Detailed Review of Sigma DP3 Merrill
Sigma Japanese company is the largest producer of camera-equipment, particularly, lenses for SLR cameras. But, this company as well makes both SLR and non-SLR cameras, few people know about them, they are not very popular, nevertheless the line of production exists and is updated. In the given review we are going to describe Sigma DP3 Merrill, the high level compact camera for advanced amateurs and professionals, who need compact-sized camera without any loss of quality of pictures. The sensor of this model is of APS-C size, this is rather good one, sensors of such size are used in middle level DSLR cameras. The camera has impressive 46 megapixels with Foveon X3 sensor, which is used in SLR cameras models of the same producer. Of course, there aren’t 46 megapixels in that you could observe directly on photos and it seems more to be a marketing trick. But technically there are exactly 46 megapixels in the camera, three-layer system is used in the sensor and every layer consists of 4800×3200 pixels, all three layers are laid on each other, and by that every photodiode captures and works up information in full RBG spectrum. So on the whole the photo corresponds to about 15 megapixels. The photographic lens is irreplaceable, of 50mm f/2.8, with good aperture ratio, and this is surely one of the main advantages of this camera, while the choice of the focal length puzzled me a little, the previous version of this model had 35mm camera lens, this seemed more useful than 50mm.
In the scale of 35mm camera (full frame) the focal length of sigma equals 75mm. In fact, this focal length reduces the focus group of customers of this camera at least to 50%. Lack of zoom, fixed focus length also diminishes the rest of the focus group clients twice. And all that is because of the fact that the camera with this lens is mostly good for portrait mode and macro photography, all the rest modes of photography are extremely difficult. Object shooting, and shooting of large objects, buildings, nature and many other things as well is possible, but you won’t enjoy the process, it is more likely to become your hard work. Instead, thanks to the fixed lens of 50mm you get incredible sharpness. The maximum aperture ratio F/2.8 will give an opportunity to blur the background in portrait shooting prettily, and the high aperture ratio with sensor of APS-C size give chance for shooting in lack of lightning conditions.
Dual TRUE II processor is responsible for processing of images. 3-inched fixed colorful display with number of pixels equal to 920000. Besides, the producer gives quite large amount of creative modes of shooting. One more distinctive feature from the competitors is that there is a focusing ring on the photographic lens, and by the way the ring works having high quality. But the model has no built-in flash-light, though there is a hot shoe and you may buy an external flash-light in addition as an accessory. The camera supports shooting in RAW, JPEG, RAW+JPEG. Moreover, RAW files are shot in unique X3F format worked out by Sigma, which is of course a negative point, because you can open them only using Sigma Photo Pro 5 program. That is very simple one and its functions you shouldn’t even compare for example with LightRoom, the features of Sigma’s program are limited, however I can’t complain that something is not enough for me. By the way, the camera doesn’t have an image stabilizer, and that is a huge and heavy problem, so take it into account when buying it, later we are going to describe this moment in details. The prefix Merrill in the name of the model tells us about the surname of Foveon X3 sensor’s inventor. The price of the camera is very high, it is about 1000-1300$ depending on a country and specific store.
Technical features and comparison with competitors
|Sensor Type||Foveon X3 Direct Image Sensor (CMOS)|
|Sensor Size||23.5 x 15.7mm|
|Total Pixels||48 MP|
|Effective Pixels||46 MP|
|Aspect Ratio||3 : 2|
|35mm Equivalent Focal Length||75mm|
|Lens F number||F2.8|
|Number of Diaphragm Blades||7|
|Lens Construction||10 Elements in 8 Groups|
|Minimum Shooting Range||22.6cm|
|Storage Media||SD Card, SDHC Card, SDXC Card, Multi Media Card|
|File Format||Lossless compression RAW data (12-bit), JPEG, RAW + JPEG, Movie (AVI).|
|File Size||4704 × 3136, 3264 × 2176, 2336 × 1568|
|Movie||VGA : 640 x 480 (Image area 640 x 426), 30 frames/sec|
|ISO Sensitivity||100 – 6400. AUTO: High limit, low limit setting is possible between ISO 100 ~ ISO 6400.|
|White Balance||8 types (Auto, Daylight, Shade, Overcast, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Flash, Custom)|
|Color Mode||8 types (Standard, Vivid, Neutral, Portrait, Landscape, B&W, Sepia, FOV Classic Blue)|
|Auto Focus Type||Contrast Detection Type|
|AF Point||9 points select mode, Free move mode (It is possible to change the size of Focus Frame to Spot, Regular and Large), Face Detection AF mode|
|Exposure Metering Systems||Evaluative Metering, Center-Weighted Average Metering, Spot Metering|
|AE Lock||AE lock button|
|Exposure Compensation||±3EV (1/3 stop increments)|
|Auto Bracketing||Appropriate, under, over; 1/3EV steps up to ±3EV for appropriate exposure|
|Shutter Speed||1/2000 – 30sec.|
|Drive Modes||Single, Continuous, Self Timer (2sec. /10sec.), Interval timer, Unlimited Shooting|
|LCD Monitor||TFT color LCD monitor, size 3 inches, pixels approx. 920000|
|LCD Monitor Language||English / Japanese / German / French / Spanish / Italian / Chinese (Simplified) / Korean / Russian / Chinese (Traditional) / Nederlands / Polski / Português / Dansk / Svenska / Norsk / Suomi|
|Interfaces||USB 2.0, Video Out (NTSC/PAL), Audio Out (Monaural)|
|Power Source||2 Li-ion Batteries BP-41, Battery Charger BC-41.|
|Battery Life||Approx. 97 (+25°c)|
|Dimensions||121.5mm/4.8″(W), 66.7mm/2.6″(H), 80.6mm/3.2″(D)|
|Weight||400g/14.1oz (without battery and memory card)|
And couple of words about the competitors. Now there are many models in the market, so there are some to compare with.
1. Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1. it’s a bit not its competitor, but nonetheless it is a full frame sensor in compact camera. This is in great demand nowadays, as many people don’t want to carry SLR camera, but want to get photos not worse than of semi-professional level SLRs and the camera was made for such audience, this is the first full frame compact in the world. Comparing to Sigma, Sony has higher aperture ratio, and it’s never enough. The lens is also from very well-known Carl Zeiss brand. And of course the ability to record a great movie in Full HD with 60 frames/sec speed, no competitors can give that, as Sigma is not sharp in video shooting at all. As well as in Sigma the photographic lens is fixed, but it’s of 35mm, and this is the right choice indeed. Sigma has 50mm and personally I think that this is not right focal length for any-purpose camera, which Sigma is shown to be. Everything is well in Sony, except the price of about 3500$, as you can buy a professional SLR camera for the same money. And Sigma with its price of 1000$ looks quite decent.
2. Pentax MX-1 is rather proper competitor to Sigma. It has smaller sensor of 1/1.7″ size, the quality of pictures is anyway lower, as no one has cancelled the laws of physics. But it has a lens with focal length of 6-24 mm, which is to my mind the right choice of focal length for any-purpose camera in comparison with Sigma. Moreover, the aperture ratio is the very high, as much as 1.8-2.5, and here Sigma loses to it and very much. Further, unlike Sigma with its VGA movie, Pentax records video in Full HD on 30 frames per second. The price is also very nice, only 500-600$. However, the quality of pictures on Pentax will anyway be worse than on Sigma. If high-quality image is very important for you than Pentax will lose to Sigma. If you can sacrifice to quality, not very much, but noticeably, than as I see it Pentax is the best choice for you. And you shouldn’t forget about presence of movable screen on Pentax, unlike Sigma.
3. Canon PowerShot G1X – I had and used this camera for rather long period of time. To say that I was disappointed in it means to say nothing. Although everything looks perfect on paper, in practice everything is quite the opposite. The sensor of Canon is almost like in Sigma that is rather big, however the quality of pictures in Canon is extremely worse than Sigma and probably even than Pentax have. Huge size and weight of Canon also don’t make it attractive, as Sigma will be perceptibly more compact. Though you won’t notice it in picture, in life Canon feels like a cumbersome camera. Canon has the most universal camera lens with quite big focal length, probably here lies the problem of quality of pictures, though it is surely convenient to use. The aperture ratio of Canon is acceptable, but nevertheless worse than Sigma’s. It records video in Full HD, but only on 24 shots per second. However, it is anyway far better than in Sigma. Canon has a rotary screen, able to rotate in any directions, and I consider it as a big advantage. Canon has one problem with focal length, especially for lovers of macro. It has just huge minimal focusing distance, as much as 20cm, though you feel you get all 30 in practice, therefore forget about macro shooting with this camera, it is just unable to shoot in this genre. But at the same time Sigma is merely perfect with macro shooting. Instead the price of Canon is only 500-600$, twice cheaper than Sigma, and this is a very considerable advantage. However, I wouldn’t recommend buying this model, it seemed very unripe and poor.
