Monday, December 15, 2014

Sigma DP3M: First Glance, and I'm in Love!

Ozzy posing for the Sigma DP3M 
I purchased a Sigma DP3M about 5 days ago from B&H Photo and have been playing around with it since. It was a good deal at $540 (shipped free). I am not a fan of the Quattro because DigiLloyd and other reviews that talk about the Quattro losing that Foveon sensor 3D look for the ability of shooting in higher ISOs. Sorry but, I want that Foveon look. It's the only reason I have these cameras. I don't like the design of the Quattro. Those two reasons seem to be enough for others out there to not buy into either.  As sales start to slump, the Quattro loses traction,which is a bummer because I want Sigma to make it, though I have no idea what possessed them to design the Quattro that way. Maybe a bigger battery compartment? Well, I don't like the design or the compromise of quality over shooting at higher ISOs. What I do like is that the holiday season coupled with the Quattro coming out has reduced the prices for the time being on the Sigma DP Merrill cameras. I was so happy that the Merrill cameras went on sale. I basically got it for half price. I almost purchased the DP1M to complete the collection, but held back and opted for the Ricoh GR which comes in a few days. The Ricoh was cheaper and I'm not sure if 28mm is for me yet, so I'd rather play around with a different camera. It's not like Foveon but it's supposedly a great little camera. Still, I wish I got the Sigma DP1M anyway. I am kicking myself now. It's a unique sensor coupled with beautiful lenses.

As for the Sigma DP3M? I find it a tad more difficult to use the telephoto version of the Merrill VS the DP2M. The DP3M is just as nice, but I'm not used to it. It's my fault. I need to learn this particular model, which seems to be harder to get everything in focus, in particular, my dog Ozzy. Even with his short muzzle, if I get too close with the camera, I'd better have an aperture of F/8- F/10 to be sure I get the muzzle and eyes in focus. Sigma DP Merrill cameras don't like the user to move or its subjects, which makes it harder to photograph pets and kids. I love a challenge. I have no doubt I will be up for the challenge as well. I'm not one of those machine gun shooters, so taking my time and thinking out the exposure is all for me. In fact, I prefer it to just allowing the camera to choose my settings. I am the artist. I get to choose. Period.

The DP3M is great for close-upwork, though it's not a true macro lens. You can get close, then crop that image for the effect. Luckily this camera's Foveon sensor produces some big files to play with.

I did notice that this model tends to overexpose the highlights so I shoot it at -0.3EV as a general rule, but the different lighting situations may need varying degrees of this setting, and more towards the minus side. Perhaps I need someone with more knowledge of such technical information to guide me? Any Sigma fans out there who know all three cameras? Having said that, I am intrigued by the possibilities of portraits with this camera. I'm not one to stitch photos, but the opportunity to do panoramic photos is another plus which would produce huge files which equal huge prints. Think mural.

I take a lot of pictures of my dog Ozzy, for a long term project. What started as a 365 project turned into an ongoing project with each year adding up to over 5 years. I have a full body of work on this dog, like a stock photo agency. I've used numerous cameras, and the DP2M, and now the DP3M have been added to the mix.

Let me make one thing clear, I am addicted to these Foveon Sensor cameras, despite the quirks.  Let me make another thing clear. They are a pain in the ass to use at times, but there is something so addictive about the files, with that 3D layered look like from Kodachrome or Ektachrome film days. I've owned many cameras over the years, ones that worked much easier and faster, but the Foveon files are decidedly different than all of my bayer sensor cameras and I love that difference. I embrace digital. I love film, but I embrace digital. I don't embrace muddy files though. Or smeared files. Many digital cameras produce ugly RAW files, that even with Photoshop can't bring back the details I saw in the actual scene. I never noticed this until using the Sigma DP Merrill camera. Now it's all I notice.

