Dec 212012
 

A Mini user review of Sigma Dp1 & DP2 Merril

I thought it would be interesting for everybody to have a look at some work done with the Sigma DP1 and DP2 Merrill cameras. I also shoot with a Leica M9 and various lenses but at 68 and wearing glasses I find it harder and harder to focus when necessary (i.e., when not using zone/hyper focal technique.) The Sigma DP1 (19 mm lens) and DP2 (30 mm lens) Merrill’s are simple, little black boxes that seem well constructed and sturdy. Autofocus is just about as fast and accurate as a NEX-7. All autofocus systems are problematic including, I’ve read, the Nikon D800E. I use my Sigma’s with optical viewfinders which gives a speed and fluidity similar to using the Leica with a wide-angle lens but a little more assurance in focus. When precise framing is necessary the back LCD serves well enough. The menu/control system of the camera is spare and Leica-like. There is PASM, EV adjustments, iso adjustment in 1/3 stops and not much else. There is a movie mode but I don’t use it so I can’t comment. Definitely more photographer than engineer-oriented. Definitely few features.

Sigma Photo Pro (SPP) is the RAW developer that has to be used as ACR/Lightroom does not (and maybe will not) support Sigma/Foveon. Iridient will be coming out with a raw developer that will develop dp1/2m files in a few weeks but generally I’ve found that using SPP with a few minor adjustments and then batch converting to TIFFs to be completely satisfactory. The TIFFs are then imported into Lightroom 4 which handles them as usual. I see no degradation of image between Lightroom manipulation of the TIFF and straight processing through SPP. Sigma has also been very quick in providing updates: 2 upgrades to SPP and 3 firmware updates between the two cameras since I’ve owned them.

As has been reported elsewhere (see Michael Reichman’s reviews at Luminous Landscape) the image quality produced by the tiny Merrill’s is extraordinary. I’ve never seen detail like this before from any camera and certainly not from the M9 or NEX-7. The color is true, saturated and satisfying. The lenses are good and do not limit the sensor.

As is also well-known, the camera really only functions well at very low iso– 100 or 200. I’ve done a modest amount of work at iso 800 which is passable but things go well at even higher iso if converted to B&W and then “de-noised” in Lightroom or even SPP.

Richard Geltman

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  70 Responses to “USER REPORT: A Mini User Review of the Sigma DP1 & DP2 Merrill by Richard Geltman”

  1. Amazing quality.. If it wasn’t for the look of F1.4 on M9 I would seriously consider one.

  2. Richard, i’ve been using the DP2 Merrill and have found the images to be exceptional. Like you I have not shot over iso 800, but still find the colors and sharpness of the camera to be quite exceptional. This little beasty of a camera has been quite an eye opener. I believe that Sigma built their fixed lenses to the sensors strengths and it shows in the images the camera produces. I do like your action images, particularly of the man coming out of the subway. Well done.

  3. Might just be my display but the colors look a little undersaturated (especially the shot of the flowers and the fruit in the grocery store). I do like the rendering/sharpness.

    • Expand the images and the color changes. Not sure why the unexpanded images are so dull.

      • I have seen that on occasion here before (now I know it is not only my perception). Steve – could you look into that?

      • Interesting; the images look much better in the browser (Safari 6.0.2) version of the images than they did in the email version (which is what I based my comment on). Particularly the flowers. The market is still a bit undersaturated (except the pumpkins at the back of the store). Maybe it’s just the light the image was recorded in. Still like the render and sharpness. And thanks for taking the time to do this review.

  4. To me, it looks as if the detail is so precise that the colors could seem undersaturated. That can always be remedied post processing to your individual taste. But to me these photos appear to be as true as true could be. I wonder whether you get such good results with flash, because a lot of my photos are family indoors of kids or pets moving around. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Have you used the X3 fill-light much or at all? Maybe it’s my monitor but the shadow details, aside from the graffiti walls and flower shots, could be brought out a bit. The flowers look fine as-is. It seems you like the dp1m for its wider coverage. Any comments on the EF-610 Super?

