Sigma dp Quattro Review

The Sigma dp Quattro range of cameras are all fixed lens APS-C sensor cameras, each model with their own particular focal length lens.  I am going to write about the entire range as a whole, for reasons I will explain.

I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity by Sigma UK late in 2014 to have the chance to shoot with the dp2 Quattro camera for a while.   It wasn’t a planned thing, I knew Ray from Sigma UK from the various trade shows we had been at.  I picked up the dp2 Quattro from the Sigma stand out of curiosity and started shooting with it at the show.  Towards the end of the show Ray asked if I’d like to take it home and have more time to try it out.  There were no strings attached and I was just told to go off and see what I could do with it!

[icon_badge icon=”icon-images” size=”small” style=”grey” url=”” tooltip=”” tooltip_location=””] Spread throughout this write-up you will find various images I’ve taken with the Quattro cameras.  You really must click on them to see the larger versions to really appreciate these cameras.

sigma dp1 quattro muore mountain horses Ireland landscape

A couple of months later I spoke to Ray and he asked if I’d like to try out the dp1 as well.  Of course I said yes!  I mentioned that I had seen an LCD loupe (LVF-01) that attached to the back of the camera and asked where I could get one from.  I’d actually been trying to get hold of one because I could see the advantages, but couldn’t find anyone who stocked them.  Sigma UK were kind enough to get hold of one for me.  I believe it was pretty much the only one around in the UK at the time!  I spent some time with the dp1 and dp2, shooting a variety of images from street fashion to landscape with them.  The dp3 had been announced during that time, and when it became available I was again offered the opportunity to try it.  So, I now have the entire range of available Sigma dp Quattro cameras, and as each camera is basically the same other than the lens on the front it would seem pointless to do a copy-and-paste write-up for each camera, hence why I am going to write them up as a whole.  I feel it is also a great opportunity to evaluate the Quattro range as though it was a complete system.  What I mean by that is where you may traditionally buy a single body and then several lenses as a camera ‘system’, the Quattro range could be considered in the same way, it just happens that you get a body with each lens in this case!

Anyone who has followed me in the past knows that I don’t really like to write about cameras unless I have had them for significantly long enough to actually be able to use the camera in a wide variety of situations and really get to know them.  I know there is so much pressure to get information out there, but I just cannot see how it is possible to form a rounded view of a product without actually having used it in real-life situations on real shoots.  Things that may seem annoying at first often become less so when you get used to a camera, or they are totally irrelevant because in real-world use you may not ever need to do whatever is annoying when you first play with it.  In any case, this is my write-up (I prefer that term to review) after using the Sigma dp Quattro range of cameras for nearly 6 months now, from the perspective of a photographer shooting anything from fashion to landscapes with them.

sigma dp1 quattro mono fashion portrait review sample

The dp Quattro cameras have an APS-C sized sensor, which is not in itself unusual, but what is unusual with these cameras is the Foveon sensor that they use.

Tech Talk!

Feel free to ignore this part and skip ahead to the next header if you aren’t interested in the techno-babble, but I do want to talk a little about what makes the Foveon sensor different.

The Foveon sensor in the Quattro range has an image resolution of 19.6Mpx, although with some clever processing it can produce images of 39Mpx resolution (in JPEG only).

With a typical Bayer array sensor used in the majority of cameras, a block of 4 photo-sites are combined to give a specific colour and luminance reading for an individual point within an image.  Each block of 4 photo-sites has a colour filter array over the top of the sensor that allow individual photo-sites to detect luminance for a particular primary colour of light.  The four photo-sites are split into red, blue and two green.  This information then requires processing to construct the image into the pixel-by-pixel image we see.

Here it becomes slightly complicated because if we simply created an image pixel for each block of 4 photo-sites then the sensor would have a reduced resolution.  This is where the term demosaicing arrives, something you may have heard of.  Demosaicing is a process that combines overlapping photo-site blocks to produce an image with a higher resolution.  It isn’t without problems and can create moire, as it uses some of the same photo-sites for more than one pixel of the final digital image.  This also means that more than one part of the sensor is used to create different parts of the final image, so interpolation is used rather than discrete data for each pixel, leading to a certain level of guesswork (albeit a very sophisticated level of guesswork) to create the final image.

