Nikon D610 vs. Sigma DP2 Merrill - Lengthy with lots of samples for comparison Locked

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Dogonit
Regular MemberPosts: 156
Nikon D610 vs. Sigma DP2 Merrill - Lengthy with lots of samples for comparison
7 months ago

First let me start off with some background. I'm a camera junky. Always have been. I've owned and shot with everything from Hasselblads to Fuji X-series, from Pentax K1000 to a brand new Nikon D610. That said, I am not a pro. Meaning although I've sold some images in the past this is not how I make money, I'm just an obsessed amateur who loves making great photos (to the best of my ability). I've started a somewhat recent Flickr account if you want to see examples of my images from the last year or so:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/93936384@N06/

I've included a lot of background and disclaimer info below, feel free to read, or just look at the images. If you don't read though, don't post up criticisms without going back and reading first! I know this is the Internet, and I do have my flame suit ready, but c'mon people.

BACKGROUND: I've been on a quest for a great Landscape camera that is packable, affordable (aka non-D800E expensive), and that obviously makes superb images - or at least as superb as I can afford. One important factor is that I rarely ever print larger than A3 size prints. Actually, I never do. So a 16MP sensor is sufficient for my printing purposes. That said, it's always nice to have a little more to crop into, or for those fine details. What I'm looking for in an image is (these are my personal definitions, so take with a grain of salt please):

  1. Sharpness - the edge sharpness. I want to see visible and distinct borders between leaves on a tree, or distinct blades of grass in a field instead of just mushy green (for example).
  2. Contrast - as in microdetail. I want to see the subtle shades in the peeling bark on a birch tree instead of just blocks of color (for example).
  3. Dynamic Range - as in ability to capture or recall detail from a wide exposure range. I want to be able to pull an overexposed sky back so clouds are distinct, without losing shadow detail (for example).

I currently have a Fuji X-E1 and X-E2, Olympus OM-D E-M5, Sigma DP2 Merrill, and a newly acquired Nikon D610. Although they are very, very different cameras, it's these last two that produce the best images out of the bunch, so I thought I'd do a mini shootout to see if the D610 (FOR MY USES) was worth packing around. It weighs about three times as much as the Merrill, and is about 2-3 times larger.

ABOUT THE SIGMA DP2 - NOTE BEFORE READING FURTHER: I think we're all aware of the pitfalls of the Sigma Merrill cameras - High ISO disaster, slow write speeds, eats up batteries, etc. But if you're shooting landscapes none of these really matter. It's about getting the best images possible. It's assumed you are shooting at the lowest possible ISO, and you don't need ultra-fast AF with 3D tracking, etc. The Nikon is a much more versatile camera because it does have more features and is much more usable overall, but I have many cameras, and am happy to chase the 2 year-old around with the OM-D (again, for example).

A FAIR COMPARISON: I think comparing the DP2 Merrill to the D610 is more than fair, so don't get on me that it should have been a D800E! That camera is $3,000 for the body. The DP2 is $800, with lens! The Nikon D610 is a full frame sensor with 24MP, the DP2M is an APS-C sensor with 16MP (or 48 if you go by Sigmas marketing speak). If that's not a fair comparison - actually, heavily tilted in the Nikon's favor - I don't know what is. I must say also that I am not biased, as you must be able to tell from my list of current cameras; I have four cameras from four different manufacturers. I did not go into this with any expectations, and please don't claim I somehow manufactured the results. This is all exactly what I shot.

