Field Review: Sigma DP2s (Day 1)

Large sensor compact cameras like the Panasonic GF-1, Olympus EPL-1, and the Canon G11 (full review here) tend to take all the spotlight. But what about the other cameras? Enter the Sigma DP2s—a wonderful little large sensor compact camera that is highly customizable and that utilizes the Foveon sensor to capture photos with positively breathtaking color that surpasses film. But is it any good? I was recently sent a review copy for field review.

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Tech Specs

The Sigma DP2S has a 14MP Foveon X3 direct image sensor and a 24.2mm lens with an aperture of F2.8. For those of you that aren’t slaves to the photo world, the Foveon X3 sensor is essentially a 1.7x crop CMOS APS-C sized sensor with diodes for capturing Red, Blue, and Green. It all works really quite remarkably. For those of you that need it, this a chart of the different sensor sizes.

Other than that, the camera is really very simple and has a dial that controls the shooting modes: Setup, M, S, A, P, movie, and audio recording. Because of this, a logical conclusion can be drawn supporting the fact that this camera was designed for the professional that really just wants a nice compact camera with a great lens that can deliver great images.

Like Leica (as with the X1), much seems to be emphasized on the image quality.

New to the camera (according to the release I was sent) is:

– New AF algorithm for high speed autofocus.

– Power save mode lower battery consumption

– Rear design for faster, easier handling and managing of camera controls and functions.

– Upgrade of the RAW image processing software (which I don’t use).

Oh, and it has a 2.5 inch LCD on the back that is actually more usable that one might think.

Accessories

There are a number of items that can be used with the Sigma DP2s:

VF-21: A viewfinder. The VF-21 is really just a piece of glass that helps with composition. It attaches to the hot shoe.

HA-21: The lens hood. If you put the HA-21on, you can get rid of the lens cap that comes with the camera to protect the lens when retracted. The lens will retract into the lens hood. It offers some extra sexiness and bulkiness to the camera.

EF-140: A flash that can attach to the hot shoe. As of writing this posting, I haven’t tested the Sigma EF-140yet but I’m actually very excited to see how it performs and hope that I am not let down. Like many of you professional photographers, a great compact camera is something we all yearn for.

Autofocus

Previous models in this line, such as the DP2 were reviewed to have terrible autofocus problems. Does the same apply to the DP2s?

So far in my short testings and at the time of writing this posting: no. The focus is a bit slow—slower than Olympus’s Micro Four Thirds options. However, it is bearable and it always hits the intended target. It can be a bit tougher in low-light, but it is still very much usable.

The DP2s has nice autofocus points that can all be selected using the zone selection button on the back of the camera. This can help greatly with composition.

If you don’t want to autofocus, you can switch the camera into manual focus mode and use the focusing dial at the top to finely tune where you focus. It’s a valuable option and the dial can be very useful at times.

Ergonomics

The DP2s feels like an old, blocky rangefinder. It is actually a very intuitive camera to use. I refrain from saying simple but in reality it really is quite simple if you just take the time to figure it out. The camera took me around 3 minutes to figure out completely. The menus and functions are all clearly labeled and there only takes a bit of memorization to know which of the two different menus you are accessing.

The camera feels very good in my hands. With the strap wrapped around my wrist, this is actually a very comfortable camera to hold and even harkens back to my review of the Leica M9. Granted, this is a much smaller camera with a lot less metal. Compared to the GF-1, E-PL1, and the G11, it feels very similar to all these cameras with the exception that the GF-1 and G11 have dials. The Sigma’s solution to manual settings are two buttons placed on the top right that actually still work very well and much more comfortably than the EPL-1’s.

Image Quality

It’s too early to really judge this but the quality and colors seem very good even at higher ISOs. However, there is a catch to this—and it’s in the metering.

Metering

Though I am currently writing this about eight hours after I got the camera in from FedEx, I can say from walking around my neighborhood a bit that the camera tends to underexpose a bit. This was evident shooting in Aperture priority. Due to this, I so far am recommending shooting in manual and overexposing about a quarter to half stop.

More to come as the field review has only begun!

If you’ve got the Sigma DP2s, let us know your thoughts down in the comments below.

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