Sigma DP2 Merrill Review

September 26, 2012 | Mark Goldstein | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star


The Sigma DP2 Merrill is a compact camera with a large APS-C sized sensor, as used in larger and heavier compact system camera and DSLR models and therefore promising better image quality than other compacts. The DP2 Merrill has the same 46 megapixel Foveon X3 sensor as the flagship SD1 DSLR, a redesigned 30mm fixed lens with a fast aperture of f/2.8, Dual TRUE II image processing engine, 3-inch TFT colour monitor with 920,000 dots, full range of creative shooting modes, manual focus ring, external hotshoe, Quick Set button and RAW format support. The new generation name “Merrill” is a tribute to Foveon’s co-founder, the late Richard B. Merrill, who developed the original Foveon X3 Direct Image Sensor. Retailing for £799 / $999, the Sigma DP2 Merrill compact camera is certainly a serious investment - read our expert review to find out if it's one worth making.

Ease of Use

As with Sigma's previous DP-series compacts, the Sigma DP2 Merrill has a substantial, serious design that is very box-like but not altogether unattractive. Measuring 121.5(W)×66.7mm(H)×59.2mm(D) and weighing 355grams, it's substantially bigger and heavier than the DP2x, but still just fits into a coat pocket or small camera bag. It's too big and bulky for a trouser or shirt pocket though, primarily because of the lens housing which protrudes about 2.5cms out from the front of the camera body. The DP2 Merrill becomes even more cumbersome if you add the optional optical viewfinder or lenshood.

Utilising an aluminium alloy body, the Sigma DP2 Merrill is an exceedingly well built camera, certainly up there with the best that the other manufacturers have to offer. The DP2 Merrill has an under-stated, all-black appearance, and together with the heavier weight this lends the camera a professional look and feel. The all-metal tripod mount directly inline with the centre of the lens is a giveaway sign that this is intended to be a serious camera (most compacts have a plastic mount squeezed into one of the corners).

The 30mm, F/2.8 lens dominates the front of the camera. Sigma, with its long history of making lenses for other manufacturers' cameras and more recently its own DSLRs, has developed this lens specifically for the DP2 Merrill. Offering a fixed-focal length, thankfully the lens no longer extends when the camera is turned on, as with previous DP cameras. The construction of the lens feels rock-solid with no play at all in the metal lens barrel. New to the DP2 Merrill is a tactile manual focus ring, which makes it much easier to operate the camera if you prefer that way of focusing. Sadly it doesn't over-ride the auto-focus mode though, which would have been a nice feature, although the manual focus assist complete with on-screen magnification is a nice touch.

Obviously the fixed-focal 30mm lens, equivalent to 45mm on a 35mm camera, will immediately put a lot of people off the DP2 Merrill. With no zoom lens model on the horizon, you're left with a choice of the DP2 Merrill or the wider-angle DP1 Merrill which has a an equivalent 28mm lens. 45mm is a good focal length for candid street photography, providing an angle of view similar to what we see with our own eyes, and the combination of the DP2 Merrill's lens and every photographer's constant companion, their legs, proves to be more versatile than you might first think. The maximum aperture of F/2.8 and the large APS-C sensor makes it easy to blur the background and importantly makes the camera more versatile in low-light.

Also on the front of the DP2 Merrill is a small dimpled area to the left of the lens (looking from the front) which helps you to keep a firm hold, replicated on the rear. The 3 inch LCD screen is a welcome addition and partly explains the increase in size of the DP2 Merrill. It displays 100% of the image and the 920,000 pixel resolution is excellent, plus there are a couple of options for increasing or decreasing the brightness of the screen if you don't like the default setting.

If you'd prefer using an optical viewfinder to frame your images, Sigma offers the optional VF-21 viewfinder, which fits into the flash hotshoe on top of the camera (you can also use other third-party viewfinders with the DP2 Merrill). This system does give you a choice, but it comes at the cost of not being able to use the optical viewfinder and an external flashgun at the same time, and also the hefty literal cost of £120.

