For many years we, along with a great many other photo enthusiasts, have been hoping, and cajoling manufacturers, for a small camera with a good lens and a large sensor. While the large manufacturers made approving noises, none of them seemed willing to make the first move. Instead the first mover ended up being a company that most people would associate with lenses, rather than cameras: Sigma.
The Sigma DP1 was an unusual camera - a stylish compact body built around a 28mm equivalent F4 lens. And, as if that didn't make it niche enough, it included a Foveon sensor that uses a completely different technology for color capture than just about any other camera ever made. The result was a camera that could produce great images but had a list of quirks, restrictions and flaws that prevented it from making the impact it otherwise might have done.
Now, just over a year after the DP1 finally appeared, we have the DP2. Although the outward appearance is very similar to its forebear, much has changed inside. The most obvious difference is the lens - now offering a perhaps more flexible 41mm equivalent focal length and a faster maximum aperture of F2.8.
However the marketplace that the DP2 enters is very different from the one that greeted the DP1. The Panasonic/Olympus Micro Four Thirds format and the resulting E-P1 and GF1 mean that the DP2 has competitors (and comparatively flexible and consumer friendly ones at that), in a way that the DP1 never really did. So has Sigma been able to elliminate enough of the DP1's foibles to let the DP2 withstand the onslaught of the little offerings from the big guns? Let's find out.
Compared to DP1- key differences
There are two major differences between the DP1 and DP2 - the brighter, more 'normal' lens (the focal length is closer to the length of the sensor diagonal), and faster True II image processor. It also has a revised shutter that is able to operate at its highest speed (1/2000 sec) at maximum aperture - whereas the DP1 could only operate at 1/2000 sec with apertures smaller than F10.
We were impressed by the way Sigma continued developing the DP1 even after launch, providing firmware updates that refined and improved the camera's initially under-featured interface, but the DP2 makes huge jumps forward in this respect. The biggest single improvement in terms of usability is the 'QS' button that gives access to a sub-menu of key shooting options. It's something we noted was missing on the DP1 so are delighted to see it appear here.