Sigma DP1 Review

The Sigma DP1 is a unique compact camera with a large sensor capable of taking superb quality photos but it is slow to use with some poor design features.

Hightly Recommended

Overall Rating: Highly Recommended

Highly recommended for landscape photography.

The Sigma DP1 is a unique compact camera with a large sensor capable of taking superb quality photos, the best by far of any digital compact and equivalent to those from cropped sensor DSLRs. The lens is top quality, and the resolution and detail of images superb. If you want top quality images and a lightweight camera, the DP1 is the only option.

However, the DP1 is also slow to use, with some poor design features. The writing time for images is so slow that the camera is poor for action or grab shots while the slow lens (F4 is the maximum aperture) and a highest ISO of 800 means it’s not a good camera for low light shots. Other bad points are a low resolution screen, a tiny histogram that’s hard to read, the lack of a live histogram, the lack of highlight warnings, many features accessible only by scrolling through the menu and difficult to read black-on-black symbols. All this makes for a camera that requires thought and effort to use and that is not a “point and shoot.”

Despite the list of negatives, the DP1 earns a rating of Highly Recommended for its landscape photography (but not other types of photography) because of the quality of the images.

About This Rating

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by Chris Townsend |

Introduction: Why the DP1 is unique.

Sigma DP1 Review - 1
Sigma DP1.

Sigma DP1 Review - 2
Sigma DP1 with VF-11 viewfinder and lens cap fitted.

Sigma DP1 Review - 3
DP1 showing top panel and size with lens retracted.

Sigma DP1 Review - 4
DP1 with lens extended.

Compact cameras are the obvious choice for lightweight backpacking due to the low weight and size. Digital cameras have advantages over film cameras, too, as there's no need to carry films (at a weight of 0.8 oz per roll) or struggle with changing films with cold fingers whilst keeping the camera protected from sunshine, dust, snow or rain. Most film compacts use the same film as bigger SLR cameras and the best film compacts can achieve the same quality photographs as an SLR. This is not true with digital compacts because the sensor is much smaller than that in any DSLR. The Ricoh GR-D II, one of the most highly rated digital compacts, has a tiny 7.18 x 5.32 mm sensor, while the Canon Rebel XSi/EOS 450D has a 22.2 x 14.8 mm sensor and a full frame DSLR like the Nikon D700 has a 24 x 36 mm sensor (the same size as 35mm film). The size of the pixels that collect the image data has to relate to the size of the sensor so a digital compact has much smaller pixels than a DSLR. For complex technical reasons large sensors and large pixels produce higher quality images than small sensors and small pixels (if they didn't there'd be no need for full frame DSLRs let alone medium format digital cameras). So, a 12 megapixel (mp) DSLR will produce a better image than a 12mp digital compact. In fact, so big is the difference, that a DSLR will produce higher quality images than a digital compact with more pixels.

Sigma DP1 Review - 5
DP1 rear panel showing screen and controls.

There is also the question of noise (speckling on the image). The sensitivity of digital cameras to light is known as the ISO (also used for film speed, which is film's sensitivity to light). Low ISOs (50, 64, 100) produce high quality images but require slow shutter speeds. High ISOs (400 upwards) don't produce as high quality images but faster shutter speeds can be used. This is important when backpacking as images may be taken in poor light and when the wind (or being out of breath!) makes it difficult to hold the camera steady. The difference between noise at high ISOs between digital compacts and DSLRs is great due to the tiny sensor as noise increases with both lower pixel size and higher sensitivity. Even the best digital compacts produce noisy images at speeds above 200 ISO while DSLRs can produce images with little noise at 800 ISO. Images from my 6mp Canon 300D DSLRare virtually noise-free at ISO 400; those from the 8mp GR-D compact have noticeable noise.

Sigma DP1 Review - 6
DP1 rear panel compared with the Ricoh GR-D rear panel. The GR-D has better laid out controls that are easier to see.

The obvious solution for producing DSLR quality images from a compact camera would be to use a DSLR sized sensor. However this is technically difficult and also, I suspect, unattractive to camera makers who see the compact and DSLR markets as separate and would like to keep them that way. (Why buy a DSLR if a compact can do the same job?). So tiny sensors stayed in digital compacts, meaning you had to choose between light weight and low bulk or high quality images. Until the DP1, the first and so far only compact camera with a near DSLR size sensor, came along. Its sensor measures 20.7 x 13.8 mm, much closer to the Canon XSi sensor than the GR-DII sensor. And the image quality is similar to that from a DSLR even at high ISOs. Indeed, the same sensor is found in the Sigma SD14 DSLR.

