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Sigma DP2s - Performance and Results

By Cliff Smith

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

8

One of the admittedly small number of things that differentiates the DP2s from the DP2 is supposedly faster focusing and image processing, but the overall performance is far from sparkling. In single shot mode the shot-to-shot time is approximately 2.7 seconds, which is quite slow by the standards of other high-spec compacts, but in its favour it will shoot at this speed in both JPEG and Raw modes. In continuous shooting mode it can manage just over two frames a second, but only for a limited burst of four shots in JPEG mode and three in Raw.

The autofocus is very slow, and is also extremely noisy, with a loud mechanical whirring sound as it cranks the lens into focus. Low light focusing is the worst I've seen in several years, with the camera failing to focus in a room lit with a 60 watt bulb. It has no AF assist lamp, so once the light level drops you have to switch to manual focus.

One area that does seem to have been significantly improved over the previous model is battery duration. Joanne said that she only got about 50 shots out of the DP2, but I was able to take over 200 with the DP2s, which is powered by a chunky 1300mAh lithium-ion battery.

Fortunately the DP2s does have one saving grace that trumps all of its shortcomings, and that is its simply fantastic image quality. At 50-200 ISO it produces a level of detail, dynamic range and colour depth that easily surpasses any other compact on the market, and even puts some mid-range DSLRs to shame. There is no trace of image noise at 200 ISO, and even at 400 and the maximum 800 ISO noise is slight, even and grain-like. The lens too is superb, with brilliant corner-to-corner sharpness that makes the most of that fantastic Foveon sensor. The control over depth of field provided by the wide maximum aperture and large sensor allow real creative control for portrait shots.

Verdict

The Sigma DP2s is a well-made camera, although the blocky design and primitive control layout look very dated. Handling is average at best, and the slow and noisy performance and terrible low-light focusing might put off the casual user, assuming that the terrifying price hadn't already sent them running back to the the safety of a consumer compact. However if you're prepared to put up with its flaws it rewards you with spectacular image quality and photographic versatility that beat any other compact hands down.

joose

June 24, 2010, 10:09 pm

Would you pick one of these up for yourself Cliff? Maybe if you saw it cheap?

Cliff Smith

June 25, 2010, 12:03 am

Possibly, but with the state of my finances at the moment it would have to be very cheap. I'm hoping to have the new Sigma SD15 DSLR in for review soon; I'm keen to see what that can do.

Nicholas Pires

June 25, 2010, 1:59 am

I'd be interested to see how this compares to the sony nex-5 which comes with a 16mm pancake lens as part of the kit though it's focal length a wider angle equivalent to 24mm

Hedgeporker

June 25, 2010, 6:27 am

I can understand if Sigma is wary of relinquishing any control but since their cameras are so unrefined apart from the fabled sensor and lens, I would say that their cameras are screaming for some kind of high-powered partnership with another big camera maker.

joose

June 25, 2010, 1:05 pm

@Cliff - Know the feeling all too well..





@Hedgeporker - I'd love a Ricoh/Sigma mash up! :D

joose

June 25, 2010, 1:24 pm

@Cliff - The SD15 needs to be really on the ball with the price they are after!

Sapporodan

June 25, 2010, 3:09 pm

Does anybody know if Sigma will update the Foveon sensor at some point?


I love the sigma cameras and would dearly love to own one, but always felt it just needs a few more megapixels and that sensor would be truly great!





My personal camera fantasy would be a Pentax K7 with a full frame Foveon sensor. I would also like to stick one in a Leica but that’s a different story. . . .

GulfFish

June 25, 2010, 7:18 pm

I agree with Hedgeporker, if Sigma is on the ball strategically they should be looking for a pertnership with one of the big dogs who could design and build a super compact around the sensor and lens.

robert e

June 27, 2010, 2:55 am

Noise is one thing, but would anyone care to address the significant color shift between the ISO 100 and ISO 800 examples? If image quality is the DP2s' raison d'etre (and for me that includes glorious color rendition) then aren't situations that significantly compromise IQ worth special notice?

Cliff Smith

June 28, 2010, 11:54 pm

robert e - a loss of colour saturation at higher ISO settings is common to most digital cameras. It is a symptom of increasing noise, or rather a reducing signal to noise ratio.

Hedgeporker

June 29, 2010, 6:00 am

@joose - Ricoh/Sigma mash up was also in my thoughts, but my feeling is that they will end up bickering about whose name gets to go on it precisely because they seem to be on rather similar frequencies. Or maybe Ricoh could just start knocking out a line called Ricoh Sigma with body and OS from the former, lens and sensor from the latter? I like the sound of this more and more . . . :D

joose

June 29, 2010, 1:16 pm

@Hedgeporker - They could simply make a module for the GXR. Test the water so to speak.

Hedgeporker

July 1, 2010, 8:25 pm

@joose





GXR probably doesn't have the broad appeal that would make the water-testing commercially viable. A GR Ditital Foveon however . . .

robert e

July 3, 2010, 2:51 am

Thanks, Cliff. It's not that the effect is unexpected, but that it shows dramatic in this sequence. Perhaps the jpeg engine is partly to blame and it is less apparent in the RAW workflow?

PV

January 3, 2011, 7:29 pm

Hi Cliff,


Just a question... you're the same who made the dp1x review... they are supposed to be more or less the same stuff, apart from the lens (what you say about sensor it's true for one and the other, I guess)... but you are much more negative with the dp1x then with dp2s. I was wondering about buying the dp1x, cause of the wide angle, but actually I'm not so sure anymore. May you explain me better what are the differences you noticed that made you change your mind about sigma stuff in so short time? It seems dp1x has worst low light performance (Iso and focus), worst working speed... what more?


Thanks a lot,


PV, Italy

Ed

January 5, 2011, 12:39 am

@PV: Well, for one thing Cliff didn't review both cameras. For another, they both get the same overall score. For a third, the dp2x has had two years worth of developments that have been added to it, so you'd expect it to be a better camera.





As to whether to buy a dp1x, I'd suggest it largely depends on whether you can get it at a good price.

Paul 32

January 30, 2011, 8:07 pm

@Ed: Cliff did review the DP1x in Nov 2010 - you are referring to the DP1 from 2008. The DP1x did much worse than the DP2s in Cliff's reviews. In particular, the key reason to buy the DP2s was its image quality, but Cliff seems to suggest the DP1x quality is more varied. I would be interested in knowing if there is a big difference between the two or if it is simply that the competition have improved quite a bit in 6 months.





A key consideration is that now the DP2s is available for £400 which is a bit more manageable, but the DP1x is about £500 - the same price as the Panasonic GF2 with lens.

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