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Sigma fp L Review

We review Sigma's 61mp mirrorless camera, the Sigma fp L with a full-frame sensor, L-Mount, and 4K video recording, as well as a new electronic viewfinder, the EVF-11.


|  Sigma fp L in Mirrorless Cameras
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fp L

Quick Verdict

The Sigma fp L is currently the smallest and cheapest mirrorless camera with a 61mp full-frame sensor. It has improved focus, but still remains relatively slow compared to other cameras. For the videographer or CINE film-maker, this camera might be ideal, and the price is certainly good value for money. For the stills photographer, the handling of the camera can feel a little odd, particularly if you use the camera without the optional grip.

You'll also find that many of the L-Mount lenses available are quite large, and therefore feel unbalanced in comparison to the small camera body, unless you're using some of the smaller lenses. The optional large grip certainly helps here. The Sigma fp L is the cheapest 61mp full-frame mirrorless camera, and if resolution is your priority, then this could be a good option for you depending on your needs.

+ Pros

  • Full-frame 61mp BSI CMOS sensor
  • Modular design makes it very compact
  • DNG raw files
  • World's smallest full-frame mirrorless camera
  • Open system encourages others to develop accessories for the camera
  • Multiple video / CINE features that will appeal to that market
  • Silent shutter

- Cons

  • Slow focus, limited continuous shots
  • No headphone socket (without adding EVF)
  • Lack of Wireless limits remote shooting
  • Electronic shutter means banding at higher ISOs / under some lighting
  • Lacks In-body Image Stabilisation
  • CINE-4K is external only
  • Doesn't offer 60fps 4K video

 

Sigma Fp L (1) | 1/25 sec | f/8.0 | 30.0 mm | ISO 1600
The Sigma fp L is Sigma's update to the Sigma fp, a compact full-frame mirrorless camera, the new version now features a 61-megapixel Full-Frame sensor. It's the World's smallest full-frame mirrorless camera, and much of this is due to the modular nature of the camera. If you want a flash hot-shoe, you can screw it onto the side, or if you want a grip, you can attach one. If you want a viewfinder, you can attach the new EVF-11.

Before the Sigma fp/fp L, previous Sigma cameras have all used the Foveon sensor as their unique feature, being the only company (currently) around that uses the Foveon sensor. However, the Sigma fp and fp L both use sensors with the standard Bayer filter.

The Sigma fp and fp L are part of the "L-Mount Alliance" with Leica, Panasonic, and Sigma, all committed to producing cameras, lenses and accessories, sharing the same L-Mount lens-mount.

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Sigma fp L Features

Sigma Fp L (6) | 1/25 sec | f/8.0 | 30.0 mm | ISO 1600

As part of the L-Mount alliance, the camera has access to all Leica L-Mount lenses, all Panasonic L-Mount lenses, and of course, all Sigma L-Mount lenses, of which there are a vast number of lenses available.

"Build your own camera" - In the box you'll find a variety of things, depending on what kit you bought, including strap loops that you screw onto the camera, and a flash hot-shoe is also something that you need to screw onto the camera if you want to use it. If you've bought the EVF-11 kit, you also get the new EVF (shown below), and you can use either the flash hot-shoe OR the EVF-11, but not both at the same time.

Sigma Fp L (5) | 1/40 sec | f/8.0 | 30.0 mm | ISO 1600
The camera features a Full-frame 61 megapixel BSI CMOS sensor and you'll also notice that this is the World's smallest full-frame mirrorless camera, it weighs just 427g with battery (just slightly more than the 422g of the Sigma fp). The fp L doesn't have a built-in mechanical shutter, instead, it uses an electronic shutter, which helps keep the camera small. There is electronic image stabilisation, again, keeping the camera small, as an in-camera image stabilisation system would use additional space.

New to the fp L, compared to the fp:

  • 61mp BSI CMOS sensor (Bayer)
  • Hybrid Contrast + Phase-detection AF
  • 10fps continuous shooting (18fps on fp)
  • Crop zoom feature (up to 5x in FullHD without image quality loss)
  • USB PD / Charging support
  • Save and share camera settings (this is coming to the fp with a firmware update)

 

STILL Shooting features

The Sigma fp L has P, A, S, M shooting modes, plus 6 custom modes, giving you full manual control. To switch between modes you use the Mode button, as there isn't a mode dial to be found on the camera. You'll also notice there aren't any "Scene" modes or "Intelligent Auto" modes to be found on the camera, instead, the P / Program AE (Auto Exposure) mode is the closest you'll get to a mode designed for beginners. There is built-in HDR, focus stacking, and colour options available, so you can be more creative.