Sigma DP1 Review - 7
The DP1 rear panel showing the open menu.

This image quality is the main reason to consider the DP1. It's the only compact camera that can compete with DSLRs. Unfortunately however other aspects of the camera are not so good, as I shall describe below.

Specifications

Pixels: 14.06 mp (2652x1768x 3 layers)
Lens: F4 16.6mm, 35mm equivalent 28mm
Dimensions: 112 x 65 wide x 57mm deep
Sensor size: 20.7 x 13.8mm
Screen: 230,000 pixels, 2.5 inches diagonal
Shutter: 15 seconds to 1/2000 second
Aperture: F4 to F11
ISO: 50, 100, 200, 400, 800
Exposure modes: Manual, Auto, Program AE, Shutter AE, Aperture Priority AE
Metering: evaluative, spot, centre weighted
Focusing: auto, manual
Image Format: Raw, JPEG Fine, Normal & Basic
Memory: SD/SDHC card
Battery: Li-ion BP-31
Sigma Weight: 250 grams without battery and memory card
BPL Weight: 255 grams without battery and memory card
Cost: $999
Accessories: Sigma VF-11 viewfinder: 14 grams. $149
Li-on BP-31 battery: 29 grams, $20
Megapixels: A Curious Puzzle

Sigma DP1 Review - 8
above: An unedited JPEG straight out of the camera. The colors are inaccurate and rather lurid (though some may like them!). ISO 50, 1/40 second at f5.6

Sigma DP1 Review - 9
above and following: The same scene taken at 50, 100, 200, 400 and 800 ISO showing how the colors become less saturated at higher ISOs, especially 800. All images are direct conversions from raw files with no post processing. All at f5.6 with shutter speeds of 1/40, 1/80, 1/160, 1/320 and 1/640 seconds.

Sigma DP1 Review - 10

Sigma DP1 Review - 11

Sigma DP1 Review - 12

Sigma DP1 Review - 13

Sigma says the DP1 is a 14.06mp camera. Open a DP1 raw file in Sigma Photo Pro software, which is provided with the camera, and the size will be given as between 10 and 18mb, depending on the detail in the image. Open the same file in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and the size will be given as 4.6mp. What is going on? The answer lies in the sensor type and the definition of the word "pixel". "Pixel" can mean either the photo detector or the location of that detector. All digital camera makers except Sigma use Bayer sensors which, put very simply, have red, green or blue pixels (photo detectors) that are combined when a photo is taken to form an image. The pixel count is the total number of pixels on the sensor. Sigma uses a Foveon sensor that has three layers of photo detectors, each collecting red, green and blue colors. A section through each layer counts as one pixel location. Thus there are three pixels at each pixel location. How many pixels an image has depends on whether you take the photo detector or location figure. Each Foveon layer is 2688 x 1792 pixels, or 4.65mp. There are three layers so Sigma says there are 14.2mp in total. Others say that as there is one pixel location per three photo detectors at each pixel location and the image file size is 2688 x 1792 there are only 4.65mp.

Sigma DP1 Review - 14
This 400 ISO image, converted from a raw file, has good colors and a smooth, natural look. 1/1250 seconds at f5.6.

Does this matter? Zealots on both sides argue passionately and interminably that it does. For those of us interested in the actual images I don't think it's significant. In terms of quality the DP1 produces images that are comparable to the 12mp Canon XSi/450D DSLR and far superior to those from any other compact camera, regardless of the number of pixels. How much the Foveon sensor affects this is debatable but my view is that the sensor size is far more important. What's clear is that the DP1 produces images of a higher quality than expected from a 4.6mp sensor. Foveon devotees argue that Foveon sensors produce "better" images than Bayer sensors. I can't say that I can see any meaningful difference when Bayer and Foveon images of the same scene are processed in the same software.

Description & Usage

Sigma DP1 Review - 15
The complex detail of this tree is captured well at ISO 100, 1/25 at f8. The camera was hand held. Using the viewfinder made it much easier to keep it steady.

