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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Why the New Sigma DP2 is Intriguing

Sigma DP2

"The camera as it was meant to be - now more than ever." Interesting tag line Sigma used. Interesting because maybe they've got something here.

The other tag line, "a full spec compact digital camera with all the power of DSLR," sums it up quite well. You get the power of a full size Foveon DX sensor instead of the mini sensors in all the other point and shoot compact digital cameras, combined with a fast f2.8 lens.

The sensor alone is worth talking about. It's approximately TWELVE TIMES the size of the sensors in other point and shoot compact digital cameras. Everything is going to be better about this sensor. It'll have cleaner imaging power, better high ISO noise characteristics, and more powerful megapixels.

I know that's an odd way to say it, "more powerful megapixels," but it helps to explain a concept that many people don't get. In a world where a lot of camera buyers only understand one thing (how many megapixels), the difference in quality of those megapixels needs to be emphasized. Not all megapixels are created equal, and while it's great that you may have a 12 megapixel compact digital camera, it's certainly not the same thing as having a 12 megapixel DSLR like my Nikon D300. There is simply no comparison.

Unfortunately, camera manufacturers have done a great job teaching consumers to ask "how many megapixels?" Fortunately, Sigma has realized that there are still a lot of photographers who understand why a camera like the DP2 that uses a MUCH bigger sensor is better.

When it comes to sensors, bigger is almost always better. Not bigger as in more megapixels, but bigger as in actual real estate... the physical size of the sensor.

A megapixel does not equal a megapixel. You can have two cameras with 12 megapixel sensors, but when one is 12X bigger, it's gonna eat the smaller one for breakfast. Size matters, and the size of each megapixel matters. Think of the bigger sensor as having more light gathering ability, and then think of the Sigma DP2 as having 12X more light gathering ability than other 14 megapixel compact digital cameras. The DP2 wins by a landslide (all else being equal of course).

This is the same reason a camera like the Nikon D3 or Nikon D700 has better imaging characterics than the Nikon D300. All 3 cameras have 12 megapixel sensors, but the larger FX size sensor in the Nikon D3 and Nikon D700 have better low-light ability than the DX size sensor in the Nikon D300.

Same thing with the Canon 5D and the Canon 40D and 50D. The 5D's larger full-frame sensor has better low-light ability than either the Canon 40D or Canon 50D, and the 5D is an older model in comparison.

Granted, the differences between the D3 / D700 and the D300 (and the Canon 5D vs the Canon 40D and 40D) are nowhere near as great as the differences between the DP2 and other compact digital cameras. The FX to DX (full frame to cropped) size difference isn't 12X, like the DP2 to other compacts, but you get the idea.

Back to the DP2, with its bigger sensor combined with a very nice 24mm f2.8 (41mm equivalent in 35mm terms), this has all the makings for a fantastic pocket camera. The focal length is a good choice. It's basically a "standard" field of view which will make for a very usable camera. The fact that it's f2.8 is even better. You're not limited to a slower lens, and you should be able to get fairly shallow depth of field considering the sensor size.

Remember, sensor size also effects depth of field. The smaller the sensor, the greater the depth of field. Thus, the smaller the sensor, the harder it is to get that nice shallow depth of field, regardless of how fast your lens is. A f2.8 lens on a regular compact digital camera is not going to get you shallow depth of field. But the DP2 with it's 12X bigger sensor and f2.8 lens will!

You get a lot of the advantages of a DSLR with the DP2. A lot of the advantages that allow for increased creative control, control that allows for being able to capture incredible images you wouldn't otherwise be able to get. Granted, you don't get all the advantages of a DSLR (obviously you don't have the ability to change lenses), but you do get the advantage of a much smaller camera.

After looking through the sample images the good folks over at DPREVIEW have provided, I'm impressed by what I see. Sigma's Foveon sensors have always been capable of incredible imaging, and it looks like the DP2 is no exception.

Sigma has some sample images over on there website too.

I'll be interested to try out the DP2 for myself. I can see the DP2 being the pocket camera I (and a lot of other photographers) have been waiting for. It may end up coming home with me. :)


sigma dp2 review said...

Sigma DP2 is a 14 mp camera. It has a very simple design. The body is quite thick. The features are not very satisfying. Battery life is not very long, shutter button is quite stiff. Performance-wise, its average. It is good for black and white photography.

Adler Kenwood said...

This is my wonderful secret.
Not many people will know how to 'get the most' out of this cam. It is worth the time for the images.