Mar 172014
 

The Sigma Macro 70mm F2,8 EX DG

By Gunnar Lahmann

I am a daily reader of Steves blog since the beginning of last year and it has been great fun and great advice since. Considering myself an amateur with ambitions, I shoot a great variety of motives like cityscapes, portraiture, weddings and also landscapes (when on vacation). An essential part of my equipment is the Sigma MAKRO 70mm F2.8 EX DG. (Here at Amazon)

I believe the Sigma 70mm is somewhat of an underdog. A pretty well-known German professional photographer called Eberhard Schuy pointed the lens out to me. He is specialized in product and still life photography and uses the lens for a great deal in his work. And he is not the only person that I know who claims that the 70mm is one of the sharpest lenses around (including myself). So today, I want to cut the Sigma MAKRO 70mm F2.8 EX DG some slack, because I believe that it is an excellent purchase for the shooter on a budget.

My budget was exactly one of the main reasons why I bought this lens back in 2012. Besides the moderate pricing (~500$ or ~470€) it came along with other great attributes: light weight, rather compact size (for a full frame DSLR lens), very good bokeh, hardly any distortion, low vignetting, almost no aberrations and the already mentioned image sharpness.

The built quality is very good and the focus ring never gave me any reason to complain. But, of course, it is not a Zeiss or Leica lens and it cannot reach the smoothness of those lenses. Also, every potential buyer should consider the fact that the lens has no USM drive for auto focusing. So using a Nikon you have to live with the fact that the focus rings turns when focusing. And of course, it makes some noise.

Personally the shortcomings of the lens never bothered me at all. I even did sport photography with it, because auto focusing is fast enough even with the Nikon motor drive. Also the barrel of the lens is long enough to prevent the hand from getting in the way with the turning focus ring.

Most of all, I always end up with an outstanding image quality. From shooting many low light situations with the lens, I have learned that to prefer it over my 50mm f1.4 for example. Sometimes I have the feeling that people step away from MAKRO lenses, because they are not as fast as portrait lenses. Judging from what I see in Lightroom the image sharpness and the plus in resolution make a much more pleasing image compared to shots I do at f1.4 and f1.8 combined with high ISO’s. The image noise feels less when I am shooting with the Sigma.

That is how I ended up using the lens mainly for portrait and documentary style photography and only very little for MAKRO images. Until today I believe I made an excellent choice in 2012 and I hope my images can underline this. I will show a pretty wild selection of pictures to show the different ways I use the lens. So if come around the lens, pick it up and check it out.

http://www.gunnarlahmann.com/

1567: ISO 200, f8, 1/160sec, Nikon D700

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2146: Berlin, the new Waldorf Astoria, f8

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2819: Stuttgart car park, ISO 400, f2.8, 1/90 sec

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3047: Julia, ISO 200, f3.0, 1/320 sec.

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4021: Castle Hohenzollern, ISO 100, f8.0, 1/160 sec.

the castle of all castles

 4039: OKM Mannheim harbor, ISO 6400, f4.0, 1/25 sec.

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5745: Stuttgart Zoo, ISO 4000, f3.0, 1/160 sec

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5758: Stuttgart Zoo, ISO 1600, f2.8, 1/160 sev

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7365: flower ISO 100, f3.2, 1/1500 sec.

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8790: Emma, ISO 400, f4, 1/400 sec.

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9860: Berlin government district, ISO 200, f8 1/400 sec

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Feb 102014
 

mainquat

The new Sigma Dp Quattro – Cutting edge design meets Foveon.

So most of you probably have already seen the new Sigma DP Quattro which came out of left field surprising many with the all original and oddball design. Yep, Sigma is taking their DP series to a new high with a new sensor, higher resolution, faster speeds and an all new body designed to be comfortable to shoot. From the looks of it I have to say that this may be the very 1st Sigma that I buy. I personally LOVE LOVE LOVE this design. It is all original, nothing like it. A+ for that. It looks sleek, slick, and serious. A+ for  that. It houses the amazing Sigma Foveon sensor which will render in a Medium Format kind of way (as we saw in the last series of cameras) with rich color and crazy detail while supplying nice dynamic range and tonality. A+ for that.

But what about the #1 thing that killed the last DP series? SPEED.

jj

Well, thanks to a new processor Sigma says these new line of Quattro cameras are much faster which means if the AF is fast and the processing is fast then this will be ONE HELL of a camera for travel or anyone wanting high quality in a small nice form.

They are even offering an optical viewfinder for those that want the option.

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If the speed is up, the quality is still there and the battery life is better then this camera will be mine, even if I use it twice a year because I find it beautiful and I love originality. I am sure will find it ugly but some will appreciate the design.

The 1st of the three new Quattro cameras will be released with a 20 MP Foveon X3 sensor, the new faster True III processor and a 30 f/2.8 lens attached. This will be the new DP2 Quattro. The DP1 will come in with a 19mm lens and the DP3 will come equipped with a 50mm lens. There is a new battery for this guy so I am guessing it will offer much better shooting time. I just hope the camera is made well and feels good.

quatro1

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No price or availability has been announced as of yet but I will keep you all informed as these will be reviewed right here. To see the last Sigma DP review click HERE.

 

Apr 222013
 

Sigma DP Merrill Comparison & Review

by Ben Evans

titledpmerril

Which DP Merrill camera is best?

After much deliberation, I decided to get both the Sigma DP1 Merrill and DP3 Merrill. They make a great combination.

The DP1m is a great walk-about camera if you’re prepared to compromise in order to get amazing image quality.

The DP3m offers medium-format beating photos for stationary subjects if you fuss about stitching images together.

Otherwise, get the Sigma DP2m as a compromise, or decide whether a wide-angle or short telephoto lens fits you best. The battery life on all the cameras is abysmal so you’ll need lots of spares.

You can download this full-resolution photograph and print it for your personal use to see what the fuss is about:

SDIM0051 (3)

Wide-angle lens DP1m

+ Capture the whole scene without having to stitch images

+ Much easier to frame images and wider depth of field

- A little more distortion and slightly softer corners

- Limited to 14.8 megapixels for most scenes

 

Standard lens DP2m

+ The ‘Goldilocks’ best of both worlds – not too wide nor too telephoto

+ Matches the perspective of our eyes so ‘seeing’ is more intuitive

- The perspective can be a bit boring so it’s tricky to take interesting photos

- f2.8 is a slow aperture for a standard lens

 

Short telephoto lens DP3m

+ Can stitch multiple image mosaics to achieve medium-format beating quality

+ Effectively no distortion and incredible sharpness. Perfect for portraits

- A big too telephoto for most applications

- Camera shake more likely with the longer, unstabilised lens

 

The Sigma DP Merrill Series Camera Review and Comparison

Change a little, change a lot and so while the DP Merrill cameras are practically triplets bar their different focal length fixed lenses, they’re altogether different to shoot with.

All of these cameras share the X3 Foveon APSc sized sensor which Sigma first featured in their over-priced SD1 dSLR. They’d initially gone after the medium format market; and now this same sensor has had three compact bodies built around it.

They have boasting rights to 46 megapixels, but you’ll only get 14.85 megapixels to print. Red, green and blue are captured at three different layers, similar to film and unlike the Bayer sensors you’re probably used to.

In practice, this novel sensor gives incredible acutance (everything looks very clear when you zoom in) which gives a feeling of realism; a world away from the cartoonish airbrushed look many cameras have.

Sigma DP3 M

holistic-photography-sigma-x3-foveon-dp1-merrill-camera-street-photography-detail-crop

The colours look great too; more natural. They don’t have the hyper-real, overly saturated look. Rich colours look rich; and subdued colours look subdued. Skin tones look amazing, especially in ‘Neutral’ mode.

The design also means that the low-light capabilities aren’t competitive and you’ll be limited to ISO 200 for quality results. Higher ISO sensitivities lose detail and saturation; this is no Nikon D4 nor Fujifilm X-Pro1.