NOT ALL PIXELS ARE CREATED EQUAL: The Foveon sensor in the Sigma and the Bayer-type sensor in the Nikon are very, very, VERY VERY VERY different beasts. When Sigma claims a 48-Megapixel sensor it's an overstatement, but one that's based, at least partially, in comparative reality. The Foveon sensor does indeed have 48 Megapixels! They are just stacked over top of each other, like how film is made. The RGB sensors are translucent, so that the sensor takes a red, a green, and a blue reading for every pixel it ends up rendering, which comes out the other end as a 16 Megapixel image. How is this significant? Well, consider how a Bayer sensor works. The D610 is listed as a 24 Megapixel sensor. Does is have 24 Megapixels? Yes, BUT...each of these pixels picks up only red, green OR blue information. The Bayer filter then takes that information, calculates probable values based on averages from neighboring sensors, and estimates what each pixel's color should be. What comes out the other end? A 24MP image, but it's not really a 24MP image because it hasn't really gathered full 24 Megapixels of Red, Green and Blue data; it's captured somewhere in the neighborhood of 14 Megapixels (because there aren't equal numbers of R, G, B pixels - there are far more Green pixels to record information). If you don't understand this simplified explanation I encourage you to read more technical articles that explain this whole thing in detail. I assure you though that this is an accurate representation of what's going on with each of these sensors. What I'm getting at is this: Don't cry foul when Sigma claims 48 Megapixels. Nikon and Sigma are both over-representing their sensors in terms of the data it collects vs. the final output.

ABOUT THE CAMERAS BEING COMPARED: The Sigma DP2 Merrill is a compact mirrorless camera with a fixed prime lens of 30mm, which is 45mm in full frame comparison. Cost at the time of comparison is $899 USD retail. The Nikon D610 is a full-frame DSLR with (for this comparison) a Nikon 50mm 1.8G lens (regarded as the sharpest 50mm available for Nikon). Cost for camera and lens at time of comparison: $2,250 USD retail. Both cameras additionally have a B+W UV Haze MRC filter attached.

ABOUT THE IMAGES:All of the comparison images were shot within 30 seconds of each other on a typical Seattle early winter day - overcast, but bright. Not raining. I down-sampled the Nikon files to the same dimensions as the Sigma (since the end pixel count is higher in the Nikon). The proportions are slightly different in the images because the focal lengths of the lenses are different by 5mm (roughly 10%). The ISO for all images below is set at 100 for both cameras. White Balance was set to Auto in both cameras (they obviously interpreted the light differently). Likewise, although I've varied the shutter speed/aperture combos throughout the comparison, they are set the same between the two cameras for each shot. Oddly, the Sigma images came out about a half stop darker than the Nikon images. I can't explain this other than it must be either an attribute of the firmware or the sensor itself, or both.

All of the images were shot in RAW, imported to Lightroom (via the required Sigma Pro Photo 5.5 software necessary in the case of the DP2 Merrill) and exported without any editing. I have not applied any sharpening to any of the images (except as noted in the final comparison). In one case (again, the final comparison) I did push the Highlights slider to -100 and the Shadows slider to +100 in Lightroom, for sake of comparing the Dynamic range. I also tried sharpening the image from the D610 a bit because at this edge of the image it was pretty soft.

I will not make any conclusions here because I know it will get too heated. I know what I see, you may see something different. Honestly though, I was surprised what I found. So without further ado:

Nikon D610

View: original size

Sigma DP2 Merrill

View: original size

Nikon D610 - 100% Crop

View: original size

Sigma DP2 - 100% Crop

View: original size

Nikon D610

View: original size

Sigma DP2 Merrill

View: original size

Nikon D610 - 100% Crop

View: original size

Sigma DP2 Merrill - 100% Crop

View: original size

Nikon D610

View: original size

Sigma DP2 Merrill

View: original size

Nikon D610 - 100% Crop

View: original size

Sigma DP2 Merrill - 100% Crop

View: original size

Nikon D610 (Highlights and Shadows adjusted to show Dynamic Range), Sharpened to see if it can get any clearer

View: original size

Sigma DP2 Merrill (Highlights and Shadows adjusted to show Dynamic Range), Unsharpened

View: original size

Nikon D610 - 100% Crop, Sharpened to see if it can get any clearer

View: original size

Sigma DP2 Merrill - 100% Crop

View: original size

Nikon D610 Sigma DP2 Sigma DP2 Merrill
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Dogonit
Regular MemberPosts: 156
Re: Nikon D610 vs. Sigma DP2 Merrill - Lengthy with lots of samples for comparison
In reply to Dogonit, 7 months ago

I copied and pasted this from my original post in the Nikon FX forum. for some reason the Metadata for the images got screwy, so go by the notes under each picture instead of what pops up when you roll over the images. Or just find the post in the Nikon forum for proper image details.