The Sigma Foveon sensor does things differently.  It works in 3 stacked layers, each layer detecting a different primary colour.  The top layer has four photo sites (hence the name Quattro) that are used to not only detect blue, but are used as the basis for the resolution of the image.  The second layer detects green and the third layer red.

The Quattro sensor has a 19.6Mpx resolution blue layer and then 4.9Mpx for green and red.

foveon sensor

This arrangement has the advantage of capturing each individual colour for a specific pixel in the image, as each layer records the luminance of the same part of the image you are capturing.  This means that there is no demosiacing, eliminating issues arising from that, and providing incredible detail.  Not least of which because the sensor does not need an anti-aliasing filter.

The Fujifilm X-Trans sensor is another attempt at increasing sensor resolution and reducing noise by using arrangements of 6-photosites with a randomly arranged colour array filter.  This does a great job on the whole, especially in terms of sensor resolution and noise reduction, but is not without issues.  It does not completely illuminate moiré, and has a particularly complex demosiacing algorithm.

The only real problem with the Foveon sensor is that computing the information from the three layers and combining it into a digital image, although superficially it seems like it should be the simplest of them all, takes a lot of processing power, and therefore taking both time and sapping battery life.

sigma dp1 quattro ireland lough

The range

The dp1 has a 28mm equivalent f/2.8 fixed wide-angle lens.  Great for landscapes.

The dp2 has a 45mm equivalent f/2.8 ‘standard’ lens.  This is an ideal all-rounder.

The dp3 is a 75mm equivalent f/2.8 lens, ideally placed for portraiture, as you can see in the image below.

sigma dp3 quattro portrait

 

*yes I am aware of the new dp0 (21mm equivalent) but that wasn’t/isn’t available at the time of writing!

Im going to talk about the three cameras as though they are one for the majority of the review.  Each of them shares an identical physical form, with only one or two very minor differences in options in the menus.  Where I will talk about the cameras individually is if I go into details about a specific image shot with one or the other camera.

I have deliberately avoided reading any reviews on the Quattro range because I don’t want their opinion to affect my own, I want to write based purely on my own experiences.  I can’t say that I haven’t heard things about these cameras, of course I have, some of it justified, some perhaps not.  Here you will read a honest opinion of what I felt about using the cameras over several months.  My opinions are entirely subjective, but I hope fairly representative of a typical photographer who may want to buy a Sigma dp Quattro camera.

sigma dp1 quattro horse mourne mountains Ireland

Design

What is hard to ignore with the dp Quattro range is the unusual design of the camera.  Reactions from others range from “Really Cool!” to “What they hell were they thinking?”.  From what I’ve read the explanation behind the design is that the battery is placed as far away as possible from the sensor so as not to affect the electrical signals on the sensor.  I personally fall more towards the ‘cool’ side of the argument in terms of looks.  In practical use however, it isn’t the best to hold and it does take some getting used to.  I wouldn’t say it is uncomfortable, rather more that it is unusual than anything else.  You can get your hand into a position that makes sense on the body, but in all honesty perhaps a more traditional (if boring) approach would have been better from a practical standpoint.  One thing you can’t deny though is that they do stand out from the crowd!

The practical stuff

The rear of the camera is dominated by a large flat LCD screen.  It is bright and provides a high resolution image that is easy to view and pleasing on the eye.  Display information can be controlled in the menu with several screen choices showing various levels of customisable settings that can be cycled through, and include an electronic level, my favourite of all display options!

sigma dp1 quattro landscape mourne mountains ireland

In terms of buttons and dials the Quattro range, thankfully, takes a fairly minimal approach.  Buttons and dials feel high quality with positive clicks and just the right level of resistance to them.

To the right of the screen there are 5 buttons, play, screen options, QS, EL, and Menu.  The QS button is a customisable Quick Menu that gives instant access to eight different camera settings such as ISO, WB, metering, file quality settings etc.  Each option can be changed through the menu and you can order them whatever way you wish.  In typical use you can access everything you would need from this QS menu without having to go into the main menu during a shoot.  An excellent well thought-out method for when you need to make quick changes, and for the most part it keeps you out of the menu.