4. Fujifilm X100S is improved Fujifilm X100 camera, and S letter means that the camera has become a lot quicker. Besides, it has new 16 megapixels sensor of APS-C size and the price of the camera is the closest to that of Sigma. Perhaps this is the major competitor. One more advantage of Fujifilm is its retro look, which is almost the main peculiarity when choosing a compact camera, as it looks very stylish unlike Sigma that looks like a standard piece of black plastic. In addition Fujifilm has a built-in flash, IS and ability to record videos in FullHD on 60 shots per second, these are very serious advantages. Focus length of Fujifilm lense is fixed, but the aperture ratio is much higher than Sigma has and the focal length is chosen more appropriately in my opinion, as 23 mm will give an opportunity to shoot almost in all modes, in contrast to Sigma of 50mm, which limit you a lot or at least make many types of shooting difficult. The quality of pictures in Fujifilm has rather good level if we can judge according to outside reviews. The price of about 1400-1500$ is certainly high, but still acceptable.
Compare with competitors
|Sigma DP3 Merrill||Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1||Pentax MX-1||Canon PowerShot G1 X||Fujifilm X100S|
|Sensor Type & Size||CMOS, APS-C (23.5 x 15.7 mm), 46 MP||CMOS, Full Frame (24 x 36 mm), 24 MP||CMOS, 1/1.7″ (7.5 x 5.6 mm), 12 MP||CMOS, 1,5″ (18.7 x 14.0 mm), 14.3 MP||CMOS, APS-C (23.4 x 15.6 mm), 16 MP|
|Lens||Sigma Lens 50 mm f/2.8 macro||Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 35 mm f/2.0||SMC Pentax Lens 6-24 mm f/1.8-2.5||Canon Zoom Lens4X IS 15.1–60.4 mm f/2.8-5.8||Fujinon 23 mm f/2.0|
|ISO||100-6400. AUTO: High limit, low limit setting is possible between ISO 100 ~ ISO 6400||100-25600||100-12800||100-12800||100-25600|
|File Format & Size||JPEG, RAW, JPEG + RAW. Maximum resolution 4704 x 3136||JPEG, RAW. Maximum resolution 6000 x 4000||JPEG, RAW, DCF 2.0, DPOF, PRINT Image Matching III. Maximum resolution 4000 x 3000||JPEG, RAW. Maximum resolution 4352 x 3264||JPEG, RAW. Maximum resolution 4896 x 3264|
|Movie||AVI, 640 x 480, 30 frames per second||MPEG-4, AVCHD, 1920 х 1080, 60 frames per second||MPEG-4 AVC / H.264, 1920 х 1080, 30 frames per second||MOV, 1920 х 1080, 24 frames per second||H.264, MOV, 1920 х 1080, 60 frames per second|
|Shutter Speed||1/2000 – 30 sec||1/4000 – 60 sec||1/8000 – 30 sec||1/4000 – 60 sec||1/4000 – 60 sec|
|Display||LCD 3″, 920000 pixels||LCD 3″, 1228000 pixels||LCD 3″, 920000 pixels||LCD 3″, 920000 pixels||LCD 2.8″, 460000 pixels|
|Flash||None||Built-in, GN Guide Number 6||Built-in, GN Guide Number 12||Built-in, GN Guide Number 9||Built-in, GN Guide Number 7|
|Battery||Li-Ion BP-41, 1250 mAh||Li-Ion NP-BX1, 1240 mAh||Li-Ion D-LI106, 1250 mAh||Li-Ion NB-10L, 920 mAh||Li-Ion NP-95, 1700 mAh|
|Dimensions & Weight||121 х 66 х 80, 400 g||113 x 65 x 70, 482 g||126 х 60 х 52, 391 g||117 x 81 x 65, 531 g||127 x 74 x 54, 446 g|
Design, interface, menu and shooting modes
We meet strict and plain package, it’s a common white box with name of the model and that’s all. There are two little boxes inside, above one of which there are user manuals, the guarantee check and the rest documents. In one of the boxes there is the camera itself, in other one – the charger, 2 batteries, USB cable for computer, cable for TV connection and strap to carry the camera on neck or in hand. On the whole, the set of accessories with the camera is quite standard, except one thing, which surprised me a lot. The maker has put 2 batteries, honestly telling us that the charge of one battery is enough only for about 70 shots. I have SLR Nikon D3200 camera, and there was one battery with declared amount of pictures for 250 shots at one charge with it in a set, though in fact the battery works for 40-50 shots. Sigma is honest and I like it, they honestly write that the charge is enough for 97 shots and include the second battery, so that you won’t have to buy it in addition, the charge works really for about 70 shots without flash, and the exaggeration from them is not so big.
