Sunday, March 3, 2013

DP2M images shot at iso 400-6400 handheld after sunset

Yes You Can....Shoot with a DP2M over iso 100 and get good results.

Sometimes I'm astounded at the comments I read that reviewers make regarding cameras that they are testing.  A number of online camera review websites and personal photography blogs have made some very tall claims about what the Sigma DP2M can't do.  Thats a matter of perspective in my opinion.  Compared to what?  Images shot in the film days of grain?  Or are we talking about today's super high ISO shooting cameras that turn anything above iso 1600 into mush with their in camera over processing?  Let be real here.  The only reason I can ever see to shoot higher than iso 1600 is if you absolutely have to get that image and the image is not going to be printed larger than 8x10.---Event photographers, photojournalist and paparazzi all can benefit from super high iso shooting. I understand this need.  But video bloggers, professional reviewers and amateur reviewers making statements that the DP2M can't shoot decent images above iso 100 is doing a disservice to photographers who might truly benefit from shooting with this remarkable camera.  So I provide you with actual proof that you can handhold and shoot with a DP2M at higher than ISO 100---even at night.

I shot the images below right after sunset at 6:24 pm until the end of twilight which ended at 6:46pm. There was absolutely no way I could ever hand hold an image at iso 100 after sunset but I didn't have my tripod with me.  I tried--thinking that maybe I just might be able to surprise myself--but physics like heart beats have a way of getting in the way of things.  So I set the camera to iso400 F2.8 on Aperture priority and took these images, changing the iso up to iso up to 6400.  Iso 1200 is missing in series of images.

Conclusions?   Color images processed in SPP5.5 looked decent up to iso 1600. Forget about shooting color images at above iso 1600 in super low light conditions.  The sensor is just not capable of really pulling of capturing color images in dark conditions at above iso 1600 with acceptable results.  Now if you want to shoot monochrome images at iso 3200 and iso 6400---by all means.  You will get grainy looking images that remind me of Tri X film pushed to iso 1200 in the good old Black and white film days.  Interestingly enough, Sigma has added some new goodies in the newest version of Sigma Photo Pro Software ( SPP5.5) that really takes creating monochrome images with the foveon sensor seriously up a notch!  There is a banding removal tool and the ability to add film grain to the images--so if you are a film admirer like me who emulates films in his own work--its my way of seperating myself and the look of my images from the hoards of Canon and Nikon shooters out there--LOL, then you will love this new monochrome feature in the program.  In the images below---I show you how you can salvage your Iso 3200 and Iso 6400 images by making them monochrome for a dramatic affect.  I did not edit these images outside of SPP5.5 except to overlay the copyright mark using lightroom 4.0.  In this scenario I didn't add film grain to them as there is plenty grain to go around at iso 3200 and iso 6400 already.

ISO 400 F2.8
ISO 800 F2.8
ISO 800 F2.8 BW

ISO 1600 F2.8
ISO 1600 F2.8




ISO 3200 F2.8
ISO 3200 F2.8 BW

ISO 6400 F2.8









ISO 6400 F2.8

So looking at the images it makes me wonder what Sigma is thinking in providing ISO 6400, but Sigma keeps improving on the Sigma Photo Pro Software in its ability to process the raw files and Sigma continues to release firmware updates, I wouldn't rule out firmware or software improvements in the future that further improves the quality of the images in the ISO 3200 to ISO 6400 range in the post processing of raw images.  If you want to be artsy--do an images which benefits from a very grainy black and white look--then the higher ISOs will work.  Realistically with the F2.8 lens,  I found it difficult to handhold and shoot--but thanks to the new grip that I added by Richard Franiec ( See my other blog) I was able to hold the camera with more stability to squeeze out a pretty decent iso 400 shot.  Sadly, I notice in my samples that the ISO 800 sample has a little shake blurring---Sorry!  I still included it the samples so you could see how it handled overall.  So in answer to the claim that the Sigma DP2M can't shoot decent images at anything higher than iso 100? 

