The Sigma DP2 Merrill Camera

SigmaDP2m

The Strangest but Most Wonderful Camera

The Sigma DP2 Merrill is about the strangest camera I’ve ever used, but at the same time it is one of the very best also. The list of weird things about this camera:

  1. No viewfinder – only a screen on the back.
  2. X3F RAW files – a weird format that almost nothing reads except Sigma’s own software.
  3. No built-in flash. (Yay. Never use it anyway.)
  4. Huge files – Image size is 4704 x 3136 (15 Megapixels) but the RAW file is a whopping 44 Mb.
  5. No zoom. A fixed lens with no zoom capability. If you’re used to using a zoom to get a shot, this will feel super awkward.

More limitations far below, but first, the great things about this camera (and this is a truly great camera)…

The True Photographer’s Camera

These weird things though are minor compared to the feeling this camera gives a true photographer. By “true,” I mean the photographer that remembers using a film camera with a hand wind on it.

Aim. Shoot. Hand crank the film roll. Repeat.

713px-Zeiss_ikon_contaflex_sst

My old Zeiss Ikon Contaflex 35mm camera.

This camera will make anyone into a better photographer and make them feel like a true photographer. Here’s why:

  1. A great lens and sensor combo gives this camera the sharpest output image files available anywhere. They are the same as a medium format camera, and that is super sharp. Tack sharp. Sharper than that. You’ve got to see the images to believe this. There’s no way I can convince you with words. After seeing your photos, you will feel like a god. This camera will make you want to take more photos.
  2. Without a zoom, the fixed focal length of the lens will force you to position yourself for the best shot. This is just like an old time camera and like the one I grew up with (the Zeiss Ikon Contaflex that I grew up using). You really have to move around and think about how the final image will look and this forces you into moving around and making photographically-good choices.
  3. High ISOs above 400-800 give grainy shots. This is exactly like it used to be with film. I remember buying the Kodacolor 400 rolls, shooting them, and then seeing that grain for the first time when I had my photos developed at the drug store, and I knew what ISO meant from that point on. Good photographers avoid high ISOs and this camera will force you there.
  4. Great photographers don’t use built-in flash. This camera does not have a built-in flash so it will force you to get a good off-camera flash.
  5. The weight and feel of this camera gives you a feeling of being a true photographer. You can feel the camera in your hand and the solid feeling of the controls make you feel like you’re using a great piece of equipment. It will give you the confidence to take the shot and make you feel like a pro.

But if you’re used to the modern conveniences of digital cameras…

If you’ve grown accustomed to your dSLR or high-end point and shoot digital camera, you’re going to have some rude awakenings when using this camera:

  • Short battery life – about 50 shots, and turn off that rear screen to save battery. Better yet bring a few batteries with you. I can get about 70 shots now before needing a battery change.
  • Giant files mean more or bigger memory cards are needed.
  • Slow processing time – after pressing the shutter you will not be taking another shot right away. About 10 seconds to wait on the camera.
  • Might as well not have video. It has a 640×480 video mode, but that is so 1990.
  • No shooting in low light. ISO noise is horrible above ISOs of 400.
  • It is nearly impossible to see the screen image clearly in strong light. This makes it very hard to focus on something and to keep the horizon straight. You can’t shoot what you can’t see. On other cameras, I would use the viewfinder in these situations, but there isn’t one on this camera.
  • No flash.
  • No zoom.
  • No viewfinder.

Who should get this camera?

True photographers should get this camera, that’s who. If you are or would like to become a great photographer, then buy this camera and use it to its fullest. It will give you images like you’ve never experienced before, and it will force you to be a better photographer. Don’t let these so-called “limitations” fool you – go back to your roots, when you used a film camera, and get this camera into your hands now.

DP1, DP2, or DP3 ?

The DP2 Merrill is the best one of the DPx Merrill lineup. Why? Because it is the only one that matches up the sensor with the lens – perfectly. The DP1 is wider and loses sharpness in the corners. The DP3 is narrower with distortion in the mid to outer area. The DP2 Merrill is perfectly sharp everywhere. Everywhere. Seriously. Extremely good.

The Technology and Color

The DP2 uses a Foveon sensor. This is different from every other camera out there because they all use the Bayer sensor. Discussions about the differences you can find elsewhere online in many places, but the outcome is the same, the sensor is a 45 (46 advertised) Mp sensor that results in a 15 Mp image. This means that the red, blue, and green channels are all separated then brought back together to make the final image (15×3=45). What this means to the image is that nothing is lost. Colors freaking pop like crazy with this camera.

Focusing is like most other cameras with the standard focus modes, but it also has a focus ring right on the lens, just like great old cameras do, so you can fine-tune your focus after depressing the shutter button slightly. This helps a lot in getting pin-sharp focus, and it makes you feel more in control of the photo taking process. It makes you feel like a pro.

Post-processing is easy and straightforward. I can tell you that my process is very simple. I wrote about it here: [link].

Summary

Read more about the details of the DP2 Merrill camera on Sigma’s site here: [link], then ask yourself some questions before buying it:

  1. Am I a true pro photographer that is willing to sacrifice convenience in order to get superb image quality?
  2. Am I able to take good photos with a fixed focal length (non-zoom) camera? Have I ever tried?
  3. Do I long for the days when the photo was all that mattered and the time to set up and take it was considered in mind before-hand and well thought-out? Can I do that?

If you answer yes to all of these, then consider buying this camera. Look at all the reviews online and the specifications from the manufacturer. Make an informed decision based on where you are at in your photography. You’ll be glad you did.

Thank you for reading what I wrote – I hope you enjoyed it!


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