The camera is of classical design, it is just rectangular like a box, and angles are rather sharp, there are no superfluous projections anywhere. The camera itself is quite heavy, I think with flash-memory card and battery it will weigh about 1 pound (450 grams), though of course a lot lighter than SLR cameras. Photographic lens comes forward for 2.16 inches (55 mm), so it’s impossible to be carried in a pocket, if only you put it in big pockets of a jacket, and I suppose it won’t go in summer cloths. You will have to use a small case for it. Aluminum chassis are used in the camera, as it is the best material which nowadays is on the market for cameras. It is light and firm, as it is an alloy but definitely not pure aluminum. The assembly of the camera feels like very firm and sound one, by the way it is made in Japan, which is very important personally for me, and I trust the Japanese quality as it is usually on the highest level. The camera has a look of a cheap one, as it has very simple appearance and small sizes, by sight few people would say that you are shooting on quite serious camera, the majority will see you as an amateur with point-and-shoot camera for 100$.
From interesting peculiarities we should note that completely metallic connector for stand mount is placed strictly on the center of the photographic lens and not on the body of the camera itself, this hints at the fact that how serious is the device for understanding audience. All amateur cameras usually have a connector for tripod located in a corner of the camera, and besides, the connector is often plastic one. And when the tripod is often used, plastic connector will stop working quickly.
We should mention that the size of photographic lens doesn’t change when the camera is turned on; it’s surely an advantage, as sometimes it can hinder. The structure of the camera lens itself looks very reliable, there were absolutely no gaps noticed anywhere. What particularly made me glad was a focus ring, as for me, I’ve never seen such smoothly moving ring, which I can compare to camera lenses of 2000$ for SLR cameras of outstanding brands. However, they don’t have so smoothly moving setting mechanism. This is an enormous advantage to my mind, especially for lovers of field macro-shooting, just a priceless opportunity for quick and clear manual adjustment. Moreover, we should specially point to its possibility of screen brightness setting, and often you won’t find such option by other producers.
Left in front of the camera lens and in right upper corner on the opposite side there are small hillocks, which are able to help you holding the camera in your hands tightly. However, these hillocks are too small and made of plastic at the same time that is they are slippery. It would be much more convenient to make rubberized parts like this has been done by the majority of other makers for years; it is an approved decision as rubber surface doesn’t slide. So in fact, it is a decorative decision that is useless. The camera has no built-in flash; instead it has a hot shoe. However, if you will want to use an optical viewfinder, than you’ll have to choose, either a viewfinder or a flash, as using them both at the same time is impossible.
Sigma provides with a complete opportunity of exposure control with the help of the mode button located above, we have a standard set PSAM, which is almost in any cameras. I won’t describe each letter of PSAM mode, because the audience interested in this camera definitely knows meanings of PSAM. Apart from that we have 3 user modes, and this is already the useful option, which gives an opportunity to save settings and limitations for three different situations needed, though honestly speaking, there is a lack of the 4th user mode for me, but these are certainly my cavils. I liked very much that Sigma gives a chance to put limitations as defined bounds, for instance ISO is not more than 800, exposure time no than 1/80 and so on, it is convenient.
Up on the right of the mode button there is a setting ring, by which you can adjust the diaphragm and exposure time as well as using it as Zoom for zooming up when you’re viewing photos or when shooting. There are 3 metering exposure modes and they are classical: evaluative metering, center-weighted average metering and spot metering. Compensation of exposure is done with a spacing step of 1/3 from -3 to +3 range. There is also a function of bracketing by exposure.
Sigma’s AF system usually used to have a lot of complaints, but they seemed to have worked well with this model and have raised the auto focus to a normal level. Actually the camera has 9 focusing points, but you can simultaneously choose only one of them. There is no automatic system of focusing choice and usage of several focusing points at a time, although this standard function has been in the majority of cameras of other makers for many years. That is why here Sigma didn’t reach even the minimal standard of the industry. It goes without saying that in the process of shooting it’s always far easier to use only the central point of focusing and simply place the object, which must be in a focus– on the center, instead of moving the focusing point around each time with using navigation buttons, as that’s very tiring and you become quickly bored. In comparison with the previous model of this line, the improvement in terms of focusing is also according to the fact that the exactness of moving of a focusing frame was increased. Now it is moving up to 1/3d of its height, that is more smoothly and with smaller steps than earlier. And the mode of face detection is also added, which is seen in majority of cameras of other producers. This mode automatically determines human face in a frame and focuses on it.
Auto focus is carried out in several modes:
1. Standard mode does focusing in the range from 1 meter to infinity.
2. In portrait mode the minimal distance can be reduced to 0.35 meters.
3. Macro mode has minimal permissible focal distance equal to 0.22 meters, and the maximum scale will be 1:3.
4. Autofocus of face priority.
5. Autofocus of speed priority.
In those reviews of this camera that I have had time to read, there were many complaints as for AF speed. However, I can’t agree on this point, because I didn’t notice any serious delay, the auto focusing is done less than half a second, and I suppose it’s a worthy result for compact non-SLR camera. In conditions of very bad lightning this time can increase a little bit, but still it always will be less than 1 second.
