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Sigma DP1 review: Sigma DP1

The Good Simplicity of design; Foveon image quality; excellent Sigma PhotoPro software.

The Bad Slow autofocus; slow image processing; breathtaking price.

The Bottom Line The DP1 is about as far from the mainstream as you can get. It has some obvious limitations and some rather less obvious operational flaws but, despite this, the images produced by its Foveon sensor are of such a quality that you're willing to forgive an awful lot

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7.5 Overall

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The DP1 is the companion camera to Sigma's SD14. It uses the same unique three-layer Foveon sensor, but this time in a compact body with a fixed focal-length 28mm equivalent lens. It's designed for photographers looking for simplicity, clarity and quality rather than technological gimmicks. It's available now for around £500.

Conventional sensors record colour data using a single layer of photosites covered by a mosaic of red, green and blue filters. The colour data for each pixel than has to be interpolated using data from its neighbours. The result is a loss of definition and clarity at a pixel level.

But the DP1's Foveon sensor has three layers, one each for the red, green and blue data. No interpolation ('demosaicing') is required, and at 100 per cent magnification, when other digital images have lost their edge, the DP1's show an amazing clarity and definition. Yes, its images do have only 4.7 million pixels, but they are of such a quality that you can print them much larger than those from a conventional camera.

The 28mm lens is another factor. Fixed focal-length lenses require far fewer optical compromises than zooms, and the result is images with distortion and fringing levels so low that you have trouble finding any. Not only that, the Sigma's images are sharp from the centre right to the edges.

The design is smart, elegant and simple. There are no frills and no gimmicks. It offers the usual program AE, aperture-priority, shutter-priority and manual modes that photo experts demand, and its autofocus system is backed up by a clear and simple manual focus dial.

As well as shooting JPEGs, the DP1 can also shoot raw files, which are processed using the bundled Sigma PhotoPro software, an excellent application that can draw the very best from the DP1's sensor.

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