This morning’s sunrise at 7:30am, looking towards the Norwegian mainland. There’s little in the way of post processing; this is how it looked!
Shot using the Sigma SD1 Merrill @ ISO100, for half a second on f11.
I’m gradually catching up with posts of our Lofoten trip and this post takes us back in time to our voyage onboard the MS Lofoten from Bergen to Bodo, with time to explore Alesund and Trondheim. The images are (just about) in the order taken.
The stop at Trondheim was particularly memorable but for the wrong reasons. Stopping to photograph the Old Bridge, a lens fell out of my sunglasses and we became distracted searching for the tiny screw that (should have) kept the lens in place and was now lost. Whether I left the camera there, or whether I lost it rushing back to the ship, I guess we’ll never know. What I do know is that captain refused to delay the sailing by the 20 minutes it would have taken to retrace my steps. It’s fair to say I was furious with myself and furious with the ships captain; a camera I’d bought specifically for the trip, only owned a couple of weeks, and costing an arm and a leg lost on day 3 of the trip! The next day our time in Bodo was spent in the police station reporting the loss!
There’s a fair amount of camera shake in the above image, a consequence of the long lens, the ships engine and my poor technique, but I love the composition so it’s included in the blog.
It was sunset as we took off from Bodo to fly the short journey to Leknes on Lofoten. The view as we left the Bodo was jaw dropping. The above shot, shot using the SD1 Merrill, at ISO800, was typical of the scenery. Hopefully flying at midday on the return trip I’ll have a better chance to do the beauty of the landscape justice.
The shots above were taken with the Sigma SD1 Merrill, DP1 Merrill, DP3 Merrill and (the now lost) Sony RX1 RII.
Waking up to wind and sleet, we decided to make this a day for exploring in the car, and headed West to A, the last stop on the E10, the main road that runs the length of the islands. In hailstones, rain and snow, we walked along A’s coastline and cliffs, and crossing the brow of a hill looked down to see Agvatnet, frozen, the mountains reflecting in the rainwater that covered the ice. Even on a bad weather day Lofoten amazes!
The image is stitched from three images taken with the Sigma Quattro DP0 at ISO100, with the camera on a tripod, and post processed in SPP and Lightroom.
The main challenge was finding a clear area to get a panoramic sweep and keeping the camera dry as the weather swept in! I also took a panoramic with the DP1 Merrill, but the colours on the Quattro just looked better to my eye.
Northern Lights, Reine | Sigma DP1 Merrill | http://www.richardjwalls.com
It’s Monday 22nd of February and we’ve just arrived in our digs at Maybua in Reine. At 9pm, after unpacking, we head out into the night to to find our bearings. Ten minutes of slipping on icy roads found us on the edge of Reine, on the bridge, with the classic view of the town. At Polly’s insistence I’d taken the camera and tripod and as we looked at the view Polly thought she saw a smudge of green in the Sky. We set up, settled back and waited. Forty minutes later, and much colder, we were about to pack up, then one smudge, then another, and then our first view of the Northern Lights. What a greeting!
Shot with a Sigma DP1 Merrill at f2.8, 8 seconds at ISO 100, manually focussed. Post processed in Lightroom.
After losing the Sony RX1 Mk II (more on this in a later post), which I’d brought for this very purpose, I was worried about the Merrill’s ability to shoot cleanly at night. I shouldn’t have! At ISO100 and manually focussed, even at f2.8 the Merrill is super sharp.
It’s our third and final day on board the MS Lofoten as we sail from Bergen to Bodo.
At 7am on Monday 22nd February, 2016 we crossed the 66th Parallel, entered the Arctic Circle, and woke to the perfect Arctic Dawn. Right on queue, the Norwegian coastline became more mountainous, more rugged and if possible, more beautiful.
All shots were taken with the Sigma SP1 Merrill attached to a Sigma 18-300mm f/3.5-6.3. ISO’s ranged from 100 -400. All are hand held (a tripod doesn’t work on a ship) and all have been lightly post processed in SPP & Lightroom.