Manual mode of focusing deserves to be described separately. In this model the Sigmas have brought about incredibly smooth and sharp system of manual focusing with the help of classical focusing ring on the camera lens. In the previous model this was realized in the form of extremely inconvenient navigation ring on the back panel. There is also a possibility to zoom the picture on the display when focusing. It is really convenient for more exact focusing on a necessary object, though you can’t call it an innovation as well. With maximal zooming of a picture, it is easier to focus manually, but the screen is anyway not able to transfer all the sharpness of the image and its bounds of sharpness, so there is a large ground for work of Sigma’s engineers at the next version of this model.
Absence of a built-in flash personally makes me very sad, though there is an opportunity to buy brand external Sigma EF-140 DG flash, which is by the way, very expensive, but it has one big drawback, it radically makes worse camera’s mobility, as it bulges up above very much, you’ll have to take it off every time when you are going to put the camera into a bag. Agree that indeed this is a big problem and one doesn’t know how long hot shoe will be able to work in such mode.
Let walk through the remaining buttons and functional elements of camera, though they are quite standard. Built-in microphone is on the front part, directly above the camera lens, if you examine it closely you see very small black hollow, that’s it. Above there are: power button of the camera, button for choosing shooting modes, hot shoe, AF indicator, multi-purpose control disc, shutter release button. From one side there is USB/AV socket. Below there is a battery opening and slot for memory cards, as well as tripod connector. From behind there is a display, indicator showing when the camera is occupied (it is about time, during which the camera saves pictures on memory card), main menu access button, QS button that opens quick access to settings of 8 functions (ISO, flash, drive mode, exposure metering modes, white balance adjustment, choice of quality and type of pictures, choice of pictures’ size, choice of color scheme). Near QS we see AEL button, which is adjustable and can perform one of three actions: exposure blocking, autofocus blocking, both exposure and autofocus blocking. Under the Menu button we see 5 navigation buttons in form of circle of 4 buttons with central button in the middle. Actions of these buttons are similar to all other cameras, they are intended for moving up, down, right and left, and the middle button is responsible for “click” on any element (it is similar to “OK” button of other cameras). Under navigation buttons there are two buttons; one on the left is responsible for switching camera into pictures view mode, and one on the right – for switching screen modes and displaying service information.
We should also mention the operating mode of QS button, when you push it, you have access to 4-positioned transparent menu that covers a current image on the display, and repeated clicking causes the following 4 positions, that is the switching is between two “tabs”, though these aren’t tabs in their literal sense. Further, you are offered to select a required item of the menu with the help of navigation buttons on the back panel, go into it and choose necessary option. To be honest, it isn’t convenient, as the same function is offered in Nikon or Canon much easier, where all items of the menu are arranged linearly on one side, and options of these items on the other side of the screen, it looks easier and more logical. I’ve used Sigma’s menu for 4 months and still I am not used to that, but I don’t think I’m an absolute beginner at using cameras. This concept of the menu presentation is yet not the best one. Beneath there are screenshots of choice of operating modes, standard shooting mode and result of clicking on QS button.
Now we’ll turn to the menu. It is rather simple in means of usability; you can get to the main camera’s menu by clicking Menu button on the back panel. The menu itself is divided into three global tabs:
1. Shooting settings. Here we see 4 tabs.
2. Settings connected with performing. Here there are 2 tabs.
3. Camera settings. Here 4 tabs are seen.
Sigma Company has decided to limit the number of lines displayed in every tab to 5, instead of making a rolling down endless list of menu items, as it is by other producers. So every time you’ll have to memorize on which out of 10 tabs there are settings you need. I consider this approach to be inadequate. Beneath there are screenshots of all 10 tabs going one after the other.
Options, which are available after you have taken the photo, are quite standard, as you can look at it or switch to review of miniatures that are 9 on the screen. Of course you can zoom the picture 10 times. Also you can look at detailed settings (Exif) for picture, including histograms for every color. Beneath I give screenshots of these options.
