It's souped up, but can it compete?
Sigma's DP compact cameras are built on the same 14MP APS-sized Foveon sensor found in Sigma's DSLRs and have great image quality. Is the DP-2s a significant enough upgrade? Let's find out.
The DP1 was first introduced by Sigma in March 2008. It was unique, groundbreaking, but for those who wanted a fast little sports coupe of a camera, somewhat frustrating. Focus acquisition time was maddeningly long, rendering it useless for many candids and street photography unless set on manual focus and exposure. Even then, it hesitated.
Then Sigma introduced the DP2 last spring, and autofocus was slightly better. It had a closer-to-normal focal length (24.4mm, which is a 35mm equivalent of around 40mm) and produced outstanding image quality. Jack Howard called the DP2 in a “Class by itself for pocketable HDR photography.”
Last fall, Sigma announced the DP1s, which boasted minor changes, including better backlight exposure capabilities, and had some firmware updates which claimed to speed up autofocus somewhat. While we didn’t get to test that model, I did get my hands on a DP2s (approx. $700), and put it through its paces to see how it stacked up against Sigma’s claims, and consumer expectations.
I'm not going to rehash the original models' features and reviews. The DP2s Image quality seems to be about the same as the DP2, which isn't too shabby. You can read my side-by-side comparison of the DP1 and DP2, and my Guided Tour of the DP2. Instead, I'm going to quickly run through Sigma's claims for the DP2s, and my observations based on actual hands-on use with a production model supplied by Sigma.
Claim: New AF algorithm for high-speed autofocus.
For many photographers, the DP series cameras' AF speed has been the deal-breaking question. Sigma has certainly come a long way from the sluggish autofocus performance of the original DP1. While the DP1's strengths lay in its amazingly high image quality for a camera its size and not in its focusing speed, the competition has been catching up in image quality so Sigma had to catch up in the performance area. In the field and on the street (see street photography samples, below), the DP2's AF speed was within acceptable parameters for a compact camera, although not fast enough to capture fast action. When doing street photography with it, I switched to manual focus most of the time, but with somewhat less active subjects the AF was fine and the lag time was half a second or less.
I wouldn't mind, in a future model or in future firmware updates, seeing a focus confirm feature when using manual focus; otherwise, you're guestimating.
Street Photo Stress Test
I brought the DP2s to a parade in New York City and, in order to test the camera’s performance, did my usual street photography thing capturing the spectators and people trying to squeeze or ride their bikes through the crowds. Most of these were shot in manual focus and exposure mode, but one was shot in auto-everything. Can you spot which one?
The shot done in auto-everything is the last one. I still managed to capture what I wanted here and no matter which I chose—manual or auto—I couldn't have gotten these shots with the much slower first generation versions of the DP cameras.
Claim: Power Save Mode lowers battery consumption.
I'm still on the first charge after a couple of days of shooting with two thirds of the battery left, according to the power indicator. So yeah, it seems to last longer on a single charge.
Claim: New rear design for faster, easier handling and managing of camera controls and functions.
The position of the control buttons and dials remain identical to the DP2, but with new white and bright red stenciled labels (see photo, below), the controls are more clearly labeled for quick recognition, so while it’s a simple fix, it does help you find the right buttons quickly. My thumb still accidentally hits the “down” button on the upper right side of the camera back.
Conclusion and recommendation
As with its predecessors, the DP2s handles well and feels very comfortable in the hands. I found it very easy to handle as a street camera and was able to shoot many candids without being noticed, especially when I silenced the shutter sound. The image quality is excellent for a nearly-pocketable camera and as Jack Howard has written, it can arguably be considered one of the smallest high-resolution HDR cameras on the market. With the improvement in AF speed it becomes a worthwhile camera to consider if you are in the market for a high-end compact that can deliver DSLR-quality images.