Sigma fp review with images

 

Over the last 2 weeks I had the chance, thanks to Sigma, to get my hands on the “Worlds smallest, full frame camera” . The Sigma fp.  It’s about the same size as your smartphone but a little thicker. They had to make it deeper to put all the crazy bells and whistles inside. While this camera is, in my opinion, designed as a video/cine camera it also works amazingly well as a still photographers camera.

This is the very first mirrorless camera I have ever shot with. I admit I was a little nervous at first but it was much easier than I thought.

Pros-

  • Super Low ISO’s down to 6!
  • Very small and lightweight – Epic travel camera
  • Super Easy to use
  • Fantastic image quality up to 3200 ISO
  • Some lenses are smaller and lighter than their DSLR equivalents
  • Files are fast and easy to work with
  • 24mp Full Frame
  • 60-500 seconds in camera for the lower expansion ISO’s
  • Solid Build
  • Designed to be fully customizable

Cons-

  • No flip screen on back of camera
  • Really small camera for those with bigger hands – a grip would solve this
  • Color noise in underexposed images.
  • Image Stabilization only available in jpg modes
  • HDR only in jpg modes
  • IS and HDR can not be used at same time

 

Sigma fp c43900

I had the chance to use this camera here in Colorado as well as on a trip to Kansas to photograph the largest running locomotive, Union Pacific’s Big Boy 4014. I shot in some extremely cold temps but nothing that would be considered warm. The weather was very cold over the last couple weeks which made me worry about the battery life. I was surprised to see the battery last as long as it did.  I did not count image to see how many I got off one charge but I can say for me that having 2 or 3 batteries would be enough to last me all day shooting.  This was nice to see since the camera does not have an EVF or eye piece.  Everything is done right from the back of the camera in live view.

IMG_3640

 

The info on the back of the camera is well laid out and easy to read. One thing I really love about this camera is that the histogram is one of the display options on the screen.  Having the histogram and the level on the same screen was great for me. I teach people that the histogram is the scientific proof of how much data you are or are not collecting in your image. Being able to see the histogram and how it changes based on your ISO, Shutter Speed and Fstop was really nice. I didn’t have to take a shot, look at it and then adjust. I could just dial up the histogram so that my exposure was correct every time!

Sunrise Path
Chatfield Sunrise, Sigma fp, Sigma 14-24mm at 23mm 

 

I’ll be very honest here, the real reason I wanted to try this camera was because of the ISO going down to 6. Yes, 6 ISO. I don’t think there is another camera out there that has an ISO that low. This meant that I could shoot long exposures in the daylight, I did not need any filters and the image quality would be amazing.  What I did not know at the time was that the lower ISOs – Below 100 – had longer shutter speeds available to them as well. At ISO 6 you can shoot for 500 seconds, that’s crazy!!! It totally makes sense though. Why would any camera company give you the option to shoot at an ISO that low and then limit your shutter speed to 30 seconds…So I had to try this for myself.  I went into Denver where I knew I could see the skyline and hopefully get a nice sunrise. I arrived before it was light so I could take full advantage of the super low ISO and the super long shutter speed.

Denver 5001
Sigma fp, Sigma 45mm, ISO 6, f/16, 500 seconds

I fell in love. As someone who loves the lower ISO’s and longer shutter speeds, I was in heaven. I had to try more…so I did… in the snow and some very cold temps.

Cold Morning at Nymph
Sigma fp, Sigma 45mm, ISO 6, F/5, 60 seconds. 

My goal on this morning was to shoot Dream Lake under a partial moon and shoot sunrise as well. When we got up to Dream Lake the wind was blowing at least 100mph. Those of you who have been there know it’s like a wind tunnel at times. This particular morning was nothing less than brutal. I stood on the ice as the wind pushed me around like an ice skater. I knew there was no way I was going to set up a little camera on a tripod and expect to get any kind of decent shot. We decided to head back down to Nymph Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park where we were partly protected by the wind. It was still very cold out!  Once again I cranked the ISO down to 6 and used a 60 second shutter speed to completely smooth out the clouds. I liked how the clouds formed the same shape as the tree line. Yes, there are some trees moving because of the wind but the details on the face of the rock, Hallett Peak, are amazing.

