HUGE Sigma News: Two-Thirds price cut on SD1, massive DP1/DP2 upgrades!

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posted Wednesday, February 8, 2012 at 3:00 AM EDT

Sigma's SD1 digital SLR. Photo provided by Sigma Corp. Click to read our Sigma SD1 preview!There are price drops, and then there are *Price Drops* -- this is clearly one of the latter: Citing dramatic improvements in sensor manufacturing cost, Sigma is announcing a two-thirds price cut in their top of the line SLR, the SD1. Changing the name (but nothing else about the camera) to the Sigma SD1 Merrill, in homage to Foveon cofounder and coinventor of the Foveon sensor technology Dick Merrill, Sigma has announced a new Minimum Advertised Price (MAP or "street" price) for the SD1 of just $2,299. Given that the camera was widely selling for $6,899 just yesterday, this is a truly unprecedented price move. (The press release below mentions a $3,300 suggested retail price (MSRP), but Sigma told us separately that the MAP would be fully a thousand dollars less.)

We've been quite impressed with the Sigma SD1's image quality (we should finally have our full review and analysis of it posted in the next week or so; meanwhile, check out the test images we've uploaded from it), but felt that its price made it hard to recommend for all but the fanatical few. This new pricing makes it a whole other kettle of fish, though, to the extent that we consider it to offer quite a compelling proposition for landscape, architectural, and studio photographers of all stripes. In our testing, we felt that the SD1's low-ISO images easily equalled the resolution from top full-frame cameras with ~25 megapixel sensors. Thanks to the lack of color interpolation needed to overcome the RGB striping of conventional sensor arrays, the lack of artifacts in areas of fine detail also produced a level of presence (for lack of a better term) we've not seen in any other camera. Now, with the lower price, we can confidently recommend it for a range of shooters.

Sigma's DP1 Merrill digital camera. Photo provided by Sigma Corp. Click for a bigger picture!
Sigma's DP2 Merrill digital camera. Photo provided by Sigma Corp. Click for a bigger picture!

Seen from most angles, Sigma's DP1 Merrill (left) and DP2 Merrill (right) are near-indistinguishable. Other than the screen-printed labels, the key is in the lens. The DP1 Merrill's wide-angle lens is deeper than the DP2 Merrill's normal lens.
Photos provided by Sigma Corp.

Of course, people who've spent the $6,900 (or more) for their SD1s aren't likely to be as ecstatic as potential new users of the camera: What's to be done for them?

In an unusual move, Sigma has announced that they'll be providing a support program for current SD1 owners. Details at this point are limited, but the gist of it is that Sigma will be offering "points" to current owners that can be exchanged for any and all Sigma products; both current ones and others to be released later this year. The support program will continue through the end of 2012, giving owners plenty of time to choose their preferred products. (Basically, all current SD1 owners are in line for getting a hefty pile of premium Sigma glass to go along with their SD1 bodies. - Or perhaps even a second SD1 body, if they already have a full complement of lenses.) Exact details of the points program aren't yet available, but we hope to be able to report on the specifics in the near future.

Meanwhile (as if that weren't enough), Sigma has also announced massive upgrades to their DP1 and DP2 rangefinder-style cameras. These models are being reborn as the Sigma DP1 Merrill and Sigma DP2 Merrill, basically getting the guts of the SD1 inside, including the 46 megapixel APS-C Foveon chip and dual True-II image processors. As with their predecessors, the main difference between the new DP models is lens focal length, with the DP1 Merrill having a wide-angle lens, and the DP2 Merrill having a normal lens. See our pages on the Sigma DP1 Merrill and Sigma DP2 Merrill for more details on these new models.

At press time, price and availability info for the DP1 and DP2 Merrill models was still pending.

Press Release

Sigma Corporation of America announces new name, pricing for flagship SD1 camera

DSLR takes Foveon technology creator’s name, undergoes manufacturing improvements to reduce price

Ronkonkoma, NY, Feb. 8, 2012 – In a personal letter to the company’s loyal customers, Sigma Corporation CEO Kazuto Yamaki today announced that, starting next month, Sigma’s 46-megapixel SD1 DSLR will be renamed the SD1 Merrill in honor Richard “Dick” Merrill, the late co-creator of the Foveon X3 Direct Image Sensor technology. The otherwise unchanged DSLR will also be sold at a lower price that reflects new efficiencies in the camera’s production. 

The SD1 Merrill will be sold for approximately $3,300 MSRP in the United States.

Today Yamaki wrote:

To our valued customers,

We would like to express our appreciation for your loyal patronage of Sigma products.

