« Twilight of Film Special | Main | Not-So-Random Excellence »

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Comments

DP1, DP2, DP3, DP4 . . . DP78. I get it.

Laurence, I'm happy you're getting some use out of your DP2. I don't think that even Sigma expected that from such an early iteration.

..."used a specific tool and molded their defining concept around the tool."

Laurence, nicely argued. This all leads back to MJ's "one camera, one lens" concept.

It almost seems that the DP2 is the Apollo 13 of cameras - shut down most of the systems and fly (shoot) by the seat of your pants.

Thanks for shedding some "real world" light on the DP1/2 issue. I'm one of those people who were really excited about the DP1 when it was first announced -- so excited I started a blog to follow its development progress and to try to counter some of the misinformation that was drifting around prior to the camera's release (http://mydp1.wordpress.com).

Ultimately, I ended up not buying a DP1 because of the performance issues. Since then I've gotten pretty good at using my Panasonic LX2, and then LX3, in manual mode for street shooting. That, and your article here, has me re-thinking my rejection of the DP1. (I'm less interested in the DP2 because I prefer the 28mm equiv. focal length).

Maybe I can find a used one for a good price! :-)

Laurence, great looking close ups. I converted one of the shots (Josh's tree) to a B&W it looked great.
Always though this camera would be good for B&W photos.

Uh, what if the light isn't, ummm, F/8 material? Aren't we back at the creaky AF issue?

There is no free lunch.

Forgot to mention thats it looked great after I blew it up to 40"X60".

In response to Mr.Matsons post I agree the Sigma DP2 does indeed make some wonderful images and I find myself wanting one despite
its shortfalls, due to its unique look.
However isnt a camera sold as an autofocus camera supposed to AUTOFOCUS? Isnt a camera that employes an LCD as a means of viewing supposed to be VIEWABLE? Am I missing something here,or how do you explain these very serious omissions?

Thanks, Laurence, for you thoughts.

Sigma, with just a bit more tweaking, are close to producing what might end up being a legend of a digital camera. I hope that they make those improvements and have the courage to charge what a camera like that is worth, so that they can recoup their investment and provide us with more photographer-oriented products.

Pretty good for one of the small players in the camera manufacturing business.

Finally, someone with common sense. Everything is a compromise. Do you think Adams went through this? Do you think Clyde Butcher agonizes like some do?

Of course the DP2 is on my shopping list. You want perfect? You're going to have a looong wait.

I get the point about a specific camera designed for a specific purpose. I guess I'm just not tech savy enough to understand why in a camera of this nature, image quality must come at the cost of other really important operating features that seem to have been perfected in so many other similar sized cameras (albeit with less than DP2 image quality).

cfw

Can you see the screen in bright daylight well enough to compose your image? If you can, it must be unique.

"Can you see the screen in bright daylight well enough to compose your image?"

Wilhelm,
He's saying turn off the LCD screen and use the optical viewfinder (OVF).

Mike

I see a photo of Sigma CEO and founder, Michihiro Yamaki, in Laurence Matson's Sigma DP2 Gallery, is there a connection?

It is amazing how much of the "the other camera has better features" and "why bother if .. is not good" feature comparison is going on.

Understandable, when most people these days want to own a camera, not necessarily shoot pictures with it the way a photographer does, amateur or pro.

The DP2 is a gem of a camera. It has an incredible lens/sensor match. It handles like a rangefinder and is pocketable. And the images are like film scanned.

Ten years later all I'll care about is how the pictures look, not whether the other vendor had a snappier gadget.

For the curious:
The lcd is more than enough to compose in bright sunlight, I don't understand what people are complaining about. It is not the best viewing device but what ~3" lcd is?
And the controls are okay. Two sets of up/down buttons for aperture and shutter, same buttons used for exposure compensation and setting up bracketing.
The menus are faster and easier to deal with than the LX3, imho.

What was it again you wrote? mk1,2,3..?

Laurence, I like your spartan approach: Bypass the slow auto functions using your skill and wits in order to TAKE PHOTOS, rather than lounge around within technological fixes, as most people expect to do.