Further to the right, on the grip, there is a D-pad giving directional controls when navigating the menu, checking focus when previewing an image, but also with two marked options.  One to change the focus point and a second to toggle the focus from auto to manual.  This toggle is the only button I find myself accidentally pressing on the Quattro and could do with a lock, or option to disable it.  The focus point adjust works well, and is a very quick method of changing the focus point.  On activation you can not only change the focus point, but by turning one of the dials on top, choose from a range of different focus-point sizes.  When this is active you can additionally toggle face-detect AF on or off using the screen display button.

sigma dp1 quattro portrait

To the top of the camera the is a standard hotshoe, on/off and mode (PASM) buttons, along with a shutter release button and two dials.  The function of the dials depend on the mode, but typically act as aperture/shutter speed and exposure compensation, or aperture and shutter speed in full manual mode.  These are fully customisable and can be used in any configuration or direction!

On the lens is a focus ring, which is smooth and easy to operate.  This can be customised to work in either direction depending on what you are used to.

To the left of the body is the SD card slot and USB port, covered by a rubberised door.  The battery sits within the grip part of the body.
sigma dp1 quattro landscape mourne mountains ireland

The main menu is easy to navigate with pages separated by function and are presented in a clear logical manner.  You are not overwhelmed by options, but given just the right level of adjustment to the various functions of the camera.  I don’t want to go on about each menu option as I’d rather spend the time talking about actually using and shooting with the camera.

Shooting with the Quattro

The first time you shoot with a Quattro camera you are left both frustrated and delighted in equal measures.  First comes the frustration.  These are not by any means point-and-shoot, spray-and-pray cameras.  Shot-to-shot time isn’t going to blow you away, and image review takes what seems like hours when you’re on a shoot.  However, when you get to see the results the Quattro can produce you can forgive it almost anything.  I’ll get onto that later.

sigma dp2 quattro Vienne river France

Auto-focus is acceptably useable, for want of a better description.  It certainly isn’t the worst I’ve used, but not the fastest either.  It sits somewhere in the middle.  At best it locks on really quite rapidly, even in low light, but then at other times it can struggle.  Personally I’m happy with the auto-focus and I tend to use the Quattro in AF rather than MF unless I’m shooting landscapes on a tripod where I pretty much know all I will be doing is shooting at infinity.  By using MF and dialling it in to infinity it just saves a little time.

sigma dp2 quattro river reflection architecture france

The one thing I found missing when shooting outdoors with the dp2 in the first couple of months was an EVF of some sort.  The screen is useable even outdoors, but the Quattro range work best at the lowest possible ISO level.  This at times can mean shooting them at shutter speeds you would normally avoid.  When you have an EVF you can steady the camera against your eye and achieve better results with slower shutter speeds than you can when holding the camera out in front of you.  I was aware of the LVF-01 loupe viewfinder, but couldn’t get hold of one.  As I explained earlier, Sigma UK were able to order one in for me and as soon as I installed it in the camera it was like a revelation.  Not only could I now hold the camera much more solidly, but because it was showing me a magnified view of the whole LCD it was like looking into the biggest brightest viewfinder ever!  The whole camera is transformed with this loupe, not only because of the huge screen staring back at you, but the handling, the feeling, everything just suddenly feels right with the Quattro.  I could be tempted to say that it almost feels like half a camera without the loupe, as though it was designed from the start to be used like that.  That awkward looking grip isn’t an issue any more.  It really gives you the sense that you’re shooting medium format.

sigma dp1 with loupe

The loupe attaches in a slightly odd way.  You first have to screw a metal bracket to the base of the camera through the tripod mount (don’t worry, the bracket includes a second replacement tripod socket).  This bracket has a frame that runs around the screen and stays firmly attached to the camera body.  The loupe then slides on from the side of the camera, clicking into place once it is fully on.  It is a neat system and works well.  If at any point you don’t want the loupe on, or when transporting the camera, you simply slide the loupe off again.

sigma dp1 with loupe

One thing I would like to see, as the guardian of three Quattro cameras, is the ability to purchase the mounting bracket separately so you could have one permanently attached to each camera and simply slide the loupe onto whichever camera you are using at any particular moment.  As it stands, it takes a few minutes to unscrew and re-attach the bracket between cameras if you’re shooting with more than one camera at a time.  When I was shooting in the Irish wilderness with the dp1 and dp3, it was just not practical to keep swapping it over.