Sigma DP3 Night Photography Bokeh

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The bottom line is that while not full-frame, the Foveon sensor competes with everything up to medium format digital at ISO 100, especially if you fuss about and stitch multiple images together to increase the overall resolution. I’ve not seen any moire.

But, as Leica would claim after the disappointment of their M9′s DXOMark test, a sensor isn’t much without great lenses. Fortunately, the DP Merrill cameras are well provided for, and each lens is a true gem.

Moreover, they’re prime lenses matched to the camera they’re fixed to, allowing for phenomenal quality. If you associate Sigma lenses as being a cheap option, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Even though they’re tiny, there aren’t many lenses ever made that can match them.

Sigma DP1 for Sreet

holistic-photography-sigma-x3-foveon-dp2-merrill-camera-street-photography-monochrom

Part of the reason that they’re able to be so small is that each lens has a maximum aperture of f2.8, which isn’t particularly fast nor competitive. They are sharp wide-open at f2.8 however, which helps. Each lens has a minimum aperture of f16.

The lenses have a tendency to introduce green and pink flare when the sun is included in the frame. Sure, this might allow for some serendipity in ‘Art’, but actually you’re better off to use a lens hood to mitigate this, at least a little.

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So you have three options to choose from. A wide-angle, a standard lens and a short telephoto. Forget the model numbers or the release date; the latest DP3m is no better than the DP1m, it’s just different.

The Sigma DP1m has a 19mm lens, equivalent to a wide-angle ~28mm on full frame because of the 1.5x crop factor. The Sigma DP2m has a 30mm lens, which is equivalent to a standard 45mm. The Sigma DP3m has a 50mm lens, equivalent to a 75mm short telephoto lens.

None of the lenses are optically stabilised nor is image stabilisation available in-camera. You’ll have to be a lot more steady at shutter speeds below 1/80s with these cameras than with the Olympus OM-D, for example.

This fits the trend of poor performance in low light. Image quality up to ISO200 is breathtaking. Detail and saturation diminish quickly after ISO400 as noise increases. Noise is a little more ‘film-like’ than Bayer sensor cameras if you convert the photos to black and white; but it’s still very digital and not attractive.

I recommend using a tripod with the DP Merrill cameras to get the most out of them. ISO100, f8 and be there. There’s no remote release so you’ll need to use the self timer to avoid camera shake. There’s also no bulb mode, so shutter speeds are limited to thirty seconds. However, you’ll be able to use a much lighter carbon-fibre tripod because of the camera’s size; this makes a big practical difference as you’re more likely to use it.

holistic-photography-sigma-x3-foveon-dp2-merrill-camera-night-long-exposure

DP Merrill Camera Features

The DP Merrill cameras all have fixed prime lenses, so they can’t zoom.

E.g. Leica M series, Fuji X-E1/X-Pro1, Sony’s NEX series, all dSLRs.

+ Access a wider range of different focal lengths with the same camera

+ A broken lens doesn’t mean a broken camera

- Dust ingress requires cleaning the sensor

- Bigger lenses

 

E.g. DP Merrill series, Sony’s RX1, Pentax MX1

+ Matched to the sensor for better image quality

+ Never have to clean the sensor

- Restricted by the focal length of the lens

- If the lens gets scratched, it can’t be easily replaced[/fancy_box]

It was restrictive to use only one focal length and not have the option to change lenses. That said, photographers have managed to create amazing photographs with these limitations. A lot of Leica M users stick to a favourite prime lens (35mm or 50mm perhaps) and use nothing else. I used the wide-angle DP1m and short telephoto DP3m together; they make a great combination at a still-reasonable price.

Other than the lenses, which features are worth mentioning? There’s some good news, some bad news and some you-decide news.

The good news is that the cameras use a leaf shutter. This means that taking the pictures is effectively silent; invaluable for many genres of photography. It also allows you to synchronize a flash at higher speeds. The Sigma DP Merrill cameras sync at 1/1250s at f2.8, 1/1600s at f4 and a rapid 1/2000s at f5.6! In practice, this means that you can easily darken the ambient light, use larger apertures and less flash power. Most pro dSLR cameras have a maximum sync speed of 1/250s.

Sigma DP3 with Flash

holistic-photography-sigma-x3-foveon-dp1-dp2-merrill-camera-flash

The bad news is that the battery life is terrible. I’ve managed 125 Raw+Jpeg photos with one battery, but that’s exceptional. Sigma provides a spare, but you’ll need to get lots of batteries. Thankfully, they’re cheap and small. A power adaptor exists for studio use; so one would hope that some enterprising chap will create an external battery pack.

The you-decide news is how the camera looks and feels. It’s been built around the sensor and that shows. It looks like a compact digital camera from a decade ago; boxy and basic. I found myself explaining to clients, unasked, about the amazing image quality. If a camera is a fashion accessory, go with a Leica. If you want to look ‘pro’, get a Nikon D4 or Canon 1Dx. Otherwise, it’s a ‘secret’ weapon, able to get amazing quality photographs in a camera that looks amateur; this is huge for documentary photographers, for example.

holistic-photography-sigma-x3-foveon-dp3-side-lighting

The body is small and light, especially considering the APSc sensor. The DP3m’s lens is slightly larger so it’s less pocketable than the other two. All three DP Merrill cameras are made from aluminium – which weighs more than magnesium alloy, and is more liable to dent. The camera feels solid like it would survive a tumble; but it’s not weather-sealed so you’ll need to protect it in heavy storms.

The menus are essentially identical on all of the cameras. They’re well set up for photographers. I particularly liked the two ‘quick’ menus, which gave customizable access to the controls I’d need when photographing. The exposure modes are changed via a button on the top of the camera.

In Manual Exposure mode, you can set the top wheel to adjust either the shutter speed or aperture. This was very handy; I set it to change aperture when I was shooting with studio flashes, and shutter speed otherwise. Otherwise, the variables are controlled via the back buttons; which was okay but I’d prefer two wheels. The wheel on top feels precise but fluid and can be controlled with a finger or thumb.

In Aperture Mode the wheel controls the aperture or the exposure compensation. This allows you to set the aperture to the sharpest aperture for the lens (which differs between cameras but f6.3 will be great) then use the wheel to adjust exposure compensation. This is very quick in practice. The over/under-exposure is shown numerically, which I liked.

Metering is very good with a slight tendency to underexpose to preserve highlights. However, shadows lose a bit of saturation while highlights are well recoverable so you might want to over-expose by 0.3-0.7EV.

holistic-photography-sigma-x3-foveon-dp2-merrill-camera-photography-monochrome

Wisely, Sigma saw fit to include full RGB histograms. These are all but essential for accurate exposure, especially with Jpegs (RAW files have a bit of latitude). This is just as well as judging exposure by screen brightness was hit or miss. ISO200 seems to have a bit more dynamic range.

You’ll also be doing all of your composition using the screen, which is three inches diagonally across and has almost a million pixels. It’s hard to see in very bright conditions and the picture gets desaturated and grainy when light levels are low. It also attracts smudgy fingerprints. It doesn’t tilt, which would be nice, but understandable given the camera’s size.

I didn’t particularly enjoy composing the image using the screen. It was easy to forget how shallow the depth of field can be at f2.8 on the Sigma DP3m’s 50mm lens and miss photographs. But this is for moving subjects. When I could use the manual focus with the ‘loupe’ at 12x magnification (variable), I enjoyed the precision.

holistic-photography-sigma-x3-foveon-dp2-merrill-camera-color

The auto-focus, especially after the firmware update, was pretty snappy. However, coming from a pro dSLR it felt slow and liable to hunt in low light. Fans of the focus-and-recompose method will be pleased that the size of the focus points can be varied. I found pre-focussing all but essential for moving subjects.

