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Author Topic: Sigma Merrill & the Foveon (X3/X-Trans) Sensor  (Read 2682 times)

JKoerner007

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Sigma Merrill & the Foveon (X3/X-Trans) Sensor
« on: June 24, 2017, 08:40:51 PM »

With the success of Sigma lenses ... which are now approaching, rivaling, and (in a few models) surpassing Canon and Nikkor lenses ... and even the Zeiss Otuses (Otii?) in some respects ... I am surprised that no one seems equally-interested in the Sigma camera line (Merrill DSLR / Quattro mirrorless).

What makes the Sigma camera line unique is that it is based on the Foveon Sensor, which I remember reading about years ago, but yet even today no one seems to care.

By many accounts I have read, recently even, the Foveon sensor surpasses the Bayer sensor in many important respects. Right now, there are two premium Sigma cameras:
Sigma asserts that its mirrorless, APS-H Foveon sensor is equivalent to a 51mpx traditional Bayer sensor.
It asserts that its Merrill DSLR produces "groundbreaking" image fidelity.
To this end, I have also seen many image comparisons (in this case Pentax vs. Sigma) where, if you look at the detail captured by the Foveon, in comparison to the Bayer, the difference is quite dramatic.

Yet, for some reason, nobody seems to care. The basic gist regarding the pervasive apathy toward Sigma cameras appears to be the limitations of the Sigma camera functionality (slow, terrible AF, limited controls, etc.), yet when the Sigma cameras are used on simple, static subjects the Merrill and its Foveon sensor is supposed to really outshine even Sony's best Bayer sensors.

Anyway, with all this talk about "Sony should buy Nikon" (for its lenses), my thinking is Sony should buy Sigma ... not just for its lenses (which are also superior to Sony's) ... but to pick up the dropped ball of Sigma's Foveon sensor acquisition, and really do something exciting and new with these Foveon sensors.

In keeping with this, Canon is supposed to be coming out with a 120mp sensor, in 2018, which is supposed to be based on X-Trans (Foveon-like) technology, rather than the traditional Bayer-type technology. If Sony keeps sticking with Bayer ... will Canon, one day, be the premier sensor-producer if it's headed in that direction?

Anyway, just thinking out loud here, regarding future sensor direction, why no one seems to care about Sigma cameras (like they do their lenses), and wondering if in fact the future will see more and more of Foveon (and Foveon-like) technology.
« Last Edit: June 26, 2017, 04:02:32 PM by JKoerner007 »
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henrikfoto

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Re: Sigma Merrill & the Foveon (X-Trans) Sensor
« Reply #1 on: June 25, 2017, 04:47:55 AM »

This is vey interesting! I have been thinking how a sensor like this would work on a medium-format
camera or back?  I see they now do some kind of multishot with 7 images done at just one shot.
This should be very interesting to many?

We really need companies like Sigma who dares to follow different ideas!
We should ll buy one just for support of the different ideas :)
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BernardLanguillier

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Re: Sigma Merrill & the Foveon (X-Trans) Sensor
« Reply #2 on: June 25, 2017, 05:13:27 AM »

I am the happy owner of a SD H. ;)

It is very good at base ISO on a tripod and is incredible value... but it sees little use. Probably suffering from the competition from the rest of my line up. I may end up selling it, not sure yet.

Cheers,
Bernard
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henrikfoto

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Re: Sigma Merrill & the Foveon (X-Trans) Sensor
« Reply #3 on: June 25, 2017, 05:38:06 AM »

I am the happy owner of a SD H. ;)

It is very good at base ISO on a tripod and is incredible value... but it sees little use. Probably suffering from the competition from the rest of my line up. I may end up selling it, not sure yet.

Cheers,
Bernard

Have you tested it with the Otus lenses?
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BernardLanguillier

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Re: Sigma Merrill & the Foveon (X-Trans) Sensor
« Reply #4 on: June 25, 2017, 06:20:45 AM »

Have you tested it with the Otus lenses?

No, just with the excellent Sigma 20mm f1.4 Art and 85mm f1.4 art.

Cheers,
Bernard
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henrikfoto

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Re: Sigma Merrill & the Foveon (X-Trans) Sensor
« Reply #5 on: June 25, 2017, 06:31:14 AM »

No, just with the excellent Sigma 20mm f1.4 Art and 85mm f1.4 art.

Cheers,
Bernard

Ok, but I guess it has Nikon mount and could use the Otus? Would be interesting to see how the Sigma
"multishot" performs with the Otus?
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BernardLanguillier

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Re: Sigma Merrill & the Foveon (X-Trans) Sensor
« Reply #6 on: June 25, 2017, 06:53:08 AM »

Ok, but I guess it has Nikon mount and could use the Otus? Would be interesting to see how the Sigma
"multishot" performs with the Otus?

