February 14, 2020

Sigma Halts Foveon Sensor Development for Full-Frame Mirrorless

Sigma closes the door on a full-frame Foveon X3 sensor. For now. 

At Photokina 2018, Sigma announced the development of a Foveon X3 sensor for a full-frame L-mount camera with plans to launch a production model sometime in 2020. This is no longer the case. 

In a letter published on its website, Kazuto Yamaki says, “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.”

The news comes as a result of "careful and rigorous testing" and Sigma now says it will not be able to produce the camera this year. The company is uncertain of the exact timetable of when it can. 

Sigma fp

Since 2000, Sigma used the Foveon sensor exclusively. The full-frame fp mirrorless camera was its first to feature a back-illuminated Bayer CMOS sensor. Both sensors have several distinct qualities, but Faveon is considered the direct image sensor. It overlaps red, green, and blue on each pixel of the image, so during a single exposure, each point receives all of the color instead of partial color. While Foveon sensors do not require interpolation to produce an image, which improves the loss of color artifacts and detail, it does have its own problems including file opening issues. 

Yamaki expressed remorse for the delay saying, "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."

When No Film School interviewed Jared Ivy during our hands-on look at the fp, it was clear that the Foveon sensor may not be fast enough to support the recording formats found on the full-frame mirrorless. While Foveon can shoot quick enough for some frame rates, the buffer doesn’t hold a lot of images, which is no bueno when recording video.

If and when the Foveon sensor makes an appearance for L-mount is still to be decided. What we like here is the transparency by Yamaki and Sigma. Other companies take note. Don't promise and then sweep ideas under the rug hoping we forgot. You know who you are.      

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I'd love to see a video of how it works.

February 18, 2020 at 3:52AM

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