  6. Hi,

    I really like the desaturated colors (as opposed to most people oversaturating). Really nice tonal contrast on some of those pics.
    Pic #2 has a real good vibe to it.
    Although I really like the pics, I woul try avoiding posting postprocessed pictures (if they are) when doing a user report and would try to post more ooc photos.

    • Due to my inexperience ..and probably not reading Steve’s instructions.. the jpegs were uploaded as Prophoto rather than sRGB. As he explained to me, this results in significant desaturation. The colors of the jpegs either out of the camera but particularly with entirely neutral processing in SPP is much, much more vivid. If anything, often some decrease in vibrance/saturation in LR4, particularly for red/orange, is necessary.

      RG

  7. I’m sure the images are full of detail but these images seem sort of muted and greenish.

  8. Can you please tell use what eye viewer you are using? Is it a standard hot shoe so any of the shoe mount viewers will work? Thanks.

    • I use the Voightlander 40 mm viewfinder. It is completely adequate and you quickly get used to its limitations.

  9. “All autofocus systems are problematic including, I’ve read, the Nikon D800E”. I have not had a single problem with the autofocus system of my Olympus EM-5. I know what you mean though, the AF systems of most DSLR camera’s are not as accurate as we would like. That’s one more reason I love the EM-5 so much.

  10. I’d love to use that camera for landscapes.

  11. To all the people saying the colors look muted. Try opening the image, for me it made the colors so much more vibrant and realistic. It could be due to the monitor(like mine for some reason)

  12. Oh I see what happened…. @Richard Geltman

    Resave your images using sRgb instead of Adobe or Prophoto. Unless Steve’s server has image magik installed the colors will be off due to some compression. Saving in the open sRgb format solves this issue.

  13. You’ve really thrown a spanner in my works ! I thought I’d just decided to buy a Fuji X100 as my passport to a simpler style of photography. But thanks, I’ve been fascinated by the foveon concept for a long time Am still not sure I can sacrifice high ISO performance…..

  14. Nice shots, especially the street stuff.

  15. …I cannot see anything… special… why posting the pictures at such a low resolution :-(

  16. thanks for the review, short and to the point!

    i have been a big fan of sigma cameras fora long time, and on-off user. i really liked my old dp1 and dp2, quirks and all, when it came to image quality they had few competitors (i never cared for high ISO performance anyway).

    i even bought the sd1 when it came out (sold it soon after, i simply cannot bring myself to enjoy shooting with a dslr), same sensor as the dp1 and 2 merril; 2 issues really bothered me, you mentioned one (the lack of LR support), and the humongous size of the files (the whole download/convert raw into tiff, import into LR was becoming tedious); did you not find them a little cumbersome?

    on the other hand, the amount of detail one gets is really something else! you can enlarge as much as you want.

  17. Where’s the point if the camera is only good for iso 100-200? Sigma must be smoking some tainted stuff these days.

    • I think if you would be able to see a good RAW conversion you would be astonished by the resolution. But, I agree, the camera is for particular circumstances. Within its capabilities it produces results like none other (affordable.)

      • Ok…so then what’s next? A camera that has just the best iso 3200 and nothing else? How about then a camera that has the best handling and nothing else? Or a camera with the fastest AF but stinks in all other catagories? uh…ok. The more folks buy and SUPPORT one trick pony items such as this the more one trick pony cameras they will make. I guess there are truly suckers born every minute in this world.

        • Base ISO is of much more use than ISO 3200 for most photographers. At base ISO, this camera is the best you can buy at anything close to its size. All cameras are a compromise. If you can’t use it, no problem, just buy another one!

        • No need to be a jerk, its only a camera. Its good to have choices in life. Nobody is forcing you to buy anything.

          • Dude, the man is not saying it`s great camera. He simply says it takes great pictures at 100-200 ISO. 30-40 years ago National Geographic photographers took great pictures using Kodachromes 64 and 200. So don`t play dumb smart, take a walk and photograph what you can and not what you could if your camera had this and that and blah, blah, blah.

            • agreed 100%! unfortunately the one person you are directing this remark to is not listening; we are at the presence of one of those many internet geniuses who can simply assess, criticize and dismiss a camera without ever trying one in real life, never mind seeing one or – gasp – owning it!

              let’s just hope they get tired of sharing their infinite wisdom here with us and move on to some other sites where they can keep pontificating!

              happy holidays, everyone, and thank you again for the report, Richard!

