As one of the few cameras on the market with a large sensor that has a perfectly tuned fixed focal length lens, the DP2m is a photographic tool which boundaries need to be explored slowly. Which aperture range is ideal, how high can one adjust the sensitivity, which motifs fit it especially well? Answers to this and many other questions are only revealed once one has used the camera over a longer period of time.
With its 45mm (FF equivalent), the DP2m’s lens has a highly flexibly applicable focal length. Even if one previously primarily used zoom-lenses, after a short period of setting in, one feels totally at ease with a normal focal length. These lenses have ever since been highly popular among photo-journalists and docu-photographers for a reason. The “go to” optics enable capturing diverse motifs, without having to have a suitcase full of photo-equipment. Admittedly, one needs to make a compromise with a fixed focal length; these are, however, not in the realm of picture quality or light intensity. The fixed angle of vision enables one to move and interact with the motifs, before they are finally captivated in the sensor. Many photographers, including me, consider this feature of fixed focal length to be positive, since it sharpens the vision in the long run.
The Sigma DP2 Merrill is the perfect camera for purists. A few features, such as the image stabilizer or automatic HDR-Bracketing, one has to do without. Depending on how one takes photographs – whether you want to be taken by the hand or rather adjust everything manually – this camera will either be detested or adored. Based on my experience, it is advantageous to occupy oneself with the basics – even though such features are nice, they render you too comfortable and learn-resistant in the long run. Proper learning can only be achieved without a safety net, with the possibility of falling on your nose With some cameras, it is almost impossible to get to the basic functions of the device because of the feature-overload. In my opinion, nothing is as frustrating in photography as wishing to influence basic exposure parameters, but instead of doing this in an uncomplicated way, one has to struggle through long menus. I like the direct access of the DP2m far better. Rather have less but crucial functions that can be adapted in the blink of an eye, than having hundreds of functions that are not even worth mentioning, but which force you to “program” the camera like a computer. While we’re on it: recently I have read in forums how crappy some lenses seem to be, because they don’t have a stabilizer. I’m convinced that a stabilizer is not even advantageous with the 45mm (FF) of DP2m, and would be even less so with a wide-angle lens. Still, if the lens had an IS one would have to pay for it and deal with considerably more weight and size. Better do without. Nothing’s in the way, that’s what I love about the DP2m.
What needs to be kept in mind with the DP2m is the sensitivity. For superior sharpness, one shouldn’t go beyond ISO400. ISO800 and 1600 are workable in color, however, when using these sensitivity levels you should tend to overexposed by 1/3 and denoise for best results.
Thanks to an outstanding wide open performance, only a few cases require the higher sensitivity levels. Of course this depends on what kind of photographer you are. I did not scientifically test this, but I did not recognize any differences between f2.8, f4, f5.6 and f8. Only from f11 onwards, diffraction starts to set in. Might avoid f11 and higher for best sharpness. Not having to worry about picture quality in relation with aperture is a highly liberating experience. Aperture value only becomes relevant when thinking about depth of field and the effect one wishes to achieve.
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All in all, the DP2m is no low-light monster. Those who are looking for this, should consider another camera. What you get with the DP2m is an uncomplicated compact camera with a super sharp lens and sensor at low sensitivity levels. In this category the DP2m is class leading and by no means needs to hide behind any other affordable cameras. Those who like to take their time and think about motifs – in other words, those who take pictures in a decelerated manner – and look for an always-on-the-go camera, should take a closer look at the DP2m.