The Sigma DP2 is a compact camera with an SLR-sized sensor.

Sigma is perhaps best known to photographers as a supplier of affordable third-party lenses that are compatible with big-brand cameras. However, it's been gradually developing its own line-up of digital compacts that make the most of its heritage in optical excellence. The firm's latest contender is the boxy Sigma DP2.

The Sigma DP2 is a 41mm fixed-lens device.

At £599, the Sigma DP2 feels like an indulgent buy, but the price is partly justified by an SLR-sized sensor; in theory, the bigger the sensor, the better the images.

The Foveon X3 sensor is unusual in that it has separate red, green and blue layers, a strategy that's intended to make images look realistic and almost three-dimensional (see the similar Ricoh GR Digital III review). Sigma claims a composite resolution of around 14Mp, since each layer is 4.6Mp, although the reality is somewhere in between those figures: shots taken with the Sigma DP2 are comparable to those taken by 8Mp or 10Mp cameras.

The Sigma DP2 is a camera that the user has to take charge of - sometimes using physical force. It has a stiff shutter release, overly complex menus and stubborn, occasionally stop-start performance that froze on us a few times; we had to remove and reinsert the battery to get the camera back up and running. We found the autofocus lethargic and were put off by the black-on-black labelling of functions.

Once we'd got to grips with these quirks, however, we began to perversely enjoy the challenge of taking a photo with the Sigma DP2. And it achieves some good results, particularly when taking photos that require a shallow depth of field, such as portraits and still lifes, where you want the central subject sharp but everything else a blur. The f2.8, 41mm-equivalent lens captures an impressive level of detail and images have a pleasing film-like appearance.

Above ISO 800, however, noise starts to intrude, and each and every image requires post-production work. Sigma DP2 is a specialist camera that's likely to appeal to a narrow market - and to those who enjoy the struggle as much as the outcome.

NEXT: our expert verdict >>

Sigma DP2: Specs

  • Digital camera
  • 14.0 Megapixel, X3 CMOS, 14,450,688 pixels (2,688x1,792x3)
  • Effective Sensor Resolution: 14,066,208 pixels (2,652x1,768x3)
  • Optical Sensor Size: 13.8x20.7mm
  • ISO 100, ISO 800, ISO 400, ISO 200, ISO 50, ISO 1600, ISO auto
  • AVI, JPEG, RAW
  • AVI-320x240-30 fps
  • 24.2mm-f/2.8
  • F/2.8
  • Hot shoe, Audio recording, USB 2.0 compatibility, DPOF support, PictBridge support, AE lock
  • 2.5in TFT active matrix, 230,000 pixels
  • built-in microphone
  • USB/composite video/audio output/SD Memory Card
  • lens cap, neck strap, shoe cap, A/V cable USB cable
  • Li-ion rechargeable battery
  • 113x56x60mm
  • 260g
  • Digital camera
  • 14.0 Megapixel, X3 CMOS, 14,450,688 pixels (2,688x1,792x3)
  • Effective Sensor Resolution: 14,066,208 pixels (2,652x1,768x3)
  • Optical Sensor Size: 13.8x20.7mm
  • ISO 100, ISO 800, ISO 400, ISO 200, ISO 50, ISO 1600, ISO auto
  • AVI, JPEG, RAW
  • AVI-320x240-30 fps
  • 24.2mm-f/2.8
  • F/2.8
  • Hot shoe, Audio recording, USB 2.0 compatibility, DPOF support, PictBridge support, AE lock
  • 2.5in TFT active matrix, 230,000 pixels
  • built-in microphone
  • USB/composite video/audio output/SD Memory Card
  • lens cap, neck strap, shoe cap, A/V cable USB cable
  • Li-ion rechargeable battery
  • 113x56x60mm
  • 260g

OUR VERDICT

The Sigma DP2 is one of a kind and produces strong at images with shallow depth of field. Is it for you? Well, consider this: the Sigma DP2 is pricey, has a confusing menu system, freezes up on occasion, has an unresponsive autofocus and a stiff shutter release button. Oh, and video capture is at a low resolution. But as strange as it is, we like the Sigma DP2.

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