Sigma DP3 Merrill Review - Digital Photography School
Close
Close

Sigma DP3 Merrill Review

Sigma-DP3-Merrill-1

Some see the arrival of cameras such as these as indicative of camera companies responding to the market by taking on smart phones as a camera to take everywhere.

While phone cameras are damned useful and most of them take pretty decent images, they fall down in many respects.

Some, but not all, fall down in low light, with little access to high IOS settings; many disallow precise control of the lens aperture, enabling low light photography and/or control of depth of field; a similar story can be told of shutter speed control, preventing sharp images of fast moving objects; extended zooms are rare in smart phone cameras; battery life may be foreshortened due to excessive phone use.

But we’re not here to bash smart phones … god love ‘em!

Back to the review.

As usual, I started firing off with not a peek in the manual. OK for a few shots, then the screen blacked out!

Messing about with the buttons I found I had encountered one that accidentally canned the display. Dumb!

The DP3 Merrill looks like a bread-and-butter digicam in its all black livery with very few external controls, each id’d by clear white text. And little else.

Controls

Top deck: flash hot shoe, button for mode selection and shutter plus a command dial that allows alteration to diaphragm, shutter speed and menu.

Rear: a button for AEL (exposure lock), doubling for trash; a QuickSet button that accesses commonly used functions like ISO, flash mode, metering and drive modes; the menu button which takes you into the not over-loaded menu options; the four way controller selects picture settings (contrast, sharpness, saturation) and focus pattern; replay; display on/off and other options.

If you want to select Program or shutter or aperture priority you tap the mode button. Simple!

Menu.jpg

Sigma DP3 Merrill Features

The big headline with this camera is its Foveon X3 sensor that captures 46 million pixel still images. See below for an explanation.

The maximum image size is 4704×3136 pixels or 40x27cm as a printed image.

Video: A tiny 640×480 MPEG movie clip at 30fps. This camera is surely not for making movies.

Beach window 5.JPG

Brick wall 2.JPG

Car light.JPG

The fast f2.8/500 lens has a 35 SLR equivalent of 75mm, so it’s an ideal beast for shooting portraits, not general scenery. Macro? Ideal!

A large buffer memory enables the camera to capture up to seven RAW images per sequence in continuous shooting mode.

Auto focus has a multi point select mode that selects the desired focusing point from nine different frames and a free move mode that can move the desired point to any spot. Manual focus is also available by using the focus ring for focusing — just like an SLR!

Startup Time

It was three seconds after power was applied that I could take the first shot; follow-ons came in at a little over a second apart. Not fast!

Distortion

No problems.

Sigma DP3 Merrill ISO Tests

Now here is where the walls fall down!

Sigma DP3 ISO 100.JPG

Sigma DP3 ISO 400.JPG

Sigma DP3 ISO 800.JPG

Sigma DP3 ISO 1600.JPG

Sigma DP3 ISO 3200.JPG

Sigma DP3 ISO 6400.JPG

My tests ran from ISO 100 to ISO 6400. On running the images on screen it was apparent that images in the range ISO 100 to 800 had no problems but when ISO 1600 was reached, a blue cast appeared.

Worse still, the ISO 3200 shot displayed even more problems, which became more severe at ISO 6400: these were noise, desaturation of the image and the appearance of horizontal ‘tracking lines.’

The camera’s selling agent was asked about this oddity and replied: ‘I have attached a few photos taken with the DP2 Merrill. You will note a similar pattern appearing on the photos as the ISO increases. This is seemingly a limitation of the Foveon sensor.

‘The most effective range of the camera that we have been able to ascertain is between 100 and 800.

‘I hope this sheds some light on the situation.’

‘The latest version of Sigma’s Photo Pro 5.5.1 software can correct some of the colour noise and further processing can help too.” Download at http://www.sigma-sd.com/download/photopro.html

‘When using the Sigma Photo Pro software you will notice that the initial image (in the RAW .X3F format) gets a lot crisper and the colour will correct to some extent when the software has rendered the image.

‘Further processing with Lightroom/Photoshop etc can reduce some of the noise.

‘But again, the camera’s effective ISO range is generally between 100-800 and this works across the current range [of cameras] and a lot of the older range of Foveon sensors.