Kendall Helmstetter Gelner
Forum ProPosts: 18,039Gear list
Re: Nikon D610 vs. Sigma DP2 Merrill - Lengthy with lots of samples for comparison
In reply to Dogonit, 7 months ago

The first image seems a little blurrier than it should be, based on how sharp parts of the scone one were...

The second image was interesting, as the Nikon lost detail in the grey reflectors that the DP-2M clearly showed.  I would have thought that to be best case for the Nikon with no color present to drop resolution.

Also apparent that the DP-2M is awesome in the corners, as we all know by now...

 Kendall Helmstetter Gelner's gear list:Kendall Helmstetter Gelner's gear list
Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM Sigma 8-16mm F4.5-5.6 DC HSM Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 EX DG HSM Sigma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sigma 85mm F1.4 EX DG HSM +4 more
Jahami
New MemberPosts: 1
Re: Nikon D610 vs. Sigma DP2 Merrill - Lengthy with lots of samples for comparison
In reply to Dogonit, 7 months ago

Hello Dogonit,

nice work and comparison. Thank you for this. I am also a big Sigma fan and own the Sigma DP2 Merrill.

It really shows the strengh of the Sigma Foveon sensor.

Then only thing I worry about is if you should have used a better lens, the nikon 50 1.8G may be "the best" 50mm on the market (or better to say the only one...), but it's one of the cheap fixed lenses. Try the Nikkor 24-70mm 2.8, they say it is as sharp as a fixed lens. But again this lens costs 1500 Euro and that together with the cam would not be a fair comparison again

Keep up the good work!

Shashinka73
New MemberPosts: 24
Re: Nikon D610 vs. Sigma DP2 Merrill - Lengthy with lots of samples for comparison
In reply to Jahami, 7 months ago

I say this with as much respect as I possibly can: why do people DO this? Take two (or more) cameras, shoot incredibly boring scenes with both of them and then spend ages staring at them, worrying that if the one they don't own is "better" than the one they do, they are automatically less of a person or something.

I really, really don't get it.

I've found some useful information on these fora, but whenever I come across this kind of thing...I just end up scratching my head.

I live in Japan and a while ago they had this TV show on. One of the guests was a New Zealand classical-crossover singer named Hayley Westerna, and another was some Japanese modern R and B singer whose name I forget. They had these two sing "Amazing Grace"...and used a computer program to  analyse their voices and decide who was "better" (this is a very Japanese trait: believing that you can measure everything, including beauty). My wife, who is herself Japanese, said that Hayley Westerna sang the other girl out of the room, and I concurred fully. Yet the computer (or its gotta-save-face operator) said that the R&B girl was better...because of some numbers.

The photographic equivalent of this is what baffles me. These are people who would look at some of Cartier-Bresson's best shots and say "hey, it's soft at the edges! It sucks! LOL!". Or they'd take Nick Ut's picture of Kim Phuc and say "hey, the subject's in the centre of the frame! It sucks! LOL!"

Let me ask - sincerely - what do people hope to achieve with this? The sharpest, best resolved brick walls in existence?

I can just envisage it: a family trip to somewhere really exotic. The father has his D800e with a Zeiss Otus on it, a Manfrotto Tripod which could hold a tank and a remote release. He's setting up a picture of his family with a staggering sunset in the background. Then his phone rings. It's a call from his friend.

"Dude, you gotta get on DPR now! They've just released a lens which outresolves the Otus by 7.48 per cent!"

Man packs up without taking the shot and cuts the holiday short.

Sad thing is, I can really imagine this happening.