Without a tripod the biggest challenge taking the shots was avoiding camera shake; how to shoot at low ISO’s to keep the noise to a minimum, on board a vibrating, swaying ship, in the dim dawn light, with a long lens? And of course ISO400 is really pushing the Foveon sensor!
Today’s view from the path to Catbells down into the Newlands Valley. The wind was gusting and the path icy; without crampons we turned back and headed to the warmth of the pub.
The trip was part of our testing the winter gear for our up an coming adventure to the Lofoten Islands in Northern Norway, just inside the arctic circle. Polly is modelling her cold weather get up below, with Derwent Water, Skidaw & Keswick in the background.
The clothing held up. It may not have been -10c but it was a solid test. My main worry now is whether the cameras will be able to handle the cold!
Well not quite a rubbish waterfall, more litter-ally (get it?) a rubbish fall!
After spending the past year or more following the construction of the Leeds Refuse Recycle & Energy Recover Facility (RERF for short) from the outside, I was invited inside by the French architects, S’PACE, to take some shots of its inner workings.
Whilst the rubbish fall might not be as picturesque as a Dales waterfall, the plant itself is a hugely impressive building, incinerating the citizens of Leeds’s waste and transforming it into electricity for 20,000 homes, but more to the point a perfect place to point a Sigma Merrill or Quattro camera.
Whilst I’m starting to prefer the Quattro DP0 for landscape work the Merrill’s eye for detail, and tonal range, is in its element for industrial subjects.
I know the majority of you would prefer to point your camera at beach sunsets, cute seaside villages, and rolling hills and dales, but I could have spent a week roaming around the RERF looking for angles and perspectives; industrial subjects are cool too, and different test of your compositional skills.
In February I go back to complete the job, and with the facility opening in March, it will probably be the end of my association with this fascinating building, and I can head back to mountains.
I’ll post a final set of images of the RERF then, I bet you can’t wait!
All shots taken using the Sigma DP1 Merrill at ISO100 using a tripod. Post processed in SPP and Lightroom.
The comparisons of the Sigma Merrill and Quattro have remained by far the most popular posts on this website throughout 2014 and 2015, with the test shot of Leeds (below) the most clicked upon.
The two shots below, taken a few days ago, complete the set with a comparison of the Sigma DP1 Merrill and Sigma DP0 Quattro. Both shots were hand held. Both have been post processed in SPP and Lightroom, using the same settings. Both shots were taken at ISO100 at f5.6. On both the colours come straight from the camera. The Quattro shot has been cropped to aid the comparison.
With the Quattro I’ve struggled to control highlights, but a B&W graduated ND filter, soldered onto the camera, seems to have sorted the problem.
On previous comparisons the Merrill has always come up trumps on resolution and micro contrast, but taking into account the different focal lengths between the DP0 and DP1 to my eyes it’s too close to call. Both are fantastic image producing machines and both deserve a place in my camera bag.
Please note the above is an unapologetic, unscientific comparison.
Inspired by finding the 2011 shot of Spurn Point (the subject of the last post), and realising it had been nearly five (eventful) years since I last visited, on Sunday I plugged the Point’s co-ordinates into the Sat Nav, turned on the engine, and headed due East.
Two hours in, and five minutes before it was deemed too dangerous to cross, I was stumbling across the sand, silt and mud of the breach that at high tide turns the Point into Yorkshire’s only island. I was now trapped! … at least for the next hour and a half.
Heading down the three miles to the end of the Point my motivation and inspiration were low, the tide too high, the wind too strong, my patience non-existent; I wished I’d headed up the coast, to Scarborough, or to Robin Hood’s bay, but I was stuck!
Rounding the tip of the Point I watched the boats go past, taking their cargo up the Humber, and then began the slow slog back to the car.
Stopping to take some shots of the old water tower, I noticed the sky taking on a pink tinge, but it did nothing to lift the mood.
