Sigma dp3 Quattro
The dp3 Quattro is a nice addition to Sigma’s compact camera line-up and adds a longer focal length option to the existing dp2 Quattro model.
If you’re a fan of Foveon sensors (as we are), this camera could appeal.
The dp3 Quattro won’t suit everyday snapshooters and may not be ideal for some photo enthusiasts. It’s more ponderous to use than its dp2 Quattro sibling and the raw conversion software, though capable, is quirky. But that Foveon sensor is hard to beat if you’re after rich colour rendition plus detail that rivals the best DSLRs we’ve reviewed.
The dp3 Quattro is the second of Sigma’s Quattro cameras to be released, following the dp2 Quattro, which we reviewed in September 2014. It is one of three fixed-lens compact cameras announced by Sigma in February 2014 that differ only in the lens fixed to the compact Quattro body. The dp3 Quattro has the longest lens of the trio, covering the equivalent of 75mm on a 35mm camera. Like the dp2 Quattro, it lacks both viewfinder and built-in flash and can’t record movies. No lens hood is supplied with the camera.
Front view of the dp3 Quattro. (Source: Sigma.)
Rear view of the dp3 Quattro. (Source: Sigma.)
The top panel of the dp3 Quattro. (Source: Sigma.)
Who’s it For?
Sigma’s cameras will only suit photographers who are prepared to shoot and work with X3F.RAW files. Our tests of the dp2 Quattro confirmed latest Foveon chip is quantifiably superior to the sensors in the DP Merrill series of cameras that pre-date the Quattro models.
However, like previous cameras in the series, the dp3 Quattro performs best at low ISO settings (ISO 400 the absolute maximum).
The camera has other limitations that potential purchasers should be aware of:
1. The lack of a viewfinder means you’re forced into point-and-guess shooting in bright outdoor situations. Even with the monitor’s brightness racked up as far as it can go, we found it impossible to see enough detail in scenes to compose shots with any degree of precision. In addition, the screen refresh rate is relatively slow.
Sigma has recently introduced a new LCD Viewfinder (LVF-01), which has been developed as a dedicated attachment for the dp Quattro camera series. It attaches to the LCD monitor and claims to ‘ mimic the handling of a DSLR’ and offer ‘more stable, shake-free handling’. Its listed price is US$230 or AU$299.
2. Both lens hood and external flashgun EF-140S are offered as optional accessories and, unlike previous models, the dp3 Quattro appears to come with only one battery. Power consumption is relatively heavy and users will need a spare battery on even relatively brief shoots.
3. There are no scene pre-sets or a limited range of in-camera special effects.
4. No stabilisation is provided.
5. You have to use Sigma’s raw file processor to convert the X3F.RAW files into editable formats. (It’s available as a free download from Sigma’s website.) It’s pretty quirky and adds extra steps to your normal workflow.
6. The buffer limit of seven JPEGs or 3.7 raw files restricts continuous shooting options and writing speeds are sluggish, even with fast memory cards.
Each model in the dp Quattro range has a different lens. Otherwise, they are effectively identical, with the same sensor, image processor, controls and capabilities.
The medium telephoto lens in the dp3 Quattro has a focal length of 50mm (equivalent to 75mm on a 35mm camera) and extends roughly 70 mm in front of the camera body. Its optical design consists of 10 elements in 8 groups, with one lens element made of high-refractive index SLD (Special Low Dispersion) glass and one lens element produced by precision glass moulding.
The optical diagram for the dp3 Quattro’s lens, showing the positions of the exotic elements. (Source: Sigma.)
Close focusing is supported to 22.6 cm and the camera includes a LIMIT mode that lets users choose focusing zones for Macro, Portrait and Scenery. The maximum aperture is a fast f/2.8, with a minimum aperture of f/16. Seven aperture blades close to a circular iris diaphragm for attractive bokeh at wide aperture settings.
The dp3 Quattro has the same elongated body as the dp2 Quattro, with a large and unusually-shaped grip on the right hand end that helps to dissipate heat generated by the sensor and image processor. It’s easiest to use two-handled, although one-handed shooting is possible when the camera is held vertically in portrait orientation.
The shutter button is located on the top panel at the junction between the front of the camera and the grip. The front control dial surrounds it, with a second dial to its rear, offset towards the rear right hand corner.
The power switch and mode button lie between the hot-shoe and the shutter button assembly. The hot-shoe is designed for the optional EF-140S SA-STTL flashgun, which has a GN of 14 (ISO 100/m). There’s no built-in flash – and no viewfinder.
The monitor covers most of the rear panel and is fixed in place, flush with the camera body. Four buttons ““ Display mode, Quick Set, AE-lock / Delete, and Menu ““ line up near its right hand side, with a play button sandwiched between the Menu button and the edge of the monitor. The rear section of the grip angles sharply back to provide a thumb rest plus space for the arrow pad (‘selector’), which carries a prominent ‘FOCUS’ label and AF point selector icon.
