My dp2q review

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mmr
mmr
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My dp2q review
4 months ago

I've read a bunch of these over the last few weeks, and I feel like there's a few more things I can add to the conversation. Namely, it doesn't look like people have really been the subject of many of these reviews, but mostly test targets and landscapes. That's fine and all, but my main focus is people, especially small people. This is a review of shooting people in a more spontaneous, event-style environment.

It hasn't always been wine and sunshine. The DP2M is a fantastically bad focuser, oftentimes drunkenly swerving near to where the focus point was a split second ago. That is not the case with the DP2Q; in practically every way, the dp2q is a more responsive and fun camera to use.

I've had the camera for a few days, and luckily have had enough events now to have taken over 200 shots with it of various subjects. There are times when the dp2q has shocked the hell out of me with its responsiveness and capabilities, and then there are times when I was feeling pretty meh. At one event, a group of people hung around outdoors, where the dp2q predictably performed extremely well. Once inside, it reverted to its standard terrible low-light behavior. I'm not sure what could have made this situation easier. Outside, I preferred to shoot Aperture priority, since I wanted to lock down to the widest aperture to get the most motion freezing. Inside, I wanted to use shutter priority to lock to 1/80th of a second (or so). The EV dial may be the ticket here; I may just have to incorporate it into my shooting style.

Even so, and I cannot emphasize this enough, the DP2Q is an improvement in usability in every way over the Merrill when it comes to the camera itself. SPP remains the useless mess its always been, adding new layers of uselessness with its even slower times and the stability of a three legged mule.

This shot would have been unbelievably hard to get with the Merrill, probably causing me to curse in frustration. I might get it 1/5 of the time. With the dp2q, focus and capture speed is just not the issue it once was.

The colors for people's skins are a bit better; the dp2m was always a bit dead to me, producing very greyish-looking skin. That was often fixed by using a white balance eyedropper in the eye of the subject, and I find myself doing that often with the dp2q as well.

This image required a white balance eyedropper on the white of my father-in-law's eye, as well as bringing up the shadows a touch while lowering the highlights.

Of course, for buildings and architecture, it's pretty awesome, as several people have already demonstrated. You can even use it for moving buildings, if you wish.

I did not expect the dp2q to get this shot; my wife was driving on the 101 through downtown Los Angeles, and this structure is on the eastern side opposite the Cathedral. We were going about 30 mph when I took the shot, and it got exactly what I wanted. If you were to look closely enough, you'd see individual holes in the grill in the metal. The closer trees didn't fare so well, but I chalk that up to being in a moving vehicle.  This is an OOC jpg, no modifications whatsoever.

In terms of shooting, I shoot in RAW+JPG. SPP remains mostly unusable, crashing every other time I load it (I'm on macs, and have tried on both a 2010 mbp core i7 8gb ram 500 gb ssd and a 2013 core i7 16 gb ram 1tb ssd). My workflow has been:

1) take the shots in RAW + JPG

2) Tag the interesting shots using the jpg in lightroom

3) find the corresponding raws in the file system and partition them into a smaller director (so about 20-30 per event)

4) try to run SPP on those images

5) Watch SPP crash

6) Finally, SPP works

7) Note that JPGs, as of version 1.01 of the firmware, are the equivalent, for the most part, of raws with no noise reduction

8) Only look to raws when I need to do serious highlight or shadow recovery

9) Decide that I can live with the blown highlights when SPP can do nothing:

Ain't nothing bringing back his shirt or those clouds; they are blown, plain and simple.

Another potential issue can be green bleedovers from highlights, like here:

I have done my best to try to make his forehead not green.

But honestly, that's a high-contrast setup that I do my best to avoid anyway, because it almost always doesn't end well.

At higher ISOs, there are problems with color stability, like here (ISO 400, 1/60 s handheld):

I have done a lot of desaturation here, but still ended up with green patches on his face and his grey shirt.

A closeup on the shirt. Those black dots don't appear in the raw processed image until noise reduction is turned off, but the green color does.

And then there was a pretty egregious example here that was not present in the raws (ISO 400, 1/3 sec, stabilized on a table):

What is that all over his skin? The Purple Splotch Plague?

Oh no! It spread to her feet!

Image quality-wise, as many people have stated here, it just doesn't feel as sharp and as crisp as the Merrills. I'm not sure why that is.

These eyes were shot with the Q. The eyelashes are perfectly separated, as I would expect from a Merrill. There might be a slight resizing issue here with the forum, but believe me, they print perfectly. ISO 100, 1/160s.

Second set of eyes shot with the Q. Much, much blurrier. ISO 100, 1/160s.

My strong suspicion is that the Q is absolutely unforgivable when it comes to detail, that if you want the very best detail, everything has to be right. I might have moved my hand a bit on the second shot, as both were handheld. Even so, the second shot is perfectly usable, although I won't be printing it past maybe an 8x10.

A perfectly usable portrait shot, but for the blurriness when zoomed all the way in.

In the end, I find myself wishing that Sigma had left well enough alone with the Merrill sensor itself, and instead had just given us all the other improvements with the Q.  As it stands, I'll probably have to spend some time figuring out how to always make sure to get crisp eyelashes.  It doesn't appear to be just a function of shutter speed and that there are a few other things in play.  And I'll be staying away from any ISO above 200, 320 if I can, just because color stability remains an issue at those higher ISOs.

Samsung i7 Sigma DP2 Merrill Sigma DP2 Quattro
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