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Sigma piles on the features with the $1,199 SD Quattro H’s unique sensor design

After a summer teaser of an upcoming high-resolution mirrorless camera, Sigma today layered on the details, officially unveiling the SD Quattro H. The a 51-megapixel shooter packs a larger-than-average sensor with a unique layered design.

Sigma confirmed Wednesday that the SD Quattro H will sell for $1,199, which is half of what the company’s 2012 SD 1 Merrill sold for at first release. The camera’s lower-resolution sibling, the SD Quattro, sells for $799, body only. The 51 megapixel version will be available in early January 2017.

The Sigma SD Quattro H uses an APS-H sensor, which is about 3 millimeters wider and 2 millimeters taller than an APS-C sensor. That means the camera’s crop factor is just a 1.3 crop of a full-frame sensor compared to the 1.5 crop on APS-C. Larger sensors offer high resolutions — the Quattro H’s sits at maximum of 6,200 x 4,152 — and also tend to perform better in low light.

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While the sensor’s size is unique, the design could a big selling point if the sample images live up to Sigma’s early claims. Most image sensors have a pattern of red, green, and blue filters. This allows digital cameras to capture color images, but that color pattern tends to distort actual patterns in images, turning the fine stitching on a suit, for example, into an odd swirling pattern.

Instead of the typical alternating red-green and blue-green color array known as the Bayer pattern, the Sigma SD Quattro H uses three separate sensor layers, each separately devoted to one of those three colors in the RGB spectrum. Sigma says that the camera is the first direct image sensor using the technology, allowing the camera to get more details out of the available light as well as enhancing processing speeds.

The sensor’s design also allows for twice the resolution of a typical sensor with a Bayer design, with the camera hitting 51 megapixels.

Sigma says that the camera’s new processor works in conjunction with the unique sensor design to offer speedy processing without a loss in detail. The camera reaches burst speeds up to 8 fps, while the company says that a hybrid autofocus system delivers quick performance as well.

While the camera — and Sigma options before it — ships with Sigma Photo Pro software, the Quattro H can record in both the brand’s RAW format as well as DNG. Shooting DNG files doesn’t offer the option to shoot both the RAW and JPEG format simultaneously or hit the top burst speed, but unlike Sigma’s format, is compatible with Adobe Creative Cloud as well as other editing programs.

That imaging tech is packed inside of a splash-resistant magnesium alloy body that also sports an electronic viewfinder. The back LCD screen is joined by a secondary display for shooting details like the number of shots remaining on the memory card, exposure settings and even an electronic level.

Updated on 12-15-2016 by Hillary Grigonis: Added price details as confirmed by Sigma.