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Friday, 04 April 2014

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...actually have a pal with one of the "attached lens" Fuji's, and he bought high-end multiple element attachments to make it more wide angle and more telephoto, and said the results were pretty nice. Not the single element cheapy stuff tho, he''s a videographer, and has much more experience with those high-end attachments than I do...

And you haven't tried the DP-3 Merrill yet...

Cheers!

Abbazz

I really hate to say this, but I just realized my only real no-can-do is having to use a specific piece of software.

It seems so remote from the whole process of taking and enjoying pictures; and yet, that stops me right in my tracks.

That tells me that I'm just a single update or "no longer supported" from having my camera effectively disabled. That tells me I'm being locked in to a specific workflow, specific software, and ultimately specific makers for the duration of that cameras lifetime.

And unlike earlier years, by now I expect an expensive digital camera to be viable for a minimum of 5-6 years, and useable until it physically breaks. This tells me I can probably not expect that.

Mike
These have piqued my interest as well, and I have a rental DP3M on the way today.

I hope I can resist buying one for the time being after trying it, but I sure am excited for it.

If I could ask, with the new models coming as mentioned, why did you decide to buy now? My thinking is that the new models have to be a better shooting experience, with a good chance of better image quality. I am thinking I would like to at least check one out before buying.

Is this a bird in the hand situation for you?

[I decided to buy now because of our recent discussions about digital B&W and because I've been looking at online samples of the B&W from these cameras. Why buy the older camera, well, the newer one is going to be significantly different and is as yet untested, and anyway it's likely to be much more expensive that the $548 I spend for the DP2M, bag, 5 batteries, and strap kit that the seller was offering. It's likely I will resell this camera soon, and will probably take a $100-$300 loss, but that the cost of doing business (I mean, of writing a photography site.) --MJ]

I'm seen the images from these Sigma babies and there is no question they are something else. But the pita to use thingy sorta blows it for me. And the fact that the software is truly awful dive-bombed any lingering doubts.
Now if Sigma suddenly became compatible with Photoshop and started including optical finders, then there might be possibilities...

Perhaps another interesting question would be " what's going to happen when these little cameras with the superior or equal image quality become fun, fast, capable, full featured and easy to use."

I've been fortunate enough to own quite a few cameras over the years and the camera that works best is always the one that falls to hand easiest. If it were otherwise my view cameras would have been out of their cases all of the time, instead of never in the past twenty years. If its a pain it just doesn't get used. Case in point for most of the world today- I-phones vs point & shoot.

Regarding the bokeh and the DP2M lens in general, it seems that once Sigma is freed of the vagaries of the interchangeable lens mount, they can design an optic like very few others. Anecdotally, each DP camera is individually shimmed at the factory so its high-resolving sensor is perfectly aligned to the lens.

Of course, I'm something of a Foveon fanboi, since I had a DP2M that I switched for an SD1M "dragoon" and the very nice 18-35mm "Art." The USB dock serves the purpose of the shims for this combination, but there is nothing pocketable about it!

That depends.

What year are we talking about?

Five years ago, I'd had said image quality over anything else, so 11/10 would be my choice.

The thing is, today the cameras have improved so much that I could be well served by a today's 8/10.

The issue here is that the "10" goal has been moving upwards, fast (thankfully!). I am using now a Fuji X-M1 that scores about 5/10 in handling and 8/10 in image quality (maybe a little bit more, depends on the day), and I am pretty happy so far - but this is not "The" camera. I still wait for it...

I love my DP2M - bought it last week after reading about it here. Set it up to shoot BW, and using the Sigma BW software.

Useless in colour over 200 ISO, but f2.8 at 400 ISO in BW makes immaculate prints 14" x 21" that you can put alongside ones from the 5D3 with the 35/1.4L.

Bought myself orange and red filters for it as well. It's just like having a Rolleiflex.

I am hoping that the Quattro will be an improvement in terms of shadow detail. That's the only thing that made me think twice about getting the DP2M as my "tripod camera" (which is currently a TLR loaded with BW film.) All I want is the resolution and lens of the DP2M with the dynamic range of my Pentax K-5!

Several months ago I asked myself the same question. I wanted a small pocket camera with a fixed focal length somewhere in the 28-35mm range. At some point I narrowed it down to the Ricoh GR, Sigma DP2M and the Nikon Coolpix A. I handled the Nikon at the local dealer and it was horrid, I just didn't respond to it well. The Ricoh - well I love the controls on my original GRD but man that old sensor was useless when it was new, now several years on it is laughable that I bought it in the first place. I did not want to be taken to the cleaners again by Ricoh so I looked for alternatives. Enter the Sigma. I really wanted to love it but as the foibles kept stacking up I just couldn’t bring myself to buy it. It sounded like the exact opposite of my first GRD. So ultimately I ended up with the APSC sensor Ricoh GR and I couldn’t be happier.

