DP1 Release Imminent!

30 01 2008

Sigma’s dedicated Web site for the DP1, www.sigma-dp1.com, has been changed. Instead of the Flash-based pages that highlight the DP1 features, there is now a static image (still oddly Flash based) that says “The arrival of the SIGMA DP1. The worldwide debut, soon.”

This “announcement,” appearing just a few days before the start of the Photo Marketing Association’s annual show in Las Vegas, can mean only one thing: the DP1 will be launched at PMA 08.

DP1 Website

Surely it can mean nothing else. There’s no way the notoriously silent Sigma would make such an announcement merely days before one of the biggest and most highly anticipated photography trade shows in the world.

We’ll soon find out. PMA 08 runs from January 31 to February 2.

Update: January 31/08:

According to DP Review, their “contacts at Sigma” say the camera will be available in “Spring.” Unfortunately, that doesn’t really mean anything, as we’ve heard such nebulous predictions before. However, that was a “pre-PMA 2008” notice. Now that PMA 08 has opened, we’ll hopefully get some verifiable information soon.

Sigma DP1 Timeline

26 11 2007

Although it seems like years and years since the Sigma DP1 was first announced, it has really been just over one year. Part of the problem is that Sigma keeps hinting at a release date and then fails to fulfill it without any explanation. That leaves potential fans of the camera dangling, as the clock ticks ever so slowly towards then next big photography trade show.

Here’s a brief chronology of the story so far.

Left: the first DP1 prototype. Right: the second DP1 prototype, which most people believe is how the final product will look.

September 2006: Dp1 Announced at PhotoKina 2006, in Cologne, Germany.

October 2006: First prototype unveiled. Release date quoted as “February 2007.”

February 2007: No Sigma DP1.

March 2007: Second Dp1 prototype shown at PMA show in Las Vegas, USA (videos). Release date cited as “end of May, 2007” by one source and “in the Summer” by another. That second source also cites the retail price as “around £600 in the UK, 800 euro in Europe or $1000 in the US.”

Summer 2007: Dead silence.

Autumn 2007: Chatter in online forums like DPReview.com picks up. Users divided between declarations that the DP1 is “vaporware” and hopes that it will be released for PMA 2008. In the meantime, not a word from Sigma, although some unofficial reports claim that un-named Sigma people have indicated “Spring 2008” as the release time frame.

Future? PMA 2008 opens January 31. Not even the most optimistic would call that “spring,” so the camera is unlikely to be ready by then, although Sigma will probably show off the latest prototype.

Update: On November 30, 2007, Sigma issued a press release apologizing for the delay. They blamed problems with the “image processing pipeline,” which required them to go back to the drawing board on a number of design issues. On January 31, 2008, Sigma made a pre-PMA announcement that the camera would indeed be launched at PMA 2008, although it will not ship until March 2008. In early February, the camera showed up on Amazon, for pre-order.

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.