            • Try to remember what you said the next time you buy a new car and 90% of it’s functions and feature suck shit. If any other manufacturer made a camera like the dp and sucked 90%, they would be crucified. So what going on here, are people now turining a blind eye to obvious galring faults only because it has good 100 iso? Excuse me, I didn’t know that Sigma was Leica now, where lack of technology and obvious faults were ignored and praised.

              If let’s say, the Nikon d800 or d600 had only one good usable iso people whould have started a lynch mob over it. If a Rebel t41 could only expose less than 60 shots or so, folks would have been up in arms. And now comes along this DP camera and all it’s faults are supposed to be blindly overlooked because somehow iso 100 is good? News flash, most if not all low iso’s in apsc modern cameras are damn good.

              It’s a shit camera, but it’s worth is because the low iso is great and everything else sucks…that’s is such an awesome marketing selling point. I hope folks rememeb the dp the next time they buy a TV with only one Channel.

              • I bought a lime green new 911 Targa the other day. Good for cornering and speeding. Bad for heavy traffic, taking kids to school, carrying skiing gear, carrying surfing gear, carrying biking gear, going fishing, going out with my 3 best friends, saving gas, etc, etc, etc. You know what? I have another car for all those duties. Not all cars have to be vans. Cheer up, Nico Foto, get a DP and enjoy.

              • You have no idea what you’re talking about do you? This dp isnt a car, it isnt even a van. it’s a car that has shit eveything and one good gear. It’s van that has shit everything and one good gear. Does your car run on only one gear? Does it? Do drive on the 1st gear ? Does your car need a tripod for you to drive around in your car?

                The dp is shit, i can get great iso 100 with any and i mean any apsc camera. I dont need to fork out about a grand for that POS. You may and you probably did, but just because you can accept the cameras shit faults doesnt mean it’s not a shit camera.Is that how you juedge cameras now? If we go by your method than every camera every made is great because every camera has at least one good thing about it.

                so if the DP is great because f one good feature, what does that make the rest of the cameras that can do everything well? Crap? I guess the Sigma is so bad it good.Oh, i get it, it’s some kind of ghetto jargin. It’s so SHIT it’s GOOD! I see, I understand now, i got it all wrong. Well, we’ll just have to ask Steve to review cameras based on ONE feature and ONE only. Who needs to review a camera on the basis of eVERYTHING when one thing will do. I get it now! LOL

              • Ease up dude! You’re really taking someone else’s choice in cameras (and opinions) personally! The DP works for OP, and he makes good pictures with the camera, so Godspeed to him. I know you may find this really hard to believe, but you DON’T have to buy the DP, if you think it sucks, which you obviously do.

                Also, this is not a Communist government here and Uncle Sam is not dictating which products succeed. The last time I checked, the free market is quite efficient – “shit products” will be tossed to the garbage heaps of history. Just because the OP likes the DP doesn’t mean that the greater market will agree and therefore, encourage other “one-trick ponies” (as you term it). But, if the market wants “one-trick ponies” then supply will ensure it gets those as well.

                Point is, chill out – no need to launch you blood pressure over someone else’s choice of gear. Here’s my suggestion for you – get out and take some pictures with your preferred choice of gear, admire your own work, drink a glass of wine and maybe smoke a joint, get laid, and then RELAX and let others be.

              • Obviously, I don’t, Nico Foto. And thanks for reminding me that CAR’S GEAR=ISO. I had forgotten that, my god! All this years of education and I go and fully forget that. ISO=GEAR, GEAR=ISO. Great. Thanks.

              • you are wasting your time trying to have a conversation with that guy, he obviously knows it all already

              • One question, after hearing so much shitty remarks about DP1. I wonder if you actually know and ever used this camera. You know the stuff about backseat driver, don`t you?

            • I see my post was misplaced, don`t know how. It was meant as an answer to Nico Foto Backbencher.

          • I wasnt being a jerk if my first msg didnt go through. You’re just being an over sensitive cry baby, that’s all.

