DP2M user review; 96 photos with full size JPEGs and raw files

Started Aug 12, 2012 | Discussions
Andrew Hodgkinson
Andrew Hodgkinson Regular Member • Posts: 109
DP2M user review; 96 photos with full size JPEGs and raw files
2

I went around the Cambridge Botanic Gardens and, later, took a few photos in town with a new DP2M. Lighting varied between sunny and overcast. All images are processed entirely in Sigma Photo Pro with no subsequent downstream editing.

http://pond.org.uk/galleries/DP2M/

Click once to see a medium sized image. Click on that image to load the full size version. Possibly click one last time to make your web browser zoom the image too 100% size, if it zoomed it out to fit in the browser window. The raw file links are underneath each of the medium sized images. Please only download the ones you particularly want to see as they're large and use a lot of network bandwidth - thanks!

Much more general excitement can be drawn from the images just using e.g. Aperture's auto enhancement settings, so consider these to be deliberately neutral images. Some of the really nasty pictures are excluded, so what you're seeing here, by and large, is the best I got on the day.

A couple of the really close-up macros were achieved using an AML1 lens held in front of the camera (the new camera doesn't fit the DP2M lens hood etc., seems for £800 I need to re buy some overpriced cheap bits of accessory plastic - thanks Sigma).

The good:
http://pond.org.uk/galleries/DP2M/slides/SDIM0808.html

The bad:
http://pond.org.uk/galleries/DP2M/slides/SDIM0770.html

(still struggles with red; best to underexpose red dominated shots despite shadow desaturation issues arising; lowering the red channel in Aperture helps a great deal; colour accuracy in red is typically bad no matter what you try though; nonetheless an improvement over the DP2S, which was basically completely hopeless at bright reds).

The ugly:
http://pond.org.uk/galleries/DP2M/slides/SDIM0798.html

(check the top left at 100% zoom - horrible sky noise, with banding, at ISO 100; banding makes it hard to eliminate even with SPP's customised algorithms; noise reduction that made the sky smooth interfered too much with detail in the tree, which is why this shot was left noisy).

Camera impressions follow. Summaries first.

Better built, better looking and faster than the DP2S. No lens extending out at startup - faster to get started, no wheezy "this is surely going to break soon" mechanics, no special spring-flap lens caps needed! Better control layout. Truly astounding detail is possible. Amazing glass; corner sharpness is close to perfect and chromatic aberration issues are very rare. Much better LCD than the DP2S, could usually see what I was doing even with minimum brightness setting on a sunny day.

Shadow area desaturation problem is much worse than the DP2S. Noise! And lots of it - unpredictable at that; noise in the sky at ISO 100 on a sunny day, but only sometimes; longer exposure times or deliberate overexposure of a shot seem to help reduce it. Focus: Hit and miss; possibly more so than the DP2S. Back-focus is still an issue. Being able to change the size of the focusing assessment area does help, particularly shrinking it for macro shots. Battery life: Terrible. Just over 100 shots per full charge. That's very, very bad. And that was with the LCD brightness set to minimum and keeping the camera switched off as much as possible.

 Andrew Hodgkinson's gear list:Andrew Hodgkinson's gear list
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Andrew Hodgkinson
OP Andrew Hodgkinson Regular Member • Posts: 109
Re: DP2M user review; 96 photos with full size JPEGs and raw files

Details:

Two batteries come with the camera; cheap knock-off replacements don't seem to be around yet, so you're looking at £49-ish per battery. I reckon you need about three batteries for the DP2S to one for the DP2M. Ugh.

The manual focus goes beyond infinity and this high range seems to mean "focus on nothing whatsoever". The camera refuses to autofocus on clouds unlike the DP2S, so pure "photos of the sky" pictures are difficult; you're trying to get the manual focus correctly set just on the infinity marker on the LCD. At least the zoomed in manual focus view fills the whole screen, rather than just a small centre rectangle as on the DP2S.

