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Wednesday, 27 May 2009

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Sigh. Some day my prince (prints?) will come.

You've pretty much reviewed every Sigma digital camera. A quirky sensor capable of delivering some surprisingly good IQ when things go right, lenses much better than expected, unreliable and low-performance camera body that's 5 years behind the low-end of the competition.

Sigma's stuff would be interesting if they'd actually spend some time on the camera and processing rather than just releasing the first thing they could.

Hmmm, not sure I'll be getting one of these now, I'll wait until Olympus makes their M43 announcement, and make my mind up then.

Not sure if the firmware update would fix the problems you had with the camera:

http://www.sigma-dp.com/DP2/firmware.html

Interesting review. On the one hand I have a lot of respect for the definitiveness here-- you didn't like this camera and you're not afraid to say so. Too many camera reviews on the web are wishy washy and try to please everyone.

On the other hand, I take issue with this statement:

I did not see any conspicuous persistent advantages from the Foveon sensor that would come close to counterbalancing the camera’s practical shortcomings.

Given that you only include 4 images, and none of them are high resolution, it's hard for us as readers to make our own assessment.

Also, you didn't mention one of the major advantages to this camera compared to the Canon G10 and Panasonic DMC-LX3. That is, the ability of to isolate subjects with shallow depth of field. This is only possible because of the large sensor combined with the excellent f2.8 lens, and no other compact camera can match that ability at present.

I find it hard to believe that the reviewer could not find advantages in the Foveon sensor to outweigh the quirks of the camera. I am a DP1 owner who have confined my Pentax DSLR to a shelf after buying the DP1 for one reason. That sensor in a compact camera. To make such a noise about the build quality is strange to me. It is a camera in an alluminum alloy casing. However other manufacturers build their cameras, objectively speaking it is plenty rugged enough. I have lost mine in the ground several times and it is not even dented. That´s all I need to know. Yes it is slow, but I am not losing shots. Depends on your photography style I guess. Yes it is noisy, but crowds do not turn. Compared to a DSLR, even an M8, it is virtually noiseless. Yes the screen is bad, but the screen do not affect your photos.

I understand the points made, I do, I even agree to most. What I find more than a little strange is the fact that the IQ is so outrageously good compared to both of the cameras mentioned in the review as to render both obsolete. Particularly the dynamic range, which betters my Pentax. No other compact is even in the ballpark as of today.

Bottom line is that I too have owned many digital compacts, but I have gotten rid of every one after a short time, because I lost so many shots. Why? Because of blown out whites, noise in shadows under low ISO, and general poor IQ. Pictures that could not be used alongside my photos from DSLRs. The Sigma was the first to achieve this.

In my opinion this reviewer, alongside every review I read of the DP1 by gadget/camera sites, faults it for everything under the sun, except the IQ, which they allways admits blows every other compact off the shelf, yet even so rewards it with a very low grade. Yet they reward other compacts with more settings and buttons than you will ever need and 7 fps, even though the images do not stand up to the cheapest DSLR. Noise is one thing, some of the have this under control at least at base ISO, but not one of them can produce a dynamic range worthy of a DSLR.

I rarely use my DP1 under ISO 400.

For information, my DP1 has not once broken down or in any other way hampered my use of it. It is quite simply wonderful. My prints tell me so.

Not even a little bit surprising. The big mystery in this space is why Canon doesn't just build the damn DMD. They've clearly established the premium P&S market as viable, to the tune of three generations of G series cameras. The secret arrangement that dictates Nikon will build all the really cool DSLRs and the very worst compacts while Canon does the opposite seems to be holding up nicely. So where is our camera?

I could make the same statements about my DP2 as Ken, except my conclusion is very different. I find the images the camera produces at times magnificent, to the point where, for all it's shortcomings, I have carried it instead of my Panasonic LX3. I shoot with a 40mm viewfinder and zone focus, so I haven't found the autofocus a problem. Also, I have processed many of my pictures in B & W, so color casts haven't been an issue.

The real problem for me has been the black screen freeze Ken describes, which is why my DP2 is in Sigma's service dept. at this moment.

But, assuming it is truly repaired, it will stay in my camera bag for the image quality as it fits in with what I want in a camera.

It's a shame too, as I (and probably many others) very much wanted the DP2 to live up to it's advertising. Is anyone else growing tired of maintaining an interest in Sigma cameras in general?

