© Wataru Nakamura

SIGMA sd Quattro H   Impression Vol.01

Even better image quality and usability

What are the differences between the "sd Quattro" and the "sd Quattro H"? Simply put, the output has more reality and the usability has improved with the "sd Quattro H." The larger sensor with more pixels realized better 3D appearance, let alone higher resolution. While in theory, more pixels enable more precise capturing, the effect is more obvious with the Foveon sensor than with other kinds of sensors. In addition to the improvement of image quality, the response speed has improved as well. Considering the larger data generated by the larger Foveon sensor, I guess that the control system has improved significantly to realize the speed.

A "test-drive" to investigate the advantage

Before shooting this camera, I had been using a camera with a different type of sensor to shoot images for my impression about a lens. Then I had an opportunity to use the "sd Quattro" and was deeply impressed by the clear rendition beyond description. Once we see the images shot with the standard "sd Quattro," it's hard to go back to non-Foveon cameras. The "sd Quattro H" can capture scenes with even higher density, but I'm not sure if I know how to make the most of it. Therefore, for the first impression, I "test-drove" it by shooting subjects that I think this camera is good at capturing. And, I'd like to continue investigating the power of this camera in the next two volumes as well.

You can view all the sample images at their original size from the gallery at the bottom of this page.
© Juzou Iwaki

Power to draw clearly

To begin with, I shot a high-frequency, fine-detailed subject. The camera drew the tree perfectly at pixel level. Please take a look at the image at its original size. Even including medium-format digital cameras with larger sensors, I can promise that no other camera can draw as clearly as this camera does. Though some of them can manage to resolve, their drawing lines wouldn't be so clear.

© Juzou Iwaki

Every leaf is colored differently and receives light differently. Again, the resolution is high and the drawing lines are clear. Besides, the color reproduction is extremely realistic, which is another identity of this camera.

© Juzou Iwaki

I realize the improvement in reproducing the transition from the focal point to the point completely out of focus. I assume that it's the advantage of having a larger sensor.

© Wataru Nakamura

Perfect resolution of the thin branches and the snowfield becoming lumpy because of the increase in temperature. In addition, even when it draws things whose detail is higher than the camera's power of resolution, they dissolve leaving their definition. This is exactly what films do.

© Wataru Nakamura

For this camera, it's a piece of cake to capture subjects just as they are. I'd like you to take a look at the brilliance and particle appearance of the snowfield, the 3D appearance of the footmarks, the branches of the distant trees, and their green shoots. Such natural rendition is hard to obtain with other cameras as it's too hard for them to reproduce the snowfield lighted from the top realistically.

© Wataru Nakamura

In the hours before sunset, we can expose the moon and the surrounding scene within the camera's latitude. The naturalness in rendition is what I get from slide films of the medium to large format. While the resolution of most digital cameras with more than a certain number of pixels excels the one of film, I doubt if they can reproduce the "naturalness" of film. Only one exception is the Foveon cameras and the "sd Quattro H " forms beautiful images that remind me of the slides I peeked on the light box with one eye. I believe "something" is lost when a slide is scanned and viewed on the PC monitor with both eyes. But, nothing is lost with the sd Quattro H. The image is an exact replication of the very scene I saw at the location. This image quality is just too good to miss.

© Wataru Nakamura

Power to capture flames realistically

Flame is a difficult subject to capture with a digital camera. First of all, it's hard to expose within the camera's latitude because of the big luminance difference. In addition, it's hard to reproduce colors accurately because it's prone to saturation. The Foveon cameras, on the other hand, are good at capturing flames and the sd Quattro H is even superior at it. No other cameras can express the heat realistically at this level.

© Wataru Nakamura

I went to Watarase retarding basin to watch the reed burning, a common feature of spring. It's breathtaking to see the sky covered with smoke after the fires started all over the wide area. And, it was breathtaking in another sense to see the viewpoint filled with tripods of the photo enthusiasts from all parts of the country. I shot it handheld taking advantage of the optical stabilizer. I'm amazed by the way it drew the flames, the reeds in the foreground, and the water surface.

© Wataru Nakamura

I was busy shooting because the fires popped out here and there while the wind was whirling. I was forced to adjust exposure compensation according to the change in the luminance of the flames while adjusting composition according to their movements. I knew the luminance of the flames exceeded the latitude of the camera, but shot it to express the detail of the trees in the foreground. The image realistically expresses the heated air as well as the flames themselves.

© Wataru Nakamura

Because of the wind, the flames of well-dried reeds spread rapidly just like volatile fuel. At the same time, the smoke covered the sun to color the scene amber. This image demonstrates another characteristic of the Foveon sensor: it expresses the massiveness of smokes. This means that it can also express the massiveness of clouds.

© Wataru Nakamura
© Juzou Iwaki

Power to capture things around the corner

Because of the remarkable image quality, both "sd Quattro" and the "sd Quattro H" make me want to shoot subjects carefully just like when I shoot with a large-format camera. While the usability has improved significantly with the "sd Quattro," it has become even better with the "sd Quattro H." From what I gather, this is due to the general improvement of all SIGMA products including the current lines of excellent lenses released one after another and the continuous improvement of the RAW data processing software. While the body shape is identical to the "sd Quattro," the "sd Quattro H" incorporates every possible refinement SIGMA could put into right now. As a result, shooting streets has become so much easier. Even when shooting things around me, I can easily obtain high image quality that I could get only with a huge photographic device.

© Wataru Nakamura

I shot under a flat lighting before dawn, one of the situations I wanted to shoot with this camera. The power of expression under lowlight has improved.

© Wataru Nakamura

Automotive glasses of vintage cars reflect light strongly because they are not UV cut. When they are shot with an ordinary camera, they look obscure with low contrast. "The sd Quattro H," on the other hand, captured it just like as I saw. I stopped it down slightly to add massiveness to the defocused part. The high resolution of the Foveon sensor worked to draw the bokeh with sharper edges. I knew that shooting white cars is difficult even when using a slanted light, but I shot it with the sd Quattro H expecting rich highlight reproduction. Again, the result is convincing.

© Juzou Iwaki
© Juzou Iwaki

After shooting

The "sd Quattro H" is the stretched version of the "sd Quattro," though it inherits the same feature. It's like a variant car sharing the body using the different engine with more displacement realizing its distinctive performance. Perhaps, you won't notice the difference of image quality just by taking a glance because even the "sd Quattro" has the miraculous image quality. As I shoot more, however, I'm more convinced of the higher level of rendition. Let's discuss the difference of the 3D appearance. In my opinion, the original characteristic of the Foveon sensor is the ability to express realistic sense of distance. The "sd Quattro" expresses the 3D appearance better than any other non-Foveon cameras. With the "sd Quattro H," such characteristic becomes even more obvious and the subject pops out explicitly. The same goes for tonal and color reproductions. In this sense, the "sd Quattro H" stands in the position one step above the "sd Quattro." The problem is that it's difficult to reflect the difference when shot in a casual manner. This camera requires careful approach though I'd love to go for it. Including the next volume on landscapes, two more volumes will follow after this one reporting the test-driving. My present concern is whether our skills can catch up with the camera's capacity...