SIGMA’s Foveon Sensor Remains Delayed, Gets New Features

Sigma has announced that the much-awaited new Foveon X3 image sensor has been delayed again in order to bring new features to future-proof the design and make it more competitive in the camera marketplace.

Chief among these new design features, according to CEO Kazuto Yamaki, is support for Phase Detection Autofocus before the sensor can move on to the prototype phase.

In an interview with Imaging Resource, Yamaki stated that the global chip shortage has largely been the only thing that was holding Sigma back from the X3 going into production.

Fortunately for SIGMA, the company had managed to have its own production system and as such, supply chain issues have been kept to a minimum.

Image Credit – Sigma

Yamaki says that Sigma enjoys a smaller supply chain thanks to its centralized location in Japan. As such, up to 80% of their suppliers are in the country.

Therefore, Sigma’s supply chain problems weren’t because of disruption, but demand, as nations are subsidizing the market to keep it open.

With high demand, the company has been waiting on the necessary parts to create prototypes. “Unfortunately, we are still waiting for the prototype,” Yamaki told IR.

“Our partner is now making the prototype. As you know, semiconductor makers are extremely busy right now. So there’s been a little bit of delay.”

Image Credit – Sigma

The Foveon X3 sensor was announced four years ago at Photokina 2018 but was delayed due to the global pandemic and now the global silicon chip shortage.

The design, which mimics film emulsion, and filters image data through multiple colored filters, also experienced several technical issues that took time to solve.

By the time SIGMA had ironed out the main design, the ship had largely sailed with more advanced features becoming standard.

Not wanting to take things lying down, SIGMA has been refining the design to keep up with the state of the art, in the hopes that it will be able to bring the Foveon sensor to the market when the time comes.

However in order to keep up with the market, Yamaki believes that phase detection autofocus (PDAF) must be added in order for the Foveon to compete.

”In terms of the autofocus performance, phase detection is the best solution,” Yamaki said. “So I personally believe we need to implement phase-detection AF, but we haven’t made a decision.”

The feature has largely become a standard for most sensor companies in recent years. Were the decision made to leave PDAF out of the design, the Foveon sensor would likely be D.O.A. with the camera market, and would spell doom for SIGMA’s plans to bring a full-frame Foveon-based camera to the market.

So the real question that remains is, will the Foveon sensor be able to compete in a rapidly emerging marketplace, or will it be just another interesting idea that the market simply passed by?

[source: DIY Photography]

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