Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Sigma DP2M

These photos were all taken with my Sigma DP2M between 1:30-2:30 in the afternoon in bright sunlight. Not the best conditions to see or photograph. LOL! Oh well. I was just heading out the door from the house to go pick up some food from Joe's Farm Grill. I figured I'd bring the camera with me. (it's what we do, isn't it?) Yeah, the sun was bright, but I figured I'd take a few shots. Some of these were a tad lighter than I liked. In Sigma Photo Pro I did +2 Sharpness, +4 Saturation, and then adjusted as necessary the exposure and X3 dials to my liking. Then I brought the Tifs in Photoshop 5 to fix the colors. (I hate using that wheel in SPP!) It was windy that day and as I was photographing, I noticed branches and flowers blowing in the breeze. I got some blur due to this in some of the shots. It's sporadic, but kind of unnerving to see this sharp photo except for one branch. LOL! Anyway, that's the way it goes. All of these are handheld as I don't own a Tripod yet. Yeah, yeah, I know.

Bark on huge tree at Joe's Farm Grill. I wanted to show detail.

Cactus by The Coffee Shop

Dirt Parking Lot at Joe's Farm Grill. This is usually full during lunch and dinner. You can see the mountains off in the distance. There are mountains all around us here in Gilbert. It's really quite beautiful.

These are more like needles than leaves. the tree is huge and located at Joe's Farm Grill. Don't let your kids climb on it. There are Scorpion warnings. LOL!

Beautiful scene at Joe's Farm Grill. I have to say that I love coming here; especially to The Coffee Shop for their Mocha Java coffee and lunch. It's a perfect hang-out too. We've had meet-ups here.

Joe's Farm Gril neon sign and blue garbage bin. 

Huge tree. Don't know what kind. I forgot. 

Monochrome Tree Trunk. Processed in SPP then Photoshop 5.

Quick shot of Ozzy in the car. I got a lot of compliments on Flickr for this shot.  I love this one and the B&W version, which shows slightly more neck and profile. . 

Kona bicycle. This is a tad blurry due to my not-steady hands. LOL!

Very slow shutter speed and not quite as sharp as I'd like, but still  salvageable. 

Monochrome Ozzy

Mecca Apple Store.

I love photographing Ozzy with different cameras.

Another Ozzy shot. Could be sharper if there was more light in the room and I could use a faster shutter speed. 
These are just a few shots candidly taken using the Sigma DP2M. I missed a few on focus due to my hand not being steady enough in the low light, and due to the wind blowing while taking pictures outside. Not the camera's fault. I don't own a tripod yet. I also sometimes shoot in low light at low shutter speeds to keep the ISO as low as possible. This will probably result in blur. I get a few sharp shots, which I'm happy about. It would be much easier if I get the tripod.

(I have to say the colors aren't as accurate coming out of this camera as they are coming out as JPEGs from the Fuji X-E1 camera. But the dimension is a bit better. Still, it's close. Fuji has a future with me if they fix the AF and X trans conversion issues. Oh, they also need to fix that annoying artifacts issue too. Doh!)

I wish more people would use these Sigma DP cameras so I would have more people to talk to about it. It's hard finding information about the series as not many people reviewed it thoroughly. I'd like to talk to people who actually use the camera everyday. Oh well.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

