Sigma DP2 Merrill - Useless at High ISO? Not So Fast...

Discussion in 'Open Gear Talk' started by Amin Sabet, Jun 4, 2013.

  1. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Jul 3, 2010
    Most everyone knows by now that the Sigma DP Merrill cameras have outstanding image quality at low ISO. The results in color are impressive, and the results in black and white are even more impressive.

    Yet as much as the Sigma cameras deliver at low ISO, they fail terribly at high ISO. Color results in particular are a blotchy mess. Here is an example of what you can expect from an ISO 3200 color conversion in Sigma Photo Pro (SPP):


    Completely unusable.

    Open the same RAW file in SPP "Monochrome" mode, and depending on the color balance, things don't necessarily look a whole lot better:


    Yet if you change the color balance to make exclusive use of the blue layer of the sensor, the results are substantially cleaner:


    The resulting conversion:


    It's still not as clean as a similar ISO 3200 photo taken with the Fuji X-E1 moments later:


    Still, by making use of the blue layer only in SPP monochrome, at least you can get usable high ISO results out of a DP Merrill camera.

    Here is another ISO 3200 color failure from my DP2M:


    And the blue layer conversion in monochrome mode:


    Conclusion: Depending on your requirements, the Sigma DP2M delivers usable results in B&W at high ISO, though it still can't match the results of current Bayer sensor cameras like the Fuji X-E1 in this regard.

    Low ISO black and white is another story. The Sigma DP2M simply excels there, but that is a topic for another post.
  2. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Disregarding 1/3 of the pixels can result in useable images (with the accent on the word useable), but the fact remains that the DP cameras are specialist by the very nature.

    Amin, I think you someone passed you the specialist camera kool-aid. But I have a DP2M that should be here before the end of the week. I don't hate the Foveon, I just hate the Foveon above ISO400 (and maybe above 100, but I'm cutting it some slack right now since it's the honeymoon).
  3. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Jul 3, 2010
    I'm disregarding 2/3 of the pixels at high ISO :wink:.
  4. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    duh..... happy hour has entered it's second hour here in Milwaukee. :alcoholic:
  5. Lawrence A.

    Lawrence A. Hall of Famer

    Nov 8, 2012
    New Mexico
    Now that I'm seriously considering a DP-2 Merrill this post is more than just interesting, but has serious information I can use. Since the E-M5 is versatile enough to do just about anything I want it to do, getting a DP2 Merrill, with all its limitations might be interesting. I lot of the shooting I like to do is slow and contemplative anyway, and I think this camera might get me shooting the kinds of things I once used a 4x5 view camera to do. Next to that outfit, the Merrill is a snapshooter. I'm becoming more and more interested in this camera. My OMD can do my birding, my street, my goofing around in horrible light without flash, but the Merrill, I think, could have an important place in my shooting. I'd probably use it as mostly a monochrome shooter, so the blue channel information is good to know,m even if my intention would be to use it mostly at 400 and under.
  6. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    After having a DP1M loaner to use for the past month in Italy, I can say that if shooting landscapes and other more contemplative stuff was a regular part of my day to day shooting, I'd definitely own one of these cameras and will probably own something like one eventually anyway. If I lived anyplace like where I've been in Italy for the past month, or if I still lived in the Southwest (I grew up next door in Arizona), it would be a no-brainer. They're great B&W cameras, but they're soooo good at color I suspect you'd probably end up leaving more shots in color than you think you might.

    And while the high ISO blue-channel trick definitely works in low light for monochrome, you lose some of the detail and all of the color channel information that you have at lower ISOs. While its a cool trick to have available, in reality I'd never take this camera out in low light if I had any better option available. Which it sounds like you do in the OMD which, depending on lenses, is a pretty fine low light camera.

  7. Thanks for the insight Amin, Very useful!! in certain circumstances I feel that the 'look' of the converted image (to mono) is very pleasing as it gives it a film grain look and if you don't like the grain you can change it in LR or SEP2.

