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Sigma DP2 Merrill: Observations and confessions of a DP diehard

Sigma DP2 Merrill: Observations and confessions of a DP diehard

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First thoughts upon hearing about on an old friend reborn into the modern age.

By Sandy Ramirez

February 10, 2012

Back in 2006 Sigma introduced the first large sensor compact, the Sigma DP1. Two years later they introduced the Sigma DP2. As an early adopter of both cameras, and user of each for many years, I've tracked the cameras' evolution and wanted to share some thoughts and perspectives in the wake of Sigma's announcement of the DP2 Merrill this Wednesday.

(Also see: Sigma announces DP1M and DP2M with 15MP Foveon sensors.)

Basilica of St. Barbara, shot on a Sigma DP1


If there is one thing the DP Series did well, it was building a cult-like rabid following of photographers that fell in love with the “Foveon Look,” as well as rewarding the user who was willing to deal with it’s many operational shortcomings with amazing image quality. It provided breathtaking images, and files rich in color like no other digital camera I have ever used. The Bauhaus design, minimalist controls, and fairly unobtrusive menu system made the DPs wonderful image creation devices. That said, the original DP’s were far from perfect.

 

Sunset with the Sigma DP2


To call the DPs frustrating would be a slight understatement. The slow AF, and near impossible to shoot with ISO 800+ quality made these difficult to use for street photography. Still, with practice I was able to do just that, coming up with a plethora of work-arounds that gave me wonderful quality for the four years or so that I used these units. I shot everything from backstage at fashion shows to simple snapshots with the DPs before finally moving on, and I do miss the wonderful quality they gave me.

 

Sak’s store window with the Sigma DP2


This Wednesday, Sigma announced the new DP’s the Sigma DP1M and Sigma DP2M (right; the “M” is in homage to Dick Merrill, the man who invented the Foveon sensor). Instead of the 1.7x APS-C sensor of the original DP’s the new Merrill inherit the 1.5x APS-C 46mp sensor of the Sigma SD1 (which has been repriced to a far more reasonable number). The new DP’s minimalist Bauhaus look is retained with the lens shifted over to the left a little. Having seen image samples from the SD1, I am actually excited to see what the new DPs will provide. The new sensor size required new lenses, still providing a 28mm FOV on the DP1M, and a new FOV of 45mm on the DP2M instead of the 40mm of the original DP2.

 

One of my last shots with the Sigma DP1


I’ve always been of the opinion that what hampered the DP most was the fact that Sigma was the first out of the gate with an APS-C compact. The Leica X1 and the Fuji X100 owe a grand debt to the DPs for basically being the “proof of concept” test for this niche market sector.  I doubt that the DPs ever got the respect generally given the Leica X1 nor the wild selling success of the Fuji X100, but they were first out of the gate and now have the opportunity to present a product that could outclass both in IQ and operation.

Beating the hybrid VF of the X100 will be difficult, but if priced right, that may not matter to those who are looking for a product like this but find the cost of either the Leica or Fuji a bit much. When I look at these cameras, I think of the new Canon G1X as main competitor. Can the new DP’s give us the IQ of the SD1 at the price of a G1X? Will Sigma learn from the lessons of the original DP’s much as Leica and Fuji have and provide us with a mature product that will address the shortcomings in operation of this market sector? I hope so. More competition is a good thing.

 

An apple on 1st Ave, shot with the Sigma DP2

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