But as I marched up the sands, the tide was literally turning, the spit widening, the sky becoming more interesting …
… and the last 30 minutes I found myself, as I often do, lost in the moment.
All good things come to those that wait!
Sigma Quattro DP0 & Sigma Merrill DP3, ISO 100, all using the obligatory tripod, all post processed using SPP and Lightroom.
Light was slowed down using B&W ND filters.
After spending 2 hours standing in the rain, failing to get any sort of decent Autumn shot in Sneaton Forest, I found myself at Whitby’s East Cliff one hour before sunset, ran down the 199 steps (counting each one of course) and frogmarched myself to the harbour. Forty minutes later I was running back to capture the classic shot from the steps as dusk set in and street lights flickered into life. Another thirty minutes found me balancing the DP3 Merrill in near darkness, hoping it was focussing on Whitby Abbey. As I climbed into the car for the two hour journey home it was still raining! That’s Britain for you!
We’d been driving around in the mist in the Vale of York all day, before finally heading up to Sutton Bank to see if we could catch the sunset. We arrived with minutes to spare, not really enough time to find the perfect location and set up the camera, but enough to rush from the car park and take a few shots as the sun disappeared behind the horizon … and to relax and take in the perfect scene. We’ll get there earlier next time!
I’ve finally put my money where my mouth is and bought the Sigma DP0 Quattro. Unfortunately, since it arrived, the North of England has been shrouded in mist, fog and rain, perhaps not the Quattro’s natural element. But I couldn’t resist taking the camera out just after dawn around Sheriff Hutton, near York, when we stayed at Polly’s cottage (www.ascotcottage.co.uk) last weekend.
After a 3 month gap I headed back to the RERF, curious to see how it was taking shape. It’s now looking pretty complete; the innards are cloaked by the its outer shell, at night it glows on the horizon, and as I was passing the other day I was sure I saw smoke rising from the chimney. It’s not the same photographic subject that drew me to it originally to test out the Sigma Merrills and Quattros, but its shape and form still make an interesting subject to show off the Foveon sensor’s eye for detail and micro contrast.
In the last of series of 3 posts on Sigma’s DP0 Quattro I couldn’t resist a cheeky comparison against the Sigma DP1 Merrill.
… But first let’s get the disclaimer out of the way!
Anyone looking for a technical, scientifically rigorous, thorough, review should look away now!
Ok, so now we’re rid of those pesky pixel peaking folks, for those still curious let’s press on with the comparison.
Now we’re told that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and for that I’m personally thankful … but not holding an opinion, where’s the fun it that!
To my worn eyeballs the Merrill has the edge on resolution, but when I say edge I mean a razor sharp knife-edge of an edge, a micron of an edge, an edge just one atom thick. More importantly I seem to be able to pull more from the highlights and the shadows, an issue amplified when I don my Dracula cape and go out shooting at night (but to put this in perspective, neither camera is a Sony A7s). Finally, if I’m going through a moody, arty, monochrome phase, the Merrill has a touch more tone.
In the Quattro’s favour I love the colour rendition that comes out of the camera, the images seem warmer, richer, less harsh and more forgiving than the Merrill, especially with people and skin tones, and there’s something about the look of the landscapes, a dreaminess, a timelessness, that I can’t quite put my finger on (Lee, if you ever read this please publish your balloons picture so I can link to it and people can see for themselves).
But with the margins so thin a little post processing either way allows you to match one with the other as near as makes no difference, except for the night-time shots, and if you’re serious about this genre of photography you’re salivating over the Sony A7SII rather than reading this.
So I was pushed into a corner; had a camera bag just for one; had gun held to my head; what would I choose? Well if I find myself running to the door to catch that magic moment, I think … I might … just find myself … unconsciously … reaching for the DP0Q … I just love the look of the landscapes.
All things considered
A whole set of factors combine to make this comparison not worth the (virtual) paper it’s written on, including but not limited to:
I make no apologies, the aim of the comparison is to look at the camera against my set of needs, not yours! That said I’m sharing it because people seem to be interested in this sort of thing, and hopefully it contributes to the discussion. IMHO both cameras are immense considering the IQ, the price point and the unique look they produce. I don’t care which you’d choose, just spare a moment to look beyond the pile of bayer sensors and give them a go.
