SIGMA DP1
First reviewed sample in Italy: 10 march 2008
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       Vengeance!” I mean, sometimes I feel like William Shakespeare’s Hamlet in his less famous monologue (Chapter II/II, verses 543-601). That is, Foveon has patented the only chip to give true colours and real sharp definition and we, customers, obliged to choose between Sigma products and Polaroid X530 (this last one, by the way, equipped with a not more manufactured downscaled Foveon chip, is out of  the market) for having a camera with this sensor. 

   We, “dull and muddy-mettled rascals, peak like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of our cause, and can say nothing – no,” not for a new camera with Foveon chip!

   Just imagine all those nice shining products such as
Fuji , Pentax, Canon, Nikon, Olympus
, Ricoh, Samsung, Sanyo, Sony, Panasonic, Kodak, or whatever, with a Foveon chip inside… Some, would, for sure, outrun the current Sigmas for the features now offered with their products.
    How many years shall we wait before this bunch of knave producers (Shakespeare’s language…) will recognize Foveon supremacy and pay royalties for the chip instead of wasting money for improving their products?

    It’s like manufacturing a car engine having in mind pollution: if a company has been so bright in devising a cheap hydrogen engine, all other car companies, working on conventional fuel engine, should, of course, take note of it, and ask for the relevant patent. So, why, in digital photography, does this not happen? My personal answer is that marketing strategies are able to confound the real consumers’ needs, first, offering more megapixels, but not clear-cut images. A second reason is that all the Media getting a lot of money from digital camera advertisements are wary not to enphasize on a product for fear of losing munificent customers. Just a test: make a portrait with one of the renowned and costly products of the afore said producers bunch and compare it with a Sigma SD9, SD10, SD14, DP1, or, even with a Polaroid X530  and then look at the eyes, the wrinkles or to a single focused hair of that person portraited. Here are just two very large files links where you can see blurred lines or a mass of overcooked spaghetti even in pictures of most updated cameras, as opposed to clear-cut lines on Foveon equipped cameras. And the same critisism can be applied for all the other digital camera producers who, on the other hand, offer more shooting speed - for sure much appreciated by professionals in sport - possibility to also use non proprietary lens, and (not all) anti-shaking systems. The point is that Foveon sensor with its three sandwiched layers, one for every main colour (Red Green Blue), is unique and simple, as it is, for example, Dyson in its vacuum cleaner products which doesn't need to use either bags or filters to stash the dust.

   It may also help at this point to cite an instance: Sony Trinitron cathode ray tube. Well, this technology  - patented in 1967, expired in the early 1990s, and utilized since then by other companies - since its start was well welcomed because of its quality. Sony had devised  a holed mask through which three separate (RGB) beam guns  had to pass before hitting the phoshor screen. Without going further into technical details, it may suffice for you - if you have ever had a Sony TV - to recall the quality difference when compared to other brands or to have noticed that the best CTRs used for PC had a Trinitron screen, as was the case of Apple. 

   So, let’s now go to Sigma DP1, a camera with a fixed 28mm equivalent lens, F:1:4. For sure there’s a Ferrari engine inside – 2760x1760 pixels in RAW mode, 4573x3048 in jpeg, from 8 to 15 MB heavy (you pack, on average, 65 RAW pictures in 1GB SD card), a huge CMOS sensor 20,7x13,8mm - and you discover it quickly. I had it for short period of time – you don’t make a living reviewing digital cameras, so you test it in part-time - and I hope to get it back again for further evaluation, but I can give you my clear first impressions. It’s small, sturdy, well built, with a precision which attains to german products, and it weighs more than expected for its size: it means, that inside, there should be a tough metal skeleton, although, having it dangling for many hours on my neck, sometimes I forgot to wear it on.