The alternative is to use an after-market optical viewfinder mounted on the hotshoe. I’d be happy enough using the DP1 Merrill like this because of it’s wide-angle lens, and possibly the DP2m too. This also allows you to save battery life by not using the screen.

Composing with the screen also requires that you hold the camera in front of you like an Instagrammer. You’ll get more camera shake because you can’t brace the camera against your face and still frame accurately. Best to use a tripod or a monopod then.

 holistic-photography-sigma-x3-foveon-dp2-merrill-camera-night-macro

There is a shutter delay on these cameras. It’s not enough to notice normally, but I did miss several shots because of it, even with manual focus/ manual exposure. This is a pain, as otherwise I’d whole-heartedly recommend the DP1m in particular as a street camera. As it is, you’ve got to anticipate by a split-second.

It’s been said that the Sigma DP Merrill cameras are slow. Those who use them will know that while it takes a while to write the large RAW photos to the card, they can manage 4 frames-per-second for 7 shots. This was normally more than enough to get the majority of photographs. Cartier-Bresson was the master of one shot to capture the ‘decisive moment’ – I like the motor-drive’s facility to get a quick shot after the first as a backup and in case the subject blinked. Writing the files to the card is quite slow however.

But then this is an unobtrusive camera, and for actual photography, that makes up for a lot. I could conceal any of the DP Merrill series in my hands, and that silent leaf shutter let me get close and not concern subjects. People were far less intimidated by these cameras than with the Pentax 645D, for example. Officious security guards also took less notice, and I imagine customs would be the same.

holistic-photography-sigma-x3-foveon-dp2-merrill-camera-photography-portrait

The importance of size and weight is often overlooked by those people looking at statistics and pixels. But it makes a difference; I’d be much more likely to carry this camera wherever I go, which I couldn’t say about a pro dSLR. You’ll get better photographs simply because the camera is with you when you see them.

The feature-set is pretty pared down. They’re obviously focussed on photographers, and photographers who know what they’re doing. A movie mode is available, but only at 480p resolution; one of the lowest out there. An interval timer does allow for timelapse photography however.

Here’s a 480p sample video from the Sigma DP1m with the X3 Foveon sensor, straight out of camera

Because of the innovative sensor, you’ll have to convert the RAW photographs in Sigma Photo Pro. It is anything but ‘pro’; buggy, slow and limited. Best to export the images as a ProPhoto or Adobe RGB profiled 16bit .TIFF file and work on them in another software. The Jpeg files are very usable straight from the camera if you set it up right, however.

So the features shared by the three cameras are similar (and similarly scarce). But I’ve said that they’re three very different cameras, and it’s true. The Sigma DP1m feels like a great travel camera. Its wide-angle lens allows you to capture a range of subjects, from travel photography in Barcelona through to landscapes. However, using a wide-angle lens for portraits is inadvisable and you’re effectively limited to 14.8 megapixels.

I’d consider the DP1m as a great everyday camera. It’s light enough to forget about when you’re carrying it, but the results are superb. Importantly, it’s a very small 28mm full-frame equivalent combination. It’s the sort of camera you can have for years and just mess about with, knowing that the results will make beautiful prints up to about A3.

The DP3 Merrill is a different beast however. Its longer 50mm (75mm equivalent) lens will probably be too long for everyday photography for the majority of people. However, it’s creates beautiful portraits, especially head-shots, and makes a great dedicated machine for that; and one that won’t intimidate subjects.

Sigma DP2M

holistic-photography-sigma-x3-foveon-dp3-street-side-lighting

Sigma DP2M

holistic-photography-sigma-dp2m-merrill-fashion-camera-review.jpg

The DP3m is also designated as a macro camera, and while it doesn’t get as close as a true 1:1 ratio, the 1.5x crop on the sensor does get you very close so this could also be a great-value workhorse for product or food photography.

Be that as it may, the true strength of the DP3 Merrill is its ability to fit more images into a stitched panorama/mosaic. The 100% per-pixel acutance of the X3 Foveon sensor, in my opinion, beats pretty much all of the competition outside of medium-format digital. I also prefer the colour. However, for huge prints the D800e will beat it for dynamic range and by sheer force; double the megapixels.

But if you fuss about creating multiple exposure-bracketed HDR images to stitch together later, you can effectively create a medium format digital camera for a fraction of the price. Can you do this with other cameras? Sure, but the sharpness of the lens and excellence of the sensor gives the Sigma DP3m a huge advantage.

Sigma DP3

holistic-photography-sigma-dp3m-macro-colour-sharpness-review

So effectively what you have, if you want to take the time and endure the hassle of taking and combining the images, is one of the best cameras on the market today for big prints of stationary scenes, bar none. You can capture a scene with multiples of the 14.8 megapixels to create huge files which will give splendid, enormous prints.

But realize what you’re getting. The Sigma DP3 Merrill pushes image quality forward by a couple of years. Doubtless in a decade the towering prints possible from multiple-stitched DP3m files will be achievable by your phone. If you want this image quality now without paying tens of thousands or carrying a huge, heavy body, then the Sigma DP3m, with all of its compromises, is your best option.

The DP1m will always give you amazing prints in any of the sizes you’re likely to need; books and magazines. But then so will a lot of cameras available today. Sure, the image quality won’t be quite the same unless you spend a lot more, but you’ll get far better high ISO performance and usability from a different camera. But then I like the way the DP1m handles, and especially how discreet it is.

And the Sigma DP2 Merrill? Well it’s something of a ‘Goldilocks’ camera. The lens isn’t too wide, nor is too telephoto; but then often it’s not wide nor long enough. It allows you to stitch a few images together for bigger files but not as many as the DP3m. However, doing so will give you a wider angle of view with less photos. It’s a nice compromise, and as the 30mm (45mm) lens is roughly equivalent to our own field of view, it’s very natural to carry around and shoot with.

Personally, I’m going to get one of the DP Merrill cameras. Which one? I wasn’t sure, hence this review and comparison. I’d not like to use any as my only camera; they’re not fast enough for action nor are the lenses long enough for a lot of work I do. However, their size, great value and amazing image quality makes them an obvious choice as a second camera.

 Sigma DP3

holistic-photography-sigma-x3-foveon-dp3-camera-review-colour-realism

I think the best decision would be both the Sigma DP1m and the DP3m. The DP1m as a carry-everywhere camera with incredible images, and the DP3m as a short telephoto companion, and occasional multiple-image champion when I need the best quality. If I couldn’t get both, I’d recommend the Sigma DP2m as a compromise, or choosing which of the DP1m and DP3m suits you best; have a look at your favourite photographs to check the focal length to be sure.

One thing’s for sure; they’re niche cameras. Most photographers won’t have the skill to get the most out of them but when you get them in the right zone, they are tremendous. I use them like a more convenient Hasselblad 500cm for meditative photography or like a quieter, cheaper Leica M for covert photography. However, you choose to use yours, enjoy the image quality and invest in plenty of batteries!

Keep updated about the Sigma DP Merrill series and share your photographers here; https://www.Facebook.com/sigmamerrill

For more samples, check out this DP3 hands-on look; http://www.EnglishPhotographer.com/sigma-dp3-merrill-sample-photos/

Enormous thanks to Jaume, Rui and Sandra at Sigma Photo ES for the loan of these three DP Merrill Cameras.

Bens workshops 

Feb 122013
 

IMG_249283

Amazing DEAL on Sigma NEX Lenses – $199 for BOTH the 19 and 30mm 2.8 together, $99 each!

The most amazing deal is still going in at B&H Photo and they have these IN STOCK. Both excellent Sigma lenses for the NEX Sony E Mount system – the 19 2.8 and the 30 2.8 (which you can see my review of HERE)  - both of them for $199 total, for both together! This is a STEAL. At $199 the 30 2.8 was already a deal. At $199 for BOTH it is a VERY crazy deal. These are good lenses and even come with cases. To be clear, you get BOTH lenses with cases for $199. Amazon has each lens for $149 which comes out to $100 more, so this is a great buy everyone!

