The price of the DP1 dropped after the DP2 came out, but it remains
above $400 due to the quality of the photos it takes.
The DP1 and the subsequent DP1s have risen in price in early 2010.
I'm very impressed with the DP1. I bought it against the advise of others,
both people I know and reviewers, who argued that the DP1 is a limited camera that lacks key features that other compacts have.
But it's a camera with excellent dynamic range, which results in
And to be sure, it lacks:
Fast focus for action shots
Usable movie mode
But for my needs it is excellent.
It is what it is: A small camera with a big sensor, a good fixed lens,
an excellent manual mode and the option to add filters.
This is not a camera for consumers who are crybabies.
If you whimper when the people at Starbucks don't make
your latte "just so" (I've seen that firsthand),
or if you can't imagine driving a stick-shift car because it's too difficult,
or if you shiver at the idea of camping outdoors, or if talk about skydiving
makes you faint, then please forget this camera.
Early reviewers gave this camera a lot of bad press.
I suspect most of that much of that was motivated by the price of the DP1,
because at the time it cost $800.
At that price the camera is indeed deficient, as it lacks a zoom,
optical image stabilization, a decent movie mode, etc.
Camera format: pocketable compact
Sensor type: Foveon X3 CMOS
Sensor size: 20.7 x 13.8 mm (about the same as sensors used in DSLRs)
Sensor pixel area: 60 square micrometers
Sensor pixel density: 1.6 MP per cm2
Sensor resolution: 2640x1760 = 4.6 MP
ISO range: 100 to 800 in RAW
Shutter range: 1/1000 to 15 seconds
Apertures: f2.8 to f14
Display size: 2.5 inches
Fixed lens focal length: 16.6 mm (28 mm equivalent)
In Foveon sensors, red, green and blue are layered at each pixel site,
which greatly improves sharpness.
A Foveon sensor's sharpness provides images equivalent to Bayer sensor
two or three times the resolution of the Foveon.
Almost all non-Sigma cameras use the Bayer sensor type.
My video review
The DP1 is a very nice camera in most respects.
So far I can say:
It is very well built.
Photo quality is ultimately very good, but you need to
achieve that using the provided Photo Pro software.
In Photo Pro, the untouched photo will appear desaturated
if the saturation setting in the camera menu is 0.
The automatically-adjusted photo will too.
I don't sorely miss not having an optical
zoom but it would have been nice to have.
I don't mind the delay incurred when a RAW photo
is written to my SDHC card, but
using a generic SD card it is slow.
(I recall that my Nikon D70 was about 5 seconds.)
The RAW photo quality is typically very good, unusually so in fact,
however the photos are desaturated when the saturation setting on
the camera is 0.
So I find that I need to keep it set at a higher value.
Otherwise each and every photo would need re-saturation in
the Sigma Photo Pro software.
Once saturation is taken care of the photos are spectacular.
The DP1's JPEG photos are just acceptable, not great.
But they're not the purpose of the camera.
You buy this camera for the RAW photos, just as you buy a sports car
for the fast driving, not for delivering newspapers.
With the DP1, very bright reds tend to "bleed" and appear as a pinkish
or even a yellow hue.
From what I can tell, this is due to the weak infrared filter
in the DP1, which was replaced with a stronger one
in subsequent DP-series cameras.
You can attenuate the reds in The GIMP, or you can get a DP-series
camera other than the DP1.
Sigma's Photo Pro software performs some chromatic noise
reduction that unfortunately can actually add noise
to some low-light RAW photos.
I've found that using non-Sigma software to process RAW photos
can alleviate this.
The focus speed of the DP-series cameras is notoriously slow,
and much slower than $100 point and shoot cameras.
It takes about 1 second to focus.
This problem has finally been fixed in the new DP2s and DP1x cameras,
and the DP2 firmware can be upgraded to achieve a faster focus.
But the DP1 and DP1s will always have the slower focus.
Personally I didn't mind the slow focus that much,
but then I've also used manual-focus-only cameras in the past.