The DP1 is a rather subdued black compact that doesn't stand out in any way. Nobody notices you using this camera. The rectangular body has a rather old-fashioned look to it. There's no hand grip, not even a slight bulge in the plastic, but it's still comfortable to hold.

Unlike many compacts the retracted lens is not flush or almost flush with the body and protrudes some 20mm. Even so, with dimensions of 112 x 65 wide x 57mm the DP1 is quite small and can be easily carried in a jacket pocket or in a small pouch on a belt.

Sigma DP1 Review - 16
This image taken in woodland in bright sunlight with great contrast between sunny and shaded areas shows that the camera can capture details in these situations. ISO 100. 1/25 second at f8.

The lens does not have an automatic cover when retracted. A separate lens cover is provided, attached to the body with a short piece of string. This cover is slightly awkward to fit and can blow about in the wind when not on the lens. However untying it would probably lead to loss, at least in my case. There is an accessory from Sigma called the HA-11 available which has a collar with a 46mm filter thread and a lens hood so filters could be used instead of the lens cap. I haven't tried this.

The DP1 lens is a fixed 16.6mm, which is equivalent to 28mm in 35mm. This is a moderate wide angle lens. Any fixed lens has limitations of course but 28mm is good for landscapes. (Sigma has announced that there will be a DP2 with a 24.2mm lens, equivalent to 41mm in 35mm, so there will be an option for those who find the DP1 too wide). The lens has a maximum aperture of f4, which is quite slow. In low light a high ISO and slow shutter speed are required.

Sigma DP1 Review - 17
On a dull day the colors on this hillside have come out well and there is detail in the cloudy sky. ISO 100. 1/80 at f5.6.

The LCD screen is reasonably bright and a reasonable size. However it is quite grainy and, peculiarly, it turns monochrome in low light. It also smears more easily than other screens I've used (they all smear to some extent). As there is no viewfinder the screen is used for composition. In bright sunshine this can be difficult as the image is hard to see. Also it is harder to hold the camera steady holding it out so you can see the screen rather than having it to your eye. There is an optional viewfinder available, the Sigma VF-11. This is tiny and ultralight but quite expensive. It has frame lines, which are not completely accurate but which act as a guide. It does not show any exposure information of course. Using the VF-11 does make picture taking a two-stage operation - check the exposure on the screen and make any alterations then bring the camera to the eye - but I prefer using it, both for more accurate composition and for stability.

There are five exposure modes, selected by a dial on top of the camera. The mode, the aperture and the shutter speed are shown clearly on the screen and can be changed using the right and left arrow buttons on the camera back. I prefer to use manual mode as this gives the greatest control but the other modes are accurate in even light.

Most of the controls are on the back of the camera and here there is an amazing example of poor design. Who ever thought that black letters and symbols on black buttons was a good idea? Presumably a designer concerned with appearance rather than function. As it is, memorizing the button functions is a good idea as it's hard to see the black letters and symbols in anything other than bright light. Oddly some of the buttons do have white labels. Why not all of them?

Sigma DP1 Review - 18
A difficult shot straight into a low sun has been handled well by the DP1 at ISO 50, 1/640 seconds at F5.6.

The button in the centre of the arrow buttons brings up the menu. This appears on top of the live image if you don't switch the latter off first. Many of the features you might often change are in the menu and it is a fiddly and time-consuming business to do so (and difficult with thin gloves on and impossible with thick ones). When the camera first appeared the ISO setting, which most users will probably use often, was in the menu. However a firmware update means the two zoom buttons, used for viewing images on the screen at different sizes, can be set to change different settings including ISO. I have one set to change the ISO and one to change the image quality. This improves the ergonomics a little but compared with the GR-D and the 450D changing settings on the DP1 is still more awkward and slower.

The firmware update also introduced 50 ISO, which does produce very fine images, but 1600 ISO for low light photos would have been more welcome.

There are three metering options - evaluative, centre-weighted and spot. Evaluative works fine for landscapes and I use this most of the time.

The auto focus is accurate but slow. There are single and continuous drive modes but the latter will only take three shots before it stops to write the images. It takes around 6 seconds to record a JPEG image, 8 seconds for a raw image. This is not a camera for action photography. There is a manual focus option, operated by a wheel with a scale running from 0.3 meters to infinity. The same scale appears in the viewfinder when manual focus is selected. If the manual focus is pre-set there is no focus or shutter delay but you still have to wait for the image to be written. I'd still set manual focus if I thought I might want to take photos quickly.

