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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 10:Image Storage & Interface

Review First Posted: 10/26/2003

Image Storage and Interface

The SD10 stores images on either Type I or II CompactFlash cards, or MicroDrives. The SD10 doesn't come with a memory card, so you'll want to purchase a large capacity card along with the camera. Note too, that you're going to want a LARGE card, as the raw-format images the SD10 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 SD10 uses lossless data compression as it saves the data onto the memory card. Whilst at first glance it might seem that there is little compression used for the medium and low resolution images, this is likely because the files actually contain a sizeable preview "thumbnail" which the camera and software display whilst the actual RAW data is being encoded. This lets you more quickly browse through images, etc. - but means that as you go to the lower resolution X3F files, the thumbnail occupies a progressively larger percentage of the total file size - cancelling out the compression of the RAW data to some extent. Also, note that although the compression figures shown are based on a baseline of 8 bits per color channel, the SD10 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 cards to use with the SD10! It is a shame, then, that as with its predecessor the SD10 doesn't support the FAT32 file system - meaning that you're subject to the limitations of FAT16 (which prevents any area of a flash card beyond the first two gigabytes from being visible). With cards as large as 6GB now just becoming available (October, 2003) it would have been nice to see the SD10 offer support for them - particularly given its support for the Type-II CompactFlash slot that many of the largest cards require.

Image Capacity vs
256MB Memory Card
(Avg size)
6.6 MB
(Avg size)
4.4 MB
Low Resolution
(Avg size)
2.3 MB

The SD10 is equipped with both USB and FireWire (IEEE 1394) interfaces, the USB interface conforming to version 1.1 of that standard. Download speed on the earlier SD9 was a major issue, as it had the dubious distinction of being the slowest camera I'd tested to date. Happily, the situation appears to be much improved with the SD10, as it showed a download speed of 1.2-1.3 megabytes/second over FireWire, depending on the speed of the memory card used. (I only tested it with fairly fast cards, slow memory cards would doubtless produce slower download times.) Unfortunately, I couldn't get the USB drivers to work on my overloaded Windows XP box, and was hesitant to load drivers on my pristine Mac OS X workstation, so was unable to test USB transfer rates. (This shouldn't be counted as a strike against the SD10, as the XP box in question just recently developed some fairly serious OS problems that could well have been the source of the trouble.)

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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