Writing to SD
Writing to the SD card is slower than most cameras
but this is not in my opinion a problem.
I have found that I can shoot one RAW photo (2640 x 1760)
every 8 seconds using a generic SD card,
or every 4 to 5 seconds using a Transcend "class 6" card.
That includes 1 second to focus.
But do note that, with the DP1 and DP1s models,
you cannot take a new shot while your RAW photo is being
written to SD.
This problem has been fixed in the
The metal case is tough and impressive and reminds me of pre-digital
One minor gripe that all reviewers express is the lack of a
wrist strap. It comes with a neck strap instead.
So I just bought one for $6 at my local camera store. It can be tightened
around the wrist so it's better than most of the straps that come with cameras.
Another minor gripe is that
the lens cap does not have a cord to attach it to the camera.
But it can be replaced by an automatically closing cap (see
The DP1 and its Foveon sensor, when combined with an infrared filter like an R72
on the end of the HA-11 hood adapter, is extremely useful for infrared photography.
The infrared photos that I've taken so far have frankly been astounding.
Note however that this is in part because the DP1's infrared
filter is weaker than subsequent DP-series cameras.
An acceptable IR photo that I took is this:
The Foveon sensor is capable of detecting UV light,
which I know because I bought a UV-pass filter
and tested it. The filter I bought is a B+W UV Black Glass 403.
At this point it's clear that very long exposure,
low F stop, and high ISO are required, not to mention
the brightest possible sunlight. An overcast day will produce
grainy pictures. Alternatively for closeups one could use
a UV lamp or UV LED however as you probably know,
UV light is hazardous to the skin and eyes.
FYI, the 403 actually passes both UV and IR.
To choose one or the other
you need to decompose the image into its constituent red, green, and
blue channel in The GIMP (or I suppose Photoshop has such a feature)
and select the blue channel for UV or the red for IR.
Green is almost always dark.
Everyone says the video capability of the DP-series cameras
is a joke and they are basically correct.
The resolution is 320 by 212 with a black bar 28 pixels high
at the bottom, to make it 320x240.
It is barely at the quality level of a decent mobile phone.
Panning leads to jerkiness.
You can buy a $100 compact cameras that do better.
That said, in a jam you may need to use it.
I have found that some programs cannot read the AVI files produced by the DP1.
The best free video converter that's available, called FFMPEG,
which is a command-line program,
can read them but there are some builds of FFMPEG circulating that cannot,
for instance the one included with
Windows users may need to use Windows Movie Maker to convert the AVI
to a WMV, and then use WinFF to convert that back to a readable AVI.
If you have a copy of FFMPEG that does not reject the AVIs outright,
you'll have best results if you use the command-line options
and try to convert to an AVI using the MS AVI codec.
For your edification, here is a video of a beautiful country scene
that I made using my DP1:
The fact that the Sigma DP1 produces such amazing images
increases the temptation to use it to create time-lapse films.
But unlike the DP2, which has a built-in intervalometer
for taking a time-lapse photo series of any length, with the DP1 you must
create the series by hand, as I have done.
There are 2 potential obstacles:
There is no remote control.
There is no PTP mode available so you cannot use your PC
control the camera and take a photo every few seconds.
To convert a series of frames to a movie under Windows, use
AviSynth and VirtualDub.
But if you find that it's hard to keep the camera steady, for instance
due to your pressing the shutter button,
you can use VirtualDub in combination with the
to remove any jitters.
You will definitely need a fast class 6 SDHC card.
Here's an HD timelapse movie that I made with the DP1:
I do have a few minor gripes.
The hood adapter from Sigma works but it is rather loose.
It is much too easy to brush against it lightly causing it
to turn and then fall off. The solution I found is to
keep it on all the time and secure it with a small piece
of black electrical tape. This however means the DP1 no longer
fits in a coat pocket.
There is no remote control for this camera.
There is no PTP support in this camera so you cannot control it
with your PC.
The Photo Pro software has crashed for me several times
under Windows XP. It only happens when I rotate photos.