And now we’ll speak about very weak sides of this photo camera, these aren’t many, personally to my mind there are only 2 of them (exactly serious errors), but they cross out all the advantages. The most important thing that annoys me very much is the fact that when a shot is taken, you have to wait till it is saved on memory card before you can view it. In JPEG shooting with highest possible quality settings, this waiting time is about 8 seconds, it is incredibly long. But this is just the beginning, and if you love to shoot in RAW + JPEG you will be greatly disappointed, as waiting time in this case reaches this time up to 16 seconds. That is something unbelievable and makes shooting in this mode for me just impossible. Although, these delays annoy me in any mode, as I am used to look at the quality of picture after every shot so to be convinced of the fact that there is no need for repeated shot, can you imagine how long do I have to wait during a complete photo session. I had nothing like this on any other cameras; however I suppose I’ve tested majority of cameras of all known brands. Memory card installed in my camera is of the 10th class, which records with the speed of 80Mb per second, that is the best and quickest card. As I see it, the problem is in the processor of camera, perhaps it is so slow, or it’s the problem of software kind, but I have specially checked the camera’s firmware, and I have a latest version.
Couple of words should be said about the display. To be true, it is not very nice, but it also can be said about other displays on similar and even very expensive cameras. Sigma’s technical features don’t get out of well-disposed line of other top-class cameras. However, I can’t understand what the difficulty to install a good screen is. On purpose I took the photo of Sigma’s screen in super zoom and the photo of my old LG 4X smartphone’s screen of an average price category, and in addition it had lost its current importance more than a year ago, had been out of fashion. So, please compare the quality of the picture from Sigma’s screen and the screen of this phone. Here I speak more to any camera producers: “Dear producers tell me please, what’s the big deal to install a display of normal quality?” I don’t even mention modern flagship smartphones with their Full HD displays; I’m talking about models of 2 years age that had been outdated long time ago. Nevertheless they are far ahead of all your screens in any top-class cameras. And as majority of users have been doing sighting only by screen for long time, quality characteristics of screen become determinative. Look at the proof on photos beneath, I think there is nothing to comment here, as Sigma has pixel density of screen at least twice lower than the “ancient” smartphone.
The second problem of this camera, which makes it unsuitable for major part of potential customers, is lack of image stabilizer. I believe that this drawback decreases customer’s audience of this camera literally for 90%, leaving it to be bought only by enthusiasts or Sigma’s fans. Absence of IS means that the camera doesn’t compensate trembling of hands and all shots, which are taken with exposure time longer than 1/100 almost always don’t come right, they turn out to be merely blurred. If you have very strong and “stable” hands and you can at least lean your hands on something, than you can shoot with exposure time to 1/80, but everything which is longer will always turn out to be blurred when shot held in hands. And this point automatically makes the camera suitable only for shooting in sunny weather or at least cloudy, that is when there is enough of sun light so to raise the exposure time up to index more than 1/100. There is not even a word said about night shooting or indoors shooting, held in hands you won’t be able to take a sharp picture indoors even during the day, until after you shoot right near the window where the straight sunlight goes. Under any made-up lightning the hand shooting is also absolutely impossible, because number of exposure time will always be longer than 1/80. What is more, we are talking about shooting with ISO up to 400; with ISO of 100 everything will be even worse. Even high aperture of F/2.8 won’t improve the situation, probably if the aperture was F/1.8 the situation would turn out to be more favorable, however we have what we have. If you want to use this camera in any conditions, than you should at once buy a light, expensive tripod and always take it with camera. There are certainly no problems with the tripod even if exposure time is 2 seconds, you’ll get perfect shots.
Quality and examples of pictures
All pictures in this section are taken with maximum quality settings in JPEG format. Approximate size of every shot is about 7-9 Mb. Files in RAW format has about 45-55 Mb. Quality in RAW is expected to be better than in JPEG, but as for me I can’t constantly shoot in this mode because of terribly long delay of 16 seconds for saving of shots on memory card. There is working ISO up to 800, further goes such a large amount of noise that you can forget about the quality but 800 is the limit where the noise starts to be well-noticed, but it’s better to limit to 400. In RAW mode a working ISO number are surely higher, and everything will look very worth-while up to 800. If you can shoot in RAW and you’re not tired to be busy with Sigma’s own program for processing of RAW files every time you shoot, than of course it’s better to use this mode.
There is a full absence of chromatic aberrations; in this camera Sigma has been able to completely remove this problem. Night shooting is also quite good, but of course we are speaking about shooting from a tripod, just no other options are given. Maximum index of exposure time is 15 seconds, I don’t know why it is exactly 15, and not 30 as on average all other producers offer. But basically, 15 are enough in majority of standard situations of evening and night shooting.
