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First Impressions: Sigma DP2 Merrill

by Peter West Carey on 09/03/2012

The Sigma DP2 Merrill is an upgrade from the older DP2, boasting the larger 46MP sensor from the SD-1 Merrill. And the thing is a brick! It is small and solid and packs a 30mm (45mm equivelent) f/2.8 fixed focal length lens. While it fits in the point and shoot category, it is suited more for someone interested in high quality images from a small package, of the quality found in DSLR cameras.

Tech Specs

From Sigma’s website

Image Sensor
Foveon X3® direct image sensor (CMOS)
Image Size
23.5×15.7mm
Number of Pixels
Total Pixels: 48MP
Effective Pixels: 46MP(4,800×3,200×3)
Aspect Ratio
3:2
Focal Length
30mm
35mm Equivalent Focal Format
Approx. 45mm
Maximum Aperture
F2.8
Number of Diaphragm Blades 9
9 Blades
Lens Construction
8 Elements in 6 Groups
Minimum Focusing Distance
28cm
Maximum Magnification Shooting
1:7.6
Storage Media
SD Card / Compatible with SDHC, Multi Media Card
Recording Mode
Lossless compression RAW data (12-bit, High, Medium, Low), JPEG (High, Medium, Low), RAW+JPEG, Movie (motion jpeg), Voice memo to still images (10sec.)
File Size / Still
RAW
High
4,704×3,136×3 (Approx. 45MB)
Medium
3,264×2,176×3 (Approx. 24MB)
Low
2,336×1,568×3 (Approx. 12MB
JPEG
High
Fine 4,704×3,136 (Approx. 10MB)
High Normal 4,704×3,136 (Approx. 5.6MB)
Basic 4,704×3,136 (Approx. 4.2MB)
Medium
Fine 3,264×2,176 (Approx. 5MB)
Medium Normal 3,264×2,176 (Approx. 2.7MB)
Basic 3,264×2,176 (Approx. 2MB)
Low
Fine 2,336×1,568 (Approx. 2.5MB)
Normal 2,336×1,568 (Approx. 1.4MB)
Basic 2,336×1,568 (Approx. 1MB)
File Size / Movie
VGA:640×480 (30Frames Per Second)
White Balance
8 types (Auto, Daylight, Shade, Overcast, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Flash, Custom)
Color Mode
7 types (Standard, Vivid, Neutral, Portrait, Landscape, B&W, Sepia)
Auto Focus Type
Contrast Detection Type
AF Point
9-Points
AF Point Selection
Automatic selection, Manual Selection
Focus Lock
Shutter release halfway-down position, AE lock button
Manual Focus
Ring Type
Metering Systems
Evaluative Metering, Center-Weighted Average Metaring, Spot Metering
Exposure Control System
(P) Program AE (Program Shift is possible), (S) Shutter Speed Priority AE, (A) Aperture Priority AE, (M) Manual
Exposure Compensation
±3EV Appropriate Exposure (in 1/3 stop increments)
AE Lock
AE lock button
Auto Bracketing
With 3 flames bracketing:1/3EV Steps Up to ±3EV
Drive Mode
Single, Continuous, Self-Timer (2sec. / 10sec.), Interval Timer
Type
TFT color LCD monitor
Monitor Size
3.0 inches
LCD Pixels
Approx. 920,000 Pixels
LCD Monitor Language
English / Japanese / German / French / Spanish / Italian / Chinese (Simplified) / Korean / Russian / Chinese (Traditional) / Nederlands / Polski / Português / Dansk / Svenska / Norsk / Suomi
PC / IF
USB (USB2.0)
Power
Li-ion Battery Pack BP-41, Battery Charger BC-41
Dimensions
(W) 121.5mm / 4.8″
(H) 66.7mm / 2.6″
(D) 59.2mm / 2.3″
Weight
330g / 11.6oz. (without batteries)

Ergonomics

Have I mentioned this thing is as brick? As you can see, it’s shaped like one as well and has the heft of one. Because of this weight I find myself using two hands often. This may also be because I have been using SLR cameras for a while. When I try shooting with just one hand, it works, but the weight makes it impractical to shoot this way for too long.

On the plus side, this thing is a brick! And that means steadying a shot is easier than with lightweight cameras of the same size. There is an ample thumbrest that allows a lot of tactile contact, again, better than smaller point and shoots. I find the controls to be easy and responsive and thankfully not cluttered.

Lastly, the manual focus ring on the lens is a dream. When new-out-of-the-box the ring spins smoothly with just enough tension.

Autofocus

Autofocus speed has been average. It can hunt a little and part of the time it is super snappy, locking on in an instant. Overall: average.

There are nine autofocus points and it is easy to adjust them with a simple press of the control ‘dial’ on the back. What is nice about these points is they come in three different sizes; small, medium and a bit more than medium (I hesitate to call them large), but they do take up a large portion of the view screen. I like this because I can now zero in on small objects and not be stuck with the default size the manufacturer wants me to use. Kudos for this ability. I would also like to group focus points, but this is not offered.

Beyond speed, the auto focus is accurate and sharp. And that’s what this camera is about.

Image Quality

Now about that image quality and why this camera has a fixed focal length lens (while retailing for $1000). The sensor in this camera is the same Foveon X3 46megapixel Direct Image sensor as the SD1 Merrill DSLR camera. If you haven’t read up on what the X3 sensor is about, check out Wikipedia for a quick primer. Basically, it’s sharp, very sharp. And throwing an APS-C sized sensor in a small camera means high-quality images have become far more portable.

Each pixel of the sensor picks up not just red or green or blue light, but all three. Any way you slice it (and ignoring the argument over ‘actual’ pixel count), this delivers some stunning results. Below you will find a number of test shots. The cropped versions can be clicked on to bring up a 100% version for your pixel peeping pleasure. I have made only slight adjustments to the images as I do when presenting photos on the web.

Notice the individual strands of hair.

Where is the DP2 Merrill lacking? Certainly at action shots. It is not meant for this type of work.

More full sized samples can be found on my blog: The Carey Adventures.com.

First Impression

My first impressions lead me to believe this would be an excellent camera for an enthusiast. You would need to be okay with the fixed focal length (the DP1 comes in 19mm or 28.5mm equivalent) to like this camera. It does have options for a view finder that fits the hotshoe and also has an optional flash.

I have previously tested the SD-1 and the items I found lacking in it seems to have been cleared up with this camera. I am highly impressed with the quality of images and I have only just begun becoming accustomed to using Sigma’s software in conjunction with Adobe Lightroom. While the camera is slower because of the processing power needed to handle the X3F files (each of which is around 45MB large! Imagine getting images with that much data out of most DSLRs), the buffer is ample and the onscreen option for a histogram helps me know things are turning out as I like.

It’s not a sports camera and it is not a macro camera. But it has a place and I’m excited to have this camera in my pocket when my DSLR is staying at home.

Oh! And the Sigma DP2 Merrill comes with a spare battery! Thank you!

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