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Sigma SD-9 SD9 Test Review
© 2005 KenRockwell.com

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WARNING: I've gotten a lot of hate mail about this page from people who own this camera. Many people love this camera and here was a site all about it. THat site crapped out. I offer my thoughts below because many people want to know my opinions. If you're more comfortable reading glossy commercial magazines that say everything is perfect then you may want to avoid reading further.


The SD-9 has been replaced by the SD-10 as of 2004.

I have only tried this once. I'd forget about it because as of March 2004 you can get what for me is a superior Canon Digital Rebel for $100 LESS ($900 vs. $1,030 for the body)!

This Sigma camera has several huge drawbacks which, for me, eliminate it from any further consideration:

1.) It can't even make standard JPG images. It only makes a special RAW format which cannot be read in any computer unless that computer already has the special Sigma software running on it to read these files and convert them to some form you can use. This is a huge drawback for practical photography, adding an extra step all the time at best. Of course if you work in a laboratory or are a magazine reviewer you might not worry. If you actually need to shoot and get your images out to people this is a royal pain.

2.) It only takes Sigma brand lenses.

3.) It has at least TWO different kinds of batteries in it, and when either set dies you're dead. You now have to mess with TWICE as many spare sets of batteries. It needs TWO CR-123 lithiums for the camera mechanics and either FOUR AAs or TWO CR-V3s to run the electronics. I don't know about you, but as someone who actually shoots this battery fiasco makes the camera of no value to me.

4.) It's more expensive than the superior Canon Digital Rebel.

5.) ISO is only 400 maximum. This is really bad, ISO 400 is where the fun just starts with other digital cameras; I often shoot at ISo 800 and 1,600 on my D1H.

6.) The longest shutter speed is only one second at any speed other than ISO 100.

7.) Only one AF sensor!

Any single one of these seven reasons would be enough not to buy it, but all six together in one product are astounding. I'd not bother any further with this Sigma since Canon and Nikon have better choices. Heck, Pentax just released a great looking DSLR camera in March 2003, too.


ISO is only 100, 200 or 400. This is awful: a huge advantage of a digital SLR is the great performance you can get typically at ISO 1,600 which opens up a lot of new photo opportunities from what you could do on film.

Even worse, the longest shutter speed is limited to only 1 second at all ISOs except 100. This tends to suggest very poor low light performance.

Flash sync is the typically slow 1/180.

14 x 21mm sensor, 2,268 x 1512 pixels.

Buffer only 6 shots at 1.9 FPS.


I'll be honest and admit that I didn't even bother to pop in my CF cards when I used this, sorry. I demand that a digital camera be practical and fast, and for my uses the Nikon or Canon are far better. You of course may be different.

It seems to work OK. It only seems to have ONE AF sensor which is quite primitive. This is an amazing thing about all the commercial reviews: I can't recall in reading in any other review that anyone else has pointed out this serious limitation. Multiple sensors like Canon and Nikon use let you track motion like birds in flight. Check me on this one, but I can't find anywhere that this camera has more than the one central AF sensor. This underscores why you should never spend your money based on reviews you read in print!

I like the viewfinder which masks off the areas outside the image in gray, so just like a rangefinder camera you can see things just before and after they leave the frame.

The Foveon sensor is a great idea and so is the dust protector, however the above disadvantages of this camera eliminate the SD9 from any further consideration, even if the price drops as I expect it has to. Yes, the resolution and image sharpness are likely really good, but this is a minor issue in light of all the operational issues.


I'm not a fan of Sigma. Buy the Canon Digital Rebel for $900 ($999 with a good lens thrown in) or the Nikon D100 for $1,699 instead, since they have none of the problems I mention above.

I'm astounded how the people who write reviews for a living just gloss over the huge disadvantages to this camera for anyone who actually makes lots of photographs. Hey, if you like it then go for it; but for me it simply cannot do some of the things (like long exposures and high ISO speeds) that I really need.

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