Sigma DP3 Merrill Report
By Hulyss Bowman
The Merrill Unleashed
In August 2012, SIGMA Corporation released a wonderful line of compact cameras, a mix between view cameras, great sensor and great lenses. Like all things on this planet, nothing is perfect and Michael pointed out very precisely what is good and what is wrong with it in his previous review of the DP2 Merrill, and you should read it first before continuing here. Now Sigma has rounded out the product line though the addition of the atypical SIGMA DP3 Merrill with its 50mm f2.8 MACRO lens. You can find all technical’s information on Sigma's mini site. From what we can see, the DP line has found great press around the world, especially the DP2 Merrill. So, what does this new camera bring to the table?
The SIGMA Evolution
Charles Darwin would have liked SIGMA. There seems to be natural selection going on within the same species and this evolution is fast, very fast. Since the DP2 Merrill, the output out of the Merrill sensor has been enhanced, thus my calling it the "Merrill Unleashed". The DP3 Merrill's colors are more accurate (by far); the color modes do not work like older models leading to even more room to work your raw files and this, in addition to the new SIGMA PHOTO PRO capabilities.
The physical changes
– The ergonomics of the body is the same as the others DP Merrill but it seems that the plastic for the knobs and the wheel has changed. These plastics have more grip than the one on my DP2m.
– I’m pretty sure the focus ring and the major part of the lens is in Aluminum (it is as cold as my Zeiss lenses). The coupling is good and the camera fits well in the hands.
– The lens cap is thicker (1mm) and better than the DP2 Merrill. This is a very great lens cap and I Think Zeiss should have a look at it (you know what I am saying).
– The lens hood is big BUT he is reversible on the lens!! This is good news and now the lens cap can be anchored on the filter. Less manipulations and a space gain in the bag. The lens hood LH3-01 will be available around the 15 of March in Europe so I guess it will be the same for US users.
The internal changes
– The menus are the same as the DP2/DP1 Merrill with some new additions such as Macro AF mode and Custom AF mode, plus a new face recognition system mode (a gadget, but it works well).
– I do not think that Sigma modified the inside electronics. At least I hope because it can be good news for DP1m and DP2m users to have the same color accuracy on their DP after a firmware update. We'll have to wait and see.
– SPP is now downloadable only. Goodbye software CD in the boxes. Some may like, others no. This is life. SPP now has a full Monochrome mode and panel which may be reviewed later.
Let’s shoot now and kill some legends
My workflow is exactly the same as Michael's. From SPP I export in TIFF 16 bit ProPhoto RGB and I work under the same color space on Lightroom and CS6. I always did that and it works great; never had a problem over many years. I wanted to illustrate the new color mode and especially the new neutral, standard and vivid modes. With the SD1m and the DP2m, shooting in neutral mode was kind of mandatory. Using vivid mode was like using acid, and standard was a little bit too saturated to my taste. I never use the other modes.
Now, standard mode is just great, AWB is accurate, AF is as fast as the DP2m and I set my custom AF from 2 meters to infinity for fast action. For landscape, using vivid mode render gorgeous colors especially the greens.
I heard it mentioned that the DP3m lens is not as good as the one on DP2m lens: This is simply wrong. No more words, a picture worth thousands of words (and I will not go into a discussion of bokeh as this is too subjective and personal).
Red has long been a handicap for Foveon imagers. This was true years ago with first generation of DP and the SD line under the SD15. Since the SD15 (if the camera is set correctly) the reds are very good as well as skin tones that do not need adjustment anymore in PP.
In the Studio
If you plan on using the camera in the studio, buy the SAC-5 adapter because you will have a hard time with poor battery life (same as the DP2m). I bought it, and it is a well-made adapter. I don’t like using remote control for flash so I use cable, triggered by a socket in the hot shoe. This is a tiny camera but she looks good when wired on the tripod. Models aren’t scared by it and are more prone to smile.
Beauty and the Beast
The 50mm f2.8 Macro is a damn sharp lens equipped with a leaf shutter. This is good for photographers who shoot products, food, fabrics, beauty, and … well… a lot of things, even speed shoots. Here is some examples to illustrate the possibilities (not artistic at all, this was all improvised in one afternoon). Thanks to my new young Italian student model: Liz. The MUA was not here, as well as my wife, so we did the makeup and clothes ourselves. Pardon us for the mess.
There is a lot more to say about this camera but I think you get where I'm coming from. As with the DP2 Merrill, the DP3 Merrill is a little gem, with improved firmware. For some, 75mm equivalent may be a little long to be really steady, so I recommend either a very light tripod or a light monopod. I recommend using a filter too; the lens is worth it and all the above photos are done with a UV Heliopan SH-PMC. For anyone who might use it with a view finder, there is for now only one alternative: the Voigtländer 75mm.
Richard Billings Merrill would have loved this device; this is a true tribute to him and his genius mind. So, Richard, thank you for this technology, and thank you SIGMA to keeping it alive.