Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Sigma DP1 / landmark p&s (consumer) digital cameras / Lego Creator series 4996 Beach House

I'm going to start a thread about what I'm calling landmark p&s digital cameras. These are cameras aimed at consumers, not professionals. They are generally categorized as point and shoot (p&s) because they are fixed lens cameras and are not SLRs. Many of these were relatively expensive when introduced and could be considered as enthusiast grade cameras. High build quality. Some professionals, looking for something small to carry around would often choose this grade of camera, as well. A later post will cover the Canon G7, which is of a line of high grade consumer cameras starting with the G1. This post is about the first Sigma DP camera, the DP1, introduced in 2006. It has two claims to fame. A foveon sensor (1) which was APS C sized (2). It was the first such small, large sensor cameras to be built. It was pocket-able, all metal construction and had full manual controls (along with options for auto). Here's a picture of my current DP1:

The reason it's covered in gaffer's tape is it's a slick camera, easily dropped. Even though it's metal, it will dent up pretty quickly. As you can see, the lens sticks out a bit making it less pocket-able. I've mounted an auto expand/contract lens cap to replace the original mount and twist cap for convenience.

The camera is made by a lens manufacturer. It sports a prime lens (28mm effective) with maximum aperture of f4. It is ruthlessly sharp wide open. There is no need to stop it down for reasons of sharpness.

The sensor renders reality in a unique way. A combination of the sharp lens and the Foveon sensor creates images you want to examine for a long time. Again, quite unique.

The camera is slloooow to do just about everything. It's Jpeg engine is poor. Images must be captured in RAW and developed in Sigma Photo Pro, bundled with the camera and available for free download from Sigma. It writes RAW files slowly. I upscale Jpegs x 2 when I develop RAW to JPG. It's high ISO performance is miserable for color, which goes away the higher the ISO. It gets noisy. The sensor renders a yellow cast in some situations. You can see photosites in photos when it flares. One reason you shoot RAW is the auto ISO is often off a bit. Weird stuff. It has many, many flaws but most are correctable in Photo Pro. I've grown to love it, not for its flaws but for its strong capabilities. It is a strong camera. A small, blocky, weird little thing with a big heart. Most of the time I can't wait to see its output. Something I can't say about most competent cameras. They render well saturated, low noise pictures that are great. They are generally boring. The DP's shots are different and deserve development time and care.

I have purchased and sold used DPs over and over and at last have a couple of DPs (quoting Lawrence Welk, a one and a two) I likely will never sell because they aren't worth much any more. One day I'll get a Merrill version as I know I'll like it. I just need to let the savageness of the used camera market reduce the value enough until I consider it of more or less salvage value so if I want to resell, I won't take much of a beating. It's getting closer every day.

Here's a monochrome example. All examples are RAW converted in Photo Pro with minimal to no post processing, which is saying a lot because I always fool with images after the fact and these are so interesting to me. I leave them alone:
I like the DP2 better than the 1 but it's incremental. I like the 40mm f2.8 better than the 28mm f4 but if you want or need wider, the DP1 works fine. The s and x models of the two cameras show improvements but they generally cost more. The base versions work and are cheaper.

Here's a sky shot:

Next are a few shots of the wife's Lego house taken around Christmas of a few years ago. The greens and yellows are shouting (maybe cursing?). The lens sharpness is excellent. The shots, wide open, in natural, very low light are pretty good/weird/different. The sharpness and IQ is great. I scratch my head over the yellows and the greens, which are always a bit weird in the DP1. The DP2, not so much. The DP1 had a yellow issue.

 The first shot of the camera came from the G7, which I'll cover tomorrow, in this series.

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