Sigma SD1

SD1: Sigma wants to fail

There is no other possible explanation to today’s announcement by Sigma Corp. The published two critical bits of information about the Sigma SD1:

  • Its availability date: early June
  • Its MSRP price: $9,700 or 7,000€ or £6,199.99 (inc VAT)
Sigma SD1

Sigma SD1

Even thinking that the SD1 is competing with medium format photo cameras, the 46 MP DSLR will be out of reach for nearly everybody. This is about the same price as for the Pentax 645D, but without the aura of the Pentax, without the extremely comfortable feel of a real medium format photo camera like the 645D.

And remember that the 46 Mega-pixels are actually 3 layers of color 15 MP Foveon-stacked, which still have to demonstrate that they are perfectly on par with a more usual Bayer sensor organization. Not that one is inherently better than the other, but when you are the challenger, you’d better bring some more arguments to the benchmark to topple the already existing top competitor.

Some differences that may make the difference:


Sigma SD1 Pentax 645D
Sensor 46MP Foveon 40MP @ 12/14 bits
Exposure control 77-segment, 3 modes & manual 77-segment, 7 modes & manual
ISO 100-6400 100-1600
AF 11-twin cross 11-zone (incl. 9-cross)
Flash Manual Pop-up Built-in flash, GN 11 (17mm lens angle covered)
Hot shoe (contact X synchronization at 1/180 sec. or less, with dedicated flash linking contact)
Hot shoe, X-sync socket, sync-speed: 1/125 sec., P-TTL, high-speed-sync, wireless-sync with Pentax dedicated external flash
Viewfinder 98% 98%
LCD 3″ LCD with 460,000 dots 3″ LCD with 921,000 dots
Body Splash-proof All-weather (70 seals)
Weight 700g (24.7 oz.) 1400g (49.4 oz.)

Once I exploded on this announcement, I must admit that there is a good better explanation than a death wish. Sigma is facing a very difficult battle. Probably, they know that they can no longer compete with Nikon, Canon, Pentax or Sony on the usual DSLR market as they tried before. So, the only way to sell the Sigma SD1 is to push for higher prices (and higher margins) trying to make the best of their existing technology. But the Foveon technology did not prove that it was so advanced it could justify most of what Sigma is trying to sell it for. We’ll see…