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Thread: The myth of better ISO performance of the DP Quattro over Merrill

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    The myth of better ISO performance of the DP Quattro over Merrill

    A little comparison:
    Lots of people claiming that the Sigma Quattro generation improved ISO performance over the Merrill. And whenever a new firmware or SPP version is out, i'm doing my tests.
    Sorry to say, but it's a myth. In my opinion Quattro is not better. It is worse, or maybe "equal in a different way". Quattro improved slightly over the last month due to better NR in SPP, but
    it is still far from "better" than Merrill.

    So here we go: SD1 vs. DP0Q
    ISO 1600, same shutter speed, same place and time. SPP luminance NR OFF.

    overview_SD1_ISO1600
    overview_DP0Q_ISO1600

    crops 100%:


    overview_SD1_ISO3200.jpg
    overview_DP0Q_ISO3200



    My opinion:
    Quattro has less color blotching than Merrill, but it also desaturates the colors more, so there is obviously a different/stronger color noise reduction going on.
    I see more and uglier luminance noise in the Quattro images. I would always prefer the Merrill over the Quattro for black and white images at higher ISO.
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    Senior Member ggibson's Avatar
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    Re: The myth of better ISO performance of the DP Quattro over Merrill

    Either way, I think the claim of "better high ISO" on Quattro is a joke. Even if it does improve on the Merrill in a marginal way, both cameras are so far behind the competition that it doesn't really matter. I would never use ISO 400+ on these cameras.

    Overall, I think I prefer the Quattro images in comparisons that I've seen. Color actually seems to be much better. Yes, it gives up some of that sweet, sweet micro-contrast that sometimes makes Merrill images just pop. But Quattro still does a great job, IMO, and the gains in color depth are worth the tradeoff.

    Have there been any notable improvements in SPP since the original Quattro release? Looking back these new cameras has tempted me to revisit my Quattro files in SPP to view that 100% Sigma goodness

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    Senior Member Hulyss Bowman's Avatar
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    Re: The myth of better ISO performance of the DP Quattro over Merrill

    The Quattro show more luminance noise and is more noisy than the Merrill, by far. Without any "big" tweaking, just have a look at the exifs of my photos in the DP3 Merrill thread.

    And yes, for black and white, Q doesn't come close.
    Kind regards - Hulyss - hulyssbowman.com
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    Re: The myth of better ISO performance of the DP Quattro over Merrill

    Quote Originally Posted by Hulyss Bowman View Post
    just have a look at the exifs of my photos in the DP3 Merrill thread.
    Yes, i know what the DP3m is capable of, but what surprises me is the ISO 50 in some of your shots

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    Re: The myth of better ISO performance of the DP Quattro over Merrill

    The Q has much more luminance noise and a loss of sharpness too - given the same settings is SPP doing other noise reduction to the Q processing somehow?

    Off topic perhaps but the white balances are so different despite it looks like both were manual WB? I thought that the Q was meant to be better in this regard but those yellow tones look unreal to me. Which was more accurate to you?

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    Re: The myth of better ISO performance of the DP Quattro over Merrill

    Quote Originally Posted by digi2ap View Post
    Off topic perhaps but the white balances are so different despite it looks like both were manual WB? I thought that the Q was meant to be better in this regard but those yellow tones look unreal to me. Which was more accurate to you?
    Yes, the Q is far too yellow. The SD1 nailed the WB quiet good. I was playing with the WB of the Quattro but it behaves very strange. For example if i choose auto WB, the image loses most of its color.

    It's the third test i'm doing now (also with the DP2q and DP2m) over the last year and i still can't see any advantage of Quattro regarding high ISO. Strangely in dpreviews test chart, there is indeed a visible advantage from the DP2Q over the DP1m.
    But not in real life.

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    Senior Member Hulyss Bowman's Avatar
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    Re: The myth of better ISO performance of the DP Quattro over Merrill

    Quote Originally Posted by Stoneage View Post
    Yes, i know what the DP3m is capable of, but what surprises me is the ISO 50 in some of your shots
    It is because some years ago a friend tweaked my Merrill but nobody was really interested.
    Kind regards - Hulyss - hulyssbowman.com

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    Re: The myth of better ISO performance of the DP Quattro over Merrill

    Quote Originally Posted by Hulyss Bowman View Post
    It is because some years ago a friend tweaked my Merrill but nobody was really interested.
    I was.
    But as i understand this tweak is not available for everybody as the camera has to be opened?

