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Sigma sd Quattro Here: X3I Files Introduce Ultra High Dynamic Range (SFD) mode.

Sigma sd Quattro
(APS-C sensor)

See my Sigma mirrorless wish list at B&H Photo.

See Sigma SD Quattro Mirrorless Cameras for more info as well as my in-depth reviews of Sigma DP Merrill and Sigma dp Quattro cameras.

I have the new Sigma sd Quattro here along with the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC HSM Art, courtesy of Sigma USA (best deal is the sd Quattro + 30/1.4 Art bundle).

The sd Quattro uses an APS-C sensor, while its APS-H sensor sibling is expected to arrive in early 2017. The sd Quattro line takes existing Sigma SD-mount DSLR lenses, including all of the full-frame Sigma DG HSM Art lenses which I review in DAP. The Sigma DG HSM Art lenses are outstanding.

The sd Quattro uses an APS-C sensor, and as one of its more intriguing features, it shoots 7-frame bracketed shots in SFD mode, all exposures incorporated into a single file type with extension “.X3I”. This new mode essentially does a wide-range bracket (7 frames) and all in raw format.

The user sets the mode and the camera does the rest. As with the Pentax K1 SuperRes pixel shift mode, I applaud innovative approaches like this to improving total image quality—in this case the potential for noiseless images and jaw-dropping dynamic range. To be proved out of course.

The new Super-Fine Detail (SFD) exposure mode brings out the full performance of the Foveon X3 Quattro direct image sensor. One push of the shutter generates seven different exposures, creating RAW data in the X3I file format. Using this data with the SIGMA Photo Pro software package, the photographer can create noiseless images with an extensive dynamic range.

With this new mode, the more detailed imaging potential of the Foveon X3 Quattro direct image sensor is fully leveraged. From each X3I file, individual X3F files may also be generated. The value of SFD exposure mode is especially apparent in studio photography.

Note: To prevent camera shake, SIGMA recommends the use of a tripod.

Actually, use of a tripod is mandatory, just like the pixel shift mode of the Pentax K1. With the sd Quattro SFD mode exposures were running from 1/60 to several seconds in most situations, so it is impossible to shoot SFD mode without a tripod, unless blur is the goal.

The Sigma sd Quattro SFD files up to 400MB each (!). They can be processed by Sigma Photo Pro.

Size of Sigma sd Quattro X3I files range from 328 to 394 megabytes each
Sigma sd Quattro
(APS-C sensor)

At first I thought that the latest public version of Sigma Photo Pro, version 6.4.0, did not support X3I files. But as it turns out, there is this modal design ethos that has to be dealt with:

  • In the past, I only wanted to see raw files, so I chose View => X3F Only. But this hides X3I files.
  • There is no Display Raw Formats Only option.
  • The only way to see both X3F and X3I formats is to choose Display all formats. But doing that also shows JPEGs, cluttering the window massively (I often shoot RAW+JPEG because I can’t see what’s there in the Finder preview) ! It’s design insanity.
  • The preferences dialog has a global modal choice whereby you are not allowed on per-image basis to edit as X3F vs X3I. However, a contextual menu works around that (right click or control click on the thumbnail).

It’s so disappointing to see the Sigma software go from bad to worse; these kinds of modalities just confuse and irritate. It’s still a 32-bit legacy app, still slow as molasses and all that would be tolerable except that the user interface is the worst on the market, except perhaps for SilkyPix (neck and neck for the scrap-metal medal).

I tried processing an X3I file; I’m baffled. The online help is garbage, repeating the names of the controls with the same verbage, rather than explaining the meaning, or the process to follow. It seems that one has to manually review images in one window, the go back to an edit window and do further work there, back and forth, etc. Which is a horrific workflow experience. Where is the “make me an awesome image” control? With Pentax K1 SuperRes files, I just process normally. After going through the trouble with one image, I was left with a muddy unattractive image.

Zoom to 50%: wait 8 seconds. Zoom to 100%: wait 8 seconds. Zoom back to 50%... wait 8 seconds again. Ditto for all sorts of small changes. And the initial render takes 20+ seconds on an 8-core 3.3 GHz 2013 Mac Pro—the fastest Mac you can’t even buy.

Preferences for Sigma Photo Pro 6.4.0

A workflow irritation for me is that processing one X3F frame of an X3I file does not set key parts of the EXIF info in the finished TIF, although normal X3F files are just fine.

f4.5@f4.5|1/na|null|30mm|45mm|20160803|12:02:25|lensNA|f1.4|Manual|3.30|sd Quattro#_SDI0023

There are other “rewards” when using the horrible Sigma Photo Pro software, as shown. What Sigma has never understood is that a product succeeds or fails as a whole. I like the camera itself, but already I’ve wasted an hour on Sigma Photo Pro with at best dismal results. Maybe this solution is to shoot max-res JPEGS? I don’t even want to use SPP; I want to use Photoshop/ACR. And I don’t want to wait 10 seconds to see the image when all I do is change brightness one notch. And I want a SFD image rendered fast and with high quality, something that will make me love the camera.

No joy. Same old untested dreck that ought to get the entire software team fired. To add insult to injury, when I switch to some other app, SPP frequently leaves one or more palettes on top of the other app. I can exuse a year, maybe even two years of junk, but five years of this behavior?

 
Sigma Photo Pro 6.4.0: two types of crashes

Same types of issues as way back in 2012. This type of crash speaks to a lack of rigor in software development. Only a rank beginner would fail to use malloc_debug to track down memory corruption errors which have existed forever in SPP. It speaks to organizational incompetence that these types of bugs persist.

Sigma Photo Pro 6.4.0 crash—
Rudimentary software engineering best practices include using malloc_debug but apparently Sigma is clueless

How is it that editing one (1) X3I file causes out of memory errors? The Mac Pro in use has 64GB memory, but Sigma Photo Pro 6.4.0 remains a 32-bit app—a situation that was lame five years ago.

32-bit “lame horse” Sigma Photo Pro 6.4.0 out of memory

The help is a total joke, defining controls with circular idiocy (“to do X, check X”). And who the hell needs help knowing how to check a box? The issue is what the controls do/mean, and how to use them.

Preferences for Sigma Photo Pro 6.4.0

Daryl O writes:

I share your frustration with the software. I had the dp2 Quattro when it initially arrived with the 45mm equivalent. I liked the camera, funny shape and all, but the software made it go from a 10 to 1. I couldn't return it fast enough.

But the real irritation for me is that Sigma “gets it” with focal lengths 28,45,75. [Daryl means that they offer this nice range of focals].

My Ricoh GR and Nikon Coolpix A are both 28mm when I want a 45-55mm. On the other end, nobody makes a quality 24mm. I am thinking Leica will bring a Q with 50mm at photokina, otherwise these manufacturers put no thought into their products and I wish they would get their heads out of their asses. Every few minutes Nikon, Canon, Olympus bring out a new P&S, it's a dizzying array but very little innovation (pixel shift). I am convinced that there is something in corporate culture that intimidates individuals who might want to innovate, or is it laziness.

DIGLLOYD: I like the way the sd Quattro handles (mostly).

Sigma sd Quattro H
Sigma sd Quattro H (sd Quattro is the same)
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