28, 2010

#58 Max Lane

Sam: “one thing is certain, the sigma fans are going to hate the review because it won’t be favorable”

The Sigma fans are accustomed to negative reviews, so it won’t bother most of us at all. Very few reviewers are as knowledgeable as they should be, especially when they review cameras that are outside the mainstream. We who own and use Sigma Foveon equipment were not forced to buy it.

We specifically chose the system because it comes closer to providing what we are looking for than any other system, at any price. For that reason, slamming the Sigma, either by people like yourself, or by uninformed reviewers, is not going to change our opinions. Simply put; we have seen the output Sigmas provide, and we like what we see.

So, save your time and effort. Because we know better.

5:37 am - Sunday, August 29, 2010

#59 TaoTeJared

Thank you for well conducted review.  You give a good neutral evaluation on the main points of shooting photos for many needs with this camera. 

One thing I noticed from your Raw and Jpeg files was how much post processing is needed and has been done by Sigma on their micro-sites to get the same style of images.  I strive to shoot it right the first time but I can see that would not be the case with this camera. 

For my photography needs, (low available light, action, street, macro, mass processing) this unique system does not meet my requirements.  For others though, this could be their dream system for sure.  The images do have an uncommon and unique quality to them. 

The Foveon sensor is something fun to watch but sadly is not moving forward fast enough to keep up with the pack.  I have seen patents by Nikon, Canon, and Sony who have registered similar sensors but none seem to move in this direction.  The technical difficulties must indeed be extreme.  I would love to see a company like Pentax, Panasonic, or the big dogs out there buy the Foveon from Sigma.  It seems that Sigma just doesn’t have the resources available to bring this product to full fruition.

6:53 pm - Monday, August 30, 2010

#60 Rich

I studied those good sample photos taken by Sigma SD14 and earlier SD10/SD9.  These photos look so much like my early 2 million Nikon ccd digital compact 800 camera of 1999 in terms of color and lack of fine resolution(so called film like).  Not against Sigma, rather I would like to see a new 10 million x 3 sensor for SD16 in two years.  Sigma should consider to sell SD15 at discount to bridge the gap, other it would be too late to recover any money invested into the development of SD15.  Imagin if Pentax or Olympus go for 3COMS(just like 3ccd video) for their coming full frame pro model DSLR at $2000-$3000, where is the market for Sigma?

Imagin who what a APS film camera today.

10:03 pm - Monday, August 30, 2010

#61 Juraj

I really do think that for most uses even Bayer 5MP is more than enough. Sigma’s X3 4.7MP is somewhere between 8 and 12 from my experience. Some print tests even put it in the ballpark of 14MP Kodak digital without AA filter.
I think that 3CMOS isn’t a viable option, as you need three sensors, instead of one, which in turn complicated design tremendously, with all of the system problems. Patents can be a big problem. - No patent no go.

From my point of view, it would be very nice to have a Leica or Olympus with X3 sensor, as is. I don’t think that will happen any time soon.

Sigma should be praised for what they do, as other manufacturers constantly beat on the same drum, bringing features and little else.

8:34 am - Tuesday, August 31, 2010

#62 Antonio

Well… I’m a photographer, not a gear geek. Image quality is what really matters to me, not specs.

The 1st Sigma I had was a DP2, a truly amazing small camera. Yes, it has many quirks but the output from it is simply stunning. Of course we are speaking about RAW files, processed by SPP4 or SilpkyPix Pro.

Then I got a SD15 with the 17-50 2.8 EX DC Macro. So-so lens, compared with my main gear, an EOS-5D with some L-Type lenses. But the 70/2.8 EX DC Macro is stunning. Frankly speaking, I dont like Sigma glass, with some very few exceptions.

Then I decided to order a Sigma SA to M42 adapter and tried my old Fujinon Super-EBC lenses and WOW ! Simply amazing.