Sigma DP2 Merrill Sigma DP2 Merrill
Front Rear

As for performance, Sigma's viewfinder solution offers a large, bright view of the scene in front of you. On the other hand, it doesn't provide any feedback to the photographer, other than showing a thick white border which indicates very approximately what part of the scene the DP2 Merrill will capture. We found that the recorded image was quite a bit bigger than this border, and also that it disappeared against a bright background, effectively making framing your subject a point and hope experience. Also the only way of knowing that the camera has focused correctly is the small green LED above the LCD screen, which you can just see out of the corner of your right eye when looking through the optical viewfinder.

At the heart of the Sigma DP2 Merrill is a new APS-C sized Foveon image sensor. The exact size of the image sensor used in the DP2 Merrill camera is 20.7mm x 13.8mm, which is approximately seven to twelve times larger than the 1/1.8inch to 1/2.5 inch image sensors used in other compact digital cameras. Sigma are the only manufacturer to use the Foveon X3 sensor, and as with the SD1 DSLR camera, they quote the resolution as a whopping 46 megapixels. Whilst this is technically true, in that there are 46 million pixels on the sensor, it's very difficult to compare it with a conventional Bayer CCD/CMOS sensor. This is because the Foveon solution uses 3 layers of 4800x3200 pixels, stacked on top of each other, with each photodiode capturing all of the RGB data. Sigma and Foveon claim that this results in better looking colour images straight out of the camera when compared to a CCD/CMOS sensor. Whilst this may be true, from the user's point of view the final image is 4800x3200 pixels in size, a little bigger than a 15 megapixel photo, which limits how big you can print or crop the native image without interpolating it in Adobe Photoshop or another application.

Just like a DSLR, the DP2 Merrill offers both JPEG and RAW recording formats, still one of only a handful of compact cameras to do so. There are 3 different JPEG compression levels, and a choice of four sizes including a 16:9 widescreen mode. The RAW files are saved in the Sigma X3F format, which can currently only be processed using the supplied Sigma Photo Pro RAW 5.3 image developer. Sigma Photo Pro is a simple and straight-forward application that doesn't compare that well with Lightroom or Photoshop in terms of features, but gets the job done and is free of charge. We really wish that Sigma would support the Adobe DNG format so that we could use our favourite processing software from day one.

The DP2 Merrill takes around 10 seconds to store RAW files, the first 4 seconds during which the camera can't be used. This isn't anywhere close to DSLR-like performance though, despite Sigma marketing the DP2 Merrill as a real DSLR alternative or backup camera. There's even a 1.5 second lockup when shooting in JPEG mode at full-size, so when you factor in the slow auto-focus system (more on this below), as with the DP2x this makes the DP2 Merrill ill-suited to quick moving subjects.

The start-up time from turning the Sigma DP2 Merrill on to being ready to take a photo is quite slow at around 2 seconds. In the fastest Continuous mode the camera takes 4 frames per second for an unlimited number of images at the highest JPEG image quality, and commendably in RAW mode too, which is very good for this class of camera. Unfortunately, the DP2 Merrill locks up completely for around 10 seconds when shooting a burst of Fine JPEGs and even longer for RAW files, so while you can certainly capture 4 JPEGs or RAW files in a second, the camera is effectively out of action for the next 10-15 seconds.

The Sigma DP2 Merrill offers a full range of advanced exposure controls via the new Mode button on top of the camera, including aperture-priority, shutter-priority, manual and manual focusing, with Auto and Program AE modes catering for the less experienced and three Custom modes so that you can save and recall your preferred settings. There are no auto-everything or scene modes on this camera, which is a veritable breath of fresh air at a time when most manufacturers are stuffing their cameras full of clever technologies that take control away from the user. The aperture or shutter speed are set by using the new forefinger-operated control dial on top of the camera, with the left and right buttons on the navigation pad setting the aperture in the Manual shooting mode and exposure compensation in the other modes.