It's an interesting thought experiment. As a guy who once used a 4x5 view camera for most of his personal photography I should have an answer. But I don't.

I'm caught in something similar in the real world, stuck between two systems without enough difference to justify both. System A (my old system) offers very solid (technical) image quality, say 8.5, and is a very nice 9 for handling and controls. System B, which I've been trying, is a 9 for image quality -- not greatly better but enough to show in some photos. Problem is, it's only a 7, maybe a 6, for handling and controls. It actually distracts me enough that I miss photos.

I've gone back to System A for almost all use, but I can't seem to part with B, stuck with the idea that maybe I'll use it for those special times when I really want maximum technical quality and have the time and patience to put up with it. Yeah. Right.

So why am I sitting here typing this instead of getting B up on eBay before new models come out and prices fall through the floor? I can't answer that one either.

I would take the capable camera with the 8/10 image quality. The reason is that the 8/10 image you got is better than the 11/10 image you missed because you were futzing with an awkward camera.

I simply cannot abide bad usability in a camera. For me, that usually means “button and menu driven” instead of dial-driven. I don’t know how many shots I’ve missed with my various cameras because I couldn’t remember how to change the white balance, or because the focus point moved itself to the edge of the frame and it took me 15 minutes to figure out how to get it back to the centre.

This really happens to me! My OM-D EM-5 was the worst for this; just walking around with it would cause all sorts of random settings changes. I finally realized it was caused by bumping the back of the camera against my belt, shoulder bag, jacket zipper, etc., which would hit the four-way controller and send all sorts of settings flying every which way. I’d raise the camera to my eye and it was like it had turned into a dishwasher instead of the OM-D I recognized. I found a way to disable the controller, so it happens less now.

But I still constantly forget how to do things, so I stand there swearing at the camera, poking buttons, trying to read the manual on my iPhone. In the meantime an elephant juggling a dozen penguins walks by and I miss the shot. Forget that. Give me usability any day!

The fast, capable, easy to use one. Image quality isn't much good if you sit around fiddling with the camera so much you miss images. Let's look at it scientifically: 0 images x 11 quality = 0. 1 image x 8 quality = 8. Of course, that is provided that the photo was worth taking to begin with, otherwise both equal zero.

Mike:

I look forward to seeing your DP2 B&W results.

Cheers! Jay

Put me on the bus with all those who fascinated by the image quality but cringe at the thought of adding another piece of software to my life. The limitations of the camera coupled with the workflow have always made the Sigmas a no-go for me.

At some I'll crack, however.

1. My enjoyment of photographs is almost wholly unrelated to image quality. I say almost, because there is a very, very low hurdle that has to be passed, but just about any compact camera out there today probably has sufficient image quality to produce a photograph I can enjoy.

2. The pleasure I derive from taking pictures is quickly obliterated if I have to use a "not-so-fast, not-so-ergonomic camera that's a bit of a pain to use". I don't require perfect ergonomics, and I'm not even particularly picky about camera ergonomics, but cameras that are slow, tend be susceptible to unintended setting changes or that make changing settings complicated or difficult to understand just make me furious.

3. Cameras that are slow and unergonomic (I don't think that is actually a word) will cause me to miss pictures or else not even take the camera with me, full stop.

In light of the above, I would go for "fast, capable, ... easy to use" (note that I left out "full-featured" -- I don't mind if it is, as long as it is easy to use, but it's not a requirement) camera every single time.

Best,
Adam

I've tried cameras that are a pain to use. They're a pain to use. So I dont' use them for long.

I've found there's only one metric that really pushes a camera purchase for me- does it make me smile. Everything will go to waste if I ain't happy when using it...

On the software issue. I am pretty sure dcraw supports these cameras now. Specifically UFRaw should open the files and Lightzone might also be able to work with them. I am not sure about Raw Therapee, or Adobe free DNG converter, but it might work.

The Mac only Iridient Developer is an alternative to Sigma Photo Pro for converting Merrill raw files.

I know I'm in the minority here, but I really don't care about the differences in quality of any cameras out there now. They are all good enough for anything I ever plan to do with my photos. Heck, I make 20x30 prints that look just fine and have hung in galleries from files I shot with my 3 mp Nikon 990 back when that was the best digital Nikon that a mortal could buy. These days I just pick a camera that I like to use. Doesn't really matter what format it is, or how big or small it is, the files will be good enough, though when I go out to climb a mountain I do think a lot about how much weight I want to stuff in the pack.

I am neither a professional, nor particularly artistically gifted, so I take photographs purely for my own enjoyment. And if I'm really honest, I probably enjoy the process of shooting more than the end product. That means that the difference between 8 out of 10 image quality and 11 out of 10 is irrelevant. I would much rather have a camera I enjoy using.