3:33 am - Friday, September 17, 2010

#63 Doug Barry-Martin

My SD14 has the Sigma 17-70 macro which is great as a macro (gets super close) but overall only good. Shame to have the best sensor with only average lenses. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a universal adapter so any lens could fit on any camera. No doubt the adapter itself would be as heavy and as expensive as a good quality prime. One day. Maybe.

4:23 am - Friday, September 17, 2010

#64 Antonio

Actually there are some custom bayonet mounts for the SD series. I have a friend that changed the original SA mount for a Leica-R one with stunning results.

Take a look at

5:30 am - Friday, September 17, 2010

#65 Doug Barry-Martin

Yes, but they are permanent and limited to Pentax, Leica etc. A universal mount would enable you to use any lens on any camera.

5:43 am - Friday, September 17, 2010

#66 doubleluca

Going to buy SD15 just for the foveon.
The main purpose of the jpeg mpeg etc is to reduce file size at acceptable quality and making it of easy usage.This is because the storage was a real problem few years ago. Nowadays terabytes are standard. is it still the compression necessary? maybe to watch the fotos on the tv set.
Post production is like the dark room RAW is like the camera film, jpeg is like polaroid something already manipulated,. make your choice.

10:14 pm - Monday, September 20, 2010

#67 Antonio

I decided to take a step forward and ordered a custom split/microprism focus screen for the SD15. I’m very happy using the M42 Fujinons on it. I don’t bother with autofocus, and if needed it’s just a matter of using the Sigma AF lenses. Some days ago I saw some samples from my friend’s SD-15 using some Leica glass. SImply unblelievable.

2:33 am - Tuesday, September 21, 2010

#68 Doug

“And please don’t be so arrogant. Shooting RAW does not make you a photographer. Most professional photographers shoot jpeg, as they know how to set their camera properly. They do not have to rely on post to get things right.”
Possibly the most arrogant response to a comment you could have made. News/sports reporters shoot in jpg due to the tight deadlines. Other pro photographers with more time and greater interest in Image quality (like myself) shoot in RAW as it gives measurably better image quality (especially on a Sigma SD14/15). Anyway although the SD15 will be a worthy camera for the IQ crowd the announcement of the SD1 - 15/45Mp SLR is going to be a game changer in photography. Well done Sigma. Hope they are preparing some premium lenses for this camera.

7:34 am - Wednesday, September 29, 2010

#69 Antonio

I don’t like to comment details like this about jpeg/raw, but I must agree with Doug. No serious photographer shoots in jpeg when he has the raw option available, unless he don’t have the time for post processing and he blindly believe in the camera’s post processing capability. No camera gives you a perfect picture in jpeg, in terms of exposure, dynamic range and colors. Specially for people who shoot in positive film and are acostumated with top quality standards.

3:34 pm - Wednesday, September 29, 2010

#70 Jason

I have to agree with Antonio. Sigma glass really sucks. I’m using it with my old M42 Mamiya and Carl Zeiss Jena lenses, shooting in raw and the results are faaaaaar superior if compared with any Sigma lenses I’ve tried.

It’s a great camera, and it deserves some really professional grade glass.

And, yes, shooting in jpeg is very noobish considering this kind of camera. It’s like to drive a Porsche with the parking break engaged.

5:05 am - Saturday, October 16, 2010

#71 Frank Walker

I blinked hard and laughed when I read the part about testing this camera in JPEG mode.  The reviewer clearly has no clue as to what this camera is all about.  Testing in JPEG mode is simply a waste of time.  Better not to test at all.

It all can be forgiven, though.  This is an unusual camera.  Efforts to fit it into more familiar and better understood molds are understandable and don’t really call for criticism.  However, no sensible person will ever buy this camera to shoot JPEG.

1:13 am - Wednesday, November 10, 2010

#72 Wayne

Interesting review, but….

First, the Foveon sensor works best with when used in the RAW format and with EX glass (also note that the lack of an anti-alias filter, that is used on all Bayer sensor cameras, means you can take advantage of very small apertures without image degradation that occurs with Bayer sensors).

