2013/11/30

Damn You, Sigma DP2m

Sigma DP2m
I should have never borrowed the Sigma DP2m from my brother. I was quite happy in my ignorance, shooting what I thought were very nice Pentax lenses on very nice Pentax bodies. But then I made the mistake of borrowing the Sigma and running a little backyard test against my brandy spankin' new Pentax K-3 mated with the very nice FA31mm F1.8 Limited. The Sigma had bested the 16 megapickle K-01 with the FA31 (I used the K-01 instead of the K-5 because of the allegedly weaker AA filter). I thought that the K-3, with extra megapickles and without an AA filter would draw closer to the DP2m, but to be honest, it wasn't close.


What just blows me to smithereens is the idea that even at small screen sizes the Sigma is clearly sharper. It just is. No bones about it. You'd think that with limited pixels being displayed there'd be no discernible difference, but it's there:

Pentax K-3/FA31 vs. Sigma DP2m

And then you zoom in and it's basically a second round TKO. Here's the center of the above image:
Pentax K-3/FA31 vs. Sigma DP2m
The K-3/FA31 isn't doing a bad job and would likely sharpen up quite nicely in post, but the Sigma's just got this secret unicorn sauce that makes the details jump right off the screen.

And the upper right:
Pentax K-3/FA31 vs. Sigma DP2m
It's amazing how sharp the Sigma still is in the corner.

This is from the bottom center:
Pentax K-3/FA31 vs. Sigma DP2m
The exposures are slightly off, but that's not what we are comparing here. The Sigma just rules. Simple.

And here's right of center:
Pentax K-3/FA31 vs. Sigma DP2m
Again, the K-3 is doing quite a nice job. Had I not seen the Sigma, I'd be perfectly fine with the K-3. Joyous even. But the Sigma, even though it's back with my brother, will remind me of what is possible. It just takes fundamentally different pictures. Life just isn't fair.

8 comments:

  1. Did you make sure the K-3's AA filter was actually turned off? Also, there is a huge difference in contrast between the two, which makes it difficult to compare sharpness.

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    Replies
    1. AA filter has been off from day one. Even considering contrast, the Sigma is just sharper. The K-3 can in fact be sharpened to Sigma levels, and maybe that will even come with an update to LR's DNG processing of K-3 files. But right now, out of the box, the Sigma simply rocks.

      Thanks for reading!

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  2. Well these Sigmas were compared with D800e and other cameras, and still 'won'. So if it's sharpness you're after, then yes, these are incredible little tools. As day to day cameras? Maybe not. Depends if you can live with their battery life, single focal lengths and such. I'm a prime shooter myself, but never thought about getting one of these...

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  3. Yes. I had two of the Sigma DP2's and the image quality just blew me away. But operationally they are a nightmare. Battery life is abysmal, I carried 5 spares with me. Sometimes I would get less than 40 shots before having to change the battery. The cameras are completely useless at anything over base ISO, the Sigma software is slow and clunky, the colours can be a but strange and you get fixed lens. In the end all of that got to me and I sold them.

    I would mention the the Sony A7r downsized to Sigma Merrill size is damn close to the Sigma output in terms of sharpness. But I guess you didn't want to hear that.

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    Replies
    1. They certainly are finicky things, aren't they? I am surprised to hear you say that the Sony A7r is "close". WIth all of the excitement about the A7r, it's quite an achievement for the little Sigma's to still be in the game, and even with a slight edge still.

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  4. Great blog - I've enjoyed reading about your adventures with the K-01...which I also recently procured. I have one of the original DP1s, and I really love the per-pixel sharpness. It isn't the lenses (though they are great), as you know, it's the technology of the Foveon sensor, which captures all color info on a per-pixel basis, as opposed to the Bayer sensor, which uses four pixels to try to approximate the color at any given point. So in theory, the Sigma should be four times sharper; I think it may be more like twice as sharp, but that's obviously just a WAG. They always claim to have 3 times more "megapickles" than their files physically contain, (so the DP2m really outputs 15MP files) but there's no getting around the fact that at or near the same MP sizes, a Foveon will slay a Bayer sensor camera for sharpness.

    However, I just went on my first outing with my K-01 yesterday, and got shots of my grandson at a nearby park after sunset, with ISOs up to 3200 looking very good to me...this is not something that can be done with a Sigma camera. If all one did was shoot landscapes in very good light, the Sigma would be the undisputed champeeeen of the world.

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  5. I had the sigma DP1 for a couple of weeks and certainly the quality is amazing.... but, there are many BUTS. when I was using the dp1 I saw myself taking picture only to fit to the camera capabilities instead of taking the pictures that I like. At the end my conclusion was "if I have any Sigma DP series, I will only use it for nightscapes"... so good but too limited for my taste.

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  6. One of the reasons I bought into the Pentax system was because of the K5's 'Extra Sharpness' option.

    The 'Normal Sharpness' option / jpeg algorithm, is in my opinion fairly poor in relation to other brands, 'Fine Sharpness' seems to match other brands, while 'Extra Sharpness' pulls way ahead - and it's little used or talked about.

    'Extra Sharpness' actually stands for 'extra-fine' sharpness, and from rigorous testing I came to the conclusion it was achieving its crispness from totally eliminating noise reduction - which is tricky these days - as even with NR off, cameras usually still apply some NR.

    'Extra Sharpness' is slightly a misnomer, it's a way into totally turning off NR ('normal sharpness' softens results due to hidden NR).

    The 'Extra Sharpness 0' setting isn't balanced to the other 'Normal' and 'Fine' levels, **it's crucial to run 'Extra Sharpness' at either -3 (or for maximum bite -2)**

    Try it. The results let you see into the 645D/Z path to sharpening.

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