Sigma DP1, my review

26Apr08

I’ve been looking for a new camera for a while. I am not into (D)SLR’s. They are too big and I tend not to use them (my last was a Olympus OM2 back in the 80-s and I’ve used a Canon EOS 100 SLR film camera now and then) and I probably ruin my self buying a lot of expensive lenses that I do not need and do not use. I sold my Leica M6 a couple a days ago. Great camera! But I haven’t used it for nearly six years.

My first digital camera was an Olympus C5060 WZ. Unfortunately it broke last year and I miss it a lot. It was replaced by a Panasonic DMC-LX2 now handled by my wife. It’s a small gem width it’s unique 16:9 sensor, but it’s almost too small for me and the image quality on higher ISO’s in low light is bad. Even at lower ISO’s noise is visible and you have to save images in RAW format and post-process to avoid the smudging noise-reduction algorithms by Panasonic. The lens is sharp at wide angle (28 mm) but unpleasingly soft when zoomed to max (112 mm).

Waiting for a LX3 (or another compact and wide-angled camera with outstanding image quality), I stumbled on a new camera concept – a small wide-angled point & shoot camera with a full-sized sensor – the Sigma DP1. I have used it now for two weeks (and about 400 pictures) and it’s time to summon up my first impressions:

Pros

  • Good or excellent image quality up to ISO 400.
  • Useable IQ almost clean from bad noise at ISO 800 (but lacking some color saturation).
  • Razor sharp 28 mm (F4) lens. I do not need a zoom.
  • Compact, small size and light weight.
  • Well built. Good feel.
  • Easy to use and quite fast manual focus option.
  • Adequate and easy to use RAW developer software, Sigma Photo Pro (SPP).
  • Small file sizes (JPEG is 3-6 MB, RAW is 11-15 MB) but detailed, sharp images with a good dynamic range, printable in large sizes.

Cons

  • Questionable auto white balance (WB). Green or magenta casts in images when using auto WB (corrected to some extent in the latest SPP software release). I have previous never bothered to change the WB before when using the Olympus C5060WZ or the Panasonic LX2, now I do it all the time. It makes me slow.
  • Reddish optical (?) pattern when the camera is pointed to or near a direct light source, like the sun. At F4 it’s like a red discoloring, at F11 it shows like a pronounced red dot pattern. Ugly. Some examples: here and here.
  • Slow and inexact auto focus (AF) even at daylight. A fare deal of my images has an unfocused foreground and sharp background despite of a “half pressed” locked AF. A more narrow depth-of-field in the DP1, makes this shortcoming noticeable. I now mostly use manual focus (MF) and this slows me down a bit.
  • Some shutter lag in Auto, P, A and S mode.
  • Slow file savings. Not enough file buffer or slow image processor. I use a SanDisc Extreme III SDHC 4 GB card. Write times between pushing the button and the next image is too long to be tolerable.
  • Bad, low-resolution, greyish, LCD screen. It looks like a toy compared to the screen on the LX2.
  • No image stabilizer (IS).
  • Awkward user interface and button design. The menus are often used (more often than on the Olympus C5060WZ and the Panasonic LX2) and they are long (with page breaks) and slow to use. Compared to the Olympus C5060WZ and the Panasonic LX2, more of my focus is on the DP1 and the camera functions (or lack of), then taking a good picture.
  • Price. It’s almost twice the price of a Panasonic LX2 here in Sweden. I paid €850.


Conclusion

My conclusion so far is that the Sigma DP1 delivers good or sometimes excellent image quality, but I feel the camera concept is not ready. It’s more like a Beta release or a prototype. Some things could probably be fixed by future firmware releases, but right now this camera is unready. If you are on your way to buy a small portable camera, wait for a future ”real” release of DP1 “1.0” or choose another camera.

Keep it?

Yes. I can live with some of DP1’s shortcomings, I can better learn to use it and I can work around some of the problems for now. But will I stop to look for a digital and compact replacement for the Leica M6? No. Unfortunately Sigma DP1 is currently the only compact camera in its class…

Read more on Sigma DP1 on dpreview.com. Get a more positive view of Sigma DP1 on rytterfalk.com.

See some of my first Sigma DP1 images on Flickr and Panoramio and my photo blog.

See some really beautiful DP1 images by Jim Radcliffe.



2 Responses to “Sigma DP1, my review”

  1. Hej Ulf, ville bara säga att det var intressant att läsa artikeln och att jag håller med i stort. Jag hittar dock inte de exempel du hänvisar till med det röda problemen (som är olika beroende på F-tal)? Kanske inte viktigt, eller menar du kanske vid motljus eller vid starka lampor vid lång exponering?.

    Jag ser också att du tagit en hel del finfina bilder med den!🙂 Kul!

  2. Hoppsan, länkarna som beskriver ”det röda problemet” var döda och jag har nu uppdatarat dem. Och det är det problem som du säger och själv tagit upp i din förträffliga blogg – ofta i direkt soljus eller starkt lampsken och det syns mest vid höga bländarvärlden. Jag har bara ett exempel som jag släppt ut: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ulfbodin/2557752827/ även om det finns tendenser även på: http://ulfbodin.wordpress.com/2008/06/08/1435-poppy/

    Tack för beröm!


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