Moraine Valley
Sigma fp, Sigma 45mm, ISO 100, F/10, 1/160th 

After leaving Nymph Lake I headed into the meadow where I captured this stream in front of the mountains with a wave cloud over it. The light was nice and the camera handled the highlights and shadows without fail.

Coco
Sigma fp, Sigma 14-24mm, ISO 100, F/2.8, 1/800th second handheld. 

On a walk with my dog, I decided to try and see how well the focus points worked. This is the one things that is touch activated on the back of the screen. If I were to press down and focus, then I could simply touch the back of the screen where I wanted it to focus and it would bring up all the points where I could change it to. In this image I was able to move the focus all the way over to my dog’s eye. My dog doesn’t like to look at the camera so a side profile is the best I’m gonna get!

_SDI0151
Sigma fp, Sigma 45mm, ISO 100, F/2.8, 1/125th second handheld 
Anytime I get some new camera equipment the first thing I do is test it out on my daughter. She hates having her picture taken. I think I have ruined her.  Knowing the fine details of hair, eyebrows and eyelashes I knew she would be the perfect subject so that I could get a great idea of how well the new Bayer sensor was going to perform. I took the shot, zoomed in and was blown away with the details. The ISOs from 100 down to 6 are very smooth and creamy but retain a lot of fine details.

 

 

Chatfield Snow
Sigma fp, Sigma 45mm, ISO 100, F/5.6, 1/500th second

Whenever it snows, I always go over to the lake near my home. The Fall colors were over for the most part but a tiny bit were hanging on. It was snowing when I shot this and it wasn’t until I got home that I realized I had actually photographed a deer walking in the snow in this image. I did not see the deer when I pressed the shutter. I loved the intimate details in the image from the background all they way to the front of the image where the snow is falling and actually out of focus because it’s so close.

Foggy Creek

Later in the afternoon I ventured over to this little stream/waterfall and found these bubbles floating down from the bridge. It was fairly bright out but with this camera I wasn’t worried…I just cranked it down to ISO 6, F/22 and shot for 2 seconds. That was enough time to allow the bubbles to move and create a sense of motion.

HDR
Sigma fp, 14-24mm, ISO 200, F/5, 1/400th second – top image is in camera HDR, bottom image is a single image. 

This past weekend I headed to Kansas to photograph the “Big Boy 4014” Locomotive that was touring across the USA as part of the 150th Anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad’s Completion.. I thought this could be once in a lifetime opportunity to see it in action.  When I arrived in Kansas I found this old church next to a museum and thought this would be a perfect place to test out the HDR feature in the camera. I set it to shoot + and – 2 along with a normal image and then combine them all. The top image is the HDR image and the bottom image is a single image metered the best I could get with the white conditions.  Because the HDR is only able to be used in Jpg mode it doesn’t have the latitude for post processing as a DNG file. With the DNG file I was able to recover a lot of details in the shadow area without any issues with noise at 64 ISO.

_SDI0528
Sigma fp, Sigma 45mm, ISO 1600, F/5.6, 1/80th second handheld 

In Wallace, Kansas is “The Bank” it’s an old bank that has been converted on the inside to a coffee shop/antique shop. I met the owner and enjoyed a cup of hot coffee on this cold morning while I snapped some shots on the inside at higher ISOs. I had nice soft light coming in the window on the left and it really made the image look very natural. I was extremely happy with how ISO 1600 was working.

Inside the Bank
Sigma fp, Sigma 45mm, ISO 3200, F/2.8, 1/250th second handheld 

I loved all these old farm and tractor signs hanging behind the antique cash register. I thought they would make a good case for a higher ISO. Generally with higher ISO’s they tend to lose color as the ISO gets higher. I felt this one came out very natural based on the lighting inside the shop. The greens, reds, yellows and blues all came across nicely. Even upon close review ISO 3200 is really nice and very usable. Just for kicks I ran this image through Topaz DeNoise and it came out super clean in the areas that did have a little extra noise. That being said. I would print images shot at ISO 3200 out of the Sigma fp.