Don’t miss out. If you want to take advantage of this deal, B&H Has them listed HERE. Last time they did this they sold out quick.

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Jan 232013
 

UPDATED Comparison: Hasselblad 39C vs Sigma DP2M reloaded by Michael Ma

Hi Steve:

Thanks for publishing the quick Hasselblad/Mono/Sigma DP2 Merrill comparison (see that one HERE). I don’t know if you post follow ups but the post generated a lot of heated comments and one key issue people pointed out (rightfully) is that the Hasselblad was not designed to be shot wide open under limited light. I think everyone agreed that the Monochrom is incredibly sharp so I’m leaving it out of the comparison.

I took the Hasselblad and the Sigma out to the roof and shot a few pictures. And here are the results. This time, the Hasselblad is noticeably sharper and the image rendition is more accurate. However the Sigma followed closely and it is very impressive.

 

· Hasselblad 503 with winder CW, 80mm CEF Zeiss Lens, 39megapixel CF39 back vs Sigma DP2 Merrill

· Overcast but bright day, around noon time. Both cameras were shot at F11 and 125s, focused to infinity.

· Both pictures are right out of the cameras. No exposure/contrast adjustment or sharpening.

 

Hasselblad Shot. Notice the overall tone of the image. Smooth and warm. This is a little warmer in color than the actual day condition but came out very nice. The texture is almost creamy

Hasselblad

Hasselblad 100% crop. Very sharp and detailed. Some noise in the shadows even at ISO100.

Hasselblad crop

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Sigma shot. It is incredibly sharp but has that clinical look. Not as pleasing as the Hassey in the rendering. The sigma has a bigger DOF (the flower pots in the front are perfectly in focus while they are a bit soft in the hassey).

Sigma

Sigma normal size 100% crop. Again, very sharp here although not as sharp as the Hasselblad. The normal size conversion converts the X3F file into 4704×3136 file. The details are there and the colors are vivid.

Sigma Normal size crop

 

Sigma double size: Sigma also has an option to export its files into “double size” TIFFs for bigger prints. This turns the file into a huge 9408×6272 file (over 100mb). This is considerably larger than the Hasselblad file. You could see the loss of details here but it probably won’t show up in prints under 40cmx40cm. (click it for full size 100% crop)

Sigma Double Size crop

What does all these pixel peeing prove? Hasselblad owners can be rest assured that the performance of their systems cannot be matched by the Sigma Merrills, while Merrill owners can rejoice for owning such an incredible machine. It is unquestionably the sharpest tool in the ASPC sensor class. Although the system has its quirks and trade offs, when it comes to image quality (which is ultimately what we need), it can play with the medium format big boys. So, why not have both? A Medium format or a Leica Mono plus a Sigma DP2 would formidably setup for any demanding photographer.

 

Jan 142013
 

Quick Comparison  - Leica Monochrom, Sigma DP2 Merrill and Hasselblad 39CF

by Michael Ma

Hi Steve:

Huge fan of your site. I am lucky to own two pieces of equipment that you have reviewed, so I thought I’d contribute. My Leica Monochrome just arrive today and I decided to give it a spin in terms of image quality. Both the Leica and the Merrill DP2 are reviewed in detailed on your website and they are renowned for their image quality. Since I’m lucky enough to have a loaner Hasselblad with the CF39 digital back on hand, I’ve decided to do a quick and dirty IQ comparison using the Hassey as bench mark.

Conditions:

Dim room light

1.7 meters to subject

All images had gone through only contrast adjustment, no sharpening

On tripod

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Hasselblad 39CF with 80mm CFE lens F2.8, F5.6 1/2, 1/4S

The Hasselblad yielded a pleasing overall image in terms of tone and rendering. With 39 mega pixels 49x36mm sensor, we don’t expect anything less. The 100% crop shows that even when wide open, the CFE lens is sharp and shows nice contrast. Note that the physical size of the Hasselblad image is almost twice as large than the Leica and Sigma.

Hassey picture: 

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Hassey crop (click image for full size cdrop)

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Next up is the Leica Monochrome with Summilux 1.4 ASPH latest version F2.8, F5.6

WOW, the Leica is sharp! I don’t have a M9 to test the comparison between the mono sensor and the regular CCD sensor, but the 100% crop looks sharper than the Hasselblad shot and you can see the details in the canvas texture. The image was over blown in exposure but the details are still nicely preserved. Very impressive!

Leica picture

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Leica Crop – (Click image for full size crop)

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Finally comes the Sigma DP2 Merrill.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the pictures. It is clearly the most rich and detailed of all three. The photo was shot with the lens wide open at F2.8. Astounding details and color. Now look at that 100% crop. The texture of each brush stroke is so vivid. Beats the Hasselblad hands down.

DP2 Merrill

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DP2 Crop

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Conclusion? Well this is a very clumsy test. But besides the poor testing conditions I think there’s a story to be told here. All three are great camera systems. The Hasselblad is older and the lens probably could have used with more stopping down. But this is also a 9000 dollar set up (used price). The Monochrome setup is 12K all in (when bought new). The Leica lens is incredibly sharp and the Monochrome retains so much details in the shadows. But the ultimate winner here is the Sigma DP2. At a tiny fraction of the price of either the Hassey or the Leica, it delivers the best results in color, details, and contrast.

Michael Ma

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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Sep 262012
 

The $199 Sigma 30 f/2.8 Lens Review on the Sony NEX-7! Bang for the Buck of the year!

So here I am all back home and rested for a couple of days after the week long photo cruise across the East coast. I shot quite a bit on that trip with the Fuji X-Pro 1 to see how firmware Version 2 would fare but I also had the Sony NEX-7 and 30 2.8 lens. You know, that $199 Sigma lens that gives us a 45mm equivalent on the NEX system? The one that Sigma also makes for Micro 4/3? At $199 you would think this lens would be mediocre but maybe you will be pleasantly surprised with one. After all, the buzz on the photo sites are saying it is excellent. I even had a quick guest post here a while back about this lens.

These days $199 is quite cheap when it comes to purchasing a lens for your favorite interchangeable lens camera so when you see something at this price you wonder…“Is it any good”? Well I am here to tell you my thoughts on this little Sigma lens. 

Sigma has officially entered the mirrorless market in an affordable way with this lens as well as their 19 2.8 lens which is also coming in at a lower priced $199. The 19mm would give NEX users a 28mm equivalent so I am also excited to see how that one stacks up because a $199 28mm 2.8 lens is hard to come by :)

As always with my reviews you can click any image for a larger and much better looking version! f/3.2 – iso 125 – 1/60s with the 30mm on the NEX-7

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Lenses Lenses Everywhere, but which ones to buy?

There are so many great lenses for ALL systems out there today but most are either expensive (most Nikon/Canon), or hard to find in stock (Olympus 75 1.8) or BOTH expensive and hard to find (Leica). Fuji X lenses run about $600 and up. The better Olympus lenses for their Micro 4/3 system run anywhere between $400 and $1300 for the good glass. We all know where Nikon and Canon stand. So how does this under $200 Sigma do in the grand scheme of things? I mean $199 just sounds so cheap for a known brand name  2.8 prime lens! Sure we have the cheap 50 1.8′s from Canon and Nikon – the Plastic Fantastics..but the Bokeh is mind numbing and they are soft wide open and have funky corners. So will the little “Sigma that could” really be THAT good? I was soon to find out!

I bought this lens after getting so many e-mails telling me “you HAVE to try this lens Steve”! So I dipped into my camera buying website work fund and bought it from Amazon. For $199 and free shipping. (Love Amazon Prime)! 

