Sigma DP1 Review

April 21, 2008 | Mark Goldstein | PhotographyBLOG | 10 Comments | |

Sigma DP1The Sigma DP1 is the first ever compact digital camera to feature a large image sensor typically used by much bigger and heavier DSLR cameras. Sigma have taken the 14.03 megapixel X3F sensor from their SD14 camera and designed the DP1 around it. Weighing less than 250gms and easily fitting into a coat pocket or handbag, the DP1 promises to deliver DSLR-like photos in a portable, carry-everywhere design. Sigma have twinned the sensor with a fixed focal length 28mm lens, further appealing to the serious photographer who demands the best image quality possible from their equipment. We find out if the Sigma DP1 has been worth the long wait since it was first announced way back in September 2006.

Website: Sigma DP1 Review

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#1 Kendall Helmstetter Gelner

A great review, but a few additions and corrections:

1) If you have the sound turned on, there is a focus confirmation beep so you don't have to see the green focus lock indicator. That makes using the viewfinder more practical with autofocus, and of course using the viewfinder works quite well when using manual focus since you already know the distance you have set.

2) As for image and printing sizes, the apparent smaller size of the final image is offset by the overall sharper image results than other bayer imagers produce. The rough rule of thumb is that the DP-1 images can be treated roughly like 10MP bayer images for printing - if you are careful you can print even larger than that would indicate, good prints have been produced at A1 and even A0 sizes. Follow this link to understand more deeply just why this is so:

3) Not mentioned is that the lens provides excellent sharpness corner to corner, even up to the maximum f4 aperture.

4) I have found personally the magnification mode in manual focus is fine for getting precise focus. Some people also turn up the LCD brightness and contrast to maximum, which helps more clearly see focus changes even at full view.

6:36 pm - Monday, April 21, 2008

#2 Thomas

The concept is ok, but not the price tag, the usabilty and the somewhat outdated behaviour of slow saving of raw images. Let's wait for a Canon G10 with a bigger chip, or a digital Contax G2 with interchangeable lenses.
Why is it so difficult to fullfill the needs of photographers.
BTW, another more critical review is here:

5:56 am - Tuesday, April 22, 2008

#3 Kendall Helmstetter Gelner

That LL review is actually pretty good to let you know what you are getting with the camera, in terms of controls and abilities.

It's also quite good at letting you know the positives, what you are getting in terms of image quality, as the supposedly "negative" review states:

"Here's the summary up-front, to save you from the tedious chore of examining the images below and needing to read the text. The raw image quality of the Sigma DP1 is excellent – truly far and away superior to that of any digicam that i have yet seen or used. Given that the camera uses an almost APS-C sized sensor this should not be all that surprising. Combine this with what appears to be a very high quality lens (Sigma has some small experience in this area) and you have a winning combination."

The camera is not right for everyone, it's not like you'd be giving it to your grandmother or mom (unless you mom is Annie Leibovitz). But for those that know their way around a DSLR and are tired of really poor quality output from compact to use when they cannot use a DSLR - the DP-1, as LL said, is a winner. As Sigma says - it is a camera for artists, not a casual camera. If you read that review as negative - then by all means, continue to cycle through standard consumer compact cameras. But if you see both the positive and negative tradeoffs and decide the quality of the result outweighs a few control issues or lack of things like "night portrait mode" - then consider the DP-1.

As for RAW write speeds, If the behavior of slow RAW image saving is outdated, then the rest of the compact market is history as pretty much all compacts are slow to write RAW files today. The DP-1 is much faster writing RAW than the first GRD, and only a few seconds slower than the GRD2. It's around the same as the G9 from what I can tell. Consider also that regardless of what you feel about photosite stacking stacking, the DP-1 is writing out 14MP of image sensor data and the GRD2 is only saving out 10MP of image data.

As for your wait for a G10 with a bigger chip - good luck, they're up to G9 and have only departed further from what made the G6 a well liked camera by squeezing more and more pixels into the same tiny sensor. What makes you think the G10 is going to get any better? Designing a camera with a large sensor involves tradeoffs that few large bureaucracies like the Canons and the Nikons of the world are willing to make, so I don't think you'll see competition from that quarter for some time if ever.