‘One other thing about this camera is that you will get the best performance when shooting RAW images.’

I did not take the opportunity of using the software fix; it seemed to me that the high ISO problem is something that should have been attended to in the original camera design.

I have searched the Internet and found there is some limited comment about the problem.

Not a good look!

Sigma DP3 Merrill Review Verdict

Quality: I found the colour depth to be quite outstanding; sharpness was also excellent.

Why you’d buy the Sigma DP3 Merrill: compact, good quality lens, big sensor.

Why you wouldn’t: fixed, longish focal length too restricting; slow and hesitant AF.

Without doubt, a high level camera but the ISO problem is a serious deterrent for me.

Sigma DP3 Merrill Specifications

Image Sensor: 46 million effective pixels.
Sensor: 23.5×15.7mm Foveon X3 CMOS.
Lens: f2.8/24.2mm (75mm as 35 SLR equivalent).
Metering: Evaluative, centre-weighted, spot.
Exposure Modes: Auto, Program AE, shutter and aperture priority, manual.
Shutter Speed: 30 to 1/2000 second.
Memory: SD/SDHC/SDXC/MMC.
Image Sizes (pixels): Stills: 4704×3136 to 2336×1568.
Movies: 640×480.
Viewfinder: 6.35cm LCD screen (920,000).
File Formats: RAW, JPEG, RAW+JPEG, MPEG4.
ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 100 to 6400.
Continuous Shooting: 3 fps (4 JPEGs or 3 RAW).
Interface: USB 2.0, AV, audio out, DC input.
Power: Rechargeable lithium ion battery, DC.
Dimensions: 121.5×66.7×80.6 WHDmm.
Weight: 400 (body only).
Price: Get a price on the Sigma D3 Merrill Digital Camera at Amazon.

INFO

Foveon X sensor. How it differs:
To capture the color that other image sensors miss, Foveon X3® direct image sensors use three layers of pixels embedded in silicon. The layers are positioned to take advantage of the fact that silicon absorbs different wavelengths of light to different depths. The bottom layer records red, the middle layer records green, and the top layer records blue. Each stack of pixels directly records all of the light at each point in the image.
More info at www.foveon.com

Summary
Reviewer
Barrie Smith
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Sigma DP3
Author Rating
3

Read more from our Cameras & Equipment category.

Barrie Smith is an experienced writer/photographer currently published in Australian Macworld, Auscam and other magazines in Australia and overseas.

  • Mark

    Just some points of clarification:

    1 – The product images of the camera are of one of the Sigma DP1 series, not of the Sigma DP3 Merrill (Except for possibly the photo of the back of the camera).

    2 – The DP3M lens is f2.8/50mm, not f2.8/24.2mm (which is from the DP2 series)

    Sorry to be annoying, but a lot of people read your camera reviews, and I just want to make sure you get it right.

    Cheers,

  • Anonymous

    Guys, seriously, the samples are ridiculous!
    A dirty window? A yellow line? A car light?
    What a shame!

  • http://www.lensguides.org/ francis

    Thank you for the interesting information. Love the examples as well

  • http://www.dtnorthphoto.com D. Travis North

    Is there a different version of the camera sold internationally? Assuming that’s the case, there’s some distinct differences between the version reviewed and the US version. The published stats on Sigma’s US website is that the lens is a 50mm (75mm equiv) while the article states 23.5mm and the photo show the lens marked with 16.6mm. Here’s the weird part: None of the DP Merrills have that configuration…DP1 is 19mm, the DP2 is 30mm and the DP3 is 50mm. And the DP3 that I’m familiar with has a much more protruding lens and no flash on the side.

  • crunch

    These pictures definitely aren’t of a DP3!

  • Barrie Smith

    Photos supplied by distributor. Their error.

  • http://www.dtnorthphoto.com D. Travis North

    These photos should be corrected. The rear shot looks accurate. Not one other photo of the camera looks at all accurate. Distributor error or not, why let the wrong photos go in?

  • Gary S

    Seriously, I think you’d have to be an idiot to purchase such a crippled and limited P&S camera at that price! A rich idiot with money to burn. Clearly, SIGMA had best stick to manufacturing third party lenses for the likes of Canon and Nikon.

  • Barrie Smith

    Thank you Gary S

    Exactly the point!