That said, a camera that is too easy wouldn't be enjoyable to use, so if the super image quality one is just a bit eccentric rather than simply horrible and the alternative was easy but dull then I would probably go for the eccentric one. I guess that's why I like messing around with old film cameras.

"Then imagine a small, crude, not-so-fast, not-so-ergonomic camera that's a bit of a pain to use—but the image quality is an 11 out of 10."
Your proposition sounds rather like a choice between modern and a large-format cameras, eh?

After using the Sigma DPx Merrill cameras for some time I've concluded that their packaging should feature the following warning: "For best results handle as you would a large-format camera!" These cameras really do their best when they're bolted-down and looking at good light.

I've accepted a commission to shoot a project later this spring that calls for medium format digital. But I expect to try a few frames of Sigma Foveon, too. (I just don't necessarily want the clients to see me doing it! ;-] )

BTW, you'll need those extra batteries. The cameras suck power like crazy. Also BTW, they use the same batteries as the Ricoh GR cameras. So when you finally tire of the DP and want to try that fabulous GR don't sell all the batts!

Have fun with your new DP2M, Mike.

I'll start by saying that I really like the images that I can get with my DP2 and DP3 Merrills, and am more than willing, therefore, to put up with their "idiosyncrasies". Obviously, for some kinds of photography, I use a different camera.

There is one alternative to Sigma's really poor Photo Pro software: Iridient Developer (http://www.iridientdigital.com). With some images, it does not do as good a job with color as SPP. But it does a far better job of recovering highlights, and is much more fully featured. Unlike SPP, you can produce a finished product with Developer (or, you can take the exported TIF's to Photoshop, Lightroom, etc. for additional editing, as you can if you use SPP).

Also, RawDigger (http://www.rawdigger.com) can analyze X3F image files. Highly recommended if you want to find out what's really under or overexposed.

Phil

"Which one would you choose?"

I'd go for features and ergonomics, given 8 out of 10 for IQ. That's good enough.

In low light this camera is pretty miserable. You pretty much have to use it with a tripod in anything other than bright light if you actually want to take advantage of the sensor.

I remember reading the comments of a Sigma DP Merrill user... he said that he kept it as a small camera in his bag for those "just perfect" landscape shots that came up only once in a while. Then it was worth using. Otherwise he kept to his larger, fully featured camera.

Regarding: "Mike replies: Well, hurting Sigma's bottom line, not Adobe's."

Lack of Sigma support may hurt Adobe's, as well as Sigma's, bottom line.

Or to be more specific case, it hurts their top line, i.e. sales. Every Sigma owner is a potential LR/Camera Raw buyer, but won't since Adobe doesn't support Sigma. I'm sure a good portion of Sigma owners have a Bayer array camera, and some already own Adobe software, but there are certainly some who would be new customers if Adobe supported Sigma's format.

Now, whether it hurts their bottom line gets a bit more complicated. Given that Foveon sensors have a completely different pixel arrangements than Bayer arrays, adding support for them might require quite a few engineering man-hours and cooperation with Sigma - which both cost money.

It also could be that Adobe has concluded that the opportunity cost is too high, and that spending that money elsewhere (*ahem* better security on their cloud) might be more prudent.

Therefore it is very possible that Adobe has made a business decision that supporting Sigma cameras doesn't help their bottom line (enough), and that the good will generated from such an action isn't enough to justify the financial investment.

well, you would get the DP1M for the IQ, and then you would bring along the Ricoh GR for the ergonomics. ;-) (same 28mm-e)

Right now I'm considering to finally upgrade my old GF1, (VERY limited budget, hence a 4 year wait). My choices are DP2M, Ricoh GR, Fuji E-X1+27mm, or Panny GX7... they are all around $600-$700, providing far more IQ than what I deserve.

E-X1 and DP2M are the front runners.

Following this with interest, have been using the Fuji X-E2 camera for B&W work, and it does the job well when set to a B&W mode for the viewfinder and LCD. With prices dropping on the DP2M it's tempting to try it out.

I'm willing to put up with the quirks of the body if the image and B&W quality is what it looks to be.

Had to laugh at another coincidence on your posts. Have been interested in the DP2M since they came out, but they always seemed too expensive for their size and quirkiness. The recent price drop (to circa £349 in the UK) has me tempted again. Local camera shop sells them, and received a full set of secondhand DP Merrills this week too. Today was the first day I've handled one.

I don't need another camera, so thankfully I didn't take the credit card. Anyway this month is a good time to do something I haven't done for too long (aside from using the links) - make another TOP donation!

Mike: "... could it be sample-specific to your camera?"

No, I think I can definitely rule that out. I've seen it in two samples myself (had to send my first DP3 back due to a decentered lens) and as I said, Merrill images on the web show it as well. Visibility likely depends a lot on the processing (global or local contrast adjustment) and might indeed vary from camera to camera, but if you know what to look for you can find it even if it's not objectionable.
From somebody else's DP2M: http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8169/8023144066_f64281c1bf_o.jpg
Look at the smooth water in the lower left, just above where the reflection of the rim touches the lower border of the image and especially tangentially upward from the left edge of the dark, sharp berry (with the bubbles) bottom left.
Can't seem to track down the other samples again, sorry ...

