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Sigma DP2 Merrill First Impressions Review
Lens & Sensor
The image sensor on the DP2 Merrill is a model bearing the company's Foveon X3 15.4-megapixel image sensor, just like the company's $6000+ SD1 digital SLR. Foveon sensors are unique in that instead of featuring a Beyer pattern where an image sensor's photosites are gather 1/4th red, 1/4th blue, and 1/2 green information (extrapolating proper color from the patterns therein), the Foveon X3 sensors have essentially three 15.4-megapixel layers on top of one another—one green, one red, and one blue. The result is three times the color data available, with each pixel the result of three photosites worth of information from different parts of the light spectrum.
The theoretical result is vastly superior image quality and detail, because a final digital image is not merely an educated guess at what an individual pixel's brightness and color detail entailed, but an actual measurement. Clearly, normal Beyer pattern image technology is getting along just fine (nearly every other company uses some form of Beyer pattern on their sensors, though companies like Fuji do play with the arrangement).
Having seen samples taken with the Sigma SD1, we expect the DP2 Merrill to be a quite capable camera in the image quality department. We weren't able to take away samples at CP+ and the rear screen didn't really allow for much close inspection. Rest assured, we're as eager as anyone to get this camera in for a full battery of tests to see what this sensor technology can really do on the DP2 Merrill.
The rear LCD on the Sigma DP2 Merrill is a 3-inch 920k-dot TFT color LCD that seems vastly improved over previous Sigma DP cameras. While previous models were also listed as 920k-dot screens, complains were registered that they were lower resolution RGB screens. We didn't notice any major issues with clarity on the DP2 Merrill, with menus and photos looking nice and crisp in playback. Our one issue is with the brightness of the screen, as it seems quite dark and easily affected by glare.
The DP2 Merrill does not feature a built-in flash with the body, though does include flash control options in the menu. The camera includes a built-in hot shoe that is designed for attaching one of a number of Sigma-produced flashguns. The press release for the DP2 Merrill calls out the ability to use a specially designed EF-140 DG flashgun, though the use of full SD-series Sigma flashguns are also an option.
Jacks, Ports & Plugs
Without HD video capture, there is little reason to have much beyond a simple USB/AV output port on the Sigma DP2 Merrill, which is all you get. The port is hidden behind a small plastic door on the side of the camera, which pops out to reveal the port hidden underneath. The camera supports USB 2.0, without any update for faster standards that are just coming to market.
Both the DP2 Merrill and DP1 Merrill will make use of the BP-41 battery pack from Sigma. The two batteries charge via an external charger, model number BC-41. We weren't able to see these batteries specifically at CP+ in Japan, as the models on the floor were wired in with DC adapters that replicate the shape only. The battery slots into a dedicated compartment alongside memory on the bottom of the camera. Battery capacity and approximate shot rating are not available as of this writing.
The Sigma DP2 Merrill takes SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards via a dedicated memory slot inside the battery compartment on the bottom of the camera. At maximum resolution, a RAW shot with the 46-megapixel Foveon X3 image sensor produces a 45MB file (10MB for JPEG, as it can throw most of that data out), so you won't fit as many shots on a 4GB memory card as with other RAW-shooting compact cameras.