Matthew Smith is a writer and photographer based in North London. He is the editor of the Wundor City Guides, a unique series of innovative city guides designed for adventurous visitors. He is producing is first photobook using a SIGMA DP2 camera is and explains why the unique system works perfectly for him.
When I’m travelling and taking photos for creative projects, I’m always looking for the ideal balance between the size of the camera I am using, and the quality of the image it produces. I prefer to go down to sizes that many might not consider immediately for their primary digital camera, namely APS-C crop sensors, for a number of reasons.
First and foremost, I find the attention that large DSLRs attract to be unhelpful, especially when out in places like South Central LA or Tepito in Mexico City where safety may become an issue for visitors. Mirrorless cameras are a shade smaller, but the best 50mm lenses are still cumbersome and noticeable. As a street photographer, I don’t want to be noticed as a professional, particularly by the subjects I am shooting. Given these parameters, I recommend the SIGMA DP2 Quattro as the ideal travel camera. The DP2 has a fixed 50mm attached, but other models with varying focal lengths are available to complement it.
The quality of the sensor is incredible at cropped level, due to the unique way in which the Foveon sensor functions. Like a lot of film photographers, I am drawn to the way in which colour is rendered by this sensor. SIGMA’s produce images with tremendous freshness of colour and subtlety of tone. They are robust with certain colours like deep, oxblood reds, which other sensors have trouble reproducing. The amount of detail captured by the sensor gives images at the resolution of full-format – at times approaching medium format – quality.
There are certain challenges the Foveon sensor offers the professional photographer that many would find off-putting when taking it abroad on a critical trip. I have personally found that these perceived limitations tend not to be problematic, given the right preparation and foresight. I recently visited Mexico City to take photographs for my upcoming book on the city. At Quintonil, which holds two Michelin stars, it was crucial to be able to capture the fine detail of the food on show, but the Foveon sensor does not perform as well as many other first-rate cameras under low light. Travelling with lighting equipment was not an option.
Rather than letting this be a hindrance, simply requesting the food be presented under a strong source of natural sunlight ahead of arrival not only solved the issue, but ensured the colours of the food were allowed to emerge. The qualities of natural light are preferable to any lighting rig where the light source is ample and useable. And as a film photographer, I have learned that often the search for natural light can push you to new levels of creativity.
The simple but sensible feature-set of the DP2 is ideal for quick decision-making during street portrait photography. A slim and ergonomically sound body and lens ensure that once you have your exposure set correctly, the camera gets out of your way, and the subject is not intimidated. The DP2 looks eclectic enough to be taken seriously, but it won’t put the person you’re pointing the lens at in too serious a mood.
Most important, if you’re walking from sunrise until night, you will never notice the camera straining your wrists. The SIGMA DP2 Quattro is seriously lightweight at 395g, battery included. You will never be tempted to put it away, and regret what you may have missed.