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Archive 2012 · Sigma DP2M thoughts and observations
  
 
millsart
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Sigma DP2M thoughts and observations


Now that I've had the DP2M for a little while, and have been shooting with it extensively, I thought I would share some thoughts and observations on the camera.

A lot of things we already know, for example, the battery life is poor, the AF is slow etc. Really no need to rehash what has already been written countless times. I will add thought that the build of the camera is actually very good. I see so many people who have never handled the camera make absurd claims about how cheap it feels, how its made of plastic and creaks when you squeeze it etc. This simply isn't true. The camera is a solid aluminum brick, both in literal design and figurative build. Its very solid and while utilitarian in design, it actually works quite nicely in use. Very simple and effective interface with all of the menu options, limited as they are no more than a button push away.

Having owned NEX, XPro, X100's in the past, I can say that the overall feel and build quality of the DP2M is every bit the level of those cameras if not higher. Now battery life etc is another story of course, but this is not a creaky plastic camera body.

Image quality is both amazing, unique and at times frustrating. A large part of the later comes down to Sigma's software and trying to figure out what its doing both on the surface and under the hood so to speak.How well it plays with other software too can prove a bit confusing, for example, using SPP noise reduction or a stand alone program, and how it works on any blotchiness. No real clear answers there yet, but hopefully as more people use it, we will come up with some more solid workflows.

As we know too, the lens is exceptional, and really is what is giving it that quite impressive across the frame sharpness. I've seen similar results with glass like the Zeiss 35mm f2.8 Biogon C, just very, very well corrected, no CA and a rather pleasant bokeh quality that offsets its somewhat "slow" f2.8 speed.

Its also interesting to note that part of what we are seeing is the combination of the lens/sensor. Looking at the SD with Sigma average quality glass but the same X3 sensor just doesn't give nearly as impressive of results. Very good still, but you need the absolute best lens to really show what the X3 sensor can produce, luckily the 30mm is up to the task.

Really what stands out above all else though to me at least is the ability to render fine detail on distant subjects. Even with the D800e and good glass, I can't focus on distant subject, say a house or power cables etc, and get such fine detail rendered, even with the big increase in resolution. I don't know if this is due to the lack of the CFA and spacial resolution or what exactly, but its one thing the DP2M does that no other camera I've owned can match.

As for overall resolution though, its very good, but I'd say it is about on par with a 24meg sensor more or less. Higher resolution Bayer cameras can match it or exceed it through brute force. Its interesting because on a per pixel basis, and at moderate sized prints its fantastic, but its no D800e when it comes to really large prints (or test strips as I'm not doing 40" prints just for curiosities sake)

I'm also really not doing too much comparison to the D800e, simply because other than the fact that we already know its technically better overall, its a much bigger/heavier system not to mention far more expensive. For me, the whole point of a camera like the DP is to have something I don't mind hiking with, and that can give great results for a fairly minimal investment. If $999 is "minimal' is debatable of course, but given its both lens/camera for that price, I think its pretty reasonable for what you get, as far as IQ goes.

Camera I've actually done a lot of comparison with is the little Sony RX100, both because its portable and used when I don't feel like lugging the D800, and also because I no longer own a NEX or m4/3 etc, so its the only other option I've got.

On a per pixel basis the DP obviously gives the better file, especially in the corners, but the little RX100 still continues to surprise me at just how nice of output something that fits into my pocket can produce. not to mention being FAR more useful socially than the DP. DP2M just is not a camera to try to shoot anything other than static scenes as far as I'm concerned.

What really surprised me, thought perhaps it shouldn't of, is that doing a quick stitch from the RX100 can actually out resolve the DP2M. Again, as good as the X3 sensor is, sheer resolution ultimately trumps it.

Now in a way, this does speak of how good the X3 sensor is though at the same time. If you have to shoot 3-4 vertical frames and stitch them and hen downsize to 16 meg just to equal a single frame, well, thats a darn good single frame!

At the same time though, that downsized stitched shot is going to give you the same great resolution and viewing experience when viewed at what is now 100% as a DP2M file. Exception being very distant subjects in the background still will be sharper from the DP as I mentioned earlier.

What is most interesting of all though, at least for me, is that given the DP2M needs to be shoot from a tripod, or in great light, does it really make life that much easier than just stitching a few files from a Bayer camera to get what is for all intensive purposes the same overall file quality ??