My Experience With The Sigma DP2M

I sold my Fuji X-E1. I was too irritated by the missed focus shots. (Yes, I had the latest firmware updates.) It's sad because I loved the camera for its design and menus. Loved the Jpegs. Hated the missed focus and X-Trans file conversions in Capture One and other other programs. I think its' a huge design flaw not having a proper RAW conversion that will show the true sensor's capabilities. What good is having the X-trans sensor  if you can't get the RAW files converted to their fullest? And no, they haven't resolved this yet. It's better, but not complete. So, my frustrations forced me to sell the camera. (I hope the new Fuji X100s deals with the AF issue like they stated in their advertisements.)  I am waiting until they figure out the RAW X-trans file conversion. Lloyd talks about the artifacting issue HERE (More info is on Digi-Lloyd's blog about this. To read the full series of articles, you will have to pay a subscription.) Lloyd is the only person who has explained the Fuji X problem to its fullest. Everyone else is swallowing the Kool-aid if they believe that the RAW conversions are the best that can be shown in all of those RAW conversion programs. Now, I would love to buy another Fuji camera, but unless I'm only shooting Jpegs with it, I don't see the point. The Jpegs are lovely out of this camera, so it is an option. Not everyone shoots RAW, not even me. But, I'd like to have the option, because for the most part, I do shoot RAW. But then Fuji has to address the AF issues. I find that even more annoying than the RAW conversion issue. (Fuji, get this resolved. It's a real design flaw. I really want to buy into your system, but the AF is shit!)

Sigma DP2M
Enter the Sigma DP series cameras. I've been keeping my sights on these cameras for a while. I wanted to try one, but hesitated. Every time I looked at the files coming out of the Sigma camera on various websites, I was stunned. I jumped on a Sigma DP2M. I figured, why not try a camera that's a pain in the ass to use, but the files blow away everything else? Sounds like a challenge to me! The Fuji was a focus and RAW file conversion nightmare and the files blown up appeared smudged or smeared in some parts. Artifacts are also an issue. Some of the files were tack sharp, and some just couldn't hold the detail. (Probably a Jpeg issue, but the RAW files issue is still not resolved. I just can't even be bothered with it until it is.) Sigma claimed they have the best sensor, a Foveon sensor, 3 layers as opposed to the typical one layer in a CMOS or CCD sensor.
Fuji X-E1-Imagine how much better this would be with the X-Trans sensor being converted at its best. 
The camera arrived and I charged up the batteries. You get two batteries with this camera, because they don't last long. I believe it's due to the demands of the Foveon sensor. Kudos to Sigma for providing a second battery, even if it only lasts for 50-100 shots. LOL!

My Office
Sigma DP2M
After charging the camera, I started checking out the menus. It's not as intuitive as the Fuji X series, but once you get through the quirkiness of it, it's pretty simplified. It's a basic, black box, with minimal menus. (I read on another website that a Sigma user would prefer that Sigma Corporation ditch the video option and improve the camera's performance. I would agree with that.) The camera is a basic one. I like that. Some say minimalist. I wish it were more basic without video. Why? Because the camera has numerous quirks, like crummy battery life, slow AF, (though not as annoying and inaccurate as the Fuji X-E1), and the tendency of the files becoming quite noisy past ISO 800. It's not a low light shooter. Most reviews say this camera is garbage past ISO 200, and must remain on a tripod. That's not accurate either. 

Sigma DP2M
Most say it's ugly. I say it's simplistic, and beautiful.
Nicer cap than the Leica D-Lux 4 camera. The LCD is easily smudged and scratched  though. Get a LCD protector. 

The Sigma camera is at its best on a tripod, just like any camera. The camera shoots at its best at the lowest ISO, just like any other camera. I agree that this camera's files fall apart the higher the ISO is set, but it doesn't fall apart after ISO 200 to the extent that the reviewers complain. I've seen files that were beautiful at ISO 400, 800 and 1600, but this camera isn't one of those that shoots low light at high ISO well. That's true. But it's also true for the Leica S2 Medium Format camera, and I'm sure others of its stature. So, Sigma is in good company. (Why not look at it as a positive considering the results you get from this camera are better than most out there on the market?)

Sigma DP2MP Mode (Auto)1/40th secF/2.8 ISO 800
The shot above was taken at ISO 800, and a slow shutter speed...handheld. It's more than useable. Many review sites also stated that this camera can't be handheld on anything lower than 1/60th of a second due to no built in image stabilization. I disagree. They've stated that anything past ISO 200 is garbage. Not true. I've seen color shots at ISO 1600 that were useable. It all depends on who is using the camera.