At ISO 400 or higher it's really not usable as a colour camera. The DP2M does seem to be able to use about the same aperture and shutter speed at ISO 200 as the DP2S did at ISO 400, but even ISO 200 images struggle badly with certain colour ranges; flesh tones seem particularly bad for noise, for example. I'm very concerned about using this for indoor shots of people; I think the images may well be useless even if scaled down; the DP2M is much more trustworthy here, performance dropping off in a more predictable and less catastrophic (desaturation etc.) way.

For some reason "auto" mode never picks ISO 100. I did some overexposure tests with clouds etc. and as far as I can see there are no obvious dynamic range changes between 100 and 200, so basically, manually set it to 100 for most of the shots. ISO 200 is much noisier and shadow desaturation cutoff is significantly worsened. I've no idea why auto mode only ever seems to choose 200, 400 or 800 on the DP2M - suspect it'll be fixed in a future firmware update.

The lens is less wide than the already not-that-wide DP2M and now feels cramped at times. In street photography, I often simply couldn't fit a building in shot despite being stood as far away over the other side of the road as I could get. The DP2M didn't suffer so badly. I took some comparative shots from both cameras on a tripod and hope to upload these in due course. Is there a good quality wide angle adapter available? Even a moderate increase in field of view would be a big win.

The AML1 macro lens works nicely if held against the front of the camera (I don't have an adapter for the DP2M) showing its optical quality lives up even to the new high resolution sensor's demands.

The DP2M seems to generally underexpose typical landscape shots compared to the DP2S. This is a bad idea since the sensor is better off with overexposure. There's a strange blueish colour cast compared to the DP2S too - I've seen this mentioned in another thread and completely concur; colours are somehow "not quite right" and I can't make them look entirely correct. It's not that they're bad, they just don't match my memory of the thing I photographed. The DP2S frequently matched the expected colours very well.

 Andrew Hodgkinson's gear list:Andrew Hodgkinson's gear list
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Andrew Hodgkinson
OP Andrew Hodgkinson Regular Member • Posts: 109
Re: DP2M user review; 96 photos with full size JPEGs and raw files

I've since tried a whole set of photos at around +1.0 EV and this seems to work much better; the new Foveon sensor retains its uncanny ability to recover highlights, while shadow areas are better exposed and thus hold more colour. The whole "overexposed shot is magically recovered" Foveon routine definitely still applies! I think in general:

  • Spot metering

  • +0.7 or +1.0 EV

  • Small focus spots for macro, large for landscape

...seem to be decent combinations for pretty reliable results, albeit assuming you shoot in Raw and run everything through SPP.

Camera shake at the high Merrill resolution is obviously more noticeable. I was lucky down to 1/30s on occasion, but generally found that speeds of 1/100s or faster were safest. This makes it a difficult balance between ISO noise, shadow colour and shutter speed.

Sigma Photo Pro's behaviour with the Merrill sensor raw files is annoying and not as easy as with smaller raw files. Auto adjustments favour heavy underexposure and many of the settings never seem to get altered at all. Much manual tweaking is needed. Fill light doesn't seem to work quite the same way - doesn't seem to darken highlights quite how it used to - so you tend to end up decreasing exposure and pushing up fill light to try and stop highlights blowing (the highlight control, bizarrely, seems to help very little). This needs sorting out as it seems to be a software issue more than anything. On the plus side, the noise reduction remains decent, the highlight exposure tool is good and the automatic chromatic aberration removal settings seem pretty much spot-on for the very rare cases where an image shows fringing.

It seems the DP2M is capable of greater brilliance than the DP2S but it brings with it even more quirks and compromises, to such an extent that I'm on the fence about sending it back. My main concerns are: Excessive noise and shadow desaturation issues; can't seem to get "the right" colours out of it; reduction in lens field of view makes it a worse landscape camera than the DP2M; battery life is horrendous. If the noise and colour issues were resolved, I'd probably keep it as when it's good, it is indeed spectacular and it'll be very, very hard to find a conventional sensor camera in a similar form factor that comes even close to matching the DP2M's best output.

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ChristianHass Veteran Member • Posts: 3,148
Re: DP2M user review; 96 photos with full size JPEGs and raw files

Thanks, first-hand reports are always welcome
--
Shooting for fun and memories.

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PrebenR Veteran Member • Posts: 4,164
Re: DP2M user review; 96 photos with full size JPEGs and raw files

Thanks for the summary! Although, I'm a bit surprised that you thought the 30mm would be suitable for landscape?