Second, most professional digital photographers (with the exception of news photographers) use RAW.

Third, the major limitation of the SD cameras to date has been low light, high iso, and digital noise performance.  But, the image quality at lower ISO settings is superb, and although there are ‘only’ 4.7M sites (despite having 3 vertical detectors), the results have the detail of a 10-12MP Bayer sensor camera.

Lastly, this is a photographers camera - it does not have the bells and whistles of other makes, it lacks the picture modes, and has one of the least comprehensive menus (read - easier toe use) of the competition.  It is not a camera for the masses, but rather an artistic tool for those who enjoy photography as an art.

8:13 pm - Sunday, November 21, 2010

#73 doubleluca

I agree with Wayne both for technical aspects and artistic aspects.
Yes it is true, foveon is not for any end users, but it would be nice that they learn again how to take a photo using your brain and not the camera CPU.
I make some mistakes shooting photo with my DP2s but I accept them and take note for the next shot to be the right one.
I heard about some wedding photographers using the best Nikon and Canon cameras shooting several hundred of photo and dozen of burst in order to choose the right one. Is this still photography art?
At my wedding, 25 years ago, the photographer shot 110 times with his Hasselblad and I got 110 beautiful photo.
So hold on for the next foveon sensor (SD1)I cannot figure it out what it will be, I guess the problem will be to have a lens good enough to solve the sensor.
Anyway having started to take photos with the DP2s it makes me want to go back in the past and repeat all the shot i made.

8:23 pm - Saturday, November 27, 2010

#74 Eugene

Thanks for the review!

Liking or disliking of Sigma is generally binary. I have owned DP1, DP2 and SD14. And I have a lot of appreciation for crisp resolution of Foveon at base ISO.

But ultimately I could not take all the limitations that came with it. Problems show-up all the time - odd artifacts when doing HDR, really crippling ISO performance, focusing and so on. It seems like SD15 is in most respects is a minor departure from SD14.

In my opinion many Sigma users just state as an axiom that any other sensor output is just ‘a blur.’ This is just not the case, and images in all the magazines in the world are a testament to that.

At the same time I have seen couple of really good photographers whose style seems to work with Sigma, and their work is truly excellent. So it works for few people.

1:55 pm - Saturday, December 18, 2010

#75 Antonio

I ordered and installed a new manual focusing screen from Haoda on my SD15 and the things changed from water to wine. Now I can use the full potential of my old good lenses.

5:52 pm - Saturday, December 18, 2010

#76 marc

Seriously…sigma cameras should be evaluated by shooting in raw.
I think this is mentioned over and over again in comments before this by various people.
That alone invalidates this review and re-review should be done.

2:06 am - Tuesday, December 28, 2010

#77 Mihai

Want a description for NONSESNSE ? Read this review ! It should be entitled “How to bury a very good horse alive” or “How to drive a F1 car backwards”... Shameful or maybe just paid by the competition. Respect to Sigma that`s going on and on with Foveon technology in spite of such “advertizing” !

7:12 pm - Saturday, February 19, 2011

#78 Manuel Soares

It looks like there are some trools here like Mr. Raist. He remembers me a prick named “Justme” that wrote a lot of bullshit in Brian’s Brain on EDN blog. Lots of theory, lots of words.

It’s easy. Put a prime lens, Sigma, M42, or whatever on the SD15, shoot raw and see.

I have a Nikon D3S and believe me, the Nikon is better but not by a big margin. At it costs almost four times more. The SD15 colors are simply wonderful. And YES, if you shoot jpeg in this camera you’re just dumb.

4:17 am - Tuesday, April 5, 2011

#79 Raist3d


If I am such a “trool” could you please explain the apparent discrepancy that I am also asking this website to review the SD15 in RAW instead of JPEG, and that in reviewing it in JPEG, they failed to assess the potential of it?


