Saturday, January 18, 2014

Sigma DP2 Merrill Alternatives

Leaning Ladders - Rosamond, California
Captured using a Sigma DP2 Merrill camera.
I was recently asked by a friend what cameras might be good alternatives to the Sigma DP2 Merrill. He really likes the way the camera makes images look, but the $800 price tag is just a little too much for him. What other options does he have?

To start with, you cannot replace Sigma's Foveon sensor with a Bayer sensor. The Foveon sensor is the closest thing in the digital world to film, and Bayer sensors simply look different. So if one likes the look that the Foveon sensor creates, then one needs to have a camera with a Foveon sensor. Period.

But putting that aside, what cameras are similar to the Sigma DP2 Merrill?

The Fuji X100S might be the closest. The X100S has a slightly wider angle lens (23mm vs 30mm) and also a slightly wider aperture (f2 vs f2.8). Both lenses are super sharp. The Sigma has better low ISO image quality while the Fuji has much, much better high ISO image quality. Beyond that, the cameras are quite similar. However, if the DP2 Merrill is too expensive, then the X100S is certainly out of the question, as it will cost you a couple hundred dollars more.

Next is the Ricoh GR. It is actually a closer match to the DP1 Merrill than the DP2 Merrill simply because it has a much wider angle lens (18mm). The GR's image quality is not as good as the Fuji X100S at low or high ISO, but it still produces excellent images. At low ISO the GR cannot touch the DP2 Merrill, but at high ISO it certainly surpasses it. The DP2 Merrill and the GR retail for about the same price.

Then there is the Nikon Coolpix A. This is a similar camera to the Ricoh GR, except with Nikon's name on it and Fuji's price tag. The Coolpix A, while certainly a fine camera, is not a good value in my opinion. For the same money you could get the X100S and have better image quality. Or, for a couple hundred dollars less, the GR will give you about the same image quality. In any event, the Coolpix A is more expensive than the DP2 Merrill.

Finally, there is the Sony RX1. I only mention this camera because it is the closest match to the DP2 Merrill's image quality at low ISO. But at more than three times the price it should be! Obviously, at high ISO the RX1 blows the DP2 Merrill out of the water. But at low ISO it's a close match. The premise here is that the DP2 Merrill is too expensive, and so that means the RX1 is way out of reach.

I could have also mentioned a couple of Leica cameras (the X2 and Monochrom, perhaps), but Leica's are just so incredibly expensive.

The conclusion here is that if you want a Sigma DP2 Merrill but don't like the cost, there are not really any good alternatives for you. The cheapest one, the Ricoh GR, will run you about the same amount of money. This also tells you that the Sigma camera is actually a good value.

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