I notice Sigma has issued a firmware update for the freeze and autofocus issues: http://www.sigma-dp.com/DP2/firmware.html

Thanks Ken. I feel like an innocent bystander following the Sigma DP saga. I really wanted them to succeed with the DP1. When it was clear they wouldn't, I *really* wanted them to learn from their mistakes and succeed with the DP2.

While I've read more good reviews about the DP2 than the DP1, this is clearly not the camera it could have been. Will Sigma finally get it right with the DP3? I'm afraid they have no choice, because while we can forgive one, even two errors, nobody is going support Sigma if the DP3 isn't a great camera.

While I've never owned a Sigma camera, the idea of them that I have, based on countless comments on the net, is exactly what Adam said: A sensor capable of great things...every once in a while, when the rest of the camera lets it do its thing and the planets are aligned just so.

If Olympus get their micro-4/3 P&S camera right, the DP series will be history. What a shame that would be.

A pity, Sigma should cooperate with a real camera maker and concetrate on the sensor and the lens, which they get obviously better each time.

bummer.

Trying to take a picture with these things is worse than using LSD.

Yup, sounds like a Sigma camera.

Sigma has posted a firmware update for its DP2 large-sensor digital compact camera. Version 1.01 improves auto focus and reduces the intermittent freezing of the camera that can occur under certain conditions. The update is available for immediate download from Sigma's website.

Many thanks for the review Ken. I was on the fence with the camera, leaning more towards purchasing it despite all of the shortcomings that are being consistently voiced. The SLR-like image quality from a compact body made me want to look at the camera through rose colored glasses.

Thank goodness the camera is not in stock, otherwise I would have already purchased it.

No viewfinder no sale.

I guess only thing making this more interesting than others is the ability to have more control over depth of field due to bigger sensor. It probably isn’t enough though.

Ken--
Nice writeup. I have a similar review here: http://www.camera-blog.net/2009/05/27/sigma-dp2-an-in-depth-review-part-1/

I completely agree with you with regards to the build quality. For such an expensive camera it just plain sucks.

Sigma has just announced a firmware update to decrease the intermittent camera freeze-ups and to increase auto focus accuracy. See:
http://www.sigma-dp.com/DP2/firmware.html

Now that Sigma has released new firmware for the DP2 will there be a follow-up to this review to see how well it addresses the auto-focus and black-out complaints?

Ken, your review confirms my initial impression of the DP1 which I picked up at a camera show last year. Expecting great things from the camera, based on its specifications (yeah, I know...) I was immediately confronted with one of the cheaper-feeling cameras I've ever used. It gave me that same feeling of confidence I had as a boy, shooting with an Agfamatic 50.

So anyway, I spent about 5 minutes trying to find something likeable or charming about the DP1 and walked away disappointed.

Umm, Sigma recently released a firmware upgrade that is supposed to address the locking up, and maybe the focussing too. Not sure if that would have helped, but it is possible that things are better now.

There is an update 1.01 of the DP2 firmware available from sigma that resolves the freezing problem.

Lock ups are already solved with the 1.0.1 firmware update out yesterday...it may affect color too, I've not processed any shots to be sure. One thing to understand about Sigma is they are good at addressing early issues through a number of firmware updates to new cameras.

I don't get the build quality comment at all. The body is mostly metal and pretty solid--I have (unfortunately) dropped mine twice onto concrete from a fair height and the body did not "turn into a parts list." Instead there was a small dent on the corner of the body, and that was it--it works fine otherwise. I have dropped other electronics that felt more dense and have them fail working altogether, so density alone is not a good measure of durability.

I think they fixed some of the problems mentioned here and a new look at the new upgraded camera is necessary -- Jpeg files from their site converted to B&W look very good.

I really, really want to like Sigma's cameras. My first serious long lens was the (relatively) affordable Sigma manual focus 500 mm f:4.5; it was remarkably sharp when used carefully. The company now makes lenses that are seriously competitive with the best lenses from the main camera makers. Their 50 mm f:1.4 is beautiful (if huge), and optically superior to both Canon & Nikon equivalents, especially for low-light environmental portraits taken near wide-open apertures.

Unfortunately they don't appear to be able to translate their optical excellence to camera ergonomics and design. For all the theoretical virtues of the Foveon sensor, Sigma's D-SLR's are still clunky and awkward with mediocre autofocus. And now it sounds like the DP-2 is another case of great lens, adequate sensor, and bad execution. Sigh.

Still love their lenses.