sigma dp1 quattro cliffs coast ireland

The Quattro range has a series of built-in colour profiles.  Standard, Vivid, Neutral, Portrait, Landscape, etc.  It is very much worth choosing the correct profile for whatever you are shooting.  Not only will the JPEG produce nicer looking colours for that particular scene, but if you use the Sigma PhotoPro software, the RAW files will be processed automatically using the colour profile you chose.  You can, of course, change that setting in the software, but certainly for landscapes and portraits I found that using the colour profiles provided by Sigma produced excellent results that were not worth spending extra time trying to replicate.

I used the dp2 Quattro as a walk-around camera and to shoot some beautiful late snow landscapes in the Lake District.

sigma dp2 quattro rydal water lake district

Something I love to do with the Quattro is to produce large panoramic images.  Because of the amazing resolution, using either the dp2 or dp3 to stitch multiple images into a panorama you can get the most incredible fine detail that would print into a truly enormous high resolution image.  The panorama below is a near 90Mpx image in full resolution.

sigma dp2 quattro lake district panoramic landscape loughrigg

However, my first real shoot with the Quattro range under any pressure came on a street fashion shoot in Manchester.  I’d got together with a local model who I wanted to try out for some up-coming workshops I would be running in the area.  I shot with both the Sigma Quattros and my usual Fujifilm X-Series cameras.  I find switching cameras all the time very frustrating and time-wasting, so when I’m doing something like this I tend to shoot one particular camera in one location and then switch to another camera for a different location.

I had received the wide-angle dp1 the day before the shoot.  From the start of the shoot I had a particular idea of what I wanted to shoot with it.  That would wait until last as the location for this was near to where we started, but would also finish.  This would give some time to get used to using the dp2 camera on a ‘real’ shoot, and for the model and myself to get comfortable working together.  I always find that the best images come from the latter stages of a shoot, especially with a model you’ve not shot with before, as you both tend to get a feeling for what the other wants and things flow better as time goes on.

sigma dp1 quattro street fashion model graffiti manchester

One thing I love about the Quattro range is that they all use leaf shutters.  My particular style of street fashion relies on being able to sync the flash at a high shutter speed to control the ambient light.  With the leaf shutter I can reliably flash sync up to 1/1000th of a second, giving me the ability to pretty much kill all the ambient light even on fairly bright days and with a wide aperture without having to resort to the fiddle of using ND filters.  The image above with the graffiti was shot on a sunny day, but the only light you see in the image was coming from my Profoto B1 that was positioned to the side of the model to give that dramatic hard shadow, almost as though we were shooting under street light in the evening.

marina fairclough sigma dp2 quattro manchester street fashion

One of the downsides to the large amount of processing needed on the files is that the full image preview can take several seconds to be available.  You can see an almost instant preview, but that is a low-resolution version, only really any use to check exposure.  When you want to confirm focus before moving on to another shot, you have to check the actual file.  Having to wait between shots to confirm this can really break up the rhythm of a fashion shoot, although with landscapes for example, it isn’t as much of a problem.  Sometimes you just need to hit preview, have a quick look at the focus point to confirm you’ve nailed it and then you can move on.

As I had only received the dp1 a day before the shoot, I hadn’t had to time to check it was all setup correctly and left it in the basic ‘default’ setup as it came.  Unfortunately this was a bit of a mistake as the JPEG settings were configured to small JPEG.  What I didn’t know at the time, but only found out later when Sigma UK asked for the full-resolution version of an image from that shoot, was that this size setting also affects the size of the RAW file.  I’ve never heard of this before in any camera, and you need to be aware of it.  Normally the RAW file is the full resolution, full beans version of the data from the sensor regardless of any setting in the camera that has anything to do with JPEG.  However on the Quattro range, this small JPEG setting saves a half-resolution RAW image.  In the end, because the quality of the images are so good from the Sigma, I simply re-sized the file in Photoshop and sent Sigma that image.  This was printed up for The Photography Show in Birmingham for their stand, and looking at the print close up, you would never know that it was actually only shot at half the potential resolution of the camera!

