Sigma claims the DP2x is a digital SLR trapped inside a compact camera's body. At around £450, the fixed-focus DP2x isn't an impulse buy, but it certainly has some interesting features and unique qualities that will appeal to camera enthusiasts.
Design and features
The DP2x's plain, matte black design is something of an acquired taste. From the front it looks quite classy, but the back feels lumpy and outdated. The DP2x is somewhat larger than the average compact and heavier too, weighing 260g.
The fixed lens housing protrudes by a good 25mm when the camera is in standby. Switch it on and the lens extends to approximately 55mm in length. Even MC Hammer's generous pantaloons would struggle to accommodate this fellow.
Unlike your average point-and-shoot camera, the DP2x's controls are manual-centric. There's a proper mode dial, with program, aperture-priority, shutter-priority and full manual modes available. Manual focusing is also possible, although not via a lens ring. Instead a thumb dial on the rear is used.
Other unusually advanced offerings include support for raw capture and an active hotshoe, which can be used to attach an external flash or Sigma's optional electronic viewfinder.
Many of the standard features that casual camera users may have become accustomed to are either limited or absent altogether. The video mode, for example, records at a resolution so low (240p) that it's not really worth bothering with. As for face detection, pet modes, miniaturisation filters and the like, the DP2x just isn't that sort of camera. In fact, there's very little hand-holding of any kind, so, if you're new to photography, this may not be the camera for you.
Sensor and lens
The DP2x uses Sigma's own Foveon X3 sensor, a 14-megapixel version of the same APS-C sensor that powers the company's dSLRs. Not only is it much larger than the average compact sensor (20.7 by 13.8mm), the Foveon X3 also works in a very different way to normal CMOS chips.
Without getting too technical, the main difference is that the sensor is divided into three layers, with each layer dedicated to absorbing different wavelengths of light. This essentially allows the sensor to capture red, green and blue light equally across the whole sensor. It also means that, in theory, images require less processing.
In terms of its optical abilities, the DP2x has a bespoke Sigma lens, built specifically to complement the X3 sensor. Equivalent to a 41mm lens in 35mm terms, it benefits from a large aperture (f2.8).
So what does all this mean when it comes to taking actual photos? Well, we'd certainly agree with Sigma that the DP2x's performance is unlike that of any other compact camera.
For a start, it's possible to discern an amazing level of detail in areas of solid colour. During our tests, we took some photos of a red pillar box using three different cameras -- one of them being the DP2x. Whereas the two other compacts presented us with solid reds, we were able to pick out a significantly higher amount of texture in the surface of the box from the shots we took with the Sigma camera.
The DP2x produces a sharp image, and colours feel rich and natural, although perhaps not always overwhelmingly vibrant. Skin tones are delicately rendered, while subtle highlights in hair and clothing fibres are beautifully picked out. The large aperture lens also makes it possible to capture a pleasing bokeh focus effect, whereby foreground subjects appear sharp and backgrounds are blurred. This is a great camera for street photography and portraits.
We'd add, however, that sometimes colours can feel unbalanced. This could be down to user error on our part, but it goes to show how hard it can be to master this camera.
Additionally, we noticed the DP2x's images can look rather grainy. We're not talking about picture noise in the normal digital sense here -- it's more like a traditional film grain, and it increases as ambient light is reduced. Some will undoubtedly see this as a plus point, and we might be inclined to agree. Others may not see the point of the DP2x when better results and more refined control can be achieved using an interchangeable-lens dSLR.
The Sigma DP2x isn't really a compact camera in the traditional sense, and it certainly doesn't offer all the possibilities of a full-blown dSLR. Instead it falls into a strange class all of its own, with its closest rivals probably being other 'prestige' cameras, such as the Fujifilm FinePix X100 and the Leica X1.
The unique nature of its internal technology and its distinctive photos will undoubtedly make it an intriguing proposition for photography enthusiasts. But it's hard to see even the most devoted aficionado using the DP2x as their main camera, and, at £450, it's expensive for a secondary device.
Edited by Charles Kloet