Get Sigma dp Quattro at B&H Photo (21mm, 28mm, 45mm, 75mm full frame equivalents). Cameras with LVF-01 viewfinder strongly recommended.
Three years ago I wrote Pixel for Pixel, *Nothing* Beats a Sigma DP Merrill. That remains true, except for the special Pentax K1 SuperRes pixel shift mode, which has severe practical limitations.
The Sigma DP Merrill cameras appear to finally be out of production. I still have all three of them, and in my view they offer a classic look which I feel have the same kind of appeal that certain photographic films offered versus other films.
The newer Sigma dp Quattro cameras use a new sensor over the Merrills, with some improved characteristics. On my recent trip I did a lot of shooting with the Sigma dp0 Quattro and the Sigma dp1 Quattro—I find myself very glad to leave behind the Nikon D810—the light and easy-shooting Quattros just felt a lot more satisfying than the Big Black Brick (at 10,000+ feet elevation and many miles of slogging, there is a lot to be said for smaller cameras).
But size and weight aside, the Sigma dp Quattro cameras deliver a level of detail that few if any conventional cameras of up to 24 megapixels can even approach. Bluntly put: there is more detail out of the dp Quattros than anything I could get out of the Leica SL, which costs 13X as much with its underperforming 24-90mm zoom.
Sigma dp Quattro JPEGs are essentially of lossless quality—superbly stunningly sharp, superior to JPEGs from any other camera I’ve ever seen. While I shoot RAW+JPEG, I have absolutely no concerns about the JPEG detail (exposure and white balance are still big pluses of raw format). So while processing Sigma RAW is a headache, the JPEGs are so good that if attention is paid to exposure and white balance, superb results as JPEG are available right out of the camera. That the JPEGs are so good seems to be a combination of two things: (1) the inherently high sharpness and acutance of the Sigma sensor, and (2) compressed oriented towards max quality.
Image below is a 3-frame focus stack using the in-camera JPEGs. Lighting here was extreme high-mountain dusk blue, partly but not fully corrected. It was not an easy scene to record.
Adrian G writes:
Thanks for making such a positive comment about the Sigma DP Quattro
I own the Sigma dp0 Quattro as well as the Merrills 2&3. And SD1M.
Are you saying that I don't have to shoot raws anymore with the Quattros , especially also in light of the fact that SPP is a pain to use?!
Can I expect to be able to make stunning prints up to even 36x24 inches from jpegs?
Can you give me some hints about focus stacking techniques or have you written about this already? This is a technique I love to master as well. What blending software you use for that?
Thanks for your website. I highly value and respect your insights posted there.
DIGLLOYD: in terms of sharpness, this is correct: Sigma (and to my knowledge only Sigma) JPEGs deliver something every bit as good as RAW (I tried to find a difference and did not!). As far as I can tell, Sigma JPEGs are close to lossless (JPEG specification has a lossless-compressed variant), like a TIF. But truly lossless or not , the sharpness gives up nothing in JPEG.
HOWEVER, there are good reasons to shoot RAW+JPEG; it can be difficult to get all the parameters nailed in the field: white balance and tint, exposure including shadow detail and highlight control and fill light, and correction for lateral CA—Sigma seems to be the only vendor whose cameras do not correct lateral CA when shooting JPEG. The lens on the Sigma dp1 Quattro and Sigma dp1 Merrill have significant lateral CA, and like all lenses, they are not always perfectly symmetrical, so lateral CA can show up unevenly. Bottom line: one can always throw away the X3I files when shooting RAW+JPEG. Just get a high capacity SDXC card and forget about the issue—then you have a raw X3I file when desired.
With no compression, a 5424 X 3616 = 19.6 megapixel image would be 19.6 MB (a little bigger with metadata and such). A 14.7MB JPEG is only 25% smaller than the uncompressed sizes. Having 3 patents to my name in lossless compression including optimizations for image files, I can state from experience that savings of only 25% is at the low end for lossless compression. Hence while Sigma JPEG files might not be using true lossless compression, whatever JPEG mode is used is aggressively oriented towards high quality.
Gary M writes:
Will you try out a Sigma Quattro-H when this camera ships?
DIGLLOYD: Yes I’ll be testing the Sigma sd Quattro-H with its APS-H sensor. I plan on using the Sigma Art lenses of course. What a pity that these cameras use Sigma SA mount, and not Nikon or Canon mount: then Nikon and Canon users could buy Sigma Art lenses for Nikon or Canon, and just add the Sigma Quattro-H body.
But in my view, the fixed lenses of the dp Quattro line are the very best solution not likely to be matched by interchangeable lenses (not to mention the huge differences in size and weight and cost). So I am hoping that the larger APS-H sensor of the Sigma sd Quattro-H will bring a changeover to the Sigma dp Quattro line to a dp Quattro-H lineup, one sporting even better fixed lenses. See The Future of Image Quality is Fixed-Lens Cameras.
Henning K writes:
Now with the great results from Sigma JPG meaning that hassle with Raw could be dropped for all but the very very best files.(assuming white balance etc. done at the scene)
Would be great if you could actually test. For instance when the bigger sensor Sigma arrives?
Will AF and stabilizing etc work on Sony A7R II and to how tight are the tolerances of the MC-11 as built? No skew of focus plane at infinity. [diglloyd: that’s a huge leap of faith]. It of course will not be perfect but would say Art 50mm and 85mm1.4 Be worse than the native Sony lenses which maybe has problems compared with Batis and Loxia????? etc
DIGLLOYD: put me down as not a fan of lens adapters: putting large and heavy DSLR lenses on a torque-arm (the Sigma MC-11) makes for a large and heavy and awkward solution. The Sigma sd Quattro and Quattro-H cameras bypass this partly by making the mount native SA (so no lens adapter needed), but on Sony... uggg. I tried the Sigma MC-11 on the Sony A7R II with the Canon 11-24mm f/4L and this was an ungainly proposition. I’d much rather shoot a DSLR rather than deal with lens adapters, which always have the potential for reliability issues and another planar mating surface (it’s hard enough to get symmetry out of lens as it is!). There is also potential mismatch on sensor cover glass thickness (even minor differences can interact badly with high performance lenses). And what happens to all this in sub-freezing weather?
Yes I’ll be testing the Sigma sd Quattro-H with its APS-H sensor. Note that raw files are still a big plus in some cases: white balance and tint, exposure, contrast and fill light, and correction for lateral CA—Sigma cameras do not correct LACA and the Sigma 30mm f/1.4DC HSM Art has godawful LACA (as one example). The Sigma dp1 Quattro has significant CA which is visible in its JPEGs, and this cannot be corrected in the camera, a troublesome failing if one is going to be shooting JPEG.