Shot this from a tour bus in NYC while heading to the airport – f/2.8 and 1/60s – Sony NEX-7 ISO 200

When the lens arrived I opened it and was surprised to see that it came with a nice lens case..wow. This lens is also quite small and light and when I picked it up I heard a rattle sound and thought it was broken. When I moved it I heard the lens element shift inside. Did not sound good at all but as soon as I attached it to my NEX-7 and powered it up the lens was 100% solid and did not shift. I later found out this was normal so my lens was NOT broken. You can see what this sounds like in this quick video overview of the lens I put up on YouTube:

So far so good. The lens was cheap, small, light and even came with a nice case AND METAL MOUNT. But I wondered…what about the IQ?  The image quality has to be soft right? With an aperture starting at f/2.8 I figured I would be getting soft performance wide open and decent performance by f/5.6. When I started snapping I saw the auto focus speed on my NEX-7 was mediocre but not bad at all. It was fast but not lightning quick. Very acceptable and for the price I was quite happy.

So to sum up the build this 30mm 2.8 lens has 7 elements in 5 groups with a plastic build and feel. It is not fancy but rather quite plain jane looking on the NEX cameras. It is all black and looks like..well..a cheap lens.

But no worries, the lens is a strong performer!

Wide Open this lens is SHARP at the focus point. Click the image below for a larger view to see the sharpness and some smooth Bokeh. F/2.8 – 1/60s – ISO 400

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Nope! This is not your normal “Budget Lens”

Nope this is NOT your normal budget lens. In fact it is sharper than just about ANY Sony lens I have shot with on my NEX-7! In fact, when shooting this lens it was almost like my Sony NEX-7 had a veil removed! No joke. I saw a crispness I never saw in the 18-55, 16mm or dare I say…even the Zeiss 24 1.8. I am not saying this is a better lens than the Zeiss as the Zeiss is better made, has better color reproduction, is much faster at 1.8 and is a premium lens for the NEX but I am saying this Sigma is pretty damn crisp and beats out my Zeiss 24 in that regard. Crispness :)

The Sigma 30 at f/5.6 – click this image to see a larger view and full 100% crop. Damn. BTW, THIS SHOT IS FROM RAW, FROM CAMERA

The shot above will show you what this lens is capable of. It is sharp, has great contrast and color and I can not believe a lens this cheap can be so good. It has been glued to my NEX for weeks now. From daily snapshots to shooting street scenes from a tour bus it has never caused me to miss a shot and it has never given me an out of focus shot. It’s been ALL good. $199 folks..at this price it is hard to beat.

Check out the next few shots..

Haunted Dolly – f/2.8 – 1/60s – ISO 200

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From the bus – f/2.8 – ISO 100 – 1/100s

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Street scene  - can see some of the barrel distortion here with the sign. f/2.8 – 1/60s – ISO 160

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So what is wrong with the Sigma 30 2.8 lens? Distortion & AF no go for video!

If I had to complain about something with this lens I would say that the AF speed is a bit slow and the build is on the light/cheap feeling side. It also has some slight barrel distortion (as in straight lines can be a bit bent at times). Nothing that is not fixable in Lightroom but keep in mind this is not a technically perfect lens at all. No way it could be at this price. Also when shooting video you will hear the creaks and noises of the lens as it struggles to AF, especially in low light. This is not a speedy video lens. This is a BASIC lens with great IQ. That is all.

Remember this is a $199 lens and for that $199 you get a hell of a bang for your buck for image quality.  Next three shots are all wide open at f/2.8

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My time with this lens…

I tried to shoot a wide variety of things with this lens. I never ever shoot action like sports or running kids and if I had to guess I would say this is not a lens for those situations as it is not a speedy focusing lens. I have read in other reviews that this lens has flare issues but I failed to shoot one shot with any kind of lens flare so if it is there it never showed its head in my images. Then again, I never really shot in to the sun.

I believe taking a lens out and shooting it for a few weeks..getting to know it..testing it in many situations…thats the way to do it. This lens never disappointed me but instead it kept surprising me. I am used to shooting mega buck Leica lenses and while this lens can not compete with the world’s best it can kick, stomp and destroy just about any other $199 lens made for the NEX system :)

Sigma decided to test the mirrorless lens market with some cheapies but this cheapie is a performer. If you are into the 45mm focal length, if f/2.8 is fast enough for you and you do not want to spend the bucks on the fancier pieces of glass then this lens could be your solution. This and the Sigma 19 could be the combo to beat and for under $400 for BOTH..well..that is unheard of these days.

I have not yet tested the 19 2.8 but if it is as good as this 30 2.8 I would be thrilled.

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Flare Test  - VS – Leica 35 Summilux FLE

It seems that some has been written about the flare of the Sigma 30mm but I found it quite tame and when shot directly into the sun without a hood the flare was minimal. Less than the Fuji X100 lens and less than even the $5000 Leica 35 Summilux ASPH FLE that was USING A HOOD! So the Sigma is great in regards to flare. See for yourself by clicking the images below. One from the Sigma and f/2.8 and one from the Leica at f/2.8 – Both on the NEX-7.

 

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The Pros and Cons of the Sigma 30 2.8

Pros

  1. Cheap at $199
  2. Comes with a nice lens case
  3. Sharp performance even at f/2.8 wide open
  4. light

Cons

  • Cheap (build)
  • Some slight barrel distortion
  • Tad slow with AF/Video creaking noise

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So would I buy this lens to keep? My final word…

Even though there are better lenses to get for NEX and one in particular coming down the pike SOON (the new Sony 35 1.8) this lens is cheap at $199 but has the image quality of a $350 – $400 lens. As you can see in the title of this review I am calling it the “Bang for the buck of the year”! It may not be for everyone but if you are tight on funds and want a new lens that will beat your kit lens then this little guy will only bring smiles to your face. I can not image anyone being disappointed with this lens at this price.

I bought it and kept it. Kind of a no brainer.

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Where To Buy the Sigma 30 2.8 for NEX?

I always buy from B&H Photo or Amazon for most of my gear. Great service, great reputation, great return policies. PERIOD.

$199 at Amazon

$199 AT B&H Photo

Lady and her smiling dog – NYC – f/2.8

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Wide open again at 2.8

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from street meat to mean street machine!

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ALL I ASK! HELP ME TO KEEP THIS SITE GOING AND GROWING!! IT’S EASY TO HELP OUT & I CAN USE ALL THE HELP I CAN GET!

Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site, so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 10-14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you! Currently my traffic has been increasing but my funds to pay for the site has been decreasing, so any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

Even if  you buy baby food, napkins or toothpicks at amazon it helps this site, and you do not pay anything extra by using the links here. Again, you pay nothing extra by using my links, it is just a way to help support this site, so again, I thank you in advance :)

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Aug 292012
 

The Sigma DP2 Merrill Review- Gorgeous image quality, slow as molasses and irritating squeaky operation!

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.

This is a pretty extreme crop from a RAW file processed with the Sigma Photo Pro software…

The incredible IQ of the 46 MP Foveon Sensor

FACT: The IQ from the Sigma DP2 Merrill and its 46 Megapixel Foveon Sensor is GORGEOUS, RICH, and with SUPERB COLOR. The files are loaded with detail, and I am just talking about JPEGS! In fact, I have never seen such good JPEGS before and the RAW files take it up another notch with more detail and richness. The Sigma goodness you have heard about is true..when it comes to flat out image quality.

This review will feature images with the DP2 Merrill shot in JPEG and RAW.The JPEG’s rock and the RAW’s roll so either way it is all good. Sigma knows it’s stuff when it comes to Sensor design. In fact the IQ from this camera is much better than my capabilities as a photographer.

