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Thoughts on the Merrill generation

Discussion in 'Sigma DP Forum' started by Prototype, Aug 22, 2012.

  1. Prototype

    Prototype SC Veteran

    207
    Jul 9, 2010
    Illinois
    Brian
    Comments on the changes from the original DP1 to the DP2 Merrill. Some long. Some short.

    Size, weight, appearance

    I was initially disappointed on the size increase from the original DP series to the new generation. My DP1 was pocketable, but it was enough to trigger "...or are you just happy to see me?" comments on several occasions. The size of the DP Merrill would not only trigger similar comments, its weight would be enough to pull my pants down for them to find out the answer to their question.

    There are benefits to the larger size, however. The Merrill is much more comfortable to hold. Mainly due to the larger size, but also partly to the shift in the lens location - from near center to near the edge - allowing more space for my right hand to grip the camera.

    I'm undecided as to whether the size increase is a net positive or not. Part of the allure of the original DP1 was the large image sensor inside a "point-and-shoot" body. The feat of placing an even larger image sensor in the DP Merrill body seems less impressive, but that may be due to how we have grown accustom to NEX, Micro Four-Thirds, and other compact mirrorless manufacturers who have achieved a similar feat.

    From PASM dial to 'Mode' button

    For my use, this is a welcome change. My DP1, for the most part, remained in aperture priority mode. The PASM dial was merely decoration after one twist to 'A' mode.

    The screen

    Finally.

    No built-in flash

    Apple chose not to include Flash citing battery concerns. Sigma chose not to include a flash for probably the same reason.

    Battery

    Double the processors. More dots on the LCD. Sigma's response: shrink the battery slightly. On a positive note, reports from early adopters claim that it is the same as the Ricoh GRDIII battery, so spares are not hard to find. Sigma also provides two in the box.

    From focus wheel to focus ring

    The removal of the focus wheel caused some controversy among street shooters who used zone-focusing, but it seems that the ring on the lens barrel is better suited for their new focusing mode. Once the much-improved auto-focus has locked into its target, turning the manual focus ring on the lens barrel magnifies the image to perfect the focus. The screen immediately returns to normal viewing to compose the shot. This would be possible with a focus wheel, but I would likely overshoot my focusing target since I'm half-pressing and focusing with the same hand on a touchy focus wheel.

    Filter thread from 46mm to 49mm

    I was really excited for my DP Merrill to arrive. I'm almost as excited for my step-down ring to arrive.

    Non-retracting lens

    Again, finally.

    Sample images + RAW file

    Here are four full-size images from the DP2 Merrill. Boring subjects, perhaps, but the purpose is to showcase the lens and the sensor. A tripod was used for all three, RAW, set to ISO100, sharpness at -1, and Landscape color mode.

    https://dl.dropbox.com/s/ahc6m8rrva3bsd2/SDIM0009.jpg

    https://dl.dropbox.com/s/yky7jjf88qc1gwt/SDIM0007.jpg

    https://dl.dropbox.com/s/chje395uk5utzov/SDIM0012.jpg

    https://dl.dropbox.com/s/tzhhop45ggyafg9/SDIM0006.jpg

    Here is a RAW file to play with (download Sigma Photo Pro 5.3.1). Please only download if you have the proper software and hardware to develop the RAW file. It's very large and requires a decent amount of processing power. Also, I don't know what the bandwidth limits are for Dropbox public files.

    https://dl.dropbox.com/s/f7xdvm4zu5edwlq/SDIM0006.X3F?dl=1
     
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  2. pdh

    pdh SC Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    At last someone who's actually picked one up and used it!

    Many thanks for posting this

    So .... interesting stuff ... triggers some additional questions about that manual focusing - is it mechanical or fly-by-wire? And if the latter, how sensitive/oversensitive/flabby/whatever is it? Is it possible to switch the auto-magnify function off when using the focus ring?
     
