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Sigma dp1 Quattro Review

Full review of the new Sigma dp1 Quattro, the latest camera from Sigma features a unique Foveon APS-C sensor, as well as a 28mm equivalent f/2.8 lens.

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Sigma dp1 Quattro Review: Sigma Dp1 Quattro (3)

The Sigma dp Quattro series was announced in February 2014, and caused a healthy debate, due to its rather unconventional camera design. The dp1 Quattro is the wide-angle camera in a range of 3 cameras, each with a different lens option (28mm, 45mm, and 75mm equivalents), updating the Sigma dp1 Merrill, the camera offers a new sensor design, and quicker image processing. The camera records 39 megapixel JPEG images, 19 megapixel raw images, and is available for £899. We've previously reviewed the Sigma dp2 Quattro, and will look how the dp1 Quattro performs in this review.

Sigma dp1 Quattro Features

Sigma dp1 Quattro Review: Sigma Dp1 Quattro (4)

Like the dp2 Quattro, the Sigma dp1 Quattro features a newly developed Foveon X3 direct image sensor (generation name: “Quattro”), the sensor features multiple layers to capture all of the colour information that visible light transmits, something Sigma calls full-bodied image quality. The Sigma dp Quattro series is said to have every aspect of the camera redesigned, with a redesigned sensor, image processing engine, lens and body. Sigma say the combination of an integrated prime lens, and sensor gives the best image quality possible, saying that they are able to achieve better results this way, rather than releasing a compact system camera with interchangeable lenses. 

The camera body design is supposed to offer a balanced shape, layout and weight distribution, with the cameras said to deliver medium format-level image quality anywhere.

Sigma dp1 Quattro Review: Foveon X3

The Foveon X3 Quattro direct image sensor differs from the previous Foveon sensor thanks to a new top layer with a higher resolution, as shown below. This is said to give high resolution results, but with a lower resolution green and red layer, image processing is said to be quicker and noise is also said to be improved. 

Sigma dp1 Quattro Review: Quattro Sensor

Due to the sensor design, there is no low pass filter, and each pixel records full RGB colour information, thanks to a layered sensor, much like film. The previous Sigma dp Merrill series was said to give the equivalent of a 30 megapixel camera from a 15mp (x3) sensor, while the dp Quattro series is said to give the equivalent of a 39 megapixel camera, from a 29.8 megapixel sensor (20mp + 4.9mp + 4.9mp), when compared to Bayer sensor cameras.

Another feature is the panchromatic nature of the sensor that captures information from all wavelengths of light. This makes the camera suitable for black and white photography, and using the built in filters or using the Sigma Photo Pro 6 image processing software you can use black and white filters, much like you would have done if you were shooting black and white film.

Sigma dp1 Quattro Review: Sigma Dp1 Quattro (1)

Key Features

  • Foveon X3 Quattro APS-C CMOS sensor
  • Sigma 19mm f/2.8 lens, 28mm equivalent, 58mm filter thread
  • 3inch screen, 921k dots
  • P/A/S/M shooting modes
  • 21:9, 16:9, 3:2, 4:3, 1:1 aspect ratios
  • Lossless compression RAW data (14-bit)
  • ISO100 to ISO6400
  • 20cm closest focus distance
  • Flash hot shoe
  • Dual-axis electronic level

Sigma dp1 Quattro Handling

Sigma dp1 Quattro Review: Sigma Dp1 Quattro (5)

The Sigma dp1 Quattro features a rather unusual camera design, with the hand grip turning backwards towards you rather than forwards like other cameras available. The design and, as a result, the length of the camera means that it's best operated with two hands, as the camera can feel lens heavy if you try and shoot with just one hand holding the camera. There is a small rubber grip on the front of the camera, and again, almost the opposite of other cameras, there is a larger rubber grip on the rear of the camera, with a protruding area where your thumb can grip the camera, although it's often more comfortable to hold the camera with your thumb underneath the rear command wheel, where there is no rubber grip, but simply the textured camera body. Despite the unusual design of the camera, the camera feels extremely well built with a solid metal body that has a textured feel to it. On the left of the camera is a tough feeling rubber cover which hides the SD memory card slot and USB connection.

Underneath the camera are two areas with tough rubber areas much like you would find on professional level Digital SLRs, and the metal tripod socket is in line with the lens. You'll also find the battery compartment under the camera, which houses a new, larger 1200mAh 7.2V (BP-51) lithium-ion battery.