The image printed and shown at 2015 The Photography Show in Birmingham can be seen below, many thanks to Jennifer at Sigma UK for making that happen and accepting my submission.
sigma dp1 quattro street fashion graffiti

Image Quality

I have used a wide range of cameras. I’ve owned Nikon dSLR’s, including the D800, the Fujifilm X-Series (pretty much all of them!), loads of different mirrorless cameras, a Sony a7, and a Hasselblad H3DII-39.  I can honestly say that the dp Quattro is the closest thing I’ve ever seen to medium format without shooting medium format.

I think unless you’ve shot digital medium format it is hard to understand the difference between that and “full-frame” 35mm, APS-C or any other smaller format.  It is nothing to do with sharpness or anything that is particularly measurable, there is just a certain feeling to a medium format image that I have never seen before in any other camera until I saw the images from the dp Quattro.  It’s a richness of colour, a super smooth graduation of tones, a crispness in the detail that just hits you as soon as you see the files.

sigma dp1 quattro mourne mountains ireland landscape stream

When you read things like they say it gives a 39Mpx level of detail and hear them talk about medium format quality you just dismiss it as marketing drivel, but in this case it really is true.  I genuinely love the feel of the images that come from these cameras, and for me that far outweighs any awkwardness in use or any criticism you can throw at them.  At the end of the day, if you want to present some truly outstanding images from what are very reasonably priced cameras given the quality then I don’t think you can beat them.

sigma dp2 quattro river reflection architecture france

Just for fun I tested the dp2 head-to-head with a Canon 5dMkIII combined with the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art lens (one of the sharpest lenses out there) in the studio.  The Sigma dp2 Quattro showed better fine detail and image resolution.  Whilst there is some difference in depth of field, both cameras were meticulously focussed on the LEE Filters text, but even that shows greater detail and clarity in the dp2 file in the crops below.

sigma-dp2-quattro-vs-canon-5dmk3-sigma-50mm-art-1

Lens quality

Of late, Sigma have really upped their game in terms of lens design and image quality.  They are truly producing some of the very best dSLR lenses out there, beating both Canon and Nikon at their own game.  Their long history of making lenses is clearly evident in the dp Quattro cameras, and have optically excellent lenses that are matched perfectly to the sensor in each camera.  They are more than sharp enough wide open to use them without having to worry, tend to sharpen up to their best at around f/8 (although once past f/4 I’m not sure anyone apart from the most ardent pixel-peeper could see any difference) and only tail off once they get to the extremes of small apertures on each lens.

sigma dp2 quattro leaves

sigma dp2 quattro review sample

sigma dp2 quattro review portrait sample

At some point I have to mention battery life.  The fact that Sigma provide two batteries in the box with a new camera should say something about how long they last!  Yes, the Quattro really does eat batteries.  If you want to be absolutely sure of the camera lasting a whole day without charge then I would say you need at least 3, perhaps 4 batteries.  I have not done any scientific tests, but from my own experience I get between 50-100 shots per battery depending on how I use the cameras.  Now I don’t go around shooting hundreds of images, I choose my image, turn the camera on, take maybe 3-5 shots and then turn the camera off again.  That is just my normal way of shooting with any camera.  That way I can sometimes make a single battery last me the whole day, but if you want to leave the camera on between shots and use it as a carry around shooter then you really do need several batteries.  I can’t say that it really bothers me all that much, batteries are small, light and easy to carry, but anyone coming from a dSLR will probably get a huge shock when they see the batter meter going down that quickly!  The battery meter is pretty good actually and gives a good even representation of battery life, reducing in small increments down to zero, unlike the Fujifilm cameras that have 3 bars, yet when they reach 2 bars that means the battery is almost dead!

sigma dp2 quattro studio portrait model

As fantastic as the dp Quattro range is at colour, they also truly excel with mono images, and the mono images I have shot with these cameras as amongst the best I have ever seen.  I’ll get onto more about this in a minute, but for anyone who says that the Quattro range is useless beyond ISO 200, the image below was shot at ISO 800.  I have a similar portrait version of this subject also taken at ISO 800 that I had printed up at 20×30 inches (A1) and it is one of the sharpest most detailed prints I have ever seen.