Oh well, had my rant, flame away.

ascotinitaly
Junior MemberPosts: 30
Re: Nikon D610 vs. Sigma DP2 Merrill - Lengthy with lots of samples for comparison
In reply to Shashinka73, 7 months ago

I had the same feeling when I saw the original post. I dont listen to the Bach cello concertos and wonder if the cello was made in Venice or Verona, or marvel at a Vermeer painting...but tortured that I dont know that it might have been better painted with a camelhair brush...

Then I reminded myself that these are mainly *gear* forums. The getdpi forums have some great long threads on the Merrills, with many photos. I've found that non- photography forums often have more interesting threads about photography. I found a couple good ones searching 'sigma merrill' in audio, architecture and painting forums.

In any event, I also dont care much about sharpness and resolving power, as they dont usually add beauty or power to a photo. Color, color transitions, shadows and a 'film-like' quality seem to do that though, and *that* is where the Sigmas and Leicas carry the day (at least for my eyes...to mix metaphors .-)

PrebenR
Senior MemberPosts: 2,268
Re: Nikon D610 vs. Sigma DP2 Merrill - Lengthy with lots of samples for comparison
In reply to Shashinka73, 7 months ago

Shashinka73 wrote:

The photographic equivalent of this is what baffles me. These are people who would look at some of Cartier-Bresson's best shots and say "hey, it's soft at the edges! It sucks! LOL!".

But what camera did Cartier-Bresson used? What is a cheap camera for everybody?

Don't think so...

If one had limitless money to use, then one can buy whatever camera/system one wants. If one have a limited amount, you have to choose. Nice to do a choice based on as much information as possible.

-- hide signature --

Lightwriting with Sigma

Dogonit
Regular MemberPosts: 156
Re: Nikon D610 vs. Sigma DP2 Merrill - Lengthy with lots of samples for comparison
In reply to Jahami, 7 months ago

The 50mm 1.8G rates much higher in sharpness than any zoom out there. Just go to DXOmark and look at their tests.

Dogonit
Regular MemberPosts: 156
Re: Nikon D610 vs. Sigma DP2 Merrill - Lengthy with lots of samples for comparison
In reply to Shashinka73, 7 months ago

So what are you shooting with? I estimate it's not a cheap point and shoot from the drug store.

The point of these comparisons (and really any comparison of anything) is to find the best solution to a problem or need. Why would anyone go buy a camera (or like I said, anything) without first investigating if it's the best camera for their money or needs?

Sure, they're boring scenes. Then again, that's just an opinion and the results will be the same no matter what the same. Do you think the detail, contrast and sharpness of the two cameras change if it's a picture you think is "prettier".

Why do this? To see which camera produces better images, regardless of subject matter. This makes a difference because in the end you want the best images you can get, right?

In the end, don't read it if you don't like it.

Cheers.

mike earussi
Veteran MemberPosts: 4,647
Re: Nikon D610 vs. Sigma DP2 Merrill - Lengthy with lots of samples for comparison
In reply to Dogonit, 7 months ago

You've reiterated what others, including myself, have concluded, that the present Foveon sensor is equal to or slightly better than a 24mp Bayer. I even prefer the "look" of my 4.7mp SD15 to my 24mp NEX 7 if the prints aren't over 12x18" because the SD15 shows more edge sharpness and subtle detail than the NEX 7. Now if Sigma would just come out with a full frame version...

carlos roncatti
Senior MemberPosts: 2,625Gear list
Re: Nikon D610 vs. Sigma DP2 Merrill - Lengthy with lots of samples for comparison
In reply to ascotinitaly, 7 months ago

ascotinitaly wrote:

I had the same feeling when I saw the original post. I dont listen to the Bach cello concertos and wonder if the cello was made in Venice or Verona, or marvel at a Vermeer painting...but tortured that I dont know that it might have been better painted with a camelhair brush...

Then I reminded myself that these are mainly *gear* forums. The getdpi forums have some great long threads on the Merrills, with many photos. I've found that non- photography forums often have more interesting threads about photography. I found a couple good ones searching 'sigma merrill' in audio, architecture and painting forums.