There are aftermarket accessory grips available that make these cameras easy to hold. An optical viewfinder helps for shooting outdoors. The images these cameras produce can be spectacular. Still, I sold mine. I think the TLR comparison is apt - I have gotten some great shots from my Yashica D but the whole process of using it is just too much.

Didn't know Adobe doesn't support the Sigma Merrill cameras. The original Sigmas DP1 and DP2 are supported by Lightroom.
I find that the Sigma Photo Pro software, although the ergonomics of which are not as Adobe-like as some would prefer, do a much better job with RAW processing. It makes some sense that the people who designed and implemented the sensor would be privy to more or better information in this regard than reverse engineers. I think this holds for most cameras. I use the Olympus processing software for my E1 ORF files, especially for black & white.
One work flow suggested by a Foveon black & white photographer is to convert to B&W in SPP, do corrections, convert back to colour, and transfer to Silver Efex.
I have no one work flow to offer. Whatever works would be close to one.
Have fun Mike. I'm glad you've decided to work around the ergonomics issue.

I'd rather have a great photograph at 8 than miss out getting it at 11.

So much of my photography is about fleeting moments. I'd have to go with a fast camera. Several times I have fallen down the Foveon shopping hole only to decide that my DSLR is still the best compromise. But man oh man I love the look of those Merrill photos. Maybe someday.

I pick the faster/more responsive/more ergonomic/better handling body every time. Life is too short to wait for your camera to stop being stupid.

"Image quality", to me, is not necessarily a property of the camera.

I owned a DP1 and DP2 several years back and despite this -- Yes, despite, not because of -- I have also been fascinated by these cameras, especially at the current give-away prices.

A friend sent me a CD of RAW files taken with his pair and the B&W conversions that I performed on them are some of the finest I have ever seen, including even those from my P30+ back. Unfortunately, I do a lot of nighttime photography and a 30-second exposure limit is simply a non-starter for my purposes.

The SD1 Merrill has a two-minute max exposure limit, which might be long enough for most of my photos, but the sensor's native ISO is 100, which means doubling the length of exposures compared to my X-Pro 1, and the evidence I have seen suggest that its files get quite noisy after 40-60 seconds. Add to that difficulties in adapting my favorite lenses due to its longer lens register (as compared to the X-Pro 1, at least), as well as the lack of any "live-view" facility, and ... well, unfortunately, it won't work very well for me, either.

I really would like to find a reason to justify giving Sigma some of my money so I might also enjoy the remarkable performance of their cameras, but for now, they are too quirky (or is that not quirky enough?) to meet my (admittedly uncommon) needs. 8^(

@Tim Parkin
Great article. I have a Sigma DP2, and indeed in some instances the colors are "different" ;-) Never the less, I love that little camera.

However, everyone should keep in mind that DP2 "Merrill" is a TOTALLY different beast. Specially if you're converting the Raw files to B&W. Sigma Pro Photo does a very fast and effective Black and White conversion of the "Merrill" Raw files.

I have all three DPM's, and love all of them. Are they a bit tetchy? Sure, but compared to loading sheet film in the dark and carrying a view camera into the field? Not at all, and yet I am getting results on that level.

(I should mention that I have been photographing for fifty years with all kinds of gear from Minox's to 8x10, and Darkroom Photography published some of my work in the 1980s, Mike.)

Here is a key to the Merrill workflow that simplifies matters immensely. Download Lyn, which is a beautiful application in Lightroom style which can open, view, mark, annotate, and move the .X3F raw files produced by the Merrils.

Use Lyn to view the shoot, keeping the files of interest, and ditching the rest. Then simply batch open the keepers in Sigma Photo Pro, leaving the automatic .X3F mode running unadjusted (no work necessary), and batch export as .tif's. You will not use any of the SPP controls except "export as."

Finally open the .tif files in whatever program you usually use--for me LR5. Voila
!

Intriguing cameras, but one of the the main problems seems to be lack of support for the raw files. I did find a site where you can download sample raw files to see if any of my various programs would open them, but none would recognise them. Although the price (in the UK) is now down to around £340 (for any version), this lack of raw support plus the other well-documented issues mean I'm unlikely to try one. Of course, if the price dropped further…..I might just be persuaded to be happy with the jpegs (I appreciate that the supplied software (?) will deal with raw, but I'd rather not go that route.

"Perhaps another interesting question would be 'what's going to happen when these little cameras with the superior or equal image quality become fun, fast, capable, full featured and easy to use.'"

Then singularity will have been achieved, and the stars will start winking out...

I don't think the image quality of the Merrill cameras is that straightforward to assess. The Foveon sensor has strengths and weaknesses.