*Despite the unscientific nature I’ve tried to make the comparisons as fair as possible. Unless otherwise stated comparison shots are: the same ISO, same aperture, exposure matched by varying shutter speed, shots taken seconds apart, same processing SPP (noise reduction at zero everything else neutral), same post processing in Lightroom, and cropped to make the comparison easier.
I’ve been lucky enough to have the loan of a Sigma DP0 Quattro over the last couple of weeks. Sadly a combination of work and poor weather limited the time I was able to dedicate to the camera, and to understanding how to make the most of it’s capabilities.
Nevertheless Staithes, high up on Yorkshire’s East Coast, and Teasdale, just across the border in County Durham, aren’t bad places to try out the camera, even on dull, flat, days!
The above image is stitched from three shots. Even the DP0’s wide lens isn’t wide enough for Staithes!
The images are a combination of hand held and tripod steadied shots, at a variety of aperture’s and shutter speeds, all at ISO100, post processed in SPP and Lightroom.
The classic view of Staithes, North Yorkshire, taken in the early evening at hight tide.
Sigma DP1 Merrill, hand held, at 1/100th of second, f7.1, ISO100
Human invention is littered with the weird and the crazy. Take for example the one wheeled motorbike, or the amphibious bicycle, or more recently the Segway, a device so technically advanced it’s capable of moving at walking pace whilst remaining upright!
In the world of photography perhaps the current champion of oddness is the Sigma Quattro range of cameras. Despite every other camera manufacturer, from high-end Hasselblad to lowbrow Kodak, being just fine with Bayer sensors, Sigma bucks the trend with the left-field Foveon sensor; wraps it up in a camera body so weird looking that you’ll be afraid to get it out in public (I have to admit to quite liking it); superglues a lens on; and outputs a raw format so complicated it needs specialist software, a supercomputer, and 23 cups of tea to process.
Now, as I’m faced with a pile of Quattro cameras at the DP0 launch event, I’m again wondering why?
For money? Surely Sigma would do the lazy thing, join the Bayer party, stick a conventional sensor in a conventional looking body, add some high-end glass, and settle back to earn a decent living …
Perhaps it’s groupthink, a small knot of like-minded engineers locked away from the outside world, convinced they’re sane and that it’s the rest of the world that’s plain crazy …
Perhaps it’s downright stubbornness, a refusal to be carried away by the tidal of wave of mammoth ISO’s, myriads of autofocus points, and micro-second start up times …
… Or maybe, just maybe, in our profit driven, cynical, world, it’s just for the love of photography; for the challenge of turning the theoretical promise of the Foveon design into reality; for the goal of producing a camera built purely and simply to create beautiful images. Now wouldn’t that be a thing?
So first impressions of the DP0 Quattro? Well to be frank who cares about the first impressions?
The most important impression is the last; when you finally get to see the images this strange looking contraption produces.
It’s no secret to (the few) readers of this blog that I’ve not been the biggest fan of the Quattro range to date, preferring to hang on to my clunky old Merrills.
But sat here writing this post, and peering at the results on my Mac, the more I look the more I’m genuinely impressed*; the matched lens and sensor working together to combine colours, tones and detail, into something quite special.
Whisper it quietly but with the DP0 Sigma may well have cracked their goal of medium format IQ … and who cares why they do it? I for one am just glad they do.
For a more considered, balanced and technical take on the Quattro range, I’d recommend Paul Monaghan’s article at: https://www.photigy.com/sigma-dp3-quattro-camera-review/
All shots were taken with the Sigma DP0 Quattro (the Merrills were securely locked in the car boot for the day) some hand held, others on a tripod. All were shot in RAW with the inevitable post-processing in SPP v6.3 and Lightroom. Detailed crops are at 100%. Please note this is not in anyway a scientifically based test!
