Sigma DP-3 Merril Compact Digital Camera
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The DP3 Merrill Compact Digital Camera from Sigma employsthe 46MP Foveon Sensor with three layers of vertically stacked receptors to take advantage of silicon''s unique ability to absorb light at different depths. The three different 15.3MP layers, one for each primary color, capture images with accurate colors and extremely sharp resolution. The DP3 houses a 50mm f/2.8 prime lens that is equivalent to a 75mm lens in the 35mm format. This is a short telephoto or portrait length lens and is longer than the 19mm and 30mm lensesoffered by the Merrill DP1 and DP2, respectively.The 50mm f/2.8 lens was designed to match the DP3 Merrill''s sensor, itincludes Special Low Dispersion glass and aspherical lens elements to compensate for aberrations and to keep the lens compact. Super Multi Layer Coating reduces flare and ghosting. The lens can focus as close as 8.9" (22.6 cm)resulting in a near-macro 1:3 maximum magnification. The DP3provides RAW capture at 3different sizes and numerous JPEG resolutions. It can burst shoot RAW images at 4 frames per second for up to 7 images. Its ISO range is 100-6400 and can be set at full or 1/3 steps.Manual and autofocus are possible as ismanual and program auto exposure control. VGA (640 x 480) size video recording is supported by the DP3 and with itsstark, handsome bodyand simple metal command dial the DP3 provides high resolution photography without unnecessary bells and whistles. A Quick Set button is available to make readily available your most-used custom settingsanda 3.0" TFT color LCD monitor with 920k-pixel resolution provides composition and playback.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
However, it will not deliver those images every time. You have to work at it.
As far as "ease of use" goes, my cell phone tops this camera in the point and shoot category. An entry level traditional DSLR will focus faster (deleted incorrect comment about the number of focus points). I also find the Canon DSLR menu system far more intutive.
It takes a really long time to write the image files to the card- but it is writing a tremendous amount of information for each image. Each best quality JPEG and RAW image package is ~45mb.
High ISO capability is pretty much nil and the shutter speed is limited from 1/1200 to 1/2000 depending on apeture. So, on a sunny day you will need a neutral density filter for a wide apeture. Shady and ISO200 will need a flash.
Speaking of flash, options are limited here. Only Sigma branded flash units have TTL metering support.
Far as I know, only Sigma software will display native RAW images. The software seems to work OK, but it is another step outside of the traditional applications.
Those are some pretty strong negatives in a 4 star review- some of these points are in other reviews.
When this camera manages to capture an image in focus and properly exposed (with your help), there is nothing else like it. That trumps the shortcomings.
The sharpness, detail and depth in images from this camera is something to see. Color is different, too.
If Sigma made a DSLR with a Foveon sensor and a Canon lens mount... or if Canon does a Foveon sensor.... Until then, this will have to do.
Edit to add: This camera has lots of focus points, just have to read the manual on how to access them :)
* with sufficient light, it takes outstanding photographs
* the detail is incredible
* light weight
* lousy battery life
Note 1: It's not a consumer-friendly point-and-shoot, nor an action photographer's dream. I'd done my research and knew what the Merrill's strengths and weaknesses were before purchasing. I'm not going to ding it because of its limited useful ISO range, slow write speeds, or slow auto-focus. It's a special-purpose, technical camera and that's how I've used it. Horses for courses.
Note 2: I had a DP2M (which I also love) for a year. When the price on this dropped to $650, I snapped up this baby without any regrets.
Note 3: I've purchased the AC adapter (not available from Amazon, for some reason) which has a module that fits in the battery compartment. This has two uses: for studio use, battery life is no longer a consideration because you can be powered from the wall and and when on the road, it makes it easy to connect with a standard USB power pack for a super sized battery.
The DP3 Merrill is the short-telephoto version of the DP series. The 75 mm equivalent lens is outstanding for portraiture and close ups, as well as landscape where you need some reach. I can shoot this lens wide open and there's no degradation. Typically I will shoot around f4-f5.6. The sensor is great for low iso work (100-200), and depending on the lighting conditions I think it will do justice to color to 800 ISO. For B/W photography, it can be pushed another stop or two. The camera's ergonomics are really good—there are configurable custom settings, as well as the ability to configure controls for each of the normal camera settings. The quick menus are great, and I've found the camera very easy to get up to speed with. I miss an optical viewfinder, but one can be added. This camera syncs with my flash triggering system (Paul Buff cybersyncs) at virtually any shutter speed, which is an added bonus.
What's not good? Battery life is poor. Buy extras! This isn't a great camera for fast action or chasing the kids around the house. The Foveon chip doesn't excel in indoor situations under incandescent light, so be prepared for that. I will say that the chroma noise is handled better in this camera than some of my previous versions of Foveon gear (SD15, SD14, SD10). And because you have a high-resolution sensor in a tiny package, you have to be good at handholding and watching your shutter speeds—or use a tripod.
The benefits? The lens and sensor draw images that are incredibly lifelike, and shooting wide open (or nearly so) lets you isolate your subject and make it leap off the screen. And then, you can blow these images up to huge prints—32 x 48" is completely reasonable for a good image. There's nothing else on the market that can touch it for the price.