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Sigma SD9

Sigma's digital SLR uses Foveon's "X3" sensor technology to deliver more detail per pixel!

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Page 10:Image Storage & Interface

Review First Posted: 11/09/2002

Image Storage and Interface

The SD9 stores images on either Type I or II CompactFlash cards, and is compatible with IBM MicroDrives. The SD9 doesn't come with a memory card, so you'll want to purchase a card along with the camera. Note too, that you're going to want a LARGE card, as the raw-format images the SD9 saves occupy a lot of space, particularly at the High resolution setting. Three image resolutions are available: High (2,268 x 1,512 pixels), Medium (1,512 x 1,008 pixels), or Low (1,134 x 756 pixels). All images are recorded in the raw file format, which records data directly as captured by the sensor, losslessly compressed. (The camera's interface software provides a useful and very flexible tool for correcting and adjusting exposure and color values, and saving JPEG or TIFF images from the raw sensor data files.)

As noted, the SD9 uses lossless data compression as it saves the data onto the memory card, but interestingly there seems to be little compression used for the medium and low resolution images. (Although the compression figures shown are based on a baseline of 8 bits per color channel, and the SD9 actually digitizes to 12 bits per channel - So there's actually an additional factor of 1.5 that's applied, but not reflected in the compression figures below.)

Following is the number of files, and their approximate sizes, that will fit on a 256MB memory card. (As you can see, you'll really want a large memory card or cards to use with the SD9! As I write this, 512 MB cards are appearing on sale various places for prices as low as $150, and I'd really advise getting at least one card that large for use with the SD9. - And while you're at it, think about upgrading the hard disk on your computer too.)

Image Capacity vs
256MB Memory Card
(Avg size)
8 MB
(Avg size)
4.7 MB
Low Resolution
(Avg size)
2.5 MB

The SD9 is equipped with both USB and FireWire (IEEE 1394) interfaces, the USB interface conforming to version 1.1 of that standard. The camera apparently does not function as a storage-class device, as it didn't show up on my Mac OS 9 desktop, but rather required me to connect via the provided Photo Pro software application.

When I tested download times with the camera, I had a hard time believing the results - They were so slow. It's possible that there were software/driver conflicts on the machines I used for testing, but if so, the SD9 was the only camera that succumbed to them, as other cameras worked just fine. On the Mac, I never managed to get the USB interface to work reliably at all, the Photo Pro software froze up whenever I connected the camera. The FireWire interface worked on the Mac (a now somewhat aging G4, with a 500 MHz processor and 640 MB of RAM), but *very* slowly. I clocked the FireWire transfer rate at 268 KB/second, a number that would be on the slow side even for a USB interface. Giving up on the Mac, I switched to my even more elderly PC to test the USB download speed, and was amazed to find that it could only move data at 35.7 KB/second. (That was on a 350 MHz PII machine, with 512MB of RAM, running Windows 98.) - I haven't seen transfer rates that slow since the days of serial-port-connected digicams. Just to make sure that there wasn't something radically amiss with the PC (as well as to check operation with a more modern operating system), I also installed the Photo Pro software on my Sony VAIO laptop, running Windows XP. (1.2 GHz PIV, 256 MB RAM.) The performance there was a little better, but only marginally so, as I clocked the transfer rate at 47 KB/second.

It's entirely possible that there was something wrong with all three computers I tested the SD9 with, but I strongly doubt it. As noted, other cameras and scanners work fine on all three machines, producing normal transfer rates for the interfaces involved. The bottom line that it's only marginally feasible to download directly from the camera via FireWire, and completely pointless with USB. - Plan on buying a fast external card reader along with the SD9, if you don't already own one.

Lost Images? - Download this image-recovery program so you'll have it when you need it...
Since we're talking about memory and image storage, this would be a good time to mention the following: I get a ton of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. It's tragic when it happens, there are few things more precious than photo memories. Corrupted memory cards can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. "Stuff happens," as they say. A surprising number of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digicam reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...


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