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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Pro Prime-Lens Compacts

This elite group of large-sensor, prime-lens cameras is driving street photographers to leave their DSLRs at home


This Article Features Photo Zoom
Sigma DP1 Merrill, DP2 Merrill, DP3 Merrill
The latest version of the first compact camera with an APS-C image sensor, the DP1 Merrill features a 19mm (28mm equivalent) ƒ/2.8 wide-angle lens and the unique Foveon X3 Direct Image Sensor that records all three primary colors at every pixel site. Image sensors can't detect color; they just detect the amount of light that reaches each pixel. To get color information, conventional sensors cover each pixel with a red, green or blue filter, getting the missing color data for each pixel via complex interpolation from neighboring pixels through a process known as demosaicing. This process can produce moiré and artifacts, so manufacturers generally place a low-pass filter on top of the sensor to slightly blur the image at the pixel level, reducing moiré—and image sharpness. The Foveon sensor takes advantage of the fact that light penetrates silicon to different depths based on wavelengths: short (blue) wavelengths just a bit, medium (green) wavelengths deeper and long (red) wavelengths the deepest. Thus, no RGB filters are needed, no demosaicing and no blurring low-pass filter. So the Foveon sensor produces higher resolution than a conventional sensor of equal horizontal-by-vertical pixel count. The sensor in the DP1 Merrill (named in honor of one of the creators of the Foveon sensor) contains three pixel layers, each 4800x3200 pixels. Aside from terrific image quality, the DP1M features truly compact size (4.8x2.6x2.5 inches, 12.0 ounces), a 3.0-inch, 920K-dot LCD monitor, nine-point contrast-based AF and VGA (640x490) video capability. Estimated Street Price: $999.

Basically identical to the DP1 Merrill, the DP2M features a 30mm (45mm equivalent) ƒ/2.8 "normal" lens, measures 4.8x2.6x2.3 inches, weighs 11.6 ounces and carries the same price.

The newest member of Sigma's APS-C sensor compact line is the DP3 Merrill, similar to the DP1M and DP2M but with a 50mm (75mm equivalent) ƒ/2.8 short telephoto lens designed specifically for the sensor. The lens makes it slightly larger: 4.8x2.6x3.2 inches, 14.1 ounces. The price is the same as the other DPM models. Contact: Sigma, www.sigmaphoto.com.

Ricoh GR
Ricoh's new GR packs a 16.2-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor with no low-pass filter and a 28mm (equivalent) ƒ/2.8 lens into a compact 4.6x2.4x1.4-inch, 8.6-ounce body. ISO settings run from 100-25600, and you can record RAW (DNG) as well as JPEG files. The GR can shoot still images up to 4 fps, as well as 1080 full HD video at 30/25/24 fps, 720 HD at 60/50/30/25/24 fps and 640x480 at 30/25/24 fps. The LCD monitor is large (three inches) and sharp (1229K dots), but there's no eye-level finder. A hot-shoe atop the camera complements the built-in pop-up flash. A nice touch is the built-in two-stop ND filter. Estimated Street Price: $799. Contact: Ricoh Imaging, www.pentaximaging.com

Sony RX1
The first compact camera with a full-frame sensor, the RX1 features the same acclaimed 24.3-megapixel Sony Exmor unit used in the company's SLT-A99 DSLR. In the RX1, image quality is even better because the RX1 doesn't lose light to a semitranslucent mirror as the A99 does. Adding to the image quality are 14-bit RAW capability, a 35mm ƒ/2 Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* lens and Sony's SteadyShot image stabilization. ISO settings range from 100-25,600. The RX1 can shoot still images at 5 fps, and 1080 full HD video at 60p, 60i and 24p. Despite the full-frame sensor and a 3.0-inch, 1229K-dot LCD monitor, the RX1 measures just 4.5x2.6x2.8 inches and weighs 16 ounces. There's no eye-level finder built in, but optical and electronic ones are available as accessories. The RX1 even includes Sony's easy Sweep Panorama mode. Estimated Street Price: $2,799. Contact: Sony, www.sony.com.

Sony RX1R
The RX1R is an RX1 with the optical low-pass filter removed. The low-pass filter minimizes moiré and artifacts inherent in the Bayer-RGB sensor system, but slightly blurs the images in the process. The 24.3-megapixel, full-frame sensor has a high enough pixel density that the blurring filter isn't needed for most situations, so you can choose an RX1 with or without, depending on your needs: no moiré (RX1) or sharper with possibility of moiré in certain situations (RX1R). Note that moiré can be removed in postprocessing. The price is the same for both models.

 

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