  3. chelimbonod

    chelimbonod SC Rookie

    14
    Jul 22, 2012
    I MUST have this camera!
     
  4. Prototype

    Prototype SC Veteran

    207
    Jul 9, 2010
    Illinois
    Brian
    I don't know enough about cameras to tell whether it's mechanical or fly-by-wire, but my guess is that it's the latter. It's not oversensitive or sticky (I've read about the issues on the NEX version Sigma 30mm - a lens similar to the one on the DP2 Merrill). In my experience, it seems to be just right. Then again, this is my first experience focusing via lens barrel ring. Finally, it is possible to turn auto-magnify off, but only in Manual Focus mode. The mode I was describing was the AF+MF mode and it will auto-magnify as soon as you twist the barrel ring.
     
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  5. Andrewteee

    Andrewteee SC All-Pro

    Jul 8, 2010
    I have it too but I've only had time to take a few shots which I have not downloaded yet. I was surprised at the new size and heft but I have to say that I like it. I agree that the manual focus is improved.

    Good thing on the compatibility with Ricoh batteries as I have a ton of those.
     
  6. Chris2500dk

    Chris2500dk SC Top Veteran

    598
    Dec 22, 2011
    Copenhagen, Denmark
    Impressive samples. I'm still on the fence about it, it looks great but I've just printed about as large as I'm going to (about 20"x30") from my DP1 and I'm not really missing resolution on the prints, so getting the DP2M seems more like a techie/nerdy upgrade than one I need for photography.

    I would have preferred the DP2S with it's file size and image quality with a big fat buffer, a good screen on the back and an optical viewfinder like the one on the Fuji X100.
    But I guess we all have our dreams.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  7. Tilman Paulin

    Tilman Paulin SC Top Veteran

    677
    Nov 15, 2011
    Dublin, Ireland
    Thanks for this balanced review!

    Hope I'll have time to download and play with some raw files soon.
    Thanks for uploading these too, btw :)
     
  8. wt21

    wt21 SC Hall of Famer

    Aug 15, 2010
    With the new crop factor, this is approach a 50mm lens, which is my preferred FL. I never tried the DPs, as the AF would have bothered me too much. Do you think it's improved enough to be on par, or at least not annoying, compared to what many of us have become accustomed to? I have my Sony RX100 for low light and pocket zoom, but it's not a great full light shooter, and the DOF is very deep. This might be a bit more to my liking, though I'd prefer the lens just a bit faster still.

    Thanks for the write-up.
     
  9. chelimbonod

    chelimbonod SC Rookie

    14
    Jul 22, 2012
    Although I'm big on the techie/nerdy aspect, one thing I like is the ability to crop. I'm not sure this camera is good for catching unexpected shots, but that's one way I hope to abuse it. In that case, ample cropping resolution will make it all the more fun to get the shots, and sort through it later.

    Plus, the high resolution and high quality lens means this camera rivals others that cost 4 times as much. That makes me feel very good about its price.
     
  10. Chris2500dk

    Chris2500dk SC Top Veteran

    598
    Dec 22, 2011
    Copenhagen, Denmark
    Yes it would be interesting to see if a 2640x1760 crop from a DP2M image can deliver the same quality as a DP2/DP2S/DP2X image. But then I think the DP1M would be more interesting, because of the wider angle lens.
     
  11. Prototype

    Prototype SC Veteran

    207
    Jul 9, 2010
    Illinois
    Brian
    I know there are several potential buyers worried about high-ISO (or any ISO actually) banding. Here is a full-size JPEG converted from RAW to demonstrate the noise and banding at ISO3200. It can't touch the X-Pro1, or even small-sensor compacts for that matter, but I'll be using that value so infrequently that it didn't prevent me from buying.

    Full-size: https://dl.dropbox.com/s/g3ydcdnj6nqhtk1/SDIM0018.jpg

    F2.8, 1/25s, ISO1600 (pushed one-stop in SPP = ISO3200)

    Here are the adjustments in SPP:

    Exposure: +1
    Contrast: +0.2
    Shadow: +0.2
    Highlight: 0
    Saturation: 0
    Sharpness: -2
    Fill Light: 0

    White balance: Monochrome
    Noise reduction: (At the lowest value for both Chroma and Luminance)

    I would show you the color version but I believe Sigma high-ISO color images are banned in most countries.
     
