Sensor sizes can be confusing but the simple fact is that the number of pixels a camera can boast is only part of the story. It’s the physical size of the sensor that has the greatest influence, as the bigger the dimensions of the chip, the cleaner the images. This is why the 14MP Sigma DP2x, with its large Foveon X3 CMOS sensor, has the potential to deliver outstanding images.
When a camera replaces a previous model the first question asked is, what’s new? The truth here is, not much. A 24.2mm (35mm equiv. of 41mm) optic replaces the 16.6mm of old. It comes with a fast maximum aperture of f/2.8 too. The processor has also had a facelift, to become an updated TRUE II chip. The sensor is the same 14MP version that’s used in the DP1x, but that’s not a bad thing, as it’s a Foveon, boasting the ability to capture red, green and blue light in each of its diodes, as opposed to traditional diodes which are pre-set to receive just one of the three colours.
If you like to take manual control of your camera then you should like the DP2x, as this is where its strength lies. There’s manual focus and control over shutter speeds and aperture, and you can shoot RAW files. Extra features are noticeable only by their absence. You do get some capture settings (Colour Modes in Sigma speak), such as Black & White and Portrait, but nothing too adventurous. Even video is well short of HD at QVGA, which is okay for the web but not much else.
The fixed 2.5in LCD screen is clear, bright and easy to read, if somewhat small by today’s standards. The DP2x boasts a pop-up flash, and an external flashgun or an optional viewfinder can easily be attached.
Handling is simple, thanks to a large control dial and a ‘QS’ (Quick Set) button. This QS option accesses two on-screen menus for quick changes to ISO, white balance, metering modes and other image quality settings.
The DP2x is certainly able to deliver very detailed images, especially in RAW capture. Colours are strong and natural, with no oversaturation in good lighting conditions. There’s some excessive aberration from the lens though, particularly in strong contrast between dark and light areas. Tonal range is not broad enough to stop some burnout and the built-in flash needs some manual override to get the best results. One nice touch is the ability to improve battery consumption by selecting the Power Save mode.
The AF is pin-sharp but very slow, and there are nine selectable AF points available. For manual focus, you can zoom into the centre of the frame via the LCD panel to fine-tune the point of focus. Incidentally, the minimum focusing distance is 28cm (a downside of a larger sensor), which we found frustrating.
The sensitivity range on the DP2x is a broad ISO 50-3200, but 1600-3200 can only be used when shooting in RAW. At ISO 800 or below results are relatively good, with the images showing limited noise and well retained detail. Beyond ISO 800 noise isn’t too bad, but there is a chroma noise banding issue (faint bands across the image) at higher ISOs. You can reduce this with noise reduction in the supplied PhotoPro software.
Sigma continues to put its faith in the innovative Foveon chip technology and the sensor does capture some great detail, but this camera lacks in terms of overall performance. High ISO settings are okay when it comes to noise levels but the chroma banding is a concern. The camera’s sluggish performance isn’t going to appeal to someone who wants to capture fast action and the asking price is high for a camera missing advanced features too.
- Street price: £640 (Secondhand price as of July 2016)
- Effective resolution: 14MP
- Sensor type: 20.7x13.8mm CMOS
- Lens (35mm equivalent): 41mm f/2.8
- Exposure modes: PASM and QVGA Movie
- Metering system: TTL Full Aperture Metering
- ISO range: 50-3200 (extended)
- AF system: 9-point (selectable) Contrast Detection Type
- Card type: SD/SDHC
- LCD monitor size: 2.5in
- Built-in flash: Yes (GN6)
- Live View: Yes
- Built-in stabilisation: No
- Weight: 294g
- Visit: www.sigma-imaging-uk.com
This review was first published in the October 2011 issue of Digital Photo - download back issues here.