Sigma dp0 Quattro Review

 
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Basic Specifications
Full model name: Sigma dp0 Quattro
Resolution: 19.61 Megapixels
Sensor size: APS-C
(23.5mm x 15.7mm)
Lens: Non-Zoom
(21mm eq.)
Viewfinder: No / LCD
Native ISO: 100 - 6400
Extended ISO: 100 - 6400
Shutter: 1/2000 - 30 sec
Max Aperture: 4.0
Dimensions: 6.4 x 2.6 x 5.0 in.
(161 x 67 x 126 mm)
Weight: 17.6 oz (500 g)
Availability: 07/2015
Manufacturer: Sigma
Full specs: Sigma dp0 Quattro specifications
19.61
Megapixels
Non-Zoom APS-C
size sensor
image of Sigma dp0 Quattro
Front side of Sigma dp0 Quattro digital camera Front side of Sigma dp0 Quattro digital camera Front side of Sigma dp0 Quattro digital camera Front side of Sigma dp0 Quattro digital camera Front side of Sigma dp0 Quattro digital camera

Sigma dp0 Quattro Review -- First Impressions

by Mike Tomkins
02/10/2015: Preview posted
06/15/2015: Updated with pricing and availability

A year after Japanese camera and optics manufacturer Sigma launched a trio of unusual cameras whose unique sensor design was topped only by their strikingly different bodies, it returns with a fourth model for the family: the Sigma dp0 Quattro. The quartet differ only in their choice of lens, with the model name hinting at where each sits in the focal length comparison.

Until now, the Sigma dp2 Quattro -- a camera whose review you can read here -- has occupied the clear middle ground with a 45mm-equivalent f/2.8 lens. On either side, the dp1 Quattro offers a wider-angle alternative with a 28mm-equivalent f/2.8 optic, while the dp3 Quattro promises a more far-reaching option thanks to its 75mm-equivalent f/2.8 glass.

A brand-new lens

Now, the Sigma dp0 Quattro slots into the group as a new, even wider-angle option. It marks a departure from the formula, though, as its 21mm-equivalent (14mm actual) prime doesn't sport an f/2.8 aperture like those of its siblings. Instead, this lens has an f/4.0 maximum aperture.

The new lens has an optical design comprised of four FLD ("F" Low Dispersion) glass lens elements with performance claimed to be similar to that of fluorite lenses, two SLD (Special Low Dispersion) elements, and two aspherics, one of them a wide double-sided aspheric. Together, these allow a 91-degree field of view, yet Sigma says they will also minimize distortion and chromatic aberration, and provide a sharp image that's well-suited to landscape or architecture photography.

But the very same Quattro heart

As in its siblings, the Sigma dp0 Quattro will also feature the company's radical Foveon Quattro image sensor and True III image processor, as well as a body design that's the reverse of most cameras, with a very wide stance and deeply projecting rear thumbgrip, yet only a slight front handgrip.

Let's recap the features which the dp0 Quattro shares with its siblings, for those who aren't familiar with the earlier models. (If you've already read our earlier Sigma Quattro reviews, this will seem mighty familiar.)

 

Sigma dp0 Quattro Walkaround

Where most cameras are either relatively box-like, or have a handgrip of some kind projecting from the front, perhaps accompanied by a smaller thumbgrip on the rear, the Sigma dp0 Quattro takes a different route. There's a small projection on the front, angled outward about 20 degrees, and finished in a sharp 90-degree corner around which your fingers will grip. On the rear, there's a much larger projection on which is control pad and focus button. This, too, finishes at a fairly sharp edge that then angles back towards the camera body and curves to meet it. The control pad, however, sticks out of the side of this angled surface.

Jumping to the front of the unusually wide dp0 Quattro camera body for a moment, it's almost entirely smooth and featureless, save for the angled grip, lens, a two-hole microphone port at the far left end (as seen from the rear), and a small leatherette grip pad at the base of the grip. Unusually, the autofocus assist lamp can be found not in the camera body, but in the top right corner of the lens barrel. While we initially had concerns about the width in terms of handling comfort, because it shifted the center of gravity a long way out from the already quite controversial handgrip, once we got hands-on with the earlier models we actually found them a lot more comfortable to use than we'd expected. Make no mistake, the dp0 Quattro is a camera you'll be shooting two-handed, but that's by design -- Sigma tells us that it intended the body to force a two-handed grip for better stability.