:Adam said:
"Sigma's stuff would be interesting if they'd actually spend some time on the camera and processing rather than just releasing the first thing they could."

Actually, I think they should just license their lenses and sensors to people who have an aptitude and love crafting a usable, desirable devices. Apple? Epson? Nokia?

Sigma. Too little, too late.

It seems Panasonic has done something outstanding and hard-to-do with the G1 and GH1, particularly the screen and the autofocus speed. The latter is one of the main things for me in a compact camera. I want instant reaction.
I hope Olympus' offering comes much closer to that than to the DP2.

You would think that Sigma might have noticed the focusing issues and freezing issues before releasing the camera, instead of waiting to issue a firmware update.

It almost seems as if they released it without using it!

Probably an unfair comment, but Sigma has always seemed to me to be a very sales-niche oriented company. I think their sales guys saw an opening and ordered up something together to fill it. What they put together was like Sigma lenses -- sometimes good, often not, with considerable variation in quality because while the design is okay, the materials and assembly are usually the cheapest available, that will still do the job.

The DP2 is not the camera we're waiting for -- but the new Olympus m4/3 might be, especially if it has either an optional optical view finder or (as rumored) the follow-up camera does. A really good m4/3 sensor with top-quality Olympus interchangeable lenses would do it for me...


I replaced a Canon G9 with a DP2. The G9 might feel more solid but it's next to useless optical viewfinder and it's abysmal high ISO performance outweigh its non-photographic superiority to the DP2.

There is a lot to be disappointed about in the DP2 but image quality is not one of them. The battery life sucks, the AF is slow and noisy, the menus are all over the place, etc. None of them are showstoppers for me.

Regardless, its image quality blows away many cameras and not just G-class Canons or L-class Panasonics. It renders some of the best B&W digital images I've ever seen. "Film-like" really means something with this camera.

Warts and all mine's a keeper.

DP2 is inmatched in IQ to cameras of the same size. Coupled with great lens it produces amazing photographs even for architecture photographers.

I really wanted this to be a good camera. I travel with a camera all the time and have to lug my Canon 5D along in order to get the image quality that I like. Why can't someone make a decent small digital camera? All I ask for is fast focus, and sharp corner to corner images without vignette. A fixed 32mm lens would be perfect. I don't need a zoom, or image stabilization, or video.

Earlier this month, I returned the DP-1 I bought during Amazon's recent one-day $399 sale; today, I returned the DP-2 I bought in its place.

Some of my favorite images from last year were shot with the DP-1 I owned (and accidentally destroyed) last summer. No doubt some of my favorite images for this year would likewise have been shot with the replacement DP-1 and DP-2, except that I find these cameras so awkward and unpleasant to use, IMO their good qualities (which are very good indeed) only partially mitigate their bad ones.

On the other hand, the DMC-G1 I bought on a whim and was actually predisposed to dislike for a number of reasons (not the least of which is the faux-DSLR styling), is actually turning out to be a pleasant surprise, both in terms of operation as well as performance.

I've given Sigma two chances thus far (three, if you count the fact I bought a DP-1 twice!) and I'll probably give them yet another chance if/when the DP-3 is ever introduced, but, unfortunately, I'm no longer very optimistic about their ability to succeed with this line of cameras.

I have (unfortunately) dropped mine twice onto concrete ... I have dropped other electronics that felt more dense and have them fail working altogether ...

Kendall, not many photo-instruction booklets mention this, but a relationship with a camera is so much more fulfilling if you can remember not to drop it. Not often, anyway.

My goodness! After seeing a few early comments I returned late Wednesday evening to find an explosion of comments. I also see that Sigma has released a firmware update to fix some of the DP2’s roughest edges. Gee...I guess that Mike’s TOP has some influence! The best gear articles here are ones where the TOP community chimes-in to offer a bouquet of thoughtful comments, debates, and insights. I’d say that this qualifies.

I’d like to offer just a few follow-up remarks.

Like Geoff, Dave, and many others I also really wanted to like the DP2. We actually got off to a very good start. I had been very ill for over two weeks before the DP2 arrived. I was facing a small time-sensitive assignment but was still a bit too wobbly to carry the gear I might normally use for the job. So as soon as the DP2’s battery was charged I enlisted it for active duty, although I expected to get little more than some preliminary compositions for the “real” shoot. But the DP2 images turned out so well that the client decided they were good enough for their print application. Job done...terrific! (And the camera already nearly paid for itself.)

