Monday, March 4, 2013

Long Term User Report for the Sigma DP2 Merrill

A Traditional Compact Camera With A DSLR Hidden Inside.

After shooting with the Sigma DP2M for five months now, I've had the opportunity to use it in any shoot situations. I better understand the design decisions Sigma made with the DP2 Merrill series camera.  Sigma wanted a camera with a simple design, simple easy to use controls, solidly built with one of the best lens/sensor marriages ever made. The price of a high quality lens alone at this caliber would cost the price of the DP2M!  So let me be clear. The DP2M is a amazingly sharp camera but it is one thing to read about the specs of a camera and to snap a few images in order to write a review.  The  real test of a camera is to shoot with the camera over a long period of time--past the honeymoon period. gets  complaints that camera reviews aren't coming out fast enough--while other sites and magazines are popping out quick reviews left and right---there is wisdom in taking more time to shoot with a camera before you write about it. You will give a more accurate assessment and opinion that benefits readers not just your bottom line with advertisers.
DP3M F8-Classic Foveon Blue Colorspace in Sigma Photo Pro Software 5.5--from raw to same size .jpg


After the well known SD1 high price fiasco, I really had my doubts about Sigma's future as a camera manufacturer, but Sigma bounced back with the Sigma SD1M DSLR, a tribute to Dick Merrill the inventor of the foveon sensor and then astounded us by dropping this new chip into the DP1M and DP2M and married it with one of the sharpest 30mm f2.8 lens (45mm full frame camera equivalent) ever produced in a compact form that can fit into a coat pocket but here is the catch---it can produce images that rival images that are produced by cameras that cost $3300 dollars more---You'd have to purchase a Nikon D800 and put a thousand dollar lens on it to get the same results.  If you want a giggle---watch this video by Chris Niccolis  and Luminous Landscape's Nick Devlin in a Youtube video review from CameraStoreTv. Camera Store TV's Review of the Sigma DP2M vs the Nikon D800E  It is a realistic appraisal of the DP2M with some sophomoric  humor mixed in.  However---you can save thousands of dollars and buy a Sigma SD1M and put the new generation Art lens-the 35 mm f1.4 lens on it and you'll have the sharpest Normal lens/camera combination in a DSLR form for around for $2800.00 and you are still ahead of the game.  The much misaligned SD1M is a powerhouse camera and Sigma is upgrading its entire line of lenses which it will surely benefit the SD1M. Put an image stabilized lens from Sigma on it and you can handhold and shoot at much lower light levels just fine. The problem with the SD1M is that it has to compete with cameras that are packed with so many extra features and high iso performance that buyers balk at even its new lower $1899.00 price.  However with the DP2M--you get the best lens ever and the best sensor ever in a small compact package and a the street price of $799.00 USD  Now considering the high image quality possible with this camera--that is the deal of the century!
Somthing that bothers me is this grunge photography movement where you put crap plastic lenses on camera and shoot blurry, crappy images and call it art---Great!  Thats cool with me if you want to shoot like that--there is a place for everyone in this big photography universe but the thought of a crappy cheap plastic lens on a camera makes me cringe.  Why it defies the natural order of things!--- thats not my style. I like crisp focal points in my images and with nice bokeh in the background.  The DP2M can do that at f2.8. 

DP2M F2.8 impromptu photo of a friend
It is also the sharpest from corner to corner lens I've ever used.   Flash?
Yes--you can put a smaller Sigma flash on the top of it and conquer even more with your little DP2M.  Limitations?  You set the limitations of what you want to do with this camera. Want to shoot a landscape at night?  Use a tripod and longer exposure and shoot at iso 100.  If it is really super dark---use iso 200.  If I have a tripod---I will shoot in the iso 100 to 200 range for night landscapes. In a pinch--you can shoot up to iso 1600 handheld at night if you are pretty steady with your hands and you can use the Sigma photo pro software 5.5 to clean up the noise beautifully.  Sigma photopro software 5.5 produces the best monochrome images from a digital camera that I remember---it takes monochrome black and white shooting with foveon sensored cameras to the next level.
Shoot with .jpegs only?  Then buy a cheap point. I've never found a .jpeg worth using over the same raw image.  Raw images allow you to tweak out image details, shadows that will make your images stand out from the herd of photographers out there.  Just shoot on auto settings?  Buy a point and shoot. 
What are some things I think are missing on the DP2M?  5 frame bracketing-a feature found on the SD1M.  Flash sync cable port.  Shutter trigger cable.  A bigger file buffer--be prepared to wait up to 15 seconds after shooting each image--these files are huge!  You may have to buy more backup drives to store you images as well.  Call me old fashioned, but I'd love a plug in EVF viewfinder as an accessory attachment that could be purchased and of course tethered shooting. The DP2M will frustrate amateurs who are used to having everything done for them and are in a rush to get that next image.  Its not a fast camera.  It does what it does fantastically---and that is creating super sized, high resolution images with extreme image detail. Add in the recent price drop to $799.00 USD and the DP2M becomes an even better buy.  Happy Shooting!

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