Thursday, September 29, 2016

Sigma DP2 Merrill / Monochrome output is really, really good

The Sigma DP2m (Merrill) is now about four years old, replaced by the DP Quattros a couple years ago. Most lately Sigma has released the SD1 Quattro, which is a mirror-less, interchangeable lens Foveon sensor camera at a real good price point (considering the quality of its output). I waited four years to get the DP2m because I buy used and wait until a camera falls into my disposable income range. Only recently was I able to obtain a DP2m from a fleabay seller at a price I felt I could justify.

I've been shooting with it for about a week. It eats batteries. It grows hot to the touch after using it for just a few minutes. It is relatively slow and its files are quite large (shooting RAW). The jpg engine it uses is better than the previous DP series but unlike a Canon or Nikon you really can't just shoot jpg and expect to be really happy. To effectively appreciate the ability of this camera, you must shoot RAW and use Sigma's free developer to develop each photo you shoot. BTW, it's worth the effort.

The DP2 is an (effective) 40mm f2.8, fixed lens camera using a proprietary (to Sigma) sensor. Sigma is a lens company and when they make a camera with integrated lens, it is excellent. The Foveon sensor produces extraordinarily rich images. I won't go over these cameras pluses and minuses to any great degree. There are well over 10,000 words expended about the Sigmas. I've written about both original DPs, which I like quite a lot and still have a version of both. There's little point in rehashing a camera that's four years old by now and has been written about by very competant reviewers and enthusiasts.

However, I want to say a couple things about this camera.

I really like cameras that produce rich, interesting images. Most digital cameras these days produce very competant photographs. It's hard to take a bad picture. Even phones take decent photos. But what I look for is something that amazes me or makes me want to stare. To work on it (develop, process) because it is worth my time and effort. To be gratified that my time was well spent and the result pleases me. Perhaps raises a smile or two.

So for that thrill, if I had the money, I'd get a new Lecia M240 with a couple Summilux asphericals (35, 50mm) and a Q (to cover 28mm) and go out and amaze myself? Right? But what fun is that? Uh, a lot, I suppose. But I'm both a cheapskate and have limited funds and couldn't sleep at night after spending all that money. Therefore it ain't happening this decade or likely the next. It takes a lot of years for Leicas to become "affordable."

There are, however, alternatives to mortgaging the farm for camera equipment. One alternative to the Leicas is this Sigma and others like it. This used Sigma produces images I really, really like. Dare I say they are comparable to the output from a good Leica? In some cases, yes. But what's really important is: I look forward to shooting it and then coming home and reviewing the digital negatives in Sigma Photo Pro. Probably as much as shooting a Leica. I posted a few shots I took last week in Fayetteville on this blog. I am having great fun shooting it. Yes, I am smiling.

This week I'm reviewing a couple shots and using the blue channel (one of three channels the Foveon produces) conversion to monochrome and well, it's just excellent. I guess if I had unlimited funds I'd also get a Leica M Monochrom, which is an amazing camera. But hey, the Sigma's monochrome feature looks really, really good. I guess I could have saved all these words and just said that. I'll say it again, for emphasis. The Sigma's monochrome output looks really, really good.

If you are a camera enthusiast and can't afford really expensive equipment but want amazingly good output, consider a used Sigma. If you have traditionally shot Black and White, getting a DPm (1,2, or 3), shooting RAW and using Photo Pro to develop in Monochrome will put a smile on your face.

One brief example. This is a throaway shot of Moochie and Luci guarding their yard. I like the light and contrast and it's more or less straight out of the RAW to Photo Pro.



Clouds on the horizon / Sigma DP2M