    Nice one!!!!
  8. Michael

    Michael Rookie

    Sep 7, 2010
    Western Australia
    DP2 Merrill under some conditions

    Ageratum4.jpg Ageratum3.jpg
    This is a cropped photograph of an ageratum the small perennial shrub variety. Its remarkable in as much as the ageratum is quite hard to photograph and get the colour right both digitally and even more so with film. The camera a Sigma DP2M also a remarkable camera because of its Foveon sensor. I have been playing with this camera for a little over a month and thus far I have learned that in day light the images are gob smackingly brilliant at 100 ISO and okay up to 400 ISO above that the IQ gets worse the higher the ISO. But like Armin discovered this camera is quirky Armin found that images shot at ISO1600 could be manipulated in Pro Photo and get reasonable mono images. Well I wanted to try this but Sigma must have changed the ProPhoto significantly with the most current version 5.5.2 and now there is no channel controls. I feel the same can be done in Irident Developer but I haven't had the time to really do it justice yet, promising but not quite yet. Anyway my thoughts drifted around to colour and the fairly well documented Ageratum effect. I had to prune my little shrub and in the process had some flowers left so as one does I stuck them in a pot and set them on the kitchen table. My kitchen lights are LED down lights so I did a custom WB fired of a couple frames off then processed them - utter rubbish, colour bleached out and a horrid NHS hospital green background that was supposed to be white. Tried it again with a flat panel fluorescent light not as bad but still pretty awful. I use flash but most of my work is outdoors so the Speedlight tend to stay packed away. The first few frames with flash WB were better yet so I started to adjust the WB to see what happened The position after flash is fluorescent the first couple of frames were under exposed so I cranked up the ISO to the unusable ISO1600 and this was the result I repeated it just to make sure. Not only is the colour almost accurate but there is not that much noise and this was shot at 1/640s @ ƒ16 via a wireless trigger designed for Canon I have done almost no PS work on this image... Quirky little camera the DP2M.
    A few days later
    Update: I had a few problems with Sigma Photo Pro it crashed every fourth or fifth image load. on my Mac Mini and won't even load on my MBA, There doesn't seem to be anyway to actually contact Sigma about these issues so it of to the Australian distributor! However I uninstalled Photo Pro and reinstalled and begorrah I have a new monochrome menu in Photo Pro with channels
  9. ivoire

    ivoire All-Pro

    Dec 3, 2011
    chicago burbs
    Michael.... Most of you trying the high iso with the sigmas are having better results than mine. I find the result at 1600 iso to be acceptable for web use and uo to about a 50% view but after that they look very noisy. What remote trigger are you using (i'm guessing its for the flash and not the camera)?
  10. RT Panther

    RT Panther All-Pro

    Dec 25, 2012
    Personally, I use nothing but SPP to process my DP2 shots :smile:
  11. Spp can at times be heavy handed w/ the noise algo it applies. Try playing around w/ from 0 to minus 2 settings w/ various noise parameters whether color or b&w. in monochrome over 1600, better to play w/ the color wheel settings first w/ both noise settings set at -2 and then decide if u want to increase the noise settings from minus 2. IMHO.

  12. flysurfer

    flysurfer Hall of Famer

    Aug 31, 2011
    I have set my DP1M to Auto-Iso 400 for color. For anything above that, I have plenty of Fuji cameras. ;)
  13. I setup custom 3 for color and auto iso to 400 as well. Custom 2 is for b&w and auto iso up to 1600. Custom 1 zone focus setup f16 and auto iso up to 3200 for dp2m and f11 for dp1m. The non-custom settings I select based on needs but I tend not to go above iso 800 for color. If I need higher iso for color I tend to grab one of the Fuji cameras as well..

  14. Michael

    Michael Rookie

    Sep 7, 2010
    Western Australia
    Hi Ivoire,
    Firstly the trigger I have is a Hahnel Combi TF for Canon. I have found it seems to work with all Canon speedlites activated by Leica M9, Olympus OMD and the Sigma.
    Secondly the high ISO noise issue is lessened when capturing in the NEUTRAL mode and with apertures above ƒ8. The fact that this DP2 M also flash syncs at 1/640 is also a surpize. Now I have the Pro photo and monochrome channel controls I have the facility to try this high ISO in mono thing... These are odd findings but this camera is different, as I said quirky.
    Using this Sigma DP2 is in someways like going back to very basic photography the kind I did when I got my first ‘serious’ 35mm camera at twelve years of age a Kodak Retinette 1A. This was a time when macro lenses were as exotic as it was possible to be. The bible of photography catalogues at that time was the Wallace Heaton Blue Book and the only specific macro lens I can remember from that very well thumbed book was for an Exacta, a Zeiss I think. Most other mortals used closeup attachment lenses of varying strengths 2x, 3x, 4x etc and that is what Sigma uses, a custom screw on lens. Technologies have changed specifically in lens coatings. In days past close up lenses were not that good in fact chromatic aberration and distortion was normal but not anymore the Sigma closeup lens used for the attached is perfectly matched with the DP2 lens and sensor It gives wonderful clean close ups as good as dedicated macro lenses. The AML-2 closeup lens is worth every cent of its cost. BTW this isn't not HDR!

  15. ivoire

    ivoire All-Pro

    Dec 3, 2011
    chicago burbs
    Thanks for the info... based on your (and others) comments I'll have to revisit the high iso processing and see what comes of it. You certainly have a good understanding of how to squeeze more from this quirky camera. I too have the AML-2 and find it to give excellent results.