I recently visited Pismo Beach, California, and used my Fujifilm X100V to capture some pictures. As I was photographing, I remembered a previous trip to this same location eight years ago—at that time I was shooting with a Sigma DP2 Merrill camera. I was curious how my X100V pictures would compare to those captured with the Sigma camera
For those who don’t know, the DP2 Merrill was introduced in 2012. It has Sigma’s unique three-layer APS-C Foveon sensor with a whopping 46 megapixels (15.3 megapixels on each layer); while a lot of megapixels were advertised, the resolution is more equivalent to 30 megapixels (compared to 26 megapixels on the Fujifilm camera). It has a 30mm (45mm equivalent) f/2.8 lens permanently attached to the front—the X100V has a 23mm (34.5mm equivalent) f/2 lens. There are plenty of similarities between these two models, but there are many differences, too.
The Sigma DP2 Merrill produces wonderful images within a very narrow window: ISO 100 or ISO 200. You can get a decent black-and-white up to ISO 800, but at all costs going higher should be avoided, especially for color photography, where ISO 400 is pushing the envelope. The battery only last about as long as a 36-exposure roll of film. The camera is not particularly stylish or user-friendly.
The Fujifilm X100V can be used at much higher ISOs—for example, the Kodak Tri-X 400 Film Simulation Recipe requires a minimum of ISO 1600, and maxes out at ISO 12800. For color photography, I’m comfortable going as high as ISO 6400 (that purple flower picture above was ISO 1600). I will typically carry a spare battery, but oftentimes one fully-charged battery will last the whole day. The X100V is one of the most beautiful and best-designed cameras, in my humble opinion.
The biggest difference between the Sigma DP2 Merrill and Fujifilm X100V is workflow. With the Sigma, I’d have to load the massive files onto my computer, which would take forever (I’m sure it would be quicker now with modern computers), then I’d have to do an initial edit with their mediocre software (which, again, has likely improved), save as a TIFF, and then finish editing in another program (sometimes a thirty-minute process per picture). With the Fujifilm, I use Film Simulation Recipes to get the look I want straight-out-of-camera, download the pictures from the camera to my phone, crop and straighten if needed, and then upload to storage. My post-processing workflow is so much quicker and easier with the X100V!
Obviously I’m not doing any sort of serious comparison between a still-new model and one that’s a decade old. That’s not fair, and that’s not the point. I’m just looking back, and seeing what has changed in eight years. Obviously my kids have grown a whole bunch. The other big change is that my workflow has simplified and become much less intrusive to my life. The Sigma camera was good for a season, but now I’m very happy to be shooting with Fujifilm.
Since 2018 I don’t use my Sigma DP2, the first one, anymore; but still I am processing the raws! x_x is a curse. My laptop has a i7 desktop level processor and even with the small raws the software iss slow. The very beautiful photographs I made with it took much more effort than even scanning film; bracketing for HDR is impossible as underexposed colors shift; the lens has a horrible green flare. Things I like is the equivalent 40mm focal length, it feels just right, it can look wide or tele, it has a focus wheel which makes it nice. I think the issue with this camera is simply that there is no technology to process its unique sensor, so it always needs a computer. If I’d want a replacement I would go with Ricoh GR IIIx, with 40mm lens, except the photos I saw are processed it looks like it gets what the little Sigma tried to achieve, including color.
In your Sigma photos I see quite a lot of rich detail and color contrast. I think they have a bit more of 3D rendering than the lovely x100v. The couple in the right bottom of the first Sigma photo really seems to be walking the landscape. I think I see those small differences too between my Dp2 and the X100S, but the enjoyment when shooting makes me grab my X100S always.
I still have some unedited RAWs sitting on an old laptop. I keep telling myself that I’ll get to them someday, but I never will. Who has time? Lol! I love the image quality (at base ISO), but the workflow just doesn’t work for me. I much prefer my Fujifilm workflow. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!
Ritchie, “The Sigma camera was good for a season” i can’t sign that. The DP2 Merrill rivals Medium Format, for real.
It’s like real Colorfilm, it captures all to equal correlation (each layer is 15.3 MP) red, green & blue. No comparsion to ordinary Bayer CFA, however, X-trans is a bit different story. I had the original DP1, DP1s, DP1x, DP2, DP2s, and DP2 Merrill. Currently, i still own the DP1x, DP2s and my DP2 Merrill. SIgma SPP (Sigma Photo Professional) workflow is very slow, sluggish, has it’s faults…the Merrill is best used with ISO 100, to shine…best used with a tripod. I also had the Polaroid Foveon Camera, which was flawed, and therefore only very shortly onto the market. I must admit, i haven’t used my Foveon Gear for ages, due to very sluggish & slow approach, shooting behviour…but the Foveon Sensor is excellent, when being used under the right circumstances & conditions.
See the now legendary video with Chriss Niccolls (yes, he’s from TCSTV – The Camera Store TV, long before he & Jordan joined DPR)
As much, as i do like my Fujifilm gear (X100, X-E1/E2, X-T1) the DP2M is special, but sadly, not with an EVF, and battery-depleting like hell (one battery fits best for average ~40-50 frames or so, mine was empty after 10-15 exposures, but it took me always some time…)
I’m sorry. I wrote the article after a long day on the road, at around 11 PM. I didn’t mean to state that the camera was good for a season—it can certainly still hold its own (at base ISO). I meant that it was good for me to use in my photography for a season. I apologize for the confusion. I do sometimes (when feeling nostalgic) consider buying one (or even the Quattro) for old-time sake.
Great share. I have a full Fuji X kit yet I’m still passionate for my Foveon cameras. I have the DPM trio and am thinking about an SD Quattro (again) since it has its own magic. In your first comparison I’m struck by how the Merrill renders the highlights in the reflections in the water. I love the delicate reflective character. But maybe the weather was just different that day vs the Fuji. Foveon greens are also spectacular in their depth. My Fuji landscapes look great until I compare it to a Foveon shot of the same scene – then you see the waxy character that color filter-using cameras generally have. So I do my best not to compare :cP
I think the pace is also worth mentioning as part of the pleasure. You only get a few images – but the slowness of the entire system, capture to processing, makes seeing the final exported result even more pleasing. From the ISO limitations to the glacial processing of SPP, It’s as close to shooting film as digital gets. The keeper ratio is also quite high.
I actually purchased a DP2 Quattro a few years back; unfortunately it was defective and I had to return it. I appreciate your input!
Affinity Photo can process Sigma foveon raw images. On my M1 MacBook Air it is the same as processing time as a Fuji raw. I own a DP2 Merrill and a Fuji X-H2.
When I last used a Sigma Merrill camera, the only RAW developer that could read the files were Sigma’s, and it was painfully slow. Glad there’s another option. With that said, I’m very, very glad that I haven’t edited a RAW photo from any camera in nearly two years, and I couldn’t imagine going back to RAW editing. Three cheers for Fujifilm’s JPEG output! Thanks for the comment!