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HBowman
HBowman Senior Member • Posts: 1,237
Re: DP2M user review; 96 photos with full size JPEGs and raw files

Nice effort in this review, it is a lot of work !

But:

The DP2m is not made for this kind of shoot. It is like giving away caviar to pigs. For family, memory, kinder graten shoots there is a lot of cameras out there who will perform better and quicker for this kind of shoots. Not the same IQ but, ya know ...

Remember that the RAWs are between 55 and 74 MO. If ppl are masochists enough to shoot 200 photos every time they go to local garden ... its up to us.

The Merrill Foveon Sensor stay a Foveon sensor whith his + and - . People should not go in this technology thinking they will do photos like they do with a V1 or any P&S around.

The Merrill is born to capture moments you will keep... so expectational moments.
--
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SigmaChrome Forum Pro • Posts: 12,885
Re: DP2M user review; 96 photos with full size JPEGs and raw files

Thanks for your detailed review, Andrew.

I've had a look through your photos and I must say I'm very impressed with the resolution and colour depth. The lens sharpness seems outstanding. Maybe some of the colour accuracy issues you mention could be addressed in another photo editing program.
--
Regards,

Vitée

Capture all the light and colour!

http://www.pbase.com/vitee/galleries

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Andrew Hodgkinson
OP Andrew Hodgkinson Regular Member • Posts: 109
Re: DP2M user review; 96 photos with full size JPEGs and raw files
1

You wrote:

The DP2m is not made for this kind of shoot. It is like giving away caviar to pigs.

I took my time taking landscapes, macros and some street photography. Just what is the DP2m for, then, if not any of that? The growing number of DP2m example photos on Flickr seem to concur, though many of them are very heavily post-processed - I'm more of a "photograph things for memory" than "photograph things for art" sort of person, so I prefer a more naturally processed end result.

Remember that the RAWs are between 55 and 74 MO.

Sigh. It's 2012! Storage is cheap, cheap, cheap. I can buy a 1 TERABYTE external USB hard drive now for around £60 new. Sigma charge £49 list just for a new BATTERY for the DP2m. The file size of the DP2m's raw files isn't an issue at all. The entire photo shoot I did took up only 14GB on my 32GB SD card, which is class 6, a year old and only cost £15 delivered.

If ppl are masochists enough to shoot 200 photos every time they go to
local garden

I took lots of photos (A) because I enjoy it and (B) because I was testing out a new camera and know there's a lot of interest in this forum for it. That's why I took the time and effort to upload full size JPEGs and raw files of every single image, so people can judge the images for themselves.

I'm not quite sure what you expect to do with a camera; take as few photos as possible? That doesn't make sense. Digital photography opens up lots of new ways of taking pictures and there's safety in numbers, especially with the quirks of Sigma cameras.

The Merrill Foveon Sensor stay a Foveon sensor whith his + and - .
People should not go in this technology thinking they will do photos
like they do with a V1 or any P&S around.

I've owned a DP2s since 2010. I've taken thousands of photos with it. Check out the New Zealand 2010 gallery on pond.org.uk - I think it's clear I'm very familiar with the older Foveon sensor, the technology inside it (I'm a software engineer by profession), how to get the best from Sigma Photo Pro, along with the good and bad points of the camera/sensor/software overall combination.

The DP2s continues to surprise and delight me with its remarkable images to this day; I still hope to fall in love with the DP2m the same way, but my honest appraisal so far is that, while the camera body is a big step forward, the sensor offers resolution as its only obvious improvement. Noise and colour problems are worsened (red oversaturation improvements noted). And that's after > 2 years of development and a camera sold at twice the price I paid for the DP2s in 2010.

If you think I'd be better off with a different camera, please post links to suggested models. If you think I could process the X3F files better, please download a few from my gallery, reprocess them and upload alternatives - I'd love to learn about better ways to use the software. So please provide constructive criticism - thanks.

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Andrew Hodgkinson
OP Andrew Hodgkinson Regular Member • Posts: 109
Re: DP2M user review; 96 photos with full size JPEGs and raw files

You wrote:

Although, I'm a bit surprised that you thought the 30mm would be suitable for landscape?