- Raist

7:00 am - Tuesday, April 5, 2011

#80 Jody Langford

I have had an SD-14 for about 2 1/2 years and just ordered an SD-15. The landscape images this camera takes are phenomenal. RAW is the secret to success with this camera. Even an automatic conversion using the Photo Pro software makes better jpeg images than shooting straight jpegs. I have uploaded images to Mpix and had 16x24 prints made that were incredible. Two complaints: Slow writing data to the memory card(maybe the SD-15 will be an improvement) and noise at the higher ISO’s.

11:59 pm - Monday, July 4, 2011

#81 tiger moto

i am owner of the sigma sd10,.Having read the bad reviews of the sigma sd15.I have just come back from a holiday from Australia,i have taken between 3000-4000 pictures.
          The sigma sd10 and sd15 sensor has very little margin for error,you must get exposure,light and iso right to get good pictures.My friend who has a SONY DLSR,when we compare pictures,the sharpness and color saturation of the pictures in raw mode of the sd10/15 are excelent.
              The sd15 in the right hands delivers fantastic pictures(it’s simple controls make you think harder about picture taking),i will be buying the sd15 next.Ignore the silly reviews,most of these reviewers are not good photographers.National geographic magazine photographers take thousands of pictures,they use all types of cameras and all produce great pictures
            Grab a sd15 go out and take lots of pictures,have a great time.

6:14 am - Saturday, July 16, 2011

#82 Richard Wu

I was interested, no more, I have found happiness with Olympus and Pentax offerings.  Sigma just lost opportunities and waste time from start.

A secondary brand would always play value card to get ahead.  Otherwise, who would care to get into your(Sigma) brand.  Imagine buyer needs to invest into Sigma lens mount, that is a major cost to consider to switch into Sigma DSLR.

8:01 pm - Saturday, July 16, 2011

#83 Paco

There is a clear reason why you MUST shot RAW when shooting with sigma. Foveon sensor produces and records data in a different way than other cameras. The X3F format was developed for this reason. With this format, you record your image as YCbCr 4:4:4, as sigma brochures explain quite well. If you don’t use it, You are not getting what Foveon has to offer.
I own a DP2, which uses the same sensor as the SD15. I get some amazing pics wiht it. Much better than those you see on reviews.
Judge yourself. Enter in Flickr and search for SD15, DP or foveon cameras galleries and have a look.
It has some limitations, however. ISO performance is qute bad. I never use higher than ISO 200. And autofocus is not the best. For me, that I used a manual film nikon SLR before, are not big issues.

7:09 pm - Thursday, January 26, 2012

#84 tiger moto

As a owner of the sd10 and now the sd14.i went on holiday to Australia and took over 3000 pics.
          The quality of the pictures and the 3 d slide film quality are incredable
          any camera must be tested on what it can produce,in the right hands this camera has few rivals.
          fujifilm with its x100 has tried to emulate the slide film quality of the sigma sd15,that tells you everything
            too many people get hung up on equipment,photography is abou taking pictures
          the sigma sd15 is not for the novice,you need to have good photographic knowledge to get good pictures

5:06 pm - Saturday, August 4, 2012

#85 Mihai

If a review should be appreciated according to the valuable comments its provoking, this one is extraordinary. And even more appreciation is due to Sigma people who gave us the Foveon chip and now the Merrill chip !

2:34 pm - Sunday, January 17, 2016

#86 Max Lane

Mihai:  I agree.  There’s probably more solid information about the Foveon versus Bayer and JPG versus RAW debates here than I’ve seen anywhere. And I also strongly agree that we should thank Foveon for their amazing sensor, and Sigma for supporting it.

7:41 pm - Sunday, January 17, 2016

#87 Mark White

Amazing that this thread is still receiving comments after six years. I landed here because Google drove me here…

I have a Nikon D800, a Fuji X-E2 and two Sigmas, the SD15 and the DP2 Merrill.

If you shoot raw and do everything right, under the proper light, the DP2 Merrill simply wipes the floor with the D800 in terms of colors and absolute sharpness.