*There’s some aspects, important to my needs, that I want to delve a little deeper into – dynamic range, noise levels at realistic ISOs, long exposures and night time shooting, to name a few, but I can’t wait to try this thing in the real world.
It’s 11:15pm on Saturday night. A lost fell walker stumbles into the pub 4 hours after sunset and 6 hours after they flipped a coin and chose the wrong track down the mountain. 30 minutes later they’re in a taxi heading back to the comfort of their campsite, but not before leaving us their map of Cader Idris. Their misfortune is our gain.
Forward on the clock to 3pm on Sunday. We’re enveloped in mist, no visible landmarks, unfamiliar territory. We start to head down a path off the summit marked with two cairns. I get the compass out and check the map they gave us. We’re heading North not East, we switch directions and stumble upon the right path. It’s an easy mistake, without a map and compass we’d have found ourselves in the wrong valley with a long walk home.
A stitched panoramic from the Minffordd Path with Craig Cwm Amarch (left) and the summit Penygadair (right) towering over Llyn Cau filling the corrie below. Taken before the clouds descended.
Our last view of the valley for 3 hours!
Details of the route we took can be found here: http://www.trekkingbritain.com/cadairidristheminfforddpath.htm
Striding Edge, perhaps not the worlds most perilous knife edge ridge, but I really don’t like the exposure of ridges, and with an attempt on Crib Goch muted, I had to get my head straight.
The first time I walked it I was in my teens on a busy summer day. Even then, as I watched kids and dogs run amok with gay abandon, I wasn’t so certain. For me there was an ever present sense of danger.
The last time I bottled it, taking the lower path. Perhaps it was too windy, or too misty; whatever the reason it was just an excuse to get me the hell off the ridge.
This time there was no wind, there was no mist, there was no excuses. I dallied for a while taking photos then …
Stepping onto the ridge it’s hard to describe the feeling; not vertigo, not dizziness, instead a lack of confidence in my balance, my sure footedness deserting me, my legs and brain disconnecting.
So I take my time. I stand on exposed ridge stones to let others pass. I stop to take photos. I let the wind blow around me. As my confidence improves my legs and brain reconnect, my feet go where I want them to go.
And with a last scramble to the top I’m done! And it’s my first time on Helvellyn in the sunshine, not the mist.
To bag some more Wainwrights I took the long way home, via Nethermost and Dollywagon Pike. Behind me the Edge seemed ever present.
As I headed down Grisedale the Edge was stuck in my head as well. I’d met my goal, but did I endure it or enjoy it? More to the point Crib Goch is a hell of a lot longer and more exposed!
And on that note I read this fantastic post today from 2010, https://nicklivesey.wordpress.com/2010/01/03/alpine-wales/
All taken with the Sigma DP1 and DP3 Merrill, hand held at ISO100. I was focussed so much on the ridge the tripod stayed firmly in the bag!
“Up, down, flying around, looping the loop and defying the ground”
I can’t remember the first time I saw Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, but whenever it was it left me with a lasting love of old aeroplanes. Yesterday Polly and I got to fly one, a 75 year old de Havilland Tiger Moth with Blue Eye Aviation (http://www.blueeyeaviation.co.uk) based in Derbyshire (thanks guys). No cameras were allowed in cockpit due to the open controls, but the Moth looked just as beautiful on the ground.
I have to admit to mild apprehension taking the controls. The stick was super sensitive, the slightest touch sending the nose, tail and wingtips in a different direction. Working in 3D after the 2D of driving a car, trying to keep the wingtips level and parallel to the ground, meant I spent most of my time looking sideways, or down in the cockpit checking airspeed, rather than straight ahead, or at the Derbyshire countryside passing by below.
The touch down on the grass strip at Darley Moor was the softest landing I’ve ever experienced, helped by the stillness of the day and of course the pilots skill.
All shots were taken with a Sigma DP3 Merrill, handheld, except for the last taken by the professional at Blue Eye. It would have been nice to have a bit more reach!