TIPA: “Best Prestige Camera”

28 04 2008

This year’s European Technical Image Press Award (TIPA) for “Best Prestige Camera” went to the Sigma DP1. I don’t know much about TIPA, or how prestigious those awards are. The blurb that accompanies the announcement on the TIPA web site looks like it was lifted right out a Sigma brochure, which gives the impression than TIPA is little more than a marketing trick:

The Sigma DP1 is the first compact camera with a large sensor, and the one it uses is the same size as that found in the Sigma SD14. The Foveon technology employed gives very high quality images in RAW format at ISO ratings up to 200, though the sensitivity can be increased to ISO 800 if needed. Thanks to the fixed-focal-length 28mm f/4 lens, images produced by the DP1 have a quality comparable to some D-SLRs. Elegant, stylish and pleasant to use, the DP1 boasts an external viewfinder and a slick manual focus option for precise control. This luxury compact is a new departure for the digital compact, and reveals a promising line of development for the future.

However, if I put my cynicism aside, this award reinforces the idea that the DP1 is not just a point-and-shoot camera with a big sensor. It is a something very different and unique, with a special appeal.

But I can’t help but wonder if this is the right award for this camera. The title “Best Prestige Camera” and the last line of the award blurb (“This luxury compact…”) imply this is a camera with a broad appeal, if only people could afford it. Sort of like a Porsche or a Rolex. In reality, the DP1 – when understood – has a narrow instead of a broad appeal. It’s almost like a Holga (its image quality opposite) in that it is strange and flawed and limited but it produces beautiful images for those who are inclined to accept and know it for what it is instead of wanting it to be some kind of multi-purpose all-appealing camera.

It’s a quirky camera that appeals to quirky people. While I remain somewhat disillusioned over the DP1 (see my most recent post before this one), I haven’t given up on it entirely. And this award has re-piqued my interest a bit. After all, I can be quirky, but I’m not sure my quirks and the DP1’s quirks line up.

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