Sigma Fp evaluation: A miniature marvel with a deadly flaw
“Mini however mighty, Sigma’s Fp is not afraid to face out by being totally different.”
- Extremely-compact design
- Wonderful construct high quality
- RAW video
- 24MP full-frame sensor
- Comparatively cheap
- No mechanical shutter
- No built-in viewfinder or sizzling shoe
- Distinction-detection-only autofocus
- Poor battery life
Sony. Canon. Nikon. Panasonic. Leica. 5 firms had been making full-frame mirrorless cameras earlier than Sigma entered the fray with the Fp. It’s a extremely aggressive area. So how can Sigma hope to face out?
Apparently, by constructing a really bizarre digicam.
The Sigma Fp is a unique breed. In and out, it doesn’t adhere to the design requirements of different producers. Regardless of this, or due to it, the Fp is without doubt one of the most intriguing cameras available on the market. Relying in your viewpoint, it’s both a miniature marvel or a irritating flop. It can enchantment most to videographers, however for the aim of this evaluation, I’ll be wanting on the Fp primarily as a nonetheless digicam.
The Fp can’t do loads of issues different cameras within the $2,000 worth vary can. However it can also do issues others can’t. It doesn’t have a viewfinder or mechanical shutter, for instance, however it does shoot RAW video and provide a computational low ISO of 6. Sure, ISO 6. This makes it a tough digicam to price compared to its friends, because it doesn’t appear to instantly compete inside its personal worth group.
Possibly it doesn’t even have friends, however calling it “peerless” appears too sturdy a praise. It’s definitely distinctive, although, and that’s thrilling.
Design and specs
Let me backtrack a second. It’s not solely honest to say the Fp doesn’t adhere to any design requirements, because it does embrace two that assist give it a foothold.
One, it makes use of the Leica L mount versus Sigma’s personal SA mount, making it appropriate with plenty of lenses from Leica and Panasonic along with Sigma’s personal.
Two, it makes use of a daily 24.6-megapixel Bayer sensor as an alternative of the Foveon X3 chip of earlier Sigma cameras, just like the SD Quattro H. I hope to see Foveon growth proceed because it presents benefits for sure nonetheless pictures functions, however the change was essential to provide the Fp such sturdy video capabilities.
The Fp seems and looks like a small, matte black brick. Measuring 4.Four x 2.6 x 1.Eight inches and weighing a hair underneath 15 ounces, it’s the smallest and lightest full-frame digicam. Sigma made sacrifices to get to that dimension, however not in construct high quality. The digicam feels prefer it might survive something wanting a direct nuclear strike. A couple of totally different grips can be found to enhance ergonomics.
Sprouting between the physique and the LCD display screen is a ribbed sample that runs alongside the sting of the digicam. This isn’t a design assertion, however a warmth sink. This retains the digicam in its optimum temperature vary even when recording lengthy takes of RAW video. Regardless of the uncovered warmth sink, the digicam is absolutely climate sealed.
Nonetheless, there’s some dangerous information. The Sigma Fp lacks an digital viewfinder, the touchscreen is fastened, and the shoe mount will not be built-in, however slightly a screw-on attachment that stands out to the aspect of the digicam.
I discovered all this forgivable, however there’s one factor the Fp lacks that may’t be ignored: a mechanical shutter. With out one, distortion from the digital rolling shutter is a continuing menace when panning or capturing fast-moving topics. Worse, it means flash sync velocity is restricted to simply 1/30 second for JPEG and only one/15 for RAW. When you ever shoot with flash, whether or not on or off-camera, the Fp isn’t going to be just right for you.
In actual fact, its specs, I doubt Sigma meant the Fp to be a lot of a nonetheless digicam. It will possibly shoot bursts as much as 18 frames per second, however just for 24 frames. It makes use of a contrast-detection-only autofocus system with 49 factors, and it’s not a “fancy” sort of distinction detection just like the Depth from Defocus tech in Panasonic L-mount cameras. As a result of ultra-compact construct, it additionally has a small, 1,200mAh battery. Sigma doesn’t state the battery life, however I wouldn’t anticipate greater than a pair hundred pictures per cost.
On the video entrance, nevertheless, the information is healthier. The digicam data inner RAW video within the Adobe CinemaDNG format at as much as 24 fps in 4K, or 60 fps in Full HD. 4K RAW is restricted to 8-bit internally, however 12-bit output over USB-C straight to an SSD is supported. Full HD might be recorded as much as 12-bit internally. Along with RAW, the Fp can even shoot .MOV video at 440 megabits per second in 4K at 24 or 30 fps, or as much as 100 fps in Full HD.
A couple of options at present lacking are deliberate for a future firmware replace. These embody in-camera playback of CinemaDNG information, RAW output over HDMI, and a log profile for preserving extra dynamic vary in .MOV recording.
As a video digicam, the Fp might very nicely be a sport changer.
Capturing with the Sigma Fp is enjoyable. Paired with the 45mm F2.Eight pancake lens, it feels extra like capturing a point-and-shoot than a full-frame mirrorless digicam. It’s a refreshing expertise, particularly within the L-mount realm, the place different cameras identified for his or her bulk (the Lumix S collection cameras weigh greater than most DSLRs; the Leica SL2 isn’t far behind).