Once you do get used to the design and handling of the camera, then the two command wheels on the top feel very good and they make it very easy to change settings on the camera. It's also very easy to change common settings using the QS button, which brings up an on-screen set of options. Due to the rather unusual camera design we would recommend trying to get your hands on the camera in person to see if you find it comfortable to use, if possible. 

The camera has a built in focus assist LED that helps the camera focus in low light, although focus can become quite slow in low-light conditions. The camera has 9 focus points selectable, or you can move the focus point freely around the centre of the image, and it is possible to change the size of the focus frame to Spot, Regular and Large. The top mode button is used to switch between P/A/S/M and three custom modes. 

A 3inch screen can be found on the back with a 921k dot resolution, although the display isn't particularly quick to refresh, and does look quite pixelated when taking photos. The menus look much better, and the screen is a gapless design meaning viewing angles are very good. An optional attachment can be purchased turning the screen into an electronic viewfinder. 

Sigma dp1 Quattro Review: Sigma Dp1 Quattro (6)

The menu system is very well designed, with colour coded sections, making it easy to find and change settings. The QS button also gives quick access to the most common options, and when used with the command wheels it makes it easy and quick to change settings. 

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Battery life - Battery life is rated at 200 shots according to Sigma / CIPA test results, which is below average, however the inclusion of a second battery brings the total number of shots possible up to a much more respectable 400 shots. 

Speed - We took a number of shots to test the camera's responsiveness, from switch on to first photo, shot to shot, focusing speed etc. We take a number of shots and then use the average to ensure accurate and consistent tests, making it easy to compare with other cameras.

Shutter Response 0.05secs
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response 0.5secs
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo 3.7secs
Shot to Shot (without Flash) 2.5secs
Continuous Shooting - JPEG
(shots before stopping)
4.2fps (7 shots)
Continuous Shooting - RAW 4.2fps (7 shots)

Shutter response is very quick, however focus is on the slow side, with a slow shot to shot time as well. Continuous shooting is quick, at 4.2fps, however it can take a while for the camera to write the 7 shots to the memory card, particularly when shooting raw images, so a high speed memory card is recommended. 

Sigma dp1 Quattro Review: Sigma Dp1 Quattro (8)

Sigma dp1 Quattro Performance

The performance section is where we look at the image quality performance of the camera. Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review, photos and product ratings.

Sigma dp1 Quattro Sample Photos

Sample Photos - Colour and JPEG output from this camera is significantly improved compared to the previous versions, as the JPEG results from this camera are very good, with little need to convert the raw images. Previous versions required raw conversion to get the best colour from the camera. Not having to convert the raw images is particularly beneficial as the raw images are very large at 50-60MB+, and the photo processing software, Sigma Photo Pro 6, can be particularly slow to use. The camera has reliable exposure, and dynamic range is good, with the raw files offering the ability to recover lost shadows and highlights using Sigma Photo Pro. Skin tones can be very good using the Portrait setting (as the standard setting can be a little too contrasty), although care needs to be taken about shadows, and lower noise images can be produced converting the raw files. The JPEG images can also appear overly sharpened on default settings, and this leads to image artefacts, which are not present when converting the raw images. 

Sigma dp1 Quattro Lens test images

Lens Performance - Chromatic aberrations are an issue in JPEG images, when "Purple Fringe Correction" is switched off in the camera options. Chromatic aberrations are easily fixed using Sigma Photo Pro software, and examples are shown above. You can also process raw files in camera, and there is an option there to correct for purple fringing, although this doesn't entirely resolve the chromatic aberrations, and better results are found by using Sigma Photo Pro.

Detail recorded by the camera is impressive, with excellent levels of detail across the frame, when compared to typical Bayer sensor cameras, with each pixel recording the full colour information it results in every pixel recording impressive levels of detail, something that is very difficult to acheive with other cameras. There is a little vignetting when shooting at f/2.8, but this is quickly resolved as the lens is stopped down, and barrel distortion is quite low. With the closest focusing distance of 20cm, the dp1 Quattro is not ideally suited for close up photography, and for this we would recommend looking at the dp3 Quattro which has much better close-up focusing ability.  

