Playing with a new camera…

Playing with a new camera…

So I have been reading some interesting info online about a camera that has been out for a few years but has kind of flown under the radar- it’s a Sigma sd Quattro.

Sigma are best known for making third-party lenses for other cameras, but have made a few cameras of their own over the years. This one is kind of weird, but also kind of special- it’s an APS-C crop sensor camera, but it uses a different sensor to record images that most others, a Foveon X3 (as opposed to the Bayer filter in almost all other digital cameras).

What makes this special, is that rather than every 3 pixels recording red, green and blue respectively, each pixel has three layers so it records all three. This means that the detail it records is significantly improved over regular sensors, even though it is not a full-frame sensor. In fact, from what I’ve been reading, people say that the quality of the images it records are much closer to film than the digital images you get from most cameras. And as someone with an ever-growing collection of classic film era lenses I though this might be a match made in heaven.

So, I have rented one for a week to see if the hype is correct 🙂 It comes with it’s own 30mm f/1.4 Sigma lens (45mm full frame equivalent as it’s a 1.5 crop sensor camera) but I also managed to find an M42 to Sigma SA adapter so I can also try it with my vintage lenses.

As you cans see from the above, it takes very nice pictures (though there are a few odd color streaks that I suspect are reflections inside one of the vintage lenses), and also has a 21:9 aspect ratio setting built in for those lovely wide panorama shots. But… the fun has just begun! It also has an easily removable IR filter, so with a pair of tweezers and 30 seconds work it can be converted to being a full spectrum camera!

To explain what that means a little- all digital camera sensors can record more than just visible light, but they all have a filter built-in to block the higher wavelength infra red light from being recorded as well (we can’t see it, so it would be weird to record it too), but if you can remove that filter you can get some very interesting effects!

This pic was taken with the IR blocking filter removed, so this is both IR and visible light together. The other fun thing you can do with a full spectrum camera is to add a filter the lens that blocks the visible light so you record only the infra red. I have such a filter coming from Amazon (it was supposed to come yesterday, but hopefully it will arrive before I am due to send this camera back on Tuesday). IR photography is something I have long wanted to try, so I’m really hoping I get to see how it works (if you want to learn more there’s a ton of info here).

But, one thing I have already found is that if you use a full spectrum camera that has a film-like sensor, add a classic film-era lens, and convert the pictures it takes to black and white, they look absolutely beautiful:

These are slightly compressed so that they will not take forever to load on the web, but I hope you can see what I mean- these remind me so much of the pictures I used to get with my old tank of a Zenit SLR and Ilford B&W film 🙂

The Sigma sd Quattro sensor does have one downside- it has to be used pretty much at 100 ISO as the Foveon sensors get pretty lousy pretty quickly if you raise it up, but that’s just another quirk of this camera that I actually quite like- it is much more like shooting film as you have to think about each exposure and use a tripod if the light is not on your side.

My Sony cameras are obviously not going to replaced with something like this for everyday use, but it’s so much fun to use something different every now and then!

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