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Foveon's fill filter lets the sun shine in (UPDATED)
(Sunday, October 26, 2003 - 19:00 EST)

Foveon Inc., has today announced its new "X3 Fill Light" filter technology, which simulates the technique of "dodging and burning" in traditional photography.

Part of the new Sigma Photo Pro 2.0 (SPP2) application which is bundled with the upcoming Sigma SD10 digital camera, the X3 Fill Light tool is implemented as a slider in the Tonal Adjustments section of SPP2's Adjustment Controls panel. The user has access to + / - 2.0 steps of Fill Light, in 0.1 step increments. On the positive side of the scale, the filter's effect is somewhat akin to the original photograph having been taken with a little fill flash or a bounce reflector to soften the shadows. In the before and after image shot on the SD10 below, you can see a comparison of a file straight out of the camera (converted to JPEG) vs. one that was converted to JPEG with a +0.6 step X3 Fill Light.

Copyright © 2003, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved. Click for a bigger picture!
Before - our extremely contrasty test shot is designed to be difficult for cameras to handle.

Copyright © 2003, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved. Click for a bigger picture!
After - an application of +0.6 on the X3 Fill Light filter has softened the shadows without blowing the highlights.

According to Foveon's press information, the filter operates (for positive values) by boosting contrast of both highlights and shadows, whilst brightnening shadow areas of the picture and darkening the highlights slightly to prevent them from blowing out. Negative settings have the opposite effect, and Foveon's press materials suggest that in some images, the negative settings may serve to reduce noise in shadow areas. With stronger applications of the filter (particularly on the negative side of the scale), you can begin to see that application of the filter is feathered to prevent abrupt changes across the image, and it gives an almost "solarised" effect that could almost be artistic, albeit perhaps somewhat unintentionally so... (as in the images below)

Copyright © 2003, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved. Click for a bigger picture! Copyright © 2003, The Imaging Resource. All rights reserved. Click for a bigger picture!
A heavy hand on the X3 Fill Light filter can have unusual, but perhaps rather artistic results (left image is -2.0 and right image is +2.0 setting on the filter)

Own Sigma's SD9 digital camera, and want to get your hands on the X3 Fill Light filter? Fear not - Sigma tells us that Sigma Photo Pro 2.0 will be made available as a free upgrade for SD9 owners...

UPDATED 2003-10-26 21:28ET: We forgot to note this earlier, but the image in this article was captured with a "near-production level" SD10 digital SLR...

Original Source Press Release:


New technology easily corrects lighting problems in digital photos

Santa Clara, CA (October 27, 2003) – Foveon, Inc., a technology leader in high-quality digital image capture, today announced the release of X3 Fill Light, a powerful new technology that dramatically improves the quality of digital images affected by difficult lighting conditions. The technology is incorporated as a new software feature in the Sigma Photo Pro 2.0 application for the Sigma SD10 digital Single-Lens Reflex (SLR) camera.

The X3 Fill Light feature simulates the photographic method of “dodging and burning” adding extra light to shadow regions, while preserving highlight detail. It is a powerful method for simultaneously adjusting overexposed and underexposed areas of a digital image with a single simple control. The feature is bundled exclusively with the new Sigma SD10 digital SLR (Single-Lens Reflex) camera, which uses a Foveon X3 direct image sensor.

X3 Fill Light is designed for images taken under lighting conditions such as indoor-outdoor scenes, backlit portraits, or scenes with mixed lighting. Use of the X3 Fill Light feature creates natural-looking images that can be faithfully reproduced in a print.

“Challenging lighting conditions, such as backlighting from a window or subjects in front of snow, can result in disappointing images. The X3 Fill Light technology allows photographers to make excellent prints from poorly exposed images which otherwise would have been discarded due to poor lighting and exposure.” said Eric Zarakov, Foveon’s vice president of marketing.

X3 Fill Light is implemented as a simple slider interface that allows the user to control the amount of correction. By increasing the amount of X3 Fill Light, the brightness and contrast of the shadow regions are increased to add visibility into areas that have been underexposed. Simultaneously, the contrast in highlight regions is automatically increased and the brightness is adjusted to avoid saturation.

The Sigma Photo Pro 2.0 software, incorporating Foveon’s X3 Fill Light, is shipping with the Sigma SD10 digital Single-Lens Reflex (SLR) camera from Sigma Corporation (www.sigma-photo.co.jp).

About Foveon Since its establishment in 1997, Foveon has focused on developing image-capture technologies and products for digital cameras. The most recent innovation by Foveon is the Foveon X3® direct image sensor, the world’s first direct image sensor that captures red, green and blue light at every pixel location.

Foveon is a privately held company. Investors include: National Semiconductor Inc., Synaptics Inc., New Enterprise Associates, and Franklin Templeton Investments.

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