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What makes Sigma Dp3 Quattro an awesome camera:

the review and image samples

The return of the Foveon.

We all know that Sigma has been doing some awesome things lately with the new Art lens and such but one there is one thing that Sigma do with a lot of love that people don’t know much about and that is their cameras.

A while ago I wrote an article here on Photigy about the Sigma Dp3 Merrill and how its sensor differs from a traditional camera and lately I’ve had the pleasure to spend some time with the Sigma Dp3 Quattro with a newly developed Foveon sensor and I wanted to take some time to share my thoughts about the camera.

 

So what’s new?

At first glance you would think pretty much everything is new and I guess it is with the newly designed body, new lcd, and brand new sensor but it still uses the same 50mm f2.8 leaf-shutter lens from the Dp3 Merrill.

In fact as much as this camera is different in use it feels a lot like the old model and the addition of the extra control dial and some slight tweak are a welcome touch.

The build quality is  also of a high standard, you can feel the love and attention that went into making this camera although if I have to be picky I do miss the metal focus ring from the Merrill generation but the new design seems to follow that of the Art lens.

Don’t let the oddly shaped body fool you, this camera is really comfortable to hold once you become accustom to it ( I do have small hands which could be a factor) and the design has the added bonus of giving a more stable shooting platform verses the older design and most dslrs due to the width of the camera and how offset the grip is from the lens.

The main difference though is the new sensor, up to 19.6mp in the Quattro from the older 14.7mp sensor in the Merrill but that isn’t the whole story as the Quattro uses a brand new sensor in which the lower layers has a quarter of the resolution than the top layer giving the Quattro 29.4mp in total over the 44mp true x3 design of the Merrill.

This new sensor apart from giving you a larger, more detailed file at the end also gives a different look to the images over the Merrill with better color saturation in the shadows and a smoother less micro-contrast look which some people might prefer.

The sensor also behaves much differently in that the Merrills are better at pulling details from highlights while the Quattro can push more details from the shadows which changes how I would expose the shots when trying to maximise raw data.

Here’s an image showing the difference between the Merrill/Quattro and Bayer 24mp k3) output shooting the same scene with the same settings.

The other benefit from the new design is a more responsive camera, improved battery life along with some new features such as an electronic level and better designed quick menu.

One of the features of the Foveon sensor is the ability to shoot in a low resolution mode in which it bins the top layer to create a full x3 4.9mp read out, it might sound odd but I rather enjoyed using mode when walking around town and even the out of camera JPG images are gorgeous.
There’s just something different about how the Foveon sensor captures detail and color, in fact I had done a few blind tests with several different images on social media using the Sigma Dp3q at full rez and a Pentax k3 and 8/10 times people liked the Sigma files even re-sized down to 1200pix with image compression that these sites use.

Here’s one of such images in which both cameras where shot at the same settings although one camera had to be moved a little to match the frame.

What one do you like?

Or what about these?

Could you guess what images was the 24mp no AA filter Bayer sensor and what was the 19.6mp Foveon Quattro sensor?

Well the first image with the Transformer was the Dp3Q left with k3 right and the second image with the watch the k3 was left while the Dp3Q was on the right.

I would like people to make up there own mind in which they feel is better but personally I love the Images from the Sigma cameras, in fact I only use my DLSR system when I’m covering an event and need better high iso/faster performance.

Here’s another image from the Pentax K3 and Dp3 Quattro.

 

Full Size:

100% Crop:

One more 100% Crop:

While the Quattro isn’t always resolving as much luminance detail as the k3 which is to be expected since it is almost 5mp less in image size, it is capturing much more detail overall due to the extra color information and its ability to change hues/contrast much quicker thanks to the lack of Bayer filter giving it a much higher per pixel detail.

I feel this gives the images more depth, even when re-sized for web the images seem to have more life to them than what I get from Bayers.

One of the other benefits this has is the ability to display more detail on screen at any one time which can be handy for example when viewing maps/plans and as such this was the my goto camera when digitizing some architectural plans for a local company who commented on how sharp and detailed the images where, while I can’t share them I can share a crop from books I was also digitizing.

Sadly as much as I tried I wasn’t able to get a hold of a K3II to test the Pixel shift mode which allows the Pentax to capture full color at every pixel by using multiple frames but since this mode would only work on static subjects and possibly only with continuous lighting (depends if Pentax implemented a delay for strobes) so the real world use would be more limiting, still it would have been nice to see how it compares.

I did how ever have the pleasure of shooting a few frames with the Pentax 645z with the 90mm f2.8 macro lens which currently costs just over £10,500 for the combo at a local camera store.

I took this chance to see how the little £800 Sigma compares so I placed my Pentax k3 on the ground and took a few quick frames.

*note* laying on the floor playing around with things during a camera shop open day gets you some funny looks!

Shot with the Pentax 645z and 90mm f2.8 SR Macro

 

Left 645z with 90mm f2.8 Macro – Right Sigma Dp3 Quattro upscaled to 50mp.

Now I know the 645z can do many things the Sigma can’t but at low iso shooting I’m pretty impressed with this little thing especially since you could buy all four Sigma Quattro’s for the price of the Pentax lens alone!

 

Usability.

For studio use I feel that the 50mm (75mm equiv) f2.8 macro leaf shutter lens is ideal, not only does it allow me to get close with a decent working distance when shooting items but I also get full length body shots of people by backing up and the leaf-shutter gives me more control over ambient light or can help to reduce the tail light from my studio lights as mentioned here.

Due to the Aps-c size sensor I don’t need as much light to get everything in focus verses a larger sensor and the sensor itself resolves a great deal of detail which is up there with some of the best cameras around at the moment.

One of the other nice features for studio use is how manual focus works, if you want to zoom into the focus point you simply half press the shutter and twist the lens, releasing the shutter zooms out.

There are a few negative points for studio photographers though, there is no tethering support but you could use a wifi card and a remote shutter accessory called cr-31 as a work around.
Also the cameras have a slower overall operation both in shooting and raw editing verses a Bayer camera and limited support for raw files outside of Sigma Photo Pro.

While I write this article around the Dp3 Quattro Sigma also make other versions of the camera with different lens so if the fixed 50mm f2.8 isn’t for you then here’s what else is available.

Dp0 14mm f4,
Dp1 19mm f2.8,
Dp2 30mm f2.8,
Dp3 50mm f2.8

Each one of these has a leaf-shutter lens and would make a great camera for shooting strobes on location such as this shot of my kids with the Dp2 Quattro in which I used f4.5 at 1/640 of a sec with the flash being fired by a dumb radio trigger, no HSS or other tricks here.

Conclusion

Sigma have created a great little camera that unlike most modern cameras isn’t chasing after features or high iso but instead going for simplicity and image quality at base Iso.

This type of camera then will not be for everyone but if your the kind of person that likes to take your time and set up shots these things will reward you no end .
I’ll leave this article with some random images that I have taken with my time with the camera and hope that I have drawn some interest to something a little different than your typical digital camera.

 

Examples of images made with Sigma Dp3 Quattro



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