Sigma SD1 Review

 
Camera Reviews / Sigma Cameras i Initial Test

Sigma SD1 Performance


Timing and Performance

Generally slow to very slow speeds for a prosumer SLR.

Startup/Shutdown

Power on
to first shot

~4.5 seconds

Time it takes for camera to turn on and take a shot.

Shutdown

~2.5 seconds

How long it takes to turn off.

Buffer clearing time

24 seconds*
after 7 Large Fine JPEGs

Worst case buffer clearing time. -- This is the delay after a set of shots before you can remove the card. Some cameras won't shut down until the buffer is cleared.

See Cycle-Time table below for more buffer clearing times.

74 seconds*
after 7 Large RAW frames
76 seconds*
after 7 Large RAW + Large Fine JPEGs

* Note: Buffer clearing times measured with a SanDisk Extreme Pro 90MB/s 32GB UDMA 6 CompactFlash card. Slower cards will produce correspondingly slower clearing times. Slow cards may also limit length of bursts in continuous mode. ISO sensitivity and noise reduction settings can also affect cycle times and burst mode performance.

Startup and shutdown times were very slow for an SLR, probably the slowest we've measured in recent memory. Buffer clearing is slow for JPEGs despite the shallow buffers, and extremely slow when RAW files are present -- and that's with fast card rated at up to 90MB/s read/write speed. To make matter worse, the camera is unresponsive during writes.

 

Mode Switching

Play to Record,
first shot

~0.5 second

Time until first shot is captured.

Record to Play

~13 seconds

Time to display a Large/Fine quality JPEG file immediately after capture.

Display
recorded image

~0.4 second

Time to display a Large/Fine quality JPEG file already on the memory card.

Time to switch from play to record mode is pretty good, as is displaying a previously captured image, but switching from record to play after taking a shot takes a very long 13 seconds with our fastest CompactFlash card (22 seconds with a slower card we tried).

 

Shutter Response (Lag Time)

Full Autofocus
Single Area
(center) AF

0.382 second

Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture. (All AF timing measurements taken with a Sigma 17-50mm F2.8 EX DC OS HSM lens.

Full Autofocus
Auto Area AF

0.466 second

Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture.

Full Autofocus
Single Area AF, Flash enabled

0.521 second

Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture. Auto Flash enabled.

Continuous AF
0.243 second
This mode is release priority so subject may be out of focus; we have no way to measure performance with moving subjects.
Manual focus
0.244 second
For most cameras, shutter lag is less in manual focus than autofocus, but usually not as fast as when the camera is "pre-focused."

Pre-focused

0.088 second

Time to capture, after half-pressing and holding shutter button.

The shutter lag numbers above measure time from shutter button press to image capture, with the lens already set to the correct focal distance. This largely removes the issue of differences in lens focusing speed, and measures how fast the camera can measure and act on focus information. In this metric, the Sigma SD1 was quite a bit slower than most prosumer SLRs, and indeed slower than some Point & Shoots. The SD1 required 0.382 second for full AF and capture when using Single-point (center) AF mode (our default full AF lag test). The lag increased to 0.466 second when using the 11-point Auto-area AF mode, also slower than most SLRs. Enabling the flash further increased lag to 0.521 second. Continuous AF and Manual focus lag times were similar to each other and also slower-than-average, at 0.243 and 0.244 second respectively. When pre-focused, shutter lag was 0.088 second which is good, but not as fast as some prosumer models.

 

Cycle Time (shot-to-shot)
Single Shot mode
Large Fine JPEG
0.78 second

Time per shot, averaged over buffer depth of 9 shots.

Single Shot mode
Large RAW

0.78 second

Time per shot, averaged over buffer depth of 7 shots.

Single Shot mode
Large RAW +  Large Fine JPEG
0.84 second
Time per shot, averaged over buffer depth of 7 shots.

Early shutter
penalty?

Yes

Some cameras refuse to snap another shot if you release and press the shutter too quickly in Single Shot mode, making "No" the preferred answer.

Continuous mode
Large Fine JPEG
0.25 second
(4.08 fps);
7 frames total;
24 seconds to clear*
Time per shot, averaged over the buffer length of 7 shots, then slows to an average of 2.73 seconds (0.37 fps) for subsequent shots, with about 32% variation in cycle times when buffer is full.

Continuous mode
Large RAW

0.25 second
(4.08 fps);
7 frames total;
74 seconds to clear*

Time per shot, averaged over the buffer length of 7 shots, then slows to an average of 11.97 seconds (0.08 fps) for subsequent shots, with about 12% variation in cycle times when buffer is full.

Continuous mode
Large RAW + Large Fine JPEG

0.25 second
(4.08 fps);
7 frames total;
76 seconds to clear*

Time per shot, averaged over the buffer length of 7 shots, then slows to an average of 12.49 seconds (0.08 fps) for subsequent shots, with about 7% variation in cycle times when buffer is full.

Flash recycling

4.0 seconds

Flash at maximum output.

* Note: Buffer clearing times measured with a SanDisk Extreme Pro 90MB/s 32GB UDMA 6 CompactFlash card. Slower cards will produce correspondingly slower clearing times. Slow cards may also limit length of bursts in continuous mode. ISO sensitivity and noise reduction settings can also affect cycle times and burst mode performance.

Shot-to-shot cycle times were sluggish for an SLR, at 0.78 second for Large ("High") Fine quality JPEGs or Large RAW files. Cycle time increased slightly to 0.84 second for Large RAW + Large Fine JPEGs.

Continuous mode speed was slower-than-average for a prosumer SLR, at a very consistent 4.08 frames per second no mater the image type. The Sigma SD1's buffer depths were quite shallow for a prosumer SLR, at only 7 frames for Large Fine JPEG, Large RAW, or Large RAW + Large Fine JPEG files. The Sigma SD1's full resolution RAW files are quite large though (they can be over 50MB each), so we're not really surprised here, though we were surprised continuous mode buffer depths didn't improve when shooting just Large Fine JPEGs.

The Sigma SD1's flash took 4.0 seconds to recharge after a full-power shot, which is a bit slower than average for an SLR.

 

Download speed

Windows Computer, USB 2.0

829 KBytes/sec

Typical Values:
Less than 600=USB 1.1;
600-769=USB 2.0 Low;
Above 770=USB 2.0 High

Connected to a computer or printer with USB 2.0, downloads are quite slow compared to most SLRs these days. You'll definitely want to invest in a fast card reader if you don't have one already, especially given the large RAW files the SD1 produces.

 

Bottom line, the Sigma SD1 is pretty slow for a prosumer SLR at almost everything it does, especially buffer clearing. Using it requires a lot of patience at times, but stellar image quality at low ISOs will no doubt be worth the wait for Foveon fans.

Battery

Battery Life
Unpublished battery life.

Operating Mode Number of Shots
Optical Viewfinder,
(CIPA standard)
Unpublished

The Sigma SD1 uses a custom BP-21 rechargeable lithium-ion battery for power, and ships with a charger. Battery life apparently has not been published by Sigma, however our lab technician noted battery life seemed to be pretty good.

The table above shows the number of shots the camera is capable of (on either a fresh set of disposable batteries or a fully-charged rechargeable battery as appropriate), based on CIPA battery-life and/or manufacturer standard test conditions.

(Interested readers can find an English translation of the CIPA DC-002 standards document here. (180K PDF document))

 

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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.

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