Sigma DP1 Review - 19
A partly shadowed snow and rock scene caught well at ISO 100, 1/320 at f5.6.

The DP1 will take three sizes of JPEG or raw files. I can't see any point in using anything other than the best (Fine) JPEG or raw with a camera like this unless there is a shortage of card space. The camera uses tiny SD, SDHC or multi-media cards. A 4GB card will hold around 258 raw images or 1225 Fine JPEGs. Cards weigh 2 grams each.

I viewed JPEGs in Sigma Photo Pro (SPP) and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2.1 and found the results somewhat erratic, with some images dull and flat and others luridly bright. The contrast, sharpness and saturation can all be altered in-camera to change the appearance of the JPEGs. The best results come from raw files though. I processed these in both SPP and Lightroom and obtained more detail and more accurate colors than with the JPEGs.

Sigma DP1 Review - 20
A crop from left centre of the previous image has good detail in the cliffs and the snow.

The DP1 has a histogram but it is disappointingly small and hard to read. There is no live histogram when viewing the live image either nor any highlight warnings when viewing the playback image. The histogram can be a valuable tool for accurate exposure and I use it rather than the exposure meter. With the GR-D I can see a live histogram and alter the exposure before taking the photo while with the 450D I can view the histogram with any blown highlights indicated on the playback image after taking the image and retake the photo if necessary (the 450D also has a LiveView feature but it's slow to use and I only do so when using a tripod). The DP1 histogram can sometimes be useful but with some images the line is almost flat and it can be impossible to see if it runs off the right side, showing overexposure and blown highlights.

There is a small pop-up flash operated by a small lever. With a maximum range of 4.3 meters (at ISO 800) it's limited to close-up objects.

The DP1 uses a small lithium-ion battery that Sigma says will take around 250 images at 25°C. This is the same as the GR-D battery but much lower than the 600 claimed for the 450D, which of course has a larger battery. Apart from the fact that the temperature may often be well below +25°C if you playback images often or use the flash the number of images per battery charge will be less. I minimize screen use on trips of more than a few days. I also carry a spare battery. On a trip of more than a week, which I have yet to take with the DP1, I would carry at least two spare batteries. There is a battery life indicator but it isn't very accurate (something I've found with other digital cameras). Overall I'm getting about 200 images per battery charge, without much flash use but without paying particular care to screen use.

Sigma DP1 Review - 21
A self-portrait with the DP1 on a tripod. ISO 50, 1/80 second at f10.

What's Good

  • Unique large sensor in a compact
  • Excellent resolution
  • Superb detail
  • High quality lens
  • Good high ISO images

What's Not So Good

  • Colors fade at high ISOs (can be corrected in software)
  • Fixed 28mm lens
  • Slow lens, maximum aperture F4
  • Low resolution screen dull in low light and hard to see in bright light
  • No live histogram
  • Histogram too small and hard to interpret
  • No highlight warnings ("blinkies") in review image
  • Slow image recording
  • Almost impossible to read black symbols on black buttons
  • Too many features hidden deep in menus
  • Highest ISO only 800
  • Lens cap awkward to put on and blows about in the wind

Assessment

Sigma DP1 Review - 22
An extreme crop of the figure in the previous image still has good detail and color.

Despite the greater number of negative points compared to positive ones I like the DP1 because of the image quality. No other digital camera anywhere near as light or compact as the DP1 will produce such good photographs. Yes, the operation of the camera is slow and clumsy and can be infuriating. For this I much prefer the Ricoh GR-D, one of the best designed cameras I have ever used. But once I see the images from the two cameras there's no contest and I'll take the DP1 every time. That is, for landscapes. The slowness of the camera means it's useless for any action shots. Camping shots where people are not moving too fast are possible but if you want grab shots of your companion spilling dinner or leaping over a stream you'll miss them with the DP1.

To gain the most from the DP1 raw should be used and time taken over the photographs anyway. This is not a point-and-shoot but a camera for photographers who think about settings and don't mind altering controls and delving into menus. In that sense it's a camera for serious photographers rather than snapshooters. You need to be happy with a fixed wide angle lens too.

Do you need such high quality images? For web use and small prints compacts with small sensors will be adequate as long as low ISOs are used. But for large prints and high ISO photographs the DP1 is the only compact really worth considering.

