Having bought the DP1 I am very interested in the DP2. I want to see first hand what improvements have been made to the camera. I was recently offered a DP2 to use for a week or so and this gave me the opportunity to use the camera in the field rather than in the confines of a camera store. You just can't get a good feel for how a camera will work for you in a camera store.
This Is NOT a GearHead Review
I am not a GearHead. I do not do technical reviews. I use my cameras to produce actual photographs, not test photos of brick walls, newspapers or test charts and color bars. I want to see what the camera produces when used for the purpose it was intended and in particular, my style of shooting. If you are looking for a technical review.. stop reading now and search elsewhere. You will not find it here. Instead, you will find my thoughts on the DP2 and sample photographs I have taken with it.
It's Not Just About The Camera.... You've Got To Be Kidding Me!
When I handed the DP2 to a friend of mine he looked at the camera and immediately began asking questions. How do you turn it on? How do you view the pictures? Where's the zoom control? Why doesn't it have a viewfinder? Where is this, where is that? He asked all the questions that a point and shoot user would ask and he appeared to be somewhat dumbfounded by the DP2.
Are You Serious?
When I told him the DP2 had no zoom he responded with "You've got to be kidding me. Are you serious?" And therein lies the truth about the DP2. You've got to be serious about your photography to buy and use the Sigma DP2 effectively.
Anyone buying the DP2 thinking they are getting a point and shoot camera will be disappointed. The DP2 is not what I consider to be a point and shoot camera. Point and THINK might be more appropriate. If you buy the camera because of it's large, Foeveon sensor, fast glass and its compact size and the high quality images it produces, you will more than likely be happy with the DP2.
The Good News First
The DP2 carries on where the DP1 left off. It produces some truly amazing images with great dynamic range and detail. Cameras are all about producing photographs and the better the quality of those photographs the happier we are as photographers. The DP2 truly produces some of the best photographs I have ever seen from a compact camera. The images captured by the DP2 do rival DSLR output. The samples I present here were all post processed using the Simga software that comes with the camera, Sigma Photo Pro 3.5. The only thing I did in Photoshop was resize them in most cases.
The Really Big News: The New Lens
The really big news, as far as I am concerned, is the new lens. The DP1 had an F4.0 (28mm equivalent) lens and that was a bit slow for me. It was great for bright, sunny days but not much good for low light work, forcing you to increase ISO and all the problems that action brings on.
The new lens is F2.8 (41mm equivalent) and it performs very well. It is sharp and renders colors faithfully. The big thing is that it allows you to work in lower light situations than the DP1 and also isolate your subject by throwing the background and foreground out of focus when shooting wide open. This is something no other camera the size of the DP1 does well at all.
The Build of the Camera
The build appears to be identical to the DP1. I found it to be quite sturdy. The metal case feels good in the hands and I detected nothing flimsy about the case. The controls are easy to use and the manual focus wheel is just stiff enough so that it will not accidentally move. All in all I could find little to complain about with the build of the DP2. More on that "little" a bit further down the page.
Lockups and Green Casts
A number of early users of the DP2 reported that the camera would occasionally lock up and become useless until the power was turned on and off.. sometimes forcing the removal of the battery. Another issue was a green cast reported to show up in the edges of the photos produced by the DP2.
My copy of the DP2 had the latest firmware installed and in several days of use I have yet to encounter a single lockup situation nor have I seen the green cast problem in any of the photos I have taken.
High Contrast Dark Halos - Update June 10, 2009
It was pointed out to me that in at least one of the photos here, this one, that there is a dark halo at the top of the flower. I did not notice this when working in post. The original RAW image does contain the halo but not nearly as pronounced as my post work made it. It seems to only occur with highlights against a darker background. Now the question is, was this introduced by the diopter I was using or is it a characteristic of the DP2. I can't answer that at this time.
Dynamic Range and Tonality
The XF3 files contain lots of data and due to the nature of the Foeveon sensor that data is captured and processed differently than any other camera you currently own. Using the Photo Pro software that comes with the camera you have amazing control over the final image. Some don't like the software, I really don't have an issue with it other than it's just a bit slow when you first load an image into it. The DP2 has better dynamic range than my D-Lux 4 and my G9. It even gives my M8 a run for the money.
Houston, We Still Have A Problem...
The AF on the DP2 seems to be as slow as the AF on my DP1. The camera now makes a bit of noise as it attempts to lock focus. Not sure what is causing it but it is initially a bit disturbing but you soon get used to it. If the DP2 had a faster, better AF system it would really be one sweet camera.
Even with the slow AF many will find the DP2 to be the perfect camera for them. I think the only way you will be able to use the DP2 or DP1 as an action camera is by going to manual mode and setting a hyper focal distance. I've tried a few action shots and unless the movement is parallel to the camera you're going to have a hard time locking focus. Fast AF is not one of the DP2's highlights.
My Other Gripe: The LCD is not improved
Clearly when using a compact camera like the DP2 you need a decent LCD to frame with but the DP2 still appears to be using the same LCD as the DP1. I don't know why the LCD was not upgraded in the DP2 but for whatever reason, it was not and the same issues you may have had with the the DP1 LCD are going to bother you with the DP2..
The camera I am using came with a viewfinder and it is quite nice. It slips into the hot shoe and offers an alternative to using the LCD for framing your shot. The build is good and the VF is very bright with a single frame line. No data or info of any kind is displayed in the viewfinder.
The only time the viewfinder might not work is when focusing on subjects that are quite close. Sometimes the camera might lock focus on something other than the subject you are shooting and you'll not know until after you have tripped the shutter and reviewed the shot on the LCD. Of course if you are shooting at F8 this probably will not matter at all.
The Write Time Seems To Be Improved
I have not measured it with a stopwatch but I get the feeling that the write time to the memory card has gotten better. This may be due to the new True II processing engine in the camera. Write time on the DP1 was painfully slow. The DP2 seems to be doing better in this area. It also helps to use the fastest memory cards you can get your hands on. Of course that's true for any camera.
Do I Like The DP2?
Yes, I do like the camera and more importantly I like the images it produces. It's not perfect but I can't think of a single compact camera that can deliver what the DP2 can in IQ and DR. Is it better than the DP1? I think so. Sure, there are things that should have been fixed, the AF and LCD definitely need improvement, but the DP2 now has a faster lens and that makes a big difference in how you can use the camera. I like shooting in low light and that faster lens is very important to me.
Don't Buy the DP2 for a Point & Shooter
The DP2 is not a Point and Shoot camera for the masses. To get the most from it you must understand the basics of photography. It is improved over the DP1 and the images seem to look better to me even though it is the same sensor used in the DP1. It can only be the new lens and True II working together that causes me to feel this way .
Who Will Want It?
Who will want to use the DP2? Advanced photographers and hobbyist looking for a compact camera to keep with them all the time. People tired of bulky DSLRs. Landscape shooters, still life shooters, street photographers, just about everybody but sports photographers and anyone requiring a zoom lens and very fast auto focus. I exclude sports photographers because the DP2 does not have what I consider to be a fast enough AF for that type of work and when you are on the sidelines you might want a zoom to get closer to the action.