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Sigma DP2 Merrill is the next generation of high image quality digital camera which incorporates Foveon's newly developed 46 megapixel APS-C size image sensor in a compact body. The full-color Foveon X3 direct image sensor ensures outstanding resolution and natural rendering with rich gradation as well as a three-dimensional feel. A focus ring and custom Quick Set (QS) mode also improve the user interface.
The Foveon X3 Direct Image Sensor uses technology that was originally developed by Dick Merrill, a brilliant engineer and talented photographer. Working along imaging innovators, Merrill tapped into his passion for electronics to build an innovative pixel structure that uniquely demonstrated the ability to capture RGB information in each pixel location. This revolutionary discovery led to the development of the X3 Direct Image Sensor and, ultimately, to the creation of some of the most vibrantly colored and detailed imagery the photography industry has ever seen.
Unlike the SD1, which is a DSLR that utilizes Sigma's extensive lineup of camera lenses, the DP1 Merrill and DP2 Merrill each boast exclusively-designed, high-performance fixed lenses. The DP2 Merrill offers a 30mm F2.8 lens, which is the equivalent to a 45mm lens on a 35mm camera. The camera is compact and lightweight, and includes "F" Low Dispersion (FLD) glass to correct abberations and Super Multi Layer Coating to reduce flare and ghosting. With the 46-megapixel, full-color Foveon X3 Direct Image Sensor, the new DP cameras capture all primary RGB colors at each pixel location with three layers, which results in incredibly detailed images with a three-dimensional feel.
Yes, this camera does have some shortcomings but only when compared to the latest greatest cameras on the market today. If you are used to shooting film, these shortcomings will be non-existent. If you work around these shortcomings (battery life, low ISO capability), you will be rewarded with outstanding image quality. This is also making me a better photographer. The first shot I took (and jpeg as well) was of a car - what stood out to me was the analog quality of how light reflected off the chrome. Difficult to articulate but I can only equate it to the sound you get out of a tube amp.
This camera produces absolutely amazing image quality, but requires a few compromises. The sensor and lens combo are fantastic, the lens is one of the sharpest I have ever used. With good light, image quality is fantastic, but above ISO 800 is only really useable as B&W. The camera is much faster in operation than the previous DP series, however it is still quite slow in certain respects, especially the file write time, about 9 seconds for a RAW image. You can still take up to 6 more images while a single image is being written, however. Otherwise, the focus speed is reasonable, the shutter lag is low, and the controls are quite good. The battery life is the other major compromise, about 100 shots per battery, less if you use the LCD. If you're willing to accept this camera's quirks, you will be rewarded with the best image quality from a camera anywhere near it's size.
This is my second Sigma with a Foveon sensor. Upgraded from first generation DP1s and glad I moved up. Results were great with former but fantastic with new DP1 Merrill. Serves not as a competitor to my D800e but to complement it as a lightweight, small, convenient, inconspicuous but quality alternative when I don't want to pull out the big guns. It hangs on my belt in its own holster. Would not travel without it now. Thought I would need wider than the focal length (19mm is 28mm focal length in SLR terms) but actually its a perfect lens choice. Razor sharp images that can better my Nikon in many cases. It's not the fastest or easiest camera by a longshot but it does make extremely sharp and detailed pictures that has no rivals for its size except for Leica. It's not an SLR but then its not trying to be an SLR. It's not a medium format camera either but the results sure look like a medium format image. All I can say is "wow."
Camera with Foveon sensor & super-sharp lens takes fantastic pictures. It's a shame Sigma refuses to mount this remarkable sensor in a 21st century body. It's not a camera for soccer moms, only for those folks who understand its limitations. Probably best to use RAW, but even JPEGs are fantastic. Best used in daylight on non-moving subjects; travel photography, landscapes--no flash limits indoor utility.
Best per pixel sharpness.
A lot has been written regarding the Sigma DP2 Merrill camera. And most of it has focused on its slow auto focusing, fast battery burn rate, and high noise level at anything above ISO 800. And then again, a lot of the pundits have raved about the camera's IQ. I can attest that the images are indeed spectacular. If we do not argue the Foveon's real senor resolution, whether it's 14mp or 46mp, as some bloggers have, and just focus on the IQ sharpness and that oh so realism rendition of colors, one cannot but come away without being truly impressed by this camera's output. A lot has been written about Sigma, and Dick Merrill's Foveon sensor, but I would like to focus on my real world experience with this deliberate photographic tool. And it is a tool. The Sigma DP2 Merrill is a tool that any photographer would enjoy using if they took pictures as an analog photographer. If you grew up with film, then you would enjoy using this camera. Having said that, and having dated my age, the Sigma DP2 Merrill is a camera that makes you take your time in deciding what to shoot. It's not for fast moving subjects, but it works very well shooting street, still life, and landscapes. I found the auto focusing to be very responsive, and initially I agreed with other reviewers that the camera would hunt in low light. There is a work around that and it's an easy one for any photographer that takes their time in composing the shot they want to take. In low light I found that focusing near a light source within the frame allowed the camera to focus spot on without any hunting issues. Setting the camera to auto ISO it never took a night image above ISO 800 with the lens wide open. Most shots like this were taken at 1/15 to 1/30 of a second, and the camera's build quality allows you to firmly grasp it and take perfectly sharp images at those settings. Samples are included here, and all of the night images were shot hand held, without a tripod, at ISO 800, 1/15 of a second, at f/2.8. The 30mm lens on the DP2 Merrill is a beautiful lens, and as a fixed lens it makes you move your feet to get the shots you want. It brought back memories of when I was a kid shooting my Nikon F2 with only a 50mm 1.4 lens. That was the camera and lens I could afford back in my youth, and I loved shooting that lens wide open and using my feet to zoom in and out. The Sigma makes you do it all over again. There is a lot of truth to the battery burn rate. Sigma does provide you with two batteries, and I found that if you shoot in raw, the battery drains fairly quickly. And by quickly I mean if you use the camera to review your shots, turn it on and off frequently you'll get maybe 40 plus images. It's like shooting a roll of 35mm film all over again. That doesn't mean it's a bad thing. It means that you sow down and consider what image you want to shoot next. It's not all hurly girly in shooting at 9 frames per second. Thought the buffer on the DP2 Merrill is actually quite decent. Having two batteries on you get's you through an afternoon or evening's worth of shooting, if you shoot like I do, slow and deliberate. For all day long shooting, I suggest picking up another battery or two. The DP2 Merrill images are something to crow about. Can't quite place it, but they look like they have been painted onto your sensor. I found using the DP2 Merrill exhilarating and liberating all at the same time. The Sigma DP2 Merrill is one camera that provides plenty of IQ that can satisfy the most curmudgeon photographer out there. It's a camera I highly recommend.