But the DP2 is weakly analogous to a talented athlete with behavioral problems and a variety of character faults. It’s a bounty of potential wrapped in a flawed package. Sigma’s firmware updates (which I fully expected to be forthcoming) may remedy the most fixable behavioral issues but the character flaws are intrinsic to the package. So despite a great first game I knew that the DP2 would always be a weak sister to me and rarely called into the lineup. (Ugh, sorry.)

I have long believed that the only thing that counts in photography is the final printed image. The means and medium by which it was created are of distantly secondary importance. But it’s also true that photography, especially amateur photography, is at least as much about the journey as the destination for many people. If using the Sigma DP2 enhances your enjoyment of photography more power to you! Don't let my opinion diminish your fun. Coaxing the DP2 to consistently perform to its potential, and learning to work with what the camera offers, may not be my cup of tea but I’ve certainly seen and demonstrated that it’s a beverage with potential rewards for the determined and patient owner.


I am a DP1 owner. I have had great results with this little camera. Being a fan of wide angle lenses I am not planning to buy the DP2 but had hoped for improvements in many areas such as AF and LCD...sounds like it hasn't happened yet. I have however dropped my DP1 more than once...still works fine. Guess it's more solid than it feels.

On a handful of occasions I've left the DP1 at home and used a Nikon DSLR. This is usually for the speed and ease of use of the DSLR. What I invariably find though is that I've wasted my time. The images just don't quite get there. Before using the DP1 many of these images would be "Selects" but now they're culls.

I can see that under ideal conditions a DSLR is capable of delivering images close to my DP1...but as mentioned above...how often do we have ideal conditions?

I like my DP1, or rather, I like the way some of the pictures I've taken with it look. It's a shame that the DP2 doesn't seem to have addressed some of its shortcomings. I think a Foveon sensor in a well built (i.e. not plasticky) camera with decent autofocus and good firmware would rock.
Doesn't seem much worth in trading in my DP1 for a DP2.

I'm just hoping that if Olympus do announce the digital reincarnation of the Pen that they give it a decent viewfinder. I hate having to squint at an LCD in sunny weather!

Trying to evaluate the DP2 from internet reports has been a study in schizophrenia.

Preproduction cameras in talented hands have produced amazingly good photos with excellent color, WB, a strong 3-D sense, and sharpness. Easily as good as a Canon 20D with an L lens as evidenced by original-sized photos. Gorgeous B&W conversions with butter-smooth tones.

And then the production cameras came out. And we see shots from non pros. And we see copies of the DP2 that seem incapable of taking anything BUT a severely green tinged picture. Other ghastly color rendition problems. Reports of camera death, clunky focus, etc.

And worst of all, the new version of Sigma's RAW converter having severe issues with blown-out whites - much worse than the previous version.

Sigh.

First tentative reports are that the new firmware update has improved the focus and lock up issues. Hopefully, someone will devise a convertor that recovers both highlights AND image detail simultaneously. Unfortunately, the new ACR is not that program.

Again, sigh.

Thanks for the review... that's disappointing on it's downfalls... I had been anticipating this to have as my 'carry-all-around' camera, solely for it's fast lens, which is a rarity in the point and shoot camera world sadly. Guess I will go with the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3, which is also more reasonably priced.

Please, can panasonic buy Sigma and put their sensors into LX3 or m4/3rds?

And while they are at it, take a few pages from the olympus sw series to make it a bit travel friendly.

Thank you for the review.

From the comments, there seems to be a significant divergence of opinion, and user experience.

Being interested is a small camera with a "large" sensor, and very fond of the "normal" perspective as far as lenses, the DP2 has been of great interest to me, even with its over-priced external optical finder (which for me would be a necessity).

The review has certainly given me pause, re the color cast and mechanical aspects.

Sean Reid has started a multi-part review of the Leica version of the Panasonic LX3, which i will also be following with interest.

I do hope though, that someone, someday, will make a reasonably priced digital camera, with a lens like the DP2's, that has a "large" sensor, a optical viewfinder that is not absurdly priced, and that is ergonomically simple and mechanically sound. Given the niche nature of such a device though, that may be asking to much these days.

No one has mentioned the strange color shift in the menu of Qs1 and Qs2. I was using the first firmware when this happened but I don't have the camera now to see if it goes away, but this guy has a very similar problem after the upgrade to 1.01
http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1027&message=31974524

My daughter today use my G7 nearly new and I only take pictures with the ixus 980is at the time Gs LXs and DPs have a beautiful retro skin some goodies but not too much.

