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Sigma DP3 Merrill Compact Camera

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The Sigma DP3 Merrill Compact Camera

The Sigma DP3 Merrill is a large-sensor compact camera capable of extremely high-quality images. It’s based around Sigma’s exclusive APS-C Foveon X3 Direct Image Sensor, which records each RGB color on its own layer, allowing extreme color accuracy and fine detail. While the camera provides 44MP of image detail, each of the three sensor layers is recording 14.75MP, thus giving you a file with the dimensions of 14.75MP.

The DP3 Merrill features a 50mm f/2.8 lens, which equates to a 75mm focal length post sensor-crop factor. The lens has a close focus distance of 8.9", allowing a near-macro 1:3 maximum magnification. It has a 3.0" 920K rear LCD screen that’s used for both image composition and review, and it features full manual-control options as well as the standard, pick-up-and-shoot Auto mode. It captures both RAW and JPG images to SDHC/XC memory cards, and uses a rechargeable lithium-ion battery.

Roger's Take

There’s an old saying: with sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine. But if you don’t have sufficient thrust, or there are too many pigs, then they don’t fly well at all. That’s my feeling about the Sigma DP Merrill cameras. The Foveon sensor provides a lot of thrust. It is, at the very worst, different and interesting. At the very best, it is unique and amazing.

I wouldn’t say the image quality is actually 44 megapixels, but it’s certainly far more than the 14.75 megapixels its detractors claim. I find the resolution on a par with, or just behind, the Nikon D800 camera. That’s rare territory. The images I’ve gotten with this little thing are really amazing. (with that in mind, the 30mm lens of the DP2 is better around the edges than the 19mm lens of the DP1).

The downside to the sensor is that it really doesn’t like any ISO over 800, and isn’t all that crazy about 800. I stay at 400 or less whenever possible. There’s also the "red" thing--Foveon reds are different than other camera’s reds at times. It has been doubly crippling because the only raw converter available was Sigma’s proprietary software. Which was, to be charitable, a pig. Iridient’s Raw Developer 2.0 now supports it also, though, so hopefully that problem is in the past.

The camera itself is the second pig in the mix. It’s nicely sized but boxy, and it can be hard to grip. It has an excellent lens. It has agonizingly slow write times, especially for raw files (it can take 13 seconds to write a single raw file). The LCD is okay but not great (or that may be the camera’s inability to process the large files for display). The bottom line: if you want some amazing images, but not a lot of them and never very close together, this camera is a blast. If you want anything else, it can be frustrating.

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Extended Warranty Details