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    Senior Member Hulyss Bowman's Avatar
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    Re: The myth of better ISO performance of the DP Quattro over Merrill

    Yes the camera as to be opened and there is firmware tweaks to be in accordance with SPP. So far it work with all SPP even the last one so I'm safe because the guy who helped me is not any more in my country. The capacity of the Merrill sensor is only limited by electronic components (and the coding behind). Not really by the sensor himself. He have his limits, for sure, but civilian Merrills are far to be maxed out. Mine isn't maxed but it is stable.

    Kind regards - Hulyss - hulyssbowman.com
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    Senior Member Hulyss Bowman's Avatar
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    Re: The myth of better ISO performance of the DP Quattro over Merrill

    Sigma need this "luma noise" in order to create the details. It is why you see this luma noise even at base iso. The noise is used to create acutance. This noise is wanted and is present only in the "first layer" and it is a feature (on the engineering side). For us, who have photographer eyes, this is a drawback.

    This is a "clever" concept for sensor printing costs. If Sigma has developed a new 1/1/1 sensor they would not have any money left. Personally and only in my opinion, the Quattro is a cheapskate sensor compared to what is the Merrill.

    I'm sure foveon engineers have a higher res / optimised new version of the original 1/1/1 concept... on the paper. I'm also sure that the crafting cost and the electronic behind this sensor is horrid (in the Sigma world).

    The TrueII and TrueIII processors aren't as advanced as one would think. Expeed or Bionz processors are far more advanced and I have a crush for the Fuji XT1 processor (it is why my DP is called fujigma).

    I really hope that Sigma/Foveon will build and bet on their own foundry somewhere in the future.
    Kind regards - Hulyss - hulyssbowman.com
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    Senior Member Quentin_Bargate's Avatar
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    Re: The myth of better ISO performance of the DP Quattro over Merrill

    Your conclusions precisely match my own, Hulyss.

    When I tested the Quattros against my Merrilss, I noticed

    1. A considerable increase in shadow noise and at base ISO.

    2. Horrendous highlight clipping

    3. Excessive blotching in grey / dark green areas

    4. Inferior mono performance (The Merrills are great for monochrome, even better than for colour)

    5. Barely any increase in real resolution.

    Maybe recent upgrades in firmware have improved matters a bit, but I don't know because my DP1Q and DP2Q have been gathering dust, unused, for months.
    Quentin Bargate
    Director of Bargate Murray, Law Firm of the Year 2012 - 2017, ”leading individual”, Chambers HNW guide, 2017, Photographer

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    Re: The myth of better ISO performance of the DP Quattro over Merrill

    Quote Originally Posted by Hulyss Bowman View Post
    Yes the camera as to be opened and there is firmware tweaks to be in accordance with SPP. So far it work with all SPP even the last one so I'm safe because the guy who helped me is not any more in my country. The capacity of the Merrill sensor is only limited by electronic components (and the coding behind). Not really by the sensor himself. He have his limits, for sure, but civilian Merrills are far to be maxed out. Mine isn't maxed but it is stable.

    Hi Hulyss, I am interested to know more about your modified Merrill.

    Was the firmware hex-edited and then re flashed to obtain ISO50? As I understand the original DP cameras a ISO50 was introduced via firmware, but sounded like it was a pull processing of a ISO100 shot.

    Can you speak more about how the Merrill is not maxed out, in what way(s) could it be further tweaked?

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    Senior Member Hulyss Bowman's Avatar
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    Re: The myth of better ISO performance of the DP Quattro over Merrill

    Hello Capital. What we did is, I think, barely legal and costed a lot. So I won't develop too much about it. A lot of work have been done on amplification and hardware.

    The ISO 50 of the previous DP generation was not firmware addition, it was out of the box feature. Base ISO 100 >> pushed 50. Base ISO for Merrill is ~200.

    My Merrill isn't "maxed out" because we do not have the courage to break one more unit. Heat is controlled, battery life is correct and raw files aren't corrupted

    Electronic hardware inside a Merrill is cheapskate.
    Kind regards - Hulyss - hulyssbowman.com
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    Re: The myth of better ISO performance of the DP Quattro over Merrill

    Do you have any data sheets on parts used? I am curious about your tinkering.