Sigma DP2M
1/5th sec
ISO 200
The shot above was taken at 1/5th of a second. Yes, that's correct! I converted it to B&W in Photoshop using Exposure 3. Now that there is a Monochrome setting in Sigma Photo Pro 5, I will use that instead for future pictures. It's a lovely feature, and the Sigma makes lovely black and white pictures.

Sigma DP2M
1/320th sec
ISO 100

The Shot above of my street shows a lot of detail. It's amazing. Check out the pictures below as well. They are test shots. I tried to get shots with texture in them like leaves and fur.  I'm no techie, but I do know what I like in a picture. I like the look of the pictures coming out of this camera. They have a layered, detailed look. It reminds me of slide film. Nothing else even comes close. (Well the Fuji jpeg files did, but not in detail or clarity. It did come close though. Not going to lie. (But recall the smearing and artifacts problem, AF problem? It was a deal breaker for me.)

All Sigma DP2M photos

Callie, taken a few days before she had to be put down for cancer.  (R.I.P.)

If you grew up only shooting digital, pass on this camera. This camera isn't easy to use. This camera is for people who can work around its limitations. Photographers who used manual film cameras will have no problem using this camera. It's like using a view camera, a manual film camera or equivalent. It's not a point & shoot! Repeat! It's not a point & shoot. Not in the truest sense of the word. The Fuji can be used as a point & shoot. The Sony NEX 5 is awesome as a point & shoot. The Leica D-Lux 4 is a point & shoot. Well, those cameras are also great in manual mode too. They all have a million options too. My point is that the Sigma DP series must be used by a photographer who thinks things through. Yeah, you can put it on P mode, but it's not really that kind of camera. Yeah, I know it has a P mode, and it's useable somewhat, but I would rather not use it. 

Sigma DP cameras are great for shooting landscapes, on a tripod. I do agree with the reviewers on this. The reason I say this is not to state that the camera can't do anything else, but because the camera can show its beautiful pictures at its best in landscapes. The Foveon sensor rocks here. This is a landscape photographer's dream camera. It's light, easy to throw in a jacket or small bag. The detail, clarity and layered look really shines through landscapes.That's because there is no camera shake when it's on a tripod. So, that's true of any camera. More so with this camera as the Foveon sensor can show more detail and layers of color. Every camera is better on a tripod. But I'm the type of photographer who photographs mostly family stuff, dogs and street. Why did I get this camera? I don't shoot landscapes as a rule. At first it was to test it, to see what the big deal was about the Foveon sensor. I actually was planning on sending this camera back but didn't. As much as this camera is stated as limited in its use by reviewers, it really isn't that limiting to me. Why is that? 

Sigma DP2M
I don't own a nice tripod. I never bought a tripod before. This camera is making me want to shoot landscapes on a tripod. It's something that I've never really contemplated until now. The sensor is so unique in how it gets detail that it makes me want to seek out detailed scenes. I am looking at Really Right Stuff's website to pick out a tripod for this gem. Why bother? The tripod I want will cost well over $1,000, more than what this camera is worth. Yet, due to the sensor, it is worth it. 
Shot on a very windy day. Not bad for handheld!

The quirks of the lousy battery life, and not being able to shoot with high ISO (3200 and such) makes this camera less than versatile. And yet, I adore this camera more than most. So, I'm going to buy one or two more batteries. I'll shoot at lower ISO settings. I can get ISO 800 out of this camera. I'll deal with it if the results are like this. But that's me. I remember when high ISO films weren't available. I can deal with this camera not shooting low light at a high ISO speed. I just won't shoot it like all the other digitals out there. I will instead shoot at low ISO in low light, and on a tripod. Sigma DP2M can handle that. I've seen beautiful night scenes taken with a Sigma DP2M all over the internet. I just need a tripod.

The detail in this shot is amazing. Windy day, shot handheld. 