And the G2 with interchangeable lenses? if I wanted to have that kind of bulk with me I'd just carry my DSLR. Another aspiring rangefinder, doomed to market obscurity, is no replacement for a real compact camera with excellent image quality. If I can't have it in my pocket it's not going to be a good companion for my DSLR.

7:39 am - Tuesday, April 22, 2008

#4 Britton

Actually, when you consider that you are getting a lens that is on par with high quality dSLR lenses and a dSLR sensor, The Sigma DP1 is not a bad deal.

High quality Digital SLR lenses with this kind of sharpness and accuracy are quite expensive.

So, because the Sigma DP1 camera (Compact Digital Camera with a dSLR sensor) has such a good lens and a real dSLR sensor, the $799us pricetag (street) is actually not bad at all.

4:08 pm - Tuesday, April 22, 2008

#5 Thomas

I'm willing to spend money at a body which has the speed and electronics like a state-of-the-art DSLR - instead of buying an overprized semipro P&S camera.

8:22 pm - Tuesday, April 22, 2008

#6 adri

The image quality is indeed fantastic, and I have no regrets, although indeed I would have wished the price would have been set a little lower. But, consider this:
Nikon 18mm Pro lens costs $1300; Nikon 20mm consumer grade $500; Canon 14mm pro $1650; 20mm pro $415.00; Sigma 15mm pro (Fisheye) $530.00; Sigma 20mm pro $400.00; Tamron 14mm (pro) $1000.00

Well, you get the picture. the Sigma 16mm very sharp lens comes with a body attached to it with a full-frame sensor. it's a little slow, the LCD is not great, the interface so-so, but other than that, it's great.

As I said, I have no regrets. See photos on Sigma Usergroup

9:05 pm - Tuesday, April 22, 2008

#7 Mark Goldstein

I've also been posting a few Sigma DP1 images on Everyday Eye, my daily photoblog (all photos after 15th April):

9:16 am - Wednesday, April 23, 2008

#8 Zamora

This camera is UNIQUE in many ways.

for the first time you can get great images out of a lightweight , compact camera.

Construction is exellent , simple and robust . Everything works smooth and firm.

Features are Ok , I guess... for my part , they could have dropped the Video and voicerecording .. and even the JPEG- I only take still -pictures and only RAW.

Image quality is outstanding .. by far the best IQ from a comopact digital camera.. in my opinion even better than most DSLRs.

The lens is very usable wide-opne and tack sharp from f/ 4,5 to f/ 10...

No CA at all !!

very little distortion .. all in all ... the lens is top-quality.. Carl Zeiss would have been proud of it :)

The Foveon is as sharp as ever... but image processing has clearly improved over the Sigma SD series DSLRs.

DP-1 is fairly easy to use... may take a couple of days to get the hang of it... with a little practice its quite fast and intuitive to use .

The lens alone would be sold for 2-3000 $ if it had been a CZ, Canon L or Leica... here you get a decent camera and an excellent sensor (and only for $40 the new close-up lens) , bundled with this top-grade lens .... so very good value for your money :)

Wide choice among the add-on lenses (for example the new close-up lens from Sigma:

The LCD screen is not the best .. noisy and coarse in low-light and difficult to use in bright light .

1:23 pm - Monday, May 26, 2008

#9 Max

I think the reviewr is mixing up advertising for review!
Image quality 5 ??!!
Where can one find honest reviews these days? everybody is on somebody's payrool one way or another.

4:14 am - Friday, November 7, 2008

#10 Kendall Helmstetter Gelner

Max - you don't understand, the five was accurate. Image quality is the whole reason to own the camera, since it has a sensor far larger than any other compact and thus delivers DSLR images from a compact. All the other tradeoffs mentioned in the review are there to make this possible.

Note that since the review, the DP-1 has had a number of firmware updates and now is much faster in operation and even sports features like being able to program some of the buttons on the back to custom functions that before were only in the menu. Also the camera now supports ISO 50, great for landscapes.

4:39 am - Friday, November 7, 2008