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| p.15 #13 · Sigma DP2 Merrill: Have any of you tried it? |
This Saturday I got to see how the DP2M worked on its first "real" outing, a day hike through Solstice Canyon National Recreation Area near Santa Monica, CA. Here are my impressions from the trip.
I brought 3 batteries, and needed just one. On the other hand, I only took 40 pictures, by which point the the first battery was down to "1 segment" full. Using the camera discouraged me from taking as many photos as usual (partly through foreboding that every frame taken would require using SPP). I don't feel that I missed out taking any shots I should have taken --- I was very pleased with my "keeper" ratio, so I consider it good that the camera encouraged me to take a more slow and deliberate approach than machine-gunning throw-away snapshots.
The day was brightly sunlit, few clouds in the sky, and just a bit hazy; just about my least favorite (most harsh and dull) lighting situation. To bring some "pop" to otherwise bland scenes, I took many of the shots through a B+W 091 "dark red" color filter. I love how well the DP2M handles deep color filtration --- it's impossible to get the same resolution and clarity with any Bayer-filtered sensor after throwing away 3/4 of the pixels. I think the 091 filter will be a "must-have" accessory to carry with the camera (I have a 49mm filter on order to replace the hilariously oversized 77mm I had with me for the day).
I was selected to take an obligatory group shot of my fellow hikers (for some reason, people assume you are good at photography just because you're carrying a giant sack full of camera gear). The good news: the photo came out looking like a high-budget movie poster. The bad news: the movie would have been about the living dead. If I particularly cared about shooting mixed-skin-tone group portraits, I would be disconcerted by the color palette (admittedly, with inexpert adjustments) produced by the camera. Fortunately for me, I do not particularly care, and none of my fellow hikers are likely to scrutinize the shot on color-calibrated monitors.
I found the camera handling for shooting rather unpleasant. Much of this is that I am entirely unused to holding a tiny camera and composing on a screen instead of a nice, big DSLR with a full-frame optical viewfinder; but it didn't help that I often couldn't really see what was on the screen while shooting (so lots of sloppy framing and composition); does anyone know if one of the screen finders (e.g. Zacuto) will play nicely with the DP2M? Anyway, I hope my ability to visualize and frame shots without relying on the camera display will improve with further practice/experience, since the camera itself isn't helpful in this regard.
Was it nice to leave my heavy gear at home? I'll have to wait for some future trip to find out, since I was still hauling my 5D and a set of primes up the switchbacks (without sufficient prior experience, I wasn't ready to trust the DP2M as my only option). I ended up only using the 5D, with CY 21/2.8, for a few shots (and none spectacular); my other two "backup" lenses never came out of the bag. In retrospect, I would have been perfectly happy had I left the whole DSLR kit at home (although pairing the DP2M with a nice wideangle on my 5D also seems like an attractive combination, with the added convenience of not needing to swap out lenses).
After returning home, I discovered a new method that greatly improves SPP processing:
a) buy a nice bottle of wine
b) pour a large glass
c) open a file or tweak an adjustment in SPP, which will somehow manage to bog down your quad-core i7 with 16GB RAM and SSD
d) swirl the wine in your glass; savor a deep whiff of the aroma
e) take a sip, allowing the wine to roll around and linger on different portions of the palate
f) swallow the wine; inhale and exhale deeply, enjoying the lingering aftertaste
g) refill glass as necessary
h) if SPP is still grinding away, return to (d); otherwise, proceed with a new step at (c).
This procedure vastly improves the SPP workflow, converting it from a tedious chore to a state of enjoyable anticipation, like developing and slowly unfurling each frame of film for a first look. Depending on how many files you have to process, you may need to adjust the number of bottles of wine, or maybe switch to scotch. Should you run out of booze, I recommend keeping a medium sized rock nearby, with which to bash your head until SPP is no longer your greatest annoyance.
After processing (and exporting TIFFs to Aperture for cataloging and final tweaks), I decided that the DP2M has met my most important criterion for camera gear: I am personally extremely happy with the results. Between the less-than-ideal photographic situation (it's a beautiful area, but the wrong time and season for light), and my less-than-ideal photographic skills, I was not expecting much from the outing; I was pleasantly surprised at the end with the quality of shots produced. I like the amazing detail, reasonably flexible dynamic range, and general clarity/"presence" of the DP2M images. I now feel confident that I could take the DP2M as my sole camera for an outing.
Here is a gallery of shots from the trip (including a few using 5Dc+21/2.8, which should be easily identifiable); click through the thumbnails and previews to download full-sized JPEGs.