Ride To Church
Sigma fp, Sigma 14-24mm, ISO 100, F/7.1, 1/200th second handheld 

A fun image for sure with a wide angle lens. When I saw this little cart on the train tracks I knew I wanted to shoot it with the church. My reason for this was to see how well the camera would balance the white of the snow and church with the yellow of the cart. As you can see here it did a great job. The yellow stayed very natural and the white stayed white without greying out. I feel this Bayer sensor in the fp was a great choice.

Midnight Rest
Sigma fp, Sigma 45mm, ISO 400, F/5, 4 seconds

Big Boy arrives in Sharon Springs, Kansas for an overnight maintenance stop. When I arrived in the afternoon there were still quite a few people around the train. That wasn’t my idea of an image I wanted to capture. I checked into my hotel about 5pm and at 1:30am I got up and went to down to the station to find myself alone with this beast. I talked to the police officer who was “on guard” and he was really nice telling me I could get a close as I wanted to do photography. I told him the moon was going to be rising soon and that I wanted a shot of the moon over the train but he didn’t seem to care too much. From 1:30am – 3am I had the whole place to myself. I shot many image at lots of angles. This gentleman shows up and we talk for a while and then we go our separate ways to do more photography. I really wanted the moon rising over the train so I stepped back to include the tracks in the foreground and I noticed him down a ways shooting his own images. I normally don’t include people in my images but I felt he added a great sense of scale compared to the locomotive.

Wheelhousing
Sigma fp, Sigma 45mm, ISO 32, F/4.5, 40 seconds
Big Wheels
Sigma fp, Sigma 45, ISO 32, F/9, 100 seconds
In review, this camera was an absolute joy to work with. It takes crazy sharp images and allows the photographer to use super long shutter speeds without the need for a cable release or using the bulb setting. I was reviewing this camera as a backup, travel camera and it fits the bill perfectly. For still photography this camera has most everything you need and it can be fully customized as well. I see a lot of people picking this camera up to take on longer trips when packing a 44lb camera bag isn’t going to work well. I know as I get older I am always looking at ways to downsize my gear and what I take on each trip. I found a lot more positives to this camera than I did negatives. One of the positives is that some of the lenses for this camera (L-Mount) are smaller than their DSLR Counterparts. As you can see below, the Nikon lens is almost a pound heavier than the Leica L mount. The L mount is also smaller. So if weight is really an issue for you in your travel and adventures, I would highly recommend you taking a good hard look at this camera. Because it’s such a small camera you can also get away with a smaller tripod too.
Screen Shot 2019-11-25 at 1.44.51 PM
Now in all fairness let’s talk about some of the things I would like to see improved in the next version or a firmware update.
  • Articulating screen on the back of the camera. This is something I would have loved to have since the camera is so small. I mentioned this to Sigma and they agree and said that many other photographers had mentioned the same thing.  The camera is so small that doing reflection shots at ground level seems like an obvious thing to do. Without the screen being able to tip up means you need to get down to ground level too.
  • I did notice some color noise in underexposed images when I tried to boost the shadows on ISO’s over 400. I am guessing this is to be expected, I’d just like to see a bit less.
  • IS and HDR only work in jpg mode. I think IS should work in RAW or DNG mode too.  If you have a lens that has IS on it then this is not an issue for you. I am only talking about the electronic IS in the camera.

The 3 issues above are not deal breakers for me in anyway.  I would never base my decision to purchase a camera on the fact that HDR or IS don’t work with RAW files. As long as you expose your images properly the color noise should not be an issue. Having the screen be able to flip out would be super nice but I could be happy with the camera without it.

When I am testing out a camera the main things I look for are image quality, ease of use. I shoot all my images in Manual so I adjust the settings myself. Being able to do this easy is a key for me. The Sigma fp made it super simple. They even have a quick select button that, when pressed, it brings up 8 of your basic settings like ISO, File type, Metering, WB and aspect ratio. F stop is controlled by the dial on the top right of the camera or the lens itself as with the 45mm. The shutter speed is controlled by the dial on the back right side of the camera. These can be changed to your liking as well.

