Sigma DP2 review: Sigma DP2

However, I didn't particularly like the shutter feel. It's stiffer than usual, which makes you less likely to accidentally shoot while trying to lock focus, but when actually shooting if requires too much pressure; enough that I frequently introduced camera shake while pressing it.

Perhaps Sigma's helpfully trying to turn you into a more thoughtful, slower-moving shooter, but the DP2 moves at an overly leisurely pace. It powers on and shoots in about 4.4 seconds, slow but acceptable for the DP2's intended usage. However, the 1.3 seconds to focus and shoot in good light and 1.5 seconds in dim are not, especially since I had problems locking focus at all in some dim situations. One might argue that the DP2 is optimized for manual focus--and it does operate significantly faster that way--but even a cheap camera these days can get its shot lag below 0.8 second. It doesn't have to be a lightning fast, just fast enough. The slow AF drives up the JPEG shot-to-shot time to about 4.1 seconds and raw to 4.3; with flash it rises to 4.6 seconds. On the surface, the burst performance seems excellent, but it's capped at four frames. Given how slow the AF system is, I suppose that makes sense. There's also a focus-limited AF option that restricts the hunt zone to 39 inches to infinity rather than the 11 inches to infinity of the standard zone, but it didn't seem much faster.

Other aspects of performance fall short as well. The battery life is subpar; I estimate I obtained perhaps 175 shots per charge. Despite updating to the most recent firmware version (1.02 as of this writing), the camera still suffered from occasional freeze ups the update was supposed to fix. And the AF system actually tested slower after the update from version 1.01 to 1.02. Even with magnification, the LCD isn't really big enough for manually focusing in certain scenes--or perhaps it just doesn't magnify the preview sufficiently--its color rendering is extremely cool, and it's hard to see in bright light. The optional VF-21 viewfinder comes in handy in those situations, but it's a fairly expensive $170 or more. (The LX3's viewfinder is equally expensive, but that doesn't make it OK. Plus that camera is a lot cheaper, bringing down the total cost.)

At low ISO sensitivities, the photo quality is extremely good, with a broad, smooth tonal range with good shadow and highlight detail. Although, according to Foveon and Sigma, the X3 sensor has 14-megapixel resolution, color resolution (in this case the number of photosites, which is 3 for each image pixel) is not practically equivalent to spatial resolution, the number of image pixels--in this case 2,652x1,768 or 4.7 megapixels. Our tests determined that photos shot with the DP2 have equivalent sharpness at a given size to cameras with somewhere between 8- and 10-megapixel resolution, or an 8-megapixel camera with a really good lens.

While the color is pleasing, though, it's not terribly accurate in any of the color modes; it looks as if the white balance is at turns too cool or too warm, and it's inconsistent across the various ISO sensitivity settings. But Sigma's noise suppression algorithms, even as low as ISO 400, emphasize preserving detail at the expense of color; beginning with greens, the DP2's photos simply desaturate to the point where they look like hand-colored black-and-white photos. The color noise then renders to look like a very fine-grained film. The ironic upside is that the camera produces excellent midrange ISO black and white photos that look as if they were shot on film. (You can't shoot black and white at ISO 1,600 or 3,200 because the camera automatically switches into raw at those settings.)

This is one of the cases where our weighted-average ratings probably do the camera a disservice; it's a niche product, and buyers even considering the DP2 are more likely to weight the specialty shooting quality far more heavily than the more well-rounded camera this rating is intended to reflect. However, the fact remains that for its price, for the nonfanatic, the DP2 has an unnecessarily slow AF system, abysmally short battery life, and relatively minimalist feature set. While I can't recommend the DP2 as your primary, all-purpose camera, if you have the money to spend it's a nice choice for artistic experimentation, especially in black and white.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot  
Raw shot-to-shot time  
Typical shot-to-shot time  
Shutter lag (dim)  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1
Canon PowerShot G10
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3
Sigma DP2
Olympus E-P1

Typical continuous-shooting speed (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

What you'll pay

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