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  12. Prototype

    Prototype SC Veteran

    207
    Jul 9, 2010
    Illinois
    Brian
    I've had enough time with the DP2 Merrill that I can respond to some of the comments:

    In good light, the AF is quick to grab focus. I can't confirm its accuracy, however, since I always tweak the focus using AF+MF just to be sure. I've used the older DP cameras for too long to have full confidence in the AF. In poorer light (indoors even in the daytime), the AF hunts but seems to grab the focus quickly enough for my use. In poor light, it's definitely still a DP camera - manual focus only.

    The 7-shot buffer is nice on the DP2 Merrill and, unlike the previous DPs, settings can be changed while the images are processing. There is less chance to miss a shot with the new generation.

    No problem. I've seen your work with the DP1s and DP2. If you ever upgrade, I can't wait to see what you can do with the Merrills.

    It can certainly be upsized and cropped. Resolution is not an issue. Exposure is critical, however. Expose for the shadows and the highlights can often be recovered. Get it wrong and the noise, banding, color splotches, and the other Plagues of Photography appear even with the most gentle of post processing.

    I haven't performed any formal tests, but I'm confident in the detail and resolution of the Merrills. I'll update this thread soon with more samples of its incredible resolution.
     
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  13. Prototype

    Prototype SC Veteran

    207
    Jul 9, 2010
    Illinois
    Brian
    As promised, a demonstration of the DP Merrill's amazing resolution. Here is a photo taken last Saturday in St. Louis. It was handheld at 1/50s, without image stabilization, so there is some camera shake to consider. The image was upsized to 200% using Sigma Photo Pro, which has been proven to be a terrible way to upsize compared to other algorithms, so this demonstration could be even more impressive.

    boxsmall.

    My eyes wouldn't have been able to see a cigarette butt against the building wall under the button to open the door. But nothing escapes the eyes of the DP2 Merrill:

    200crop.
    Upsizing the DP Merrill's 15.4 megapixel image 2X yields a reasonably sharp and detailed 60 megapixels - this is a crop from a 60MP image

    What are the implications on your photography? If you're a landscape photographer who wants the ultimate detail in an airport-friendly package; or you want to be able to upsize and crop while retaining decent image quality, then the DP Merrill is worth looking at. A thousand dollars is a lot of money and not everyone is craving for the resolution, but this demonstration shows that you get a lot for the price. Now, this is quite a stretch, but I like to entertain the possibility that under the right conditions:

    • Tripod, no wind and no dinosaurs stomping within a certain radius
    • Polarizing filter to remove the glare from the glass
    • Lens aperture stopped down to its sharpest
    • Focused at the correct distance
    • A more efficient upsizing and sharpening algorithm...


    We just might be able to decide what we want from Sbarro's by reading their menu from the outside!

    SDIM0072sbarromenu.

    Nah...
     
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  14. Xuereb

    Xuereb SC Veteran

    380
    Nov 5, 2010
    W. Australia
    The samples are impressive: colour rendition, and detail give me much that I search for. I shoot at the lowest possible iso, where possible on a tripod. The camera's seeming disadvantages won't seriously trouble the way I work; except for software and I will need to investigate and ponder this.

    I am thinking seriously of taking the plunge. The weight of the DP2M is lighter than either my GF1 or Nex5N. I will keep the GF1 as my smaller sensor camera but the Sony might have to be sold.
     
  15. Prototype

    Prototype SC Veteran

    207
    Jul 9, 2010
    Illinois
    Brian
    It's not the best looking or feature-packed software, even lacking crop and rotate functions. But I've grown to like its simplicity. I made sure to download the latest Sigma Photo Pro and played with Merrill RAW files made available in several forums just to make sure my computer could process the large files in a reasonable amount of time. I have a computer from late 2009 (albeit a mid to high-end one) and it can handle the files just fine.
     
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