I will say upfront that this camera has exactly two faults. Minor ones though. But first I will blather on about this camera a bit.
For starters SIGMA, respectfully what the heck? This camera has everything. How did you get to the odd duck, but loveable, dp2/sd Quattro, or cubelet fp from here?
This camera is one of the most feature-filled, capable, no sacrifices, and dare I say… normal film cameras I have ever used. No sacrifices asked. No oddly placed on/off switches or odd ergonomics to speak of. It has a viewfinder… and a hotshoe… included. What am I on about? Well here is the list I created for my first post about this camera with additional comments and product shots added.
While not plentiful these cameras are very affordable when you do find them. And a pristine copy of the latest model appeared with perfect timing at KEH.
This camera is full-featured. More so than about any other film camera I own or have owned. To wit:
- 1/2000s shutter speed with a dedicated shutter speed dial.
- Full range of modes (M, S, A, and P).
- Mulitiple exposure mode where you can set the number of exposures.
- Mirror up mode.
- AF-S and AF-C modes.
- Multiple metering modes.
- Center Weighted
- Relatively quiet even with auto advance… And it has auto advance.
- Bracketed shooting where you can set the exposure variance.
- You can turn the AF acquisition confirmation beep off.
- Easily decipherable controls.
- Informative display screen.
- While auto film speed reading is a common feature you can also manually set the ISO if you wish.
- AEL button.
- You can set exposure compensation.
- Built-in flash.
- Front dial around shutter controls aperture as well as for adjusting other settings like ISO, multi exposure, and bracketing counts.
- Dedicated shutter speed dial.
- Both aperture and shutter speed show in viewfinder.
- Full manual mode uses AE for +/- exposure metering.
- When using P mode you can choose your shutter speed and aperture combinations to your liking.
- Quick and accurate AF.
- Exposure preview button.
- Sensor for remote.
- Even with all of these features this is a small and light camera. Not bad looking either.
- Lastly it works with modern SIGMA SA lenses. Even down to the lens’ AF/MF switch. I mean it works perfectly with their latest and greatest portrait lens. I say again… A film camera released in 2001 works perfectly with modern digital lenses.
So what of these downsides I mentioned above. Here you go:
- Dials feel a bit plastic-y. But they work as advertised and overall the camera feels good in hand. Just do not compare it to some of the prized film cameras out there on feel alone.
- Film era lens selection seems riddled with meh spec zoom lenses mostly. If they do exist fast, vintage film era SIGMA SA prime lenses elude me on the used market. Not an issue since I have a couple of fast, modern SA lenses to use with it but that is far from the norm.
Now on to sample images with some rather bold statements after that.
Here are sample shots using Ilford HP5 with the “Bokeh Master” SIGMA 105mm f/1.4 Art.
I keep looking at these photos and reminding myself that this is with film. I developed and scanned the film at home. Sure you can tell when you look closely, but what the heck? I could not ask for a better result from a film camera.
Now on to the next test roll where I decided to mix it up a bit. Recently shot full frame on digital with the crop SIGMA 30mm f/1.4 Art successfully so I decided to give the same lens a go with the SA-7N.
Switched up the film as well. Went with a favorite this time, Lomography 400.
WIll try to distill all the words in my head right now into as straightforward of a narrative as I can.
- This is a camera full of complex features (I cannot thnk of any that have been left off) that at the same time manages to be ridiculously easy to use. Everything just works. AF, AE, and what not all just work.
- With appropriate glass I can think of no film camera capable of taking better pictures.
Now for the crazy talk.
Strip away the vaunted brand names, Titanium and other unobtanium materials, and outlandish specs with the right lens affixed there is no film camera I have or have used that is capable of creating a better image. In addition, most of those cameras have some of the features that this camera has, but none have all of them. Just to tick off some folks I will compare this camera to some below. My favorites actually. And “feel”, “experience”, “tradition” and other nebulous, subjective phrases will not be considered here. Strictly subjective.
- Faster glass.
- Better manual overrides with automated assists.
- AF… That’s it. I dig this camera.
Leica M3/CL… I know, I know. Hear me out.
- Comparable IQ (To my eye. Exhibit A the B&W images above.) with full automation.
Hasselblad and other medium format cameras. Fighting words I know, but hold on a minute.
- Admittedly owing more to the glass used above than the camera, but with the right glass you can create as much subject isolation as many of these larger negative offerings. Again, I point you to the B&W images above.
Am I saying I would trade the cameras above for an SA-7N? No. Not at all. Things like feel, experience, and heritage do matter to me. But if I am honest with myself none could produce a better image. And that is the main point, no?
And to think I had never heard of this exact camera model until I went looking for an SA mount film camera. Have heard earlier models struggled with AF, but I can vouch in full for the SA-7N’s AF competency.
This camera is amazing. But requires expensive glass to flex its capabilities. A shame I can find few era-correct prime lenses. For that reason alone I personally have a hard time recommending this camera to others like me. But if a modest spec zoom lens film experience is up your alley you should take a look. Kits are available for peanuts on eBay.
But still, well done SIGMA.
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