Very bright reds appears on the LCD as pink or white -- even after
the firmware attenuates them.
The built-in flash is not compatible with the hood adapter because
the hood blocks some of its light.
The longest exposure is only 15 seconds. Consider that a
Nikon D70 can do 1 minute and that a
hacked Canon Powershot can do up to
2048 seconds using the CHDK firmware.
I don't list the video mode as a gripe because video is not what
this camera is made for.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is the DP1 slow?
Somewhat but not especially.
When I take a RAW photo, it writes to my generic 1GB SD card
at about 1.5 megabytes per second.
Therefore storing a photo requires, on average, 8 seconds.
However it writes to my 16GB SDHC 6 card faster,
at more like 3 megabytes per second.
Therefore the average 12 MB RAW photo takes 4 seconds.
Note, typically with the DP1 at longer exposures,
as with my former Nikon D70, after the photo is taken and
before it starts writing to the flash card, there is an
2 second average delay when it is thinking.
The DP1's speed writing to generic SD flash
is about the same as I experienced
with my former Nikon D70 with generic CompactFlash,
whose 5 MB NEF files took about 3 to 5 seconds to write.
If you are a professional working under a tight deadline,
the DP1 is probably not be a good choice for
a primary camera.
The DP1 was not intended for taking rapid shots or
for sports photography.
If you need that and are a pro, you are already willing and
able to invest in super-fast DSLRs.
The experience of quickness or slowness shot-to-shot
using my generic 1 GB SD card
is roughly the same was what you would have using a
manual film camera, such as the Nikon FM10.
Using SDHC 6, the speed is more like using a Canon Powershot.
Is the DP1 especially loud?
Not in my opinion. The focusing motors are a bit noisy but
I've used louder compact cameras and
of course DSLRs are much louder.
What to do about the lens extending
when I power up with the lens cap on?
Normally if you power up with the lens cap on
the lens will push against the lens cap and stop.
This may not be too good for the camera.
One method to prevent this problem is to simply
keep the hood on all the time and
buy a generic lens cap to put on the end.
You can secure the hood to the camera with a small piece
of black electrical tape.
Another method that may work (it does on the DP2s)
is to always make sure that when you turn off
the camera that it is in Audio Record mode.
This mode prevents the lens from extending on accidental
How does it perform in low light situations?
Quite well, especially in manual mode.
In my experience most cameras do not handle low light
well in automatic mode.
The long-exposure, low-light photos that I've taken
with the DP1 are clearer and less noisy than ones
that I took with my former DSLR, the Nikon D70.
As other reviewers have noted the image on the
LCD image desaturates in low light but the photos are fine.
I will post some night photo sometime soon.
Anything to know about the manual focus dial?
There are two versions of the DP1.
One has a manual focus that has a definite start and stop.
The other is a wheel that spins without end.
I have tried both and they both work.
Neither has a click-stop for infinity.
Do you miss not having image stabilization?
I have never owned a camera with IS.
I briefly used a Canon SX100 that has IS and I would say it is
certainly a convenience.
If you want really good quality photos you need to rest
the camera upon or press the camera against an unmovable
surface. Or just bring a tripod. Use the 2-second timer.
Automatic image stabilization helps some but
there is no free lunch.
The macro lens (for close-ups) costs $85.
Is there a cheaper one?
Reviewers who have bought the Sigma macro lens
(which is diopter +10 close-up filter)
say it offers a focused image even at the corners.
Whereas the claim is that cheaper macro lenses like
the $30 Tiffen kit (+1 +2 +4 diopter) do not.
I bought the 46mm +8 macro filter sold at
for $8. Here are a few shots.
Most of these are F4, hence blurriness around the edges,
but look at the
2nd book photo, which is F11.0. The image quality is very
good even at the edges.
What do I need to buy in order to put a filter
on the camera?
Sigma sells a 46mm $20 hood plus filter adapter.
I have one and it seems fine although
it does not lock in place well and there is a risk of it
turning and falling off.
Here is the hood adapter with a lens cap that fits on the end.