  • crunch

    “Photos supplied by distributor. Their error.”

    So what!?

    YOU reviewed the camera. YOU wrote the article. SURELY you noticed the photos sent by the distributor didn’t match the camera YOU were holding in your hands??

    It’s your job an an author of a review column to ensure that the content is correct. This blatant error (that still hasn’t been corrected several days later) is unacceptable. I don’t know how to trust a reviewer who can’t take responsibility for his reviews.

    Even if you don’t like the camera, even if you hate it, even if you think it’s a piece of garbage, that’s irrelevant. The quality of the article you produce should be your top priority.

    From now on, I will pro-actively avoid Barrie’s reviews, because he clearly has better things to do with his time that put any effort into the reviews anyway.

  • http://www.johnlindroth.com John

    Barrie – seems like you might have missed the point with the Sigma DP cameras. You shouldn’t consider them P&S cameras – they are designed to take pictures in good lighting at low ISO in RAW format. Your review sounds like you spent a few minutes outside, took some test shots, realized high ISO stinks beyond belief, and wrote up a review. Might be convincing to someone who doesn’t know Sigma/Foveon cameras, but not a realistic view of what they are capable of doing by any means.

  • Manuel Perez

    This camera , when used in the raw format and in it’s intended iso range takes photos that can literally match those taken by a dslr , maybe even better . I I know because I have seen them .

  • ArturoMM

    Between many good and excelent articles, this is the worst I have read on DPS.
    The author, after being criticized came up with responses that make look him worst.
    It’s still time for a good apology, I think.

  • Rodrian Roadeye

    This is why I would never sign up for their Digital Photography School. Such poor sample images would never sell a camera.

  • Peter yeung

    I read up many articles on dp3m, they all provided similar pros and cons. My gear are all Nikon SLR and big lens. Recently, I decided to move on with light weight options and started looking around. I then bought a dp3m to try. For this camera, it is definitely not for beginners. It would be nice to have it as a second or third camera. In summary, I like it and I like the outputs. They give me a total different feel from my trusted Nikon files.

    It is not a point and shoot. It requires discipline. When you put up with your skill and efforts, you will be rewarded with very good end product.

  • Konstantins

    Hello! I really need your help. I have Nikon D7000, but I want compact camera with fix focal for everyday°. What you think about Sigma DP3 and Fujifilm X100S? Which camera are better? I need expert advice! Thank you very much. Best Regards. Konstantins.

  • Lee

    A very irresponsible review. Why not take some time to view online how others have taken superb images with this camera. This review really hurts the credibility of this site rather than the Sigma DP3M itself.

Some older comments

  • Lee

    August 5, 2013 11:30 pm

    A very irresponsible review. Why not take some time to view online how others have taken superb images with this camera. This review really hurts the credibility of this site rather than the Sigma DP3M itself.

  • Konstantins

    August 5, 2013 01:33 am

    Hello! I really need your help. I have Nikon D7000, but I want compact camera with fix focal for everyday°. What you think about Sigma DP3 and Fujifilm X100S? Which camera are better? I need expert advice! Thank you very much. Best Regards. Konstantins.

  • Peter yeung

    June 28, 2013 10:58 am

    I read up many articles on dp3m, they all provided similar pros and cons. My gear are all Nikon SLR and big lens. Recently, I decided to move on with light weight options and started looking around. I then bought a dp3m to try. For this camera, it is definitely not for beginners. It would be nice to have it as a second or third camera. In summary, I like it and I like the outputs. They give me a total different feel from my trusted Nikon files.

    It is not a point and shoot. It requires discipline. When you put up with your skill and efforts, you will be rewarded with very good end product.

  • Rodrian Roadeye

    May 14, 2013 05:28 am

    This is why I would never sign up for their Digital Photography School. Such poor sample images would never sell a camera.

  • ArturoMM

    April 26, 2013 04:27 am

    Between many good and excelent articles, this is the worst I have read on DPS.
    The author, after being criticized came up with responses that make look him worst.
    It's still time for a good apology, I think.

  • Manuel Perez

    April 26, 2013 03:13 am

    This camera , when used in the raw format and in it's intended iso range takes photos that can literally match those taken by a dslr , maybe even better . I I know because I have seen them .

