Things We Love: Sigma dp3 Quattro

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I’ll admit I have a penchant for doing things the hard way, but I’m convinced that this often presents greater rewards if you have enough patience. Last year, I waxed poetic on the Sony a7R II as a “Thing I Love,” and it was. But at the end of that article I wrote, “It’s still not my perfect camera…” Well, one year later, I’ve since sold the a7R II, upgraded to a Sony a7R III, sold that, and, apparently, had a mid-life crisis and bought four other digital cameras… all from Sigma.

If you go online and look up reviews of various Sigma digital cameras over the years, you might not be all that impressed by the sound of things. They have relatively poor autofocus, you shouldn’t expect to use them over ISO 100, they have awful battery life, and their ergonomics are, well, different. But one thing you’ll likely see is the constant affirmation that Sigma, and its incredibly unique Foveon sensor design, can produce some of the best-quality images under the right conditions. And there’s a big emphasis on needing to be working in the right conditions, because it is one of the most inflexible camera systems with which I’ve ever worked.

But let me back up for a moment, and I’ll focus on one camera in particular I’ve learned to truly admire: the Sigma dp3 Quattro. Yes, that weird-looking camera you laughed at, in 2015, when it was released. So, why did I eschew one of the hands-down best cameras of the moment for something so niche and bizarre? Because of that prized Foveon image quality, of course… but also because the dp3 Quattro has so much character. Many people talk about cameras and lenses as if they’re tools, only there to do a simple job and help you to achieve your “own personal vision.” I partly disagree with this sentiment; I agree that a camera is a tool, but I don’t think that should relieve it from having a personality or being something you should form a bond with and genuinely enjoy using. Whereas most digital cameras have felt cold and blank to me, the dp3 has undeniable character that excites me every time I shoot with it.

More technically, the dp3 has a few other unique assets that really win me over. In addition to the Sony a7R II I wrote about last year, I also wrote about a Voigtländer 75mm f/2.5 lens with which I had fallen in love. Well, the dp3 has a 50mm f/2.8 lens—75mm equivalent since it’s an APS-C camera—so finding this camera felt like a focal length calling. And just as good as having my favorite focal length as the built-in lens, Sigma cameras are also the only ones I know of with a built-in 6:7 aspect ratio, which, as a Mamiya shooter most of the time, really gets my heart beating. I could keep listing the things I love about the dp3, but I can also just as easily sum it all up by saying I appreciate the dp3 due to its sheer uniqueness.

Are there any especially unique cameras or lenses you enjoy using? What are some of the items you seemed to love despite everyone else passing on them? Let us know, down below.

The “Things We Love” series articles are written by B&H Photo Video Pro Audio staff to talk about products and items that we love. Opinions expressed in the articles are those of the writers and do not represent product endorsements from B&H Photo Video Pro Audio.

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Agree with Bjorn.  If one is familiar and comfortable with slow contemplative photography using a tripod then the Quattro cameras are perfect.  The cameras are light weight and thus one can easily carry several different "focal lengths" to a given location.  The fixed lenses obviate problems with dust and grime on the sensor, and sources tell me that the lenses on each of the Quattors are precisely matched and mounted to each specific camera.  And of course image quality is why Quattro users put up with the shorter battery life, and quirks of the SPP editing software ( which has been much improved over the past few years ).  One can now elect to shoot DNG rather than X3F on the Quattro series, but EXIF data will limit which of the popular DNG RAW processors can be used. Heavy in camera processing can occasionally make the camera run "hot" and cause a short interruption in the ability to use the camera in warm weather and direct sunlight.

Despite the obvious quirks the rewards of superior image quality continues to draw a dedicated group of Sigma camera users to the dpQuattros and subsequent Sigma models.

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