In any event, I also dont care much about sharpness and resolving power, as they dont usually add beauty or power to a photo. Color, color transitions, shadows and a 'film-like' quality seem to do that though, and *that* is where the Sigmas and Leicas carry the day (at least for my eyes...to mix metaphors .-)

I dont see it as bad...its just as these forums are. Dpreview became so big simply because of that. This is not a place to discuss photography. Photo.net and others are much better to discuss photography. I agree with most of what you say, but dpreview is for talking about gear, just that.

HCB even has photos that are somewhat blurred...

Tha actual funny part is to see one starting the thread (10 posts with a funny name, no ID photo) and other who signed up today!  to talk who wonderful sigma is! lol...and the new poster also has no name or photo....i would bet all money they both have other ids here at dpreview...

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To understand photography, you must understand that the experience must be much more important than the result ....
Carlos Roncatti Bomfim
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PyeCYthMbd0
http://www.crbimage.com

Kendall Helmstetter Gelner
Forum ProPosts: 18,039Gear list
The point is better understanding a tool
In reply to Shashinka73, 7 months ago

The point of images liked this is to better understand the strengths of a tool, in this case a camera - how well does it render foliage?  Brick?  Other architectural elements? Colors?

Then when you have a vision of particular shot in mind, you can use the tool that best matches what you want the end result to be.

Not every image shot needs to be an artistic one, because not all uses of images are artistic.  Sometimes they exist as pure data.

 Kendall Helmstetter Gelner's gear list:Kendall Helmstetter Gelner's gear list
Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM Sigma 8-16mm F4.5-5.6 DC HSM Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 EX DG HSM Sigma 50-500mm F4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sigma 85mm F1.4 EX DG HSM +4 more
carlos roncatti
Senior MemberPosts: 2,625Gear list
Re: Nikon D610 vs. Sigma DP2 Merrill - Lengthy with lots of samples for comparison
In reply to Shashinka73, 7 months ago

Shashinka73 wrote:

Let me ask - sincerely - what do people hope to achieve with this? The sharpest, best resolved brick walls in existence?

this made laugh a lot...

I can just envisage it: a family trip to somewhere really exotic. The father has his D800e with a Zeiss Otus on it, a Manfrotto Tripod which could hold a tank and a remote release. He's setting up a picture of his family with a staggering sunset in the background. Then his phone rings. It's a call from his friend.

"Dude, you gotta get on DPR now! They've just released a lens which outresolves the Otus by 7.48 per cent!"

this even more...

-- hide signature --

To understand photography, you must understand that the experience must be much more important than the result ....
Carlos Roncatti Bomfim
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PyeCYthMbd0
http://www.crbimage.com

Dogonit
Regular MemberPosts: 156
Re: Nikon D610 vs. Sigma DP2 Merrill - Lengthy with lots of samples for comparison
In reply to mike earussi, 7 months ago

If they came out with a full frame sensor, even with the other limitations of the camera still intact, I'd buy it. But if they could fix the High ISO noise problems, add a faster processor and give the thing a bigger battery, then I think they'd revolutionize digital photography.

The thing that makes me hopeful for this is that Sigma does seem to keep working on it - they've released multiple firmware for their cameras and keep adding new features and making things faster and better. Not many other manufacturers do this, especially Nikon.

Dogonit
Regular MemberPosts: 156
Re: Nikon D610 vs. Sigma DP2 Merrill - Lengthy with lots of samples for comparison
In reply to carlos roncatti, 7 months ago

If you're inclined to be cynical then there's nothing I can do to make any impression on you whatsoever. I'm just trying to add content. This is actually a comparison I just wanted to do on my own to find out if the $2,500 I spent on the D610 was really worth it for what I'm looking for. I was so surprised by the results I felt inclined to share them. Am I a fan of the Sigma Foveon cameras. Yup! Am I a fan of Nikons in general? Yup! And I love my Fujis and my Olympus (a lot).