I love the Foveon sensor! The pictures when taken correctly, (meaning with thoughts on shutter speed, aperture, ISO speed), come out beautifully. The Foveon sensor challenges me to look for scenes or places that can bring the details out. I haven't felt that way since I was shooting film on a regular basis. (I still use many film cameras, but digital is here to stay.) The Sigma DP2M gives me the challenge to overcome the obstacles of using it to produce a beautiful picture. The picture is more valuable to me because of it, and because of the Foveon sensor and its potential. Nothing comes close to the detail. This camera has been pitted against the Nikon D800E, a Phase One, and the Pentax 645n digital camera. It's just that good, and sometimes better. (Who wants to carry a huge camera around on location?) Now, I love Nikons, and I own them. I never tried a Phase One, or the lovely Pentax, but hey, I can't afford that kind of equipment anyway. I'm not a pro photographer. I am an addict enthusiast hobbyist. If I can get results like the Nikon, Phase One or any other larger sensor camera, at a much cheaper price, then I'm extremely happy.

I became infatuated with certain cameras for various reasons.  Most of the time it's because I love the lenses. Leica makes lovely lenses. I adore them. I sold my Leica Digital body as I wasn't impressed with it as much as reviewers stated. For the cost of the used body and used lenses (10K), it just wasn't worth it. I never bought the M9, because I was on the list waiting for one year. While I waited I heard the complaints directly from M9 owners. I canceled my order. Why pay even more money? I shot Leica M Film cameras too. Loved them.I understand M mystique up to a point. I had over 12k worth of Leica gear. I sold it all. I don't shoot as much film anymore. I bought a Nikon FM2 with a beautiful 50mm fast prime Nikon lens. My pictures are just as good. I feel better in knowing that the Nikon film camera and lens cost less than $200 as opposed to 7-8K for a Leica M6, 35 cron and 50 cron. I won't buy into the Leica digital M bodies. I think they are future door stops. For that amount of money, and my not being a pro, it made no economical sense. I have owned some of the Nikon digital bodies and lenses as well. The problem is, I wanted a smaller kit. I'm getting older. I'm sick of carrying the heavy D-SLRs around. Yes, the focus is so much better, but I want a smaller kit. The Leica D-Lux 4 lens is lovely for what it is, and it's light. Unfortunately, the sensor is small and you can make prints only so big before it's noticeable. Though I have to say, the prints look lovely. But when you start to raise the ISO, the small sensor starts to fail compared to an APS-C sensor. The noise is pretty bad. I still use the camera because it's great as a point & shoot for family occasions and walkabout. And so it is with every camera out there, we deal with the positives and negatives. 

The Sigma DP2M is for what it can do. The combination of the lens and Foveon sensor is a win-win scenario for me. I get more detail, in a smaller package, less price than a medium format digital, with a sharp lens, that can make prints poster size. And the price was lowered. Yahoo!

Funny Ozzy

I am not the type of person who usually likes fixed lens digital cameras. I prefer zooms or the ability to change prime lenses. This camera originally was sold for $1400. Too much money for me. It eventually came down to $799, which is well worth it. Buy a Nikon D800e and a prime lens. Now, how much did you spend? You can buy the whole Sigma DP line for what that costs. Won't be as versatile, but the pictures will be as good and sometimes better.

It's not all rosy with Sigma. I would prefer to have the ability to shoot in low light, (say ISO 1600 and up), but if it means that the Foveon sensor is removed and replaced by the usual CMOS sensor to accommodate that, then I prefer the camera as it is now. I'll work around that limitation. I'll push the camera to its limits and beyond. It can be done up to a point. Certainly much more than the Sigma reviews have stated. It's being done by Sigma owners all over the world. They are producing pictures that are above ISO 200 and at low shutter speeds handheld. This camera can indeed be used past ISO 200. I bet your smiling. 