When shooting JPEG images chromatic aberrations and other image artefacts such as jagged edges were very high, as was purple fringing, however this can be corrected using Sigma Photo Pro, but disappointingly is very noticeable in the JPEG images. 

Sigma dp1 Quattro ISO test images

ISO Noise Performance - For the lowest noise and best detail possible we would recommend using ISO100 to ISO200, as images have low levels of noise and exceptional levels of detail. For lower light situations ISO400 still provides good results, although noise increases and detail is reduced slightly. At ISO800 noise levels become strong and we would recommend avoiding this setting if possible, although results may still be useful if resized and used on the web, or additional noise processing is applied. ISO1600 and above is best avoided as noise is extremely high, and detail is low, with a significant loss of colour at ISO3200 which continues at ISO6400.

Sigma dp1 Quattro White-balance test images

White Balance Performance - Auto White Balance (AWB) performs reasonably well under tungsten lighting, with the tungsten preset giving a warm / yellow colour cast. AWB performs well under fluorescent lighting, with the fluorescent preset giving a green colour cast. 

Sigma dp1 Quattro Digital filters

Digital Filters - In standard (and other) colour mode(s) you can alter the contrast, sharpness and saturation, and the camera includes 11 types of colour presets (Standard, Vivid, Neutral, Portrait, Landscape, Cinema, Sunset Red, Forest Green, FOV Classic Blue, FOV Classic Yellow, Monochrome). In the mono shooting mode on the camera, you can alter the contrast, sharpness, filtering effect (Off, Yellow, Orange, Red, Green, and Blue), and toning effect (B&W, Red, Warm tone, Sepia, Green, Blue Green, Blue, Cold Tone, Blue Purple, and Purple). You can also apply these effects in playback mode, in the raw editing mode on the camera.

Value For Money

The Sigma dp1 Quattro is available for £899, which makes it reasonably good value for money. For those with a more limited budget, then the previous versions, the Sigma dpx Merrills now offer excellent value for money, although do require raw image processing for the best results. 

Other APS-C / Large sensor compact cameras that you could look at are shown below:

Fujifilm X100T, 16mp, APS-C, f/2.0 35mm equivalent lens, £999
Ricoh GR V, 16mp, APS-C, f/2.8 28mm equivalent lens, £499 (RRP was £599)
Nikon Coolpix A, 16mp, APS-C, f/2.8 28mm equivalent lens, £499 (RRP was £999)
Canon Powershot G1 X Mark II, 13mp, 1.5inch sensor, f/2.0-3.9 5x zoom lens, £719 (RRP was £799)
Panasonic Lumix LX100, 12.8mp, Micro Four Thirds sensor, f/1.7-2.8 3.1x zoom lens, £699 

Alternatively to get a similar high resolution result, you would need to look at the Nikon D810Sony Alpha A7R, or Sigma SD1 Merrill Digital SLRs.

You'll also need to buy a memory card and a case or bag to keep your camera safe and protected - have a look at our complete guide to camera bags.

Sigma dp1 Quattro Verdict

The Sigma dp1 Quattro and other Sigma cameras are unique in being the only camera available that uses a multi-layer sensor solution where every pixel records all colour information, making direct comparisons quite difficult. It's because of Foveon sensor technology that the camera is able to deliver such impressive pixel level image quality, but it also means that, due to the large raw files, image processing times are slow in comparison to other cameras. Due to the large raw files produced by the camera a large memory card is definitely recommended.

The dp1 Quattro is noticeably larger than previous versions of the camera, with an unusual design, and whilst the original Sigma dp1/2 series were relatively pocketable, this changed with the dpx Merrill series, making them more jacket pocket cameras. This time with the Quattro series, the cameras are much more suited to being carried in a camera bag, rather than a jacket pocket, which is a shame, as originally that was one of the key benefits of the Sigma cameras, an APS-C sensor and DSLR quality in a pocketable camera. The dp1 Quattro promises medium format quality in a portable camera, and is certainly much smaller than a medium format camera, but is definitely large for a "compact camera", with a camera design that you either like or dislike. 