45mm equiv; the DP2s is 41mm equiv and has been great for landscapes and street photography (see the New Zealand 2010 gallery on pond.org.uk for numerous examples). I didn't think a 4mm change would make such a difference. Trouble is, the DP1 series are too wide - but yeah, it's possible that the DP2m takes it a step too far and I should consider the DP1m instead, whenever it becomes available.

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PrebenR Veteran Member • Posts: 4,164
Re: DP2M user review; 96 photos with full size JPEGs and raw files

I had a look at one of the red flower shots you had done. It was easy to process it so that it didn't blow the red. You need to work a bit more on the processing IMHO. Also maybe check if DP2M is better at using Neutral and standard Colour mode. I don't know as I don't have the camera yet.

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PrebenR Veteran Member • Posts: 4,164
Re: DP2M user review; 96 photos with full size JPEGs and raw files

Andrew Hodgkinson wrote:

I'm more of a "photograph things for memory" than "photograph things for art" sort of person, so I prefer a more naturally processed end result.

I would not say DP2 or DP2M are suited for that. I mean they require processing from RAW files. But it isn't hard to do and learn. Just takes a bit time.

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mike earussi Veteran Member • Posts: 8,761
Re: DP2M user review; 96 photos with full size JPEGs and raw files
1

Very good review, and it's mirroring what I'm discovering about the SD1 that Rick loaned me. In comparison, the SD1's meter is pretty much useless at any setting (spot, averaging, center weighted, and matrix) as the camera is heavily biasied to, sometimes extreme, underexposure thereby creating the excessive sky/shadow noise and banding everyone's commenting on, and adding in-camera exposure compensation doesn't seem to help.

OTOH, when exposed correctly there's very little noise or banding visible even with a lot of + fill and contrast used in SPP. But I found that the only way of exposing it correctly was to use an incident meter set to iso 64 (as, again the camera's meter is completely untrustworthy). This produces the overall best compromise of low noise but with still fully recoverable highlights (I plan on posting a detailed review when I'm finished with Rick's camera). BTW, the sunny f16 rule also works pretty well in lieu of an incident meter, just use iso 64 instead of iso 100.

PrebenR Veteran Member • Posts: 4,164
Re: DP2M user review; 96 photos with full size JPEGs and raw files

Andrew Hodgkinson wrote:

You wrote:

Although, I'm a bit surprised that you thought the 30mm would be suitable for landscape?

45mm equiv; the DP2s is 41mm equiv and has been great for landscapes and street photography (see the New Zealand 2010 gallery on pond.org.uk for numerous examples). I didn't think a 4mm change would make such a difference. Trouble is, the DP1 series are too wide - but yeah, it's possible that the DP2m takes it a step too far and I should consider the DP1m instead, whenever it becomes available.

For landscapes 35mm and wider would be more suited. DP1M is for that while DP2M is close enough to be called a normal lens (50mm)
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SandyF Forum Pro • Posts: 14,941
Re: DP2M user review; 96 photos with full size JPEGs and raw files

PrebenR wrote:

Thanks for the summary! Although, I'm a bit surprised that you thought the 30mm would be suitable for landscape?

Personally, I've always liked the DP2 for landscapes... perhaps more than the DP1!

Now the DP2M with the 1.5x factor rather than 1.7x (of earlier cameras) is = to full-frame/35mm terms of 45mm. That's not too wide for me for landscapes. I took a bunch of them in the park this week with DP2M.

Many of the early 'classic' Foveon landscapes for me were taken by Dick Merrill with his SD9 + 50mm/2.8 lenses or SD10 + 50mm.... his favorite was 50mm.
http://www.pbase.com/sphomphanh

Where the DP1 is preferable to the DP2 for me has been tight scenes in narrow streets on European trips.