Converted in Sigma Photo Pro 5 to Monochrome
I've seen some lovely street photography done with this camera. This camera can shoot portraits and street. It may not be the fastest out there, but it's been done. If you know how to use a camera like a real photographer, it can be done. I carry this camera most of the time. I live in Arizona. It's bright on most days. Sigma DP cameras, according to all of the reviews, is best when used in bright light. Well, we have plenty of that here, so Sigma is in its element. Even so, if I didn't live in Arizona, it would be okay. This camera can shoot anywhere. (Yeah, I know, I keep hearing that supposedly you can't shoot this camera at anything above ISO 200,  and certainly not handheld or at a low shutter speed. Uhm , well yeah, you can, and yes, I have.) Take the time to get to know the camera. You'd be surprised at what it can do. I guess I'm an optimist. It's funny because this camera is a bit harder to use than the Fuji X series, and yet, I lost patience with the Fuji. Why? Because the sensor is flawed. No one wants to hear that. But it's true. How can Fuji sell a camera like the X series for this length of time without addressing the RAW conversion issue adequately? It's a design flaw. Fuji should have figured it out before they released any of their cameras. The Sigma DP series has the lovely Foveon sensor that is so yummy. The Fuji sensor doesn't come close to the Foveon. When it does, then I will be impressed. It's the smearing and artifacts issue they have. That's why I was so disappointed and sold the Fuji camera. Sigma has the issue of using their clunky Sigma Photo Pro 5 software to open up RAW files. I would prefer not having to do this extra step of opening the file in that program when I am a Photoshop user. Oh well. I deal with it. The Sigma software has a monochrome option that's great. I haven't had any crashing issues like people have mentioned time and again on other websites. I have a Macintosh too. I guess it happens mostly on the Macintosh from what I've been reading. The pain is that I have to open the file and convert to a Tif before bringing into Photoshop. I do it, and don't mind now, because I know I'm getting a beautiful picture as an end result. I am hoping Sigma resolves this, but using SPP won't make me stop loving that Foveon sensor. 
Ozzy as Art

For all of the Sigma's limitations, the end result is what matters. If I have to jump through hoops to get the files I want, then I will. I can't really explain it. I love the pictures coming out of the camera when I take the time to photograph with a photographer or artist's mindset. Remember the documentary on The White Stripes? Jack White explains how he uses beat up old, cheap guitars, and moves the other instruments all over the stage to where he has to run to reach them in time to keep the rhythm of the music flowing. If he doesn't make it to the keyboards in time, the song falls apart. If he doesn't play the guitar correctly, it sounds terrible. It's a challenge he puts himself through to get that flow of genius. Well, I want that challenge again. Film was that challenge back in the day. Sigma is like a film camera. Not everyone can deal with this camera. This makes my shots that much more satisfying. 
Cactus: Riparian Preserve
Most of the digital cameras on the market produce predictable digital files. I've owned many of them . What differentiates the pictures taken from one camera to the other is the quality of lens and the sensor. (Well, also the photographer's vision and expertise.) Anyway, looking at files from different digital cameras, I see lovely pictures, but there's something missing for me. I guess it's the depth and clarity. When I look at slide film, I see layers of color. It's hard to replicate that in digital. I know digital is different, it's a whole new media. I understand this, but I miss that layered look. The Sigma DP cameras bring this back. That's basically it. That's why I can't give up on this camera, and why I am challenged to become an expert with it. Sigma shows promise for me. It may not for you, but that's okay. Once I saw the pictures coming out of this camera, I can't go back to the mass produced digital gear out there. I find it lacking. Okay, yeah, I do use other cameras. I still use the Leica D-Lux 4, because I love the lens, even though the sensor is decidedly small by today's standards. I use the Sony NEX 5, because I love the tilting LCD screen and the colors, though the kit lenses aren't the sharpest. I use my Nikon for action, though the files coming out of camera are dull in RAW. So each camera has its pluses and minuses. I use the Sigma for its detail and beauty. I know I sound like a broken record, and that most people will find this camera annoying. That's cool. Go buy a Canon or Nikon. 