The SD15 can deliver stunning images if shoot in raw and with good optics. I’m using the Sigma 19-35 F1.8 on it and belive me it’s a Mike Tyson’s punch on your nose. It’s horrible at any ISO over 200, true but with the 1.8 aperture who cares ?

9:16 pm - Sunday, January 17, 2016

#88 Max Lane

Mark White:  I think you hit the nail squarely on the head with your comments. Any direct comparison between the Sigma Foveon, which is optimized for RAW images, and Bayer cameras, which are optimized for JPG, is going to have problem. Simply put, they are two very different tools.

Like you, I have owned both Foveon and Bayer cameras, including high-end Nikons and every DSLR Sigma has made, including the SD1M. Which ones I choose for a shoot depends entirely on the shoot conditions themselves, plus
how much time I have to process and send the photos, plus how they will be displayed.

The bottom-line is simple: If the Sigma/Foveon had high ISO performance, high frame-rate and an imaging program that allowed me to fine-tune RAW images as quickly as JPGs, I would never shoot with anything else.

That being said, the sad truth is that if Sigma/Foveons could do all that, they would be flying off the shelves and none of us could find one to buy. ;)

10:01 pm - Sunday, January 17, 2016

#89 Antonio

Wow! Is this back to life ? I started to receive many follow-ups today !

I’m a film shooter, specially black and white and positive film, mostly in medium format and some in 35mm BUT started with digital in 2004. I think I had maybe 30 digital cameras, from point and shoot to very high end cameras like the D800 and 5D, with the Pentax K5-II and two Fujin included, the XE-1 and XE-2, with some top notch optics.

I still have all of my Sigma cameras: SD9/10/14/15 and the DP2/DP2M.

I agree with the fact Sigma images MUST be shot in raw and properly processed. It demands care and time and knowledge of what are you doing.

Think about the Foveon sensor like a stubborn positive film like the Fuji Velvia/Provia 100. If you know how to use it, no other sensor on earth (to this date) will deliver images like it.

For example, I don’t know about ANY Nikon or Canon optics on pair on terms of sharpness from corner to corner at F2.8 that can be compared with the little devil of the DP2 Merrill lens. This combination is a monster.

Again, think about the DP2 like a Medium format film camera like the Fuji GA645 Pro loaded with Provia 100F. Not for the beginner. Not for the mundane photographer. Not for who don’t like to think.

I had my SD15 modified to fit Leica-R lenses and has a custom made focusing screen installed on it. The images I can get with the SD15 and Leica glass, like the APO Macro Elmarit 100mm is simply jaw dropping.

SD14/15 and DP2 non-merrill images are way better processed using Silkypix Pro and Iridient Developer. But the later Sigma Photo Pro editions like the 6.3 are also quite good and the new noise reduction algorithms are much better than anything from the past.

Sigma also has some excellent glass now, like Mr. White said, the 19-35 F1.8, I have it but in Pentax mount. It’s razor sharp on all focal lenghts and even wide open.

The now discontinued 70mm/2.8 EX DC Macro is maybe the best 70mm lens I’ve ever used in my life. I use it on my SD14.

Bottom line:

Foveon cameras are specialyzed tools for people who are aware of the speed and iso limitations but capable to show stunning images.

Is my XE-2 better ? Yes, in some aspects, like high ISO.

Is my D800 better ? Yes, if you’re epeaking about recovering wrongly exposed photos and operation speed.

Is the 5D better ? Yes, on low noise, low light situations

Is the K5-II better ? Yes, it’s weather sealed and tough like a tank and also goes at high ISOS very well.

But those Sigmas are special.

10:54 pm - Sunday, January 17, 2016

#90 Raist

@maxlane- no, Bayer cameras are not “optimized for Jpegs”. That doesnt make any sense you can shoot raw with Bayer also and try different raw converters with different results.

3:01 am - Monday, January 18, 2016

Entry Tags

review, 3 inch LCD, RAW, DSLR, 14 megapixel, digital SLR, sigma, Foveon, 3fps, sd15, Sigma SD15 Review, sd 15

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