The Sigma Enigma DP1

8 11 2007

In the fall of 2006, Sigma Corporation (known primarily as a manufacturer of after-market lenses for SLR cameras) announced it was developing a revolutionary new point-and-shoot camera; the Sigma DP1.

The DP1 would be different from other small point-and-shoot cameras in several ways, but the most import is that it would use a large image sensor – the same Foveon sensor that is found in several digital SLRs. This is significant for several reasons, including the fact that sensor size is one of the most important factors in determining quality in digital photography. Forget megapixels; sensor size is the key.

Simply put, most small digital cameras have suffered a loss of image quality as a result of the race for megapixels. The more pixels you jam onto a small sensor, the less able each one is to absorb and record the light that strikes it. To compensate, the cameras have to crank up the gain on the sensor, which result in image noise. Image noise is sort of like the grain that one finds on high ISO photographic film, except grain can be nice while noise tends to be ugly.

The above explanation is over-simplified, but it will do for now. Suffice to say, the gorgeous detail you see in photos that come from digital SLRs (or DSLRs) is not just the result of nice lenses and lots of megapixels. It is because a DSLR image sensor is generally about four times bigger than the sensor in a point-and-shoot camera. Ten megapixels on a sensor the size of a 35mm frame will give you a lot more detail than ten megapixels on a sensor the size of your pinky fingernail.

So that’s the big selling point of the Sigma DP1; DSLR quality images from a camera that can fit in your shirt pocket. There’s only one problem – a year after the camera was announced, it has still not been released. Worse, nobody seems to be able to get a straight answer from Sigma on when it will finally hit the market.

It had previously been scheduled for spring 2007, then summer 2007, then some people said fall 2007. Well, it’s almost winter 2007 and we still haven’t seen the elusive and enigmatic Sigma DP1, or as I call it, the Enigma DP1.

This blog will attempt to give some background information on the development of the camera, why some people find it so desirable, and with any luck, information on when the thing will finally be released. It will also discuss photography in general, at least with regard to themes that are relevant to this camera and ones like it.

I should state up front that I am a fan of the camera, at least on paper (since I’ve never actually seen or held one). However, I am not immune the camera’s potential flaws and down-sides. For example, the lens will likely not be very fast (f4), and the camera will likely be quite expensive for a point-and-shoot (possibly more than $1000 US). I am also not fond of Sigma’s tight-lipped development approach, especially after dangling the marketing pitch in front of our noses for more than a year.

However, I do hope to someday own one; hence the name of this blog (“My DP1”). In upcoming posts I’ll talk about prime lenses versus zooms, more about sensor size, “ultimate DMD” cameras, image quality, the downside of “pixel peeping,” and more.

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3 responses

12 11 2007
Carl Lumma

Thanks for making this blog! I can only hope someone with real information about the status of this camera will contact you. -Carl

12 11 2007
Ed

Thanks Carl. I’m hoping for the same thing. :-)

13 11 2007
What’s The Big Deal With Foveon Sensors? « My DP1

[…] talking about 4.6 megapixels, times three, on a really big sensor. And remember, as I mention in another post, sensor size is more important than pixel count – you are better off with fewer pixels on a big […]

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