Conclusion - Pros

  • Class leading detail in ISO 100 images, higher ISO performance better than most compact cameras
  • Resolution is as good as it gets in compact cameras, very impressive for output size
  • Good dynamic range (though limited usable headroom in raw files)
  • Very small dimensions for the sensor size
  • Good lens with only minimal distortion and very few signs of color fringing
  • Attractive minimalist styling
  • Good build quality
  • Usable Manual Focus mode (it's not fantastic though)
  • Comprehensive range of accessories available (but no conversion lenses)
  • Powerful RAW converter software included (Sigma Photo Pro)
  • Battery compartment can be opened when camera on tripod (depends on tripod head though)

Conclusion - Cons

  • Desaturated and 'flat' JPEG output
  • Some chroma noise even at base ISO, lots of it at higher sensitivities
  • Unreliable White Balance (and poor color in low light)
  • Generally very slow, very long read/write and processing times
  • Unimpressive shutter lag
  • Continuous mode only allows three shots per burst
  • Very slow Auto-Focus
  • Auto Focus gives up completely very quickly in low light (and there is no AF help light)
  • 28mm fix focal length limits applications (but you know that before you buy)
  • Lens prone to flare (using the optional lens hood helps)
  • Red channel clipping
  • Low resolution screen that is also prone to reflections and smearing
  • Preview and playback view are both inaccurate (but in different ways)
  • Low refresh rate results in slightly jerky live preview image
  • Preview image turns monochrome in low light
  • Longwinded menu structure, few external controls (plus almost redundant zoom buttons)
  • Black writing on black buttons hardly readable
  • Battery life not impressive, indicator not very precise
  • Underpowered Flash, slightly unreliable flash exposure and slow flash recycling
  • No live histogramm
  • No highlight warning in review mode
  • Image parameters cover only small spectrum
  • Low quality video recording
  • Gridlines cannot be diplayed in Manual Focus mode
  • Quite heavy vignetting at F4
  • You can't shoot RAW and JPEG (only one or the other)
  • No macro mode
  • Highest sensitivity only ISO 800

Overall conclusion

I'd like to start this conclusion by saying that Sigma deserves an incredible amount of credit for doing what none of the 'big' manufacturers so far have been bold enough to do. In an industry that focuses its marketing efforts almost exclusively on megapixel numbers and features of rather questionable usefulness (and has very little interest in educating the consumer about the implications of sensor sizes and pixel pitch) Sigma has taken a huge economic and technical risk and 'transplanted' the image sensor from its SD14 DSLR into a compact body with a no-nonense, back-to-basics feature set.

The rather long time it has taken from the first development announcements until the first DP1s hit the retailers' shelves is an indication for the technical difficulties that had to be overcome during the development of this unique camera. But was it all worth it?

As usual, there is no easy answer. The DP1's forte is no doubt the image quality at low sensitivities. The camera offers a resolution and an amount of detail that is unheard of in the compact camera sector and can keep up with quite a few DSLRs. To make the most of it you have to shoot in RAW though. The DP1's JPEG output is very desaturated and flat and needs a 'boost' in post processing.

Unfortunately this already takes us to the 'Cons' list of this review which is, as you probably have noticed, rather long. Too long in fact to go into too much detail, I'll concentrate on the shortcomings that I feel are most limiting. While the DP1 can produce some brilliant results in daylight it is almost completely useless in any low light situations. At higher sensitivities you'll find large amounts of chroma noise in your images and you start losing detail. Turning on the flash won't help you much either, it is very low power and takes ages to recycle. Chances are you would not be able to focus anyway. The AF gives up completely once you dim the lights and there is no AF help light on the DP1.

Speed is the second (hugely) negative factor. The DP1 is generally very (and I mean veeery) slow but the AF, shutter lag and read/write times are especially frustrating. Always think twice before you press the shutter, it'll be a while before you'll be able to take the next shot. The DP1 definitely wasn't made for spontaneous snapping or anything that requires speed of operation.

Who is it for then? The wide angle lens obviously somehow limits the potential applications of the DP1 and so do the shortcomings I have mentioned above. As you might imagine the DP1 is not great for your typical portrait shoot and it's not ideal for wildlife or sports photography either but it does a very good job in landcape and (due to its low distortion) architecture photography. However, If a reasonable proportion of your photography requires decent low light peformance or an acceptable speed of operation, then walk away now and keep using your DSLR for the foreseeable future.

In conclusion the DP1 is a great concept that needs a considerable amount of additional work to get rid of at least some of the flaws that we have listed in this review. One can only encourage the Sigma engineers to go back to the drawing board and continue the promising work they have done so far. Let's also hope that a few of the 'big boys' can see the potential of the DP1 and present their interpretation of the concept in the not too distant future. The prospect of a DP1-like camera with reasonable speed, DSLR-like High ISO performance and a zoom or interchangeable lenses would be mmore than tantalizing.

As it stands though the DP1 has not been developed to its full potential yet and can only really be recommended for landscape photography (and similar applications) in reasonable light and to photographers who can live with a frustratingly slow speed of operation and the other shortcomings we have talked about above. In the vast majority of situations you'd be better off with a good 'conventional' compact camera and even if you think the DP1 would serve your specific purposes well you'll have to decide if you're willing to shell out the premium that Sigma is asking for.

Great for: Landscape photography in daylight
Not good for: Low light, indoors (social snaps), movies, anything that requires speed

Rating (out of 10)
Build quality 8.0
Ergonomics & handling 7.0
Features 7.0
Image quality 9.0
Optics 8.0
Performance (speed) 6.5
Value 7.0

Above Average

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