Sigma DP1 Review - 23
Dusk in the mountains. The DP1 has captured the snow and the sky well in this fairly low light shot. ISO 200. 1/50 second at f5.6.


Citation

"Sigma DP1 Review," by Chris Townsend. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/sigma_dp1_review.html, 2009-02-10 00:10:00-07.

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Sigma DP1 Review
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Miles Barger
(milesbarger) - F - M

Locale: West Virginia
G9 on 02/11/2009 10:48:06 MST Print View

For those wondering about the output of Canon's G series, I've used a G9 since January 2008. These are the results.

Yes, the high megapixel:sensor size ratio produces a fair bit of noise at anything above low ISOs. However, I enjoy the feature set (6x zoom, good movie function, quick shooting, photostitch, complete manual control, RAW, etc.), generally shoot low ISO, and am willing to take the time to make up for some of the deficiencies in post-processing.

Len Glassner
(lsglass) - MLife

Locale: San Diego
Re: RE: G10 vs DP1 on 02/11/2009 13:09:52 MST Print View

Here's a comparison of the DP1 vs. 5D:

http://www.prime-junta.net/pont/Reviews/040_Sigma_DP1/_Sigma_DP1.html?page=3

Ashley Brown
(ashleyb) - F
Re: Re: Re: Sigma DP1 That Good? on 02/11/2009 16:25:50 MST Print View

The smaller sensor of the Fuji F31fd ( I would have thought a different model number in US) produces perfect images using up to ISO 800 and put a lot of dSLR's to shame for low light situations in it's day.

Hi Darryl,

I own the F31 and I'm afraid I must strongly disagree. Yes, it is much, much better than most other compacts when it comes to low-light situtations. But the images are far from "perfect" at 800 ISO. I would call them borderline usable. (Whereas I would say completely un-usuable for most other compacts).

But there's really no comparison between my F31 and my 3-year old Pentax dSLR. I'd say the dSLR has about a 2 stop advantage in terms of noise. But that's pretty impressive for a compact with a small sensor!

Anyway, it seems that some of the new compacts (eg. the LX3) have the F31 beat in terms of noise performance. It only took them 3 years! It's still a great camera though, and I take it with me when I can't be bothered to lug the dSLR.

Adam Kilpatrick
(oysters) - MLife

Locale: South Australia
How do I interpret image sensor size specs? on 02/11/2009 19:31:25 MST Print View

Hi, now that its clear to me that sensor size is quite an important factor in choosing a camera, how do I know which is bigger. I'm a bit confused looking at Canon spec sheets (from the Aus Canon site).

G10
Effective Number of Pixels:
Approx. 14.7 MP CCD

Size / Filter Array:
1/1.7 inch / Primary colour filter (Bayer)

SX1 IS
Effective Number of Pixels:
Approx. 10.0 MP CMOS

Size / Filter Array:
1/2.3 inch / Primary colour filter (Bayer)

Aspect Ratio:
4:3 or 16:9

So...is 1/2.3 inch literally meaning 1 divided by 2.3 inches across, or is that 1 inch across, 2.3 inches up-down?

Also, whats the deal with aspect ratio?

I'm not too fussed with camera weight here...I figure if the camera works for me and is going to take great shots (my abilities not withstanding), then I don't care too much about the weight (cost is another issue...I think a DSLR is out of my range at the moment).

Cheers,

Adam

Ashley Brown
(ashleyb) - F
Re: How do I interpret image sensor size specs? on 02/11/2009 20:05:10 MST Print View

Hi Adam,

Here are the most common sensor sizes.

sensor sizes

Almost all compact cameras are one of the three smallest ones at the bottom. The DP1 has a "foveon" sized sensor in the chart above. Most dSLRs have an "APS-C" sized sensor, but those with lots of money go "full frame".

BTW, you can pick up an older version dSLR quite cheaply now days. Under A$500 for something which is in new condition but an older model. The newer models may have better features but the sensor size hasn't changed, so the same quality of photos is possible with older dSLRs.

Edited by ashleyb on 02/11/2009 20:12:07 MST.

Adam Kilpatrick
(oysters) - MLife

Locale: South Australia
Re: Re: How do I interpret image sensor size specs? on 02/11/2009 20:18:39 MST Print View

Wow, thanks Ashley! That makes alot of sense!
Maybe I'll just save up and look out for an SLR...

