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The foveon does produce more detail, it not so much about sharpening alone. But you are right, the standard SPP setting is too strong.
BTW in case the standard SPP settings bothers you, set sharpening to -1 or -2 and use the new topaz clarity instead. That gives very pleasing results.
The Bayer-Matrix patent is from 1975. I am glad for every manufacturer working on new sensor designs.
There is a lot of room for improvement, for all current technologies.
I agree that the foveon sensor produces more detail at the pixel level than a traditional bayer sensor but the difference is not as great as many think. For what it does offer at the current price, the Merrills in particular are a great bargain for certain uses, no doubt about that.
What I found though, after shooting the Merrills for a while, is that it's not just a matter of the sharpening - using -1, -2 or whatever - but that there is clearly major image processing occurring in SPP which contributes to the look and the appearance of detail (and the appearance of artifacts). For me, the evidence is partly in what happens when an alternative raw converter is used, such as Iridient Developer. The results from foveon raws look suspiciously like those from any other bayer sensor AND, they also look like the initial preview image in SPP before the program has finished doing it's initial processing. So, that's a bit suspicious. No amount of negative sharpening in SPP will allow for a natural look from a foveon raw. Furthermore, one can process a bayer image in other software, Topaz or Photoninja for example, and come fairly close to the processing look SPP gives to foveon raws.
Anyway, this example below is a little over the top (I would never process the RX1 image to this extreme) but I think it does prove this point. The camera was on a tripod and not moved between shots with the DP2 Merrill and the RX1 so the DP2 has the advantage of using a longer lens (for a narrower angle of view). The RX1, of course, has the advantage of more MP's (which, imo, more than compensates for the per pixel difference).
Sigma Photo Pro vs Iridient Developer, default sharpening on both.
RX1 with sharpening in ACR and then the same image (after ACR processing) tweaked in PhotoNinja