Sigma DP1x – A Pocket Imaging Marvel?

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Sigma DP1x

I recently came across this camera for an extremely affordable price and decided, based on its almost cult status being capable of capturing superb images, to snap it up (sorry for the pun).

I was interested in discovering if it produced the kind of world class images it was purported to be capable of and also whether the frustrating elements of the camera – slow to operate, slow write times, slow autofocus and write to card, poor high iso performance, average build – were accurate.

To cut to the chase I can confirm that the images the camera produces really are superb with wonderful colour and sharpness. The 3 layer Foveon sensor – a Google search will provide a ton of information on the technical aspects if this device – is a significant departure from those used by the competition.

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The DP1x captures colours nicely

The comments that it is close to a film camera in the way it resolves colours and more importantly the visual feel are, I feel, accurate. This performance coupled with the super sharp fixed 28mm (equivalent) lens means that its output exceeds that of my Fuji X-E1 and 18-55 lens which is no slouch in these areas.

But there is I am afraid a “however”. There usually is but the caveats to this camera producing  the kind of images that when you get them on your computer screen make you go “wow” are as long as your arm.

Get the camera in the right conditions and you will be amazed. And by right conditions I mean generally outside, on a bright day (without any sun on the screen as the preview fades dramatically in bright light), with low iso (200 or less), on a static subject and ideally with manual focus to get things just so. Oh and a tripod would probably help as there is no inbuilt image stabilisation.

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Nice detail from the fixed lens/sensor combination

As stated previously if you can comply with virtually ALL of the above (maybe forgo the tripod if you can get your shutter speed up) then you will be richly rewarded with images that have a quality I think you would struggle to achieve with anything up to a Canon 5D Mk3. Not print as big as the side of a house quality but up to A3’ish with some tweaking kind of quality (and yes I have owned a 5D Mk3 and I am fully aware of the files it produces).

As for the build quality. It feels fairly solid but strangely light to me. Build quality is certainly not going to blow you away. It feels no better than a £200 point and shoot from the likes of Canon or Nikon and as the camera’s original retail price was around £600 then I think it will leave many disappointed.

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I feel it handles this scene well

Operationally it is very straightforward which makes a refreshing change with a mode dial on top for “P, A, S, M” shooting, set up, video and voice recording (!?). The remainder of the settings are fairly simply laid out after pressing the menu or quick menu buttons on the back of the camera although these have their own quirks that have to be experienced to be believed.

So who would the camera be good for? I would suggest landscape and architectural photographers that want to produce world class, fine art prints sized A3 or smaller. Forget portrait photography primarily because the focal length does not lend itself to this type of photography. In fact I would forget any other type of photography other than the ones mentioned previously.

Incidentally, forget the video capabilities of the camera – I am at a loss as to why Sigma even bothered given the performance here.

I would love to try out the new Merrill DP cameras out to see if any of the niggles have been ironed out. Until then I will be moving the DP1x on as, for me, its quirks just about outweigh the positives.

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Colours are still good in overcast conditions

Format FOVEON X3® Direct Image Sensor (CMOS)
Image Sensor Size 20.7×13.8mm (0.8 inch×0.5 inch)
Number of Pixels Effective Pixels 14.06MP (2652×1768×3 layers)
Aspect Ratio 3:2
Focal Length 16.6mm F4 (35mm equivalent focal length: 28mm)
Lens Construction 5 Groups, 6 Elements
Shooting Range 30cm–∞ (Full Mode),50cm–∞
Storage Media SD Card/Compatible with SDHC,Multi Media Card
Recording Format Exif2.21, DCF2.0, DPOF
Recording Mode Lossless compression RAW data (12-bit), JPEG(High, Wide, Medium, Low), Movie (AVI), Voice memo to still image (10 sec./30 sec.), Voice recording (WAV)
File Size (Number of Pixels)
For Still Images
RAW High Approx. 15.4MB (2640×1760)
JPEG High Fine Approx. 3.3MB (2640×1760)
Normal Approx. 1.9MB (2640×1760)
Basic Approx. 1.4MB (2640×1760)
Wide Fine Approx. 2.7MB (2640×1485)
Normal Approx. 1.6MB (2640×1485)
Basic Approx. 1.2MB (2640×1485)
Medium Fine Approx. 1.6MB (1872×1248)
Normal Approx. 0.9MB (1872×1248)
Basic Approx. 0.7MB (1872×1248)
Low Fine Approx. 0.8MB (1312× 880)
Normal Approx. 0.5MB (1312× 880)
Basic Approx. 0.3MB (1312× 880)
File Size/Movie QVGA:320×240 (30 Frames Per Second), Approximately 30minutes is possible with a 1GB SD Card.
White Balance 8 types (Auto, Sunlight, Shade, Overcast, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Flash, Custom)
ISO Sensitivity AUTO (ISO 100–ISO 200): With Flash (ISO 100–ISO 400) ,ISO 50, ISO 100, ISO 200, ISO 400, ISO 800, (ISO 1600– 3200 in Raw mode only)
Color Mode 7 types (Standard, Vivid, Neutral, Portrait, Landscape, B&W, Sepia)
Auto Focus Type Contrast Detection Type
AF Point Selection Selection of 1point from 9points
Focus Lock Shutter release halfway-down position (From Menu Settings AE Lock is possible by AE lock button)
Manual Focus Dial Type
Shutter Type Electronically controlled lens shutter
Shutter Speed 1/2000sec to 15sec: The maximum shutter speed is varied depending on F value.
Metering System TTL Full Aperture Metering [1]Evaluative Metering, [2]Center Weighted Average Metering, [3]Spot Metering
Exposure Control System [P]Program AE, [S]Shutter Priority AE, [A]Aperture Priority AE, [M] Manual
Exposure Compensation 1/3 EV Steps up to±3EV for Appropriate Exposure
Auto Bracketing 3 pictures in appropriate, under and over exposure levels. It can be set in 1/3EV stop increments up to ±3EV.
Built-in Flash Pop-up (Manual)
Guide Number 6(ISO100/m)
Built-in Flash Coverage Range 30cm to 2.1m (ISO200)
External Flash Hot shoe (X Sync. Contact, dedicated contacts)
Drive Modes [1]Single, [2]Continuous (3 Frames/second), [3]Self Timer (2sec./10sec.)
LCD Monitor Type TFT Color LCD Monitor
Monitor Size and Pixels 2.5inches / Approx. 230,000 dots
LCD Monitor Language English/Japanese/German/French/Spanish/Italian/Chinese (Simplified)/ Korean/ Russian
Interfaces USB (USB2.0), Video Out (NTSC/PAL),Audio Out (Monaural)
Power Dedicated Li-ion Battery BP-31, Battery Charger BC-31, AC Adapter (Optional)
Battery Life Approx.250 shots(25℃)
Dimensions 113.3mm/4.5″(W)×59.5mm/2.3″(H)×50.3mm/2″(D)
Weight 250g/ 8.8oz. (excluding batteries and card)
DP1x Accessories Li-ion Battery BP-31, Battery Charger BC-31, Lens Cap LCP-11, Neck Strap NS-11, Soft Case CS-70, Hot Shoe Cover HSC-11, USB Cable, Video Cable, SIGMA Photo Pro Disc, Instruction Manual

