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 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.