The ergonomics caused major social unrest in Scandinavia, the engineering mass suicide in Japan and the thing is so ugly the Chinese haven’t bothered with a crappy copy. So why do I have a Sigma DP1 for review?
Well, if you dig deep enough—as in ‘how deep is your love?’ deep—you can find a small group of almost religious fans of the Quattro series. These people are rare, and frankly a little unsettling, but are they onto something?
On first touch the Quattro is bigger than expected and no beautiful thing to hold or behold. The grip is big enough, but feels ungainly in my big mitts. The thumb rest might as well be on another camera because it’s nowhere near my thumb on this one.
That being said, the screen is always free from obstruction when viewing and I never dropped it. Maybe I’ll get used to it?
In further bad news for Sony, the menu system makes perfect sense on first look and the controls take no more than a minute to figure out so getting to the point of shooting is quick and easy.
Well done on that front, Sigma.
Normally, in all my photography I only shoot raws, but from what I understand, the raws from the DP1 can only be processed in Sigma’s own software. This is a problem for two reasons: first, it took me twenty years to learn Photoshop and I don’t have the brain power left for something new; and second, I hear that the Sigma is to software what Adobe is to cameras. Really, Sigma need to think about how common Photoshop and Lightroom are amongst the photo crowd and get with the cool kids on this. Anyway, onto some photography with the camera set to high-res JPEGs.
Shooting with the DP1 is way slower than a DSLR due to a long write time after taking a picture, and when I say long, I mean ‘go for a walk’, ‘write to your mother’, ‘waiting for the beer to chill’ long. You get the idea. For landscape stuff it’s not a big deal and I got used to it pretty quick, but don’t buy this camera if you want to shoot action. It’s for more considered photography.
I found shooting in manual easy thanks to the separate dials for shutter speed and aperture and getting exposure right was simple enough with the basic small histogram in the display.
After a quick trial of the various JPEG presets, I ended up stuck on ‘Cinematic’ in 16×9 format.
I love the stark look of the shots with their cold blue/green feel, it reminds me of the movie Paris Texas and the Ry Cooder soundtrack slides around my head while I shoot.
I did try a few shots at high ISO, but the less said about it the better.
The EVF vs. OVF debate is pointless here because the DP1 has neither and I found working with just the screen (for the first time ever) in hard daylight can be tough, especially when lining up verticals. The on-screen level indicator seems to work very well though and in overcast or indoors, the screen is fine.
Battery life? No, think battery death because the lifespan is that short. It’s about the lens and what a lens it’s about.
Sigma have proved with their Art series lenses that they’re more than capable of making awesome glass to rival the competition and the 19mm (28mm FF Eqv.) lens on the DP1 is proof of those skills. The shots that come from this thing are edge to edge sharp with unreal detail and the distortion is very, very low. Whatever trickery the Foveon sensor is up to, it’s working and the images look more detailed than the 19 megapixels would suggest. In fact, I would put this thing up against my D800e and excellent Nikon 28mm lens for detail.
For fishing photography things get complicated. On the one hand the image quality is stunning and the look unique, but on the other, the working speed would rule out a lot of action stuff and you would have to be very much on your game to capture the moment.
So would I buy one ? Hell yes, though I won’t be selling the Nikons anytime soon for paid work. I could, however, see myself getting a DP1 and running away from home on one of those single lens type photo projects that seem to make average photographers so instantly famous online. Might get a weird hat for that as well, or a dog or something.
Seriously, this camera is so odd it might not work for most people, but the image quality and unique look have absolutely sold me and I apologise to Sigma for all the rubbish I’ve posted above because the truth is that they’ve bent normal to breaking point and made something very special with this camera, and my weird hat is off to them.
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