Seems like an awful lot of trouble just to be able to say that you shot with camera X. I wonder if a D40 with a 50m prime would not produce better results with less hassle.

"one of them is the reinvention of the street shooter’s ideal camera as originally embodied in the Leica M series—and in the hands of Henri Cartier-Bresson"

I've seen some 11x14 HCB prints up close. They are truly gorgeous. Guess what? We haven't lost that technology. As the T.O.P. "one camera, one lens" suggested, get a used M6. Or, if you have cash, a new MP. Or, if you want new but are on somewhat on a budget, Zeiss Icon 35mm package for $1800 at B&H. I don't understand this desperate need to re-invent what already exists.

Yes, I appreciate digital too. I have a 5D2 in addition to my M6. But film is still around (minus Polaroid and Kodachrome) and we don't need a digital Leica M to become the next H.C.B. (which exists in the M8, btw.)

-George

Um... here's how i use a dslr on the street:

1. set mode to A - f/8
2. set iso to auto if you will
3. set AF to AF - and it even works!
4. use the ovf - in a stark contrast to Sigma DP-2 you can actually see something through it - isn't it marvelous?
5. press the shutter. there is no shutter lag.

using it like this i can produce up to 10 images per second (not that i'm actually doing this, but i'm pretty sure i'll not lose anything in the several seconds sigma is taking to munch through the data)

"isnt a camera sold as an autofocus camera supposed to AUTOFOCUS? Isnt a camera that employes an LCD as a means of viewing supposed to be VIEWABLE? Am I missing something here,or how do you explain these very serious omissions?"

The camera does AF just fine. Perhaps not best in class, but for a large-size imager using contrast detection, I can live with it. Folks forget sometimes that there are two AF settings: with and without icon (something else to improve on). Set for the AF icon mode, it is quick enough for my taste. And I can get confirmation while using the OVF to boot.

>> Andy
"Uh, what if the light isn't, ummm, F/8 material? Aren't we back at the creaky AF issue?"

First of all, I would argue that the AF is not as "creaky" as often reported. Set the camera for the icon AF, and it is in the "OK" class (sharing space with the Oly). Otherwise, it's . . .

. . . your call:
- adjust ISO
- adjust f/stop
- get some light

An awful lot of street shooters working with every camera on the planet use B&W. The Foveon imager is about as good as it gets for B&W, especially if processed using SPP:
- desaturate to keep the channels instead of using monochrome WB;
- use the color wheel to "insert the filter before the lens" post facto.

B&W is even ok in really tough conditions at 3200 (but not close to Nikon D3 class!). Think pushing Tri-X.

Using a larger f/stop just means working more carefully, as it does in any situation with any device. There is no free lunch, indeed. And sometimes you have to pay by working better and not just having it handed to you. I do not know of a single large-format imager camera that is as forgiving about DOF as the teeny imager cameras are. This is physics and not engineering prowess.

The light issue has to do with the word "photography". The word implies the use of light to those with "a little Latin and less Greek."

Thanks for a very hands-on and objective review. Glorious gallery too, love your rocks series.

>> Marcin Wajda

"Um... here's how i use a dslr on the street:"

Great! Don't forget to be discrete and have a place to tuck away your camera in a flash. Also, remember to turn off the shutter slap. And don't forget to take the time to anticipate when zapping at 10 fps (I wish I could do that on my M6; I was faster on my Alpas).

If shooting street is using a fixed lens, f8 and hyper focus, why don't they (not just Sigma) give us at least a simple clear viewfinder? Didn't HCB tell them?

Mr. Matson makes a few incorrect statements, and given his intimate relationship with Sigma itself including influencing the design of the DP cameras, he should know better. He said the first concept of the DP1 was shown at Photokina 2006 with the final version shown at PMA 2007 and the shipping product a year later.

What actually happened was the DP1 was announced at Photokina in September, 2006 with estimated ship date just 4-5 months later in January or February 2007, just before PMA 2007 (Yamaki interview, October 2006). If the camera was only just a first concept, why did the head of Sigma say it was nearly ready to ship in a few months?