See, the DP2m, much like the D800e, really is a very demanding camera. the 1/focal length rule just doesn't hold up true, and when you factor in your going to want to shoot at base ISO, unless your shooting in sunny weather the IQ just isn't there. Some of it may be my technique, but on an overcast day, trying to shoot at say, 1/30th, the files I get aren't nearly as good as they are on a tripod. The camera just shows any flaws as its resolution is so high.

So this comes down to about 90 of my shooting being on a tripod with the camera. Its small and light, and you don't need a real heavy one, so its not a big deal to carry, but at the same time, if your going through the trouble of always shooting from a tripod, is it really any more or less effort to do a quick pano ?

Same goes for post work, is stitching a pano any more work than dealing with SPP workflow ??

I can update this post later tonight with some crops, but really, when comparing a quick higher resolution pano which is downsized, to the 100% DP2M file, they are pretty much equal, if not even better with the stiched file due to less issues with color, blotchiness etc.

In the end its really leaving me pondering if I need/want to deal with the DP2M.

On one hand it offers some fantastic quality, and for the way I work with, its known shortcomings aren't a big issue.

However, it also means I'm always going to be working from a tripod, and if I'm dragging a tripod around anyways, could I not just do a quick pano with a Bayer camera for those scenes where I want high across the frame resolution ? (Or drag the D800e if the shot is near the parking lot lol)








Oct 15, 2012 at 09:58 PM
inglis
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Sigma DP2M thoughts and observations


Thanks!
It would be interesting to see a comparison of a pano from the Sony and a DP2M shot just to compare the framing and the look.



Oct 15, 2012 at 10:24 PM
itai195
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Sigma DP2M thoughts and observations


Maybe it's just me, but I've never thought there was anything particularly 'quick' about shooting a pano. For starters, you get to deal with leveling and parallax issues.


Oct 15, 2012 at 10:26 PM
rscheffler
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Sigma DP2M thoughts and observations


Thanks for the report - it's interesting to read your observations, particularly about the tradeoffs related to dealing with the sensor's color and higher ISO limitations, as well as SPP workflow.

I think what has appealed to me in DP2M images I've seen posted here and elsewhere is the feeling of looking at a very sharp transparency. There is something about the tonality of the images that looks like film to me. Perhaps it's the deep shadows... But it could also be the slightly imperfect colors and subtle strangeness that we're not used to seeing in current digital images.

I hope Sigma continues to improve the X3 technology and gets it to a point where one doesn't have to jump through most of the current hoops. In the meantime though, we'll probably see 30, 40, 50MP Bayer sensors in cameras that have more 'creature comforts' such as IBIS, cleaner high ISOs, better color separation, etc.



Oct 15, 2012 at 10:35 PM
millsart
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Sigma DP2M thoughts and observations


Here is a quick and less than completely scientific comparison between the admittedly impressive DP2M file, when viewed at 100%, and a quick pano done using the modest Sony RX100. The 20meg Sony of course when doing a 5 frame vertical pano produced a file far larger than the 16meg X3 sensor, and as with any CFA camera, wasn't as impressive when viewed at 100% native resolution, but if you then downsize the file to an equiv 16meg, it holds its own quite nicely.

Unique X3 sensor vs brute force high resolution basically.

Now in some ways, its a silly apples to oranges debate because a pano vs a single frame shot are totally different things. Right ?

Well yes, but with the DP2m, its not quite so cut and dry. A pano can be slow and time consuming and its best done using a tripod and then you've got to process it. The DP2m though, also is slow and time consuming, you also want to shoot it from a tripod, and then you've got to spend a bit of time processing its file as well.

Ends up being a question of if it makes sense to carry a very specialized camera that does one thing, and only one thing, very well, and the additional batteries needed, plus tripod and also then deal with SPP software

Or, save $999, and for those times when you want a really high resolution images that a compact or CSC camera can't otherwise produce in a single frame, simply doing a quick stitched pano, even handheld at a higher ISO, and get what is a fairly similar result, for perhaps not much if any additional work.




DP2M 100% view






RX100 pano downsized and viewed at 100%







Oct 15, 2012 at 10:36 PM
millsart
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Sigma DP2M thoughts and observations


itai195 wrote:
Maybe it's just me, but I've never thought there was anything particularly 'quick' about shooting a pano. For starters, you get to deal with leveling and parallax issues.



You need to try some modern pano software, like Auto Pano Pro or PTGui. Leveling and parallax issues are for the most part a thing of the past.

I used to use a nodal slide and the whole 9 yards, and it used to make a difference, but really these days its amazing how well the software copes with even rather sloppy handheld shooting.