In fact, that adjustments while you mount a bigger lens to the Fp. Along with the 45mm, I additionally examined the brand new 14-24mm F2.Eight Artwork and 35mm F1.2 Artwork. Whereas these are a part of Sigma’s new, mirrorless-specific “DN” line, they’re significantly bigger than the Fp. The 14-24 is impressively compact for what it’s, rather more so than the older DSLR model, however it’s nonetheless hefty. The 35mm F1.2 is comically massive.
Efficiency is enough, however not nice. For portraiture and different static topics, autofocus works tremendous. Eye-detection gave me correct focus when capturing broad open on the 35mm F1.2. It additionally works nicely in low mild. Sigma says it’s good to -5 EV, although that depends upon the quantity of distinction in your topic.
Nonetheless, in comparison with the phase-detect autofocus in cameras from Sony, Canon, and Nikon, the Fp is gradual and inconsistent. Fast pictures are tough because of this.
Ergonomics and autofocus matter much less in video manufacturing. Videographers will love how adaptable this digicam is, each to totally different lenses and totally different environments. Further 1/4-inch threads on all sides assist you to mount the digicam to a tripod vertically or connect further equipment straight to it. It’s well-suited to aerial work since its mild body ought to make it straightforward to mount to a drone. I think about it would additionally discover use as a crash cam. You might stick it wherever on a automotive, and it would simply be sturdy sufficient to outlive the affect.
Whereas Sigma sees this digicam being utilized by everybody from vloggers to Hollywood administrators, I do have hesitations earlier than recommending it to the previous. With no flip display screen, there’s no technique to monitor your self with out an exterior monitor, and steady autofocus can be unreliable for all however essentially the most fundamental pictures.
Nonetheless, for any manufacturing that has a crew, even a small one, I believe the Fp can be unbelievable. You want some equipment to completely understand its potential, together with a quick SSD and an exterior energy answer, however the outcomes can be price the additional work.
Picture high quality
For nonetheless pictures, the Fp delivers stable outcomes — with one unlucky exception. The 24MP full-frame sensor is predictably nice with regards to dynamic vary and excessive ISO efficiency. ISO 6,400 could be very usable, and even the utmost 25,600 confirmed an impressively low quantity of noise. Beneath the precise circumstances, you will get beautiful stills out of the Fp.
Nonetheless, there’s one image-ruining downside. Along with severely limiting what you are able to do with flash, the digital shutter creates banding when working indoors underneath fluorescent or LED lighting (see photograph beneath). For a lot of photographers, that is merely a deal breaker. Picture-specific LEDs, just like the Lume Dice Panel I used to mild the above picture, are designed to be flicker-free and work simply tremendous.
On the plus aspect, Sigma continues to show itself a pacesetter in lenses. The 45mm isn’t the sharpest on this planet, however as a compact lens, that’s not what it’s going for. The 14-24mm and 35mm Artwork lenses are stellar. I’ll save the in-depth evaluation for their very own evaluations, however suffice to say, in the event you’re in any respect involved concerning the availability of fine glass on the L mount, nicely, don’t be.
As for video, I’m not set as much as deal with RAW 4K footage. I’ve neither the processing energy nor cupboard space. Even in 8-bit, 4K CinemaDNG burns by way of 128GB in simply 10 minutes. I did shoot some temporary check clips in 1080p and, wow, RAW video actually is a sport changer when you want to make publicity or shade changes in submit. 9 instances out of ten, I might take the 12-bit Full HD from the Sigma Fp over compressed 8-bit 4K from different cameras — however it does present some aliasing round sharp particulars, like textual content, the place 4K would have a profit.
I’ve to applaud Sigma for not being afraid to strive one thing totally different. The Fp is a good distance from excellent, however it’s a formidable first step. In-camera RAW video, an ultra-compact physique, superior construct high quality, and L-mount versatility are all benefits. Many videographers will like it.
Nonetheless photographers can be much less impressed. With no shutter, viewfinder, or different niceties like phase-detect autofocus and in-body stabilization, there are higher, easier-to-use decisions on the market. Ought to Sigma ever make a “mark II” model of the Fp that cures a few of these points, I believe it may very well be an actual contender. Right here’s hoping.
Is there a greater different?
Throughout the L mount, the Panasonic Lumix S1 is the closest competitor. It can value you extra, however it’s additionally a whole digicam out of the field that doesn’t require further equipment. Nonetheless, it’s a lot bigger and heavier, and, whereas it shoots good 4K video, it doesn’t provide RAW video.
Past the L mount, the Sony A7 III is one other sensible choice. It doesn’t have the video chops of the Fp, however its nonetheless photograph options are higher, particularly the autofocus. Plus, Sigma makes all of its DN lenses for the Sony E mount along with the L mount, so that you received’t miss on the market.
How lengthy will it final?
This can be a stable machine, and a plus of not having a mechanical shutter is that’s there’s little or no that might break or put on out. You need to simply get 5 years of use out of it if no more, and it seems like Sigma plans to maintain it contemporary with firmware updates.
Must you purchase it?
No, not for nonetheless pictures. Video is one other story, however the Sigma’s splendid use is a distinct segment.