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Sigma DP1x review

Ben Pitt
29 Mar 2011
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
561
inc VAT

A quirky camera with plenty of charm, but it struggles to compete with big-sensor compacts from the better established brands.

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Specifications

20.7x13.8mm 4.6-megapixel sensor, 1.0x zoom (28mm equivalent), 260g

Big-sensor compact cameras such as the Sony NEX-5 are all the rage these days, but it was Sigma that got there first with the DP1 in 2008. This third-generation model has a new image-processing engine and autofocus algorithm but is otherwise largely unchanged, with the same fixed-focal length 28mm lens and Foveon X3 sensor as its predecessors.

We discussed this unusual sensor in our review of the DP2s. That model – and its recently announced successor, the DP2x – coexist alongside the DP1x, the key difference being their use of a 41mm f/2.8 lens. The DP1x's wide-angle 28mm f/4 lens should appeal more to those who tend to capture landscapes and group portraits.

Sigma DP1x front

There's something endearing about Sigma's stubborn rejection of virtually every new-fangled technology that's found on modern cameras. It can't detect smiles, blinking eyes or individual faces – in fact, it doesn't include face detection at all. There are no scene presets or an Auto mode, instead simply offering users a choice of program, aperture priority, shutter priority and manual exposure modes. It also utterly rejects the megapixel race, with its 2,640x1,760 photos equating to 4.6 megapixels. However, as our DP2s review illustrates, the way the sensor is designed lends some credibility to the argument that it captures as much detail as a 14-megapixel sensor.

Other aspects of the DP1x's stripped-down features are less endearing. Videos are recorded at a measly 320x240 pixels and there's no HDMI output. By contrast, the NEX-5 captures 1080p HD video at better quality than most dedicated video cameras. The 2.5in, 230,000-pixel screen leaves much to be desired, too, paling by comparison to the Sony NEX-5's articulated 3in, 921,600-pixel screen. We like the dedicated dial for adjusting focus, but there's little hope of checking manual focus using this screen.

Sigma DP1x top

The DP1x does include a standard accessory shoe – something the NEX-5 lacks – that's fully compatible with Sigma's range of keenly priced flashguns. It also surpasses the NEX-5 for access to photographic controls. There's an exposure lock button, and shutter and aperture settings have dedicated buttons too, even though they're not labelled as such. It's easy to move the focus area to one of nine locations, and a Quick Select menu button provides swift access to other key features.

It's not a quick camera for taking photos, though. We measured 4.5 seconds to switch on and capture a frame, and 3.1 seconds between subsequent shots. That's the same as the DP2s - which is slow for a budget compact, let alone one this expensive. An under-powered processor seems to be largely to blame – photos took 1.5 seconds to appear on the screen after capture. Autofocus may be slightly improved but it still took up to a second, and often failed to focus at all in dim lighting. Continuous mode ran at a respectable 3.3fps but lasted for just four frames. At least switching to RAW mode had no impact on performance.