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Sigma’s new Foveon X3 sensor will arrive “this year”

Sigma interview 2022
(Image credit: Sigma)

This follows on from an announcement by Sigma in February 2022 that it was still committed to the Foveon X3 sensor design and was in the process of developing a new version.

• Watch the interview with SIGMA Corporation CEO Kazuto Yamaki below:

The Foveon X3 sensor is unique amongst camera sensors in that it mimics the construction of traditional film. Instead of using a single layer of photosites covered by an array of micro filters to capture individual colors, the Foveon sensor has separate layers for red, green and blue color capture. 

In a traditional ‘bayer’ sensor, full color information for each pixel has to be interpolated from the pixels around it, leading to some softening of detail, moiré and anti-aliasing artefacts. In multi-layer Foveon X3 sensor, each photosite captures a full set of RGB color information on its own. 

The result is a level of fine detail you just don’t see from conventional sensors. Foveon sensors traditionally have lower megapixel resolutions than regular cameras, but extremely sharp fine detail.

Aside from resolution, there are technical difficulties with the Foveon sensor. The multi-layer design means that the lower layers receive less light, and Mr Yamaki does acknowledge this by saying that Foveon cameras do not excel in low light – but that in good light the results can be “beautiful”.

Sigma's last camera to use the Foveon X3 sensor was the innovative Quattro H... but that's not the end for Foveon. (Image credit: Sigma)
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Sigma has taken a break from making Foveon sensor cameras. Its current Sigma fp and Sigma fp L use a conventional single-layer sensor, and we learn that the quirky but fascinating SD Quattro models are no longer going to be produced.

But while Mr Yamaki did not offer a precise timescale, he did expect that Sigma’s new Foveon sensor would be ready this year, and has now moved into a prototype phase.

This does not necessarily mean that we can expect any new Foveon cameras this year. It’s still a big step from making a sensor to making a camera to house it. However, we look forward to seeing a new Foveon-equipped camera that offers an alternative to regular sensor design. For all it’s known limitations, the Foveon sensor design does produce images quite unlike those of regular cameras.

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Rod Lawton
Rod Lawton

Rod is the Group Reviews editor for Digital Camera World and across Future's entire photography portfolio, with decades of experience with cameras of all kinds. Previously he has been technique editor on N-Photo, Head of Testing for the photography division and Camera Channel editor on TechRadar. He has been writing about photography technique, photo editing and digital cameras since they first appeared, and before that began his career writing about film photography. He has used and reviewed practically every interchangeable lens camera launched in the past 20 years, from entry-level DSLRs to medium format cameras, together with lenses, tripods, gimbals, light meters, camera bags and more.