   DP1 it’s not a P&S (Point and Shoot camera); I would say it’s a PPS (Point, Ponder and Shoot) as you are bent to use it not in Program mode, but with Shutter or Aperture priority, at least in my case. Actually, it’s like having an old fashioned Leica (but with no possibility to change lens) or something a little bit bigger than an haf-frame Olympus Pen which I had many years ago. Mind, that camera had a fixed 28mm equivalent lens like the DP1 and I shot a lot of pictures with it, and many, were nice ones; that’s why I have a bent for wideangle shooting. Well, one day - Giurassic Park era - I jumped from the aeroplane with this Olympus camera on my hands, shot some pictures before the parachute opened, then the nylon lines – because of my unusual jumping posture in order to better shoot - went garbled with my legs and I began zipping down to the earth like a dead weight. You may agree that I had no alternatives other than stopping shooting pictures and  try to save my beloved skin. During those frantic moments the Olympus Pen fell from a roughly 200 metres height. When I touched ground, safely, I had my squad search the area until they found the camera half stuck in the wet, lush, green, high weeds field. With my survival knife I dug it out and took a shot of the neat hole. You know what? After the film developing, someone wanted to buy it at a premium price on the spot, and, regrettely, I agreed. Well, I didn’t re-enact the same test with the DP1; instead I've treated it with tender care.   

   Before going back to the review, I mention that you may download the DP1 camera manual in English or Japanese, and other eight languages (Italian, French, German, Spanish, Russian, Korean, Chinese T, Chinese S) from SIGMA website. So, I would say that it takes some time – as any new digital camera, but more for the Foveon equipped ones – to understand how it reacts to the enviroment and the light, and the more for me, who had not gone around with a Sigma SD14 - equipped with the same CMOS sensor although with a slower data processor if compared to DP1.

   DP1 screen has to be ameliorated in terms of definition and brightness, otherwise the manual focusing – which has a very useful spot zooming mode – becomes difficult to use in medium or low light; this improvement could be done by Sigma without changing the camera design. 

   Now the video: it renders natural, filmish and very agreeable movies: sometime they look like being shot by an Arriflex film camera. But, as I pointed out on a previous review on Polaroid X530, which can boast a 640x480, although a mere 15fps video movie, the frames have a sort of blinking blurred spot areas (see in this page the newspaper still frame, where the blurred patches are clear to see, not only near the reader's thumb). It looks like they haven’t yet developed (Who?: Foveon or SIGMA?) the right software to deal with the filming, although that’s strange, as, some companies offering, these video devices (640x480, 30fps) with embedded Foveon chips, like  Toshiba or Han Vision, should have succeeded in solving this problem. This is a topic I would like to check later on with them. Another example may be useful for you to understand what I mean: they are two simultaneosly shot movies, one made with Polaroid x530 movie, 640x480, and the second one with Sanyo Xacti J1. The Polaroid one, with Foveon chip, renders the real colours, but produces moving and blurred patches in the frame as opposing to the lesser quality but more linear Sanyo one. 

   It may seem, I’m too much indulging on this topic, but you have to consider that if you buy the camera to make some dough from it, selling pictures to media – as Sigma DP1 is apt for reportage or artistic picture - you have a better chance to succeed if they are matched by a related movie. And this is what the web newspapers need to offer their customers: a dynamic tabloid. Having movie mode, anyway, is useful for eveyone: say, an architect who needs to document work in progress in his high-rise building, or the Sushi chef Li Guang Hu (Who?) wanting to send his video to his relatives in Shanghai: yes Shanghai, not Tokyo. They pretend to be Japanese and they are trying hard, and with success I would say, to meet the standards of their more precise earthly cousins (That picture had been shot with my Canon EOS 620 with Canon Fisheye lens. I mean, video with Foveon stunning colours, is just fun.