It is detailed, it is sharp, no doubt. Dynamic range is a bit ordinary, the colour is inconsistent and sometimes odd (sometimes lovely). It can be noisy even at base ISO, great care is needed in exposure or with longer exposures. Sometimes you get odd colour casts globally or locally in the corners. It is noisy in the shadows and the shadows get desaturated to disguise this.

It can be plagued with a strange, unique noise in the form of giant magenta/green blotches unlike anything from other sensors. Image quality falls apart quickly above ISO400.

On the upside, it has tremendous acutance: even the D800 which clearly outresolves it can struggle to compete with its microcontrast on certain types of subject. An odd mixture of qualities but that has always been the case with Foveon.


It's a great camera. I bought one after enjoying the DP2s (despite the quirks and flaws) and after seeing the huge price drop. The lens beats anything I have ever used, including the Mamiya 6 standard lens. The image quality is stupendous up to and including 400 ISO. After that, it's great for B&W but the colour starts to go awry. Indoor colour at ISO 800 is subject to weird shifts. I can live with all that and the software issues. The pay-off is the fabulous 3-d look of the files and the lovely B&W conversions. And the Merrill is pretty nice to handle. I'd like an EVF but using a clip-on OVF is fine. At current pricing, the Merrill series is the bargain of the century.

Can we combine this post with the `what would they use' post from a few days ago... a `what would they choose' list.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Cartier-Bresson would choose ergonomics, and Ansel Adams would choose DP2M, but that's all I got.

My brother loaned me his DP2M. There is a certain verisimilitude in the photos that I don't get with any of my other cameras. And I don't think that it's just sharpness.

I returned it as quickly as I could so as to avoid temptation.

Which one would you choose?

There is no choice.
At current prices the Sigma costs about the same as an averagely decent lens, and fits nicely in a small bag which already carries an iPad & GX7.

I choose both.

Don't get one if you don't like using a tripod, though.

(The DP3 looks even more interesting, but is sadly not so readily available.)

I can see, intellectually, that 11 out of 10 IQ is very much the way to go for a lot of areas of photography. I even try to do some of those kinds of photography sometimes (not terribly well; I don't seem to have the patience for it really).

For my core work, "fast, full-featured, easy to use" is a basic requirement, at the level that I would miss an awful lot of pictures trying to use something that didn't meet those requirements. So for me I'd take the fast/8 over the slow/11 without a second thought.

This relates to why photojournalism migrated away from sheet film and then medium-format so rapidly (eventually going into 35mm film) as 35mm got good enough, of course.

Especially at the time this was happening, there were clear and obvious IQ short-comings, visible in the published newspaper/magazine images (not just to pixel-peepers), to shooting with 35mm gear.

But the pictures shot that way had an aliveness, an immediacy, that just wasn't there in the others, and it drove the larger formats essentially completely out of the field.

For that matter, Galen Rowell used 35mm gear, for types of work that had until then been done almost entirely with larger formats. As I recall his intro to one of his books, his argument was that getting the big heavy gear and bigger film to the places he wanted to shoot was significantly harder, and he made the IQ compromise to be able to get the pictures at all. But nobody did this (successfully) in Ansel Adams' generation; it took considerable development of 35mm film (mostly it was the film that improved the IQ) before it was a viable option.

If you use a Mac, Iridient Developer is a really nice processing option:

http://www.iridientdigital.com/products/

I have the DP2M, and in the right circumstances, the results are fantastic. The detail is quite unlike most other digital cameras, and there is something special about the way it images clouds. Yes, it chews through batteries, and writing 55MB RAW files takes a little while. But the lens and sensor work so well together.

While the software is, well, 'different', it's not that bad, and it has a very nice monochrome processing option. If you're on a Mac, you also have the option of Iridient Developer.

Think of it like a digital medium format film camera :)

The most useful one (in my opinion) would be the fast, ergonomic and capable camera. Amateur photographers seem obsessed with the idea of magical image quality that will make their photos stand out. I would argue that the camera that is a joy to use and is a reliable companion is the one that will yield lasting results.

i have no problem choosing a little less ergonomic camera if it means tiny but still excellent image quality. i went with the rx1 though.

i really don't like most of the (color) images i've played with from the merrill. i can't make them look right. they have a kind of baked in local contrast and weird color that doesn't look real and i can't get rid of.

i found the camera more annoying to use than ricoh gr, x100, or rx1 too, and i like the output from those cameras better.

some people seem to love the foveon look though. i think i'd be less adverse to it as a b&w only camera. i don't feel compelled to try to make my b&w look real.

Mike,

Ignore this if you got my previous comment on this subject.

Software for Sigma DP Merrills:

1. Iridient Developer for converting and editing X3F files. Does a much better job than Sigma Photo Pro at recovering highlights. Also much more full featured -- more like a "real" raw converter.
2. RawDigger for probing deeply into X3F files. Great for seeing if something has been irretrievably blown out.