Misfit Mystic
(cooldrip)

Locale: "Grand Canyon of the East"
RE: DSLRs on 02/11/2009 23:05:54 MST Print View

I'll probably start a war with this, but if your thinking of getting a used DSLR, check out a Canon 350D/400D. I say this for three reasons: lots of used optics available (true of Nikon as well); relatively cheap (less than $300, also true of Nikon); and last and most importantly, with a new 5D MK II available, prices on used 5D MK I's have fallen to $1200 or less, and will probably come down some more! (Can you tell I love the 5D!)

Darryl Romm
(Lyrrad) - F

Locale: Greater London
Re: Re: Re: Re: Sigma DP1 That Good? on 02/12/2009 05:18:29 MST Print View

Ahsley you said:

I own the F31 and I'm afraid I must strongly disagree. Yes, it is much, much better than most other compacts when it comes to low-light situtations. But the images are far from "perfect" at 800 ISO. I would call them borderline usable.





Okay, 'perfect' was the wrong terminology, but I cannot agree with 'borderline usable'. Just to clarify I post process every shot in PS. This is my only digital camera as I still scan slides/negs so my PS skills are okay.

Have you seen this site for the best guide I have come across for the F30/F31. It certainly assisted me. As I have stated I have no real comparison against a dSLR as I don't own one yet. However I would imagine that many do surpass it now (and I was only relating to noise at comparable ISO levels)

It's interesting you mention the LX3, as I may well buy this. Do you happen to know if there is a better digital compact for macro use only.


thanks in advance.

Edited by Lyrrad on 02/12/2009 07:58:15 MST.

Clifford Sax
(csax6364) - F

Locale: East Sussex
Camera Spec & Ways of Seeing on 02/12/2009 07:15:57 MST Print View

"My Ricoh GR-D has a very sharp top quality lens, possible better than the DPI lens (though that is also good), but the images are nowhere near as good at large sizes due to the sensor size."

Thanks for the informative review Chris. Your above comment highlights (for me) something which is often overlooked - a certain indefinable something that goes way beyond spec or sensor size. What i'm talking about is the combination of spec, design, useability, output etc and how everything conspires together to create a camera that simply excites the user in a way that causes them to want to go out and take pictures. If you are buying a camera so that you can print out massive prints then I would concede with your above comment but how many of us actually print out beyond the ubiquitous 10 x 8? I have printed up to 20 x 24 with the GRD with fantastic results, even when using higher ISO's.

Having used the DP1 I personally found it a frustrating experience and I'm at a loss to explain why. It simply did not flow and I was decidedly underwhelmed. My experience with the GRD (and the GR1) has always been extremely enjoyable and the camera has even inspired me to 'see' in a variety of new ways. How does one then define such an experience? How do we then quantify what is 'good', 'better', or (god forbid) 'best'?

My main point here is that a truly 'great' camera can become an extension of the user and can inspire the user, through a collaborative endeavor, to take new and exciting images. For me the Ricoh GRD and earlier GR1 have done this for some years. Unfortunately the DP1 never did. Under these circumstances spec has to be viewed in a wider context. Personally I find it disheartening when so many photographers become bogged down with spec. When the simplest of pinhole cameras can produce images that have a profound visual and emotional impact and when the plastic lenses of the Holgas can do the same then surely it is not spec that produces an interesting image?

My suggestion is that we take a step back and evaluate what makes a good image and a good camera and try to re-evaluate what is sometimes a slavish obsession with spec. A great camera is one which you want to use and inspires you to take images that excite you. For some that might be the DP1, for others it might be an old polaroid, for me it's the GRD.

I don't believe that there can be an objective standard of what makes a great camera (inspite of what the numerous photography magazines try to tell us). Photography, as an art, is all about how we see and much much less about the spec of the tools we are using. There is, for example, currently a strong interest in low-fi imaging (largely attributed to the increased use of the Lomo's and Holgas). Objectively one might argue that the images people are producing are 'bad' because of leaking light, vignetting, blurred edges etc BUT some of these images on the aesthetic level are wonderful to look at because of the way the user is seeing. The GRD produces a fair amount of noise at high ISO's and yes, objectively, that might be considered 'bad'. The DP1 does far better at low ISO's but to my eyes the noise of the GRD can be used to great effect. It has a photographic quality which I missed with the DP1. Each camera will have it's own qualities which can be utilised if we extend the way that we see.