sigma dp2 quattro mono portrait

High ISO

The base ISO for the Quattro range is 100, and if you can shoot at that then I would strongly recommend that you do so.  Use a tripod if necessary and/or artificial light if you can because ISO 100 gives you the absolute best quality from the Quattro.  ISO 200 can be used with minimal loss of quality and colour, but beyond that I have to admit that the colours start to go off quite quickly.  Despite having a settings for ISO 6400 I honestly couldn’t recommend you shoot at anything above ISO 800 if you want to shoot in colour and I’d personally stick below ISO400.  What is unusual though is that detail is well preserved right into at least ISO 800, and even beyond.  Colour information is affected far more by the use of the higher ISO values than the actual resolution, which is unusual as it is usually both that suffer.  The lack of great colour at higher ISO can be overcome by switching to using the images as b&w conversions, and as such you can get superb results even at ISO 800 because of the fact that fine detail is still well retained, I would perhaps even suggest that you could use ISO 1600 to produce good b&w images.

Hold the camera steady enough and you can get good results at low ISO where you may not think you could.

sigma dp2 quattro church

You may start to think that this is a pretty rubbish camera now, many other cameras are easily capable of producing great quality images at ISO 3200.  With the Quattro seemingly topping out at ISO 400 for the best colour images, you could quite rightly think that this isn’t a great example of a modern camera.  I would strongly argue that isn’t the case.  Until the release of the Sony 50Mpx MF sensor you really couldn’t take medium format beyond ISO200 without suffering severe loss in quality.  Neither medium format or the dp Quattro are cameras that are designed to work as all-round, do everything, low light cameras.  Much like medium format cameras, the Sigma dp Quattro is designed to give you the absolute best image quality you can get, and as with medium format, that only comes at lower ISO ranges.  Let me be clear here because I think some people expect all cameras to do everything.  Do I think that a camera that I admit myself is only good until ISO400, and I personally wouldn’t shoot above ISO 200 is something to be applauded? No.  That is missing the point though.  If you want an all-round camera that can do that there are loads out there, go buy one of those for when you need that capability.  If you want the absolute optimal image quality without spending a stupid amount of money, then for me this is exactly where the Sigma dp Quattro cameras fit.

It is worth noting that the Sigma PhotoPro software does a much better job of processing high ISO images from the RAW files than the cameras does when it produces JPEGS.  By adding that extra step you can gain what looks like a whole stop advantage in ISO performance.  On the left is the SPP processed RAW, on the right is the camera JPEG.

sigma dp3 quattro high iso 1600

The image below is shot at ISO 3200 and is an out of camera JPEG.

sigma dp3 quattro high iso 3200

Black and whites can be quite acceptable at ISO 3200 if you process the image through SPP.  It still lags behind other cameras, but I wouldn’t say that it is anywhere near as bad as some people may say.

sigma dp3 mono conversion iso 3200

 

You can make your own mind up by checking my high ISO gallery here which shows the same image at everything from ISO100 to ISO6400.

Processing the images

This is probably a subject that I would write an entire article on by itself.  It really has taken me some time to get to grips with processing the images from the Sigma dp Quattro cameras.  You may notice that within this review a varied level of refinement between images.  The better ones will, in general, be the images from Ireland which were taken just before I wrote this and have been processed after having the cameras for several months and getting used to how to deal with the files.

I’ve been shooting with the Fujifilm X-Series cameras for a while, and you get used to a certain way of working and to how those files respond when you’re processing them in Lightroom.  The Sigma files do not respond in the same way and it takes quite a bit of time to learn how to get the best out of them.  It is a fine balancing act between preserving the beautiful graduated tones that you get straight out of the camera and processing them to get what you want out of the file.

sigma dp1 quattro mourne mountains landscape

One thing I would say is that I found the Quattro to be quite unforgiving of bad shooting technique.  Where with my Fuji cameras I can be very lazy and easily shoot at least 1 stop under or over exposed and can pull that back either way in Lightroom pretty much without anyone knowing any different, the Sigma will seriously smack you in the face if you get it wrong!  The files just cannot the same punishment, they need a fine caress rather than a heavy handed attack on the sliders as you soon find yourself with an image that too quickly looks over-processed.

