Two years ago at CP+, Sigma unveiled the DP Quattro, a series of cameras with fixed lenses, APS-C sensors and a truly unique body design. This year, the company is using Japan's biggest camera show to introduce the SD Quattro, a pair of mirrorless cameras with Sigma's own lens mount, unusual sensors, and — yes — another far-out body design.
Both SD Quattro cameras use Sigma's Foveon layered sensor technology, which is known for its high resolution, excellent color reproduction, and comparatively poor low light performance. The regular SD Quattro uses an APS-C sensor, but the higher-end SD Quattro H has an APS-H sensor, an uncommon size that sits somewhere between APS-C and full-frame and gives a 1.3x crop factor.
Both cameras also share pretty wild industrial design. The SD isn't as futuristic as the DP, but there are some very unconventional decisions here. The grip is much shorter than the rest of the body, which balloons downward to accomodate a huge lens mount. The electronic viewfinder is situated toward the right of the camera's rear, rather than the traditional center or left position. The display seems to be an ultra-wide panel that's sectioned off at one end, giving the impression of a secondary always-on screen that shows exposure information in monochrome.
How does it all work out? Well, the SD cameras are at least more ergonomic than the DPs, with a far more comfortable grip. The screen certainly looks cool, too, and is a neat way to display important information without clutter. The viewfinder, though, is not a great idea — although it juts out a fair bit, I found myself slightly turning to the left to get my nose out of the way, and it just felt odd to have the camera across my face like that. Left-eyed shooters might be overjoyed, though.
There's nothing about the SD Quattros that'll make them any less niche than Sigma cameras have been before. Performance seems to be as slow as ever, and you really have to have specific reasons to want the Foveon sensor. Few photographers are going to want to buy into Sigma's own lens mount, and it's unclear exactly how much of the company's lineup will cover an APS-H sensor.
Sigma knows all of this, of course, and is happy to serve a smaller number of customers; the company's innovation with its own cameras acts as a halo for products that more people are likely to buy, like its lenses for Canon and Nikon mounts. And really, experimentation in the staid world of camera design should always be welcomed. Pricing and a release date for the SD Quattro are yet to be confirmed.
Sigma is also showing off two new lenses at CP+. This is the 50-100mm f/1.8, a zoom for APS-C DSLRs. Constant f/1.8 aperture is unprecedented in a lens of this focal length range, just as it was when Sigma introduced the 18-35mm f/1.8 a few years back. Although both are pretty bulky, the lenses would make a good pair for shooters who want strong low-light performance and depth of field control without making the jump to full-frame. The 50-100mm will be out in April for $1,099.
Sigma's second new lens of the show is this 30mm f/1.4 prime for mirrorless cameras. Sigma has sold a well-regarded DSLR lens with similar specs for a long time, and this version should be a solid, versatile option for Micro Four Thirds and Sony NEX shooters. It ships next month for $339.