The memory card slot is located on the left hand side panel beneath a rubber cover that also protects the USB port in the same compartment. The battery compartment is in the standard position on the base plate, below the grip box. Its cover has DC connector cut-out that can be removed to allow the camera to be powered from the mains. Two ridged rubber pads on the base plate add a small amount of padding, particularly around the tripod mount, which is metal-lined and located on the lens axis.
The Foveon X3 Quattro sensor is common to all dp Quattro cameras and described in detail in our review of the dp2 Quattro. The cameras’ TRUE (Three-layer Responsive Ultimate Engine) III processor has been developed to match this sensor and offers 14-bit processing.
The dp3 Quattro offers two images sizes for X3F.RAW files, which are recorded with a 3:2 aspect ratio. Five aspect ratios are available when recording JPEG files: 21:9, 16:9, 3:2, 4:3 and 1:1. Three image sizes are available for each: Super-High, High and Low. Movie recording isn’t supported.
In-camera colour modes are the same as the dp2 Quattro’s. Options include the default Standard setting plus the following:
- Vivid, which boosts saturation and contrast;
- Neutral, which subdues saturation and contrast;
- Portrait, which softens skin tones;
- Landscape, which makes blue and green more vivid;
- Cinema, which reduces saturation and emphasises shadows to emulate a cinematic mood;
- Sunset Red, which boosts reds to make sunsets look more impressive;
- Forest Green, which increases greens to make plants more vibrant;
- Foveon Classic Blue, which adds a rich blue tone to blue skies;
- Foveon Classic Yellow, which emphasises yellows; and
- Monochrome for black and white photography.
The review camera was supplied with Firmware v. 1.0, which is current for the camera. Based upon subjective assessments and Imatest results, the dp3 Quattro’s imaging performance was as good as we expected on the basis of our review of the dp2 Quattro.
As with the dp2 Quattro, our Imatest tests showed JPEG files to have higher resolution than X3F.RAW files at ISO settings up to 800, where they were roughly equal. After that, converted raw files had much higher resolution than their equivalent JPEGs. The graph below shows the results of our tests.
Imatest showed the 50mm lens to be a superior performer, which maintained high resolution for both centre and edges of the field of view from f/2.8 to about f/7.1, where diffraction began to take effect. Very slight edge softening was detected at apertures up to f/5.6, as shown in the graph of our test results below.
Lateral chromatic aberration was negligible at all aperture settings, as shown in the graph below, in which the red line indicated the border between ‘negligible’ and ‘low’ CA. No coloured fringing was seen in test shots and flare was never a significant issue in our tests.
Long exposures at night had plenty of colour and clarity, with slight softening becoming just detectable at ISO 800. Image noise became really noticeable at ISO 3200, where test shots also contained colour blotches and some colour gamut was lost. By ISO 6400 images were seriously noise-affected and showed granularity, coloured blotches, streaking and reduced colour gamut. We woudl advise against using this sensitivity setting, even for raw files.
Auto white balance performance was relatively good. A slight residual orange cast remained in shots taken under incandescent lighting. But fluorescent lighting delivered shots with close-to-neutral colours and the pre-sets delivered acceptable corrections for both colour casts without going overboard.
Our timing tests were conducted with the same 8GB SanDisk Extreme Pro SDHC UHS-1card as we used for the dp2 Quattro. Not surprisingly, the results for both cameras were similar, although the dp3 Quattro took longer to process most shots.
The review camera took 1.8 seconds to power up ready for shooting. We measured an average capture lag of 0.3 seconds which was eliminated with pre-focusing. In low light levels it still could still take a second or two to find focus.
It took 5.5 seconds on average to process one high-resolution JPEG file; 10.3 seconds for each X3F.RAW file and 11.4 seconds for each RAW+JPEG pair. Shot-to-shot times averaged 2.9 seconds for both JPEGs and raw files.
In the continuous shooting mode the review camera recorded seven Large/Fine JPEGs in 5.1 seconds, which is quite a bit slower than the dp2 Quattro’s burst rate. It took well over 30 seconds to process this burst.
The buffer limit remained at seven frames for both files and RAW+JPEG pairs and capture rates remained constant. However, processing times were extended to more than 50 seconds for raw files and about 10 seconds longer for RAW+JPEG pairs.
The dp3 Quattro is a nice addition to Sigma’s compact camera line-up and adds a longer focal length option to the existing dp2 Quattro model. Both cameras operate in a rather small niche and neither is likely to have broad appeal.
If you’re a fan of Foveon sensors (as we are), this camera could appeal. But, if (like us) you find the limitations of a fixed focal length lens ““ albeit a very good one ““ frustrating, you might wish (like us) that Sigma would produce an interchangeable-lens camera based around the new sensor. Preferably with a built-in viewfinder (a high-resolution EVF would be ideal).
As we found previously, the dp Quattro models don’t provide significantly better performance than the previous Merrill models at the low ISO settings where Foveon sensors excel. The Merrill models are also smaller and more portable and, while we understand the rationale behind the Quattro design, it doesn’t provide any advantages ““ aside from the benefits resulting from the redesigned user interface.
