Sigma SD10

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Sigma SD10
  • Sigma SD10
  • Sigma SD10
  • Sigma SD10

Pros

  • Brilliant manual controls, wonderful pictures

Cons

  • Few automatic settings, no built in flash

Bottom Line

A brilliant camera for advanced photographers, but new users should look elsewhere.

Would you buy this?

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The Sigma SD10 is definitely for the serious camera user. Except for the ability to select Auto focus, all the functions require some sort of manual tweaking. Consumers used to automatic functions on compact cameras or SLR cameras such as the Canon 300D or Nikon D70, will find the Sigma takes a bit of adjusting to. Because every shot needs to be set, unless in Program mode, it makes it a tad harder to be as spontaneous as is possible with an automatic camera; but the upshot is that correctly configured settings make for stand-out shots. Adding to this manual structure, the lack of a built-in flash means taking shots indoors: at say, a party or restaurant, is pretty much off limits - unless you brought your own flash or tripod.

The SD10 has one distinguishing feature: the sensor. Sigma uses a Foveon X3 image sensor which is produced using a 0.18-micron CMOS process. This differs from the more common and widely used Bayer-mosaic image sensors. So what does this mean? Most digital cameras use one layer of pixels and, thanks to filters, each captures, in a mosaic pattern, 25 per cent red and blue light and 50 per cent green light. Thus, according to Foveon, they only detect one colour per pixel location. Foveon X3 technology has three physical layers of pixels and each pixel captures a primary colour range - much the same way a film camera does. What this means in theory is a greater richness and saturation in colour.

It also means a slight twist in nomenclature. So rather than say the SD10 is a 3.43 megapixel camera, Foveon uses the term megasensors. In this case the same 3.43Mp Sigma camera is actually a 10.29 million pixel sensors (megasensor) camera. In other words, the picture area is calculated as 2268 columns by 1512 rows (3.43 megapixels) by three primary colour filters/layers (red, green and blue). Because of this sensor technology, the Sigma only captures raw images and saves them in the X3F file format with the .X3F name extension. These files are large. In Hi-mode they are approximately 8MB; Med, approx 4MB; and Low, approx 2MB. A large memory card is a must.

The lack of auto functions means users may take some time getting used to the camera. Once they get more familiar with selecting correct aperture and shutter settings, images come out sharp and crisp. Sigma includes two lenses with the SD10 camera body: an 18-50mm and a 55 to 200mm lens. Any Sigma branded lens, whether digital or from a film camera, will work on the mount, but unfortunately the camera is limited to Sigma lenses only.

The camera is shipped with Sigma Photo Pro software, which needs to be installed in order to upload images because of the unique .X3F file extension. Images can be converted to JPEG or TIFF with the Photo Pro software. The software is not just useful for that, it also allows for handy touch-ups of images. Users can highlight, improve contrast and add colour to images that need attention, plus much more. To upload images, the camera features FireWire and USB 1.1. Unfortunately there is no USB 2.0 connectivity. As a result, uploading images with USB is slower.

The SD10 is weighty, coming in at 1130 grams (with lens and batteries). This is great on windy days as it is easier to control the camera which sits nicely in your hands and has less shake, but the downside is it is heavier to carry. It is a well built camera with solid casing.

Sigma has provided a good range of shutter speeds, as any good SLR requires. When the ISO is set to 100/200 you get speeds of 1/6000 down to 15 seconds; at ISO 400/800 it is 1/6000 to four seconds, and bulb setting on ISO 100/200 up to 15 seconds.

In shooting mode there are no glaring omissions from this camera. It has exposure compensation that can be set in 1/3EV increments from +3.0 to -3.0 stops; auto bracketing at three different exposure levels: appropriate exposure, under exposure and over exposure; mirror lock; a depth of field preview button, AE lock and a 10-second timer.

All up, the SD-10 is a camera which takes some time to get familiar with. Consumers may find the lack of automatic functions, and hefty price tag a barrier. Those that look beyond this will be suitably impressed.

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