I would be thrilled to take this on a longer trip with me overseas where I am walking around cities and doing some night photography. Using a smaller travel tripod would be perfect with this camera and I would not need to sacrifice image quality.

I look forward to using this camera again in the near future!

Thank you for taking the time to read my blogs.  I am always happy to answer any questions you may have. Please feel free to drop me a line by filling out the form below.  I am going to include a bunch of links fo you to check out if you’re so inclined. Thanks again

Sigma fp Camera

Sigma 45mm Lens

Sigma 14-24mm L Mount ART

Robus Tripods

RRS BH55 Ball Head

2020 Night Photography Workshops

Bandon, Oregon Workshop Feb 2020

 

Improve Your Landscape Photos With These Simple Tips.

When I started landscape photography back in 1988-89 I didn’t really know what I was doing but I knew I liked taking pictures, I liked seeing the images printed and I liked doing the printing.

Almost (99%) of what I know today is self-taught/trial and error and trust me…more error than I would care to admit. The people I shoot with can attest to my mishaps, mistakes and poor judgement in the field when shooting on my own and that’s what makes going out with friends fun.

Over the years I have picked up a few tips and trick along the way that have really improved my being able to capture good images in the camera. When I was younger, think 10/11 years old I would hold up my hands with my thumbs touching and fingers pointing up to isolate a scene that I thought looked nice. By doing so I could get rid of the elements that did not compliment the scene and while I did not know this at the time it has helped me to “see” better. People say that artists have an “eye” for things. This simply means that we see the beauty in something that others see as mundane, chaotic or ugly. By picking out certain little things from a bigger picture and composing so that only the good or beauty shows through our images.

I get asked all the time by people around the world who want to know the exif data of my images. While this question is very vague in terms of the desired outcome of an image, I gladly share. I will explain this a little more later on.

I have put together a little list things you need to help take a great landscape photograph.

  • DSLR Camera – Mirrorless Hi Res Camera
  • Sturdy Tripod
  • Great Lenses – This really applies if you are printing your work
  • Patience
  • Good Light
  • Good Composition
  • Good Exposure

Today’s cameras really aren’t the issues behind bad images. Most of the newer cameras take great pictures and it doesn’t matter if it’s a crop sensor or a full frame, they all do a good job. The bigger issues lie with the rest of the list as I will explain.

Having a sturdy tripod may sound like common sense to most people but everyone defines “sturdy” as something different. I live in a very realistic world when talking and teaching photography. Companies I consider to have sturdy, solid tripods are Induro (that’s what I use) Really Right Stuff and Feisol. Ninety percent of all the photographers I know use one of these three brands… A few I know use Gtizo but not many. There is value when purchasing a tripod and in all honestly I see no need to spend upwards of $1000 for a tripod when you can get the same quality and sturdiness from a different brand.. I personally feel that $500 will get you and awesome tripod that will work wonders for your landscape photography. I don’t see any need to pay more. Chances are if your tripod has thin legs or comes in a fancy color, it’s safe to say that it’s not the best choice for doing landscape work. Investing in a sturdy tripod is the first step to getting good sharp images. One question I do get asked is this, “What if my lens has VR, IS or OS” all of which are intended to prevent blur from handholding your camera. This is all fine and dandy until you forget to turn it on or have it on but need a shutter speed that’s slower than what the lens will work with. Too many times I have just went out shooting casually and forgot to turn it on only to get home and find a bunch of blurry images..and no matter how long you keep a blurry image, it will never get any sharper. That’s a fact you can take to your grave.

What could be more critical to your work as a photographer than the glass the light passes though before it hits your sensor. If you are using a kit lens that came with your camera I highly recommend you purchase a different lens…  I used a 18-70 kit lens on my Nikon D70 for 2 years before I purchased a different lens and I can’t tell you happy I was even way back then. Lenses have come a long way since the days of 6mp cameras and with the High Res cameras we have today we NEED lenses that will give us the full resolution that our cameras can provide. Many of you know that I am a Sigma lens ambassador and have been officially for a couple of years. My first Sigma Art lens I purchased was when I got my D810 in 2015, it was the 24-105 F4 and I was blown away. After my first outing with the lens and getting the images back on the computer screen I thought someone had performed Lasik on me. I could not believe all the detail I was seeing. Images were razor-sharp and looked stunning… I don’t put my name with a company that I don’t believe in 100%. There is good reason why all my lenses are Sigma now. While I can’t recommend the Sigma 24-105 enough, the point of this is to ditch the kit lens, get something with an F4 or faster, if the zoom range is too wide like 18-300 then forget about that too. Be willing to spend a little money for a good lens.  You will thank yourself every time you go out shooting.

