Sigma DP2s Review

by Enche Tjin on June 5, 2010

Sigma DP series are unique because it is the first compact camera that utilize a large sensor size equivalent to Digital SLR camera. It is also unique because it use Foveon sensor instead of more popular CMOS / CCD sensor. So far, only Sigma uses this type of sensor. Sigma uses it on compact DP series (DP1, DP2) and DSLR like SD series (SD10, SD 14, and upcoming SD15).

sigma-dp2s-reviewFoveon sensor has different characteristic than regular sensor, which I will discuss a bit on image quality section. But if you want to know more about this, you can read an article in Anandtech.

So, what is new about DP2s? Sigma DP2s is an update of DP2, so it has many similarities like the image sensor, shape etc. The main improvement is in the processing speed. DP2s use TRUE II engine which Sigma claims to be faster than TRUE I which is employed in DP1.

Main Specs

  • 14 MP Foveon sensor
  • 24.2 mm f/2.8 lens equivalent to 41mm in 35mm camera.
  • True II processor
  • 2.5″ LCD screen, 230k resolution
  • ISO 100-800 expandable to 3200
  • 3 fps continuous shooting
  • 9 selectable auto focus points

BODY & HANDLING

Sigma Dp2s weighs 260g, and its dimension is 4.4 x 2.4 x 2.0 in. (113 x 60 x 50 mm). It is just a bit bigger than Panasonic LX3, an advanced compact camera, and smaller than Panasonic GF1, a micro four thirds camera.

Sigma DP2s has metal casing. The design is plain and boxy, at a glance, it is almost similar to Canon S90 IS but larger in size due to the bigger sensor and lens.

Despite the plain and boxy design, it is good to hold and does not attract attention.  When it is on, the lens will extend out around 1 inch.

Sigma DP2, the former model has been criticized quite heavily because of the unclear labeling (dark text in black button). In Sigma DP2s, the labeling become clear (white / red in black body).

LCD screen is quite small compared to today standard (2.5″ in) and low res (230k) but it is good enough to compose picture.

To change important setting, Sigma has QS (Quick Set) button which you can access various important settings such as ISO, WB, Release mode, film mode, image quality, aspect ratio, metering and flash. It is not the quickest way especially if you compare with DSLR or m43 cameras that has plenty of dedicated buttons, but this works fine.

To change aperture, shutter speed, exposure compensation and to navigate the menu, you will rely mostly on up and down button and four way buttons.

Menu system is quite simple, there are 21 items that you can modify. However, the menu is not categorized.

Sigma also has unique Manual Focus with distance indicator. This is helpful for manual focus, and you will use it quite a bit because DP2s AF is not working very good when shooting close subjects. MF is easy to operate, just push the OK button to magnify the screen.

Sigma-DP2s-Digital-Camera-back-review

IMAGE QUALITY

As I mentioned before, Sigma DP series is unique because of the Foveon sensor.

“Traditional color film uses red, green, and blue sensitive color layers in the emulsion to capture the image. The Foveon uses the same approach to image capture with three overlapping layers of light gathering, with each layer sensitive to a different color.” AnandTech.

This has several consequences. Sigma produces smaller image size (2652×1768×3 layers) (approx 4 MB) compared to popular Nikon D90 12 MP sensor (4288 x 2848). Sigma also has more noise in higher ISO setting. From ISO 50 to 200, image is very clean. ISO 400 is very good and ISO 800 is the limit of acceptable image. In Nikon D90 or other DSLR, 1600 or even 3200 is still very good.

Please check out ISO comparison images at my photo gallery.

However, in term of image quality: clarity, color, and sharpness, Sigma DP2s really shines. It is excellent in pixel level, good contrast and saturation. I like the skin color, and the JPG output require less brightness/contrast adjustment compared to most DSLR I’ve tried.

I might be a bit subjective in this, so I recommend you to check out image samples taken from Sigma DP2s yourself.

Sigma DP2s with Nikon D90 and 16-85mm VR lens

Sigma DP2s with Nikon D90 and 16-85mm VR lens

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Techwatch June 5, 2010 at 10:04 am

the Foveon sensor looks like a real winner

Elyar December 9, 2010 at 12:23 am

Hi, I have a question and I am looking for an opinion from a Pro Like You.
Would you say that this camera is better than the Leica D-Lux.

Enche Tjin December 9, 2010 at 12:59 am

hi Elyar, in term of image quality, it is better because the Sigma has significant larger sensor, in term of versatility (zoom) and speed/performance, Leica D-Lux/Panasonic LX3/5 is better.

Electron February 5, 2011 at 2:34 pm

Sigma is only superseded by Leica for image quality – indeed Sigma has been described as the poor man’s Leica.

The Sigma DP2s is quite special – I just hope that there is an arms race on who can build the best compact SLR – However, most people do not really know about image sensor size & how much difference it makes to photo quality. Maybe over time as the online photographic enthusiast community grows (in a way that only the internet allows for) then this knowledge & technical criticism will seep out into the wider public.

In about 5 years (maybe), fast, image stabilising , zoom, compact DSLR’s will be the norm and everyone can take great pics all the time.

Take it further – technology may allow for camera phones to have full size sensors – although the lenses would need to protrude enough for focus and depth.

Who knows?

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