Best regards, Sandy
http://www.pbase.com/sandyfleischman (archival)
http://www.flickr.com/photos/sandyfleischmann (current DP2M photos)

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Tulaev Senior Member • Posts: 1,226
Here is the "non-existent" defect.

http://pond.org.uk/galleries/DP2M/slides/SDIM0943.html
--
Igor Tulaev
St.Petersburg, Russia

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HBowman
HBowman Senior Member • Posts: 1,237
Re: DP2M user review; 96 photos with full size JPEGs and raw files

Andrew Hodgkinson wrote:

Snip

I think my opinion is constructive criticism. I never said you was not a good photographer, don't feel offended

I said that this camera is not suited for this kind of shoots (garden). This camera is of course suited for landscape but, again, not street photography.

For street photography (which is for me dynamic photography in any king of light), which not require NASA satellite resolution but just an eye and composition, a Nikon 1 V1 or J1 is the best actual camera in 2012 for that.

This camera is suited for still life in street, if you want. An object, a flower yes, something who don't move and attract eye: Architecture.

You seem to think that ppl today can afford a computer to process easily those raw and the storage for thousand of huge photos ?

You are very wrong in this case. Many can't.

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Johan Borg Veteran Member • Posts: 3,001
Re: DP2M user review; 96 photos with full size JPEGs and raw files

PrebenR wrote:

Andrew Hodgkinson wrote:

You wrote:

Although, I'm a bit surprised that you thought the 30mm would be suitable for landscape?

45mm equiv; the DP2s is 41mm equiv and has been great for landscapes and street photography (see the New Zealand 2010 gallery on pond.org.uk for numerous examples). I didn't think a 4mm change would make such a difference. Trouble is, the DP1 series are too wide - but yeah, it's possible that the DP2m takes it a step too far and I should consider the DP1m instead, whenever it becomes available.

For landscapes 35mm and wider would be more suited.

Depends on your style and abilities. I gave up on the DP1s because, like Andrew, I found it too wide. Landscapes that are impressive in person end up flat and boring unless you manage to make good use of the foreground (grass fields isn't my passion). That, and the narrower view makes it easier to avoid clutter. For a lousy photographer like myself, that's worth something

DP1M is for that while DP2M is close enough to be called a normal lens (50mm)

DP2 and DP2M are equally close to a true normal lens of 43mm equivalent. One is slightly wide, the other slightly long.

SandyF Forum Pro • Posts: 14,941
Thanks for photos!

Thanks for posting the photos, I really appreciate seeing your initial selections!

FWIW I'm trying to do the same, get up some sample photos.
Best regards, Sandy
http://www.pbase.com/sandyfleischman (archival)
http://www.flickr.com/photos/sandyfleischmann (current DP2M photos)

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Johan Borg Veteran Member • Posts: 3,001
Re: DP2M user review; 96 photos with full size JPEGs and raw files

Thanks a lot for your review and posting those X3F files, much appreciated!

Andrew Hodgkinson wrote:

The ugly:
http://pond.org.uk/galleries/DP2M/slides/SDIM0798.html

(check the top left at 100% zoom - horrible sky noise, with banding, at ISO 100; banding makes it hard to eliminate even with SPP's customised algorithms; noise reduction that made the sky smooth interfered too much with detail in the tree, which is why this shot was left noisy).

At least with the new model we have the choice to reduce NR, we couldn't do that with the original DP2 in SPP. Again thanks for the RAW file so we can play with it and see how much it would affect our own shooting. I never use more than +0.3 fill light, so apparently I can keep the skies clean with one notch below default noise reduction.

PrebenR Veteran Member • Posts: 4,164
Re: DP2M user review; 96 photos with full size JPEGs and raw files

PrebenR wrote:

I had a look at one of the red flower shots you had done. It was easy to process it so that it didn't blow the red. You need to work a bit more on the processing IMHO. Also maybe check if DP2M is better at using Neutral and standard Colour mode. I don't know as I don't have the camera yet.

I did a quick stab at editing the RAW file of this image you had taken:

http://pond.org.uk/galleries/DP2M/slides/SDIM0879.html

I did the rough editing on an Asus Notebook with 10" screen and 2 Gb RAM with the SPP 5.3, so I did just test to see if blowing the red was a problem or not. Too painfully slow to edit on this tiny machine

It can be fixed easily and I think perhaps using Neutral Colour Mode in the camera is better than the Standard.

Anyhow, have a look.

Here is a version with more saturation:

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