Magazine Article


The Next Big Step (or Just "The Next Big Thing")

The Next Big Step
(or just "The Next Big Thing")

Every once in awhile a story comes along that makes us photo news guys start to salivate. Such was the case when less than two weeks before the start of PMA, a nondescript press kit from Foveon arrived on our desk. That can wait, we thought, placing the Foveon folder on top of a precarious pile of other pre-PMA press kits from Kodak, Fuji, Canon, Nikon and the like; and then went to make the morning coffee.
But before we could head down the hallway to the office kitchen, the phone rang.
"See the Times today?" the voice on the line said when we picked up. "Foveon's got a new chip. They say it produces digital images that are as good as film. It's called the X3."
Foveon? X3? As good as film? Huh?
After settling back down in our chair, we went hunting for the Foveon kit we knew we had placed somewhere on the desk. A few minutes of searching revealed that the folder had slipped off the top of the pile and was now lodged between the right front leg of the desk and the trashcan. Okay, got it.
We opened the folder and read the headline on the press release: "Foveon Announces the World's First Full-Color Image Sensor."
And there it all was, Chip guru Carver Mead and the gang at Foveon claiming they had hit on something big, something really big in digital photography: a sensor that captures three times the color information of current CCD and CMOS sensors, producing images that are on par with film.
Even better, the X3, as the sensor is dubbed, is not just a concept but a very affordable reality. By spring, the new chip will be shipping in a digital SLR produced by Sigma that will sell for less than $3,000. That should make a lot of retailers and their customers smile.
Even our normally skeptical Digital columnist Don Sutherland sounded pretty pumped about the X3: "One thing's for sure: the big picture has changed. It should be great fun to look at all the new compositions," Sutherland writes in this month's The Digital Deal.
And that's what it all comes down to, isn't it? The pictures themselves. Everything else up to this point is, quite frankly, just a lot of hype. So until we can put one of those X3 enabled digital cameras from Sigma to the test, we'll reserve judgement.
In the mean time, pardon us if it appears we've gotten caught up in the X3 spin cycle that's going on right now. And that little bit of saliva you see dripping from the side of our mouth the next time someone tells us that digital has become "as good as film"? Please ignore it.

Dan Havlik