Sigma DP1 Digital Camera Preview

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Sigma DP1 Compact Digital Camera

I was very excited about Sigma’s DP1 compact digital camera when it was announced at the 2006 PMA tradeshow. It took over a year for it to actually be released and then a few more months for us to get one for review. So was it worth the wait? I can’t say yet as I only had a few days to play with it before sending it on to Laurence Chen for the actual review. But I had to do our studio testing and product shots so I got to play with it for a few days and decided I should post a little preview here.

Sigma DP1 LCD and rear controls

What’s so special about the DP1, you ask? So far, the Sigma DP1 is the only compact digital camera with a digital SLR-sized sensor. Compact digital cameras (point-and-shoots and high-end compacts like the Canon PowerShot G9 and Nikon Coolpix P5100) all have imaging sensors that are much smaller than those used in digital SLRs. Camera makers keep increasing the number of pixels in compact digital cameras but the sensor size has remained the same – tiny. In order to increase resolution on the same size sensor, pixels have to get smaller and smaller. And smaller pixels mean more noise and a smaller range of colors and tones (dynamic range). Basically, a larger sensor and bigger pixels mean better image quality. And Sigma is the first camera maker to step up and deliver a camera with digital SLR imaging in a compact body.

Sigma DP1 Studio Test Images

studio_icon.jpg ISO 100 Sample >>
ISO 200 Sample >>
ISO 400 Sample >>
ISO 800 Sample >>

Now a little camera history…

Back before I ever had a digital camera, I had a Yashica T4 Super 35mm point-and-shoot (also called the Yashica T5). It had a wonderful 35mm f/2.8 lens, a spot meter, and I could use the same slide film in it that I used in my Canon EOS 3 SLR. But using current point-and-shoot digital cameras is sort of like shooting with a 110-film Instamatic or disc camera (remember those?). You have to make a noticeable compromise in image quality for the convenience of a pocket-sized camera. That wasn’t the case with my Yashica T4 Super or comparable 35mm point-and-shoot cameras like the Olympus Stylus Epic, Leica Minilux, Contax T3, or Ricoh R1. Photographers who remember those cameras revere them because they delivered uncompromised quality in a pocket-sized package. That has not been the case with digital cameras – until the Sigma DP1.

I won’t go so far as saying that the Sigma DP1 actually has digital SLR image quality. I’ll leave the final judgment to Larry and his DP1 review. But I am impressed with the detail and tonal range of the DP1 photos I shot. I’ll even go out on a limb and say they’re better than any compact digital camera I’ve used yet. And that includes RAW-capable high-end compacts like the Canon G9 and Leica D-Lux 3. There are a few compromises to be made – the DP1 doesn’t have a zoom lens, no one would call it fast, and the LCD is pretty poor. But for photographers who want the absolute best image quality in a camera that’s more packable than a digital SLR, it may be the answer.

I’ll leave the rest to Larry…

Sigma DP1 Sample Photos:

Sigma DP1 Flower Sample Photo Sigma DP1 - Downtown Salt Lake City Sample Photo Sigma DP1 - Street Musicians Sample Photo Sigma DP1 - Chili at ISO 800
Sigma DP1 Flower Sample Photo Sigma DP1 - Silver Lake Sample Photo Sigma DP1 - Skin Tone Sample Photo Sigma DP1 - Park City Aspens

Click on thumbnails to view sample photos (warning – large files!)

Compare prices and shop for Sigma DP1 digital camera

Other Resources:
Shop For Sigma DP1 >>
Sigma DP1 User Reviews >>
Write a Sigma DP1 Review >>
Sigma DP1 Camera Specs >>
Sigma DP1 Sample Gallery >>
All Sigma Camera & Lens Reviews >>
Sigma Web site >>


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About the author: Photo-John

Photo-John, a.k.a. John Shafer, is the managing editor of PhotographyREVIEW.com and has been since the site launched back in 1999. He's an avid outdoor enthusiast and spends as much time as possible on his mountain bike, hiking or skiing in the mountains. He's been taking pictures for ever and ever, and never goes anywhere without a camera.


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  • Well John doesn’t need me to tell him what’s good and what isn’t! Maybe he is just feeling bad because he didn’t invite me to go skiing, and then I had to listen to him brag about 20″ of Utah pow in April…

  • CD Price - drg says:

    John,

    You got one to test!

    I am looking forward to seeing a real world test and review. Early reviews and comments have been mixed. The samples you have posted so far seem to continue to demonstrate what interested me in earlier implementation of this chip technology.

    The downtown Salt Lake image demonstrates via the straight lines of cables and building features even at the resized level one distinct advantage of the FOVEON sensor and its inherent lack of artifacts.

    Those are up-rezzed with the Sigma Software aren’t they? The comments say native resolution but I’m seeing scaled photos.

    - Carleton

  • Photo-John says:

    Carleton-
    Yes – we finally got one! The photos are posted at 2690 x 1810 pixels I am pretty sure that’s the native resolution. There was a little learning curve with the Sigma Photo Pro software and the first couple I posted – including the downtown SLC photo – were interpolated. But once I realized they weren’t at the native resolution, I redid them and replaced them with 2690 x 1810 images. Is that not what you’re seeing?

  • CD Price - drg says:

    Downtown SLC, Chil, and Silver Lake are still coming up in the large size(4653×3128). I didn’t look at any others at the moment.

    It about 2pm Central TIme June 19, 2008.

    Carleton

  • elmimmo says:

    Grrmmmphhm… What is the point of giving sample photos in a camera review and stripping the EXIF? Is there any possibility you could reupload them, so that we know time and parameters?

  • Photo-John says:

    elmimmo-
    I didn’t strip out the EXIF data. It’s possible our gallery is stripping it. In any case, if you look below the images in the gallery, there’s an information area and I’ve included ISO, shutter speed, and aperture for all of these images. I know how important that data is for camera evaluation. I wouldn’t neglect it.

  • Pingback: New Ricoh GX200 Announced, Available in July 2008

  • Patia says:

    So … how long do you think it will be before we get a really good point-and-shoot camera with a SLR sensor with all the P&S bells and whistles?

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