Mini Camera Review: Sigma DP1

July 2nd, 2010


Not many people are interested in a single purpose digital camera, which is exactly what the Sigma DP1 is. Designed for wide angle nature photography, this compact digital camera offers few features most consumers would want, like a mechanical zoom lens or the ability to shoot HD video. But the DP1 does include features I find particularly appealing, like a dSLR sized imaging sensor and manual exposure control. I’m especially fond of the long shutter option, which allows for (semi) long exposure night photography — something I haven’t seen on many compact digital cameras. I also like the overall design and construction of the DP1, which has a decidedly old-fashion flair to it. When the lens is retracted and covered with the purpose-built cap, it slips easily into the jacket pocket. The layout of the controls are pretty simple and the camera is relatively easy to learn. There is no optical viewfinder, but I always use the LCD for framing shots, so this isn’t a big deal for me. And while I like the design from an aesthetic standpoint, the ergonomics are really quite bad once you start using it on a regular basis. So bad that I prefer the way my crappy Canon A-70 handles. Once you attach the lens shade/filter adapter, the camera becomes even more awkward to use. But I suspect most fans of the DP1 put up with its quirk because when it does perform, it performs fantastically. I was sold on the camera after seeing example photos on the Sigma website. It’s not easy to produce razor-sharp and highly saturated pictures, but with some practice, it within reach of even the most novice of users. One other thing worth pointing out is the DP1 does export images in the RAW format, which is common for DSLRs for not so much for compact digital cameras. Unfortunately, Sigma forces you to use their software to convert the images to something you can use (like .jpg), but for me, this isn’t a big hassle. I suppose if you had dozens of photos to convert it would be frustrating though.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning the newer DP2 offers some features that might appeal to a wider user-base. Gone is the wide angle lens, which has been replaced something approximating the standard 50mm focal length (non zoom of course) someone would use on a dSLR. But other than the lens change, I don’t know if Sigma made any radical departures from the original design. Would I recommend this camera to someone in the market for a compact digital camera? Probably not. Besides the fact it lacks a zoom lens, most people would be very disappointed with the shutter lag and low light performance. These aren’t really issues for most DP1 users who are taking landscape photos, but casual users are looking for something to take pictures of their kids, which the DP1 wasn’t really designed for. I suppose the DP1 would make a good travel camera due to it’s small size and robust construction — just make sure and bring the battery charger.

For examples shots from the DP1, see my Flickr page

Entry Filed under: Photography

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