Now I like the idea of having a point and shoot with a (35 mm equivalent) 28mm lens but at f4; I don’t think I am fussed! I like to use my Canon G9 at its widest part a lot, but I also like the versatility to be able to add a bit of ZOOM, for when I just can’t get close enough….
Sigma’s fixed lens wide angle compact with an APS-C Foveon Sensor has finally arrived. Was it worth the wait?
Since it was first announced a year and a half ago, Sigma’s DP1 (street: $799) has been creating buzz. Yes, that’s the same base Foveon X3 chip as its DSLR brother, the SD14, taking up a whopping .5 x .8 square inch of real estate in this compact camera. But the DP1 has all new microlenses, a new Three-layer Responsive Ultimate Engine (“TRUE”) processing, a specially designed 28mm f/4 equivalent lens (5 groups/6 elements), a new version of Sigma’s Photo Pro RAW conversion software (v2.4 Win/v3.1Mac), and full manual controls, among other high-end features. And don’t forget about the thousands upon thousands of Web postings on message boards and blogs discussing the camera — not to mention a drag time from announcement to availability that can be best described as glacial.
But that’s all past now. We’ve got a full production version of the DP1 and it is heading to the Pop Photo lab as we speak. But I couldn’t resist stealing it away for a 24-hour whirlwind tour. Was it worth the wait? We’ll have to wait for the final certified test results to make our final verdict. But I’m ready to share my initial findings on the shooting experience, feature set and handfeel — along with a gallery of photographs shot specifically to challenge this upstart compact to see what it’s made of.
The build quality of the Sigma DP1 places it squarely in the luxe compact category, alongside competitors such as the Canon PowerShot G9 and the Ricoh GRII. The lenscap fits firmly in place, but pops off easily. Buttons are well damped, and the shutter button has a satisfying tactile sensation that is often missing in economy and mid-range compact cameras. Skinned in black aluminum with boxy, masculine lines, this feels like a serious piece of photographic machinery. That big f/4 eye retracts partially during down time, and expands outwards slightly during shooting. There’s no rubberized, curvy handgrip beneath the shutter button, but there are 27 tiny raised semi-spheres (3 rows by 9 columns) on the front and 34 on the back (3 rows by 9 columns, plus 7 more) that’ll keep you from slipping your grip. The mode dial spins with good resistance, and the tiny switch for the popup flash works just fine. When activated, the manual focus wheel feels a little loose at first. But once you start thumbing right to your focusing distance on the fly, it feels just about right. The optional accessory viewfinder fits snugly into the hotshoe, as does the compact accessory strobe. It’s an either/or proposition here: you cannot use the accessory strobe and optical viewfinder at the same time. It’s not a fatal flaw, but it is a design oversight, I think.
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