DP1 Inspires LX3… Inspires DP2?

1 03 2009

(Temporarily pressing “Play.”) I started this blog in November 2007, when — like so many others — I was keenly anticipating the arrival of the up-to-then enigmatic DP1. I did a lot of reading, which resulted in a lot of writing, about what to expect when the camera arrived.

Then it arrived.

The story by now is well known. Image quality on the DP1 is outstanding (as expected), but other things are poor. For example, some people don’t like the build quality, and the menus are poorly designed. Then there’s the hotly debated issue of the fixed focal length 28mm (equivalent) lens, with its very slow f4 maximum aperture. Many people argue that if Sigma is going to insist on a prime (i.e., not zoom) lens, then at least make it a fast one.

Finally, there is poor performance in terms of various lag times (shutter lag, auto-focus lag, etc.). That was the deal breaker for me. I cannot abide a slow, unresponsive camera.

Given that a lot of people were talking about the DP1 as a good camera for street photography, slow performance was a deal breaker for a lot of other people too. Some argue that by using all manual settings the camera is reasonably responsive, and I’m inclined to believe it. But still, all that poorness, combined with the very high price (almost $1000 in Canada) meant I abandoned any plans to get a DP1. After all that hype, the response at launch time was lukewarm at best. Reviews were generally bad, and sales were disappointing.

Around that time, I started appreciating the camera I was already using; the somewhat flawed but otherwise delightful Lumix DMC-LX2 (or simply LX2 for short). There had been rumors of an LX3 in the works, so my DP1 anticipation shifted to LX3 anticipation.

Finally, in late summer 2008, the LX3 was announced and then released. What really got my attention was how much Panasonic (the makers of the Lumix brand) were “borrowing” from the DP1’s hype to promote the new camera. It was very clear that the central focus of the LX3 marketing effort was the message “Disappointed by the DP1? The LX3 hits where the DP1 misses.”

Let’s recap the DP1 hype, and compare it with the LX3 message:

  • The DP1 promised outstanding image quality based on a large sensor that used fewer (but more sensitive) pixels.
  • The LX3 was heavily promoted for its new, larger sensor — one that uses fewer pixels than its predecessor. Reviewers went mad over the “less is more” design. This despite the fact that upon closer reading, the new sensor is inconsequentially larger than the previous one — and certainly a lot smaller than the DP1’s — but the fine points were missed by most people. All they heard was “bigger sensor, fewer pixels, just like the DP1!”
  • The DP1 promised a return to rangefinder-style street shooting via its optional clip-on optical viewfinder.
  • The LX3 also delivered an optional clip-on optical viewfinder.
  • The DP1 promised a top quality wide angle (28mm equivalent) lens, and insisted its slow f4 maximum aperture was not an issue.
  • The LX3 delivered a top quality Leica lens that was even wider (24mm equivalent), zoomed “3X,” and most impressively, had a maximum aperture of f2.0 — an unprecedented speed in a compact digital camera.

The bottom line was “we do all the things the DP1 was supposed to do, plus we do the things the DP1 cannot do, at about half the price.” (The LX3 retails at about $550 in Canada.) The response was overwhelming — literally. Panasonic has had trouble keeping up with demand. A plethora of rave reviews has lead to shortages of the camera in Canada, the U.S., and parts of Europe. Stores can’t keep them on the shelves.

If you read my other blog (and look at my photo blog) you’ll know that I bought an LX3 — and I love it. Lag times are acceptable (and, as with the DP1, I can make them disappear almost completely by using manual settings), and although it doesn’t use a Foveon sensor, I’m perfectly happy with the image quality — which improves significantly on its predecessor.

Film festival by blork, on Flickr

I’m loving my LX3!

Around the time that the LX3 came out, Sigma announced that the DP2 was in development. Changes we know we’ll see are a less wide angle lens (supposedly in the range of 40mm equivalent) but faster — f2.8. Apparently there will be modifications to the menus, as well as performance enhancements.

The question I have is this: has Sigma paid any attention to how Panasonic used their failure to enhance their success? And will the improvements in the DP2 reflect that knowledge?

Will Sigma step up and not just correct their mistakes but make the DP2 — and the DP2’s message — so kick-assingly awesome as to steal back some of their own hype? They could start by hammering away at the LX3’s biggest shortcoming; its lack of availability. After all, showing up is at least half the battle.