  
I would anyhow suggest SIGMA to add, apart higher definition video, some improvements which will not change the design of the camera: stereo sound for movies; colouring in green the video ikon on the mode dial knob for not mismatching with the auto mode red ikon: it happened to me for a short video I had cared for; possibilty to recognize already existing SIGMA flashes. Although I’ve always used the built in pop-up flash (0,3m-3m in auto mode 100/200 ISO, up to 4.3 with 800 ISO) and tested just once the more powerful very tiny portable flash EF-140 DG (Guide number 14, powered by only two AA battery), this camera has got a top quality sensor and you may need to shoot a picture of a wide enviroment, say as a second camera in a marriage cerimony and the ensuing rave party; I would though render the flash head  tiltable (see a temporary bypass way to do it hereunder). Last but not least provide DP1 with an high definition screen in order to focus better in manual mode when using spot zooming.

   Whom is DP1 aimed to? For sure is not a first digital camera to be bought by new comers, or, by families wanting to shoot the heroic feats of their children. On the contrary, this camera, whose sensor by the way did not show significant heat detected by my hands after long use, it’s a must for every prosumer, or professional, already holding a digital SRL – be it a SIGMA SD9, SD10 or SD14 or coming from the “bunch of knaves” who will find useful to bring it always with them, when off-duty, for not losing “the shot of the century”. I would, by the way, suggest you choosing RAW mode when you go on a shoot, as you can afterward easily correct the file with SSP 2.4, the image processing software provided by SIGMA with the package. I'm sure SIGMA will provide customers with a new version as, sometimes, when processing RAW files outputs weird artifacts - see green DP1 on top page - which I quickly saved before they were going to disappear.

   What about the selling price? The official italian importer – Mamiya Trading – confirmed that the first DP1 batch has already been delivered by SIGMA Japan and has hinted at a retailer’s suggested price tag a little bit under the €800 threshold; in this price are not included the portable flash (sold at €70), lens hood (€30) and the add-on viewfinder (€139). Anyhow, would I recommend to buy SIGMA DP1 to a (prosumer) friend of mine? Yes, no doubt, because I feel missing it. 

Other SIGMA DP1 reviews: 

http://www.photographyblog.com/reviews_sigma_dp1.php

http://en.akihabaranews.com/

http://www.prime-junta.net/pont/Reviews/040_Sigma_DP1/_Sigma_DP1.html?page=1

http://www.shutterbug.com/equipmentreviews/compact_digicams/052908sigma/

http://www.thoreau.biz/photography/reviews/cameras/sigmadp1.html

http://blog.photoshelter.com/2008/04/sigma-dp1-review-with-clayton-cubitt.html

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/cameras/sigma-dp1.shtml 

http://www.pbase.com/hughden/dp1comp 

http://www.rytterfalk.com/
 

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1027&message=27693484

http://www.bogost.com/blog/technical_evolution_and_creati.shtml 

http://www.flickr.com/groups/seriouscompacts/discuss/72157604600726417/

http://www.photoreview.com.au/Sigma/reviews/slimline/sigma-dp1.aspx

 http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/DP1/DP1A.HTM

http://www.popphoto.com/content/camera-test-sigma-dp1

http://euyoung.blogspot.com/2008/03/sigma-dp1-compared-with-Ricoh-grd2.html

http://www.dslrmagazine.com/pruebas/pruebas-tecnicas/sigma-dp1-a-prueba.html (In Spanish)

                                                                                  DP1 size compared to Sigma SD10


                                                 Not for skinny models
    Peck, via Spadari 9, Red line Metro, Station Cairoli, is the most renowned gourmet shop in Milano. Apart from cheeses - among which huge cylinder shapes of the "real" Parmesan, the Parmigiano Reggiano - you can buy hams, sweets, candies, italian olive oil, champagne, wines, tea, conserves, foie gras, sea specialities, pasta and sauces, mushrooms and truffles. A morsel of one of these last mentioned precious tubers -  say Tartufo bianco D'Alba - can cost you as buying a SIGMA DP1 complete with accessories.

 

Italian delicatessen, at Peck's gourmet shop, patiently waiting for rush-hour customers.

