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Field Shooting the Sigma DP1 Merrill

Sigma DP1 Merrill

Software that crashes 100% of the time while editing an image on my main machine, and 80% of the time on my laptop (and yes I have deleted my Sigma preference files). Sigma doesn’t even list a contact or support email on its special site for the Sigma software. Did I mention constant software crashes? Which is a problem, since Adobe does not yet support the DP1 Merrill, and it’s unclear whether it will be supported.

Now that we have that out of the way, the Sigma DP1 Merrill (28mm equivalent f/2.8 fixed lens) at about $999 offers by far the highest image quality in its price range in terms of image detail (but not necessarily other areas, to be detailed in my expanding review).


The Sigma DP1 Merrill makes a superb black and white camera at 1/10 the cost of a Leica M Monochrom + lens.

Though not at the same level as the Leica M Monochrom, it does have Live View (but no EVF and no built-in flash, but neither does the Leica MM). The DP1M design, once learned, is refreshingly useable (once understood) by the absence of dozens of superfluous stupidities stuffed into so many of today’s compact cameras. Not perfect and lacking in some ways, but the Sigma DP1 Merrill is closer to what I want in a small camera than most of the dreck out there.

Put off at first by the ungainly Sigma DP1 Merrill body, in the field I steadily grew to enjoy shooting the DP1M, while cursing its LCD in sunlight, though it is squintably usable. Autofocus does a pretty good job. And its saving of files must set a new speed record (glacially slow), due in part to the 50-60 MB file size (each).

Satisfying results from an inelegant camera body

With its “true color” Foveon sensor, the DP1 Merrill produces high-caliber images in a camera body that is so limited in so many ways. Which at first feels frustrating, but then one starts to shoot and figures out that the absence of features makes a better camera (excepting an EVF and built-in flash). And that the camera body is heavy and boxy, but this fades away as a factor, and does help stabilize the camera.

With a fixed 28mm (equiv) f/2.8 lens, I’d recommend the Sigma DP1 Merrill to anyone looking to improve their photography — because the fixed lens and simple controls force deliberate intent when making the image. Shoot one lens to learn.

To my considerable surprise, I began to prefer the Sigma DP1M to using the Sony NEX-7 or the Fuji X-Pro1 or even the Olympus E-M5, because the Sigma DP1 Merrill produces such amazingly detailed images from its excellent lens with so little fuss— set the aperture, perhaps adjust exposure compensation and you’ll get a sharp image way beyond what other compacts can deliver in the 14-20 megapixel range.

Those looking for more range could get both the DP1 Merrill (28mm) and DP2 Merrill (45mm). That’s adequate for many purposes.

I’ll be showing these and many other examples in high resolution in my review. Keep in mind that they were shot with a polarizer under very harsh high-altitude lighting.

Toggle the images from color to monochrome.

Much love for the US Forest Service
Sigma DP1 Merrill
Taking shelter at 12,000'
Sigma DP1 Merrill
Cloud Shadows in the White Mountains
Sigma DP1 Merrill
Aspen in the White Mountains
Sigma DP1 Merrill

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