Sigma abandons plans for full-frame Foveon mirrorless camera in 2020

Sigma abandons plans for full-frame Foveon mirrorless camera in 2020
Sigma CEO Kazuto Yamaki (left) at the launch of the L-Mount Alliance in 2018, with Leica's Andreas Kaufman (center) and Panasonic's Junichiro Kitagawa (right) (Image credit: Digital Camera World)

Sigma has pulled the plugs on its plans to launch an L-mount mirrorless camera with a Foveon full-frame sensor in 2020. In an announcement from CEO Kazuto Yamaki, it is clear that the development of the the sensor has not been going to plan and that the company has had to pull back on its promise to launch the camera this year. Furthermore, with no new date for launch, the future of Sigma-owned Foveon chip technology becomes uncertain.

Foveon sensors, which unlike traditional Bayer sensors used on rival camera, have photosites on different layers – with the promise of a higher resulting resolution. Foveon chips were first used on Sigma cameras in 2002, with Sigma acquiring Foveon from its inventors in 2008.

Sigma first promised an L-mount Foveon full-frame camera back in 2018 when the L-mount Alliance between Leica, Panasonic and Sigma was born. In 2019, Sigma announced that it would launch this 60-megapixel camera in 2020. But significantly, in the interim, it has launched the Sigma fp - a full-frame L-mount mirrorless camera that uses a traditional Bayer sensor.

Sigma fp, launched in 2019, does not use a Foveon sensor (Image credit: Digital Camera World)

"As a result of careful and rigorous testing based on the latest development information" explain Yamaki, "it has become clear that the launch of such a camera would be infeasible within this year. Still at this point, we cannot say for certain when the full-frame Foveon X3 sensor will be put into mass production.

In light of current development progress, we are not in a position to offer any specific release plan at present. We have therefore decided that we should start over the project with a clean slate, putting the production plan for this new camera back to the drawing board and going back to the development of sensor technologies.

Since the earlier announcements, your excitement with the launch of a “full-frame Foveon” has been a tremendous source of inspiration and encouragement for us. Everyone involved in the project has pulled out all the stops to make it a reality. I would like to express my deepest apologies for failing to meet your expectations and having to share this disappointing news.

I would like to emphasize that Foveon sensors are in a class of their own and that they are part of the identity of SIGMA cameras that embodies our ideals and philosophies. We are determined to continue dedicating ourselves to technology development to bring better image sensors to life".

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Chris George

Chris George has worked on Digital Camera World since its launch in 2017. He has been writing about photography, mobile phones, video making and technology for over 30 years – and has edited numerous magazines including PhotoPlus, N-Photo, Digital Camera, Video Camera, and Professional Photography. 

His first serious camera was the iconic Olympus OM10, with which he won the title of Young Photographer of the Year - long before the advent of autofocus and memory cards. Today he uses a Nikon D800, a Fujifilm X-T1, a Sony A7, and his iPhone 11 Pro.

He has written about technology for countless publications and websites including The Sunday Times Magazine, The Daily Telegraph, Dorling Kindersley, What Cellphone, T3 and Techradar.