I'm relatively new to the forum (I do not have a second ID as you believe). What would be the point of that? What exactly are you implying? I'm a paid marketing consultant with Sigma? I WISH! I even posted a link to my personal Flickr account that has images of me and my family on it. My funny name? I like dogs...

carlos roncatti
Senior MemberPosts: 2,625Gear list
Re: Nikon D610 vs. Sigma DP2 Merrill - Lengthy with lots of samples for comparison
In reply to Dogonit, 7 months ago

Dogonit wrote:

If you're inclined to be cynical then there's nothing I can do to make any impression on you whatsoever. I'm just trying to add content. This is actually a comparison I just wanted to do on my own to find out if the $2,500 I spent on the D610 was really worth it for what I'm looking for. I was so surprised by the results I felt inclined to share them. Am I a fan of the Sigma Foveon cameras. Yup! Am I a fan of Nikons in general? Yup! And I love my Fujis and my Olympus (a lot).

I'm relatively new to the forum (I do not have a second ID as you believe). What would be the point of that? What exactly are you implying? I'm a paid marketing consultant with Sigma? I WISH! I even posted a link to my personal Flickr account that has images of me and my family on it. My funny name? I like dogs...

Calm down (now i see why all the caps locks), im not being cynical. I didnt see your flickr page, my bad. Where did you see me saying you are being paid by Sigma? jeh...

About your spending, you are the only one who can say that. Do you shoot your son a lot? Tried using a sigma camera? Tried using a Nikon? Do you prefer an OVF over an EVF?

Pixel peeping with lead you nowhere..trust me. I did this a lot using a sigma camera (5 of them, NOT merril) and it was worderful at iso 100...prints? my D300 with great glass and fine tuning AF made much better prints at larger sizes than the sigmas...

-- hide signature --

To understand photography, you must understand that the experience must be much more important than the result ....
Carlos Roncatti Bomfim
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PyeCYthMbd0
http://www.crbimage.com

Dogonit
Regular MemberPosts: 156
Re: Nikon D610 vs. Sigma DP2 Merrill - Lengthy with lots of samples for comparison
In reply to carlos roncatti, 7 months ago

Calmer than you are.

Samaistuin
Regular MemberPosts: 364
Re: Nikon D610 vs. Sigma DP2 Merrill - Lengthy with lots of samples for comparison
In reply to Dogonit, 7 months ago

Good initiative and good delivery

You're focused on landscapes, uet some more varied pictures would have been welcome.
And a shootout against the D7100, which lacks an AA filter, would have been interesting too (maybe that's already been done). But I realise you used what was at hand.

I feel sorry that your thread got derailed that early... you even took precautions in your first post to prevent that from happening...

Dogonit
Regular MemberPosts: 156
Re: Nikon D610 vs. Sigma DP2 Merrill - Lengthy with lots of samples for comparison
In reply to Samaistuin, 7 months ago

Thanks! Yeah, kind of expected it. No harm no foul though. Like I said, was mostly just to satisfy my own curiosity.

In the end, could the Nikon files be worked to equal (or better) the Sigma files? Probably! But I don't need to do that much more work, and considering the cost advantage of the Sigmas; I could buy all three DP cameras - DP1 at 27mm, DP2 at 45mm, and DP3 at 75mm - for the cost of the Nikon and only the 50mm lens. Adding a 28mm and 85mm would bump it up another $1,500 or more. Not to mention the weight and space savings. My conclusion, for my uses, is that the Sigma seems to be a much better end to a means.

ilsiu
Regular MemberPosts: 197
Re: Nikon D610 vs. Sigma DP2 Merrill - Lengthy with lots of samples for comparison
In reply to Dogonit, 7 months ago

Dogonit wrote:

...I currently have a Fuji X-E1 and X-E2, Olympus OM-D E-M5, Sigma DP2 Merrill, and a newly acquired Nikon D610...

Wow, that's a lot of cameras! What situations do you use each camera for?

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