Andy Westlake tests Sigma’s unconventional SA-mount mirrorless camera, the sd Quattro
Sigma sd Quattro review: Build and handling
When you first pick up the sd Quattro, it’s clear that this is the least conventionally designed interchangeable-lens camera around. It’s as large as an enthusiast DSLR, such as the Nikon D7200, but rather oddly shaped, with a flat top-plate but scalloped base and a viewfinder that’s unusually offset towards the right-hand side.
There’s little to complain about in terms of build quality, with the dust and splash-proofed magnesium-alloy body feeling solid in your hands, helped by the chunky grip. The twin electronic control dials rotate with satisfying detents, with sufficient resistance that they won’t get accidentally knocked, but without being too stiff. All the switches click positively into place, and the buttons that festoon the body have a deep travel with positive end points.
Sigma’s interface is very clear and logical, with sensibly laid-out menus and attractive viewfinder displays that are informative without being overwhelming. There’s a decent amount of customisation on offer too: you can define exactly how the control dials work in each exposure mode, and configure the on-screen QS menu to give speedy access to your most-changed functions.
However it’s the positioning of the buttons and switches that’s often perplexing. The power switch is placed awkwardly on top of the protruding lens mount, and there’s a second sliding lock switch behind the shutter button that, by default, disables almost all the control buttons but not the shutter button or dials. I set it to send the camera to sleep mode and conserve battery, which makes more sense to me, but I’d rather see a single easily accessible power switch.
The D-pad on the back of the body is large and positive, and perfectly placed for moving the focus point around the frame while you’re shooting. But unlike most cameras you can’t do this directly; instead, you first have to press a small button towards the bottom of the camera body that requires considerable movement of your thumb to locate. As the D-pad buttons have no other direct function, this seems like an unnecessarily awkward extra step.
The ISO button is also poorly placed in the middle of a column of five identical tiny buttons beside the screen, so is difficult to identify by touch alone. On other cameras this would be a serious criticism, but less so on the sd Quattro, as its poor high ISO performance means you probably want to keep the camera set to ISO 100 as much as possible, anyway.
After spending a bit of time using the sd Quattro and tweaking its set-up, I found it to be a perfectly usable camera. But I can’t help think that Sigma’s unconventional design pays few real dividends. The reality is that DSLRs and DSLR-shaped mirrorless models are popular for a reason – their shape and layout help make them very quick to use.