The dp3 Quattro won’t suit everyday snapshooters and may not be ideal for some photo enthusiasts. It’s even more ponderous to use than its dp2 Quattro sibling and the raw conversion software, though capable, is quirky. But that Foveon sensor is hard to beat if you’re after rich colour rendition plus detail that rivals the best DSLRs we’ve reviewed.
Image sensor: 23.5 x 15.7 mm Foveon X3 Direct Image Sensor (CMOS) with 33 million photosites (29 megapixels effective)
A/D processing: Lossless compression RAW data (14-bit)
Lens: 50mm f/2.8-f/16 (~75mm in 35 mm format); 7 blade iris diaphragm, 10 elements in 8 groups
Image formats: Stills – X3F.RAW, JPEG (DCF / Exif 2.3), RAW+JPEG
Image Sizes: Stills ““ RAW: 5424 x 3616, 2712 x 1808; JPEG: 21:9 aspect: 7680 x 3296, 5424 x 2328, 2704 x 1160; 16:9 aspect: 7680 x 4320, 5424 x 3048, 2704 x 1520; 3:2 aspect: 7680 x 5120, 5424 x 3616, 2704 x 1808; 4:3 aspect: 6816 x 5120, 4816 x 3616, 2400 x 1808; 1:1 aspect: 5120 x 5120, 3616 x 3613, 1808 x 1808
Shutter speed range: 30 seconds to 1/2000 second
Self-timer: 2 sec. or 10 sec. delay
Image Stabilisation: No
Exposure Compensation: +/- 3EV in 1/3EV steps
Exposure Bracketing: 3 frames in 1/3EV steps; +/- 3EV range
Focus system: 9-point contrast detection type with Free move mode and three Focus Frame sizes: Spot, Regular and Large. Range: 22.6 cm to infinity; AF-assist LED
Focus modes: Face Detection AF, manual focusing via ring on lens, LIMIT Mode (for Macro, Portrait and Scenery)
Exposure metering: Evaluative, centre-weighted average and spot metering
Shooting modes: Program AE (Program Shift is possible), Shutter Speed Priority AE, Aperture Priority AE, Manual exposure
Colour Modes: Standard, Vivid, Neutral, Portrait, Landscape, Cinema, Sunset Red, Forest Green, FOV Classic Blue, FOV Classic Yellow, Monochrome; contrast, sharpness and saturation adjustable for each mode; monochrome images can have red, green, blue, yellow or orange filter effects or red, warm tone, sepia, green, blue green, blue, cold tone, blue purple or purple toning applied
ISO range: Auto, ISO 100 to ISO 6400 in 1/3EV steps (high limit, low limit setting is possible)
White balance: Auto, Auto (Lighting Source Priority), Daylight, Shade, Overcast, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Colour Temperature, Flash, Custom
Colour space: sRGB and Adobe RGB
Flash: No (hot-shoe provided for external flashguns)
Sequence shooting: Max. approx. 7 shots/sec. at High resolution (14 frames at low resolution)
Buffer memory depth: 7 JPEGs, 7 raw files, 5 RAW+JPEG
Storage Media: Single slot for Memory Stick PRO Duo or SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards; UHS-1 compliant
LCD monitor: Fixed 3.0 inch TFT colour LCD with Approx. 920,000 dots
Interface terminals/communications: USB, Cable Release Switch
Power supply: BP-51 rechargeable Li-ion Battery Pack; CIPA rated for approx. 200 shots/charge
Dimensions (wxhxd): 161.4 x 67 x 101.8 mm
Weight: 465 grams (without battery and memory card)
Based upon JPEG files.
Based upon X3F.RAW files converted into TIFF format with Sigma Photo Pro 6.
Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.
Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.
20-second exposure at ISO 100, f/8.
8-second exposure at ISO 400, f/6.3.
4-second exposure at ISO 800, f/8.
2.5-second exposure at ISO 1600, f/11.
1-second exposure at ISO 3200, f/11.
1/2-second exposure at ISO 6400, f/11.
Strong backlighting; ISO 100, 1/1000 second at f/10.
Shot with the Standard mode that applies no colour filtration; ISO 100, 1/500 second at f/9.
The same subject photographed with the Cinema colour mode; ISO 100, 1/500 second at f/10.
The same subject photographed with the Sunset Red colour mode; ISO 100, 1/400 second at f/9.
The same subject photographed with the Monochrome mode; ISO 100, 1/400 second at f/9.
ISO 400, 1/100 second at f/4.
ISO 100, 1/200 second at f/5.
ISO 100, 1/125 second at f/3.5.
ISO 100, 1/400 second at f/5.6.
ISO 100, 1/40 second at f/6.3.
ISO 200, 1/400 second at f/5.6.
ISO 100, 1/100 second at f/3.5.
RRP: AU$1049 (discounted to $989 at the time of this review)
- Build: 9.0
- Ease of use: 8.0
- Autofocusing: 8.0
- Image quality JPEG: 9.0
- Image quality RAW: 9.0