Now you have your camera, lens and tripod and you’re ready to go make some great images. This next time is by far my weakness when it comes to shooting great landscapes. Patience. I have never been a patient person, I don’t like to wait, I am an only child, I get bored easy but for great photographs we wait, and wait patiently for good light. Several years ago I flew into Flagstaff, AZ picked up my rental car and took off for Grand Falls (google it) I had been dying to see this place in person and knowing it was a long bumpy gravel road I gave myself lots of time to get there by sunset in case I got lost, had a flat tire ect… Well everything went perfect and I arrived there about 5 hours before sunset. It’s hot, I was in the middle of nowhere and in those 5 hours I only saw one other car and 2 naked people (that’s a whole other story) but dammit, I was there and I wasn’t going to miss the sunset. I came all the way for this one shot! So I waited, waited, waited, walked around, found a dog…found the naked people who owned the dog, did some more hiking and then finally….Little Colorado Sunset

Light is very crucial to landscape photography. Light creates depth, shadows, contrast and can be the difference between a good image and a fantastic image.

dayshot

These images were taken roughly 3 hours apart from each other and I think it’s safe to say that the top image is more appealing to most people. Just by having better light I was able to take the viewers focus away from the ugly brown pool of water and put more attention on the falls and the sky. Would you agree? As landscape photographers we have the ability to turn and ugly scene into something beautiful with just the right light.

Here are some various types of lighting I like to look for when shooting. The first is often during sunrise or sunset when the light is right on the horizon. This will allow to you get a naturally soft glow effect by placing the sun just out of the frame so that the light naturally bleeds in from the side.

Natural bleeding light

In the image above I am looking south, the sun is just ready to set and the light is all from just placing the sun outside my frame. This creates a naturally soft light on the scene you’re shooting.

I also like direct or isolated light. This is often times harder to find depending on the conditions. The image below was taken about an hour before sunset. The sun was setting behind me and because of the cloud cover behind me it was only allowing the sunlight to hit the front of this cloud as well as the small portion of the mountain. I liked how it kept the rest of the image dark. This adds a great deal of depth in the clouds as it goes from light to dark.

Isolated light direct light

Backlighting can be fun as well. It can make for nice silhouettes or light fringing around an object. In this example I was driving around Acadia National Park in Maine one early morning and these deer were in the shadow of some big trees while the sun was hitting the bushes behind them. This made for a nice backdrop for the deer. Had this scene been full shadow or full sun the outcome would have been totally different.

Backlight

Composition and composing can be one of the most difficult aspects of landscape photography. I have heard almost every photographer I know say, “I just can’t get my composition right”, at one point or another. Composition is a very mental part of this and we all go through some challenging times trying to find good compositions. Good compositions in landscape photography come from finding a good scene with a nice sky and a nice foreground. Don’t just point your camera up at the sunset sky with a tree in it and click the picture…Well, you can do that if you want but if you have a great sky that makes you want to photograph it, put a nice foreground in it to hold the viewer’s attention longer.  Some key elements to think about when composing an image-

  • Create visual interest – include foreground
  • Rule of 3rds
  • 50/50 reflections
  • diagonal Lines/Leading lines
  • Simplify/Negative Space

Leading Lines in the foreground

Creating visual interest, using a foreground and finding leading lines can usually all be combined into one. This image of Pemaquid Point Lighthouse in Maine does just that.. I have created interests throughout the image with the use of a big foreground with highly textured rock as leading lines that take your eye right up to the lighthouse. This image also uses the rule of 3rds as I have placed my subject in the upper left 3rd of the frame.

