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.
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