The Foveon Sensor Technology as used in this camera was developed by Dick Merrill who passed away in  2008. Today Sigma continues his research and has dedicated this DP2 model to him just as they did in their flagship DSLR the “SD1″. Sigma has MANY fans of this sensor technology and also many who dislike the sensor. With cameras that have always been uninspiring to use, the DP series has never made it to huge sales and success but rather is in use by dedicated fans of the brand and the Foveon sensor technology. I have seen some amazing photographers use the DP series with impressive results and while they may never take over the mainstream buyers, Sigma has the best sensor I have ever come across in almost..almost any 35mm digital camera and the lens in the DP2 Merrill is also outsanding.

The DP2 has a nice smooth rendering and even in full harsh AZ sun (as in the image below) we get a nice Dynamic Range and tones. Shot as a JPEG. This girl was singing for a quart of oil. Her and her BF were dead broke and their car leaked out all of the oil while traveling to Texas. A man came by and gave them $5 and they went in to buy the Oil. I asked for their picture and gave them $5 for some water, which they went in to buy immediately. To be young and adventurous again…

Here is what Sigma has to say about the lens built into the DP2 Merrill:

“The camera is compact and lightweight, and include “F” Low Dispersion (FLD) glass to correct aberrations and Super Multi Layer Coating to reduce flare and ghosting. With the 46-megapixel, full-color Foveon X3 Direct Image Sensor, the new DP cameras capture all primary RGB colors at each pixel location with three layers, which results in incredibly detailed images with a three-dimensional feel.”

I agree with what they say above 100%. Notice they do not say anything about fast focus, fast operation, etc. :)

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The Sigma DP Series..great image quality but slowwwwwwww ( I know, I know..I keep saying this)

I reviewed the old DP1 years ago when it was launched and enjoyed the IQ  but did not enjoy the teeny files and low resolution. I said back then that if Sigma could do this with a large megapixel Foveon then it would be a camera to seriously consider even with the slow as a turtle focusing and writing to the card. But that was 3 years ago so I assumed that with this special $1000 DP2 Merrill that Sigma would have sped up the feel and operation of the camera. I assumed that I would no longer have to sit there and wait for the AF to lock or the files to write to the card. Wrong. It is pretty slow when you compare it to the cameras that are out today. My little Sony RX100 is blazing fast with AF..the DP2 is very slow in comparison.

BUT it is not horrible. You can still take it out and shoot though you will not get any spontaneous moments. The image below was supposed to be of this dog licking a boys face but by the time the camera focus and fired the boy had moved away and the dog already pulled back. Even so, I ended up with a cute dog pic :)

You can get an idea of the camera operation if you take a look at the video review I did below. You can also see the AutoFocus Squeak I have going on in this specific camera as well as the write times….why is it that Sigma cannot attain the level of AF speed that modern cameras in this price range deliver? Why is my sample squeaking when it focuses and why is the write time so slow? It seems to me that at this price point Sigma could have beefed up the processing and had some better quality control.

So to be clear and to sum it up…The AF is slow, the write time is slow, my camera squeaks and it retains that special “Sigma” usability factor, which is slow and sluggish. It hunts in low light when you try to AutoFocus and the high ISO is not the best by any means. This is more of a low/base ISO camera IMO.

With that said, I can not argue or complain in the slightest with the IQ. It is beautiful, and I am talking about out of camera JPEGS as well as RAW here. It seems Sigma did get this right as well as white balance, sharpness, detail, and everything where it REALLY matters, the final output of the images.

Rich JPEGS right from camera. Dynamic Range again, is superb. Color is great and the detail and subtleties are wonderful. The DP2 Merrill delivers in the IQ department no doubt. This is their best sensor to date.

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So just how good are the OOC JPEGS and the RAW files?

Like I said earlier…I shot all images in JPEG and RAW but since Adobe does not support the RAW files from the Sigma I had to download and install Sigmas Photo Pro software which while better than the Sony software that they supply with their cameras is still a bit slow and cumbersome (and crashed about 6 times on my iMac). I had to use it though as it’s the best way to process the RAW files from the DP2 Merrill, and it works great giving superb detail and color.

Below are a few shots that you can click on and open up a larger version with a full 100% crop embedded into the photo. YOU MUST click it to see the full crop and the detail. The 1st two are shot in RAW and then I will post up a comparison between the JPEG and RAW versions…

These 1st two shots are converted from the DP2 Merrill’s RAW file – click them for larger and full size 100% crop

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and now a comparison between the JPEG and RAW files with crops…

JPEG

If you click on the JPEG image below you can see it gives us really good detail and tones…

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RAW

…but click on the RAW conversion and you will see MUCH better detail and tonality…RAW takes it up another notch for sure.

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and one more…

JPEG

same as before – good color and sharp

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RAW

MUCH more detail – almost too much…and I prefer the JPEG color in this image but it does show how much more detail can be pulled from a RAW file.

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The Build, Design and Feel

The build of the DP2 Merrill is very good. In my hand it feel solid, simple and well, brick like. It is shaped like a brick with a few buttons and a dial attached. It doesn’t have a blingy look, fancy features or anything special about its design. Compared to a Leica X2 it appears very plain, which many will love. My best friend thinks the design is perfect. I think it is a little bit dull and industrial but the design is not what we buy a camera for. We buy a camera to use it to create memories and capture life so as long as it captures the image I frame that should be all that matters. The camera has a metal body and construction and feels good but very blocky.

So all in all I have no complaints with the build quality or design. It is what it is, a Sigma DP series camera. The special part of this is the Sensor and the quality output, especially for the size. It is not a “pocket” camera any ANY means but it is not anything close to DSLR size either. It is more along the lines of a Leica X2 size wise.

The image below of my Son Brandon was shot in JPEG and converted to B&W using Alien Skin Exposure 3 – the DP2 Merrill has a fantastic lens that performs well even wide open. 

High ISO performance at 100-1600 ISO

The high ISO of the DP2 Merrill is not the cameras strong point. To see the beauty and quality from this camera you MUST shoot at low ISO in good light. Period. This is not a quick point and shoot camera to take of your children running around the house at ISO 1600. If you try this you will be highly disappointed. The DP2 Merrill is for “the patient photographer” – much like a Leica M shooter. Frame, compose, set, focus and shoot instead of “lift and fire away”.

Below are some high ISO crops to show you ISO 100-1600 for those who want to see what to expect in low light.

So bottom line on ISO and the DP2 Merrill? It is not horribly bad but it is nowhere near the better comparable price range cameras. My suggestion is to keep the DP2 to good light and low ISO and you will be extremely pleased with the output. If one thing has stayed the same with the Sigma DP series it is that the camera still lacks in comparison to other cameras where ISO is concerned.

DETAIL!!

The DP2 Merrill can do a few things VERY well. One of them is to reward you with gobs of detail in the files, and I am not talking about harsh detail either. Some CCD and CMOS cameras will give you detail but when viewed at 100% there is smearing, jagged edges or not so detailed details. While they do a fantastic job the CMOS Foveon sensor in this DP2 is pretty special. The lens on the DP2 Merrill is fantastic. It is sharp corner to corner, has pleasant Bokeh and is pretty much free from any serious or visible distortion (in my real world use anyway).

Want detail? The DP2 Merrill can give it to you! Click image below for full size file from RAW and view at 100%. 

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Here is a shot taken in JPEG mode with a 100% crop from JPEG – click on the crop to see it 100% full size – impressive for an OOC JPEG huh?

Sigma hit it out of the park with the 46 MP sensor because we finally have that Foveon look, Foveon color and Foveon detail with much more resolution than previous DP series cameras. Sweet! This is great news for fans of these sensors. FINALLY a camera for Foveon fans to be excited about.

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Other features of the DP2 Merrill

This camera is not about all of the fancy features that many camera companies are stuffing into their cameras these days. You will not find any HD Video, you will not find any 5-Axis (or any) Image Stabilization and you will not even get a tilt screen or EVF/VF of any kind. There will be no self portrait mode, no panorama mode and no WiFi built in. What you will get with the DP2 Merrill is a simply designed basic camera that excels at one thing, all out image quality.