Phil

Mike,

Sorry, but one final comment (I hope) about the DP Merrills. Color rendition can, indeed, sometimes be odd. Also, Iridient Developer can give very different colors from Sigma Photo Pro in some cases. Worth a try if you don't like the colors coming from Photo Pro.

Phil

I place a high value on the act of photographing - the tactile sensation of the camera and lens, the hunt for a great moment, the snap reaction to capture said moment. All these joys are greatly diminished with a slow, frustrating camera that I have to fight with.

Meanwhile the joy of looking at a photo of a compelling subject or a great moment is only very slightly diminished by technical quality that would be listed as 8/10.

I'll take ergonomics and functionality over astounding quality any day. That maximizes my joy.

@psu
"Image quality", to me, is not necessarily a property of the camera."

Exactly. Might even say it barely related at all, but that'd get us in trouble.

I think for me it would break down to a "good enough" threshold.

If the trusty DSLR has "good enough" IQ and impeccable ergonomics, it passes the test. If the little camera has excellent IQ but not "good enough" ergonomics, it fails the test—I don't care how much superfluously better the IQ is. Now, if both had "good enough" of each, but in different proportions, then it would be a different discussion.

Also, "good enough" depends entirely on the kind of photography one does. I would be perfectly happy with the not-so-versatile/fast/portable ergonomics of a larger format technical camera for my architectural work—it would be a reasonable trade-off to get higher IQ. But that same camera would be (David Burnett notwithstanding) likely too awkward to cover a sporting event.

So maybe the best solution is to have more than one camera that is better suited for different situations? We already do it with lenses, after all...

I owned a DP1 for a while. Loved the image quality - even learned to coax acceptable images in available light. What killed it for me was the constant battery drain even when the camera was turned off. Hopefully they've fixed that in the newer models. If so, I might be tempted to pick one up. When the stars align their image quality overcomes the operational quirks.

First digital camera that's really caught my attention. I've spent the last hour and a half drooling over it. Even if it is butt-ugly.

But this is coming from a sworn film user and avowed view camera geek.


I used to know a girl who carried a crown graphic and a single film holder all the time in her purse here in walk everywhere NYC . Took a picture maybe once or twice a week. Her success rate was 100% . And there were lots of people carrying medium format cameras all the time.

I personally don't get the notion that anything other than a DSLR needs to be tiny. Maybe it's because I grew up using cameras the size of a small dog ins only slightly less ergonomic.

The Sigma DP cameras remind me of the tiny Rollie 35s. Graet cameras, but to use them to their full potential you needed a light meter as big as the camera, a measuring tape or at least a piece of string, and a tripod. You might as well have a Leica OLEYO.


I have owned a DP2 for about 6 months now and I have used it with the sensibility promoted in the Camera Store Video. It has slowed me down, made me concentrate and really think about each of my pictures. Short battery life, slow write times are not an issue because I have slowed down and have taken less photos than I might with my DSLR. The workflow is a pain but i am prepared to live with it for those beautiful rich, detailed, spectacular images. These are also images that need to be printed to truly appreciate them.

Wait, these cameras don't work with Lightroom? Forget it then.

Which one would you choose?

I already made that choice over the past 18 months and purchased all three DP Merrills. I have been shooting large format cameras since the early '80s, and was looking for as near quality to that as I could find, but in the most portable size. The D700 was the smallest camera I had for what I was aiming for, but way too big for what I was looking to take with me.

I patiently watched what some of my favorite DPx Merrill shooters were putting up over at the getDPI forum http://www.getdpi.com/forum/other-cameras/39705-sigma-dp2-merrill-shots.html and did note the majority of what I saw was street-shooting. I am not much of a street-shooter, but if I was taken in by their work, maybe I had found what I was looking for.

I gradually acquired one camera at a time after renting all three, purchasing the DP2 M new and the others used. I have the RRS grip and the JLM grip and find the JLM grip better for my hands. I am still working with the camera files and can say it is a learning curve, but when all the elements are there, the files are spectacular for their size, price, and portability. (I shoot medium format digital, so I can say the DPx Merrills are a good price!)

I find the workflow easy, but I was trained in commercial studio shooting, so to others without that type of training it may appear cumbersome. I use a tripod ~70% of the time, but about half of that 70% is using a tabletop tripod. (Try doing that with a D700 + lens.) I take three bracketed shots, upload the files into the Sigma program, immediately dump them into a folder that will be exported into Lightroom, and complete all post-processing from there.

The DPx Merrill cameras have helped me become more independent with a genre of personal photography that was being abandon due to my crazy perfectionist attitude towards gear. I am grateful for the marvelous street-shooting gear heads that led the way, and to Sigma, for taking the risk they did.