            Hey, don’t get over sensitive again now, after all, you called me a jerk first. I’m only being a fair and equal opportunity name caller for you.

        • Nico Foto, I doubt that any camera will ever be a strictly ‘one trick pony’, but the essence of your point is valid. For example, my Fuji X-100 would likely fall into your estimation as a ‘one trick pony’ camera, but it does serve me extremely well for 95% of my photography. I’m certain that the Leica Monochrom, arguably another ‘one trick pony’ with its B&W only sensor, serves its owners extremely well. If anyone ever brings out a camera that does ISO 3200 extremely well, and other ISO’s merely adequately, it too will find its share of users who shoot primarily night street photography for instance.
          By buying and supporting such ‘one trick ponies’ will other manufacturers continue to create them? I certainly hope so. Such cameras will never appeal to anyone who wants a camera that can do anything at any time, but not everyone wants such a camera. In fact, those of us who use these ‘one trick ponies’ find them not limiting, but liberating.

          • Oh man you folks have got to be kidding.I’m almost getting gas at this point. Now a camera that is only good at iso 100 and shit in every other iso is ” liberating” and a” choice” ? So now you folks are so afraid of critcizing a camera even the biggest fault with a camera is a good thing? Is that what camera fanship has come to, that glaring weaknesses are a good thing?
            So what if the iso is “comparable ” to the nikon d80?. If you go by that then the fuji xpro 1 is said to be comparable to most FF sensors. So why not just buy the xpro 1 and “PRETEND” that it only has good 100 iso. Oh no, you guys have to fall in love with the fact that the iso 100 in the dp is now what its all about? LOL. Man I dont get you guys. You criticize cameras for every little fault but then comes along a camera with one good iso and it’s a god-send? LOL

            And….what is the point of having a camera with great iso 100 and it’s small size when you have to lug a big ass tripod around in order to use iso 100. I guess the dp isn’t going to be good on cloudy days with a tripod eh? Oh, wait, that’s not a problem..it”s ” LIBERATING!” LOL.

            • Nico Foto, it seems you are critical of the DP because it will not work for you. If you need a camera that offers quality at higher ISO’s, then you should choose something different. I could not use one either, because I shoot mostly on cloudy and rainy days; that’s just the type of photography I do. But for someone who shoots landscapes on sunny days, it might serve them perfectly. Back in the film days, I shot ISO 100 film for many years, and I have never owned a tripod. It was never a problem.
              I’m certainly not afraid to criticise cameras when suggesting one for friends. For example, my own camera sucks for shooting sports; it doesn’t focus fast enough. But I don’t shoot sports. It isn’t very good for wildlife, no telephoto. But I don’t shoot wildlife either. It is OK for portraits, but other cameras do it better. I rarely shoot portraits.
              For what I do, it is perfect nearly all the time. This does not mean I would recommend it for you, though. It is not a do everything camera.
              So why is this liberating? I don’t need to carry a whole lot of different lenses and other things to go out and take pictures, just my small camera. I know what I shoot, and the X-100 is excellent –for me.
              You, apparently, need a much more versatile camera. So you should eliminate all these ‘one trick ponies’ from your shopping list, and buy something that will suit you. I really don’t see your point in criticising the choices of others, though. Many people are very happy with what they have for what they do, and have little to no use for what other cameras may have to offer.
              I don’t think anyone would suggest that the DP Merrill is good for everything, but it just might be exactly the right tool for what they do. What is so wrong with that?

              • I agree with you, The camera is a piece of shit, what more can one say?

              • Ill stick with my earlier assesment. You need to interact with more people in the real world as your written social skills are painfully lacking. If you have a point to make its more likely people will listen if you start out with a bit of tact and respect. Rudeness causes others to shut down to your input.

                Happy new year.

