The Sigma dp2 Quattro has just been released, and there are some fascinating new tests of it at Imaging-Resource. "Results vary between shockingly good to shockingly bad," said one commenter. You can see both together in the detail on the left. On the right is the old dp1 Merrill, and the out-of-camera JPEG output from the new dp2 Quattro is on the left. Note that the newer camera shows much better detail in the pink fabric at the bottom, but the detail in the red area in the center goes away—it's out of gamut.
I-R's Dave Pardue comments:
The dp2 Quattro shows dramatically more detail in the fabric threads, but the in-camera color management and RGB-separation algorithms have a hard time with our highly-saturated red swatch, that's such a bugaboo for so many cameras. We've been told that this color is at the edge of or beyond the gamut of the sRGB color system, which explains why so many cameras have difficulty with it, especially as noise reduction kicks in at high ISOs. That said, though, we've never seen this amount of detail loss at base ISO. (Interestingly, the DP1 Merrill handled it exceptionally well, compared to not only the dp2 Quattro, but most cameras from other manufacturers as well.) The Quattro shows dramatically more detail than the Merrill model on the other fabric samples, but its difficulty with the deep red swatch bears noting.
Fortunately the same RAW file put through the Sigma Photo Pro converter software looks just fine.
It sort of begs a question to me—why have an in-camera JPEG engine at all in this camera? The Sigma foveon Merrill/Quattro cameras are frequently likened to digital view cameras—superb image quality within some significant operational limitations requiring careful technique from the photographer. Why not assume anyone using a DP2 Quattro will also be using a RAW converter? ...Since they will?
(Given the degree to which JPEG processing complicates higher-end cameras—to little purpose since most serious photographers use separate editor software anyway—it's always seemed a bit odd to me that higher-end cameras don't just ditch JPEG processing altogether, apart from the small embedded one necessary for viewing-screen review and focus checking. I guess because makers and buyers both confuse all that crudded-up complexification as added value. More features for the money. /minirant.)
Anyway. Good stuff at I-R.
(Thanks to Kevin Purcell)
Original contents copyright 2014 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Isaac (partial comment): "Pretty sure that the camera has to generate a JPEG in order for it to be shown on screen."
Mike replies: Of course, but that's not what I'm saying. A camera could easily have small embedded JPEGs sufficient for the viewing screen without providing full-sized JPEGs and endless in-camera settings and processing alternatives. I'm talking about the latter. I amended the comment in the post to make that more clear.
John Shriver adds a correction: "Well, the image has to be processed to be seen on the back screen, but to the effective equivalent of a low-resolution TIFF. The screen does not inherently display JPEG, it displays bitmap images. So the camera has to do all the color and noise processing, but not run the JPEG compression algorithm, to generate the screen display."
Tim A.: "Having taken 600+ shots with the dp2 Quattro, I have found RAW+JPEG to be invaluable. Not withstanding the issue found by Imaging-Resource, the JPEGs generated in camera are some of the best out-of-camera JPEGs I have ever seen. It takes about five seconds to write a RAW+JPEG file, but you can keep shooting while it's working. The performance penalty is not a big deal for me since this camera is not intended for action or event photography. If you only shoot RAW with the Quattro you'll have no way of proofing images other than the slow and buggy Sigma Photo Pro 6. A RAW+JPEG workflow allows for fast proofing and editing. The final edits are of course made from the .X3F files using SSP 6. So the Quattro makes a unique case for keeping JPEGs, but I think it makes sense for proofing with any camera that generates large RAW files, like the Pentax 645z, etc."
Andy Kochanowski: "I broke with my practice of never buying a new camera to get the Quattro for my next project. It's actually here ready for use. I intend to use the JPEGs only, as the samples I've seen appear gorgeous to my eye. For the past three years my only cameras have been variations of the Sony 16MP sensor, and I'm looking forward to seeing how the Foveon sensor really reacts to use.
"One thing that I've found is that very few people actually use the technology to shoot much of anything that moves. The few tests I've seen of the Quattro suggest that it may be quick enough to use on documentary and street essays. We'll see. Plus, it looks ultra chic—like a mini-Alpa with the (overpriced) optical viewfinder. You can't go wrong with a funky camera. I'm gonna pimp it all out and take it walking soonish."