Sigma DP2 Merrill Review

A lot has been written regarding the Sigma DP2 Merrill camera.  And most of it has focused on its slow auto focusing, fast battery burn rate, and high noise level at anything above ISO 800.  And then again, a lot of the pundits have raved about the camera’s IQ.  I can attest that the images are indeed spectacular.  If we do not argue the Foveon’s real senor resolution, whether it’s 14mp or 46mp, as some bloggers have, and just focus on the IQ sharpness and that oh so realism rendition of colors, one cannot but come away without being truly impressed by this camera’s output.  A lot has been written about Sigma, and Dick Merrill’s Foveon sensor, but I would like to focus on my real world experience with this deliberate photographic tool.  And it is a tool.

The Sigma DP2 Merrill is a tool that any photographer would enjoy using if they took pictures as an analog photographer.  If you grew up with film, then you would enjoy using this camera.  Having said that, and having dated my age, the Sigma DP2 Merrill is a camera that makes you take your time in deciding what to shoot.  It’s not for fast moving subjects, but it works very well shooting street, still life, and landscapes.  I found the auto focusing to be very responsive, and initially I agreed with other reviewers that the camera would hunt in low light.  There is a work around that and it’s an easy one for any photographer that takes their time in composing the shot they want to take.  In low light I found that focusing near a light source within the frame allowed the camera to focus spot on without any hunting issues.  Setting the camera to auto ISO it never took a night image above ISO 800 with the lens wide open.  Most shots like this were taken at 1/15 to 1/30 of a second, and the camera’s build quality allows you to firmly grasp it and take perfectly sharp images at those settings. 

Samples are included here, and all of the night images were shot hand held, without a tripod, at ISO 800, 1/15 of a second, at f/2.8.  The 30mm lens on the DP2 Merrill is a beautiful lens, and as a fixed lens it makes you move your feet to get the shots you want.  It brought back memories of when I was a kid shooting my Nikon F2 with only a 50mm 1.4 lens.  That was the camera and lens I could afford back in my youth, and I loved shooting that lens wide open and using my feet to zoom in and out.  The Sigma makes you do it all over again. 

There is a lot of truth to the battery burn rate.  Sigma does provide you with two batteries, and I found that if you shoot in raw, the battery drains fairly quickly.  And by quickly I mean if you use the camera to review your shots, turn it on and off frequently you’ll get maybe 40 plus images.  It’s like shooting a roll of 35mm film all over again.  That doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing.  It means that you sow down and consider what image you want to shoot next.  It’s not all hurly girly in shooting at 9 frames per second.  Thought the buffer on the DP2 Merrill is actually quite decent.  Having two batteries on you get’s you through an afternoon or evening’s worth of shooting, if you shoot like I do, slow and deliberate.  For all day long shooting, I suggest picking up another battery or two. 

The DP2 Merrill images are something to crow about.  Can’t quite place it, but they look like they have been painted onto your sensor.  I found using the DP2 Merrill exhilarating and liberating all at the same time.  The Sigma DP2 Merrill is one camera that provides plenty of IQ that can satisfy the most curmudgeon photographer out there.  It’s a camera I highly recommend.

Leave a Comment

October 23, 2012 by ContarexMan


Thanks for taking the time showing what the DP2 Merrill can deliver. What you wrote equally pictures what photographers must always strike a balance with, their tools, the pictures they capture, and the photographer in the middle. From the pin hole camera to today’s peaks of technology, there is enough room for the latest digital to be used along side with film. Its all about using whatever tool does the best job to deliver the picture. The DP2 Merrill joins the ranks of the best tools to get the best picture. To me the DP2 will be getting me more out of the darkroom and into digital. Thanks, ContarexMan

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The Sigma Dp2 Merrill has been in my ownership for some time yet it is backpedaling. At the end of the day, I am not going to buy it. Be that as it may pay for assignment writing, not in light of the picture quality.

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