              • Same to Dan. My social skills? who called who a jerk? Looks like that’s the feces calling shit smelly. You need to stop being such an oversenstive baby and a hippocrte to boot. Don’t hate on me cause you can’t handel the truth about the dp. Any other camera maker who makes a camera with ONE good iso and I bet you’ll be taking the piss on it like no tomorrow. But if Sigma makes a camera with one good iso you think it’s some god send? Give me a freaking break man. Hey b ecareful what you ask fo, cause if camera makers decided to do it like Sigma and make crap cameras with only one good feature, dont cry about it then,r

              • It’s not because it’s sigma, or people are blind. This cameras do one thing better than anything remotely close to their price range, which is outstanding image quality and detail at low iso. Now, that doesn’t make it right for everybody, or even a good camera. What that makes them is terrific cameras for some people, or at least the best options available.
                Do you know of any other camera for this price or of this size which can rival the D800E image quality for landscape?

                And I’m very happy people support this different cameras. Most cameras you can buy are pretty much the same, I’m glad there are choices to serve different taste or purposes.

        • I’ve always tended to the quirky in many areas of my life and I’m grateful that the market tends not to limit those choices very much. I’ve been fortunate to have owned a Topcon D– one of the earliest auto exposure film 35 mm cameras. Also a used Leica M3, Mamiya 6 with 50 mm wide angle lens and a Plaubel Makina 7– a great 6 x 7 cm folder. These last two were the fastest street shooters (zone focused using Xp1 or 2 film) ever and with a gorgeous large negative capable of enormous enlargement. I still print very large (as I said, fortunate) off some of those negatives from more than 20 years ago. The idea of not purchasing an item like this to “teach” Sigma a lesson seems bizarre. Don’t buy the camera if you’re not interested or it doesn’t meet your needs. For me, the resolution, simplicity and, yes, speed of handling in many situations far outweighs its obvious limitations.

          • You’re trying to hard to keep your job at Sigma, bro. Although there will be some who will buy a pet rock, the world hasn’t gone that stupid yet…well maybe in the NRA.

          • Now I can partially understand how your photos are so great; You’ve photographed for long time with lovely gears, M3, Mamiya 6 and Plaubel Makina. These may be the best choice to make the kinds of photos that you showed here. I love your pictures so much, including (under?)saturation of the colors. Well, of course, we can easily find pictures of DP2/1M which colors are highly saturated, and someone suggested high saturation of the color is the one of the characteristics Foveon can provide. However, my personal choice is the color of yours. Sorry for my poor usage of English.

  18. Thanks for reminding the world how unique these cameras are. I have a dp2 Merrill and still can’t believe how much detail the little box records. Very special but definitely challenging! My personal observations are that over exposure can be corrected in raw easily while shadow recovery is not ideal. I now also always turn down the ‘luminance noise’ correction to the minimum: even more detail! Another consequence is that it then becomes useable behond ISO800 with only random gray noise showing up. Otherwise the SPP correction seems to smear this and the detail away.

  19. Are there filter threads on the Merrill cameras? Because I can imagine that a polarizer or an ND grad could be useful for landscape work on such a small yet high quality camera.

    • 49mm it is.
      I can vouch for the file quality. My M9 files are very very good but this Merrill thing, at this price point and APS size, I have to say that the Merrill is better in some way.

  20. “Sigma Photo Pro (SPP) is the RAW developer that has to be used as ACR/Lightroom does not (and maybe will not) support Sigma/Foveon.”

    Lightroom *does* work with the Sigma’s.. the difference between the two are negligible.

    I liked the Sigma’s, but I think the newer stuff coming in the future (regarding Fovean) should offer more performance. If you work *within* the parameters of the DPx’s performance- you will be happy.

    Also- the B&W comes out nice with NIK, too.

  21. Haven’t shot with one of these, but have seen amazing HUGE prints from a local photographer whose blog I follow. I saw the prints in the photography store he manages. This and his OM-D are his current cameras. Sold the big Canon.

  22. Pics are too small to rate an IQ. Thx anyway.

  23. I just used the DP1M for a few days, besides the low iso n the LCD cannot be used under the sun, the picture quality compensates for all its shortfall; and using along side the RX1, it’s quite a nice combo, I am seriously considering the DP2M as well. Thanks for the review!

  24. I use Firefox on my iMac, and here too the shots came out a bit grey and dull in the email, while the site’s version was so much better – and downloading the individual shots might been a step up again – same size though (no links to full-size versions).

