Back in late October 2019 I was fortunate enough to be present at the unboxing of the all new SIGMA fp camera along with some of the other camera ambassadors. It was a marvellous day up at the SIGMA UK office in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire.
The new camera was certainly different from SIGMA’s previous offerings due to the fact that all previous models of cameras housed SIGMA’s own Foveon sensor technology. I have been a staunch fan of the Foveon sensor since my purchase of the SIGMA SD9 in 2004. So, using a 24.6mp full-frame Bayer sensor of the new SIGMA fp along with the new L-Mount lens mount system which is a collaboration with Leica and Panasonic, was certainly going to be interesting experience for me!
Fast forward to February 2020 when I first start to make proper use of the SIGMA fp camera, the very first thing I noticed again is the size of the camera itself. In its purest form it is tiny in size and can fit in the palm of my hand. As a landscape photographer I’m more often than not photographing in locations that are quite remote and walking distances is required the size and weight of your equipment can be extremely important. The SIGMA fp is not only small but is lightweight making it ideal for situations where some human agility effort is required to reach a location for the ideal picture taking view.
Photographers who also require their equipment to be durable, that certainly includes me, are not to worry as this camera definitely has it from my experience. The body feels solid in the hand and is made from die-cast aluminium making it robust yet lightweight. The camera is also well equipped for challenging weather conditions with splash proof sealing points in 42 areas of the camera body giving the photographer confidence to shoot outside in various weather conditions.
Fortunately, SIGMA have adopted their superb menu systems from their Foveon series cameras, the SD and dp range and incorporated it into the fp camera. I appreciate being able to navigate through a menu quickly and easily without clutter and the menus of the SIGMA cameras was a feature that I have always enjoyed using.
The QS (quick set ) menu enables me to be able to select the most commonly used functions of the camera quickly and easily, without effort. All the typical settings such as ISO, metering, white balance, resolution, file format, aspect ratio, fill light, single/multi shot are all accessed by the QS button.
Simple to use cameras has always been my preference and the fp camera fit right in with me. However, at the same time it is also an advanced device with a myriad of technology for those that want to take advantage. The 4K video capabilities alone is mind blowing! I have not adventured into video production but I have found some other features extremely helpful. Such as the focus peaking which enables me to magnify an area within a scene and manually focus using the focus peaking facility to achieve the sharpest of images. Touch screen focusing is also another feature which is extremely useful and helps me to quickly focus on a point within the frame.
Before the start of lockdown began, I had a weekend visit to my home grounds of Cornwall. It was the perfect opportunity to put the SIGMA fp through its paces and use it to photograph the Cornwall seaside locations of which I’ve been known to capture. I was rather impressed with the results.
This image was taken At Carlyon Bay near St Austell on the South Coast of Cornwall. The cameras ability of photographing long exposures at very low ISO was something that really appealed to me.
Here is another long exposure image at a location close to my home of Taunton. Blue Anchor is situated on the Somerset coast not far from Minehead and offers great minimalist photography where long exposures achieve an ethereal look that I particularly like. The SIGMA fp was set to ISO 12 during mid-afternoon giving me the desired long exposure I required and only the aid of a 3-stop graduated neutral density filter was used to darken down the sky giving me the desired effect I was looking for.
The SIGMA fp camera really comes into its own in low light and I was extremely impressed in the shadow recovery that was possible in post processing. I used the focus peaking function to aid me with focusing as the light had fallen off quite quickly and it was quite difficult to see. I find this function extremely useful when manually focusing. Focus peaking is easily selected in the menu system which is a pleasure to navigate through. I personally used red as my indicator colour but other colours are select-able.
My trip down to Cornwall with the SIGMA fp and SIGMA 14-24mm F2.8 DG DN | Art lens really was a flying visit and I literally only had a few minutes to compose this image as I reached Godrevy Lighthouse after sunset. The SIGMA fp really did capture some wonderful detail. The more I used it on this trip the more I appreciated it. It performed really well and I couldn’t find fault with it at all. My only difficulty is the fact I would sometimes knock the rotating wheel on the back of the camera which would change the setting. However, this can be prevented with using the grip or a small rig to prevent my fingers touching the wheel so easily.