I'm seeing a dust patch on the upper right side of the sample picture showing the skyscrapers!

Recently bought DP2 to go with my DP1. Ok - it's slow and the menus are not always easy to navigate -BUT the image quality can be outstanding on both. Have used DP1 for landscapes and am using DP2 for portrait and still-lifes. The cameras may be rather behind the times in some respects but it's hard to argue with the results! Look at Jim Radcliffe's DP1 images in boxedlight.com! New firmware seems to have improved DP2.
My only problem so far has been the PhotoPro software which has frozen a few times during editing and has had to be re-started.

Posted by: cclee: "I'm seeing a dust patch on the upper right side of the sample picture showing the skyscrapers!"

You sure are. It was actually a spot on the lens.

You may also notice that the tall building appears a bit mottled. That's not a compression error. The weather had been a bit wet for several days and the building's granite facade panels darken when they're damp. The DP2's lens was good enough to quite accurately record these variations.

I don't get it, Ken. You seem to have missed the point of the DP2. Yes, the LCD is bad, but that is a deal breaker only if you are a snapshooter who uses the LCD to show pictures of the kiddies birthday party to coworkers. Yes, the AF is noisy and works poorly. But I have yet to see any camera, film or digital, P&S or SLR, that works really well in sub-optimal conditions. This is a compact digital for those who want manual control and exceptional IQ. What is amazing also is that so many people will read your review and take it as gospel without using the camera and making up their own mind.

I own a DP1 and tolerate its coarse and hard-to-view-in-bright-sunlight LCD, and slow RAW write speeds, and inconsistent AF for one reason only: the amazing images the very sharp lens and Foveon sensor are able to produce. I’ve used the Canon G9 and Panasonic LX2 and always felt their RAW output just fell short of what I saw. Cameras are just tools to fulfill a vision. Sometimes those tools dovetail nicely with your intuitive approach, sometimes they get in the way. The Sigma cameras don’t make it easy, and only the individual can judge through use whether they lend themselves to fulfilling his vision or not. I had a SD14 and returned it because its problems (inconsistent AF, super coarse LCD of 150,000 pixels, and lock-ups/freezes) became intolerable and got in the way of creativity. Unfortunately for those of us who love the Foveon color output there is no other game but Sigma.

Sigma has posted another firmware update for the DP2 on their site.

SIGMA DP2 Firmware Ver.1.01

The firmware update addresses the freeze/lockup issue and improves autofocus accuracy.

@ Dave: The poor lcd was not a "deal-breaker". But it is a persistent annoying shortcoming that, within the larger body of persistent annoying shortcomings, I did not feel was appropriate for a such a premium-priced compact camera. YOU may never look at the screen but I sure as hell do as I periodically change settings and check the histogram. It's a pure cheap-out and margin-maintainers for Sigma.

The type of photographer who might be interested in this camera might like to play photojournalist with the optional (or other) viewfinder.

This review would have more value to me if the reviewer had used the camera with the viewfinder, not holding it at arms length, squinting at the back panel.

I personally think this is a weird review, focused on issues like build quality (what does that really mean?), noise (yes, it's a little noisy in a quiet room in doors, but I can't hear it outside at all, where I use it most of the time), and the LCD (who cares?). I bought this camera on day one for what I hoped would be great image quality, period. Even in fine jpeg mode the results are great, but the raw files have astounded me. I'm not a professional by any means, but this camera made me a better photographer. So my advice is spend some time with this camera before you judge it too harshly, and I think you're going to be really excited once you get to know it. Features like the manual focus come in really handy, and the aperture (and thus depth of field) is astounding for a camera of this size, price, and convenience.

I just bought a DP2 today! Just came out in the Netherlands. I already own the DP1 and love that camera. I simply do not understand all those negative comments, the DP1 is the first compact which produce photos you never can make with any compact today, except the DP2. It is such a joy to play with DOF and on the F2.8 DP2 even more. Green color cast? Not in RAW 5.4. Slow? Yes, I agree, does it bother me? Not in the least. The DP2 is much faster, but still is a camera where you have to take the time. Sluggish, noisy, unreliable? My Canon 5D makes more noise, have not had one problem and I like the feel and look of the black minimalistic camera. I admire Sigma for taking this step, making a compact which is unique in every way. If you buy a Lotus, are you also complaining about the small luggage space?

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