Bought an Art lens and it came with a camera: SIGMA sd Quattro – 30mm f/1.4 Art Part 1 – How I Got Here

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This is the latest in what has become a Vintage Digital series. But first, the plan. (This ended up being a long one so instead of one post with all items below I broke it up into parts. Flee now while you can those of short attention span. Save yourself.)

  1. Unpack how on Earth I got here.
  2. Unbox the thing and first thoughts.
  3. Quick sample shots and wrap up for now, expecting a few more posts to come.

Unpack how on Earth I got here.

Much like my path to purchasing this camera creating this series was a somewhat unexpected natural progression more than a thoroughly laid out plan. I am fairly certain it started when I picked up a Canon 1Ds Mark II for a song and had a rather good time with it.

1Ds Mk II for blog post

Rather liked it…

Canon 1Ds Mark II
Canon 1Ds Mark II
Canon 1Ds Mark II

, but once the fun was over and things ran their course I moved on. Then as a world is on fire distraction I went on a solid micro four thirds jag. A favorite of mine from the past.

Olympus OMD E-M1

Again, I had my fun…

Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 ASPH
Olympus 75mm f/1.8

, and then moved on. But that was expected. Always knew it was a temporary distraction and then I would move on. Up next was a years old camera that remains a favorite of mine with a very sentimental draw.

Pentax K-1
Old Pentax 50mm

Then I was left with a feeling of “Well. Now what on this vintage digital journey?” Had fun so far, but all of this gear had a same-y vibe. Regardless of differences like sensor size, mirrorless vs. DSLR, and manufacturer most all of these cameras shared a DSLR-ish shape, similar controls, similar sensor tech, and so on. Different. But also a lot a like. That is when an oddball I had wanted to try for a while showed up at KEH for a price I could not refuse.

Sigma dp2 Quattro
Sigma dp2 Quattro
Sigma dp2 Quattro

Then it happened. With all I read about this camera I expected that I would like it, but I really liked it… a lot. Far more than I expected to if I am honest. Why? This is a camera that many compare, sometimes unflatteringly, to other digital cameras because… well it is a digital camera. But I quickly realized, whether SIGMA intended it or not, that was not really the point of this camera. This is a digital camera that a film camera shooter can love. Credit that largely to the Foveon sensor, but there are other similar aspects as well. To test this out I put it up against a medium format film legend and a 35mm film legend and it did just fine. Plus as an added bonus it does deliver on the medium format like color and detail performance often mentioned…

Sigma dp2 Quattro

…courtesy SIGMA’s Foveon sensor.

There are compromises since there is no such thing as a perfect camera. But I gladly accept these compromises to gain access to such wonderful image quality for a reasonable sum. They are:

  • Usable to 800 ISO with color and 1600 in B&W which is much less than low light powerhouses on the market.
    • But… None of these other cameras can match the SIGMA’s image performance in it’s sweet spot.
  • AF is of the old timey 9 point contrast only variety.
    • Yeah… I regularly shoot MF cameras, legacy glass, and happily and regularly work with archaic film era AF.
    • As against logic as it would seem while I do enjoy the daggone near AI levels of Eye detect AF available in modern cameras when I just need the shot I prefer rudimentary when shooting for fun.
  • Questionable ergonomics.
    • See my same-y comment above. If fiscally possible I like a camera company willing to do something dfferent.
    • In practice I have no issue with this camera’s ergonomics.
  • No EVF and a backscreen that washes out in broad daylight.
    • I worked around it, but this is valid.
    • Again worth it for the IQ.
  • A great, but not so fast f/2.8 lens.
    • Combining f/2.8 with this sensor’s low usable ISO threshold can be limiting I will admit.
    • Again worth it for the IQ.

As I have often mentioned I am willing to accept these limitations. But that did not prevent me from thinking that a faster lens and an EVF to go with this sensor and address the last two bullets above would be nice. Well SIGMA did address both of these items a couple of years after the dp2 Quattro was released with the sd Quattro – 30mm f/1.4 Art kit. This kit was important. Without this kit the sd does not make nearly as much sense to me. Most SIGMA SA mount lenses are very expensive. While more reasonable than most the 30mm f/1.4 Art alone costs a full $299 more than it does with the kit. So. Buy the kit then. Maybe used? Was not that easy. Ran into a few weird things.

  • Used: I have my suspicions, that I will mention below, why used SIGMA sd Quattro – 30mm f/1.4 Art kits cost as much if not more than the kit price on popular photography sites. Used more than new? Well that makes no sense.
  • Online camera stores: While both Adorama and B&H list the lens kit on their sites neither actually have them in stock. Both have the camera alone in stock, but that leaves you to buy a lens on your own. And as mentioned earlier the SA mount lenses start at $399. Or $199 more than the kit all in for a lesser spec’d lens.
  • SIGMA: Surprisingly SIGMA showed the kit in stock. At first I hesitated and over last weekend the status went to backordered. I then swiftly realized that if the kit were discontinued my last new purchase avenue would close. In short as soon as it turned up again at SIGMA I went ahead with it.
SIGMA sd Quattro - 30mm f/1.4

Now back to the high used price mystery. I have a theory. The SIGMA site will only ship the kit to US addresses and all other orders will be cancelled immediately. Perhaps outside of the US the kit is not available. To test this theory I went to the UK website and sure enough while the newer fp is available and has an Add to Cart option, the sd Quattro kit is not offered at all and the camera alone does not have an Add to Cart option. I did not look any further, but my theory is that the used price is so high because outside of the US market there does not appear to be a new purchase option. This realization also motivated me to go ahead with the purchase. So… Next up is part 2.

Unbox the thing.

SIGMA sd Quattro - Unboxing for blog post

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