    As an aside, I would love for Sigma to release a SD Merrill v2 with live view been dreaming too much though :-)
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    Senior Member Hulyss Bowman's Avatar
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    Re: The myth of better ISO performance of the DP Quattro over Merrill

    I wait the new Dp wave. Now there is an EVF it would be sad if the next DP do not have EVF. It would be sad too if they do not rework some optical formula, especially a FASTER lense for the DP3 and ofc, APS-H sensor inside !

    Would be the first APS-H compact camera ever, as they did the old DPs, the first APS-C compact cameras.
    Kind regards - Hulyss - hulyssbowman.com

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    Re: The myth of better ISO performance of the DP Quattro over Merrill

    If I had my pick, I would probably go for the F13 Foveon (of the pre Merrills) pixel spacing, only scaled up to full frame as the F13 generation has less luminance noise at base ISO compared to even the Merrill.

    The new SD1Q is supposed to have less noise versus the one found in the current DPQ's. I just hope this bares out in reality as a similar claim was made for the Quattro when it was first released.
    Last edited by capital; 20th March 2016 at 11:39. Reason: typo
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    Re: The myth of better ISO performance of the DP Quattro over Merrill

    Quote Originally Posted by capital View Post
    If I had my pick, I would probably go for the F13 Foveon (of the pre Merrills) pixel spacing, only scaled up to full frame as the F13 generation has less luminance noise at base ISO compared to even the Merrill.
    Just yesterday, I relegated the SD1M to IR work and am now back to using the SD14 (has the F13 sensor) for regular shooting.

    SD1M is really good for IR and full spectrum. Easy to get a custom WB and the AF is quite good even with the Marumi 720nm on the lens. On the SD10 and 14, both are a waste of time

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    Re: The myth of better ISO performance of the DP Quattro over Merrill

    Not that it makes the most sense I am thinking of "upgrading" to a Sigma DSLR. Using the DP1s and DP2M have me thinking about the utility of interchangeable lenses. The thing really holding me back is the lack of liveview. Though I've been thinking of Frankensteining a DP type into a SD type, though there is no obvious solution for shutter timing/sync.

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    Re: The myth of better ISO performance of the DP Quattro over Merrill

    Quote Originally Posted by capital View Post
    ...Though I've been thinking of Frankensteining a DP type into a SD type, though there is no obvious solution for shutter timing/sync.
    and there is the different flange distance

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    Re: The myth of better ISO performance of the DP Quattro over Merrill

    Per the Imaging Resource interview with Sigma's CEO: http://www.imaging-resource.com/news...-of-f1.8-zooms
    -------
    DE: Ah, OK, good to know. High ISO sensitivity has always been a challenge for Foveon sensors in the past. Is that an area that these new sd Quattro cameras address, with the bigger sensor being better for you? Does the larger sensor do better on low-light and high ISO shooting? Or you did you give it more pixels, so it has the same pixel size?

    KY: It has the same pixel size, so it is the same. But for the sd Quattro we changed some algorithms in the image processing, so we could improve the high ISO performance, by maybe about one stop.

    DE: Ah, about one stop - and that's as a result of processing, as opposed to sensor design.

    KY: Yeah.

    ---------

    It sounds like the improvement is not where we were hoping for, i.e. base ISO.

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    Senior Member Hulyss Bowman's Avatar
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    Re: The myth of better ISO performance of the DP Quattro over Merrill

    I have no reason to trust any PR speech of any company owner, especially on such complex subject. When you double the processor capacity it is obvious that open more possibilities. Improving the Quattro and not the 1/1/1 is a non sense (because it is possible). The price should be very competitive to hook novices and extremely competitive to hook old timer foveon users, even for the H who is not really a H but more a body-builded APS-C. The impact on bokeh with this sensor will be almost imperceptible.
    Kind regards - Hulyss - hulyssbowman.com
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    Re: The myth of better ISO performance of the DP Quattro over Merrill

    Quote Originally Posted by Hulyss Bowman View Post
    ...and extremely competitive to hook old timer foveon users.....
    not even for free^^

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