This is a camera definitely aimed at the enthusiast. There’s a lack of scene modes, with only PASM control, along with a movie mode. It has a pop up flash, as well as a hot shoe which accepts a dedicated flash unit. The hot shoe also accepts an optical viewfinder, as the camera lacks a built in viewfinder due to the large 2.5in LCD screen, dominating the back of the camera. The option of the viewfinder is good, but I’d prefer one built in to the body of the camera itself, though this would necessitate either a smaller LCD screen or a larger camera, so we have to accept some design compromise.
There’s the usual array of metering modes, including evaluative, spot and centre weighted, along with ±3 stops of exposure compensation and bracketing. The auto focus meanwhile has 9 individually selectable points across the frame. There’s also a manual focus mode, accessed by a dial on the back of the camera and utilising an enlarged view of the scene on the LCD.
The DP1 is small enough to fit in a pocket and has a nice traditional look and solid feel. I would call it a purist’s camera, with little in the way of gimmicks to satisfy the gadget head, but everything you’d need to take pictures.
However it’s not without its flaws. I found it difficult to find the right buttons in low light- the black engraving on black buttons may look cool, but it’s hard to see their functions. Even in decent lighting I had to tilt the camera to the light to find the button I needed. This would obviously be easier once you get used to the camera and use it regularly.
Also a small but important point, the lens cap is the most fiddly I’ve ever had to use and it’s often a struggle to put it back on the lens.
Other than the engraving problem above, the camera feels great, but in use it’s riddled with other problems. For example, the autofocus struggles in low light, and the camera locks up occasionally. At one point in a very dark exhibition, I was stood like a lemon trying to get the camera to and struggling to see what buttons I needed, while everyone else happily snapped away with their mobile phones. The images I did produce were either blurred, over-flashed or both.
Likewise the LCD screen suffers in low light, with lots of noise visible, while the screen drag when trying to follow a subject reminds me of cameras from 2002. Most of the camera external functions are basic controls, with more options in the simple, list-like menu. Like the rest of the camera the menu follows a straightforward, almost austere design, a far cry from the consumer compacts’ design ethos.
In normal sunlight the screen is difficult to see, but the AF does work a lot quicker and the camera generally performs faster. Writing to the card isn’t too speedy though, and the large files take a few seconds before appearing on the LCD, though once saved to the card, scrolling the images is much faster.