  25. Great timing for this article as I just bought a DP2M from B&H and had it shipped to me in Australia hopefully before Xmas but may miss by a day! I have an M8 with ZM glass but the shots of the DP2 that I have seen convinced me to get one.

    I sold my 5DMkII last year and have tried a succession of smaller cameras since including Sony 5N, X100 (fantastic but didn’t like the 35mm FOV), Panny GF2, Epson RD-1 (awesome camera just not enough MP) and many others.

    I think I can deal with the shortcomings of the camera, which is mainly the high ISO for my use, but we shall see.

    I also recently bought an old Yashica Mat 124G and have been using Portra 400 so in a strange way I am going to be under the same rules of use regarding working around a limited set of parameters to get a shot.

  26. Thank you for great pictures and review.

    I’m always smiling whenever I see great details this little DP2M makes.
    I ordered a DP1M, too.

    I can simply smile, thinking I may need another camera when I need high iso or night shots.

  27. I’m fairly new to digital photography but had much experience with film photography. Landscape photography is one of my interests and that is why this camera caught my attention. It’s clear that it captures excellent detail. I was also impressed with a photo on Luminous Landscape with the way the DP1 captured subtle tone gradations which seemed to be lost with another camera (I think the FujiX100) and gave a more three dimensional look to the image. Now my question. I got the impression from reading these posts that the image quality degrades if you must shoot on cloudy days (with tripod) using long exposures at low iso. Is that true or did I interpret some of these posts incorrectly.?,

  28. nice shots……I have the DP2 merrill my self and having tried many other compacts find it the most
    satisfying compact since the film days of con tax T3……you have to work around the rather leisurely autofocus, but all in all hats off to sigma !!…..and to you steve for a consistently interesting site !

  29. A very good review. I have the DP2M and the quality of images that come out of the DP2M is amazing.
    I normally shoot a Leica M8 but when I want landscape quality I shoot my DP2M and a tripod.

  30. Scratch the question above about the long exposures. I got the answer to that and the kind of long exposures I was thinking of are not a problem at all. The Sigma DP1 @ 2 Merrill look like interesting cameras for landscapes on a tripod and image quality for the price point is attractive. All the shortcomings mentioned about these cameras are relatively meaningless for landscape photography. I don’t have lots of money for photo equipment these days. In the past I used medium format film cameras which I don’t have any more. I was never thrilled with the quality of 35 mm film for landscapes.

    It’s hard to understand how Sigma could design such a utilitarian looking box of camera with no grip. It sort of looks unfriendly to the hand. I would use it with an L bracket attached anyway which would give it more grip to handle. I’ll have to check it out at B&H next time I I’m in that area.

  31. I love the DP2M as the only digital camera worthy of being my film cameras’ companion. My phone would do the occasional cheap shots. Overall, the dp2m has the most incredible color-sharpness sensor existent. Some examples (all taken at iso 100):

    It handles difficult reds well like this flower: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hawaiiankava/8306082102/
    Yellows, too: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hawaiiankava/8243486812/in/photostream
    And incredible details, like this koa tree from afar: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hawaiiankava/8263104389/sizes/o/in/photostream/

    Hopefully there will be more advancement from Sigma/Foveon, as every other sensor out there is crap – with respect to the aforementioned qualities.

  32. Find the pics abt dull on the page, but after opening the pics, they comes alive. Realli nice.

    Used to own a DP1s. Tempted to buy a DP1m when the prices comes down.

    The DP camera always gave amazing colours and photos. Something not found in other camera.

  33. Happy New Year, dear readers! My cameras of the year 2012 are: Sigma DP1 Merrill, Sigma DP2 Merrill, and Leica X2. I bought all three within the past four months and love (LOVE!) them! Yes, the Sigma’s are not made for low light shooting, but when used with good light, the results are astonishing. The Leica X2 is a leap forward compared to the X1 as far as speed is concerned. I also really like the EVF and didn’t regret buying it (although the price is high). $ 4500 for these three cameras was well spent. My New Year’s resolution: Take more photographs than ever before.

  34. I hope everyone saw your photo of the guy running up the stairs. On Deviant Art photo site that image would have attracted a great deal of praise, the timing, the decisive moment, is captured extremely well. So can the Dp cams capture street images? You tell me.

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