  • John

    April 26, 2013 02:32 am

    Barrie - seems like you might have missed the point with the Sigma DP cameras. You shouldn't consider them P&S cameras - they are designed to take pictures in good lighting at low ISO in RAW format. Your review sounds like you spent a few minutes outside, took some test shots, realized high ISO stinks beyond belief, and wrote up a review. Might be convincing to someone who doesn't know Sigma/Foveon cameras, but not a realistic view of what they are capable of doing by any means.

  • crunch

    April 23, 2013 08:54 am

    "Photos supplied by distributor. Their error."

    So what!?

    YOU reviewed the camera. YOU wrote the article. SURELY you noticed the photos sent by the distributor didn't match the camera YOU were holding in your hands??

    It's your job an an author of a review column to ensure that the content is correct. This blatant error (that still hasn't been corrected several days later) is unacceptable. I don't know how to trust a reviewer who can't take responsibility for his reviews.

    Even if you don't like the camera, even if you hate it, even if you think it's a piece of garbage, that's irrelevant. The quality of the article you produce should be your top priority.

    From now on, I will pro-actively avoid Barrie's reviews, because he clearly has better things to do with his time that put any effort into the reviews anyway.

  • Barrie Smith

    April 23, 2013 08:46 am

    Thank you Gary S

    Exactly the point!

  • Gary S

    April 21, 2013 12:29 pm

    Seriously, I think you'd have to be an idiot to purchase such a crippled and limited P&S camera at that price! A rich idiot with money to burn. Clearly, SIGMA had best stick to manufacturing third party lenses for the likes of Canon and Nikon.

  • D. Travis North

    April 20, 2013 02:56 pm

    These photos should be corrected. The rear shot looks accurate. Not one other photo of the camera looks at all accurate. Distributor error or not, why let the wrong photos go in?

  • Barrie Smith

    April 20, 2013 09:31 am

    Photos supplied by distributor. Their error.

  • crunch

    April 20, 2013 01:55 am

    These pictures definitely aren't of a DP3!

  • D. Travis North

    April 19, 2013 11:21 pm

    Is there a different version of the camera sold internationally? Assuming that's the case, there's some distinct differences between the version reviewed and the US version. The published stats on Sigma's US website is that the lens is a 50mm (75mm equiv) while the article states 23.5mm and the photo show the lens marked with 16.6mm. Here's the weird part: None of the DP Merrills have that configuration...DP1 is 19mm, the DP2 is 30mm and the DP3 is 50mm. And the DP3 that I'm familiar with has a much more protruding lens and no flash on the side.

  • francis

    April 19, 2013 10:02 pm

    Thank you for the interesting information. Love the examples as well

  • Anonymous

    April 19, 2013 07:58 pm

    Guys, seriously, the samples are ridiculous!
    A dirty window? A yellow line? A car light?
    What a shame!

  • Mark

    April 19, 2013 11:04 am

    Just some points of clarification:

    1 - The product images of the camera are of one of the Sigma DP1 series, not of the Sigma DP3 Merrill (Except for possibly the photo of the back of the camera).

    2 - The DP3M lens is f2.8/50mm, not f2.8/24.2mm (which is from the DP2 series)

    Sorry to be annoying, but a lot of people read your camera reviews, and I just want to make sure you get it right.

    Cheers,

Receive a FREE SAMPLE of our Portrait Photography Ebook

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download

Receive a FREE SAMPLE of our Portrait Photography Ebook

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download

Receive a FREE SAMPLE of our Portrait Photography Ebook

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download

Sign up to the free DPS PHOTOGRAPHY COURSE

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download

GET DAILY free tips, news and reviews via our RSS Feed

Sign up to the free

DPS PHOTOGRAPHY COURSE

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download

GET DAILY free tips, news and reviews via our RSS Feed

Sign up to the free

DPS PHOTOGRAPHY COURSE

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download
DPS NEWSLETTER
DPS NEWSLETTER
DPS NEWSLETTER

DPS offers a free weekly newsletter with: 
1. new photography tutorials and tips
2. latest photography assignments
3. photo competitions and prizes

Enter your email below to subscribe.
Email:
 
 
Get DAILY free tips, news and reviews via our RSS feed