Sigma’s full-frame Foveon camera is starting to feel a little like the Duke Nukem Forever of the photography world. Sigma shooters have been wanting one for years, and when the L Mount Alliance was announced at Photokina 2018, the world was told to expect one in 2019. 2019 came and went with the promise of a 2020 release.
Just last month, we were told that full-frame Foveon would not be coming in 2020. Now, though, according to an interview by French photography website, Phototrend, with Sigma CEO Kazuto Yamaki, Sigma’s aim is to release it in Summer 2021. Although, they report that it may still be delayed until 2022.
It was mentioned last month that Sigma has essentially had to start over with a clean slate with a full-frame Foveon camera. This seems to primarily boil down to production issues as a result of Sigma changing who they are using to manufacture the sensors. While it is is a Sigma design, they aren’t the ones actually making the chips.
(Google translated) There are two reasons why we had to delay the launch of this full-size hybrid camera with Foveon sensor. The first is that we found errors in the design of the Foveon sensor with the prototypes. So we need to correct these problems.
On the other hand, we used a new supplier to manufacture the sensors. As you know, Foveon designs these full-size sensors, but does not have manufacturing plants. Until the current sensors, Foveon worked with existing suppliers. But since these are full-format sensors, we started collaborating with a company in the United States. As the latter has never produced a full-size Foveon sensor, the transfer of production technology between our former supplier and this company took more time than expected, which explains the delay in the development of this Foveon sensor.
But they are planning to finalise the development and launch the camera at some point during 2021, although if any other problems pop up, it could be extended to 2022.
(Google translated) Taking into account these different aspects, we plan to finalize the development and launch this Foveon device at best in the summer of 2021, but this can also be postponed to 2022 if we encounter difficulties.
Designing and manufacturing prototypes of the sensor takes a long time, especially in the manufacture of the wafer. We work in cycles of around 3 months. We test a prototype and learn from its faults to improve the next prototype. It is a time consuming process.
Sigma has an even bigger struggle than they would have faced had they released the camera in 2019 as initially planned. 2021 is two years later, and two years is practically an eternity in photography gear terms. Even though it will have the uniqueness of the Foveon sensor giving it the edge over the competition, it will also need to be able to stand up to the task in other areas, too.
Releasing the camera two or possibly even three years behind schedule means that many of the features are going to need to be beefed up for initial release. They’re essentially having to dive right in with what would have otherwise been their second-generation body. If they stick with the originally planned specs, they may not be able to catch back up without a lot of wasted time and expense.
The full interview is well worth a read. If you don’t speak French, just hit up Google Translate. As well as the full-frame Foveon release, Mr Yamaki also talks about how Foveon works and why it’s such a big deal, as well as their intent for the Sigma fp camera, released last October.