Date: 11/01/2013 | By: Mathieu
Sigma DP3 Merill: professional quality in a compact body
The Sigma DP series is a unique system among mirrorless and compact cameras. The DP3, announced a few days ago, completes the spectrum, standing along side the DP1 and DP2.
The first unusual aspect of the DP series is that each model has a different fixed lens attached. While the DP1 has been designed for wide angle shots and the DP2 for standard range shots, the DP3 completes the podium with a 50mm f/2.8 lens that is equivalent to 75mm on a 23.5×15.7mm sensor (compared to standard 35mm format). The lens also has macro functionalities.
This sensor is the second very important aspect of this series: it is a Foveon X3 sensor with 46 megapixel resolution (3 times more than the DP1/2), which is huge for a compact camera! The Nikon D800 has 36 megapixels, the Leica s2 has 37 megapixels and a lot of medium format sensors doesn’t reach 40.
But what makes this sensor so unique?
The Foveon sensor, first introduced with the Sigma SD9, is very different from the standard Bayer sensor you find in common cameras, both compact and DSLR. Rather than capture only one of the primary colors per pixel, the Foveon captures all primary RGB colors separately (three different layers) for every pixel on the sensor. This ensure that all the color information is captured. Moreover, you don’t have color moiré artifacts and as a result, a low pass filter is not required. This means that the sharpness level is very high and the sensor can provide very detailed photographs even when printed in large format.
The new DP3 can capture up to 7 images in raw format during continuous shooting mode, has a 9 point AF select mode and a increased ISO range of 100 to 6400. It would be interesting to see if the ISO perfomance has really improved, because the downside of Foveon’s excellent image quality is that it works well only at lower ISO, and when I say lower ISO, I mean no more than 320, 400. So, forget night shots or low light shots unless you have a tripod and can set long-time exposures.
The camera has a video function but it is very limited: you can only record in VGA format (640×480) at 30fps per seconds. Not spectacular, but the DP cameras aren’t meant for video anyway.
In addition, there is an interesting video made by the CameraStore TV where they compare the DP1 and DP2 with the Nikon D800 and explain nicely why the DP series can be worth your while despite its limitations compared to other cameras. Watch the video review here.
Finally, if you are into watching videos, there is an informative one about the Sigma Lens factory in Japan. You can find it here.