For this image of Granite Heritage my objective was to keep cloud movement to a minimum and I wanted to emphasise the mood using a 1.2 soft neutral density graduated filter.
On the way to Cornwall I stopped off at the beautiful and wide-open Dartmoor National Park. Fortunately, this scene showing Vixen Tor in the distance is relatively close to the road however Dartmoor is a vast area and this is where the SIGMA fp is a pleasure to use. The camera is small and lightweight making it ideal to roam across the Moors. You can easily transport the SIGMA fp + 14-24mm F2.8 DG DN | Art lens in a small camera bag along with everything else required for producing stunning landscape photographs.
Exploring my home grounds with the SIGMA fp also helped me to explore more that this camera had to offer and one feature which I was delighted to discover was its superb dynamic range. I became familiar with the cameras strengths in this area when visiting my favourite location of Porth Nanven. I have visited this location many times over the years and this stunning little cove is one of my favourite places to photograph. I decided on an early start and arrived at dawn which had very challenging light on the day. I used some neutral density graduated filters and relied on the superb dynamic range of the SIGMA fp sensor to capture this image which was taken in pretty low light conditions.
The SIGMA fp + 14-24mm f2.8 DG DN | Art lens combo was perfect and I had no issues with using auto focus in the low light. With what I was seeing straight from the camera, I had no fear of the highlights clipping and burning out of the sky. In fact there was very little that I needed to do afterwards during processing this image as the colours were very accurate straight out of the camera.
I learned also that the SIGMA fp files are great to work with due to the fact that the camera captures raw files in the widely accepted DNG format making it compatible with many software manufacturers. The images are extremely clean with very little noise and the colours straight out the camera are great. I do normally do a little processing of my images as I have a particular style that I like to create however the fp files need very little post processing as it creates an image that I’m very happy with using.
This image is an early morning visit to St Michael’s Mount in Marazion. I wanted to try some long exposure images at low ISO and especially decided on this location knowing it would be high tide around sunrise.
On a visit to Lanyon Quoit I was really impressed with the SIGMA fp’s ability to capture wonderful detail and textures in the stones of this Neolithic structure. The full-size image is incredibly clear to view on the iMac and little sharpening in post processing was required.
I continued my exploration by trying out the various settings available within the camera and I decided to revert to a more standard 3×2 aspect ratio instead of my preferred 1:1 square format that the majority of my work is photographed in. The SIGMA fp proved again to be a joy to use simply using the menu system which is so intuitive and easy to navigate through. I’m confident that within a very short period of time a complete novice could get to grips with the camera
A visit to Wheal Owels in West Cornwall to photograph the engine house that was often used in the BBC TV series Poldark. The SIGMA fp + 14-24mm f2.8 DG DN | Art lens combo extracted a superb amount of detail especially in the rocks of the engine house.
Looking back on my trip to Cornwall before the lockdown really has me missing my favourite landscape sceneries but I have enjoyed using the SIGMA fp camera for some of my local sites such as the local Taunton canal. It was captured handheld in the evening at dusk with increased ISO while walking my dog. Most photographers would probably take the fact that they can increase their cameras ISO. This flexibility is something I’ve never had before with my previous SIGMA Foveon sensor cameras.
SIGMA has done a great job at balancing technology with usability creating a camera that is extremely versatile in its uses which produces superb results in challenging conditions. There is space in my camera bag for the SIGMA fp purely because of its versatility, small size, light weight and fact it can fill in the gaps where Foveon camera do not excel. It was nice to have an alternative choice but it could never fully replace my Foveon sensor systems. They will always be my go-to camera due to their unique output.
You can see more images created by Lea Tippett of the following links:
Website for 1:2:1 tuition: http://www.leatippett.com/