 

                                                    Mirrored beauties
  
Futurist italian painter Giacomo Balla - Paintings and drawings on show in Milano, Palazzo Reale, up to june 2, 2008.
Thanks for the quick authorization to Lucia Crespi - SKIRA. Hereunder, on the left, "Spazzolridente"  1918, oil on canvas, 70x100cm, shot at 800 ISO. As for lens aperture I did not feel the need to have a higher f-number; but this may be due to the restricted time I had to test DP1.


Ghosts at work 

   Antonio - see him also being interviewed in one of the hereunder DP1 movies - apart from being a skilled roller skater, notwithstanding his "mature" age, paints with colour biros, fantastic, dreamy and umpteen landscapes. Here is one of them. Exposure: 1/100, F.5,6, 100 ISO, but I should have chosen less lens aperture to have the lower end of the painting focused; I, alas, opted for a P&S approach as the artist was in a hurry.

 A really thorny subject

 

English fans tanking up before going to watch Inter-Liverpool

 

Reading William Shakespeare's "The merry wives of Windsor"

 

Third party pictures 
Between the stars I host some DP1 pictures which, according to me, are worth it.

***

Frits Thomsen: Iceland


              "Copenhagen graffiti"  by Ole Thofte                         

            "Copenhagen church" by Ole Thofte

 "Flowers" by Robert Jeantet

***

Retirees in Milano enjoing a nice spring day

   If Dp1 had had a swivel and tilt screen I would not have roberspierred the forthcoming player. Exposure intentionally put at -1 stop because of a very bright light, never experienced during this season: global warming warning? File downsized and retouched  from RAW file.



Game of bowls movie

                                                        Dog movies
  
A foreword: for a videographer  it's possible to shoot movies using different modes of white balance  and to vary  exposure values up to +/- 3 stops (here I opted for -1 because of the blinding sun). There is a macro mode, range 30/50cm, but you can't choose it if you have begun shooting in normal focusing. The maximum recording time is 60min (2GB) at 320/212, 30fps (a 28 pixels black band appears in the lower part of the frame). 


                                            Trying to bridge the gap

  
The leader of the italian Democratic Party, Walter Veltroni - rallying in Milano on saturday 15 march at 17.00 - looks for establishing a vis-a-vis contact with his supporters applauding him from the balconies of the sorrounding buildings. He is trying to narrow the gap (from 4 to 6%), predicted by polls, with the PDL, the main opposing party, before next 13 april 2008 general elections. Veltroni is hoping to attract most of the undecided voters who add up to 33% of the entire electorate. From RAW file, F 4.5, 1/40, 200 ISO, Shade.

Other SIGMA DP1 movies

Walter Veltroni speech in Milano

Pirro's victory.100 ISO, macro mode

 Retiree gardening, 100 ISO

Four times off the mark, 100 ISO 

Li Guang Hu (Who?)preparing Sushi

Mini copter flying

Hooligans!

RAI 3 "Cominciamo bene" interview

 

    Compared "Sumo" retiree's movies: Polaroid X530 with Foveon versus Sanyo Xacti J1. Just take note how is the belly scar in X530 frame more detailed than the J1 one. 

 

DP1 lens hood has got a 46 mm thread. Here, the lens is on rest.

 

   Two close pictures of DP1 body. Hereunder, see, in the background, the custom battery and SD card. The nine holes pierced area near the mounting screw - which is lined up with the lens - open onto the loudspeaker. 

 

   In this second picture you can see the hotshoe for the portable flash hidden by a cover. Following  SIGMA logo line you will detect a small hole which corresponds to the microphone: very sensible and top quality.

The screen needs to have a higher definition for better manual focusing.