For Foveon fans, there is FOV (Foveon) Blue and FOV (Foveon) Yellow colour options available, designed to reproduce the look/colour achieved with Sigma's Foveon cameras. There's also new Powder Blue and Duotone colour options (due to be added to the Sigma fp with a firmware update), with quick access to these with the "Color" button. You can also switch off the colour profile, which gives a "flat" image.

There's built-in DNG (raw) processing which lets you adjust multiple settings including "Fill Light" a technology available with Sigma Photo Pro, that was first introduced with the Foveon sensor and has now made its way over to this camera.

 

CINE mode

The Sigma fp L has a strong emphasis on CINE video recording, however, doesn't offer internal 4K CINE (DCI 4096×2160) resolution video, instead recording 4K UHD (3840x2160) resolution video internally. You can record CINE-4K to an external recorded via HDMI.

You can record standard 4K UHD 8-bit video at 30, 25, and 24fps to SD cards, and these are recorded as MOV (H.264 ALL-I/GOP) files.

To record CinemaDNG UHD video at 12bit 30fps video you'll need to connect a portable SSD. CinemaDNG can be recorded to UHS-II SD cards as 8-bit, 25fps video.

There are numerous features and options that will appeal to videographers, and CINE film-markers, including Director's View, and the modular nature of the camera will also add to the appeal.

Sigma Fp L (9) | 1/40 sec | f/8.0 | 30.0 mm | ISO 1600
 

Key Features

  • 61mp Full-frame BSI CMOS sensor
  • L-Mount Lens Mount
  • 3.15inch touch-screen, 2.1m dots
  • ISO100 to ISO25600 (Standard), Extended ISO6 to ISO102400
  • 49 focus points, phase and contrast detection
  • Face and eye-detection focus (AF)
  • 14-bit RAW (DNG)
  • 10fps continuous shooting speed
  • 4K UHD video, CinemaDNG (C4K external via HDMI)
  • Electronic Image Stabilisation (EIS)
  • UHS-II SD Card slot
  • HDR, Focus bracket, Fill light bracket
  • Weather-sealed, dust and splashproof

Sigma fp L Handling

Sigma Fp L (14) | 1/40 sec | f/8.0 | 30.0 mm | ISO 1600
The Sigma fp L is almost identical in design to the Sigma fp. The Sigma fp L is designed to be a “modular” camera, and if you unscrew the strap loops on the left and right sides, you’ll find additional tripod sockets, that can be used to mount the camera on a tripod, or to add additional accessories, such as the flash hot-shoe. Underneath there’s another tripod socket, in the normal place you’d expect to find one.   

The camera features a metal body, and feels tough, and solid, with a rubber grip at the back, but we felt that it was missing from the front. The optional grip(s) easily resolves this, and the sides, as well as the back, provide a good level of grip. If you’re using a larger lens, then this also provides another point for holding the camera securely. If you don't add a grip to the camera, then using the 4-way controller / scroll wheel on the back can be a little awkward, and we ended up accidentally pressing buttons and changing settings we didn't want to change (in the QS menus).

You don’t need to worry about is the shutter potentially shaking the camera, something known as “shutter shock”, as the camera does not have a mechanical shutter, instead the camera uses an electronic shutter. This helps keep the camera smaller than it would be otherwise. The danger from this, however, is the risk of banding or "jello" in images.

Sigma Fp L (2) | 1/40 sec | f/8.0 | 30.0 mm | ISO 1600
The Sigma fp L, in its native form, doesn’t feature much in the way of a grip, it doesn’t even feature a flash hot-shoe until you attach the flash hot-shoe “accessory” that attaches to the left-hand side of the camera. This makes the camera look even more "odd" as does the EVF-11.

However, this also makes it small, and compact, in fact, the smallest full-frame camera available, but it also makes it a little too small when used with bigger L-mount lenses. If you want a small system, then the Sigma 45mm f/2.8 lens is particularly compact and makes a good match for the system. If you’re using a larger lens, then you’ll most likely want to use a grip with the camera, and there are two options available from Sigma, the “Hand Grip HG-11” for £59.99, or the “Large Hand Grip HG-21” at £99.99.