I'm a camera addict, but I usually go for the cheaper and smaller gear. I like to work to get that shot, at a cheaper price as I am on a limited budget. I like smaller cameras because I can't carry all the weight. I think digital cameras make it too easy to shoot compared to film, and everyone's files look all the same due to having a Bayer Sensor.  Nikon and Canon produce lovely results. My Nikon camera has the same sensor as my Sony NEX 6 camera. The files look similar except for the lenses used. Slight differences. The lens and sensor are everything. I'm not trying to put down Nikon or Canon, though I prefer Nikon gear. I just can't afford the top of the line with prime lenses. Plus, I don't want to carry it all. Its heavy!

The Sigma DP Merrill cameras are much smaller, and the resulting files have a look that is different, with much more detail than most of the digital cameras I've used. Their lens and sensor is everything in one small package. Heck, the three cameras in one bag would weigh less than the Nikon D800E with prime lenses. Cheaper too, so although the Nikon D800E is yummy, it's much to expensive and heavy for me, (but the Sigma favorably compares to,the D800E anyway in resulting files!) So imagine having that power in such a small package, but you have to know how to work it. You have to think about exposure, and work in low ISO ranges. (Hmm, kind of like film.) Most people just give up and curse this camera. I say adios to those people. Go use your D-SLR machine guns. Heck, I'm one of those people who uses the D-SLR for certain purposes, so I totally get it. If I were younger and a stronger back and neck, I'd be shooting more with the Nikon. But one thing that pulls me in with the Sigma is the Foveon mystique. Small, more affordable, a pain in the ass to use at times, but the pictures are sublime. That's a winning combination for me. LOL!

I started in film, and although I adore digital, I don't like most of the flat looking files coming out of most cameras. What I really didn't notice though is how much detail is lost in digital files as stated above. That slight smearing or muddy look to digital, we've all become so used to it, haven't we? When I first looked at the files coming out of the Sigma DP2M, I couldn't believe my eyes. It looked like slide film and with exquisitely fine detail. I know my eyes aren't the best these days, but I certainly noticed the difference. It reminded me of medium format film, or my Leica M6 with Summicron (sharp) lenses. I don't like the cost of film which is why I shoot digital now, though I still have many film cameras which I use on occasion. I love the instant gratification of digital, in seeing my files. The Sigma cameras with all of their annoying quirks are such a joy for me in and the end result, which matters most, the picture quality. It's like a medium format file and yes they can print big without losing detail or looking digital. The files hold the dynamic range as well. I shot quite a few pictures overexposed and I was able to dial them back and they looked beautiful. Once I figure out this camera, it's going to look even better. Now I really need a tripod. I handheld the camera for all of these shots. I can't imagine how much more detailed they'd be if I was using a tripod.

The Sigma DP3M is a beautiful camera. I can't wait to take more portraits and close-up shots with it. I've only just begun to experiment. I actually took the DP2M out the other day to play with as well.

The detail in this shot is just amazing. The one below this has the birds in flight. Yes, they are blurry, but the rest of the shot has a lot of detail. When I walked outside my door to take this, I wasn't expecting to see birds. they scared me! This is  my first experience with the camera.

Low light indoors. Focused on the ears.

This is one of very few cameras that produces such lovely monochrome files. Most cameras can't handle the different shades of grey.

My first attempt at a close-up.

I just love the way this camera produces files!

It's not easy getting Ozzy's muzzle and eyes in sharp focus. He was moving a lot when I was taking these shots. My fault for not using a F/8 or F/10! I love the lighting here.

Loved the lighting this day. 
Another feeble attempt at getting both the muzzle and eyes in focus. Not one of my favorite shots. 

I love the B&W shots I convert. Reminds me of film so much.

I love playing around with this camera in odd lighting conditions. The light  speckled due to the interference with trees blocking the sun. 

That Foveon look. No, not the dog. His is a look of "Are we done here?"

Sublime B&W using Sigma Photo Pro software, which most people hate to use, but now I have a workflow, albeit a slow one. I like the software. It could be faster, but I don't mind. If I can get nice results, I will suffer though it. 

This was an extremely difficult lighting scene. The DP3M overexposed it. I think this camera tends to do that because it's better to dial it down than dial up out of the shadows. I read somewhere that pulling detail out of the shadows is tough for poor Foveon files and it's better to dial down the highlights. Anyone else read about this?