The Sigma PhotoPro  (SPP) 6 software…  Yes, it is every bit as slow and awkward to use as you have heard!  Actually, in fairness, there was an update in December 2014 that made the processing of images considerably faster, but it is still nothing like Lightroom, or anything else.  You move a slider, wait 4-5 seconds and then the result of that change appears.  It makes using the software nearly impossible as a serious tool for adjusting the RAW files other than very basic adjustments before exporting.  The way I tend to work is to import the RAW files into that software, flag the ones I want to work with, export them as 16-bit TIFF files and then import those TIFF files into Lightroom to post process them there.  Unfortunately that creates enormous TIFF files, in the order of 120Mb each, and if you also want to store the original RAW files at 60Mb each you’re going to be needing to buy in some extra storage space!

Whilst it can be tempting to simply use the JPEG files from the camera for convenience, the SPP software does a better job of extracting detail from the files, and in particularly colours at high ISO when compared to camera JPEGs, so for my use of these cameras to produce the best quality images I can, using the SPP software is a necessary step.  Somewhat of a shame that Sigma do not work more closely with Adobe to allow processing of the RAW files directly in Lightroom.

sigma dp1 quattro ballintoy harbour

Printing the images

This is where I feel the Quattro cameras really excel.  Prints from the Quattro files are truly outstanding, producing beautiful tonal graduations and incredible detail even when blown up to sizes larger than most people would normally want.  I now have several images that I’ve had printed and framed at 20x30in (A1) size.  You can literally put your nose to the images at A1 and still see all the fine details.  I’m sure they could easily be printed at A0 size, or even greater and you would still be rewarded with amazing prints.  If I were to shoot a job where the client wanted large prints as the end result then I would pick up the Quattro to do that without hesitation.

sigma dp quattro review conclusion

Conclusion

I hope from the above I have managed to produce a fair and up-front write-up of my time using the Sigma dp Quattro cameras.  I have honestly not been influenced or paid or anything else to say anything good about them.  In truth, I have better things to do than write reviews, and I only write about the kit that really inspires me to do so. If I didn’t think they were any good I would have quietly handed the cameras back to Sigma UK and said “Thanks a lot, but not for me.”  The fact that I’ve (apparently!) managed to write over six thousand words about them should say something about how much I felt these cameras were worth writing about.

As I mentioned within the write-up, these cameras can frustrate as well as delight at the same time.  Had I only used them for a brief period I can easily see that the frustration would have driven me to give up on them, but the more you use them, the frustration subsides as you get used to their little quirks and you end up being blown away by the images every time you look at them on your computer.

If you want outstanding results that truly have a unique look and feel that I’ve never before seen outside of medium format then these cameras from Sigma cannot be beaten.  This for me is the niche that the Quattro fits into.  I think a lot of people have overlooked that and tried to use the Quattro like they would many other cameras, as a daily shooter.  Would I use any of the dp Quattro range of cameras as a family day-to-day carry around camera? Honestly, No.  There are better tools for that, but you know what, that’s fine!  I wouldn’t attempt to use my Fujifilm cameras to shoot professional sports.  Each camera has its strengths and weaknesses.  It is up to the photographer to play to those and choose the right tool for the job.  With the Quattro I have found a range of cameras that produce what I feel are the best quality images around without having to go to medium format.  I use them in that way, considered and carefully, as such they provide me with simply amazing results.

I shall be very sad to have to finally hand these cameras back to Sigma UK.  I am rarely tempted to put my own money into a camera these days as I seldom find anything that tempts me to use anything beyond those I already own, but I am extremely tempted to purchase one of the Quattro cameras… my only decision now is, which one?!  Oh, and Sigma, if you ever update the sd1 with a full-frame version of the Foveon sensor I shall sell my car to purchase it!  I can only imagine at the quality of the images that would come from such a camera coupled with the Sigma Art lenses.

 

Check out my gallery of selected images taken with the dp Quattro cameras here.

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About The Author

Matthew Maddock is a commercial photographer based in the Lake District, UK. Specialising in the hospitality and outdoor sports industry. He is a Fujifilm X-Photographer and Getty Images contributor.
His portfolio can be viewed at memaddock.co.uk

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