 

DP1 and EF140DG (off camera) connected with  a Canon "Shoe Cord 2", by Rob Slaski

  A “concept” SIGMA DP3

   DP3 could be endowed with swivel and tilt screen, that is an articulating display like the one on Nikon D5000 (sorry for tricoloured design: I had run out of some of them); bifocal lens 16/40mm (you really need to shoot some portraits to blend in a story) F: 1:2.8/4, Macro mode (at the moment this can be done only with adding Hoya close-up lens), touch screen, wireless download, remote command and a 720/24fps movie mode. Of course DP3 would be no more pocketful, but an all purpose camera for prosumers. 
   Someone on
DP Review Sigma Forum has suggested for the DP a grip; although this camera can be managed very well with only one hand counting on those tiny dome dotted lines, if future improvements are added as I hint here - the camera would need more space for further circuitry or for a bigger battery, because, if you shoot many video and take a lot of pictures in the same day, the power goes low. Anyway in case you badly need a neat and easy to attach custom DP grip you can visit this link.


Horse shoeing


Father and son
They are almost two meters high each, good-natured, very reliable, honest and fond of their job: a model of italian hard work attitude.

 

Brad Pitt thriced
Percival is a clever peruvian portrayer who works on the road - usually near Piazza San Babila - in Milan. He holds a town hall licence and can be contacted at +39.338.38.20.943. 


Foveon flares in welding series

   I got the very same DP1 sample for another couple of weeks and while taking some pictures on welding, I found mirrored on the file, the Foveon photodiodes matrix; it looks like they have an exagonal form, this also confirmed by the six rays beams. On the last one I acted on SPP 2.5 to render more clear the matrix design.  See also hereunder a very handy grip made, which gives you more easyness in carrying the camera.

Foveon sensor matrix revealed

DP1 stick-on grip by Richard Franiec

 

Movie on DP1 with handgrip 
(54 Mb) 



Multi-ethnic Italy

   Ioan Mitruti - Nello for his customers - is a clever tailor and speaks a good Italian, this because romanian language is very similar to Italian "thanks to"  Romans’ occupation from 106 AD to 271. The national dish of Romania is Sarmale: cabbage, or grape leaves, stuffed with pork, beef, rice, all smothered in sour cream. On his arm is tattoed (a youth mistake, he says) "Jeta" his girlfriend's name when he was young.  

  

      Jaga Nghiai, is a Senegalese welder, who has been living in Italy for more than ten years. He is 25 years old and he too speaks fluent Italian.  His country national dishes are Ceebu jen - flavoursome marinated fish cooked with tomato paste and a variety of vegetables - and Yassa chicken

SIGMA DP1 in the outer space...

   I took this picture from the balcony of my flat to test the exposure for next night. I had quite planned to immortalize those Perseid meteors that every year our planet Earth crosses over during its trip around the Sun. Unfortunately  the days after we got rain, so no chance to detect those boulders. I wondered though - being Foveon chip so good in providing crisp images in comparison with other CCD sensors - if NASA or ESA, or more logically JAXA, have ever embedded in their space probes - say Phoenix - a camera with such a sensor*. NASA, hints, inside its "The Ames astrogram" (May 2002), of a Carver Mead's conference on "The History and Future of Electronic Photography" and of a "Foveon's 16.8-million-pixel APS", but this last document, being a ppt file (8th March 2001) I could not open, so I do not know their opinion on it.

   By the way, the upper stripe is a jet exhausts trail, the lower one is caused by a passing jet's lights, while the shadow appearing on top of the building, on the extreme left, is the tail of a sat resting pigeon - you need to download the larger file to better see it; since the birds were ousted, from the roof of a villa in front of us by means of setting up spikes in every hole, the doves, by the tens, have elected our building as their favoured guesthouse. But,in the next days, they will have though time here too. Exposure data: 800 ISO - F 4.0 - 15 sec. The latter long value is reflected in the stars light small trail due to Earth movement.

*Post scriptum: It's Dalsa Corporation, a canadian company, which has built the CCDs for all of the rover's cameras. But I'm sure that if they would have used a Foveon chip with ancillary equipment to withstand those high/low temperatures we would have got crispier details.