I bought the VF-21 viewfinder. It's bright here in Arizona. Sometimes I need it. It isn't as accurate on the new DP2M as the previous DP2 cameras due to parallax and the different focal length. I figured out how to use it to be accurate. There are other viewfinders like the Voigtlander that are brighter, but be forewarned that it is bigger. I do wish this camera had a built-in viewfinder. Oh well. Moving on...


No other camera has that Foveon sensor. It's sad that Sigma doesn't sell it for a mint. Fuji would do well to replace their sensor with a Foveon. LOL! Okay. I am done bashing Fuji. I actually do like Fuji for the camera design and menus. Anyway...

Crafts Show at San Tan Mall
Sigma or someone needs to make a nice case for this camera. The LCD screen is prone to smudging and scratching, like I said earlier. The strap is an average strap. Nothing special. Replace it with a wrist strap or nicer neck strap. The tripod mount is in the perfect place. Centered.
Band setting up.
Monochrome Setting in Sigma Photo Pro 5

The camera does write files slowly to the SD card. If this bothers your chimping addiction, don't buy this camera. It's slow to write and that can be annoying to many. Yes, it can still take pictures while writing the files to the card. The files are big, and they write slow, even with the fastest card. Is this a deal breaker? Not for me it isn't. I'm in no rush. You may be in a rush. If you like to fire off rapid shots, and see them instantly, don't buy this camera. Save yourself the heartache. If you can be patient and realize the result will be a superior file as a result, then buy it.

French Bulldog puppy. She was so adorable. 

Reviewers complain about the autofocus. It's slower than many cameras. As much as I found this annoying in other cameras, especially the Fuji X series, I didn't find it annoying here. Why? Well, once it focuses, it's accurate, not like the Fuji. The Fuji would fire off a shot showing a green light and be blurry. The Sigma nails it. Yes, it's slow. If this bothers you, don't buy the camera. (Hey, I'm trying to help here!) This doesn't bother me. It's because the focus is pretty accurate and the files are superior. Also, I find most AF speeds slow on digital cameras, except for the Nikon D-SLR or Sony NEX 5 that I own. The sensor in the Sigma DP2M crushes the Nikon D90 and Sony NEX 5 cameras. I think I can live with the slow, but accurate AF focus speed.

Most of the crummy photos I've taken with this camera were my fault. I didn't set the shutter speed fast enough. I failed to use the proper aperture. This is due to my laziness. It's also due to not using a manual film camera most of the time these days. When you have to think about exposure all of the time, and don't have the auto capabilities of digital cameras, then you become sharp. With the digital cameras today, you don't have to think at all. You just point and shoot. With so much advanced technology, chances are, you will get the shot. I don't want to take pictures like this. I want to think things through and capture with precision. The Sigma DP2M forces you to do this. Like it or not, that's how it is. You can use A mode or S mode, and it's lovely. So it isn't that much of an issue if you want to be a bit lazy. You can even use P mode. Why you would want to use P mode as the usual setting for this camera, I don't know, but hey, everyone is different. 

Train at San Tan Mall. Oh, the colors. Yes, this is how it looked too. Wow.

        Foveon Sensor
        Minimilist Design
        Superior Files
        Small size compared to D-SLRs
        Nice build to body
        Sharp lens
        Manual focus useable on lens

        Poor Battery Life-(buy more batteries, 4 is best)
        Slow writing of files (though you can still shoot)
        Sigma Photo Pro is clunky and must be used for RAW files, but then once saved as a Tif, can use 
        most popular programs
        Slow AF speed compared to others. (Fuji is slow and inaccurate at times. This camera nails focus        
        once it focuses. Hard to focus on non-contrasty scenes in low light. Same as Fuji in that regard.)
        Not the best camera for shooting in high ISOs, but not as terrible as other websites state-you can   
        get up to ISO 800 with no problem.

I wish a photographer/writer would write a book about the Sigma DP series cameras, with tips and tricks to getting the best pictures. It would be an awesome book to read.