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Pictures & Words

The Sigma DP2 Merrill

OK—with two kids in college this fall, there was no way I was going to run out and buy a new camera. Even though Sigma's latest version of the DP2 compact—the DP2 Merrill—has been getting rave reviews in some unexpected places. I don't need to drop a cool grand on a compact camera that has a fixed f/2.8 45mm (equivalent) lens. Especially since I didn't really care for the early versions of the DPn series: they took nice enough pictures, they had great lenses, but they were a PITA to use. I rather stick my eye up against a viewfinder and snap a shot with my SD10/SD14/SD15.

Thankfully (or unfortunately), I have a kind friend who sent me the DP2 Merrill to use for a week or two. Now that isn't enough time for me to really get to know the camera, especially since I didn't take time off during the week to shoot. But I did get enough time with it to form some impressions. And they're pretty damn favorable. The operation of the camera in this generation is a 'hey—that's really nice'. Love this version of the QS menu system. Really liked both the focus ring on the lens, as well as the control dial around the shutter. LCD was certainly usable. Ergonomics were great. It's a nice size compact camera, although I did have it stuck to a 3-series carbon fiber tripod most of the time (it seems silly, but the tripod is light and I like the height, being 6' 3" myself.

The image quality gets an emphatic WOW. The quote I've seen on the web that describes it best is that it's like having a Hasselblad in your pocket

And then there are the images. The image quality gets an emphatic WOW. The lens is stunningly sharp wide open, with not a hint of CA. Nice bokeh with closeups and macros. Just incredible. And this was my first real time with the 15 x 3 MP Merrill sensor. It's not perfect, but it's really, really good. I don't know if it beats everything else on the market now, but it's close. At least under the usual conditions where the Foveon sensor shines: natural daylight running at lower ISO. Although I did squeeze off a couple crappy basement shots at ISO 1600 and really liked the B/W conversion–the noise pattern reminded me of the old days of using SPP 3.3 with my SD14 (a good combination).

A link to my gallery of images from the camera is here: Sigma DP2 Merrill  This gallery has full sized images linked to the slideshow (use the 'i' button, and the download then appears in the lower right corner). The detail is incredible. In fact, it might be more than my printer can handle–I've got a bit of testing to do with that aspect of it. Most of the images are quickly processed in Sigma Photo Pro. Sharpening is at the default value of 0, although many have suggested turning that down to -1 to -2. I've left noise reduction on at mid levels for some images, others have it turned off (they might look a bit crisper).

Overall, I really like what Sigma has done with this generation of cameras. The main downside of this camera is craptastic battery life—but the good news is that the ship batteries with it. On my first fully charged battery, I got 37 shots. Like a roll of film! I've learned to modulate it (turn the camera auto off setting to a short time—it's not a problem because it starts fast). The only other issue I've seen is a little of the chroma noise creeping in on underexposed pictures (which would be categorized as operator error). Having used Sigma cameras for years, I was very happily surprised with how well fitted this camera is. If you're not using a tripod, you do need to hold it steady and use a decent shutter speed (small pixels show shake), but I didn't have much of a problem with this.

Sigma—congratulations!!! You have a real winner on your hands! As for me, I hear Christmas is just around the corner...


Copyright 2014, Jim Kofron. All rights reserved.