Maybe for really close foreground elements it can make a difference, but for the typical scenic, really doesn't matter in the slightest.



Oct 15, 2012 at 10:38 PM
itai195
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Sigma DP2M thoughts and observations


I typically do try to have close foreground elements. But even if software lowered the nuisance level, I still don't think I'd want to shoot panos all the time. Along these lines, can't the same argument be made about any camera, even the D800?


Oct 15, 2012 at 10:41 PM
FlyPenFly
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Sigma DP2M thoughts and observations


The RX100 shot looks far nicer and more detailed and is mostly free of digital artifacting.

The deep greens in the tree's look totally different between the two of the trees in the background.



Oct 15, 2012 at 10:47 PM
millsart
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Sigma DP2M thoughts and observations


FlyPenFly wrote:
The RX100 shot looks far nicer and more detailed and is mostly free of digital artifacting.

The deep greens in the tree's look totally different between the two of the trees in the background.



Keep in mind that 1) its about the equiv of a 45meg file that has been downsized more than 50% so its naturally going to look good, 2) the web compression on these files is really strong, and 3) I didn't attempt to do any processing on the Sigma file (as that in itself seems to be such a huge variable)


Its all and all, a pretty crude test, and not meant to be that conclusive in its own right, but it does make you think a bit, or at least it does me.

The X3 IQ which most of us find so impressive really can be for the most part obtained for any camera, even a modest one like a RX100, with some simple software stitching.

Takes a little work, but so does getting the best results out of the DP2M.


Take take things even further, I rather find the 45mm equiv lens a bit limiting, so actually have been doing some stitched pano's using the DP

Now, the DP2m is a fantastic pano camera because its so well corrected and as you can imagine, it produces some amazing results from just a simple 3-4 frame pano.

BUT....... you've then got to ask yourself, If I'm going to do a 3-4 shot pano with the DP2M, should I instead just do a 2 row pano with ________ (camera of choice) and basically end up with the same thing ??

On top of that, the question is if your stitching the DP2m because you need more resolution, or because you simply want a wider FoV than either it (or the DP1m) could provide, to which, you really might not need do the multirow with a CFA camera as even a single row is still going to be more resolution for all but the largest prints




Oct 15, 2012 at 11:00 PM
Tariq Gibran
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Sigma DP2M thoughts and observations


millsart wrote:
Really what stands out above all else though to me at least is the ability to render fine detail on distant subjects. Even with the D800e and good glass, I can't focus on distant subject, say a house or power cables etc, and get such fine detail rendered, even with the big increase in resolution. I don't know if this is due to the lack of the CFA and spacial resolution or what exactly, but its one thing the DP2M does that no other camera I've owned can match.

As for overall resolution though, its very good, but I'd say
...Show more

I was extremely impressed with the rendering of very fine detail at very long distances using the DP1M as well (I posted an example in one of the other DP2M threads running here). I agree overall about the general assertion that the DP1M's are somewhere around a very good conventional bayer 24MP sensor when paired with a great lens, but then finding that great lens is the trick! In the case of the DP1M, the Sigma 19 is optically superior to the Sigma 19 as used on the NEX-7 for instance. One would likely have to mount something crazy like a Zeiss 21 on the NEX-7 to match it and even then, it's not as wide. Given that situation, 1K is quite reasonable IF one is looking for that focal length for specific shooting situations (low ISO, daylight).

Regarding your statement above, I'm a bit confused...are you saying you are unable to match the distant fine detail rendering you are getting with the DP2M on your D800E? That's very surprising if so.

Build and design - I agree. It's well made and a bit larger in the hand than I expected - comfortably so actually. Love, love the aperture control around the shutter dial. Something about this camera reminds me of some of the cult classics from the late 70's and early 80's such as the Plaubel Makina 67. Perhaps it's the blocky shape and the shutter dial.






On the W67, you can actually see the almost exact shutter surround design as used by Sigma, as well as the beveled edges where the top meets the sides of the body. I think the designers at Sigma must have been inspired by these Plaubel Makina's. Hard to imagine both details were just coincidence.








Oct 15, 2012 at 11:02 PM
 

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millsart
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Sigma DP2M thoughts and observations


Yes, even the D800e with its advantage in resolution still can't match the same fine detail as the DP2M on distant subjects. Really even higher stitches than a DP2E file can't even resolve quite as fine detail.

