Sigma's DP Merrill Cameras Compared - World-Beating Image Quality In Compact Bodies - Digital Photography School

Sigma’s DP Merrill Cameras Compared – World-Beating Image Quality In Compact Bodies

Sigma, known mainly to photographers for their affordable lenses, recently caused quite a stir among discerning photographers. How? By building three compact cameras around the incredible sensor taken from the SD1, which initially cost $10,000. The image quality is simply incredible, and the cameras themselves are small, light and unobtrusive. For photographers seeking the best possible image quality on a budget, they’re unmatched.

Photo1

But there are lots of compromises. Foremost among them is battery life. The small batteries don’t last long so you’ll need to buy spares. Fortunately, they’re cheap. Second compromise; usability. It’s pretty good for a compact camera, and the controls are well laid out for photographers, but there’s some shutter lag, the auto-focus can’t match dSLRs and the huge RAW files take a while to write to the card.

The main compromise we’ll deal with is focal length. Each DP Merrill camera is essentially identical except for the length of the fixed prime lens.

  • The Sigma DP1m has a 19mm lens; equivalent to a 28mm wide-angle on full frame.
  • The Sigma DP2m has a 30mm lens; equivalent to a 45mm standard lens.
  • The Sigma DP3m has a 50mm lens; equivalent to a 75mm short telephoto.

All three lenses have a maximum aperture of f2.8 and a minimum aperture of f16. In my opinion (and not just mine), they are some of the best lenses ever made, including Leica and Zeiss.

In use, being restricted to a single focal length changes the camera entirely. This comparison therefore focusses on which of the Sigma DP series will be right for you. For the cameras themselves, I highly recommend Michael Reichmann’s review at Luminous Landscape.

I’ve used all three cameras for a variety of genres. Now comes time to choose.

Photo2

The Sigma DP1m is very convenient if you want amazing image quality in a tiny package. I was able to take photographs that I otherwise couldn’t have made. This is because it doesn’t look like a serious camera and it’s effectively silent in use. Professional photographers, especially those working where cameras are unwelcome, will appreciate this. Compared to carrying a Nikon pro-body with a wide-angle lens, it’s very much smaller. However, I missed photographs due to the shutter lag and the corners a bit softer than the other two DP cameras.

Photo3

The Sigma DP3m is specialised. I found a 75mm equivalent lens a bit long in use as an everyday camera. However, it is a pocket portrait monster, delivering incredibly sharp files with beautiful bokeh. It’s also got an amazing macro capability which, while not a true 1:1 reproduction, gets close enough for most applications. And there’s no noticeable distortion. The Sigma DP3m really excels when you fuss about and stitch images. 14.85 megapixels is enough for most applications, but if you want to print enormous files, you can increase the image resolution by making mosaics from multiple pictures using software that can stitch panoramas. Because the image quality is so amazing at a 100% level (because it’s not interpolated like a Bayer sensor), the files can be that much better, rivalling medium format cameras worth tens of thousands. For me, this is the niche use the DP Merrill series excels for. I can carry a tiny compact camera, a few cheap batteries and a lightweight CF tripod when I’m doing fine art photography and create the most amazing results.

Photo4

The Sigma DP2m is a bit of a compromise. I’d recommend getting both the Sigma DP1m and the Sigma DP3m; they work very well together as a pair. But if this isn’t an option, the DP2m is your camera. It’s neither too wide-angle nor too telephoto. You can stitch images if you choose as there’s no real distortion, but the standard-lens approach works well for a range of subjects. The important thing is that you get access to that incredible X3 Foveon sensor. Download some Sigma DP Merrill sample images here; they speak for themselves.

Ben Evans teaches Barcelona Photography. Learn the most important things about photography in one hour for (and for less than the price of a lunch) with the best-selling ‘Photography: The Few Things You Need To Know’ Audiobook – www.GreatBigBear.com/Audiobook

If you enjoyed this article, you might also like...

Read more from our Cameras & Equipment category.

Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

  • Eric

    What does the K-5iis vs D7100 video have to do with this?

  • http://www.alexwisephotography.net/blog/ Alex

    Recommending you buy two of these to avoid short comings with the camera? Seriously?

  • Simon

    The quality is superb. 5 years ago no one even thought that such a quality is possible in compact cameras

  • http://www.BarcelonaPhotographyCourses.com Ben

    Thanks, the actual video is here!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BChjFkOJQGI

  • http://www.shoottokyo.com David Powell

    Darren – One of my buddies shoots this and the images that he is able to get is nothing short of amazing for a compact camera. I am so thinking of picking one up for myself. Here is a little series he posted on them: http://www.runacres.com/photoblog/sigma-dp2-merrill.html

  • Dhary

    Is there any significant improvement to the lcd screen in the the new Merrill range compared to the old DP2s?

  • http://benchapmanphotos.blogspot.co.uk/ Ben Chapman

    Cool looking cameras.
    David Powell, your friend has taken some great shots there

  • http://www.EnglishPhotographer.com Ben

    Yes Dhary?, the first DP cameras had a 2.5″ screen with 240k pixels, the Merrill series have a 3″ display with 920k pixels.

  • http://www.EnglishPhotographer.com Ben

    Sure Alex, a lot of working pros use two or more cameras to make use of different focal lengths without having to change lenses. Two DP Merrill cameras work out very affordable compared to a couple of Leicas, for example.

  • http://blog.salientshop.com/2013/06/beyond-our-most-easily-seen-on-the-street-motorola-pull-the-phone/ digiphone

    set the power-on password, erase cell phone data, set call forwarding, set up your SIM card replacement notification.

Some older comments

  • digiphone

    June 9, 2013 04:12 pm

    set the power-on password, erase cell phone data, set call forwarding, set up your SIM card replacement notification.

  • Ben

    April 25, 2013 07:50 am

    Sure Alex, a lot of working pros use two or more cameras to make use of different focal lengths without having to change lenses. Two DP Merrill cameras work out very affordable compared to a couple of Leicas, for example.

  • Ben

    April 25, 2013 07:48 am

    Yes Dhary?, the first DP cameras had a 2.5" screen with 240k pixels, the Merrill series have a 3" display with 920k pixels.

  • Ben Chapman

    April 10, 2013 07:22 am

    Cool looking cameras.
    David Powell, your friend has taken some great shots there

  • Dhary

    April 9, 2013 06:27 pm

    Is there any significant improvement to the lcd screen in the the new Merrill range compared to the old DP2s?

  • David Powell

    April 8, 2013 09:40 pm

    Darren - One of my buddies shoots this and the images that he is able to get is nothing short of amazing for a compact camera. I am so thinking of picking one up for myself. Here is a little series he posted on them: http://www.runacres.com/photoblog/sigma-dp2-merrill.html

  • Ben

    April 8, 2013 04:49 am

    Thanks, the actual video is here!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BChjFkOJQGI

  • Simon

    April 7, 2013 11:13 pm

    The quality is superb. 5 years ago no one even thought that such a quality is possible in compact cameras

  • Alex

    April 7, 2013 04:03 pm

    Recommending you buy two of these to avoid short comings with the camera? Seriously?

  • Eric

    April 7, 2013 11:02 am

    What does the K-5iis vs D7100 video have to do with this?

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