Sigma DP2 Merrill Sigma DP2 Merrill
Front Top

The DP2 Merrill has three metering modes, Evaluative Metering, Center Weighted Average Metering and Spot Metering. We found that the DP2 Merrill got exposures right 95% of the time when using the Evaluative Metering mode, with Spot Metering useful for the remaining 5%. Exposure compensation can be set in 1/3 stop increments from +3.0 to -3.0 stops and a simple auto bracketing function is also available.

Auto-focusing remains one of the weaker points of the DP2 Merrill. There are 9 focusing points to choose from, but you can only select one at a time, with no multi-AF point system that virtually all other cameras have. There's a dedicated button (down on the navigation pad) for choosing the focus point, but it's still easier and quicker to set the focus to the middle point, then focus by half-pressing the shutter button and recompose the frame for off-centre subjects.

The DP2 Merrill offers a rather confusing choice of focusing options, with two autofocus modes available. The normal mode has a focusing distance from 50cm to infinity, but it's also possible to shorten the minimum focusing distance to 28cm using the second mode. I didn't notice any speed difference between the two modes, so permanently set the DP2 Merrill to the 28cm short mode. The DP2 Merrill's autofocus system still isn't exactly what you'd call snappy, especially in low-light. It usually locks onto the subject eventually, but there's a noticeable 0.5 second delay that doesn't make this camera particularly good for action photography. Note that the DP2 Merrill doesn't have a built-in focus assist lamp.

Manual Focus is also available, which obviously avoids the auto-focus lag and speeds up the camera. The DP2 Merrill has a dedicated manual focus ring on the lens barrel, rather than the previous dial that was located on the rear of the camera, a much more traditional and simply better system. It is possible to magnify the LCD display to check the focusing by pressing the Display button, although this doesn't provide enough magnification or clarity to ensure precise focus. The Sigma DP2 Merrill no longer has a built-in pop-flash unit, just an optional flashgun which fits in the external hotshoe directly above the lens. Sigma suggest that you use the optional EF-140 DG external flashgun with the DP-2, but again there are compatible third-party alternatives available.

A dedicated lens hood is the final optional accessory for the DP2 Merrill. This blocks out extraneous light and helps avoid flare, useful given the wide-angle nature of the lens, although unfortunately we didn't have one to test. The lens hood also includes a hood adapter which is designed to accept a 46mm lens filter, so you can add things like a polarizer, UV or close-up macro filter. The closest distance that you can focus on a subject is 28cms away from the camera when it's set to Full Focus mode, so you'll need to buy the lens hood and then fit a third-party close-up macro filter if you want to get really close to your subject.

Sigma DP2 Merrill Sigma DP2 Merrill
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

It's fair to say that movies aren't exactly the Sigma DP2 Merrill's strong point, only offering 640×480 pixel VG resolution at 30fps. The battery life is also appallingly bad, with a quoted life of just 97 shots - we managed 80 images before needing to recharge. It's so terrible that Sigma actually supply two batteries in the box, which goes some way to rectifying the situation, but it's hardly an ideal solution.

The main menu system on the Sigma DP2, accessed by pressing the Menu button above the navigation pad, is still rather rudimentary but simple to use. There are three tabs along the top, Camera, Play and Settings, subdivided into 4, 2 and 4 screens of options respectively. Due to the large LCD screen and restricting the number of on-screen choices to 5, the various options and icons are quite clear and legible, and each option uses a combination of text and helpful small icon.

Thee Quick Set menu is accessed via the QS button above the Menu button, as the name suggests providing quicker access to eight key features - ISO, Metering, Burst Mode, Flash, Image Size, White Balance, Colour Mode and Image Quality. There are four options on each of the two QS screens represented by icons, with the QS button toggling between the two. The navigation pad keys are then used to select the various options for each feature. It sounds complicated on paper, but quickly becomes second nature to use.

Once you have captured a photo, the Sigma DP2 Merrill has a rather limited range of options when it comes to playing, reviewing and managing your images. You can instantly scroll through the images that you have taken, view thumbnails (9 onscreen at once), zoom in and out up to 10x magnification, view slideshows with various configurable options, set the print order, record a soundclip, lock, mark, and rotate an image. The Display button toggles detailed settings information about each picture on and off, such as the ISO rating and aperture / shutter speed, and there is a small histogram available during playback and also when taking a picture. You can also turn on the useful Exposure Warning which shows a flashing red area for any overexposed parts of a recorded image. When taking a photo, pressing the Display button toggles between the detailed information, the small histogram, no information and turning the LCD screen off.