A fair few controls are to be found on the unusual, reverse L-shaped top deck. Sitting right of the flash hot shoe -- and note that there's no built-in flash at all -- you'll find the Power button, a Mode button, and two flat-topped dials, neither of them ergonomically angled. The shutter button sits inside the front dial. A sensor plane mark at the far left end of the body shows just how close to its front the sensor sits, just a tiny fraction behind the rear of the lens barrel. One remaining control -- the manual focus ring -- sits around that barrel.

On the rear, once you get past that grip, the remainder of the dp0 Quattro's back panel is relatively flat, accommodated only by the 3.0-inch, 920K-dot LCD monitor and a handful of controls. One of these -- the Play button -- sits snug between the leatherette rear surface and the cover plate that tops the LCD. The others -- Display mode, Quick Set, AE-lock / Delete, and Menu -- sit in a column just a little further right. The SD card access lamp sits at the very bottom left corner, adjacent to the SD card slot and USB port, which live under a small door on the left end of the body.

On the bottom, you'll find a battery compartment door with dummy battery cable cutout in the base of the unusual grip, and a small projection for the tripod mount beneath the lens. While some tripod mounting plates may not prove ideal with the arrangement, it does look to place the tripod socket not only on the central axis of the lens, but also very close to the focal plane as well, which has advantages for panorama shooters.

 

Sigma dp0 Quattro Technical Info

A radical sensor

The Sigma Quattro cameras all share an image sensor that's fundamentally different to anything else on the market -- even earlier Sigma cameras. It's still a Foveon chip, and in fact still carries X3 branding, but the Foveon X3 Quattro image sensor is a huge departure from the sensors which have preceded it.

Like earlier Foveon sensors, full color information is gathered at every pixel location, but with one crucial difference: A variance in the pixel size and pitch between the top layer and those below it. What this means is that, if you count the resolution of the top layer as that of the camera, the layers beneath have significantly lower color resolution.

The top layer, which responds most strongly in the blue channel, has an effective 19.6 million photodiodes. Both layers beneath have just 4.9 million photodiodes, however.

The upside of this is that it reduces the amount of data the Quattro cameras have to handle (thereby improving performance), and also helps them to yield better ISO sensitivity than in earlier Foveon designs. The downside is the potential for color moiré and false color artifacts, the very thing Foveon sensors have until now managed to avoid.

Processor

Handling output from this unusual image sensor, the dp0 Quattro features Sigma's TRUE III image processor. Burst performance is manufacturer-rated at around 3.5 frames per second in continuous mode.

Sensitivity

The Sigma dp0 Quattro offers sensitivities ranging from ISO 100 to 6400 equivalents in 1/3 EV steps. The whole range is available under automatic control, courtesy of configurable high and low limits.

Lens

The key difference between the Sigma dp Quattro-series cameras can be found in their lens, as noted previously the Sigma dp0 Quattro is based around a 14mm f/4.0 prime lens, equivalent to a 21mm lens after taking into account the focal length crop of the APS-C sized X3 Quattro imager's 23.5 x 15.7mm surface area.

The new lens has an optical design comprised of four FLD ("F" Low Dispersion) glass lens elements with performance claimed to be similar to that of fluorite lenses, two SLD (Special Low Dispersion) elements, and two aspherics, one of them a wide double-sided aspheric. Together, these allow a 91-degree field of view.

Autofocus

The dp0 Quattro uses a nine-point contrast-detection autofocus system. Three AF point sizes are available, and the focus point can also be moved freely around the frame. Face detection is provided, as is a focus lock function.

Exposure

There are a choice of just four exposure modes in the dp0 Quattro, just the way experienced shooters like it-- Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority, and Manual.

Exposures are determined using evaluative, center-weighted average or spot metering, and +/-3.0 EV of exposure compensation is available in 1/3 EV increments. There's also a three-stop auto-bracketing function within the same range. An AE lock function is available.

Shutter speeds vary from 1/2,000 to 30 seconds, although the entire range may not be available depending on your chosen aperture, suggesting that the iris itself is used to time the exposure.

Creative

Among the dp0 Quattro's creative options are a choice of 11 color modes and 10 white balance modes, with the latter including Color Temperature, Flash, and Custom modes.

Connectivity

The Sigma dp0 Quattro's connectivity options couldn't be much simpler -- a USB 2.0 High Speed data port that also supports a cable release switch.

Power

The dp0 Quattro draws power from a BP-51 lithium-ion rechargeable battery pack. Battery life is rated at 200 shots on a charge. Two batteries as well as a dedicated battery charger are included in the bundle.

Price and availability

Priced at US$1,000 or thereabouts, the Sigma dp0 Quattro will ship in the US market from late July 2015.

 

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