I think i'm done and I hope my point is clear despite rambling!

Chris Townsend
(Christownsend) - MLife

Locale: Cairngorms National Park
Sigma DP1 Review on 02/12/2009 07:27:29 MST Print View

Excellent comments Clifford. I agree with you. That certain indefinable something is important. I love using the GR-D (and the GR1 in the past). Everything works to make picture taking a joy and that makes me more creative. The DP1 is slow and frustrating. But when I view the images on the computer those from the DP1 stand out. The DP1 is really only worth persevering with if you wish to make big prints. For me the DP1 is a useful backup to a DSLR (I have a Canon 450D which I enjoy using as much as the GR-D - I just wish it wasn't so heavy).

Jonas Bodenäs
(greenjuice) - MLife

Locale: Scania (Skåne)
Re: RE: G10 vs DP1 on 02/12/2009 08:52:48 MST Print View

Hi Scott,

Actually, I've considered LX3 too. But I don't know if I would accept the lenscap to LX3 that's needed to take off every time I'll shot a picture. Same with DP1 too. Sometimes when walking, I just want to stop and take any picture at the moment. With lenscap, I've to remember to take it off. But perpahs it's just a small thing...I don't need the extra reach, I use to go closer the object instead.

Best regards,
Jonas

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: G10 vs DP1 on 02/12/2009 10:23:00 MST Print View

Hi Jonas,

I don't find the LX3 lenscap any big deal, especially since it's tethered and can't (easily) be lost. It is a bit less convenient, but it also provides considerably more robust protection than a shutter-style lens cover.

The larger "handiness" issue is the protruding lens makes the camera less pocketable than a camera with a fully retracting lens. It's the price of 24/2.0.

Cheers,

Rick

Noel Hong
(arborrider08) - F

Locale: SouthShore of Lake Superior
An honest review. on 02/12/2009 10:32:29 MST Print View

Chris, thanks for the honest review. Always looking for a replacement compact digcam. But for now I'm sticking with the Panasonic Lumix LX2. Even with what I consider a major limitation (squeezing 10.2mp onto a 1/1.65 CCD results in significant noise at ISO>100) I'm content for now. Light (225gm with battery & SD card), easy & quick to use under any mode, Leica optics with an image stabilizing feature that actually works yielding quality shots and so far durable (+3years of use). Not digital SLR quality prints, but it's a compact.

Clifford Sax
(csax6364) - F

Locale: East Sussex
I wish it wasn't so heavy on 02/12/2009 11:02:02 MST Print View

Thats another really important point Chris - especially on here. I love my DSLR and as a big fan of the older prime Nikon lenses my 'minimum' kit would include 4 primes and camera body BUT the times I have let an image pass because I can't be a***d to get my pack off, put it on the wet ground, shelter the camera to put the lens on etc etc, are inumerable. With the compact it positively begs to be used and, certainly when on the trail, I use it far more because of the easy flow of the moment - inspiration to execution is hassle free.

Praveen M
(prav66) - MLife

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Sigma DP1 on 02/12/2009 11:18:12 MST Print View

Great review Chris!

I think you hit all the salient points with the review. I have far too many cameras already but bought & used the Sigma DP1 quite a bit this past year, including for the BPL WT-1 course trek last year in the rockies. I have a love-hate relationship with this one for all the reasons stated in the review.

My main camera is a full frame Nikon D700 which has nearly flawless ISO 3200 and gorgeous tones & colors even in basic JPG so it makes all compacts feel like a serious compromise in comparison.

There's been a lot of faff lately how the new generation of compacts are good enough for most uses and they quote a michael reichman review where he compares the G10 compact with a medium format digital camera and declares that at normal print sizes even the experts can't tell the difference.

But the test was made in ideal conditions at the lowest ISO in very subdued lighting. Sadly in the real world there's a world of differnce that's readily visible. I've used many of the so called high end compacts in the market including the Canon G10 I can say for sure that the DP1 is still king of the hill in the category. It simply has far better tones and dynamic range than the rest of them and the difference is not subtle. It's all in the sensor size.

