Sigma DP1: strange love

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by OreoCookie, Jul 9, 2010.

  1. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2001
    Location:
    Sendai, Japan
    #1
    After my best friend got a Panasonic GF1, my longing for a good compact camera to complement my dslr took over and I perused the net for options. I wanted to have a relatively compact body for street photography, but didn't want to spend a fortune. The cheapest option it turned out was the DP1 which sometimes sold for as little as 120 € in pristine condition! So I jumped for it: 120 € for an almost new DP1 with box and everything (except for the memory card I think, but who cares, I have tons of SD cards lying around).

    Before I write why I like the camera, let me get to the downsides:
    (1) Speed (or rather lack thereof): when you take a picture, you have to wait until it is written to the memory card to change settings! And it's not particularly fast to write the buffer to the SD card. It feels like my Olympus E-20 (a camera from 2001!) in that respect. Well, it's faster than the E-20, but not by much. So you cannot take a picture, change aperture and take another one, you have to wait a few seconds (if you shoot RAW) until the buffer has cleared. Ugh!
    (2) UI: What were the Sigma engineers smoking while they conjured up this dreadful UI: there are zoom buttons even though the camera has a prime! Of course, the zoom works if you look at photos, but come on!
    There is no dial to change aperture and/or shutter speed, just buttons. This concept has failed in the 1980s and early 1990s, so why does Sigma think it's successful now? At least you can customize the `zoom' buttons. In practice, many important settings remain buried in the menu, though.
    (3) AF in low light. The lens isn't particularly fast (f/4), but in this case, it needn't be, it's a wide-angle after all. However, the AF is not very fast. Manual focus is kind of hard: it's impossible to focus in the default mode, full screen, you need to zoom in. Unfortunately, the zoom button needlessly cycles through normal-zoomed-lcd off. If it were only the first two, it'd be ok (but still worse than a zoomed picture-in-picture such as you get with Leicas Digilux 2), but the third option when you have selected manual focus is absolutely useless!
    The Auto ISO mode is also pretty pointless as it only switches between ISO 50 and ISO 200. Why not 400?
    (4) RAW files are not supported by Apple and you're forced to use Sigma's RAW converter. I didn't think about this before ordering and I'd really like to just import my picts into Aperture. Now I have to pre-edit the pics with Sigma's RAW converter and export to 16 bit tiff, ugh!
    (5) Too much noise at ISO 800.


    Now to the upsides:
    (1) Build quality: the camera just feels great and sturdy in your hands, no warping, no nothing. The main dial on the top feels as if it has been made for eternity. The shutter release feels equally nice, it has a well-defined pressure point.
    (2) The image quality is stunning if you shoot RAW. The level of detail is amazing, even though you only have 5 megapixels to work with, those are 5 very, very good megapixels. You may want to massage the pixel a little before converting them to tiff, though.
    (3) Well-suited for street photography: now I can be incognito again :)


    The downsides look pretty damning, but for one reason or another, I really enjoy the limitations. The camera forces me to work more deliberately and it is indeed very compact. Even with a 1 GB card, I only have `limited' space (~ 65 RAW files, I believe) which pressures me even more into choosing what to take a picture of. I don't have a choice of 5 lenses and stuff, either I like the 28 mm (equivalent) or I just take the picture in a different way. Sometimes I think 35 mm equivalent would be better, but then again, it is what it is. In theory, I could use my external flash, but the SB-600 is larger and heavier than the Sigma and thus it looks more like a freak show than a marriage made in heaven.

    I really like taking pictures of people in the subway or when they think they're not watched. With my dslr I can only do that with my 80-200 mm from a distance, but then you take pictures from a different perspective. Now, if I had a lot of money, perhaps I would get a different camera, but for now, I enjoy it -- a lot.

    Does anyone else feel the same way about the DP1?
     
  2. ManhattanPrjct macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2008
    #2
    I completely understand your motivations for getting a street-shooter. People swear by Sigma's compacts, but honestly after looking at sample images and reading dpreview's dreadful commentary, it doesn't seem worth it.

    However, maybe at the Pasadena photography swap meet this weekend somebody will be selling one cheap. That's probably the only situation where I'd try it.

    What did you think of your friend's GF1?
     
  3. OreoCookie thread starter macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2001
    Location:
    Sendai, Japan
    #3
    That's what I thought, but they're really quite good if you come to terms with the limitations. I bought the Sigma at little or no risk, I know I can always sell it for the same price or even a tad more, i. e. I can practically try it for free. Apparently a lot of people try them and then sell them again (I can't blame them, see above).

    The feeling I have shooting with the DP1 is akin to the excitement of shooting with a full-manual film body: you work more slowly and more deliberately. You frame things with your eyes.
    Amazing, but way out of my budget. I think he paid about 8 times as much (body + kit lens + pancake). The DP1 is a supplement for my Nikon gear and I couldn't afford/don't want to afford a m4/3 kit and a dslr kit. Although I may one day pick up a used Olympus m4/3 with pancake or so. Also, the GF1 is larger than the DP1. Not by much, but still. I wonder how the Oly compares. It's a pity Olympus hasn't included a flash in the bigger models EP-1 and EP-2 :(
     
  4. acearchie macrumors 68040

    acearchie

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2006
    #4
    Could we see some sample images?

    I am a firm believer that it is not about megapixels but the quality of the image!
     
  5. OreoCookie thread starter macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2001
    Location:
    Sendai, Japan
    #5
    Here are two samples (click on the image for a full-size version):
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  6. ManhattanPrjct macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2008
    #6
    By the way, I was walking to lunch yesterday and saw somebody with an EP-2 on a neck-strap. Even though he just had the pancake lens on, the size combined with the neck-strap looked very odd. I mean, where do you PUT that camera when you're not using it? I guess you'd just have to carry a small case around.

    PS: nice images - looks like you shot later in the day. How does it deal with contrast?
     
  7. OreoCookie thread starter macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2001
    Location:
    Sendai, Japan
    #7
    I have bought an old-style (fake) leather case, the kind you remember from your dad's old camera. It's much sturdier than the zip bag that came with the DP1 and is barely bigger than the camera. I reckon I'd get something like that for the EP-2 + pancake combo.
    Thanks a lot :)
    It was indeed around 6 on the first pic and around 8:30ish on the second.
    The camera deals with high contrast situations quite well as long as you shoot RAW. jpgs tend to look flat.
     

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