Sigma DP-1 preview

Attendees at Focus On ImagingIt’s the end of February, and once again time for the annual photographic industry trade show, Focus On Imaging. Whilst I will be covering this professionally for our print titles, I’ve been particularly looking forward to this one – as it marks the arrival in the UK (and worldwide) of Sigma’s new DP-1 28mm compact camera with Foveon sensor. I only had a short trip today, so here are the first pictures of the hardware, and a roundup of the specification.

Whilst I’m exposed to, and advocate, many different types of digital camera and DSLR for different users, I personally choose to work with a Sigma SD14, having previously become attached to the SD10, and as such have quite a fondness for the Foveon sensor (based on results) and the build quality of Sigma’s cameras and lenses. As such, the prospect of new Sigma compact has been very interesting to me personally, and it’s been with some anticipation I’ve followed the development of the new camera.

Sigma DP-1 (shot on Olympus Mju)The DP-1 is very reminiscent of a rangefinder 35mm camera – marking for the first time a Foveon digital still camera with Live View capability, as this is the only way initially of framing shots. Interestingly the 9-point AF system benefits from this, as it uses a contrast-based sensor method that should result in exceptionally sharp focus. An external rangefinder option allows composition without the Live View screen. The 6 element 16.6mm lens translates into a 28mm equivalent with f4 maximum aperture and a 30cm minimum focus – but more importantly, offers the potential for something quite remarkable in a digital compact camera – true (d)SLR quality, combined with the stunning color reproduction of the Foveon sensor. SLR features dominate the DP-1; no scene modes, no “smile recognition” – Program, Aperture or Shutter Priority and manual modes, with +/- 3.0ev exposure compensation and auto bracketing, and that’s the lot pretty much. The primary “consumer compact” feature to have made it to the DP-1 is the ability to shoot a QVGA (320 x 240) movie at 30fps.

Sigma DP-1 Live View screenWith only a moment to handle the DP-1, I wasn’t able to bring back much more than a specification sheet and an impression that this camera could offer a new level of image quality for the compact outdoor photography market. Regardless of your opinion of Foveon “pixel” claims – with 4.5Mpixel output files from a true-colour 3 x 4.5Mpixel source that avoids the chromatic aberrations of Bayer patterns leading to the 14Mpixel resolution and output usually considered equal to 10Mpixel DSLRs – the prospect of having that image quality in your pocket should hold the interest of most enthusiastic digital photographers.

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