We should also tell about macro shooting, and beneath you’ll find many examples of macro photos. Even on the camera lens the inscription macro shows off, as if hinting at specialization of the camera. Still in practice everything turned out to be not as well as I expected, one says right that it’s better not to expect so that not to become disappointed. Firstly, the minimal possible focal distance for macro shooting is around 9 inches (23 cm) from lens. That is normal for a common digital camera, which doesn’t pretend to have macro prefix in the name of its photographic lens. To my mind yet in this case Sigma has made a serious mistake, I think every macro photographer will expect a minimal focal distance on the level of at least 4 inches (10 cm), more or less. For shooting of more or less large objects, in size of 2 inches (4-5 cm) and more – this focal distance is proper enough. But as you understand it the shooting of insects (for instance ants, different beetles of other kinds) having size less than 0.4 inches (1 cm) with this camera therefore makes no sense. So inscription Macro on the camera lens only misleads, it is an ordinary camera lens, no macro, it is done on the level of average digital camera without any claims to macro shooting. Of course you can buy enlarging filters of other outside producers in addition, but the quality of picture won’t be so sharp than. All in all, I was up to becoming disappointed, as I really am fan of macro shooting.
I offer you to evaluate amount of image noise on different ISO. At first there is a full-size photo, and beyond it there are 100% crop shot made in any possible modes of ISO. On the left there are crops of JPEG format, instead on the right they are in RAW. As you can see it the quality obtained in RAW is much higher, but in general I expected it to be so. The only moment I had on ISO-400, as somehow RAW shot turned out worse, and I have nothing to explain that, probably by unsteadiness of firmware. Besides, when ISO is raised RAW becomes heavily green.
Beneath you can determine the quality of pictures under various settings of JPEG compression, which has only 3 options: Fine, Normal, and Basic. And surely, there is a shot in RAW mode for main comparison. Of course all shots are 100% crop. A slight change for the worse of picture’s quality is seen only in Basic level, the rest variants are identical to my mind. However, as far as I’m concerned RAW is still a bit better in quality than any other JPEG.
Below you can see pre-installed shooting color modes. There are only 8 of them, less than many other competitors possess. Modes include: Standard, Vivid (saturated colors), Neutral, Portrait, Landscape, FOV Classic Blue, B&W, and Sepia. Photos are clickable.
We should speak a little bit about night or evening shooting. As you can remember, this camera doesn’t have any image stabilizer, so everything captured on exposure time longer than 1/80 is always blurred. Accordingly to take a sharp shot in the evening or at night at hands you need to raise ISO, and so that to get more or less sharp shot in the evening under made-up city light you have to use 3200 and higher ISO. As you have seen in examples of different ISO mentioned above, with the index of 3200 and higher the picture turns out to be absolutely terrible, they are not pictures, it’s one but entire noise. Strictly speaking because of this you have only one possible variant – to take it off a tripod, as I really did, taking a photo placed beneath. And surely dynamic scenes will be either difficult or impossible to shoot at night, because of long exposure time; these photos are taken with exposure time of 1-2 seconds. Instead there are no problems with statics, we get ideal photos. These are full-sized photos (very heavy), no way processed and not compressed in terms of size and quality, click on them with the right button and open them in a new window; it may load for a long time.
I would also like to tell about macro shooting as it was actually the main reason I bought this camera. I am amateur fan of macro shooting. I can confidently say that this photo camera is more than ideal for macro shooting of not very large objects, but for small macro shooting it suits badly, if you like shooting insects – you’d better choose another camera. But certainly you should do all the manipulations from a tripod, as there is no image stabilization and it doesn’t keep long exposure time. You can make sharp macro shot from hands only in conditions of bright sunny day. I take pictures only at ISO 100, if you are shooting at ISO 800, than this problem won’t be so daunting for you, as you will be able to shoot from hands even in cloudy weather and in a little shadow. However, under serious lack of light, even high ISO won’t save you. It is very inconvenient to shoot insects and animals without special macro tripods in field, in nature, as when you finally laid out the classical tripod – beautiful shot is already “gone”. Hence, you have to carry a couple of tripods with you. If you will be able to follow all the requirements listed above, the quality of macro pictures will surprise you a lot, as it is very high. I have got Nikon D3200 with expensive, classical macro camera lens Sigma 105 F2.8, and by that I mean that the quality of pictures turns out to be the same. And this tells us that the lens system in this compact Sigma is very serious, as it has the same size of sensor as Nikon. All in all, you can yourself appraise the quality of macro pictures and they are in original, not processed, heavy, open them in a new window. Near every shot there is a 100% crop. The sizes of little figures are captured in examples of macro shots – are very small, in the last shot the statuette stands close to 5 cent coin, the rest little figures are almost of the same size. There will also be macro pictures in the general gallery.
Beneath there are examples of full-sized photos, every shot is from 8 to 15 Mbs. If you want to see the picture in a full size, press on it with the right button of mouse and open it in a new window, in such case full-sized picture will load. And all the pictures are done from hands, as I didn’t use my tripod anywhere. As you can see, in sunny and even a bit cloudy weather it is quite possible, but in a dull weather you won’t be able to handle it without tripod.