No, it only has Sigma mount.

Cheers,
Bernard
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JKoerner007

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Re: Sigma Merrill & the Foveon (X-Trans) Sensor
« Reply #7 on: June 25, 2017, 08:58:54 AM »

This is vey interesting! I have been thinking how a sensor like this would work on a medium-format
camera or back?  I see they now do some kind of multishot with 7 images done at just one shot.
This should be very interesting to many?

I agree with you :)

That appears to be the Foveon's (X-Trans') strong point: extremely high-fidelity images ... at base ISO.



We really need companies like Sigma who dares to follow different ideas!
We should ll buy one just for support of the different ideas :)

Again, we agree!

Bernard mentioned some of the limitations ... and really underscored my motive in making this post: the technology needs support.

Right now, "nobody cares," because Sigma hasn't developed its camera line to compete with Canon and Nikon in the same fashion as, for example, Sony.
The Merrill/Quattro cameras have very little "all around" use, especially in regards to AF as well as performance at ISOs over 800.

However, for static shots, on a tripod, at Base ISO, this is where the Foveon shines 8)

Canon apparently realizes this ... namely, that the X-Trans sensor is better-suited to Base ISO shooting ... which is why their "beyond 100mpx" future sensor size appears to be employing an X-Trans (Foveon-like) technology. Remember, Base ISO is what has kept the Nikon D810 as one of the most popular landscape DSLR of all time ... approaching medium-format-like results, at ISO 64, with an Otus lens. The D810 is still the leader in this regard.

From the cursory reading I've done Foveon sensors, they excel the Bayor sensor at base ISO capability, which is why Sigma Corporation purchased Foveon, Inc.. However, while Sigma is approaching (equalling and, in some cases, even excelling) even the best lenses today ... its overall camera usefulness (Merrill / Quattro) is below those of Canon and Nikon as well as Sony. Sigma just doesn't have the AF camera-crafting acumen of the giants. This is impediment is further exacerbated by the fact Sigma mount has zero support from other lens manufacturers (e.g., Otus, as you suggested).

This is why I believe it would be far more interesting to me if Sony were to purchase this technology than purchasing Nikon. First, I don't think Sony would gain as much by purchasing Nikon (who already uses Sony-owned sensors). Yes, Sony would gain the best primes AF telephotos in the world ... but they'd be securing a redundancy in sensors (they already own them).

However, by purchasing Sigma, Sony would be adding better lens technology than their own as well (as the Sigma Art lenses are most assuredly better than Sony's--as are the Sigma zooms-- as well as Sigma prime super-telephoto lenses). Better still, since Sigma owns Foveon Inc., and since Sony most definitely is in "sensor-company-acquisition mode," Sony would be securing a double coup in adding Foveon, Inc. to their acquired sensor-company portfolio.

Better still, for you and me, Sony's AF + camera-usefulness technology far exceeds Sigma's, so they would essentially be "picking-up the Foveon ball" and running with it. Even better, Nikon Corp, who already purchases its sensors from Sony, would now be able to add this Foveon technology to its base-ISO cameras.

Right now, the Foveon sensor is limited by Sigma's own camera technology limitations: its only available in Sigma mount. But how that would change if Sony got its hands on this Sensor! Not only would Foveon sensor use be expanded to the Sony mounts, but (most likely) through this to other system mounts (Nikon, Olympus, Pentax) via Sony supply.

In closing, if the Canon Rumors are correct, the industry leader, Canon, has already realized this, and is developing its own high-megapix cameras in the X-Trans sensor direction.

Perhaps there will be an eventual bifurcation in sensor technology across all platoforms: Bayer sensors (which perform better at high ISOs) will continue to lead the fast-action/sports/wildlife lower mpx market (like the 1Dx, D5, and A9) ... but where Foveon/X-Trans sensors (which have better base ISO performance) will begin to dominate the Landscape/still market (like the 5D, D810, and A7r), especially as they approach/exceed 100mpx. It was directly stated that X-Trans favors sensors over 100mpx.

Herbc

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Re: Sigma Merrill & the Foveon (X-Trans) Sensor
« Reply #8 on: June 25, 2017, 09:51:23 AM »

I tried the Sigma Merril cameras.  They were not user friendly to the extreme.  Add that to the processing problems getting the images in a usable form, it was a waste of great technology. 8)
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JKoerner007

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Re: Sigma Merrill & the Foveon (X-Trans) Sensor
« Reply #9 on: June 25, 2017, 11:09:00 AM »

I tried the Sigma Merril cameras.  They were not user friendly to the extreme.

Yep. This is especially true if you need fast-action, high-ISO capability.

