Saturday, 17 January 2009

Welcome to my first blog

This blog supports the material on the Whispering Cat Photography website.

The Foveon Effect

I'm running a long term project to try and identify whether the claims made about the special look and feel of Foveon (Sigma) digital sensors hold any water. Many Foveon fans earnestly believe that the 3 layer X3 sensor produces images that are not only sharper than conventional colour filter array sensors but also possess an indefinable "3D quality" that makes them look more believable and real, more "film-like" - whatever that means.

I have to confess to not really seeing this quality - to my eyes, Foveon files have an astonishing clarity when examined on the computer screen at 1:1 magnification (100% view) but it certainly doesn't look like film to me. At the pixel level, it looks much better than film, with the complete absence of grain, dust and scratches and a much cleaner overall look. But I think the same thing about the files from conventional digital as well, although Foveon images are impressively sharp viewed like this.

The problem (for me) is that once scaled up for printing, the special Foveon sharpness goes away and 24 x 16 inch prints seem much the same as those from Canons, Nikons et al.

Unfortunately, this whole business is very subjective and the debate rages on forums like the Sigma forum over at Digital Photography Review. Tricky stuff to verify either way.

My aim with this project is to avoid the cherry picking of examples that is typical in the debate and try and build up some objective evidence by collating a library of images (image pairs, actually) using a SD9 and a Canon 450D. I hope that with enough comparisons the truth will eventually out to everyone's satisfaction.

The library will need to be fairly extensive as people will inevitably argue over whether things have been done right and whether the right lens or the right lighting or the right this or that would have yielded different results. The hope is that by building a large enough library of different subjects, lighting etc etc we will on average start to see a trend showing that the Foveon effect is real or that it is nothing but a figment of over-enthusiastic wishful thinking without worrying about the images that didn't make the grade. We will see.

I'll be reporting here periodically on the state of play of the library. Images will be posted on this page: