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Sigma SD10

Sigma's digital SLR uses Foveon's latest "X3" sensor technology to boost ISO and reduce image noise.

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Page 11:Video, Power, Software

Review First Posted: 10/26/2003

Video Out

The SD10 features a Video Out connector jack, and offers options both NTSC and PAL signal timing through the setup menu. A video cable accompanies the camera, letting you connect it to a television set for use with image review. All LCD menus and screen displays are mirrored on the video output.


Power

The power situation on the SD10 is another area of pleasing upgrades. The earlier SD9 required two separate sets of batteries - a set of four AA-type cells, and a pair of pricey CR123A lithium batteries. The SD10 dispenses with the CR123As, running the entire camera from the AA cells. This is a great enhancement, because the CR123As were quite expensive to replace, and could easily be run down by leaving the camera's power switch on. Besides AA cells being cheaper (and rechargeable NiMH cells almost free by the time you get a couple of hundred charge cycles on them), the SD10 has an amazingly low-power "sleep" mode, so there's virtually no penalty associated with leaving the power switch turned on.

No batteries come with the camera, so I highly recommend picking up two sets of rechargeable batteries a reliable battery charger, and keeping a spare set of batteries charged at all times. Click here to read my "battery shootout" page to see which rechargeable batteries currently on the market are best, or here for my review of the Maha C-204F charger, my longtime favorite. The main batteries load into a tray (apparently identical to the revised SD9 tray that was issued to correct problems with NiMH batteries) that inserts into the side of the camera - a nice design touch that allows the batteries to be changed whilst the camera is mounted on a tripod. An AC adapter does come with the camera, and is useful for time-consuming tasks such as image review and downloading. As noted, the SD10 has an automatic "sleep" timer, which powers down the camera after a period of inactivity (from 10 seconds to five minutes). The good thing about the SD10's sleep mode is that the camera consumes virtually NO power (three milliwatts, in my measurements) when sleeping, and awakens fairly quickly, so there's really no penalty associated with leaving the power switch in the "on" position whenever you're out shooting with it.

Power consumption on the SD10 is a bit of a mixed bag, and a little hard to project, since it depends so heavily on what you happen to be doing with the camera. When the camera is in a quiescent state (neither actively capturing nor displaying an image), power consumption is fairly low, and a set of freshly charged, high-capacity NiMH cells should last three and a half hours or more in this state. Steady-state power drain in playback mode is also fairly low, such that you could get nearly two hours of continuous run time viewing the same image.

There lies the rub though: "Viewing the same image." The SD10 apparently has a pretty hefty processor in it, because the power drain goes way up whenever you ask the camera to do something with an image. When it's actively saving images to the memory card, the current drain runs 500-600 mA at 5 volts, with spikes as high as 1300 mA at the beginning of the operation. And since it can take a good 10 seconds to save each image, even with a fast memory card, this represents an appreciable amount of power. There's more though: Any time you view an image, zoom in on one, or even scroll around the zoomed display, the power drain spikes upward again, into the 900 mA range, albeit for a fairly short time. That said, we found that the SD10 showed very good battery life in actual use, and we're told that final production models will have yet another power tweak applied, that should permit as many as 500 shots per set of AA NiMH batteries.

The SD10 did fix a key power-related problem found in early SD9 models, namely high cutoff voltage. Some of this may have been the result of the poor initial design of the SD9's battery tray, which had very high contact resistance. The SD10 uses the new tray design that was introduced as an update to the SD9 shortly after it began shipping, a very robust design with stiff springs and large contacts. - Overall it's one of the better battery holders I've seen on a digicam thus far, and the SD10 does a good job of draining all the available juice out of a set of NiMH AA cells.

As usual, I tested the actual power drain of the SD10 in various operating modes, and related the results to projected run times. The figures in the table below are based on 1600 mAh (true not advertised capacity) NiMH AA cells, so the numbers can be readily compared with those from previously-tested cameras - Figure on a good 25% longer run times with the latest high-capacity NiMH AAs.

Operating Mode
Power Drain
(@
5v)
Estimate
Run Time
(1600mAh, 4.8v
4 NiMH Cells)
Capture Mode, no LCD
444 mA
3.5 hours
Capture Mode, Cont AF
781 mA
2 hours
Half-pressed shutter button
498 mA
3.1 hours
Memory Write (transient)
600-1300 mA
n/a
Image Playback
831 mA
1.9 hours



Included Software

The software they didn't include...
(But that you should)
Few people realize just how *much* you can improve your digicam images through clever processing in Photoshop. Greatly (!) increased sharpness, reduced noise, and even ultra-wide dynamic range (light-to-dark range) by combining multiple exposures. Fred Miranda and uber-Photoshop expert Fred Miranda has packaged some of his Photoshop magic in a collection of powerful and affordably priced "actions." Check out his site, the results are pretty amazing!

To my mind, the excellent Foveon-developed Photo Pro software is a big part of the allure of the SD10 - as it was with the SD9. I don't usually pay too much attention to the software that's included with the cameras I review, but the Photo Pro application justifies an exception to that rule. The degree of control it gives the photographer over color and (particularly) tonal rendition is nearly unprecedented.

At this writing, I don't have my review of the Photo Pro software ready to share yet, so for now will just say "stay tuned." I hope to have a full report on it appearing in this space sometime during the day tomorrow.

Not Included: "Brainware"
Every manufacturer includes some level of needed software with their cameras, but what's missing is the knowledge and experience to know what to do with it. For lack of a better term, I've called this "Brainware." There's a lot involved between snapping the shutter, and watching a beautiful, professional-quality print spool off your printer, and there's sadly very little guidance as to how to get from point A to point B.

Fortunately, Uwe Steinmueller of OutbackPhoto.com has come up with an excellent series of e-books that detail every step of the process, show actual examples of files moving through the workflow, and the final results. If you want to get the absolute best prints possible from your digital files, you owe it to yourself to purchase one of the Outback Photo Digital Workflow books.



In the Box

Included in the box are the following items:

  • SD10 camera body.
  • Body cap.
  • Eyepiece cup.
  • LCD monitor cover.
  • Neck strap.
  • AC adapter with cable.
  • IEEE-1394 (FireWire) cable.
  • USB cable.
  • Video cable.
  • SIGMA Photo Pro CD-ROM.
  • Instruction manual and warranty information.



 

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