In summary the Sigma DP2 Merrill is much like the DP2x - a no-frills camera that most people won't see the point of, but which a minority will be delighted by. It's still quite a slow, cumbersome camera that is best suited to slow-moving or stationary subjects, the real highlight being the combination of a sharp fixed-focal length lens and the unique Foveon X3 sensor, as you can see on the Image Quality and Sample Images pages.

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 46 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 8Mb.

The Sigma DP2 Merrill's image quality is outstanding when shooting in the RAW format, with great results from ISO 100-1600. Curiously the quality drops off noticeably when shooting JPEGs, with only ISO 100-400 worth using thanks to a lot of noise and colour desaturaion at the higher ISOs, so our advice would be to always use the DP2 Merrill's RAW mode if possible (despite the so-so Sigma Photo pro software and the huge file sizes).

The Sigma DP2 Merrill dealt with chromatic aberrations so well that we struggled to find a single example from the hundreds of frames that we shot. The images were just a little soft straight out of the camera at the default sharpening setting, but you can increase the level in-camera, or use Adobe Photoshop later. The night photograph was very good, with the maximum shutter speed of 15 seconds allowing you to capture enough light for the majority of after-dark situations.

Macro performance was the only fly in the ointment, allowing you to focus as close as 28cms away from the subject, which means that you'll need to buy the DP2 Merrill lens hood and then fit a third-party close-up macro filter if you want to get really close to your subject.


There are 7 ISO settings available on the Sigma DP2 Merrill for both JPEGs and RAW files. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting, with JPEG on the left and RAW on the right:



ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)


ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)


ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)


ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)


ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)


ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)


ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)


Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The images are just a little soft at the default sharpening setting of 0. You can change the in-camera sharpening level to one of the 10 preset preset levels (0.2 increments on a scale of +1 to -1) if you don't like the default look.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)


File Quality

The Sigma DP2 Merrill has 3 different JPEG image quality settings available, with Fine being the highest quality option. Here are some 100% crops which show the quality of the various options, with the file size shown in brackets.

46M Fine (8.34Mb) (100% Crop) 46M Normal (3.27Mb) (100% Crop)
46M Basic (2.70Mb) (100% Crop) 46M RAW (49.6Mb) (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations

As with the DP2, the Sigma DP2 Merrill handled chromatic aberrations so well during the review that I struggled to find a single example to show you. The corner of this over-exposed roof area is exhibiting just the merest hint of green fringing, but you won't notice any chromatic aberrations in almost all photos from the DP2 Merrill.

Example 1 (100% Crop)


The Sigma DP2 Merrill doesn't offer a dedicated Macro setting. The closest distance that you can focus on a subject is 28cms away from the camera when it's set to Full Focus mode. The first image shows how close you can get to the subject (in this case a compact flash card). The second image is a 100% crop.

Macro Shot

100% Crop


The Sigma DP2 Merrill's maximum shutter speed is 15 seconds, which is good news if you're seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 15 seconds ISO 100. I've included a 100% crop of the image to show what the quality is like.

Night Shot

Night Shot (100% Crop)

Color Modes

The Sigma DP2 Merrill offers 7 different color modes.












Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Sigma DP2 Merrill camera, which were all taken using the 46 megapixel Fine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample RAW Images

The Sigma DP2 Merrill enables users to capture RAW and JPEG format files. We've provided some Sigma RAW (X3F) samples for you to download (thumbnail images shown below are not 100% representative).

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample movie at the highest quality setting of 640x480 at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 25 second movie is 38.4 Mb in size.

