|Abandoned Homestead - Tehachapi, California|
I've been asked more than once now to expound on this. Are Sigma Merrill cameras really the digital equivalent of film? Can Sigma's Foveon sensor really deliver film-like results?
The answer to those questions is not easy because there are a lot of different films out there. There are many choices for both color and black-and-white. Each one has different advantages and disadvantages. Each one has a different look. So right off the bat I can say that Sigma Merrill cameras do not replicate exactly any one film.
But that does not mean that the cameras aren't "close enough" to some different films to draw comparisons.
|From The Past - Mojave, California|
Fuji Velvia 50 is the comparison everyone wants to see, because this film is the absolute best for saturated colors. The colors are just so vibrant, and fine details are very well retained. The grain is incredibly fine, and if paired with a sharp lens, there isn't anything that can touch it. Not even Sigma Merrill cameras. At ISO 100, however, the Foveon sensor is close enough to Fuji Velvia 50 (in 35mm format, anyway) that you may find it acceptable as a digital doppelgänger.
|Rusted Bolt - Loraine, California|
Now these two films have different hue casts (Fuji is "cooler" and Kodak is "warmer"), and either one could be easily replicated by manipulating the white balance on the Sigma images.
There are many other 35mm color films that could be compared, and perhaps even replicated with the Sigma cameras. The comparisons could go on and on and on. The larger point here is that film still blows the socks off of digital when it comes to pure image quality, but, at low ISO, the Sigma Merrill cameras close the gap.
Black & White
|On A Brighter Day - Tehachapi, California|
One area where the Sigma Merrill cameras cannot touch most black-and-white films is dynamic range. I've found that the dynamic range weak point in Foveon sensor cameras is in the shadows. The cameras actually retains details in highlights very well, but not in shadows. By overexposing a little (as much as one stop) and recovering in post processing, the dynamic range can be increased. However, it still does not quite match the dynamic range of black-and-white film.
|Abandoned Boles-Areo Trailer - Mojave, California|
On a side note, the way the Foveon sensor works is that it has three layers: one that captures red, one that captures green and one that captures blue. Since the entire images is captured with each color, one can adjust the color channels to simulate black-and-white filters without degrading image quality. Want a red filter effect? Simply use the red color channel.
Interestingly enough, you can actually use colored filters meant for black-and-white film on Sigma Merrill cameras. And Sigma DSLRs can be easily converted to infrared by taking out the easy-to-remove IR filter (but not the Merrill cameras).
|Copy Machine - Mojave, California|
Even the best software cannot keep fine details in highly saturated areas if the files are not capable. HDR might give the dynamic range of black-and-white film, but not without some trade-offs. You can decrease digital noise to replicate fine grain, but at the expense of sharpness.
Film is still superior to digital with regard to pure image quality. Sigma Merrill cameras bring digital a little bit closer, but it is still not equal.
|Web of Neglect - Mojave, California|
Each of these images were captured using a Sigma DP2 Merrill camera. I made no test shots. I did not do any side-by-side comparisons of images. Instead, I relied on over 15 years experience using film, including those mentioned in this post and many that were not mentioned, as well as about a year using a Sigma Merrill camera.
Test shots in controlled environments can be useful. However, there is nothing like real-world experience. There is nothing like working knowledge, which can never be replaced by controlled work in a lab.