I got the cap on Ebay. [Photo taken with mobile phone].
What can I do to more securely attach the hood
adapter to the DP1?
I decided to keep the hood adapter on all the time.
The simple solution to ensure that it does not fall off
was to apply a little black electrical tape.
46mm is such an odd size. Is there another hood
adapter that is bigger?
Oddly enough there is.
Lensmate makes a hood adapter that is 52mm.
The DP1 is the cheapest pocketable compact camera with a
I have found that it's a very nice camera and the shots are quite good,
better than shots taken with many DSLRs.
That said, DSLR sensors are leaping forward in megapixels and
Yet there is something more lifelike about the shots
that the DP series camera produce.
Yes, I have seen the two telltale minor issues that
official reviewers have complained about:
The under-saturation of the DP1's photos generally and
the clipping of very bright reds.
The undersaturation is handled in Photo Pro (in Auto mode),
or you can increase the default saturation level in the camera
(I set it to +1).
While the Foveon sensor has excellent dynamic range generally
the reds on the DP1 are a problem.
But a byproduct of the extra sensitivity to reds is that the DP1 is an excellent
camera for infrared photography using a 720 nm IR-pass filter.
Three things are striking about the photos that this camera provides:
The big sensor really pays off in terms of
there being very little noise. Noise has only been
a problem for me when shooting at high ISOs.
At the time I was using an ultraviolet-pass filter
that blocked all visible light.
The sharpness that the Foveon achieves is
extraordinary. A Bayer sensor need 2X as many pixels
to achieve the same clarity.
The photos are very lifelike. I see in the photo what
I remember seeing with my eyes. I never felt this way about
the photos that I took with my Nikon D70.
This camera is being made available at
an affordable price and at just the right time in the history of
digital cameras. Until recently, no other company had stepped forward to
put a serious sensor into a compact camera. For a time, this put Sigma's
competitors at a disadvantage and in my opinion, showed their lack
Now the DP1 and DP2 do have competitors but they are, of course,
Bayer sensor based because Sigma has bought the Foveon company.
Addendum: Comparing to the Sigma DP2
The DP2 has three important improvements over the DP1:
Faster lens i.e. the aperture goes wider to let more light in.
Longer fixed lens i.e. the focal length is greater therefore the object appears to be closer.
Time-lapse movie mode: useful but runs down the battery.
As of January 2010, the DP2 price was $550 and the DP1 was $400.
Is the higher price worth it? I think so.
Is there a better alternative on the market? At the moment, no.
"DP2 vs. DP2s"
As this point, it appears that the DP2's
can be upgraded to provide a faster focus than it originally had.
Sigma customer service says that the DP2s offers better algorithms,
faster focus, and cosmetic improvements to the body.
And they say, future firmware updates for the DP2 have ceased
whereas this is not the case for the DP2s.
In forums people have also said the DP2s will offer a
longer battery life.
A Sigma trade show representative in a YouTube video says that
the Foveon sensor in the DP2s is newer and has an analog output for better
Addendum: Comparing to the Olympus PEN EP-1
1. The zoom lens of the $690 EP1 kit
is reputed to be poor quality compared to the fixed lenses
of either the DP1 or DP2.
2. The video mode of the EP1 is far better than the video mode
of the DP2. However highlights are notoriously clipped.
3. The EP1 kit that is $690 comes with a zoom lens whereas the $550 DP2
has an excellent lens but it has a fixed focal length.
4. The EP1 only fits in a coat pocket when paired with the pancake lens, which
is included in the $750 kit. This pancake lens is
reputed to be poorer quality.
Personally, I have tried very hard to find sample EP1
photos that do not look horrible, and I have come to the
conclusion that all the hype about the EP1 is just that, hype.
Sure, it shoots HD video. But are the photos any good?
And are the videos any good, in truth? To me, the EP1's
photos and videos look washed out, overly contrasty,
and the colors just don't look right. And given that you
can't pocket it, what's the point of getting it over a bulky
DSLR like a Canon Rebel?