Video is the weakest side of this camera. Honestly speaking, you can suppose that it doesn’t record normal video, maximum resolution of 640х480 (30 shots per second) and absence of image stabilizer do its business, in the best case you will get video on the level of 3 years old smartphone. Why it was necessary to limit such a good matrix and lens system I don’t know. They could just make video in Full HD, however alas, we have what we have. Below you’ll find two video samples, day video sample is shot from hands, night one from tripod. One video is recordered during the day, in the end I record the video while walking, so that you can see how miserable it looks without a stabilizer. Night video is extremely miserable, and it’s impossible to distinguish for example quickly moving cars and it is shooting from tripod, don’t even try to shoot from hands, nothing will happen.
Conclusions and marks
The camera is positioned like real alternative to SLRs or like extra camera for professional photographers, but large amount of drawbacks doesn’t allow giving it such status.
Let’s list drawbacks:
- The time of recording shots on memory card is just huge, which makes it very difficult and slow to work with the camera. Full recording of RAW file is performed in 16 seconds, and first 4 seconds you won’t be able to use the camera at all. Complete saving of JPEG file is performed in about 8 seconds, of which during first 1-2 seconds the camera doesn’t react to any commands.
- Absence of stabilizer – this fact fundamentally decreases your possibilities for shooting in any weather except sunny, because operating exposure number begin with 1/100 and shorter. In fact, in most of the situations, your shooting is possible only from a tripod.
- Lack of built-in flash. You may buy external flash in addition, but it is quite cumbersome.
- Camera lens runs out above the camera a lot and makes it impossible to be put into a pocket.
- There is full absence of automatic shooting mode. Personally I don’t get annoyed by that, but think it is a drawback, as some clients definitely do need such mode.
- The battery works for only 70 shots, rather like with majority of modern top-class cameras, nevertheless it is a minus.
- The camera is strongly heated during active shooting, especially in hot weather.
- The camera is not suited for macro shooting of very tiny objects, like insects, because of too long minimum focal distance.
- The camera doesn’t have 46 megapixels practically, this is a marketing trick, and you will get photos of about 15 megapixels.
- The time of switching on the camera is not so quick, 1-2 seconds. The norm among top-class compact cameras is quicker than 1 second.
- Camera is not able to record video almost at all, VGA format in 2013 is not serious.
- It has very simple design; the camera doesn’t look at its cost.
- Working ISO is limited to 400, less than by its competitors. There will be much noise on higher ISO.
- Unsuccessfully chosen focal distance, which allows working effectively only in portrait, scenery and partly macro modes.
- There is no opening for strap in the cover of the camera lens to attach it on camera. Every time, when you take off the cover of camera lens, you will have to put it into a pocket or elsewhere and remember so not to lose it.
- It has bad detailed quality of the display, but it is the same in most cameras, nonetheless it’s a drawback.
- Its very high price for having such a huge amount of disadvantages.
Now we’ll look through advantages:
- The quality of picture at ISO 100 is just splendid, and for it we can forgive this camera a lot. I think you’ll agree with me that the quality may be compared with that of SLRs of semi-professional level.
- The camera is rather light in comparison with any SLRs.
- In the set with the camera we have 2 batteries, and that’s very convenient and pleasant.
- It has magnificent focusing ring, I haven’t seen such a smooth manual focusing yet, it’s better than in professional SLR camera lenses.
- It always exactly chooses the exposure, it’s very convenient.
We don’t get many advantages, do we? Especially for the price of 1100-1300$. If we will use the camera as studio camera, than it is a good choice, the quality is just perfect with enough of lightning (it’s not a problem in a studio), use tripod and you will be happy. If you are buying it as macro camera than you will be partly disappointed, as it doesn’t shoot macro in full sense of this word. Under full sense I mean very small objects. If you buy the camera as a portrait one, for instance for wedding shooting (with tripod of course), you are likely to be satisfied. Although the focal distance of 50mm will make you run and search for position needed for nice perspective of shooting. If you take it for making photo for any kind of ID – it’s an ideal variant, as well as in the case of shooting in a studio.
Finally, we got a camera that pleases us only in ideal conditions. If at least one of conditions is not fulfilled, literally the camera stops taking acceptable pictures. The quality of pictures itself is however splendid, if you observe all the requirements given by the camera. I think target audience of this camera is fans of Sigma, all the rest will again pass by and buy something from competitors, as Sigma has made too niche product. Besides, the price doesn’t give any chances anyone except fans of this company.
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