The DP1, shades of the GRD redux.

Started May 22, 2008 | Discussions thread
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Richard Murdey
Richard Murdey Senior Member • Posts: 2,589
The DP1, shades of the GRD redux.

I lived through the largely negative press the GR Digital got - outside Japan - when it was introduced. The general themes should be familiar to DP1 afficionados:

It costs that much!?

No zoom lens?

assorted barrage of petty complaints owing to the fact that it doesn't perform as quickly as a dSLR...

equally assorted set of complaints regarding image quality, owing to the fact that it doesn't produce ultra-saturated, highly-processed output like a Canon P&S.

My advice. Learn to live with it. The GR Digital has settled in to be considered something of a classic. It was certainly a landmark design. I imagine the DP-1 will also come to be regarded as the first of a generation.

That said I have some doubts about the viability of the DP-1, perhaps those of you who actually own one can answer:

The GRD had four selling points: build quality, lens quality, a uniquely hands-off approach to noise reduction, and, finally, a control system that remains unmatched in a compact camera in catering to the needs of the advanced user. Battery life, slow RAW write times, and a so-so LCD screen are the weak points. It was released at about $800 iifc, but quickly fell to about $600. At the time, it should be pointed out that it was hard to find a dSLR+lens for much less than $1000.

Three years later we have the DP-1. Similar price at release. Main selling point is the roughly 4/3 sized sensor. I'm sorry but I don't see the fact that its a Foveon sensor (vs. a typical 10-12MP Bayer CCD) as being a huge impact. It's also got a nice 28mm lens, but it's F4 instead of the GRDs F2.4. It's compact, roughly comparable to the Lumix LX-1/2 or TZ series. The protruding lens barrel and slighly bulky outlines means it isn't pocketable, but as the DP review points out it isn't a D40+18-55DX either. As far as I can gather the user interface and control set is serviceable but hardly outstanding.

The question concerns the camera on my desk at the moment: my D40 with the Voigtlander Ultron 40mm F2 SL2. Or, probably a better example, take the E-420 with the 25mm pancake lens. These things didn't exists back in the heyday of the GRD, and anyway the reason why I still keep my GRD for light duty (truly pocketable, 21mm wide conversion, superlative interface) haven't changed. My point is that in a hypothetical matchup, E-420/25mm vs the DP-1, the DP-1 stuggles to distinguish itself.

  • on price, similar.

  • on ease of use, again similar but the dSLR has a real viewfinder as well as liveview

  • on versitility the dSLR has the DP-1 beat

  • on portability, yes the DP-1 has a significant edge, but perhaps not that significant, what with the pancake lens on the dSLR... having seen but not used both my view is that there isn't much between them.

  • on performance, as on versitility, the dSLR smokes the DP-1 completely. A real frame buffer, 'nuff said.

  • on image quality. Well, this is the one place where the DP-1 could make it all worthwhile. I carefully examined the samples, and how to explain it: dull.. flat.. lifeless. With RAW you can do what you like, so lets say that it and the Olympus should be comparable, and the optic quality comparable, both being primes.

In summary, in 2008 the fact that the DP-1 image quality is superior to a Canon A720 or even the GRD (at high ISO) is not sufficient to justify its existance .. or its asking price. There are alternative options in the form of a small dSLR with a compact prime lens, the E-420 25mm especially. The DP-1 is not small enough to escape competition from this class of camera, and on price it is directly comparable. To my mind the compact dSLR solution is preferable.

Against the E420/25mm who can defend the DP-1 for me?

on the Bayer vs. Foveon. 4 million "real" pixels vs. 10 or 12 million interpolated of the Bayer array. And a lot of physics in between making it hard to say which one is "better" exactly, when scaled to the same size output. Put it this way I can look at samples from a Foveon, go back to my 6MP D40, and I don't feel I'm missing anything. "about the same" is about all I get from the exercise.

 Richard Murdey's gear list:Richard Murdey's gear list
Nikon D750 Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 2,8/21 Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 2,8/25 Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 2/35 Carl Zeiss Planar T* 1,4/50 +9 more
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