Today, we announced our new digital single lens reflex camera, the Sigma SD1 Merrill. This product has the same features, performance, and specifications as the Sigma SD1, however, the price is substantially revised. We are gearing up for its release in March 2012, and the market price is expected to be approximately $3,300 MSRP.

At the time of its introduction, the Sigma SD1 was a revolutionary product incorporating a 46MP* direct image sensor which provided the highest resolution in a digital SLR camera. As the world’s only full-color sensor capturing all three primary color components (R, G, and B) within each pixel location, the Foveon X3 Direct Image Sensor made it possible for the image quality of SD1 to not only demonstrate improved resolution, but also to obtain richer expressions of gradation, as well as to enhance the three-dimensional impression which is specific to Foveon sensors. *Resolution equivalent to 30MP on a color filter array sensor

However, even with this revolutionary image sensor, we could not solve issues related to some of the manufacturing methods before the start of mass production, and the production cost ended up substantially exceeding our originally expected price. As a result, we had no choice but to set the price of the SigmaSD1 high. This caused great discouragement to all of you who looked forward to its release, and wished to experience the very unique image quality of the Sigma SD1 in person; this has become our biggest disappointment and pain.

Since then, overcoming this situation has become the first priority for us and Foveon, and we have together made improvements to reduce production cost substantially. Even though this effort took nearly a year, at last, we achieved a reduction target close to the price we originally planned. Therefore, we decided to release Sigma SD1 as a new product, and were able to make our recent announcement.

The Sigma SD1 Merrill keeps the best image quality of the Sigma SD1, which has a unique identity, but comes with a substantially revised price. Although some of the manufacturing methods have been enhanced, the performance and characteristics of the sensor itself have not changed. There is nothing more pleasurable for us than enabling our valued customers to experience the Sigma SD1 Merrill in person, as a digital SLR camera of a new era which inspires photographers’ inner artistic sensitivity, providing “high image quality” and changing current perceptions of what is possible.

On the other hand, we fully understand that it is not acceptable to current Sigma SD1 users that a new product with exactly the same specifications as their camera is being released with a substantially revised price a year later. After all, those customers committed to purchasing the Sigma SD1 with great expectations.

During this period, we have seriously considered how we can express our appreciation for our Sigma SD1 customers. Currently, we have a plan to offer a support program for current Sigma SD1 owners. This support program will provide points that can be exchanged for our products. This program is expected to be valid after the release of Sigma SD1 Merrill and it will last until the end of this year, 2012. It will be applicable for all Sigma products including both current and new products to be released this year. More details will be available soon; we appreciate your kind understanding as we finalize this program.

We would like to once again express our appreciation to current Sigma SD1 owners, and other customers who are looking forward to our next DSLR camera, for your loyal patronage to Sigma. We will continue doing our best with the aim to design and manufacture ideal photographic equipment that inspires the artistic hearts of photographers everywhere. We sincerely value your continued support.

Kazuto Yamaki
Chief Executive Officer
SIGMA CORPORATION

Sigma Corporation of America will soon contact current Sigma SD1 owners in the United States to discuss the support program and the redemption of points with the company as a result of this pricing change. In the meantime, SD1 owners in the United States may contact Director of Marketing Christine Moossmann by emailing Cmoossmann@sigmaphoto.com with questions or concerns about this announcement.

To locate an authorized Sigma dealer nearest to you, visit www.sigmaphoto.com/where/where.asp. For information about Sigma Corporation of America, visit www.sigmaphoto.com.

About Sigma Corporation
For more than 50 years, Sigma Corporation’s expertise and innovation has driven the company’s core philosophy of “knowledge, plus experience, plus imagination,” with an emphasis on producing high-quality, high-performance photographic technology at moderate prices. This family-owned organization is the largest, independent SLR lens manufacturer in the world, producing more than 40 lenses that are compatible with most manufacturers, including Sigma, Canon, Sony, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic and Pentax. Sigma Corporation also produces digital SLR cameras and high-definition digital compact cameras. The company is headquartered in Japan, with offices strategically located throughout Europe, Asia and North America. For information, please visit www.sigmaphoto.com.


Sigma Corporation announces next-generation compact cameras named in honor of Foveon innovator

DP1 Merrill and DP2 Merrill now incorporate 46-megapixel, full-color image sensor

Ronkonkoma, NY, Feb. 8, 2012 – Sigma Corporation of America (www.sigmaphoto.com), a leading researcher, developer, manufacturer and service provider for some of the world's most impressive lines of lenses, cameras and flashes, today announced the new Merrill series of digital cameras with the introduction of the DP1 Merrill and DP2 Merrill. The Merrill series is named in honor of Richard “Dick” Merrill, the co-creator of the Foveon X3 Direct Image Sensor technology that powers Sigma’s unique lineup of cameras.

