Sigma dp3 Quattro Review

Reviewed: The Sigma dp3 Quattro with a 50mm f/2.8 lens and a Foveon sensor.

| Sigma dp3 Quattro in Compact Cameras
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Sigma dp3 Quattro Review: Sigma Dp3 (4)

The Sigma dp3 Quattro is the telephoto camera in a range of four cameras, each with a different lens option (21mm, 28mm, 45mm, and 75mm equivalents), updating the Sigma dp3 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 dp1, and will look how the dp3 Quattro performs in this review.

Sigma dp3 Quattro Features

Sigma dp3 Quattro Review: Sigma Dp3 (2)

Like the other Quattro cameras in the range, the Sigma dp3 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. 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 dp3 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 dp3 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.

The sensor 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 dp3 Quattro Review: Sigma Dp3 (3)

Key Features

  • Foveon X3 Quattro APS-C CMOS sensor
  • Sigma 50mm f/2.8 lens, 75mm 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
  • 22.6cm closest focus distance
  • Flash hot shoe
  • Dual-axis electronic level

Sigma dp3 Quattro Handling

Sigma dp3 Quattro Review: Sigma Dp3 (5)

As previously mentioned, the Sigma dp3 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. 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. 

Sigma dp3 Quattro Review: Sigma Dp3 1 2x FT 1201 Conversion Lens (3)
Optional screw on 1.2x Conversion Lens (FT-1201) gives a 90mm equivalent.

Focus can become quite slow in low-light conditions, although a built in focus assist LED helps. 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. 

Sigma dp3 Quattro Review: Sigma Dp3 (6)

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 loupe can be purchased turning the screen into an electronic viewfinder. 

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. 

Sigma dp3 Quattro Review: Sigma Dp3 (7)

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. An Eco mode is available in the camera menus and should extend battery life when activated. 

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
Focus / Shutter Response 0.6secs
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo 3.7secs
Shot to Shot (without Flash) 2.6secs
Continuous Shooting - JPEG
(shots before stopping)
4fps (7 shots)
Continuous Shooting - RAW 4fps (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 (roughly 40 seconds), particularly when shooting raw images (over 50 seconds), so a high speed memory card is recommended. 

Sigma dp3 Quattro Review: Sigma Dp3 1 2x FT 1201 Conversion Lens (2)
1.2x FT-1201 Conversion Lens Fitted

Sigma dp3 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 dp3 Quattro Sample Photos

Sample Photos - Colour and JPEG output from this camera is noticeably improved compared to previous versions, however there is still a requirement for some correction for white balance at times, depending on the subject being photographed. You can use the JPEG images and adjust these, and not having to convert 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 dp3 Quattro Lens test images

Lens Performance - Chromatic aberrations can be an issue in JPEG images. Chromatic aberrations are easily fixed using Sigma Photo Pro software. You can also process raw files in camera. 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. Barrel distortion is quite low. The dp3 Quattro has much better close-up focusing ability than the other Quattros and feature 1:3 magnification.  

Sigma dp3 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 dp3 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 warm colour cast. 

Sigma dp3 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 dp3 Quattro is available for £775, 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 dp3 Quattro Verdict

The Sigma dp3 Quattro, like the other Sigma dpx Quattro cameras, delivers impressive pixel level image quality, thanks to the unique Foveon sensor. The camera produces much better JPEG images than previous versions of the camera, however for the best results converting the raw files is recommended. This means you'll need to use Sigma Photo Pro or convert the images on the camera. Sigma Photo Pro is still very slow in use compared to other raw conversion software, and changes to simple things such as white balance aren't displayed instantly making it quite unpleasant to use. 

The 50mm f/2.8, 75mm equivalent lens is most suited to potrait photography, however the slow focus speeds can make shooting with the camera frustrating, unless you have a patient subject to shoot. With static macro subjects the macro focusing capability of the lens would make it a good camera to use for product photography. The 1.2 tele-conversion lens can give you additional reach, however, macro performance is not as good with the lens attached. 

The dp3 Quattro is noticeably larger than previous versions of the camera, with an atypical design. 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 Sigma dp3 Quattro delivers some of the most detailed, crisp and sharp photos available, although there are some image quality issues with JPEG images. There are also issues if you need to shoot at ISO400 and above as noise becomes excessive and can be difficult to remove. If you love the look of the images from the Sigma dp3 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(s) worth investing in. 

Sigma dp3 Quattro Pros

4fps 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 dp3 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
Limited usable ISO range - noise at ISO800



Sigma dp3 Quattro Specifications

Max Aperturef/2.8 - f/16
35mm equivalent75mm
Optical Zoom0x
Image Sensor
Pixels29.8Mp (Megapixels)
Pixels (W)7680
Pixels (H)5120
Sensor TypeFoveon X3 CMOS
Sensor SizeAPS-C
Sensor Size (width)23.5mm
Sensor Size (height)15.7mm
Aspect Ratio
  • 4:3
  • 3:2
  • 16:9
  • 1:1
  • 21:9
LCD Monitor
LCD Monitor3in
Screen resolution920k
Touch ScreenNo
Min Focus22.6cm
Focusing modes
  • Autofocus
  • Manual
  • Face Detection
  • Multi
  • Centre
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest1/2000sec
Shutter speeds longest30sec
Bulb modeNo Data
Exp modes
  • Program
  • Aperture-Priority
  • Shutter-Priority
  • Manual
  • Program Variable
  • Centre-weighted - Average
  • Multi Pattern
  • 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 Data
    Optical Zoom with VideoNo Data
    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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    Photographs taken using the Sigma dp3 Quattro

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    dannyr Avatar
    dannyr 14 47 United Kingdom
    20 Jul 2015 3:29PM
    I maybe odd but I still think the original Sigma DP cameras were the best looking, in fact i rank them as one of my favourite looking compacts ever. I wish they could sick the new sensor in the original body.

    Although with the original battery you would probably only get about 12 shots Grin
    themak Avatar
    themak 10 1.1k Scotland
    20 Jul 2015 5:02PM
    Judging by the faces outside the Hall, the test images were taken alongside the Canon EOS 5DS. The detail and resolution of this combo laughs at the 5DS and its lens - whether it's all down to the lens remains to be seen. Usability and versatility is another (ongoing) matter.
    Laurencep75 Avatar
    20 Jul 2015 8:05PM
    My thoughts exactly themak - much prefer the Sigma rendition both in terms of detail and tone to that of the Canon. This Sigma's IQ resembles my Linhof on 120 film. Strange looking thing though.
    Niknut Avatar
    Niknut Plus
    13 3.7k 82 United Kingdom
    22 Jul 2015 4:52PM
    Faultless image quality (at low ISO's anyway)......but the aesthetics & handling
    leave a lot to be desired !!

    Put that sensor & processor in a traditional body form, & they might have a winner ??.Smile
    josa Avatar
    josa 11 25 Czech Republic
    22 Jul 2015 8:15PM
    I hope I live long enough to buy one day Sigma normal body, like GR, Coolpix A or whatever. This is insane!

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