The really serious problem with the Sigma DP2 Merrill

There is a really serious problem with the Sigma DP2 Merrill. That problem is how it makes files shot on all my other cameras look. I've only had it four days or so but everything else I've shot on all my other cameras suddenly looks soft. The DP2M produces ridiculously sharp images, with of course no added sharpening whatsoever. 
There is a section in the Michael Reichmann review of the DP1M at Luminous Landscape that I liked.
"Make no mistake. As I've written, like its sister the DP2M this is not a camera for dilettantes. But, if you are willing to forgive (or at least accept) its foibles (crap battery life, slow file writes, annoying raw software) you will be rewarded with some of the most amazing image quality short of medium format or sheet film.

This has been brought home to me as I've worked with both cameras for a number of weeks. For the first time in a long time, I find myself shooting subjects simply for the pleasure of seeing what they will look like in prints. This is the type of photographic satisfaction one gets from 4X5" film on large prints, or a medium format back with a high resolution sensor. The only real difference is that in this case instead of requiring film, darkroom time or lab costs, or the high entry cost of MF digital, a sub $1,000 camera + lens combination can deliver a similar result in appropriate circumstances. The only real technical limitation is that the DP1M and DP2M are limited in print size to what one would get from a 24-28MP camera; let's call it about an 20X30" print. At any print size smaller, assuming the use of ISO 100 or 200 and high enough shutter speed or a tripod, I would challenge a gallery print comparison with just about any other camera lens combination, and yes, I'm including a Nikon D800e with top glass or a Leica M9."

"I find myself shooting subjects simply for the pleasure of seeing what they will look like in prints." Substitute on my computer screen in place of in prints, and after just a few days I'm doing the same. 

A couple of days ago I was out shooting with the camera and due to the way I was carrying it, I unknowingly managed to alter the mode dial and switch to a custom setting which shot only jpgs. and no raw files. Now I wasn't really intending to bother with the jpgs. but I got a whole pile of of them with no raws nonetheless.

Now the jpgs. are actually really good from the DP2M. In terms of sharpness probably the best I've seen. At ISO 100 they look better than the X-Pro 1 to me. Obviously at all other settings the XP1 wins hands down, but at ISO 100 they are incredibly good, (though some do have an "odd" white balance, with yellow and cyan somewhat over emphasised). The problem is that they don't look like the raw files can look, and though these out of camera jpgs. are perfectly fine for me to upload to stock libraries, I was still very disappointed that I didn't have the raws to work with, and of course look at. 

To a large extent the DP2M is "spoiling me" with regard to other cameras. Something I had with the Leica M9 I owned. After seeing those files I wanted everything else to look like that. Now I want everything to look like these DP2M files. And of course they won't. They can't. Consequently, everything else I shoot with in the future with other cameras is more or less going to be a disappointment. 

As yet I'm not sure what this means. I am sure that I'm certainly looking looking forward to some crisp, sunlit autumn days to see just what this camera can produce and I'm already doing all sorts of things to make the camera as user friendly as I can. I've already written about my elaborate workflow fix to get .dng files. I've ordered three extra alternative batteries which I hope will work and I spent yesterday "butchering" an old M9 leather case I have to make it fit the DP2M, including sawing out a hole on the bottom so I could access the battery / SD card compartment. I did this so I could attach a shoulder strap in a way that works (The wrist strap caused the button pressing problem above) and so the camera grips better. So I'm already making some compromises and using some workarounds just so I can use it.

I'm much more inclined to put up with this than I was with the Fuji X-Pro 1. And the reason is simple. The DP2M files are better. Better than the X Pro 1 as far as I'm concerned (Usual disclamer - at ISO 100 only), and also better than anything else I've ever used. No, these ultra sharp images won't earn me any extra money, and they will in many aspects slow down my workflow (Partly due to the fact that I want to linger much longer looking at the images on the screen than with any other camera I've ever owned) but I now know what its capable of and I'm not sure I'm prepared to put up with less. 

I have two shelves where I keep my cameras. The first is for the ones I use a lot and are going to be around for a while and the other one is for "pending" cameras. Currently the DP2M is occupying the cameras I use shelf and looks somewhat lonely since the other 11 have been moved to the pending shelf. For me and what I shoot its that good. Yes in some respects its a pain, but those files are just so sharp and beautiful to look at, that, at the moment, I'm prepared to forgive it anything. Whether that continues remains to be seen, but one thing I'm sure of is that I'm really pleased I've bought it. Apart from anything else I just had to see what I could get from it, and I certainly haven't been disappointed. I'll decide where I go from here at a later date, but at the moment I'm just enjoying looking at the images it produces, and editing has suddenly become more of a pleasure than the chore it normally is. And I guess that any camera that can achieve that is worth a whole lot of hassle.

N.B. to see more on the cameras and lenses featured in this post click on the relevant labels (tags and keywords) below.
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