Figure 1: A shot of old maritime binoculars with the SD14 (by Sigma).
So, it seems that camera comparisons are never really apples and apples, but instead apples and oranges or pineapples. Why compare a camera that is circa ~2007 (the Sigma SD 14) with a much newer camera, such as the K5 from 2013? It’s a difference of seven years, and that might be thought to put the SD14 at a disadvantage. The older Sigma product sports a sensor that is a bit smaller than the one in the K5 (the SD14’s sensor is similar in size to the micro four thirds sensors of the type found on some mirrorless cameras, while the K5 sports a larger APS-C sensor). Newer Sigma cameras have APS-C sensors, but I don’t have one of those to play with yet!
Figure 2: A shot of the same antique binoculars, using a K5 (Pentax).
Still, the comparison yields some information, in spite of the chasm of time that exists between the initial production dates of the two cameras, and the sensor size difference. The Sigma SD14 sensor is somewhat larger than the typical micro four thirds sensor at 285 mm². Some of the other cameras in this sensor range are only about 240 mm². The Pentax K5 is somewhat larger than the typical APS-C sensor at 372 mm². Other cameras in this range have sensors that are only 342 mm². So, a larger micro four thirds style sensor is not that much smaller than one on the small end of the APS-C scale.
Figure 3: Another binocular shot using the SD14.
When the photography does not involve extenuating circumstances, such as where there is an additional challenge that doesn’t normally exist (like low lighting) – then things like sensor size and pixel count and age count for far less.
Looking at the pictures of the binoculars, I couldn’t really say I liked one picture over the others. I’d call it a draw, at least for this particular photographic situation. The pixel count difference between the cameras is fairly small (14.x MP for the SD14 compared to 16.x MP for the K5) although in the case of the Sigma it is referred to as “effective” pixel count.
While the cameras themselves were significantly different, in the ways just described, the lens used on each camera was identical. (I used the same Fujinon M42 lens on each camera for the shots, switching it back and forth between the cameras using an M42 adapter purchased for each of them. In this way I eliminated at least one item of variability (the lens) in the camera comparison.
The Fujinon lens is an inexpensive f3.5 43-75 mm zoom. I didn’t try anything fancy, and took the shots with the lens at its widest aperture (3.5), the focal length at 75 mm, and the ISO at 50 (SD14) and 100 (K5). This resulted in a somewhat slower shutter speed – but I used a tripod with remote release.
Both cameras were set to use auto white balance, and both were set to the default settings (natural) for color. The K5 pics came out just a little more red than the actual photographed object (most noticeable on the table), with or without its in-camera brightness enhancement. The SD14 nailed the color exactly – and I mean exactly. It was just a perfect rendition of the real color of the binoculars and the checkered art table. This may be due to the Foveon sensor of the Sigma, which is known for its tight color attributes.
So, would I prefer one camera over the other? Not necessarily. Each one seems attuned to its particular range of abilities, and so I’d use each for situations where I could take advantage of those abilities.
I could compare the newer Sigma Quattro with the K5 (since both of those camera sport APS-C sensors) – and that would be a fairer fight. Unfortunately, I currently don’t own a Quattro – so maybe that’s a test for a future date.
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The Sigma SD14 is a product of Sigma Corporation. Sigma and Foveon are their trademarks. This author and site has no affiliation with Sigma. The Pentax K5 is a product of Ricoh Imaging Corporation, and is not affiliated with this author or site.