In response to Ken's feature comment, I think this camera handles more like a MF than an LF camera. You need good light or a tripod but not necessarily both. I do find that image sharpness becomes inconsistent when my shutter speed dips below 1/125s as using the screen at arms length is not as steady as putting the camera up to your face.

The software is ok-ish. I rather shoot raw + jpg and work with the jpgs in Lightroom until I have a final selection of images, and then I just process those. The jpgs aren't amazing, but they are usually good enough, even when converting to B&W. I do find that the raw files have a lot of headroom in the highlights and so I expose accordingly, resulting in some clipped highlights in the jpgs. If you can live with that when selecting/editing images it makes the workflow much easier in my opinion.

I now use the DP2M for the bulk of my work, but I still have a small Canon DSLR for the things I can't do with this camera, like street photography and shooting from inside moving vehicles, or when I need longer/shorter focal lengths.

Mike [regarding streaking]: "Sigma Photo Pro v.5.5.1: 'Corrects the phenomenon that streaky noise is occasionally seen in a part of the image.' Could you be using an earlier version of the Photo Pro software?"

Again, no. I had the same thought when I saw the release notes for SPP 5.5.1, but I'm currently on 5.5.3 and see the same streaks. Of course, as mentioned before, it's not really streaky noise...

I don't really get the ergonomic argument. Cameras are tools to perform one function - make photographs. For that you only need to focus and set the exposure.

To me the perfect camera is based upon the Hasselblad 503 - one ring to set the shutter speed another to set the aperture and a third to focus with. The Sigmas improve upon this by adding a light meter, perfectly adequate autofocus and A and S settings combined with a simple way to set the aperture and compensate for exposure. Sure you wouldn't choose them to do reportage from a combat zone or sports coverage, but for pretty much everything else in decent light they are near perfect.

Don't like the absence of a viewfinder - add one to the hotshoe or use a loupe. Software? Make a cup of coffee while SPP batch processes to Tiffs and then open in Lightroom. I have tried hugely complicated and expensive DSLRs and just leave them in manual 90% of the time. I now pretty much only use my DP2 and 3Ms and Mamiya 7ii and as regards workflow the Sigmas are much easier.

As one who shoots and scans medium format film, I'd take the one for the 11/10 shots. I'd also buy a helmet to protect my skull from all the slaps I'd give myself.

As someone who migrated from DSLR to m43 a few years ago I have never regretted the move - with the one exception that I could not honestly service the need for the occasional high detail photograph.

Look at this shoot from last Monday:-
http://www.tonygamble.org/wykeham_web/

Most of these folk had not seen each other for fifty years and wanted to replicate a group shot taken when they were at the college. The group shots at the end were the reason I was asked to attend. I took them with a DP1 on a tripod.

As I had nothing to do once I had prepared my shooting location I took my EM5 from my bag and did some casual shots. In no way could I have 'grabbed' those shots with a DPM. On the other hand the chaps in the group are going to pixel peep and, good though it is, the EM5 really is not up to it for a group that large.

Horses for courses. I love my EM5 and its ability to cover all my errors. I love my three new DPM's for their ability to, with care and attention, as near as damn it replicate medium format.

Tony

I've worked at photography as a hobby for enough time now that I've met a few photo-guru types who have mastered a particular genre of the art using a unique choice of camera gear. The mention of these cameras brought that to mind. We've all known someone, the lady who creates beautiful images of arranged flowers by shooting with an ancient Sony Cybershot, or some such scenario which points to the mastery of the artist and discounts the properly applied capabilities of the camera gear. I think these Sigma cameras will create a similar small subset of the photography hobby for a few folks among us. The rest of us will hear those "shaman guy who captures amazing landscapes using a point-and-shooter he carries in a belt pack" stories and we will wish we were as talented as he.

What a wonderfully funny, cool thought that is.

I have a Dp2 M. All the good things that have been said about its image quality fall short if you explore one of its raw converted files in a good monitor. I use Iridient raw converter, much, much better than Sigma's.
20x30 prints on Canson Baryta Photographic at 2880 are awesome.

The camera must be used as a view camera though, as K. tanaka mentioned.

Hi Mike,

Got the Dp3 and wrote this small piece you may find interesting...

http://www.massimocristaldi.com/blog/sony-a7r-35fe-and-sigma-dp3-merrill-the-nice-pair/

@ psu

"Image quality", to me, is not necessarily a property of the camera.

I think we have similar definitions of that phrase. It was a big step forward for my photography, not to mention my enjoyment of photography, when I realized that, for me, about 98% of the quality of an image comes from what you point the lens at. (I realize I'm playing a bit of a semantic game here -- I know people mean something specifically technical when they say "image quality".)

Anyway, with my preferred definition in mind, for me the overwhelmingly most important quality in a camera is usability, so give me the 8 out of 10-er.