No, we could not...but we will, in the future.
(DP1 file gauginized via SIGMA SPP 2.5 X3F Adjustment Mode)

   You may remember – see above if your memory fails – of Antonio, a retiree skater and painter to whom I had asked on April 2008 to foresee the results of italian general elections. He had done, but – watch the movie – he strayed from the target quite a lot. Well, I met him again in his usually attended milanese park playground to try to portray in his face the political debacle of his Democratic party. At the time, they had borrowed, for the campaign, Barack Hussein Obama’s slogan “Yes, we can”, while mogul Silvio Berlusconi, the 72 yrso big elections winner and current italian Prime Minister, top world media billionaire, according to Forbes - he owns the three major national private TV channels, reportdly controls another two out of three state-owned TV channels (the third reportdly gravitates around center-left Democratic Party), rakes in, annually, almost 50% of all advertising italian companies budgets funnelled to italian TV networks, owns magazines, newspapers, publishing companies, a top insurance company, soccer Milan Club, a top movie production company, controls since 2007 the global behemoth TV program formats producer Endemol, and most of  cinema halls all over Italy - leader of Partito della Libertà (Freedom’s party) was using as motto “Rialzati Italia!” (Stand up Italy!). 

   Now, there is a rumour going on, wanting Barack  - after having heard the defeat of the Italian Democratic Party - to change his slogan to a well-wishing “Stand up America!” in a bid to win votes over the "honourable, but old fashioned, musty, stubborn, quick-tempered ", and 72 yrso, John Mcain (Steering the World is no job for old men; unless we are unaware that USA all, has grown old too...). In my humble opinion, Barack – which in Arabic means Blessing, Benediction: the third form verb root is baaraka = to bless, to invoke a blessing on s.o/s.th, to give one's blessing (On America?); Hussein which comes from the verb root Hasana=to be handsome, lovely, handsome, nice, fine, good, while Obama comes from the Luo ethnic group language of southwestern Kenya and is a common family name -  does not need such a prop: he will win USA elections and could become (the more now, after having heard McCain's dull, colourless,  bombastic, uncharismatic, nostalgic, stale messianic nomination  speech - see here the text) the next and best President of United States of America since Abraham Lincoln, simply because he represents the last chance, in a foreseeable future, for USA, to be a world leader defensor of human civil rights and real democracy. And, by the way, Barack Obama is not muslism, he is Christian.

   As he has confirmed in his 28th august 2008 nomination speech (text here), Barack Obama (Here in a picture found somewhere on the web: Lo! That's a revelation for SIGMA cameras fans!) is smart, compassionate, young, not only because of his 47 years, but, more important, for having a Third Millennium attitude to solve our planetary huge problems. He is sociable, has got a vision, and could try to convince Putin’s Russia, that America does not want to bother a nation which has paid a tribute of ten million victims in fighting the Nazifascism, but to cooperate with Russian people leaders for mutual understanding, global peace and prosperity. 

   Hoping  the Russian leadership will warmly welcome this really liberal change in USA politics, because the smart brained Benedict Obama is more indigestible to Vladimir Putin than the ruthless John McCain, as, in the Third Millennium, the whole World will watch, judge, and affect in the long run, in best or in worst, with their political ties, even the richest and most powerful country. 

   Let me clear up the matter though. I do not want to spur here a political debate. I mention this because someone had a misunderstanding. No, this is purely talking about photography. I'm not aiming at politicians – whoever they are - but at the digital camera flagships, such as Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax, Panasonic and Sony, who manifacture good cameras, just cannot get the details (A Canon D40 - although it renders "honourable" colours - does not detect a spider’s web, clearly seen, on the contrary, on a DP1 picture) in the same way - citing Barack Obama's words referring to some issues - as “...It's not because John McCain doesn't care; it's because he doesn't get it ”. 

   Politicians, really apt to these times, need to have a smart mind to detect and understand the complexities and political nuances of a lightning fast changing World.