Its really the most unique thing about the camera to me, and I guess it either comes down to the lack of a CFA or perhaps something to do with the camera being able to have full resolution for each color channel ?

In the standard Bayer array, we only have 1 red and 1 blue for every 2 green pixels, while with the X3, there are 16 megs for each color channel.

Perhaps it has something to do with the different color wavelengths such as getting the full resolution of the red channel that plays a bit of a distance over longer distances, and cuts haze etc more ?

I don't really know the science behind it, but the DP2M is just able to render things like distant trees in far finer resolution than the D800e, where while high in MP, the resolution really isn't there and I get the typical mushy tress leaves on the horizon.



Oct 16, 2012 at 12:28 AM
Tariq Gibran
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Sigma DP2M thoughts and observations


Thanks and Damn! Now I will have to buy a DP2M to go with my DP1M.


Oct 16, 2012 at 12:34 AM
Tariq Gibran
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Sigma DP2M thoughts and observations


BTW, here is the shot from the DP1M showing distant detail I mentioned above:

Full shot:






100% crop:







Oct 16, 2012 at 12:37 AM
SmallnotTall
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Sigma DP2M thoughts and observations


Very interesting reading, thanks for all the information. I am honestly considering the DP1M as I think it may be ideal for my intended usage. The things that catch my eye are the excellent resolution, small size (compared to a DSLR) and price (again, compared to a full frame DSLR). Being restricted to ISO 100-200 doesn't worry me in the slightest since that is where I do the majority of my shooting anyway.

I have one question though, is what is the camera like with longer exposures (say 15 sec) at night? I have often read that this camera is poor in low light but with a tripod and low ISO it should still give excellent results right?



Oct 16, 2012 at 02:32 AM
glacierpete
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Sigma DP2M thoughts and observations


Good writing millsart.
I saw this company producing small pano sets for specific cameras. They told me they will produce a pano set customized for the DP1M and DP2M for quick panos during the next days.

http://pt4pano.com/en/products/kiss-panoramic-system
http://pt4pano.com/de/products/kiss-panorama-system

Like you I thought about combining several vertical shots in a pano. Interesting to hear that a pano set is not necessary any more with todays software.



Oct 16, 2012 at 03:39 AM
Tariq Gibran
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Sigma DP2M thoughts and observations


Regarding panos, I once had a Nodal Ninja which worked really nice for perfect panos but I found recently, even with a 15 image stitch, the software is so good that it's really not that necessary, for landscape type stuff anyway. For closer objects, pivoting around the exact nodal point of the lens would be more important.


Oct 16, 2012 at 04:02 AM
millsart
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · Sigma DP2M thoughts and observations


Tariq Gibran wrote:
Regarding panos, I once had a Nodal Ninja which worked really nice for perfect panos but I found recently, even with a 15 image stitch, the software is so good that it's really not that necessary, for landscape type stuff anyway. For closer objects, pivoting around the exact nodal point of the lens would be more important.



Same here, had the NN3 and also NN5 and they were great units, but just didn't really prove worth the extra weight to carry as I was able to get the same results just shooting handheld or panning on a ballhead with the software making it work. Takes some resolution of course, but any modern CSC etc really has some pixels to spare.

I still use a Gigapan head, which is a PITA to carry, but fun when you want to make a really big pano, bracket etc as is nice to just hit a button and let it do all the work, but for day to day pano's software has gotten darn good.

Heck, even the sweep pano mode on my RX100 works great (though not high rez) most of the time. Same goes for my iPhone. Amazing how well even it can do some stitching of frames.

Its crazy when I think back to just 5 years ago or so when I was manually clicking on control points for each image in PT Assembler software and spending forever working on a single pano



Oct 16, 2012 at 12:46 PM
Vern Dewit
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · Sigma DP2M thoughts and observations


Thanks for the analysis and feedback. Very interesting.


Oct 16, 2012 at 02:04 PM
itai195
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · Sigma DP2M thoughts and observations


I'll have to try out some new pano software sometime. My cheap and lazy side has kept me with Photoshop, which does a decent job.


Oct 16, 2012 at 03:07 PM
Tariq Gibran
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · Sigma DP2M thoughts and observations


itai195 wrote:
I'll have to try out some new pano software sometime. My cheap and lazy side has kept me with Photoshop, which does a decent job.


Frankly, I used PS for the last 15 image stitch I did and was quite happy with the result. I could be wrong, but I get the sense that it's been improved in the current version of PS.



Oct 16, 2012 at 06:03 PM
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