Clouds Water Offset

This is a non reflection shot that has what I like to call an X-Factor Comp to it. If you look at the water that is going down to the left and the cloud going up to the right, those combined make the / part of the X. The water coming over the rock in the lower right and the ridge line behind the tree in the upper left make the \ to form an X. This is a pretty common composition in landscape photography and one that’s worth paying attention to when you’re composing  your shot. Even if you don’t see the X you should see the clouds and the water mimic each other in reverse. It can also work with clouds and reflection shots as seen below.

Leading Lines X factor

Framing your subject when you can is important to keep the viewer’s attention in the image longer than usual. By framing your scene it doesn’t give the viewer’s eye an easy out, they have to want to look away. There are many ways to frame an image. Here are some examples.

Framing Example 1

The waterfall has been framed by the trees below, to the side and above. This keeps the eye moving around the image. The low fog helps as well by keeping the bright spots up top toned down.

Framing Example 2

Something as simple as the sun can be easily framed by an opening between 2 trees that are holding hands…..err branches.

Tunnel View

Naturally occurring frames like this cave entrance is a beautiful natural frame to the ocean landscape outside.

Balance

The 50/50 split works best in my opinion for reflection images. This is one time it’s ok to break the rule of 3rds rule.

Last but not least is exposure. Generally speaking if your image looks good to you on the back of your camera it’s not the best it can be. Using your histogram is the scientific way determine a good exposure. Even with today’s high-end cameras I still feel it’s important to expose to the right. This means taking your exposure as far as you can go to the right before you start to blow out your highlights. This helps to ensure better shadow detail, colors and tones and less noise in your image. An underexposed image will have more noise than a properly exposed image.. I am not talking about proper exposure based on your camera meter but proper exposure based on your histogram. They are 2 totally different things. This is really important if you are going to print your work. Anytime you shoot an image that’s underexposed and then try to bring up the shadows in post processing you create noise. Some cameras handle this better than others but it still happens.. By exposing to the right and getting more light in those shadow areas you will end up with a cleaner final image.

Exposed to the right

The image above is one of my RAW files with the histogram showing the data I collected. You may think this looks like crap and you are correct. By shooting this far to the right I was able to collect all the data I need to properly process the image. Nothing in this image is blown out and no shadows are clipped. Are you looking at the sky and thinking this is a total wash? Where are the details in the clouds or the water for that matter? Well, by bringing your exposures DOWN in your RAW converter you will get a much better image than if you are always pushing them UP.  By bringing them down we are simply darkening the info we already have. If you are pushing them up, you are trying to create data in pixels that were not properly exposed to begin with.

Tidal Cleansing RAW edit

As you can see, the colors, tones, shadows, and highlights are all in check here and this is only with the adjustments I made using the RAW converter. I haven’t even finished processing it yet. You will see that image a bit later on.

If you’re new to Exposing to the right, take a few shots like this the next time you’re out and work on processing them to see what you think. It works for every scene. The key is to watch your histogram and only expose just until you see a very tiny portion of the image blown out, like a cloud highlight. If you are shooting with an older camera the benefit will be much more noticeable.

Focus and Live View – I highly recommend that if you are using a tripod and taking the time to set up a great shot that you also take the time to use Live View and focus manually. I know this may sound silly since our cameras are amazing autofocus machines but it’s true. If you have spent the money on a great camera and great lens then why not make sure you get everything out of them you can. Even if your eyes are bad this will still work..  Set your camera on live view, zoom in to where you want to focus with the LCD zoom, not the lens zoom, then manually focus until the image is as sharp as it can be. If your eyes are bad use reading glasses or whatever helps you see up close. You can also use a loupe too to place right on the LCD to help you see better.

Things to keep in mind

  • Always shoot in RAW format
  • Always shoot in Adobe RGB color space
  • Use the lowest ISO possible/Native ISO
  • Use a sturdy tripod
  • Be willing to spend a some money on good lenses
  • Take your time – Wait for the right light
  • Include a foreground – give the viewer a sense of being there
  • Expose to the right – Collect more data to work with
  • Use Live View to focus manually
  • Leave no trace

 

Thank you for visiting. If you have any questions or comments please free to send them my way and I will respond in a timely manner.