I have been using the Sigma DP3 Merrill for a month now, enough time to conceive an opinion on the camera. Admittedly, I didn’t use it as an all-purpose camera as I did with the DP2M (1, 2), but primarily for macro shots, which is why I cannot tell exactly how well it does as a single compact camera in the photo bag.
In my opinion, the short tele-lens of the DP3M is more particular in its range of application than the normal focal length of the DP2M, which doesn’t mean that there’s no photographer who wouldn’t prefer the DP3M over the DP2M. If you’re primarily dealing with portraits and macro photography, the DP3M’s 50mm focal length seems to be the right choice because of its working distance and image ratio. The higher ratio of 1:3 suffices to portray larger insects such as butterflies in a format fitting size.
For smaller ones, such as flies, one should take a close-up or achromatic lens into consideration. I am entertaining the idea of purchasing a Marumi DHG +5.
The DP3M’s inner workings really look like peas in a pot when compared to the DP2M and DP1M. Which is to say that we are dealing with the already familiar 15 megapixel foveon-sensor, the 350 megabyte buffer (sufficient for 7 RAWs, also in the RAW + JPG mode), and the same, very sharp, 900k pixel display.
The controls are the same as well. On top, you can find the power and mode (Video, M ,S, A, P, C1, C2, and C3) buttons, the small wheel for aperture control, and on the back (from top to bottom) the AEL button for saving exposure settings and deleting photos in playback mode, the QS (quick menu) and main menu buttons. Below, there is the directional pad, the playback and the display button (by means of which you can either show more info or turn off the display completely). The sideward buttons of the directional pad serve as exposure compensation (left is -, right +). With the upper one, you can switch between focus modes (AF with diverse limits for macro, close-up or long range and MF), with the lower one it is possible to change the AF point. Situated on the lens is the MF-ring. The user guidance is intuitive and simple, yet not missing anything.
As the sensor is the same, the same thing I already wrote on the DP2M applies to the DP3M as well. The sharpness is sensational at ISO100 and 200. ISO400 and 800 are still efficiently workable, but with anything above that, the image quality suffers considerably, so that higher speeds should only be used for black-and-white or emergency situations. My personal pain barrier lies at ISO3200 b/w. Here are two ISO800 and 1600 colour images:
However, I mostly make use of ISO100-200, since the colours and the richness of detail are simply breathtaking within this range.
The lens seems to be as good as the excellent DP2M’s normal focal length. The sharpness of the 50mm is slightly poorer than that of the 30mm, but the former distorts less – both display similar vignetting. The 50mm also seems to be less rich in contrast when looking at the RAWs in Sigma Photo Pro. This can be interpreted as one pleases, but personally I prefer a macro or portrait lens that portrays more moderately. The steeper contrast curve just fits the typical motifs of the 30mm much better. 😉