My Foveon model. This is Ozzy. My next dog will be name Foveon. LOL!

A crop of a much bigger file to show the lovely detail that the Sigma DP3M can produce. I'm not a pro, and if I can do it, then you can too. 

Zen Dog.

There is so much detail in this shot!

Another favorite. 

Early morning with a slight mist, but as much as I love the color in this picture, the monochrome version below is one of my favorites. 

Bright sunlight, which is not the best time to shot, but I had to get the shot of the day.

Yummy B&W!

All of the pictures of little Atlas here came out blurry because it was indoors and this baby was moving so much. He was fussing as babies do. I still love the shots, because the baby is so cute and I love the B&W, even if they are soft.

Lots of detail in the Cactus. Such a beautiful day outside too. The DP3M didn't fail to produce some yummy pictures for m. Thanks, Sigma! I am a fan.

My only complaint is I wish my eyesight was better. The LCD isn't the best in bright sunlight, a normal day here in Arizona. I would love to have a viewfinder. I have one for my Sigma DP2M, though it's only optical and sits on top of the flash socket. Plus it's not accurate. I love the Sony NEX 6 for its viewfinder. Makes things so much easier on an older gal like me. Sigma, make EVFs for the next generation of Merrills. Dump the Quattro line and keep that Foveon look. Add an EVF!

My sister's orange tree in her backyard. Such lovely pictures from the Sigma DP3M, but again, highlights overblown. Must dial down. It was a confusing lighting situation. So much dynamic range to play with in these files, even in mottled lighting like this. 

Snake? No, Ozzy, it's just a hose!

Sigma DP3M: A great portrait camera

I shot this at ISO 1600 and although it's a noisy file, it printed lovely. It's also faved a lot on Flickr for its B&W tones. Go figure. 

I'm no expert. I know what I like and I seem to have a good eye for things. I really am mesmerized by the Sigma DP2m and Sigma DP3M cameras. I need to get my hands on the DP1M to try it at the very least. Once I get the Ricoh GR in to test, I will see if I can rent a Sigma DP1M too.

The Quattro never enticed me. Once I saw the design and read about the files losing that Foveon look, and look more like a Bayer file, I lost interest in them. Thankfully due to the release of the Quattro, the Merrills are coming down in price. Next time the DP1M goes on sale, I am getting one. It's too good a deal to pass up. Files from these cameras beat most digital cameras in sharpness/detail. The D800E is the exception. Many of the older guys using these cameras have stated that it produces files that look more like medium format. I agree. I'm glad most people get pissed off and have no patience for this camera. They get mad and run back to their other point and shoot cameras exclaiming how hard it was to take pictures and how the P&S they now currently own produces much better files. All lies. Their ego is hurt by a little powerhouse camera, a camera they couldn't figure out or have the patience for, and they have to save face by bashing it.  I'm sure Sigma isn't glad they lose so many people due to this frustration, but I am. I don't want my files to look like all the rest. Let those people who gave up on the Sigma shoot with their bayer sensors. Heck, everyone is jumping into the Sony or Fuji line. At one point I tried the Fuji and do own the Sony, but the compromise for ease of use and low light shooting is lackluster files compared to the Sigmas. The Sigma may not shoot low light as well, but good luck trying to beat their ISO 100-200 shots. It just can't be done. I want film-like files, 3D rendering with lots of detail. What do you want?

Sigma, if you ever read this:

1. Provide an OVF or EVF in the next Merrill crop of cameras.
2. Ability to shoot at higher ISO, but only if it doesn't ruin the Foveon look to the file.
3. SPP software needs to be a bit more stable. Maybe the ability to type in number amounts to red, green blue channels instead of using the wheel.
4. Hound ADOBE to embrace the RAW Sigma file in their stable.
5. Improve the DP Merrill trio in ability to use, but don't ever compromise the Foveon sensor ever again!

Meanwhile, anyone out there who has access to the tricks of this camera (settings to get better results), please email me the links. I will add them below so it's easier to find all the info we need in one website.