He also claims that the final version of the DP1 was shown at PMA 2007. It turned out that it was not anywhere close to a final version. After months of delays, Sigma issued a press release in November, 2007 saying that it had reached 'pre-beta' stage in summer 2007, several months after PMA, and due to a number of problems they had to completely redesign the image processing pipeline in addition to changing some of the features! In other words, what Mr. Matson calls the 'final version' was actually not even beta and was completely scrapped with the design overhauled. Sigma also stated that what they then believed was the final version had just begun testing, some eight months after his claim of a final version.

Finally, in March 2008, the DP1 shipped to customers, well over a year after the original ship date but not without significant firmware bugs which required frequent firmware updates. The camera was clearly rushed to market, despite it being well over a year late.

He also states that there is no shutter lag, but that's with the camera in manual exposure and manual focus mode. Obviously, there won't be much lag because the camera isn't doing anything except activating the shutter. This is true for any camera! Few people wish to use a modern camera in manual mode, so this is largely a straw man. For typical use, the DP1 and DP2 are very slow, and Imaging Resource said the DP1 was one of the slowest cameras ever tested.

He also suggests to use the optical viewfinder, neglecting to mention that it is not included and is an additional $150 over and above the already premium price of the camera.

Lastly, he states that Sigma listens to what its users want. One of the most common complaints about the DP1 (other than speed) is the poor LCD. The DP2 retains the very same poor LCD, while just about every other camera, including much cheaper ones, have far better LCDs. I would not call that listening to users.

uh... we are talking about street photo and what i'm trying to point out is, how much are you willing to trade for small (i don't take quiet into account - shutter&mirror clap vs street background noise?).
The only advantage of dp-2 is size - in just about every other field it gets beat up by world's cheapest dslr...
The question is - is small so important that you will work with a clunky, counter-ergonomic, peephole-for-an-ovf, slow, camera?
And speaking of inconspicous - I've seen Bruce Gilden in action once - that's one hell of an inconspicious street shooting for me - might as well have a great big red arrow over his head screaming "photog!"

Feature comparison with other cameras does make this camera look lacking.
But as far as handling, it feels like my rangefinder, despite the differences and some shortcomings.

But here's my take after 3 weeks of use:
* The LCD is adequate for composing shots even in bright sunlight. There are contrast/brightness adjustments for it.
* The controls are well thought of. Two sets of +/- buttons for aperture and shutter speed. Bracketing and exposure compensation can be set quickly, same as the ISO, WB, etc.
* Yes, could be faster. However, with my rangefinder, cocking the shutter and recomposing took at least as much as it takes to save the raw images. It is acceptable IMO.

It all comes down to image quality. They are like film scanned, with even larger dynamic range. And that's what I'll remember and see five, ten years from today.

>> Joe
Your long list of "incorrect statements" is a muddle of what the groundlings were yelling for and what was really going on.

The timeline was:
- The DP1 shown at photokina was a concept camera. Many people commented on the "incorrect" images circulated for months of the first version of the pk2006 camera
- Although changes to the innards were made late in 2007, the design of the camera, including most of the feature set listed at PMA, remained the same. As a footnote, Sigma was widely praised for taking that step.
- Your "rush to market" is an arguable point. Sigma set a date and hit it. Corrections followed. Should they have waited a bit more? The tone of your comment says they did the right thing by getting it out the door. Read what I wrote carefully for what is in between the lines.
- The LCD is just such a thing. Yes, there are screams for a better one from some. Others (see above) don't get so hot and bothered. Can any company please everyone all the time? I doubt it. I can work with that LCD in exceptionally difficult conditions; do I miss an SLR viewfinder then? Yes, but I would probably not be in the middle of the dunes in a pretty rough sandstorm with all that stuff.
- Whether you think that Sigma listens or not is really immaterial. The general tone in the forums I read in German, French and English is that they do. Of course, there are plenty of bellyachers, but there are also plenty of the opposite. Choose your cup: half-full or half-empty.
- The viewfinder is an added extra. Alone it is rather pricey; but there were plenty of packages (at least in the UK) that included it. There are also many far more expensive options out there. Of course, it would be lovely to have it included, but then the whiners would howl about the unnecessary stuff in the box. You cannot win!
Here is the context again for "no shutter lag:"
"Set up like this, I can capture an image every two to three seconds for as long as I want. There is no shutter lag."
To me that is clearly related to the M mode, so you got that right. However, I do not see how this could be interpreted as the camera not having shutter lag in all modes. I was suggesting how one could use it for street shooting.
I do not test zillions of cameras, but using a fast card and working smart, I can clip along at a pretty good pace even with AF. I note that the Oly does not seem that much faster. The DP2 is certainly faster and more accurate than plenty of cameras in my long past, and for that I am grateful.

