Compared to...

We usually select the nearest competition by category, specification, price and feature set for our image quality studio tests. In the case of the Sigma DP1 this is a rather difficult task, the camera simply is a category of its own. After some thinking we decided to compare the DP1 to the Nikon D60 as compact SLR and the Ricoh GR-D II which is a compact camera that has a very similar feature set to the Sigma but uses a much smaller sensor. For the Nikon D60 we created two comparison pages - one with the original resolution image and one in which the D60 image was downsampled to match the DP1's output size - to compare the Nikon's Bayer-Sensor and the Sigma's Foveon images at the same output size.

Due to the specific characteristics of the Foveon X3 sensor we have also included a color resolution comparison in this review in which we compare the DP1 to the Nikon D60 and D40 and the Leica M8. Another additional page shows a RAW output comparison between the 12MP Canon EOS 450D and the DP1 image processed in Sigma Photo Pro with the 'Large' option which upscales the image for optimized large format printing.

Camera Price Sensor
(effective pixels)
Sigma DP1 $800 14.06 MP Foveon (4.69 million x 3); 20.7 x 13.8 mm
Nikon D60 $700 incl. 18-55mm lens 10.2 MP CCD; 23.6 x 15.8 mm
Ricoh GR-D II $600 10 MP CCD; 1/1.75"
Leica M8 $5400 10.3 MP CCD; 27 x 18 mm; no low pass filter
Nikon D40 $480 incl. 18-55mm lens 6.1 MP CCD; 23.7 x 15.6 mm
Canon EOS450D $899 incl. 18-55mm lens 12.2 MP CMOS, 22.2 x 14.8 mm

Lenses used

For direct comparisons we always use sharp prime lenses stopped down, typically to F9 for 35 mm lenses. Here we have used the Nikkor 50 mm F1.8 (it's sharper than the F1.4 at F9) on the D60 and D40, the Canon EF 50 mm F1.4 on the EOS 450D and the Summicron-M 50 mm F2.0 on the Leica M8.

Studio scene comparison (JPEG)

This is our standard studio scene comparison shot framed to match (as closely as possible) vertical framing. Lighting: daylight simulation, >98% CRI. Crops are 100%. Ambient temperature was approximately 22°C (~72°F).

Sigma DP1 vs. Nikon D60

Camera settings:

  • Sigma DP1: Aperture Priority, ISO 100, JPEG Large/Fine, Manual WB
    Default Parameters, Self-Timer
  • Nikon D60: Nikkor 50 mm F1.8 lens, Aperture Priority, ISO 100
    JPEG Large/Fine, Manual WB, Default Parameters, Self-Timer
Sigma DP1
Nikon D60
2,398 KB JPEG (2640 x 1760)
3,633 KB JPEG (3872 x 2592)

Sigma is marketing the DP1 as compact camera with DSLR image quality, so it is cameras like the D60 it will be benchmarked against. The amount of detail found in the DP1 images is frankly quite remarkable. The D60 cannot quite match the DP1's pixel detail but obviously produces output at a much higher resolution. So at an identical viewing size the difference should be much smaller (see the following page).

It is clearly visible that the DP1's JPEG output - as mentioned earlier in this review - is very muted and desaturated. The Nikon D60's colors are more natural without being oversaturated, giving the images a much punchier appearance.