However, for basic functionality in a static environment, the results are primo.



Add that to the processing problems getting the images in a usable form, it was a waste of great technology. 8)

Which again begs the thread topic 8)

What if this technology were no longer being "wasted" ... but instead was acquired by Sony (or, hell, Nikon) ... to where these sensors were then put into cameras made by the best camera engineers on the planet?

Remember, Sigma used to be considered a 3rd rate lens (like Tamron), but they're now becoming the guys to look out for. For that matter, if Sigma itself brought its own camera-functionality up to the level of its Art lens line, and then went head-to-head with Sony in the landscape department, that would be another interesting twist in the ongoing camera saga.

I would seriously consider buying the Quattro SD H for reverse-macro. The only reason I don't is all of the limitations (no reverse-mount solution, no Adobe Lightroom/C1 support, etc.). If you read the B&H Reviews, the camera delivers within its parameters ... but they are just too limited at this point.

So I agree it seems like wasted technology ... again hence the thread topic.

If Canon does bring a 120mpx X-Trans camera out, as prognosticated for 2018, that will be my most anticipated release for next year. And if Sony acquires Sigma, or negotiates a sale of Foveon, that will open up a whole new era for the rest of us. Sigma itself could "shake the jar," too, by suddenly coming out with an A9-like Quattro ... or A7rII-like ... that significantly upgrades the functionality ... and is somehow able to enlist Lightroom support.

Paul2660

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Re: Sigma Merrill & the Foveon (X-Trans) Sensor
« Reply #10 on: June 25, 2017, 11:34:50 AM »

The name x-trans is a bit misleading. As far as I know that is a Fuji term and only applies to a filter array over the sensor.

Canon has foevon style patents going back to at least 2013 but they have yet to produce anything. I also assume Sigma still has the patent right to the true foveon design so Canon wil need to make some type of change to the design.

As to the merits of Foveon no doubt it produce amazing detail. But so far only in APS-C size. Chips are best shot at ISO base and can't handle low light. Raw conversion very limited. Not sure if C1 has support and last time I checked Adode did not.

The gains you can get from multishot IMO are very close if not equal to Foveon especially when you consider use of a full frame sensor. Example Pentax K1. Not perfect but excellent detail and very clean files  especially higher ISO due to multi sampling. The K1 has its warts mainly due to Pentax and if Canon or Nikon ever designed such a camera (please Nikon) I think it would be a head turner for sure.

Paul Caldwell
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rdonson

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Re: Sigma Merrill & the Foveon (X-Trans) Sensor
« Reply #11 on: June 25, 2017, 12:35:47 PM »

The Foveon sensor is registered as X3 not X-Trans.

http://www.foveon.com/article.php?a=67

I haven't found any relationship between the Foveon sensor and Canon.  Sigma purchased Foveon in 2008 according to the website.
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StoryinPictures

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Re: Sigma Quattro more usable
« Reply #12 on: June 25, 2017, 05:30:03 PM »

A few facts which may help...

The Sigma processing program has gotten much better. I tried it last year and it still sucked. Now it's faster and, so far, not crashing on my Mac.

The Sigma SD Quattro, SD Quattro H and now even the DP0/DP1/DP2/DP3 Quattro are all capable of producing DNG files IN CAMERA so you can load them directly in Capture One (and LR and Camera RAW).

There is a free third party program which will convert Sigma RAW files to DNG, including a command line option and I think even in batches (haven't tried it, reports are good).

So the current generation of Sigmacameras, from a post processing point of view, are all much more usable than they were a few months ago.
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JKoerner007

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Re: Sigma Merrill & the Foveon (X-Trans) Sensor
« Reply #13 on: June 25, 2017, 05:47:27 PM »

Looks like I got X-3 and X-trans confused so thanks for the clarification. X-Trans is Fuji I think, similar but different.

Story, thanks for the update, that is very encouraging.

Paul2660

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Re: Sigma Merrill & the Foveon (X-Trans) Sensor
« Reply #14 on: June 25, 2017, 06:34:32 PM »

Canon has been patenting sensor design similar to Foveon for several years now. They have yet produced a sensor for a digital camera yet.

This is from dpreview and there is a lot more in the archives of Canon rumors.

https://m.dpreview.com/articles/4160862998/canon-patents-refinement-of-foveon-style-multi-layer-sensor

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davidgp

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Re: Sigma Merrill & the Foveon (X-Trans) Sensor
« Reply #15 on: June 26, 2017, 12:57:21 AM »

Looks like I got X-3 and X-trans confused so thanks for the clarification. X-Trans is Fuji I think, similar but different.

Story, thanks for the update, that is very encouraging.


Only in the X of the name.

