This week on Prodibi, a completely different type of post as we asked a community of passionate photographers to tell us everything about the Foveon sensor and their approach to photography! Kim Libre, one of their active member, shared with us his point of view.
Light on the Foveon sensor that equips Sigma cameras, the good, the bad, and the underlying philosophy you need to have when shooting with such unique sensor. Tons of photos and always in Full Resolution, powered by Prodibi.
Here we go!
Discovering the Foveon
Let it be said: you can't rank, compare or judge the Foveon technology according to the usual and classic arguments of photo ratings. The people who try Foveon - and almost always never come back - usually have reached a time where something was missing in their photography experience. Something challenging to describe with words and which touches more the question of the relation to time, meaning, sensitivity, than the frantic race to the "ever more" and "always better" imposed by the current standardization of the image world.
What to look for in photography? A more connected camera? Most Foveon cameras bring the bare minimum and offer no wifi, video, or any gadget considered "mandatory" by modern photographers. A faster device? Nope! Six-year-old SLRs were already doing better regarding reactivity. Better adaptability or a genuinely off-road camera that can effortlessly cope with all situations? Of course not! It is well known that practically all Foveons are working hard on the ISO climb, and are more likely to be on the side of niche devices, which are not used in extreme and complicated situations.
A complete rediscovery of the time offered to the photographic art.
Return to slowness, but not the one that irritates, which limits. On the contrary! Rediscovering the slowness, the demanding slowness, the one that is at the very core of photographic art (which slows down, freezes, and immobilizes the essence of time) and de facto forces, and often without detours, to rediscover the subjects that face us and to wonder about our relationship to them.
In a world pressed for time, where everyone has an SLR and wants to experiment a more qualitative and personal photography. In a world where cameras can take more than ten frames per seconds and up to 50'000 ISO (silver films hardly survived the 800). At a time when files pile up in computers in the thousands often reducing the photographic activity to an art of selection and sorting (90% will end up in the trash, for example at a shooting!). The Foveon technology, on the contrary, helps to better focus on what makes "sense" in photography.
Moreover, even the vocabulary is more precise in the Foveon world. We do not create "images" in the modern sense where everything is image and constant sharing of images, where everything quickly becomes a number, and photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy. We indeed capture"Photographs", in the noble and initial sense of the term, the engraving of light on a sensitive matter, and which therefore call for technique, patience, character, aesthetic understanding, and individuality for each photographer to express himself adequately.
In my opinion, those who choose Foveon are often like new spouses who made a risky gamble, the very emotional one, very sensual, and primarily, very personal. The one to trust and rely on each other by helping each other, whatever the shortcomings and weaknesses of each partner: by agreeing, by adapting, for better and for worse.
I already talked about it: the slowness of the system, the rudimentary (or essentialization!) of the applications, and the very slow homemade software to treat the native files. The Foveon is never in native JPEG, often bland and dull; it undeniably demands to be used in X3F format, its "homemade" RAW, to express its potential fully!
Here we are, a breathtaking level of image quality, colorimetric rendering that can be discerned at first glance because of its unique technology, and a WOW effect that is often voiced by users in its community. And on the paper, it goes much farther and otherwise higher than just its sensor pixel numbers.
The resolution cracks eyes; the least texture is rediscovered, the materials, the vast plurality of shades of gray in the black and white photos, the depth and natural very sharp and precise colors. Comments often speak about a "3D effect," like photographs from another dimension. It is indeed, for who would be sensitive to it, an entirely different world that jostles, switches and immediately stops, turn 90° for those coming from the more classic experience of reflex renders.
Each photo has to be "developed" numerically on the Sigma Pro software to demonstrate its potential. The experience that usually emerges is an oasis halfway between the film, for patience, precision and attention that is asked to the user, and the digital for the convenience of the system and the pleasure of easily sharing his pictures on a screen.
Regarding image quality, also, the richness of tones and details captured is somehow qualitatively located between the best reflex and medium format.
That's why there are many experienced users in the Foveon community with a reasonably large passive in the practice of various photographic materials and optics.
They are often people who had acquired their weapon, their taste and their patience in the good old days when everything was not about speed, race number, and suffocating precipitation. On the contrary, there are very few "newbies", often more willing to pair themselves with more adaptable devices that are more convenient for everyday use, easier to access, and less regarding when it comes to clichés quality.
The Foveon finds in its ranks many "specialists" or at least people "specialized" in a specific field, and who see in the Foveon system, despite all its practical limitations, one of the best compromises to achieve their work and express their aesthetic sense in a photographic rendering without concession.
Anyone who seeks to get a Sigma camera could be very disappointed if the philosophy I evoke here does not resonate. The vision and the relationship to photography are eminently subjective. If the search for an "other" experience is not one of your priorities, and if you are just looking for a simple device, easy to handle, flattering without requiring effort, then the Foveon is not for you. There is no race to the podium for these cameras.
The Foveon technology offers a different experience, an alternative that is more, I repeat, an art rethinking its relationship to the image (and therefore to reality), and remains a philosophy in itself. As such, it asks the user for a personal philosophical effort to enjoy it thoroughly and patiently.
And if you can do it, then the promise will remain faithful, as for a sacred marriage. Perpetual amazement, the progressive rediscovery of your sight, constant richness and aesthetic pleasure, and additional experience gained. Every day reiterated the obligation to deal with the peculiarities and limitations of your device. Always the need to adapt to new situations and rely much more on your connection with your tool rather than on the real ability of the latter to know how to manage each case without ever asking anything in return to its user.
To see more about the Foveon:
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