A Medium Format alternative in your pocket :
The DP3 Merrill has a 46 MP Foveon X3 image sensor (15.4 MP in 3 color layers, for each Red, Green and Blue) and TRUE II engine processor. It has a fixed 50mm/2.8 (equivalent to 75mm) Macro lens, and weights less than 400 grams in a compact body … it can fit in a jacket pocket ! With a leaf shutter up to 1/2000s, you can use it at HSS with Studio strobes … The DP3 comes with 2 batteries (you will need more than 2) and the Sigma Photo Pro software for Raw editing. The 50/2.8 lens (75mm equivalent) is very sharp and optically excellent with almost zero distortion. It has a very nice Macro mode.
Ergonomics: The DP3 is designed like a brick, with a beautiful minimal design. It’s very well built. The control layout is very user friendly , smart and the overall feels very good in hands. Some people would prefer to add an external grip for better handling. Personally I like it as is.
Image Quality: The Image Quality is the strongest point of the DP3. It’s simply Outstanding. You buy this camera mainly for the excellent IQ it delivers. It can easily rival Medium Format Quality. The DP3 delivers very sharp images with excellent Dynamic Range.
AF and MF: The DP3 has a slow AF in todays standard. It reminds me of the AF speed of the Leica X1. It would be hard to shoot moving subjects with it. On the other hand, the MF mode is great: the manual Focus ring is very responsive and easy to work with: When you turn the ring, a magnification of the image will help you to nail the focus easily.
ISO Performance: Well, you can forget about shooting at higher than 200 ISO unless you are shooting in B&W. In this case you can go up to 800 ISO max (rarely to 1600) ! The strong point of the DP3 is the low ISO performance. You get excellent quality images at ISO 100. I recommend to have a small tripod always with you when you want to use the DP3.
Slow Processor: It is recommended to shoot in RAW mode to get the best image quality, The jpg internal processor of the DP3 won’t deliver the quality desired …. The Raw files (.X3F) of the DP3 are compatible with Sigma Photo Pro software only. This software is simple to use but is very slow to process the images; one of the things you should get used to when working with the DP3 files. The writing speed is also very slow. You have to wait for about 20 to 30 seconds when you shoot in RAW+Jpg before viewing the image on the 920k bright LCD.
Video: Just forget about shooting video with the Dp3 and use your mobile instead. It captures VGA 640×480 video quality!
DP3 Restrictions: With the so many restrictions of the DP3, I enjoyed using this cam for the outstanding IQ it delivers and for the excellent handling.
Must Have Accessories:
- Sigma BP-41 rechargeable battery : I recommend you get at least 2 extra batteries.
- Sigma LH-3 Lens Hood: a must have to avoid lens flare.
- Sigma SAC – 5 AC Power Adapter : for Studio work, this is a must have.
- Voigtlander 75mm Viewfinder : for better viewing and composing in bright sun light.
- a Small Tripod is always recommended as a companion to the DP3. I use the Pedco UltraPod II.
What I like:
- Image Quality is Outstanding. It rivals Medium Format Quality.
- AF speed is fairly good in good lighting condition.
- MF is a pleasure to work with.
- The 50/2.8 lens (75mm equiv.) is very sharp with almost zero distortion.
- The control layout is very user friendly.
- The LCD display is very clear , better composition could be made with an external OVF (i use a Voigtlander 75mm external OVF).
- The burst mode is faster than expected. Very fair actually.
What I don’t like:
- Slow AF in todays standard, especially in dim light.
- Slow Processing Files. Raw files compatible with Sigma Photo Pro Software only. No Adobe Support.
- Slow Writing Speed even with 95mb/s SD card.
- Battery life sucks ! ( the good thing that it takes Ricoh GR battery , I already have 2 GR batteries and 2 DP3 batteries )
Conclusion : If you are a patient photographer, and can live with the many restrictions of the DP3, and you need a Medium Format resolution in less than 400 grams package… this camera is for you. In good lighting condition , it’s a pleasure to work with the DP3. Priced at $899, the DP3 is cheaper than its competitors like the Leica X1/X2 and the Fuji X100s. The DP3 is ideal for shooting Landscapes and Portraits. Its Macro capabilities are ideal for Product photography. After a lot of hesitation, I ended up buying the DP3, and I don’t regret it at all.
Sigma produces 2 other DP Merrill cams with the same Foveon sensor: the DP1 with 19mm/2.8 and the DP2 with 30mm/2.8.
One final word: don’t forget to carry half a dozen of extra batteries when using the DP3 !