Product Images

Sigma DP2 Merrill

Front of the Camera

Sigma DP2 Merrill

Front of the Camera / Turned On

Sigma DP2 Merrill

Isometric View

Sigma DP2 Merrill

Isometric View

Sigma DP2 Merrill

Rear of the Camera

Sigma DP2 Merrill

Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed

Sigma DP2 Merrill

Rear of the Camera / Turned On

Sigma DP2 Merrill

Rear of the Camera / Mode Menu

Sigma DP2 Merrill

Rear of the Camera / Quick Menu


Sigma DP2 Merrill

Rear of the Camera / Main Menu

Sigma DP2 Merrill
Top of the Camera
Sigma DP2 Merrill
Bottom of the Camera
Sigma DP2 Merrill
Side of the Camera
Sigma DP2 Merrill
Side of the Camera
Sigma DP2 Merrill
Front of the Camera
Sigma DP2 Merrill
Front of the Camera
Sigma DP2 Merrill
Memory Card Slot
Sigma DP2 Merrill
Battery Compartment


The Sigma DP2 Merrill is a slow, cumbersome, rather unrefined and expensive compact camera that's really only suited to static or slow-moving subjects. Despite all those major misgivings, the images that it produces thanks to the combination of the 30mm fixed lens and the intriguing Foveon X3 sensor are simply outstanding, by far the best images that we've seen from a humble compact camera and even rivaling a DSLR with an equivalent prime lens. The DP2 Merrill may not be the most lovable camera around, but it certainly takes great pictures.

Image quality is the DP2 Merrill's star turn, indeed the principal reason to put up with its numerous other shortcomings. The Foveon X3 sensor, be it 46 megapixel or 15 megapixels, and the prime 30mm lens deliver stunningly sharp, high-resolution images that are a joy to behold. Chromatic aberrations like purple and green-fringing are simply non-existent on the DP2 Merrill, testament to the excellent prime lens, which is also the reason for the almost complete lack of pincushion or barrel distortion, and the fast maximum aperture of f/2.8 is very welcome.

£799 / $999 suddenly starts to look like a bargain if you favour a slower, methodical approach to your photography. The Sigma DP2 Merrill is not a very good camera, but it is an excellent image-making device, so if you can put up with its many foibles and it suits your main subject matter, then we can certainly recommend the Sigma DP2 Merrill and its fantastic image quality.

4 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 3.5
Features 3
Ease-of-use 3
Image quality 5
Value for money 3.5

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Sigma DP2 Merrill from around the web. »

The Sigma DP2 Merrill is an update to the DP2x with a new body and the flagship APS-C foveon sensor from the SD1 / Merrill Digital SLR, although when comparing the DP2x and the new DP2 Merrill, the camera has been redesigned with a new lens, that matches the specification of the Sigma 30mm f/2.8 mirrorless lens and in some ways could be considered the closest Sigma has come to releasing a mirrorless camera. The two new Sigma DPx Merrill cameras now feature f/2.8 lenses, an improvement over the DP1's f/4.0 lens.
Read the full review » »

The Sigma Dp2 Merrill has been in my possession for a while but it is going back. In other words, I am not going to purchase it. But not because of the image quality. Before I even write one more paragraph I have to say that the image quality of this camera is flat-out amazing when shooting at low ISO with good light. I found it better than the Leica X2, Sony NEX-7, or just about any other comparable camera I have shot with in recent times. Using a 46 Megapixel Foveon Sensor, this Sigma DP2 Merrill is the 1st “DP” model I have seriously considered purchasing. With its 30mm f/2.8 lens that is razor-sharp giving you a 45mm f/2.8 equivalent, it is a perfect match to the sensor inside. Sigma also has a DP1 Merrill coming that will feature the same insides but with a 19mm f/2.8 lens giving us a 28mm equivalent.
Read the full review » »

Life used to be simple. If you wanted top image quality you got a big camera with a large sensor (or large film size). If you wanted a camera that could shoot high speed bursts you bought an SLR or DSLR with motor drive. If you wanted small size and light weight you bought a pocket-sized camera and accepted the compromise that a small sensor had to offer.
Read the full review »


