Home / Cameras / Camera / Sigma DP1x / Performance and Results

Sigma DP1x - Performance and Results

By Cliff Smith



Our Score:


Like the DP2s, the DP1x is supposed to have a new faster processor, but there's little sign of it in the camera's performance. It takes nearly six seconds to start up and take a picture, and in single-shot mode and JPEG Fine quality the shot-to-shot time is approximate 2.6 seconds, about the same as the DP2s. Shooting in Raw mode it is slower still, taking progressively longer each shot as it waits to empty the buffer. In continuous shooting mode it can fire a burst of four shots (three in Raw mode) in just under two seconds, but then has to wait for over eight seconds for the buffer to empty before it can shoot again.

The DP1x has the same autofocus system as the DP2s, with the same set of problems. It's not particularly fast for a premium camera, and its low-light performance is terrible, failing to focus in light you could read by. There is no AF assist light, so low light shooting has to rely on manual focus, but with such a small monitor and no view magnification this is virtually unusable.

If you read the article linked at the start of this review you'll know that the Foveon X3 sensor has three photoreceptors at each pixel-point on the sensor. Because of this Sigma insists on referring to it as a 14-megapixel sensor, but this is rather disingenuous. The final image size is only 2652 x 1768, or 4.7 megapixels. Sigma's big claim about the Foveon sensor is that it produces better colour depth and sharper detail than an equivalent conventional Bayer-mask sensor. This is certainly be true; there's no question that it produces vastly superior image quality to a conventional five megapixel sensor. Unfortunately nobody makes five megapixel sensors any more, and haven't since about 2005, about the time that the sensor in the DP1x was developed. If you compare the DP1x to a modern 12 or 14 megapixel compact, or even to the 10MP 1/1.7-inch sensors used in most other advanced compacts, the Foveon sensor's image quality advantages are simply no match for more up-to-date technology. Looking at the sample images from the DP1x it's easy to be impressed by the sharp detail and excellent colour depth on a computer monitor, but if you want to print them out at 300dpi photo quality they're only big enough for an A5 print.

The lack of resolution isn't the only image quality problem. White balance is very inconsistent, varying in consecutive shots under identical lighting conditions, and image noise is also a problem at all sensitivity settings above 100 ISO, with visible banding on shots at 800 ISO. Dynamic range is also quite limited, especially under strong backlighting.


The DP1x is Sigma's attempt to squeeze the last bit of mileage out of a five-year-old sensor design. While it can certainly take a very good picture under the right circumstances, it is beaten soundly on features, performance, handling and image quality by cameras costing half as much.

Ed 3

November 20, 2010, 5:59 am

Please please tell me why the image quality got 9/10, when there is noise at 200 ISO?! And the dynamic range is rubbish...I'm confused..

Josef Salon

November 20, 2010, 2:12 pm

Another loser for big bucks...sometimes I don't understand. What are they thinking about? Just make a camera like Panasonic GF 1, or Fuji X 100 or get lost!


November 20, 2010, 4:56 pm

9/10 for image quality.A cheap & nasty £40 digital camera has better iso performance than this!


November 20, 2010, 8:35 pm

@Cliff Smith - I have to agree with 'Ed 3'. You've said before that your scores should be compared to other cameras in the same price/type range. Which makes it even harder to understand how a camera with these kinds of problems in white balance, ISO and dynamic range, can get a score of 9/10 in Image Quality when it costs about £600?!?

But moving on, any idea when you'll be reviewing Panasonic's new GH2? =)


November 21, 2010, 12:29 am

I'm also very surprised by the 9/10 for image? lowsy contrast, and lowsy low light performance...

Martin Daler

November 21, 2010, 6:03 pm

"it is beaten soundly on ... image quality by cameras costing half as much"

"image quality = 9/10"


Lee Marshall

November 21, 2010, 8:42 pm

Although I am not defending the DP1x, it is an old and out of date camera, you shouldn't criticise the sensor with truly understanding the differences between Foveon and Bayer sensors.

A 10MP Bayer sensor does not have 10 million red, 10 million blue and 10 million green pixels. It has 2.5 million red, 2.5 million blue and 5 million green. These are then demosaiced and interpolated up to 10MP.