"Uh, what if the light isn't, ummm, F/8 material?"

This is the question that did not keep Weegee awake countless nights.

Shouldn't some weight be given to Sigma's unique color signature? In the digital era, camera reviews are fine, but digital cameras come packaged with one, and only one, sensor. So camera reviews are now the equivalent of a camera and afilm review in the old days.

Granted, most Bayer array sensor+lens combinations seem to produce more or less the same look (Ok so Canon may look a bit different from Nikon) so this is a distinction that is not particularly material.

But I think in the case of the Foveon-based Sigma cameras this is an added attribute to consier and to my mind a pretty important one.

I've said this before, I like those Sigma blues. The pics look a bit like the old E100S chromes to my untrained eye.

(And yes, I know you can change the color look in post processing, but I'll bet imitating a Foveon sensor's color response with a Bayer array generated image is quite a task.)

I have spent more than 5000 usd in Sigma purchases. My SD14 has autofocus problems. I had more than 5 EX lenses. All of them had some kind of problem. (50-150mm, 24-60mm,30mm, 15-30mm and just bought a 12-24mm on ebay). The only one that has sharp corners at f8 or f11 was the 24-60mm, but only had some decent sharpness starting at f5. I left the Sigma forum on dpreview because there are such biased opinions there that I didn't understand some of their intention. If its true that there is an close relationship between the article author and Sigma, the whole article loses any kind of credibility. I love the Foveon images, but really would like to see it in other company's hands. Sigma is simply not competent enough for developing it. And in my opinion, Sigma should hire some professional photographers that tell them: you have to improve this or that (what ever fits the needs of a real professional photographer). If the camera is just for amateurs, no problem, but they have to at least keep up with the competition. To tell the truth, all people that buy a Sigma camera, buy it exclusevily because of the Foveon sensor. I will not spend anymore money on Sigma lenses or SD cameras. I might end up buying a DP series camera, but that's it.

It's horses for courses. I am very happy with my D3 and associated bodies and lenses but I don't want to (and can't) always take them with me when I want a camera.

I am also very happy with my DP1 and DP2, which work very well within their own limitations. BTW I always use an OVF (agree with all comments about LCD!), set ISO for prevailing light conditions (stuck with B&W in lower light), set on A to allow me control of the depth of field, let the camera take care of the shutter speed (but keep an eye I can hand hold- about 1/40th sec. is fast enough), manually zone focus, frame and shoot.

With the DP1, I count to 5 before repeating the process. The DP2 is faster I don't have to wait.

The resulting images are just fine.

@Laurence
At Photokina 2006, Sigma announced the launch of the SD14 and DP1, with one expected to ship in Nov 2006 and the other in Jan/Feb 2007 (neither happened). Both were called a launch in Sigma's press releases, so how could one be a concept and the other not?

The 'incorrect' DP1 images were what the camera looked like before the 'entire image processing pipeline' was redesigned in 2007, which for a digital camera is pretty much everything. So much for setting a date and hitting it.


@Carlos
Yes, it's true that Mr. Matson has a close relationship with Sigma. The photos on display at the Sigma booth at PMA or Photokina and other trade shows are printed by him and he can often be seen working at the booth giving demos of the cameras or explaining the technology.

