Sigma’s 60-megapixel full-frame Foveon sensor camera might never appear

Feb 22, 2022

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Feb 22, 2022

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Sigma CEO Kazuto Yamaki has posted an update on the progress of their long-awaited full-frame Foveon camera, first announced during the initial L mount alliance announcement at Photokina in September 2018. It had an initial release date of 2019, which was then pushed back to 2020 in March 2019. In February 2020 it was announced that it was on hold indefinitely, but that they’re working on it.

Later that same year, Sigma confirmed that they’re still working on it, but they still have no idea when it would be ready for prime time, which was then confirmed again in February 2021 with a “maybe 2022” release turning into “at least 2022”. Now, the new update suggests that a full-frame Foveon camera may never come at all if they can’t find a company to manufacture the sensor to their satisfaction.

The latest update reads:

Dear SIGMA customers,

First of all, thank you very much for your continued support and interest in our products.
SIGMA would like to share the development status of the three-layer image sensor as of February 2022 by the following.

The development of the three-layer image sensor is currently underway with the strong leadership of SIGMA’s headquarters in collaboration with research institutes in Japan. The stages of development can be roughly divided into the following:

  • Stage 1: Repeated design simulations of the new three-layer structure to confirm that it will function as intended.
  • Stage 2: Prototype evaluation using a small image sensor with the same pixel size as the product specifications but with a reduced total pixel count to verify the performance characteristics of the image sensor in practice.
  • Stage 3: Final prototype evaluation using a full-frame image sensor with the same specifications as the mass products including the AD converter etc…

We believe that these three stages are necessary in the development, and we are currently in the process of creating the prototype sensor for Stage 2.

Based on the evaluation results of the prototype sensor, we will decide whether to proceed to Stage 3 or to review the design data and re-prototype “Stage 2”. When we proceed to Stage 3, we will verify the mass-producibility of the sensor with research institutes and manufacturing vendors based on the evaluation results, and then make a final decision on whether or not to mass-produce the image sensor.

Although we have not yet reached the stage where we can announce a specific schedule for the mass production of the image sensor, we are determined to do our best to realize a camera that will truly please our customers who are waiting for it, as soon as possible.

Once again, I would like to thank all of you for your continued support of SIGMA.

We will continue to strive for technological development to meet your expectations and trust.

Kazuto Yamaki
Chief Executive Officer, SIGMA Corporation

Sigma has not only restarted the development of the X3 1:1:1 Foveon sensor from scratch several times over, but they’ve also switched chip manufacturers at least once since the initial announcement in 2018 to find somebody who can manufacturer it to the spec they demand.

The way the latest announcement reads, we probably shouldn’t get our hopes up for a full-frame Foveon camera coming any time soon, if ever.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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