I wish my Panasonic LX3 compact with its far superior operation and amazingly fast Leica lens gave images as good but it doesn't.. yet. So for now the DP1 it is until the next big jump in technology or the other camera manufacturers get with it... Sad to say we had so many better choices in the world of 35mm film! :)

Edited by prav66 on 02/12/2009 11:23:04 MST.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: I wish it wasn't so heavy on 02/12/2009 15:30:56 MST Print View

Clifford wrote:

> BUT the times I have let an image pass because I can't be a***d to get my pack off, put it
> on the wet ground, shelter the camera to put the lens on etc etc, are inumerable. With the
> compact it positively begs to be used
Not to mention the times when you couldn't put the pack down, or don't have time to put the pack down...

I carry my little old Canon A95 on a shoulder strap where I can get it out fast with one hand while still moving, or skiing, or abseiling, or ... Could never do that with my old (film) OM2s.

Cheers

Chris Townsend
(Christownsend) - MLife

Locale: Cairngorms National Park
Re: I wish it wasn't so heavy on 02/12/2009 15:38:26 MST Print View

Ever since I first bought an SLR, almost 30 years ago, I've carried it in a pouch on a strap slung across my chest so the pouch rests just below my ribs. I find this comfortable and can access the camera quickly - though not one handed while abseiling!

Ashley Brown
(ashleyb) - F
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Sigma DP1 That Good? on 02/12/2009 16:28:51 MST Print View

Okay, 'perfect' was the wrong terminology, but I cannot agree with 'borderline usable'.

Well, we are both right! What is considered "usable", "good" or "great" is all in the eye of the beholder... and more importantly, how large you wish to print! For viewing on a computer screen, you can get perfectly good pictures with the F31/F30, and also for smaller prints.

As I have stated I have no real comparison against a dSLR as I don't own one yet. However I would imagine that many do surpass it now (and I was only relating to noise at comparable ISO levels)

As good a camera as it is, it has never surpassed any dSLR that I've used or seen. The comparisons on arn's site (yes I looked at when buying my F31!) show that the F30 is really impressive, but the 30D is clearly better. The problem is that the F30 needs to do so much noise reduction that it eats away at the detail even at 200 ISO. And you can see how washed out the colours are in comparison to the 30D. I have an old 6MP Pentax k100D (released in 2005?) and it eats my F31 for breakfast! But I don't always carry it with me because of the weight.

Anyway, you're in for a nice surprise when you get yourself a dSLR. They are much more cumbersome, but you will notice the difference in quality of the images. I recently had a play with a 5D (full frame) that a friend of mine owns, and I was really amazed by the quality of the images compared to my (non full-frame) dSLR. I used to think that I would never want or need a full-frame dSLR, but now I want one!

It's interesting you mention the LX3, as I may well buy this. Do you happen to know if there is a better digital compact for macro use only.

I'm not really a big macro shooter, but the LX3 isn't ideal for macro use. It's max zoom is 60mm so you will need to get really close with the camera to try and get 'macro'. If I was doing a lot of macro photos I'd be looking at something like the Canon G10 (larger magnification possible).

Dirk Rabdau
(dirk9827) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
DSLR vs. Compact in backcountry on 02/12/2009 18:14:40 MST Print View

I would suggest to anyone who considers a DSLR for backcountry use to really consider the weight of the lenses, especially when dealing with quality glass.

And therein is the caveat: the cost of the a DSLR isn't the DSLR (unless you are dealing with high-end bodies which are remarkably heavy) but the lenses. You buy a couple of quality primes or zooms (I prefer primes, but to each his or her own), and you are talking about a significant investment. Lens selection should be a primary driver in the choice between Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Olympus, etc., not the DSLR body.

It's kind of like skis. I would suggest investing first in a great pair of boots, and you will get far more out of average skis then great skis paired with mediocre boots.

Dirk

Fred eric
(Fre49) - MLife

Locale: France, vallée de la Loire
Re: Re: I wish it wasn't so heavy on 02/13/2009 14:44:43 MST Print View

After being very disappointed by my previous compact, i have been using for my last hikes the lightest DSLR i could find : an olympus 420, removing the straps ect.. the weight is 600g with the 14-42mm lens and a battery.

I carry it inside a 10G silnylon bag that i put in my OMM 4L chest pack.
I dont mind this additional weight when i carry less than a week of food as my winter backpack stays under 12-13kg with food and water, but as i will be pushing my limit with 2 weeks of food to carry this summer in Greenland i am considering buying a lumix LX3 to save 300ish gr, as after waiting for it i am not convinced by the sigma DP1.

Edited by Fre49 on 02/13/2009 14:46:20 MST.