These upgraded, high resolution, fixed lens compact digital cameras now incorporate the same APS-C sized 46-megapixel X3 image sensor found in the company’s flagship SD1 SLR, now also known as the Sigma SD1 Merrill. This name change not only pays homage to Merrill, but it also reflects new production efficiencies that will result in a substantial reduction in the camera’s market price starting next month.

Merrill (1949-2008) was a brilliant engineer, talented photographer and Foveon co-founder. He tapped into his passion for electronics to build an innovative pixel structure that uniquely demonstrated the ability to capture RGB information in each pixel location. This revolutionary discovery led the Foveon team to the development of the X3 Direct Image Sensor and, ultimately, to the creation of some of the most vibrantly colored and detailed imagery the photography industry has ever seen. Sigma acquired Foveon in late 2008.

“This revolutionary image capture system reflects both the artistic and technological sides of Merrill’s personality,” said Kazuto Yamaki, CEO of Sigma Corporation. “As an expression of Sigma’s passion for photography and in honor of Dick Merrill’s genius, we have named the latest generation of the Foveon X3 Direct Image Sensor the Foveon Merrill.”

The Sigma DP1 Merrill and DP2 Merrill each boast exclusively-designed, high-performance telecentric fixed lenses. The DP1 Merrill features a wide, 19mm F2.8 lens, which is the equivalent to a 28mm lens on a 35mm SLR camera. The DP2 Merrill, however, offers a 30mm F2.8 lens, which is the equivalent to a 45mm lens on a 35mm camera. Both cameras are compact and lightweight, and feature Sigma’s own “F” Low Dispersion (FLD) glass, which performs like fluorite glass and significantly improves lens performance, as well as Super Multi Layer Coating to reduce flare and ghosting. With the 46-megapixel, full-color Foveon X3 Direct Image Sensor, the new DP cameras capture all primary RGB colors at each pixel location with three layers, which results in incredibly detailed images with a three-dimensional feel.

The Sigma DP Merrill cameras also include the following features:

  • A dual, three-layer responsive ultimate (TRUE II) engine now incorporates two TRUE II processors to improve the processing speed and overall quality of the final image. Sigma’s unique image-processing algorithm also provides high-resolution power and reproduces high-definition images with richly graduated tones that offer a three-dimensional feel.
  • RAW and JPEG format recording retains the full image detail of the utmost quality captured through the direct image sensor, as well as a JPEG recording format for convenience. The RAW data format provides pure data for high-resolution images, and uses lossless compression for more compact, yet uncompromised, data files. The RAW data format of the DP Merrill series keep brightness and color data in a 1:1 ratio without relying on interpolation. When the image is processed in Sigma Photo Pro, it will preserve the balance of the natural data for the best photos with the best image quality.
  • Sigma Photo Pro processing software converts RAW data quickly and easily. It incorporates functions such as a loupe, exposure picker, print, JPEG conversion, and batch white balance settings.
  • Manual focus is available for use when autofocus or focus-lock is not desired.
  • An advanced user interface is complete with a custom Quick Set (QS) menu and the metallic command dial to improve usability. The diaphragm, shutter speed and menu can be changed quickly using the command dial. The QS menu consists of the most commonly used functions and can be easily displayed by pressing the QS button, allowing photographers to change the menu content and the order depending on preferences.
  • A large, highly visible three-inch TFT color LCD monitor ensures great visibility even outdoors in the daytime. This approximately 920,000 pixel resolution LCD monitor benefits from a wide viewing angle, making it easy to capture details and check focusing and composition.
  • A hot shoe allows the use of the dedicated external flashgun EF-140 DG (optional) as well as Sigma electronic flashguns for SD series such as EF-610 DG Super (optional) and EF-610 DG ST (optional).
  • Movie mode enables movie recording with VGA (640×480) size, with 30 shooting frames per second.

Pricing and availability of the Sigma DP1 Merrill and DP2 Merrill are pending.

To locate an authorized Sigma dealer nearest to you, visit www.sigmaphoto.com/where/where.asp. For information about Sigma Corporation of America, visit www.sigmaphoto.com.

About Sigma Corporation
For more than 50 years, Sigma Corporation’s expertise and innovation has driven the company’s core philosophy of “knowledge, plus experience, plus imagination,” with an emphasis on producing high-quality, high-performance photographic technology at moderate prices. This family-owned organization is the largest, independent SLR lens manufacturer in the world, producing more than 40 lenses that are compatible with most manufacturers, including Sigma, Canon, Sony, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic and Pentax. Sigma Corporation also produces digital SLR cameras and high-definition digital compact cameras. The company is headquartered in Japan, with offices strategically located throughout Europe, Asia and North America. For information, please visit www.sigmaphoto.com.