ABSOLUTE SILLY NONSENSE.   Now would I routinely shoot at anything about iso 400 with a DP2M?  No.  I would only shoot above  IS0 1600 if I was stuck somewhere without my high ISO performing camera.  Yes--you can own more than one camera boys and girls..... I can't imagine this one camera fits all mentality.  Its like the communist camera revolution--the collective herd mentality that I've been pointing out for years brainwashing everyone into buying into this one camera does all nonsense.  How boring that would be.  I've never subscribed to this mentality and pick the camera that I want for the job that I want to do.  I understand if you need to buy a camera that does it all and shoot well at high ISO etc.  The only one close to the DP2M in image quality is the Sony RX1--so get your wallets out and spend $2000 more dollars and be happy! But you will not find a camera/sensor combination that provides this level of image quality and sharpness across the frame this size. It doesn't exist in the USD street price range of $799.00  If you can settle for a more expensive camera with serious vinetting at the edges of the lens and blurring--then the Sony RX1 is the camera that will provide you with excellent high ISO performance--great for a photojournalist etc or someone with very deep pockets.
Now please don't complain about how grainy the images are at iso 400---I actually turned down the noise slider for luminescence as I prefer a grainy look to my images as it reminds me of film. Thats my preference. I'd rather have more detail and some grain than have this mush that is being promoted in the photography world--talking about how wonderful high ISO images are.  My opinion?  I've NEVER seen an image shot at higher than iso 3200 that was worth praise.  I would shoot images at ISO 3200 with my Canon 5D MK II for press work that were acceptable-but that is a full frame sensored camera and I was never satisfied with the results even though those images were used in magazines regardless of my low opinion of them.  Light photons don't have to pass through three layers of silicon in a bayer sensor like the foveon sensor.  One trick that Bayer sensor cameras do is shoot a black frame and remove the noise from the image that shows in the black frame. I'm a little unclear how that technology works but I believe that is one of the secrets with the Bayer sensors. With the foveon sensor you are talking about 48 megapixels of information to sort out and process into a raw file--a huge amount of information to process at one time.  I suspect in order to implement the same approach that Canon, Sony and Nikon and the rest already do in camera, that Sigma would probably have at a total of 4 true II computer chips---Like the quad core chips used  in our computers.  The full sized .tiffs from these images same size at 16 bits saved from raw (46 MB sized files in the case of iso 400) saved as huge 86MB, so all the detractors out there that are claiming that the Merrill chip is only producing a 15MP sized images are just not grasping the fact that the foveon sensor is collecting more pixel information than a comparable sized bayer sensor.  More informaton per pixel is recorded which results in huge bloated same sized files at 16 bits.  Look at these images at 100 percent.  You can see details shot with this 45mm equivalent lens in 35mm speak from 2.5 miles away in the Miami Skyline that are not visible until you look at the image at 200 percent!  My question is this--how much more detail do we need here?  The only way to improve the foveon is to increase the size of the real estate of the sensor--make it full frame.  Hopefully I'll be around when that happens because I want to try shooting with that behemoth! :) Those who constantly slam the foveon sensor with claims that it can't be handheld and shot at anything above iso 100 are full of silly nonsense.  One last thought however, if you ever want to know how I shoot the amazing night images with a foveon sensored camera?---Use a tripod and longer exposure times.
This tiny DP2M is a powerhouse camera in a compact package with one of the sharpest lenses I've ever shot with.  Whats not to like about it?  If you are willing to deal with how slow it is to process images and the limits of its useful ISO range to really no more than ISO 1600 and maybe 3200 and 6400 if you can deal with grainy black and white images--then this camera can work nicely and cover lots of stuff. One thing that so many people seem to forget about the DPM series of cameras is that you can use a flash on top of the camera too!  Sigma makes a very nice smaller flash that works very nicely with the camera so in my mind as I'm and expert in flash photographer for press work etc---I don't see too many limits with it. There are plenty of tiny manual flashes out there like the one by Metz that can be used with the DP2M as well.  Plus the new firmware update allows you to flash sync at 1/125th with all of the DP Merrill compacts as well.  In my 35mm film days I was thankful if I could push my black and white film to above iso 1200 and capture something useable and I was shooting basketball games with a manual focus camera, power winder and very fast 50mm f1.4 lens, sitting right on the sidelines! It was very exciting. Shooting with the DP2M is a cakewalk compared to what photography was years ago and best of all---the price has dropped! Meaning that I"m now seriously thinking about getting a DP1M.  Why? I'm tired of lugging heavy cameras around and don't see a problem with shooting with a compact camera that can easily produce crisp images up to 24x36 inches.  Happy Shooting my friends! 


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