Sigma dp2 Quattro Review - The Sigma dp2 Quattro features a striking, unconventional design and a completely reworked sensor in comparison to its predecessor - the DP2 Merrill.
Does this redesign and reinvention result in improved performance? Find out in our full Sigma dp2 Quattro review.
There have been instances where manufacturers have attempted something less conventional, with Nikon’s distinctive Coolpix models of the early ‘00s particularly notable.
Sigma has itself defied convention in terms of design with its DP models in recent years, and the new dp2 Quattro is no different. The model is one of the most eye-catching released in recent years, while the inclusion of an APS-C sensor and fixed lens also bring promise of some impressive image quality.
Let’s take a closer look at this distinctive and unique camera.
Sigma dp2 Quattro Review – Features
As mentioned, the Sigma dp2 Quattro boasts a few unique features with regards to its imaging specification, matching its unique design in this regard.
As has been the case with some previous ‘DP’ models, the dp2 Quattro features a lens with a fixed focal length – in this instance 30mm, or 45mm in equivalent terms. This equivalent focal length is about the same as a natural field of view, and as such is favoured by many photographers.
In terms of the optics, the lens has been specifically designed to work optimally with another of the camera’s distinctive features – its sensor.
The sensor is of APS-C dimensions and it features Sigma’s unique Foveon multi-layer design which incorporates stacked layers to capture either the red, green of blue colour sensitivity on each site.
The result? High detail capture and impressive colour gradation, although noise at the higher ISO settings is sometimes rather too apparent.
Another quirk of the sensor, and the camera on the whole, is that it doesn’t record video and thus is almost unique in the digital camera market in that regard.
The camera is also lacking a built in flash, although the top-plate hotshoe does allow for an external flash to be attached.
The dp2 Quattro is also missing a viewfinder, although the rear of the camera does house a 3in, 921k-dot LCD screen.
Sigma dp2 Quattro Review – Design
The first thing that strikes you when looking at the dp2 Quattro is the elongated body and the large handgrip to the right of the camera.
There’s no denying that it certainly looks peculiar on first impressions, and when you first pick the camera up it also feels rather odd in the hand.
However, after a short amount of time you soon get used to the design, and it certainly gives the camera a solid feel when carrying around one handed. It also gives the camera a good feel when shooting, although there is a certain amount of dexterity required from your thumb to change the settings.
That being said, the general control layout is good. A pair of dials sit on the camera’s top plate, with these being used to adjust exposure settings. The dp2 also sports a welcome manual focus ring, as well as dedicated buttons for focus area selection, ae lock and focus mode selection.
A QS (‘Quick Set’) button is also available, and this offers quick access to a host of other common settings.
Outside of the notable design quirks, the Quattro feels like a well-made piece of kit thanks to its rugged magnesium alloy shell and chunky metal top-plate dials, as is often the case with Sigma DP series models.
Sigma dp2 Quattro – Performance
Although previous models in Sigma’s dp range haven’t been particularly noted for their focusing speed – in fact, quite the opposite in some cases – the dp2 Quattro offers generally satisfactory focusing speeds.
The model allows for the main focus area to be moved freely around the centre of the frame, or alternatively a range of 9 pre-determined focus points are on hand along with face detect AF and an adjustable focus box.
This combination generally offers a good level of focus performance, although once the light levels drop the system does begin to struggle somewhat and it becomes preferable to shoot using manual focus.
Previous models in the DP range have also been found lacking in the LCD screen department. The screen on the dp2 Quattro bucks this trend somewhat, measuring in 3in and with a resolution of 921k-dots.
Furthermore, it’s sharp and detailed, offers a host of shooting information as well as electronic level display and while it’s neither touch sensitive nor articulated its performance is up there with some direct competitors.
Sigma dp2 Quattro Review – Image Quality
Colour and white balance
On the whole the camera’s auto white balance performance is reliable. JPEG files offer a richer and more vibrant colour palette than previous Sigma DP models.
If you’re looking for a different colour palette to better suit your needs the good news is that there are a range of alternative colour modes on offer, each with the ability to fine-tune contrast, sharpness and saturation should you so require.
Thanks to the utilisation of on-sensor metering, the dp2 Quattro generally delivers well-judged exposures. The image capture process also benefits from the presence of an on-screen histogram for exposure reference, while the rear command dial delivers quick tweaking of exposure compensation settings.
The Foveon Quattro image sensor delivers a seriously impressive amount of detail, quite unlike that captured on a conventional Bayer sensor. In fact, although the native resolution is 19.6MP, if you were to compare it to a more traditional Bayer pattern sensor the real resolution would be far higher.
This performance is also made possible by the fantastic quality of the lens, delivering corner to corner sharpness and no visible chromatic aberration in a wide range of conditions. It’s fair to say it’s one of the best fixed lenses on the market.
For all the benefits of the Foveon sensor when it comes to fine detail and general image quality, there have always been question marks over the sensor performance when it comes to the higher ISO settings.
There have been a few modifications when it comes to the sensor of the dp2 Quattro, and at the lower settings the sensor generally holds up well, up to around ISO 800. At this point colours smear and desaturate, while detail in shadow areas also diminishes.
At ISO 1600 JPEG files suffer greatly due to a change in the processing style whereby the dp2 Quattro begins working at 4.9MP resolution and then upsampling to 19.6MP. As a result, detail drops off hugely and colours block.
This process can be avoided when shooting Raw files, and although the quality is markedly better unfortunately you can only process the Raw files using Sigma’s Photo Pro 6 editing software, and as such it can be a slightly restrictive process.
Sigma dp2 Quattro Review – Verdict
There’s not denying that the dp2 Quattro is a camera which can excel in the right conditions. In good light and at lower ISO settings the level of detail and general image quality is outstanding
However, the Quattro struggles at higher ISO settings, the fact you can’t process the Raw files on anything else than Sigma’s software is frustrating and while the quirky body shape use useful in some conditions it results in a body far bulkier than some equivalent models.