My thoughts on the new SIGMA fp Camera by camera ambassador Paul Monaghan

My thoughts on the new SIGMA fp Camera by camera ambassador Paul Monaghan

Back in 2018 Sigma, Leica and Panasonic announced the L mount alliance, this allows all three companies to create cameras and lenses that share the same lens mount. This allows photographers more creative freedom by mixing and matching elements to craft the right equipment for their needs. Now at the end of 2019 we are finally seeing Sigma’s first camera to join the L mount family and in true Sigma style they created something unique.

The SIGMA fp, the world’s smallest Full Frame interchangeable lens camera which also weather sealed and despite its small size can shoot 4k Cinema DNG raw or 18fps for short bursts with its 24mp Bayer sensor.

It’s not just the small size of the fp that makes it unique but the fact it has a modular design meaning you can use it as a tiny camera with small lenses which is mostly how I will use it as demonstrated by the talented Edmond Terakopian

Add on a grip or small cage and possibly an EVF loupe for bigger lens or even build it into cine rigs for larger productions like this demonstrated by the talented David O’Dwyer from DOD media at the SIGMA fp launch event

There has been a lot of attention given to the camera due to its 4K Cinema DNG raw video capabilities and rightly so as it is pretty impressive, each frame is a single DNG raw that can be edited just like a normal raw photo giving you all that wonderful control you would expect when shooting stills but as a movie. Here’s a short sample with the SIGMA 105mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art on the SIGMA fp Camera direct to a Samsung T5 and edited in Lightroom.

fp Test

Sadly, the downside to the large interest in this camera from the cine market has had photographers overlooking it as a stills camera but personally I feel it’s a wonderful photography tool and a great addition to the L mount alliance.

The first thing you may notice about the SIGMA fp is the size, this thing is small but feels solid and despite its diminutive size still has a decent amount of controls around the body with a front dial on the top and a second dial around the Dpad, the QS button (quick select) from older SIGMA cameras makes it in here too and brings up a user customization menu to get to ISO and other features as needed.

I love that the camera has three 1/4-inch (tripod) screw threads, one at the bottom as normal and two on either side normally used to attach the strap lugs but can be used for other attachments or simply to have a tripod foot on the bottom and side of the camera which is great for shooting landscapes in portrait orientation.

Using the side 1/4 thread to mount a second tripod base plate.

ISO6 (emulated) to 102,400 (extended) with a normal range of 100-25,600 gives you a great amount of freedom to shoot in just about any situation, combine that with very fast 18 frames per second burst shooting (lasting around 14 frames) makes it easy to catch decisive moments.

The ISO 6 mode is particularly worthy of attention as it allows you to lower the amount of light in the scene and works really well particularly with landscapes. It’s like having a free 5 stop ND filter at hand but does require the use of a tripod. To test this, I did a comparison between ISO 6 and an ND filter at the same shutter speeds.

Left ISO200 with 6stop Benro ND Filter - Right ISO6 no ND filter.

The ISO 6 mode worked really well and it is hard to spot the difference between that and the filter shot although I really need to test it with more subjects as it is blending multiple frames. Another nice thing about the  ISO 6 mode is that it also enables us to select a shutter speed of 500 seconds which when combined with ND filters lets you turn rough water into smooth puddles as you can see in this crop.

30s exposure left - 500s exposure right

I even used it here for this early morning scene in Glasgow to see how it would blend the moving car lights and it did a fairly good job no filters here… just ISO6 with a 80 second shutter speed using the new SIGMA 14-24mm F2.8 DG DN | Art lens.

Glasgow in the Morning - SIGMA fp with SIGMA 14-24mm F2.8 DG DN | Art using ISO6

Another overlooked feature is the fully electronic shutter, there is no mechanical shutter or mirror so there’s zero vibration to worry about, combine that with the small light weight size and you can get away with using smaller tripods giving you a lighter system overall for landscape work which was handy when at the Loup of Fintry with my friend Barry Grant who did some wonderful steel wool spinning for me.

Steel wool at the Loup of Fintry - SIGMA fp Camera + SIGMA 12-24mm F4 DG HSM | Art via SIGMA MC-21

The one downside to having a fully electronic shutter is the flash sync, being someone who loves using flash, having a camera with a flash sync of 1/15 at full 14-bit raw or 1/30 at other quality settings instead of the usual 1/180 does limit things. I also couldn’t see a way to enable High Speed Sync (Ironically FP mode on SIGMA flashes) but really that’s not what this camera was designed for as the hotshoe is actually an add-on that comes with the camera and attaches to the side.

Flash and cable holder attachment.

Still it didn’t stop me trying to be creative! Using two Spiffygear Lumee lights I was able to use a long exposure of around 13 seconds to capture the movement of this wonderful gymnast and use a flash at the end of the exposure to freeze her mid-air to create this image.

SIGMA fp Camera + SIGMA 14-24mm F2.8 DG DN | Art, lumee and strobe.

While the electronic shutter limits flash sync it does have a major bonus in having zero noise (unless you enable the audio shutter). When taking photographs with its nice high ISO image quality and fast burst rate you get a very discrete camera for recording sensitive events, which is one of the reasons I wanted one in my kit.

The camera has lots of little features that make taking photographs fun like the face and eye detect AF that makes shooting people easier, as you can see here.

This is particularly handy using lens with fast apertures like the SIGMA 105mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art that has very shallow depth of field wide open as you can see in the final shot.

You may possibly have a collection of old lens from the film days where the short flange distance combined with focus peaking and zooming of the focus point makes it easy to use almost any lens ever made with the appropriate adapter to get sharp results.

I am still getting to know the camera and I am learning more every day. I hope to share more about it in the future. Right now I can say I am really enjoying my time with the camera, it has been great having such a small capable tool that can be built upon with accessories if my needs change and since SIGMA have also released the 3d files for the camera many 3rd party option are on the way! This will allow even more customization options in the future while SIGMA are also working on future firmware updates to add extra features.

Hopefully this has been helpful for people who are interested in the SIGMA fp to learn a little more about it from my viewpoint and if I can help with any questions feel free to catch me on Facebook or Instagram.

Featured product: SIGMA fp Camera