I think the important thing to note is that for many shots the Sigma cons are workable (you use an LCD for framing, you can use manual focusing, landscape AF (the one with the icon) is actually reasonably fast - and yes, there are others that do better here, but you got something that is workable.

Then you get three key things that I would say are the reason to consider the DP2-

- a good lens
- a good sensor- at least for good light photography
- a pocketable camera

Would this mean the dp2 will be the answer to all universally? No, I don't think so. I do think the Olympus Pen certainly has its strengths and other cameras too, but I also think that the DP2 is the answer for a segment of photographers.

I wouldn't recommend the DP2 for someone upgrading from a P&S and wanting a family camera or P&S, but I would recommend it to the photographer that wants a pocketable camera and understand/likes/or wants what a 41mm focal length in 35mm equivalent can give.

If the Dp2 provided no workable solutions to its drawbacks, then I think that would be a serious problem, but I don't think they are that bad to the point of being unworkable.

I wouldn't quite recommend the Dp2 for the low light color shooter, but B&W as Laurence mentions is workable.

One note to Laurence though- the Olympus is noticeably faster, at least in some areas. You can shoot 10 raws in a row without any interference to picture taking, or camera block- click click as you see fit. And saves very very fast to the memory card. Hyper fast.

In conclusion- I do think that for a segment of photographers the dp2 can provide the pocketable, high image quality camera experience. Don't get instantly turned off by the initial letdowns of areas where it doesn't do as well- they are workable.

About Laurence's relationship with Sigma: as long as I've been a member of the Sigma User's Group, Laurence has been open about his relationship with Sigma. He's not a shill and hides nothing.

I've come to accept that in photography there will always be James Bond types with Johnny Seven One Man Armys hell bent on "capturing" everything in sight, and making a lot of noise about it. Risky business for sure as their images often end up mere illustrations of their hunting skills.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
However, in my capacity as a lazy man I can afford to ignore the indignations of Mssrs. Bond. I can sit here at my desk by the window, listening to sparrow chicks chirp as their Mom and Dad rush to stuff their greedy maws with ever bigger bugs, and smile at the nature of things. Defending something out-of-line is no mean feat. Thank you Laurence for taking up the slack.

No, there is a holy grail. I get an identical looking (and printing) scanned-film/foveon digital file in post prod, in two easy steps.

1. Run George De Wolfs - Perceptool (commercial)

2. Run Sharpen O Matic (free - google it)

Dozens of DP2/DP1 files, printed at A3, can't be distinguished from G10/A300/K10D files that have had steps 1 and 2 applied to them.

Having a G10 that can match printed output with the DP2 is affordable luxury :-)

The article above is a mixture of excuses and wishful thinking. Mysteriously, it reminds me of all MS-Windows "enthusiasts" who try to explain to the world, that PC platform is actually reliable and usable...

What it all boils down to: Sigma should keep the idea of an APC sensor format (I wouldn't even dare to suggest the full-frame format) and start building a new camera around it, taking into account all experiences and complaints resulting from the many failures of DP1 and DP2.

@Pete
Where have you read that he's open about his relationship with Sigma? I've only seen the opposite, that it's private. Perhaps you could link to the details?

@Laurence
What is your relationship with Sigma? Pete says you're open about it and hide nothing. 'fess up.

i agree with graham. take a 12-15 megapixel image (real megapixels not sigma math), shrink it down to 4.5 megapixels to match the resolution of the sigma, then sharpen it up a little and instant foveon look. depending on the downsize algorithm you can even get back the jaggies too. maybe someone should write a photoshop plugin to emulate it. :)

don't forget that people only upload or print their best images (and usually after working on them a lot, if you think they're straight from the camera guess again), and fans on either side cherry pick the best images from one and the worst of the other and say 'see! here's proof!'

i've seen a lot of foveon images (a friend has the sd14) and the camera doesn't matter anywhere near as much as the person using it.

The comments to this entry are closed.