X-trans it is a Fuji technology that changes the typical bayer array to make the distribution of red, blue and green pixels more random... The idea was to simulate the randomness of film... But it complicates things in the demosacing process of RAW processors.

Foveon on the other hand, it uses a pixel that registers the three color values at the same time. It also makes a hell for RAW processors, since they are expecting a bayer matrix or similar, they have to do a custom and new processing engine (nearly) for just being able to process foveon files.

davidgp

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Re: Sigma Merrill & the Foveon (X-Trans) Sensor
« Reply #16 on: June 26, 2017, 01:08:25 AM »

Anyway, with all this talk about "Sony should buy Nikon" (for its lenses), my thinking is Sony should buy Sigma ... not just for its lenses (which are also superior to Sony's) ... but to pick up the dropped ball of Sigma's Foveon sensor acquisition, and really do something exciting and new with these Foveon sensors.


I highly doubt Sony could buy Sigma even if they wanted.

If you read any interview to Sigma CEO, my favorite CEO in the camera world, you will find out hat Sigma it is a family company, totally owned by one family with the unique objective to do lenses and cameras. It looks like they have a particular philosophy outside the capitalist minds and I highly doubt that they will sell the company, putting in danger what their father build and the loyal employees.

In the other hand, every time someone mentions that Sony should buy X I always think, why? It looks like they are doing quite well in this sector without needing to buy anything. The only way I see that Sony is going to buy other company it is if the Japan government forces then to do it. Like when they bought 20% of Olympus shares when Olympus was about to crash... Or right now that Toshiba is selling its memory chip division and manufacturing plants and the Japan government it is trying very hard nor Foxcon (Chinese company), Samsung (Korean) or Westerm Digital (EEUU) buys it.

JKoerner007

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Re: Sigma Merrill & the Foveon (X-Trans) Sensor
« Reply #17 on: June 26, 2017, 08:57:59 AM »


I highly doubt Sony could buy Sigma even if they wanted.

If you read any interview to Sigma CEO, my favorite CEO in the camera world, you will find out hat Sigma it is a family company, totally owned by one family with the unique objective to do lenses and cameras. It looks like they have a particular philosophy outside the capitalist minds and I highly doubt that they will sell the company, putting in danger what their father build and the loyal employees.


Only reason to suggest Sony buy is the repeated bring-up of Sony and Nikon + the fact Sony has been actively buying Sensor-producing companies.

Interesting info on Sigma, thanks.

Alan Smallbone

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Re: Sigma Merrill & the Foveon (X-Trans) Sensor
« Reply #18 on: June 26, 2017, 10:10:46 AM »

Actually the way the Foveon sensors work like in the Quattro and the new SD cameras is they use a full array for blue but the red and green are binned. So all the detail and luminance comes from the blue layer, as you go further down the chip in depth to the last layer, the red it can be quite noisy. I have a dp2 quattro and a dp3 merrill. They are different in many ways. When everything is perfect you can get some amazing images, but the Quattro just does not have the dynamic range as say perhaps the Fuji. With the SPP processing you can create super resolution images that are much larger than the sensor size, I believe they use a drizzle type algorithm.  Highlight recovery is problematic. When they are "on" for the image it can be spectacular but I find I just do not use them that much, it was more for novelty reasons. Though the Quattro can be an excellent monochrome camera with the right processing. The noise comes from the fact that the light does penetrate the lower layers but it takes a lot more light to get a S/N. Hence in low light with lots of amplification they are pretty bad in terms of noise. The other problem I have had with the Sigma's like the DP Quattro is that on a hot summer day they can overheat. Or take a serious of rapid shots or bracket a lot quickly and the camera gets quite warm. When I was evaluation the DP2 Quattro as a loaner from Sigma, using it on a hot summer day in SoCal it overheated and shut down, I was getting a flashing temperature icon on the lcd, and the camera was really quite hot. That does not help the noise level either.

Interesting technology but I think it is still a lot of work to get to current standards.

Alan
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davidgp

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Re: Sigma Merrill & the Foveon (X-Trans) Sensor
« Reply #19 on: June 26, 2017, 10:16:47 AM »


Only reason to suggest Sony buy is the repeated bring-up of Sony and Nikon + the fact Sony has been actively buying Sensor-producing companies.

Interesting info on Sigma, thanks.

Yes, Sony sensor division is bigger than camera sensor division... and camera sensor division, including the ones they sell to Nikon, Fuji, Olympus... is less than what they make for mobile phones... for the sensor news that I'm reading, looks like they are more focused in HDR sensors (very interesting for the increasing intelligent car market) and global shutter sensors for their video market...

I see Sony, like canon has some foveon like like patents, but maybe they just prefer to increase megapixels like crazy... after all... that will give them more color detail, the biggest advantage of foveon sensors



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