The Sigma dp1 Quattro delivers some of the most detailed, crisp and sharp photos available, with excellent colour reproduction, although there are some image quality issues with JPEG images. Like previous Foveon cameras, the dp1 Quattro delivers stunning pixel level detail, great if you want to enlarge pictures, or view at 100%. There are however some drawbacks, which are now expected with Foveon sensor cameras, namely that as soon as you increase the ISO speed to ISO400 or above, then you will begin to see a lot of noise in images, and as a result we would recommend that you not use any ISO setting higher than ISO400. If you love the look of the images from the Sigma dp1 Quattro, then the price of the camera is quite reasonable, similar in price to many other large sensor prime lens cameras when they were first released. For those that have previous versions of the camera, the image quality improvements would make the new Quattro camera well worth investing in. 

Sigma dp1 Quattro Pros

4.2fps continuous shooting
Easy to use QS menu system
2 batteries included
Much improved white balance performance
Exceptional pixel level detail
Very good colour reproduction
Improved noise performance compared to previous Sigmas
Dual-axis electronic level

Sigma dp1 Quattro Cons

No video mode
No auto panoramic shooting mode
Sigma Photo Pro 6 raw processing is slow
Chromatic aberrations and image artefacts in JPEG images
Significantly larger than previous versions
Slow shot to shot time
Noise at ISO800



Sigma dp1 Quattro Specifications

Max Aperturef/2.8
35mm equivalent28mm
Optical Zoom0x
Image Sensor
Pixels29.8Mp (Megapixels)
Pixels (W)5424
Pixels (H)3616
Sensor TypeFoveon X3 CMOS
Sensor SizeAPS-C
Sensor Size (width)23.5mm
Sensor Size (height)15.7mm
Aspect Ratio
  • 3:2
  • 4:3
  • 16:9
  • 1:1
  • 21:9
LCD Monitor
LCD Monitor3in
Screen resolution920,000 dots
Touch ScreenNo
Min Focus20cm
Focusing modes
  • Autofocus
  • Manual
  • Centre
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest1/2000sec
Shutter speeds longest30sec
Bulb modeNo Data
Exp modes
  • Program
  • Aperture-Priority
  • Shutter-Priority
  • Manual
  • Centre-weighted - Average
  • Multi Pattern
  • Centre Spot
ISO sensitivity100 - 6400
White balance
  • Auto
  • Manual
  • Outdoors/Daylight
  • Cloudy
  • Incandescent
  • Fluorescent
  • Shade
  • Flash
Exposure Comp+/-3
Shooting Options
Continuous shooting4fps
Movie modeNo
Video Resolution
    Video FPSNo Data
    Stereo SoundNo
    Optical Zoom with VideoNo
    Other Features
    Image StabilisationNo
    USBUSB 2
    Card Type
    • SD
    • SDHC
    • SDXC
    File Type
    • RAW
    • JPG
    • RAW + JPG
    Power Source
    Battery TypeLi-ion Battery Pack BP-51
    Battery Life (CIPA rating)200shots
    Box Contents
    Box ContentsLens Cap (on the camera) / Hot shoe cover (on the camera) / Strap / Li-ion Battery BP-51 (2 pieces) / Battery Charger BC-51 / Battery Charger Cable / USB Cable / Instruction Manual

    View Full Product Details

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    lemmy Avatar
    lemmy 16 2.9k United Kingdom
    2 Dec 2014 6:05PM
    It's good to see different takes on camera and sensor design and the images look very appealing. But the Foveon sensor doesn't seem to offer any great advantage over conventional ones and I find it hard to see the point of Sigma pursuing such a camera without any USP.

    Maybe I'm missing something? I hope so.
    dannyr Avatar
    dannyr 14 47 United Kingdom
    3 Dec 2014 10:35AM
    I've always loved Sigma's decision to go their own way. Cameras have never been their priority, they must make money from selling them but probably not that much.
    I have always wanted a Sigma even an old DP1/2, but I am not too fond of the Quattro design, it's a bit too big, I wish they would go crazy and stick the 18-35 F1.8 on the front! Now that would be fun Smile
    themak Avatar
    themak 10 1.1k Scotland
    3 Dec 2014 1:23PM
    These things are slow, basic, fixed focal length compacts with all the drawbacks of a compact and more. Apart from their party trick, which is resolution and detail that beats pretty much everything else. If you want great landscape shots with next to no weight, it's great. Don't take it to indoor basketball, though.
    Indianapolis Avatar
    4 Dec 2014 3:08AM
    Yeah, it does seem to be a little bit of a one-trick pony, but it does that one trick really, really well.

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