We’re on the verge of the Photo Marketing Association’s big PMA 2009 trade show. Will the DP2 make an appearance? Will it step up to the DP1’s failings? Will it make a dent in the LX3 demand?


4 07 2008

For the record, this blog is now officially on pause.

There are several reasons why I am suspending (although not necessarily quitting) My DP1:

  1. It’s out there. When I started this blog, the DP1 was an overdue enigma, a highly anticipated great idea that kept slipping its release dates. But now it’s out there, for anyone to see and buy, so the need to rattle the cage has diminished.
  2. Now that it’s out there, a lot of other web sites with a lot more resources and a lot more clout are doing a great job of reviewing and discussing the DP1, making this blog sort of redundant.
  3. Even though it’s out there, I still don’t own one. (More on that below.)

Readers of this blog probably know that I live in Canada, where there doesn’t seem to be a lot of retailers pushing the DP1. Indeed, I had to go to France in order to see one in real life, and even then it was a non-functioning display model in the FNAC store at La Defense in Paris.

When I finally picked up that DP1, tethered as it was, and with a dead battery, I wasn’t sure what to think. After all that anticipation, all that reading and writing, and there I was with a DP1 in my hand. It didn’t feel very different from my Lumix DMC-LX2, actually. About the same size and dimensions, but with a bit more heft and a build quality that seemed more “beta” than refined. I knew I was holding something quirky and special, but by then my desire to actually own one had dwindled.

I admit that I was disappointed with the various reviews of the DP1. Almost unanimously they cheered the image quality but boo’ed the camera’s slow responsiveness and retrograde interface. Truth be told, pixel-peeping image quality is not the most important thing for me. I need a camera that handles well, is quick, and responsive. After all, getting the shot on a 1/1.7 sensor is better than missing the shot on an APS-C Foveon.

I feel like a heretic in my own religion for saying that, but there it is.

There are rumours of a DP2 and even a DP3 coming soon. There are also rumours of a Lumix DMC-LX3 coming out in the autumn of this year. In the meantime, I am still a fan of the DP1, and I applaud Sigma for sticking its neck out and trying something different. But in the end it’s not really the camera for me.

I’d be really happy — over the moon, in fact — if Sigma manages to make a DP2 or DP3 that handles like a Lumix DMC-LX2 but has the image quality of (or even close to) the DP1. That would be heaven for me.

TOP Update of DP1 Review

24 05 2008

Edward Taylor has posted an update to his review of the DP1 that he published on The Online Photographer (TOP) back in April. Now that he’s had more time to work with the camera, he feels he should clarify a few things. The bottom line is that he still feels it is fundamentally flawed in terms of speed and usability, but he says he would buy the camera again because of the outstanding image quality.

As Taylor correctly points out, it is not a “Decisive Moment Digital” nor even, really, a “point and shoot.” It is a departure from the norm, a particular and peculiar camera that the photographer must adapt to. Not unlike a Holga, in fact; both are odd cameras that require a different way of thinking. As Taylor says: “you don’t always need speed. I adapted to its slowness.”

Those who were hoping for an all-purpose camera, or some kind of super camera that would perform miracles will be disappointed. But those who are willing to see it for what it is, and can adapt to its quirks, will be blown away by the image quality.

Speaking of Holgas, I’ve been playing around with one recently. I ran two rolls of 120 through it (the first film I’ve shot in eight years), and I managed to get five or six pretty good “Holgaesque” images, including this one:

Dreamworld Mini

If you’re a pixel peeper you won’t have much to say about that. Ditto if you’re the type who insists on conventional framing and composition. It’s got none of that, but I really like it regardless. In fact, this is the antithesis of the image quality one should expect from a DP1, and I guarantee you the Holga is twenty times slower than the DP1. Yet there it is, and I like it.

And people who like their DP1s really like them too.

By the way, DPReview has published a thorough review of the DP1. Their conclusions are pretty much the same as everyone else’s but with a lot of detailed information to back them up. This is not headline news at MyDP1, because if you’ve been following the DP1 story then you already know about that review. After all, a review from DPReview is pretty much the one to watch for.

Sample Photos Coming Online

5 03 2008

Now that the DP1 is on the market, real-world sample images are starting to show up in various places. Among the most interesting I’ve seen are by Carl Rytterfalk. You can see them, along with descriptions of his first few days with the DP1 on his blog (day one, day two, mixed light). Images there link back to the full size ones, as hosted on Flickr.

I must admit, I’m very impressed by the image quality I’m seeing!