The 14MP (4.7x3) Foveon has 4.7 million red, 4.7 million blue and 4.7 million green pixels which are stacked vertically. These do not require demosaicing and are therefore not interpolated, therefore giving a 4.7MP image but has a far better quality than a 10MP Bayer image.

If you believe megapixels are everything then you shouldn't be reading here.

By the way I am not a foveon owner (I am a pro photog using Canon) but do have an appreciation for their technology.

Incidentally, the previous model DP1S is available from Amazon for £269.....

Martin Daler

November 23, 2010, 12:39 am

@ Lee Marshall

I understand where Foveon are coming from and have long hoped their technology would fulfill its promise. But sadly the noise performance just rules it out for most regular users.


November 24, 2010, 6:25 pm

I have raised inconsistencies with the ratings before and nothing has changed. If you have a scale, it must be objective.

In all other respects, a good review.

I appreciate the Foveon sensor but I wonder why they bother as the application into the cameras released to date has been less than ideal.

xenogears zero

November 26, 2010, 10:08 am

Guys chillout. it gets a 9/10 for the color rendition it's able to produce vs. conventional sensors. It's a shame that we can only appreciate this at ISO 50 XD


November 27, 2010, 12:55 am

The IQ score is as strange as the camera itself. The score is for IQ in total, not just one aspect like the colour rendition.

No-one wants an expensive compact which only does colour rendition better than cameras half its price. Watch the price drop heavier than any stone.


January 2, 2011, 6:05 am

The DP1x should be used (like all Sigma cameras) only in RAW-Mode. ISO goes up to 3200 in RAW-Mode and the image quality is much better than what we see here. (Good usable until ISO800) Also the Dynamic Range is impressive if you use the RAW Converter of Sigma.

I sold my Canon EOS 450D after seeing the results of my DP1 in 2008.

Tiago Rosado

January 19, 2011, 8:02 pm

I've been shooting with a DP1, a 550D and a 5Dmk1, and just let me point out a couple of things: the screen, autofocus and Jpeg conversion are the worst that i've seen, and it takes 6-9secs to record a single RAW file and the whitbalance it's like gambling on a roulette...But! when i start working these files on the computer they just blow you away!! the color rendition and dynamic range are as good as my fullframe 5D if not even better (some say that it resemblences medium format), the image maintains is incredibly sharpness all the way, even when i upscale it to 12mp (foveon sensors don't have antialising filters that blur the image, and have 3x more color info per pixel), and i ran recover much further hightlights than on a 5D fullframe raw file. She doesn't give a cristal clear white balanced image like the ones i get form the 550D, instead it gives a unique and complex image with depth and strong tonalities.

Bottom line: feels like shooting film. It's indicated for advanced amateurs or artistic pro's. It has a very strong personallity of it's own and doesn't forgive second shots. She doesn't help a bit and one must think well before shooting. I love it, but it's not for every situation.


July 17, 2015, 3:37 pm

Coming somewhat late to this review, I am in total agreement with you.
Discounting my first foray into digital camera ownership, most of which models I kept (Canon G2 - the first - then Olympus W8080, Sony R1, Panasonic L10) I now use Sony's Nex 5N, Nex 7 and A7 along with a Panasonic LX7.
I've always been curious about the Foveon sensor and a couple of months ago I decided that rather than read comments from those who were only passing opinions and who had no practical hands-on experience, but happy to criticize, to buy a DP1 and find out for myself. Well, I'm glad I did.

As you point out, the DP1 is most certainly not for the vast majority of digital users. It's quirky, and needs a lot of input (knowledge and skill) from the user to get the most from it. But for those who are prepared to live with its technical shortcomings, shoot in RAW, use low ISO, and are happy to spend time in PP, then they will be rewarded with colour images unlike those capable from any other, non-Foveon sensored, camera.

When out and about I set it to aperture priority, manual focus (hyperfocal distance) and use an add-on optical v/f. There is virtually no shutter lag and I do indeed use it very much like my much used Ricoh GR1 film camera and which itself is kitted out with a fixed 28mm lens.

comments powered by Disqus