A trip to Camp Hell – In the Garden

Hell 2010

I have recently taken an interest in camping. This is odd considering the memories of many a miserable day and night in a tent are still firmly etched on my subconscious.

The dark recollections of many hours spent huddled millimetres away from the only thing that separated us from the outside world whilst gales incessantly battered our fragile living quarters and rain thundered against the canvas centimetres from my head are difficult to shake.

Still, 30 years later, I thought I would give it another go. Bear in mind this is after point blank refusing never to sleep in the great outdoors again without at least 6 inches of concrete, a comfortable bed and a front desk for help at my disposal.

So why this sudden interest in camping? A question my wife repeatedly asked me. Well, a work colleague had been extolling the great pleasures he had had with his family on a couple of recent camping trips. Then he started talking about camping gadgets and I became intrigued. Everyone knows, like most men,  that a good gadget is hard to resist. When I realised that there was a new world of strange implements to discover and delight in I knew I would have to put a tentative foot into this new world.

But before I could get too carried away I needed to establish whether I could put the camping horrors of my childhood behind me.

I thought the best way to ease me into this old territory would be to try out my wife’s old tent. Rather than go away somewhere I thought the most straightforward thing to do would be to set the tent  up in the garden and spend the night in it. Brilliant, I thought.

So on a warm evening I wrestled with poles, canvas and guide ropes for around 2 hours until my wife came and gave me a hand and we finally had ourselves our home for the night. And no back garden left.

We gave the tent a night and day to “air” and when the night of our adventure came the excitement of us all sleeping under canvas was almost unbearable for our youngest who is 6. I bought a new super duper sleeping bag for myself and sleep mat and set up two airbeds for my wife and children.

And so our garden adventure began and oh how it was action packed:

  • Our six year old went to the toilet in the house 3 times because she knew she could make use of the torch I had let her look after – this is three times more than she would normally go and she trampled over everyone in the process.
  • She then proceeded to wake me waking me up at 3 in the morning to say she was cold. I discovered she had wriggled out of her sleeping bag which was at the end of the airbed and had a small fleece blanket wrapped around her. I had to cajole her back into the sleeping bag and to sleep.
  • At some point in the night she was wriggling that much in the night she fell out of the airbed and so I had to get her settled. Again.
  • Then came the plumetting night temperature. I could not believe how cold it became. A millimetre of skin exposed meant I could feel icy fingers burrowing under my skin. I shiver at the thought of it.
  • And the noise? Cars and people walking down the street until God knows what time coming back from nights out.
  • Then at 4.30am the dawn chorus. I didn’t realise that there were so many birds living near us and the racket they could make! My wife did say I was an idiot because we live near open fields and what did I expect?
  • One of the cats escaped out of the house on one of Kate’s toilet trips and then proceeded to sit on top of the tent. No amount of banging on the roof would remove it!
  • And to top it all? Our back garden is only on a slight gradient but it didn’t stop the kids double airbed from sliding into me. My wife bailed on us at 6 to get into our bed. I can’t say I blame her!

So my recent interest in camping is over. I will put Camp Hell behind me and move on. I tried. I really did but give me a cheap hotel any day. Throw in a few bed bugs I don’t care. As far as I am concerned all future holidays will be canvas free. Just need to make them kid free now…………