With the optional large HG-21 grip (RRP £99) the camera height is increased, and the grip is large (as per the title) giving a good handling experience. We'd particularly recommend this if you are using any lens other than the 45mm lens. The grip has a cutout to provide quick access to the battery and memory compartment.

Switching on the fp L is a fairly sluggish affair, with the camera taking between 2 and 3 seconds to switch on before you can start taking photos. You can shoot at up to 10fps, but you can only take 12 shots. Shooting at the low continuous shooting speed (of 3fps) lets you shoot up to 24 shots. Despite the camera now featuring hybrid AF, with phase and contrast-detection AF, we didn't find the focus speeds particularly quick. They may be quicker than the Sigma fp, but they're still relatively slow compared to other camera systems.

 

Controls and ergonomics

The camera controls are clearly laid out, with a large on/off switch, as well as a clear CINE / STILLS switch to let you switch between the video and stills shooting modes. There’s a top command wheel, as well as a scroll wheel on the back - this makes it easy to adjust the exposure (shutter, aperture, exposure compensation etc).

The QS (Quick Select) button gives quick access to common settings, making it easy to change common settings. There are also dedicated buttons to adjust the colour settings (where you’ll find “film” like settings, such as “CINE” and “Foveon Blue”, “Forest Green” etc). Another button lets you adjust the tone, where you can adjust the highlight and shadow tone. Another button you’ll find on the back is the “Mode” button, which you can use to switch between the different modes, including P, A, S, M, etc. There is no mode dial. The QS menu options can be customised.

Sigma Fp L (11) | 1/40 sec | f/8.0 | 30.0 mm | ISO 1600
The menus are clearly laid out, and colour coded split over "Shoot", "Play" and "System" (Settings). The menu options are different depending on whether you're in CINE mode or STILL mode. There is some built-in help, and if an option isn't available (greyed out) then the camera will give a quick reason for this.

There is no viewfinder included in the camera body, but you can add the EVF-11, available as an optional electronic viewfinder (EVF), there's also an “LCD View Finder LVF-11” attachment (with dioptre adjustment), that turns the rear LCD screen into a large electronic viewfinder.

Sigma Fp L (3) | 1/25 sec | f/8.0 | 30.0 mm | ISO 1600

The EVF-11 electronic viewfinder screws into the side of the camera, connecting to the USB, HDMI, and side connections. There is no eye-detection sensor, and instead, you need to physically move the switch on the side if you want to switch between the LCD screen and the EVF. The EVF gives a large view of the scene and comes with a regular-sized eye-cup as well as a larger eyecup in the box. It has a resolution of 3.68m dots, a magnification of 0.83x, and you will find the dioptre correction hidden behind the eye-cup. The EVF also tilts up 90 degrees and adds a headphone socket, as well as a USB connection, however it does block off the HDMI connection (using this to provide the display).

Looking at the camera, you might think that the screen tilts, but unfortunately, it’s entirely fixed in position. The sides around the screen, which make it look like it should tilt, are instead a cooling area (heatsink) for the camera to aid in keeping the camera cool with extended video use. The screen looks great, with a high resolution of 2.1million dots, and it's slightly larger than most, being 3.15inches in size. The screen has great viewing angles, and viewing outdoors is also good.

Focus points - The camera gives you 49 focus points, which can be manually selected, using the touch-screen, or the directional 4-way controller/scroll wheel, and the size of the focus point can be changed. These cover a fairly wide area of the sensor, although surprisingly not the entire sensor. You can see where they are in the photo below. You can also select from 1581 (31x51) points if more precision is needed.

Sigma Fp L Focus Points
Sigma fp L Focus Points

What is the AF-EV range? With a good autofocus EV range, down to -5 EV, the camera can focus in low-light but will occasionally struggle at times, and fail to focus, taking several attempts to correctly focus.

Battery life is rated at 240 shots (less than the 280 shots offered by the Sigma fp). There is one battery provided in the box, so we'd recommend buying a second with the camera. You can also power the camera using a portable power bank, such as one you’d use to charge a smartphone, while using the camera. The camera has a USB Type-C connection, and to charge the battery, you leave it in the camera and use the provided USB cable and AC Adapter.

Sigma Fp L (15) | 1/50 sec | f/8.0 | 30.0 mm | ISO 1600
 


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