December 4, 2022

Fotograpiya

Capturing Magic Moments

Sigma full-frame Foveon is still laggy, but can be equipped with phase-detection autofocus

3 min read

In an interview with Imaging Resource, Sigma CEO Kazuto Yamaki has announced that there is a new delay in the development of Foveon sensors. It sounds like the same old story we’ve been hearing since 2018, but it seems like it’s not so much the technical challenges that Sigma is facing now. The technical development issues that caused delays in the past appear to have mostly been resolved. It’s just a matter of production.

The global silicon shortage has a lot to blame in many industries, but that seems to be the only thing really holding Sigma back right now. It takes too long to create prototypes and the sensor itself is still under development while waiting for these prototypes to be completed. This makes them quite obsolete before they get close to production. But it sounds like we’re close to full-frame Foveon becoming a reality.

In the interview, Yamaki-san was asked about the status of the new Foveon sensor, noting that it has been a long and difficult process. Development was confirmed to have moved from California to Japan, with Sigma working with another company. But with the global silicon shortage, it’s proving a bit difficult to actually produce sensors.

The first phase is a prototype of the pixel structure. The second phase is a prototype pixel that is the same size as the final product (but the sensor size is smaller). Unfortunately we are still waiting for the prototype. Our partner is now building the prototype. As you know, semiconductor manufacturers are very busy these days. So there was a little delay.

The technical issues Sigma has faced since it was first announced at Photokina 2018, coupled with the impact of COVID and global shortages, have delayed things much further than many ever anticipated. But those delays meant the rest of the industry, even after figuring out the technical hiccups of the Foveon design, had moved on until they could get their hands on a physical device.

The surrounding tech, not to mention the competing offerings, has gotten faster and far more powerful. It reads like Sigma has been forced to keep improving its designs before the current version of the chip is even ready for testing, leaving them trapped in a vicious circle. However, the interview notes that since consulting Sigma they have received test chips from the foundry which are now undergoing testing.

A particularly interesting question was whether or not we would see phase-detection autofocus in the next Foveon sensor. Even if there was no clear “Yes!”. and he says there is one more decision to be made, Yamaki-san believes it must be implemented. Times have changed since the initial announcement. PDAF has become standard across many brands and is likely to be expected in a Sigma Foveon camera if it’s hoping to compete outside of the small specialty market attracted by previous cameras like the Sigma SD Quattro.

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In terms of autofocus performance, phase detection is the best solution. So personally I think we need to implement phase detection AF, but we haven’t made a decision yet.

Head over to Imaging Resource to read the full interview. It covers many other interesting topics surrounding Sigma’s plans in all of its fields, but it seems like a full-frame Sigma Foveon camera is finally getting close to reality.

[via Imaging Resource]

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