Moderation: I do not want a Sigma DP3 merrill


Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug Early autumn at the beautiful Weitsee near Ruhpolding (Germany). The photograph is a composite of three separate captures.

I have to confess that although I advocate moderation, me too I am tempted by (some) new cameras that have seen the light of the day during recent years (I have even ordered one just now - but this is not the topic of this post). However, my pondering always ends with the realization that I do not need a new camera as long as mine is still working fine (the damned thing just wouldn't break down - even when falling to the ground). On the other hand, what keeps tempting me since I stopped analog photography, and particularly since I sold my XPAN, is a versatile, high quality complement to my micro-four thirds camera. It would not be a camera for all-purpose and everyday shooting, but one that I use more selectively and when I want the highest image quality (that I am willing to afford). For quite some time I have been eying the tiny Sigma DP merrill cameras as contenders for this purpose. Since I am more of a "tele-guy" I have rented a DP3 merrill and tried it along my own camera for a few days of autumn photography.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug A fallen beech leaf bathed in the currents of the river Traun and surrounded by light reflections (Siegsdorf, Germany).

It must be noted here that the Sigma DP3 merrill (as well as the DP1 and DP2) is revolutionary in many ways. The most distinguishing feature, and the one endowing the Sigma DP merrill cameras with their unique image quality, is the Foveon sensor. Unlike most other digital sensors, the Foveon device captures information for the red, green and blue channel on each pixel. Besides this, the cameras are refreshingly simplistic, minimalistic and functional - no useless flash, no super-fancy design and comparatively few buttons. It seems the DP merrills have been designed with the "real" photographer in mind. The cameras also enforce a welcome deacceleration on (some) photographers - the slow operation and poor battery life are emphasized in every review - and of no concern to me. Based on what I have read, the Sigma DP merrill cameras seemed akin to something like an XPAN and I was impatiently looking forward to finally testing and using the DP3. To my big surprise, I immediately knew that I would not buy this camera the moment I held it in my hands for the first time.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugAn autumnal maple leaf and swirls of luminous reflections in the river Traun (Siegsdorf, Germany).

The camera was smaller and lighter than I expected and felt much more plasticky than I could anticipate based on the reviews I read. Although manual focusing works rather nicely and is well implemented (a distance scale appears on the screen, which I found nice), it made toy-like sounds and, most disappointingly, I had serious trouble deciding whether something was sharp or not on the LCD screen (despite the enlargement). My old Lumix GH1 provides a much clearer picture on its almost five year old screen and I find it much easier to manually focus with the latter camera! Also, the operation of the camera is much more like operating a point-and-shoot camera than a "serious" or "old-style" SLR. Of course, none of these issues impairs image quality in any way, which is perfectly fine or even fantastic.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug Morning fog is rising from the Mittersee near Ruhpolding (Bavaria, Germany).

I am glad having tried the DP3 merrill, but the camera makes it easy to exercise myself in moderation. I prefer levers and dials over buttons, appreciate the feel of smooth, old-style, manual focus, enjoy the look through a viewfinder (or at least on a good, articulated screen) and value the versatility of an interchangeable lens camera. For me, the path to a photograph (the "work" with the camera) is just as important as the end result and therefore I am not at all tempted by the DP3 anymore. However, if the highest image quality in the smallest package and for the smallest price is your only criterion, the Sigma DP merrills may be the means to your end.
The five compositions shown here are examples taken with the Sigma DP3 merrill. I like the photographs and files from this camera very much, the detail is amazing and sharpness fantastic, but this is of course not fully appreciable in the small versions shown here. I hope you enjoy the examples anyway.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug Light swirls and autumnal leaves in the river Traun (Siegsdorf, Germany).

2013/11/03 by Florian Freimoser
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