I’ve had my Sigma Merrill DP1 for a little while now. Do I like it? Well the best indication is that I just bought a DP3m to complement it.
My main motivation was the fact that I need a mild telephoto for landscapes and city shots but the DP3m is also a nice portrait and semi-macro camera.
The leaf above was shot as a jpg. I’m so used to shooting RAW that I tend to assume that any new camera will be set up this way to begin with and generally end up shooting a bunch of jpgs before I realise.
Having both the 28mm equivalent focal length of the DP1m and the 75mm equivalent of the DP3m will cover a lot of situations and will allow me to get that special Foveon image quality over a much wider range of shots. The DP3m is identical to the DP1m apart from the longer lens, which is also slightly larger physically. The two cameras still make for a pretty portable rig as I can fit both of them into a small bag.
Of course, the DP3m puts out files that are equally as astonishing as those of the DP1m. I have come to really appreciate the Foveon sensor.
One other nice thing I’ve realised about the Merrills is that they use a leaf shutter. This means that very high flash sync speeds are possible. I tested this on the DP3m and was able to get a sync speed of 1/1000 sec and, dependent on the aperture, it should go even higher.
What don’t I like about the Merrills? The things that annoy me about these cameras aren’t the issues most often raised. I can live with the awful battery life… they’re small, cheap, charge quickly and changing them is no worse than swapping rolls of film. The long write times don’t bother me at all… after all the camera doesn’t lock up. The Sigma Photo Pro software, though pretty dreadful, is usable and only minimal processing is required before moving over to Lightroom. Other issues like the slow start up time are irrelevant to me and I actually find the menus and control layout pretty well done. There are only two real issues for me: the lack of a tilting LCD screen, which is a total pain if the camera is on a tripod low to the ground, and the lack of an electronic viewfinder (or option to add one). I use an external optical viewfinder on the DP1m, a Voigtlander 28mm Brightline, but it’s not that accurate for framing and obviously it shows no shooting information. Using an optical viewfinder on the DP3m however is unlikely to be very useful as the 75mm equivalent focal length will lead to much greater inaccuracy. I have therefore, on both cameras, resorted to sometimes using a rather hideous but very effective solution, using a loupe and some shock cord, suggested by Brent Simison. You can see this in use on my DP1m below. As I say It’s pretty ugly, but it works really well and in bright light it’s essential.
The tripod, by the way, is the MeFoto Road Trip. It’s lightweight, folds down to just 39cm in length, has a reasonably decent ball-head, and is pretty sturdy.
I really do find it astonishing that Sigma have not addressed the viewfinder and LCD issues on the upcoming DP Quattro. It’s almost like Sigma want the Foveon to fail. Photographers from around the world, some high profile, have tried to get Sigma to understand that putting this wonderful sensor into these slightly crap cameras is crazy… but Sigma don’t seem to be listening.
I guess if I was trying to find more faults with the Merrills I would have to also bring up the lack of a true long exposure capability. They’ll go to 30 seconds but that’s not going to take you into Joel Tjintjelaar territory. I’m not sure how much this bothers me right now – in fact I sometimes think I never want to see one of those exposed-for-five-minutes totally flat milky seas and off-white cloud-smudged skies ever again.
So this is hopefully where it stops for me (yeah, right!): everyday and street shooting with the Panasonic GX7 and landscape, fine art and meditative shooting with the two Sigma Merrills.