I reviewed a Merrill camera once upon a time, and had pretty much the same experience as most people: loved some of the low ISO images I got, and didn't think the camera's controls were terrible, but lamented the passing of my youth as I waited for it to focus or write images. And then the battery died.

I happen to be reviewing a Nikon D4S right now. It's different.

Mike, this is not an attempt to answer your question, just passing along some observations. I have a DP3m and an 800e. The rendering style is pretty different between them, but just in terms of how they compare in print for degree of acceptable enlargement, the dp3 is not quite up to what the 800e can do. But considering it is a 14 Mpx APS-C sensor, it is truly remarkable within its fairly narrow comfort zone of good light, base ISO, tripod mounted, delayed release. The lens on the DP3m is really excellent (as is the Sigma 35/1.4 A on my 800e).

I use all my cameras like view cameras, so that is not an issue. I do have an unresolved issue with the Sigma in that color rendering across the sensor is uneven (Sigma CS wants me to send files which I haven't done yet).

I use an old 1st gen Intel Mac Pro running 10.7.5 and I have not had a single crash with Sigma's conversion software. It is slow but very workable. Also Iridient Digital's software converts the Sigma's raw files. I prefer the rendering style of Sigma's conversion, but Iridient Developer is dramatically more flexible and is truly a pro level tool. The defaults in ID are clearly geared more towards a Bayer sensor, so if you try it for DPm files don't draw any conclusions until you have spent some time with it.

A number of readers have posted that Iridient Developer works with the DP Merrills. I haven't used it on those files, but until the latest release candidate of Capture One appeared this week, I was using Iridient Developer with Fuji X-T1 RAW files with very good success. You can batch process the RAW files to TIFFs, then import the TIFFs into LIghtroom for a more streamlined editing experience. It's not the simplest workflow in the world, but it's quite manageable. I think Iridient Developer, on the whole, does an excellent job of RAW Demosaicing.

PS: A tip for using Iridient Developer: you can simply drag 'n drop files from a flash card or hard drive directly onto the Iridient Developer app icon. IRD will open, import all your files into the browser "tray" and your ready for batch processing.

"Sigma's Foveon point-and-shoots have gone from miserable to serviceable, which is a big jump."
well said and exactly correct.
My DP1 is hard hard to get comfortable with, but every so often rewards me with a 6 out of 5 star image which makes it worthwhile.
My DP3M is so very much easier to use. Not up to my Fuji's in handling but very few concessions are required to use it. Also, it delivers JPG and RAW. This is something new, and it really simplifies my workflow. The JPG's are really quite good and I no longer need to process every image in order to review, catalog and make decisions about keepers. (it delivers a surprising number of keepers.)

The choice is simple: this one (the DP2) goes to 11. It's one more, innit?

I bought the DP2M when it was first released and, I admit, it has taken some time to feel comfortable with the little brick. Many a time I fired it up only to wonder to myself, how do I set exposure again? But I have learned to accept its quirks, and let the camera teach me how to use it, so now I have it configured in a way where it feels, dare I say it, elegant.

The focus thumb pad on the back puts the camera into manual focus, the center pad engages peek focus, half-press on the shutter toggles full view. The manual focus is a little noisy but I like using it. Turn the top wheel to set aperture. LCD is set to B&W. Click and immediate capture with the DP's silent shutter.

The true negatives of the camera are, to me, the truly abysmal battery life, molasses write times, and the LCD which is difficult to view on a bright day.

With the price cuts, the DP1M or DP3M is very tempting.

Thanks for the heads up on Lyn; makes for a wonderful companion to Iridient Developer.

I like the concept, but the lack of EVF, reported slowness and bad battery life and having only one raw converter available kills it for me. Life is short and getting the shots is more important than some theoretical advantage a clumsier workflow would give.

"I look forward to seeing your DP2 B&W results." said Jay (above)

I agree. Sometimes I wish this site's comments had a 'like' button.

The DP2 fascinates me too, Mike. The fact that it's clunky just adds to the appeal to me. You're forced to slow down to get the best out of it. I love that. I just wish my wife felt the same way.

Hi Mike,
Saw this write up just now, perhaps not too late to post a comment.
Congratulations on buying (you did buy it, right?) a DP2M.
Suggest you take a look at one of those LCD viewfinders. I use Matin, a Korean brand. It works surprisingly well, and is a good match with Merrill's easy going speed.
I love this camera. Sometimes i think i should buy more of them. May sound funny, but i have never thought like this about a camera.
I am buying a DP3M as well, which are going around at 550 bucks here in India.
You will find Sigma raw converter very good, if you put up with its slow speed. The software is great for BW conversion.
Finally, here's the best (to me) write up on DP2M that i have come across. http://www.theabsolutesound.com/articles/sigma-dp2-merrill-camera/

I have been shooting with DPM a lot, and am trying to find time to get those shots to Flickr. But for now, here're few i have shot:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/agnihot/sets/72157631967146383/

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