The camera can shoot video but I wouldn’t recommend it. The camera also does time-lapse with its time lapse mode, which I am surprised they included seeing that other than that the camera is pretty plain jane. No art filters or photo effects are included either.

The DP2 Merrill is made for a select group of photographers. Those who want this camera KNOW they want this camera and they know about and accept the limitations of speed. You buy this one for its image quality and size and nothing more.

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The Pro’s and Cons of the Sigma DP2 Merrill

PROS

  • The image quality and sensor are beautiful – in the right hands there could be some astounding photos taken with this camera
  • The build is solid
  • The layout and controls are simple
  • The menu layout is easy to navigate and understand
  • The color, detail, dynamic range and overall look of the files is impressive
  • APS-C sized CMOS Foveon 46 Megapixel sensor provides tons of resolution..finally!
  • 3D feel to the images, more so than any other camera I have used (besides full frame cameras like the M9, 5DII, D800, etc)
  • One of the more “magical” compact cameras available today in regards to the luxurious IQ
  • You can use manual focus using the dial on the lens and it works good

CONS

  • A battery hog..which is why Sigma ships this with TWO batteries (you better get a 3rd)
  • SLOW to Auto Focus
  • My camera had an annoying squeak when focusing (see the video in this review for example)
  • RAW files can not be opened with Adobe software so it’s Sigma Slow Photo Pro
  • High ISO performance just average but this is a LOW ISO camera
  • Too Expensive at $1000 – $700 would be better (though half the cost of a Leica X2 with better IQ, just seriously deficient in other areas)
  • Write times to your SD card can take up to 18 seconds per image (see video for example) when shooting RAW or as little as 12 using super fast SD cards

Bottom Line Conclusion

I know I sort of made fun of the Sigma DP2 Merrill in the title photo comparing it to a 1982 Commodore 64 Computer system but in all reality this is a serious tool for those who are serious about image quality. Just be aware that with this gorgeous sensor comes a camera that is slow to AF, hunts in low light, has slow write times and is built like a brick, literally. Sigma has come a long way in regards to the sensor since the early DP cameras but they have inched along slowly when it comes to usability and speed.

My camera had an annoying as hell squeak when using the AF (see the video above to HEAR it) and I am not sure if others have this issue or if I had a bad one but just be on the look out for squeaky AF. If you encounter it then return the camera. Maybe mine was the only one with this issue, who knows…but I think I have a defect in this sample which tells me QC may not be up to snuff.

Basically no one would be disappointed with the Sigma DP2 Merrill Image Quality. No one. It has deep and rich color, superb dynamic range, gobs of detail and this time around has plenty of resolution as well with super large 50-60MB files.

The JPEGS are fantastic but the RAW files are even better and I feel that Sigma has a camera that many will love and some will hate. It can be frustrating to shoot anything that moves so it is NOT recommended as a point and shoot or if you are looking to take photos of your running kids or pets. It is not recommended for low light shooting indoor either. The DP2 Merrill excels with landscape and even portraits. If your subject is still and you have enough light the DP2 Merrill can handle it.

I had a love/hate with this camera but am still not comfortable enough with the operation speed and low light performance to buy one for myself. What I do know is that the image quality is the best I have seen from any small camera to date. It’s damn impressive and if I had this for a couple of months I am sure I could create some gorgeous photos with it. What you see in this review was basically a collection of snaps with the camera for the week and a half that I had it.

Not much else to say that I have not already said. It’s a simple camera and this is a cut and dry review. Astounding IQ capabilities with slow AF and operation. If it were $699-$799 I’d probably own one for those moments when I want light and high quality for landscape, buildings, or portraits. Oh, I almost forgot to mention that the files from this camera are VERY 3 Dimensional in their feel. I LOVE the rendering of this camera..period. Just wish it was a bit more responsive, if so then I would have bought it.

If you feel the this camera is for you then the DP2 Merrill can be bought for $999 from B&H Photo, my recommended dealer who I have purchased from for over 18 years!

B&H Photo Sigma DP2 Merrill Page

ALL I ASK! HELP ME TO KEEP THIS SITE GOING AND GROWING!! IT’S EASY TO HELP OUT & I CAN USE ALL THE HELP I CAN GET!

Remember, anytime you follow my links here and buy from B&H or AMAZON, this helps to keep my site going. If it was not for these links, there would be no way to fund this site, so I thank you in advance if you visit these links. I thank you more if you make a purchase! I have nifty search bars at the upper right of each page so you easily search for something at either store! I currently spend 10-14 hours a day working on this site and the only way that I can pay for it is with your help, so thank you! Currently my traffic has been increasing but my funds to pay for the site has been decreasing, so any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

Even if  you buy baby food, napkins or toothpicks at amazon it helps this site, and you do not pay anything extra by using the links here. Again, you pay nothing extra by using my links, it is just a way to help support this site, so again, I thank you in advance :)

If you enjoyed this article/review, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this page and also be sure to join me on twitter or my new facebook fan page and Google +  page! Also, you can subscribe to my feed at my subscribe page HERE and read these posts in your browser or news reader!

 

Aug 222012
 

Sony NEX-6 and NEX-5R coming…

So as you may have all seen by now there is a rumored (but 99% solid) leak of the new upcoming Sony NEX-6 and to me, it appears that it may be a little better than the Sony NEX-7. Why? Well for starters, it has the same body style just minus the “Tri-Navi” control system. The sensor will be 16MP, which is what I wished for from the get go with the NEX-7. I feel 16-18MP is the sweet spot for digital and supposedly this new NEX-6 will feature a new 16MP sensor. The cool thing is that these are rumored to have Phase Detect and Contrast Detect AF much like the super speed Nikon V1.

If true, it will not only be a faster camera to AF and use than the NEX-7 but it will also give better IQ with wide-angle Leica lenses (like the 5n does now). So how much will the NEX-7 come in at? Well no one knows anything just yet as this is a RUMOR but usually these rumors are controlled leaks so I am sure that the NEX-6 and 5R is for real.

These cameras are also going to be wireless (or so the rumors say) and this opens up the cameras to WiFi sharing, app’s and more. Imagine Instagram on your NEX-6. Yep, this is the way things are going my friends so it will not be long until our cameras are turned into computers like our phones. Could be amazing though!

My guess is under $999 for the 6 as that would place it below the flagship NEX-7 and give Sony a chance to release a NEX-8 with much better specs. The NEX-6 sounds like a winner already to me, if Sony can just create some kick ass glass for this system there really would be nothing to complain about at all.

There are also rumors of a full frame NEX but I will believe it when I see it. You can read more about Sony Rumors at SonyAlphaRumors.com

C’Mon Sony, give us a couple high quality “Pro” NEX lenses and take this system to the next level!

Sigma DP2 Merrill in hand and review soon…

Ahhhh. Sigma has done it again. Sigma was actually one of the very 1st to release a large sensor in a compact body with their DP1 series of camera. The only problem with that camera was the cheap build, slow as molasses operation and AF and  the fact that it was actually sort of low resolution. I hated the DP1 though I did enjoy the rich image quality and color of the Foveon sensor.

To honor the man who created the Foveon Sensor technology, Dick Merrill, Sigma has created a line of cameras that feature exceptional quality to showcase this sensor design. One of them was the failed (in comparison to almost every other DSLR, sales wise) and ridiculously crazy overpriced at launch SD1 (which has now PLUMMETED in cost) and the others are the DP1 and DP2 Merrill. I had my doubts due to the sluggishness and slow rep of the DP1 cameras but “what the hell” I said! Why not try out their latest and greatest compact large sensor camera?

Yesterday I received the DP2 Merrill, the 46MP Foveon sensor compact. Yep, the same sensor as the big gun “SD1″..all in a $1000 compact-ish body. While not so compact and VERY brick and box like it is a step above the old DP1 I reviewed years ago in build (though still FEELS  a little light and plasticky even though it is a metal body). This camera is BASIC. No gimmicks. Just a gorgeous sensor and fantastic lens attached to a plastic box and let me  tell you, this lens is AMAZING as is the sensor.