Image Sensor Foveon X3 Direct Image Sensor (CMOS)
Image Sensor Size 23.5×15.7mm
Color Photo Detectors Total Pixels: 48MP
Effective Pixels: 46MP (4,800×3,200×3)
Aspect Ratio 3:2
Focal Length 30mm
35mm Equivalent Focal Length Approx.45mm
Lens F number F2.8~F16
Number of Diaphragm Blades 9 Blades
Lens Construction 8 Elements in 6 Groups
Shooting Range 28 cm~8, 100 cm~8 (LIMIT mode)
Maximum Magnification Shooting 1:7.6
Storage Media SD Card, SDHC Card, SDXC Card, Multi Media Card
File Format Lossless compression RAW data (12-bit, High, Medium, Low), JPEG (High, Medium, Low), RAW+JPEG, Movie (AVI)
File Size
RAW High 4,704×3,136×3 (Approx.45 MB)
  Medium 3,264×2,176×3 (Approx.24 MB)
  Low 2,336×1,568×3 (Approx.12 MB)
JPEG High Fine 4,704×3,136 (Approx.10 MB)
    Normal 4,704×3,136 (Approx.5.6 MB)
    Basic 4,704×3,136 (Approx.4.2 MB)
  Medium Fine 3,264×2,176 (Approx.5 MB)
    Normal 3,264×2,176 (Approx.2.7 MB)
    Basic 3,264×2,176 (Approx.2 MB)
  Low Fine 2,336×1,568 (Approx.2.5 MB)
    Normal 2,336×1,568 (Approx.1.4 MB)
    Basic 2,336×1,568 (Approx.  1 MB)
Movie VGA : 640×480 (Image area 640×426)
ISO Sensitivity AUTO (ISO200~ISO800) ISO100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400
White Balance 8 types (Auto, Daylight, Shade, Overcast, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Flash, Custom)
Color Mode 7 types (Standard, Vivid, Neutral, Portrait, Landscape, B&W, Sepia)
Auto Focus Type Contrast Detection Type
AF Point 9 points select mode, Free move mode (It is possible to change the size of Focus Frame to Spot, Regular and Large.)
Focus Lock Shutter release halfway-down position (AF lock can be done by AE lock button from menu setting)
Manual Focus Focus Ring Type
Metering Systems Evaluative Metering, Center-Weighted Average Metering, Spot Metering
Exposure Control System (P) Program AE (Program Shift is possible), (S) Shutter Speed Priority AE, (A) Aperture Priority AE, (M) Manual
Exposure Compensation ±3EV (1/3 stop increments)
AE Lock AE lock button
Auto Bracketing Appropriate, under, over; 1/3EV steps up to ±3EV for appropriate exposure
Shutter Speed 1/2000* - 30sec. (*Depending on the aperture value, shutter speed changes)
Drive Modes Single, Continuous, Self Timer (2sec. /10sec.) Interval timer, Unlimited Shooting
LCD Monitor Type TFT color LCD monitor
Monitor Size 3.0 inches
LCD Pixels Approx. 920,000 Pixels
LCD Monitor Language English/ Japanese/ German/ French/ Spanish/Italian/ Chinese(Simplified)/ Korean/ Russian/ Chinese(Traditional)/ Nederlands/ Polski/ Português/ Dansk/ Svenska/ Norsk/ Suomi
Interfaces USB (USB2.0), Video Out (NTSC/PAL), Audio Out (Monaural)
Power Li-ion Battery BP-41, AC Adapter SAC-5 (with DC Connector CN-11) (Optional)
Battery Life Approx. 97 (+25°c)
Dimensions 121.5mm/4.8"(W),66.7mm/2.6"(H), 59.2mm/2.3"(D)
Weight 355g/12.5oz(without battery and card)
DP2 Merrill Accessories ·Lens Cap (on the camera) ·Hot Shoe Cover (on the camera) ·Strap ·Li-ion Battery BP-41 (2 pieces) ·Battery Charger BC-41 ·Battery Charger Cable (It is included only when the type of Battery charger is “Inlet” type.) ·USB Cable ·Audio Video Cable ·SIGMA Photo Pro Disc ·Instruction Manual ·Limited Warranty ·Warranty Sticker

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