My 1st impression was “the slow AF is still here but much better than the 1st gen DP1″…then my 2nd impression was “Damn the write times are awful”…third impression was “Hmmm. I sort of like this simpleness” and my 4th impression was “WOW, even the JPEGS are amazingly gorgeous”!!

So far so good. I am not posting any images here besides a couple quick backyard test shots in JPEG mode. Straight from camera BTW but while the IQ appears to be gorgeous, I am worried the slowness of the camera may kill my enthusiasm for it in real use. I will be taking it out to San Diego this weekend with the Nokia 808 so will be giving it a spin there and will post my review in a couple of weeks. I noticed Sigma shipped 2 batteries with the DP2 Merrill which tells me the battery life must be pretty bad.

So stay tuned for the review and check back daily!

BTW, the lens on the DP2 Merrill has a 45mm equivalent with an aperture of 2.8 – so basically like shooting a 50. The sensor is an APS-C sized Foveon chip which is known for their beautiful colors and crazy detail. The JPEGS look good so far and the color is gorgeous.

Click this out of camera JPEG to see the image larger and full 100% crop embedded – Wide open at 2.8…

…and a full size shot, JPEG wide open at 2.8 – sharp for an OOC JPEG!

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another showing the color and detail…

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and another – all of these are JPEGS right from camera!

Jul 202012
 

Review of the Sigma 30mm F/2.8 on the Sony NEX-5

Introduction:

I recently purchased the Sigma 30mm F/2.8 lens for my NEX-5 since I really was looking for a good prime lens that met my budget range. I wasn’t impressed by Sony’s 16mm lens due to their lens distortion being a turnoff and their 30mm & 50mm lens didn’t really meet my ends. After searching online for lenses, I came across the newly released M 4/3′s lens by Sigma, both in 19mm & 30mm. I decided since there weren’t many options available, I would try one of them which ended up being the 30mm f/2.8 lens

 

Construction:

Its made mostly of plastic so it I wouldn’t expect it to be made of superior quality but it is however nice and comfortable. The lens looks very nice attached to the NEX-5 and it isn’t bulky or heavy at all. It’s very light-weight that does not pose for any problems for anybody who wants to carry this lens attached to the camera all day, especially for street photography which is what I do.

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Optical Quality:

For a lens that is listed around $199 dollars, My fear was that it would not meet my expectations, boy was I wrong. Nearly every photograph I took was sharp even when stopped at F2.8. Clarity is excellent all around and in terms of chromatic aberration, the lens handles it quite nicely to the point where I can’t even spot it on any of the photos I took since purchasing it. From F2.8 all the way to F22, it is still very sharp especially at center range. The auto focus on this lens is very impressive. Almost instantly it focus on a subject and can shoot away with no worries unlike my other Micro 4/3s camera the Olympus E-P2 with the Panasonic 14-42mm zoom lens.

In terms of manual focusing, I find the focus ring on the lens itself to be excellent. Not too loose nor too tough to turn should anybody decide to turn off the autofocus feature inside the NEX-5.

 

What I liked about the Lens:

Excellent Optical Quality

Excellent Sharpness

Good Build Quality

 

What I did not like about the Lens:

Kinda wished that Lens was F2.0 but its really not a big concern

 

Would I recommend it:

For $199, it is DEFINITELY a budget friendly lens with excellent result. If you’re interested in the M4/3′s camera from Sony but not keen on their lens then I would recommend it no question. Granted it isn’t a Leica or Voigtlander or even Zeiss Lens but this is really a solid lens for anybody who is not really set on breaking the bank for lenses.

Esmir “Simon” Kucevic

 

 

Apr 142012
 

The Sony NEX-3 and new Sigma 30 2.8 E mount lens by Scott Sarber

Hi Steve,

I’ve been following your site for a few years now. You featured me in a daily inspiration last year. At that time, I was having a lot of fun with the 28mm Industar 69 & my NEX-3.

I’ve recently been using the Sigma 30mm 2.8 on my NEX-3, and I couldn’t be happier! You have to give this lens a shot on your NEX-7! Although the AF speed leaves much to be desired, the optical quality of this lens is AMAZING! Especially considering it’s only $200.

I attached a few pictures I took recently with the Sigma 30mm on a trip to San Francisco, as well as a portrait of my youngest son. The panoramic was composed of 8 separate shots, compiled in Photoshop.

Anyway, it’s great to see an economical, high quality, auto focus, e-mount lens on the market. It’s breathed new life into my NEX-3, and most importantly, my love for photography!

Keep up the great work, love the site!

Just for the record, this lens does not noticeably vignette. I’ve done a little post processing to get the look I wanted on the portrait of my son & the viewing machines. Both of those were shot wide open @ f2.8. The panoramic was shot @ f4

 

Mar 132012
 

Talk about Depreciation. Sigma $6800 SD1 (Merrill) now available for $2299

Wow. I remember when Sigma announced the SD1 which was to be their flagship DSLR, and coming in at $9700, well, that was too much for almost anyone to swallow. We had a sigma DSLR whose retail price was set at $9700. Almost $10,000. $1700 more than a Leica M9-P. The reality though is that it sold in stores for a measly $6800, so not as bad as $9700. The claim to fame was and is its 4000X3200 pixel 3 layer 46 Megapixel image sensor which still used the same Sigma trickery from their early days, meaning, this was not in reality a 46 MP sensor in the way that me and you relate to megapixels. The quality of the Foveon sensor is superb, yes. Sigma has always been known for amazing sensors with awesome bold colors and per pixel sharpness that rivaled most cameras. The only problem here is that this is Sigma. They are not Nikon, Canon or Leica so coming out with a $9700 camera with a street price of $6800, well, they probably sold a few.

After cameras NOT moving off of the shelves Sigma decided to make a bold move and lower the street price to $2299. Yep, $2299. They have renamed it to the SD1 Merrill in honor of the co creator of the Foveon sensor, Richard Merrill. Imagine if you bought this camera at full price the day it came out which was around a year ago. Now here you are with a camera that has depreciated like mad, a camera that has awful low light quality (starts banding at ISO 800) and a camera that is painfully slow to operate and work with. That would suck.

Sigma has now announced they will help out those who bought one of these SD1′s at full price with the following statement and plan, so if you bought one prior to Feb 23 2012, be sure and sign up for it so you get your points.

The SD1 Merrill is available now at $2299. 

 

Program compensates current SD1 owners for price reduction with additional photography gear

Ronkonkoma, NY, Feb. 23, 2012 — Sigma Corporation of America today announced the SD1 Point Support Program, which is designed to compensate loyal SD1 users who purchased the 46-megapixel DSLR camera at its original price, prior to the price reduction that was announced Feb. 8.

Each SD1 owner who registers and qualifies for the SD1 Point Support Program prior to May 31, 2012 will be given a total of 40 points to be redeemed for new Sigma products. Eligible products are allocated points toward this system based on the product’s market price as of Feb. 8, 2012. A list of products and point designations will be supplied to SD1 owners once registration is complete.

To register for the SD1 Point Support Program, SD1 owners who purchased the camera before Feb. 23, 2012 at the price of $6,899 should contact their nearest Sigma subsidiary or distributor for more information. It does not matter if the camera was originally purchased in another country.

Sigma SD1 owners in the United States may contact Sigma Corporation of America Marketing Director Christine Moossmann starting on Monday, Feb. 27 by emailing [email protected] or by calling (631) 227-2017. SD1 Merrill users are not eligible for the SD1 Point Support Program. For information about the program or to register, contact Christine Moossmann at [email protected] or by calling (631) 227-2017. Visit Sigma Corporation of America on the web at www.sigmaphoto.com.

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