Sigma Quattro V Merrill Comparison – Conclusion

I know from the heat of the debate when the DP2 Quattro was released how opinion quickly divided between those favouring the Quattro and those favouring the Merrill.

Blackburn Mercury Monoplane | Sigma DP1 Merrill | www.richardjwalls.com
Blackburn Mercury Monoplane | Sigma DP1 Merrill | http://www.richardjwalls.com

I know that the Quattro is a huge step forward as a camera, though the funky look is not to everyone’s taste.

Concrete Works, Leeds | Sigma DP1 Quattro | www.richardjwalls.com
Concrete Works, Leeds | Sigma DP1 Quattro | http://www.richardjwalls.com

I know I looked forward to the Quattro’s release as much as anyone, but just like many worried that the new sensor design would compromise image quality and the foveon look I’d fallen in love with.

SDIM0433

And having just packed up the DP1 Quattro to return it to Sigma, and finally replaced my (stolen) DP1 Merrill, I know what my conclusion is having compared the images the two cameras produced.

Yorkshire Dales | Quattro - Merrill | www.richardjwalls.com
Yorkshire Dales | Quattro – Merrill | http://www.richardjwalls.com

It goes without saying that the Merrill is a bloody awful camera. Slow, clunky, battery hungry, no ISO range to speak of, poor LCD, no EVF, poor in anything but bright light, useless unless paired to a tripod, I could go on …

ME109| Sigma DP1 Merrill | www.richardjwalls.com
ME109| Sigma DP1 Merrill | http://www.richardjwalls.com

BUT

The Merrill has one redeeming feature, the images it produces!

Field Barn, Langdale Valley | www.richardjwalls.com | Sigma Merrill DP3
Field Barn, Langdale Valley | http://www.richardjwalls.com | Sigma Merrill DP3

The IQ is simply superb in the detail; the look is unique; and the range of tones for monochrome just blows me away.

Ossett War Memorial | Sigma DP1 Merrill | www.richardjwalls.com
Ossett War Memorial | Sigma DP1 Merrill | http://www.richardjwalls.com

As a camera the Merrill may be the runt of the litter but as an image-capturing machine its lens and foveon sensor combine to create simply beautiful images.

Ullswater Sunset | Sigma DP3 Merrill | www.richardjwalls.com
Ullswater Sunset | Sigma DP3 Merrill | http://www.richardjwalls.com

Pretending for one minute that I didn’t own a Merrill I’m hugely impressed with the images produced by the Quattro.

Tryfan | Sigma Quattro DP2 | www.richardjwalls.com
View from Tryfan | Sigma DP2 Quattro | http://www.richardjwalls.com

It’s IQ stood up well to the Sony RX1, a camera that costs 3 times as much; as a camera it’s a step-change improvement on the Merrill; and as a combination it’s most definitely (accept perhaps the ISO range) a strong contender for those seriously interested in photography.

Victoria & Hunslet Mills Detail | Sigma - Sony | www/richardjwalls.com
Victoria & Hunslet Mills Detail | Sigma – Sony | www/richardjwalls.com

But I do own a Merrill and so for me it was an easy choice … and if I’m not the Quattro’s target audience I not sure who is. In a world of niches the Quattro doesn’t easily fall into any. It’s not the camera for the casual shooter, nor the street photographer, nor the travel photographer, nor will it replace full frame DSLRs or mirrorless systems or Sony’s ever increasing range of interesting specialist devices, or medium format.

Recycling and Energy Recovery Facility, Leeds | Sigma DP1 Quattro | www.richardjwalls.com
Recycling and Energy Recovery Facility, Leeds | Sigma DP1 Quattro | http://www.richardjwalls.com

My suspicion is that that Sigma set out with the best intensions of developing a camera that was superior in every way to the Merrill, improving IQ whilst addressing the Merrill’s obvious short-comings and I applaud their attempt …

Sigma DP1 Quattro | www.richardjwalls.com
Sigma DP1 Quattro | http://www.richardjwalls.com

… But that the reality is that the Quattro sensor has fallen short of its theoretical promise … and that its physical constraints will limit any real improvement going forward.

Quattro - Merrill Detail | www.richardjwalls.com
Quattro – Merrill Detail | http://www.richardjwalls.com

If you’re working on the bleeding edge of technology occasional failures and blind alleys are just part and parcel of life; you have to learn from them and move on; and sometimes that means a step backwards before you can move forward …

Clocks & Green Detail | Quattro - Merrill | www.richardjwalls.com
Clocks & Green Detail | Quattro – Merrill | http://www.richardjwalls.com

… But all that is of course is pure speculation on my part …

Recycling and Energy Recovery Facility, Leeds | Sigma DP3 Merrill | www.richardjwalls.com
Recycling and Energy Recovery Facility, Leeds | Sigma DP3 Merrill | http://www.richardjwalls.com

If I’ve a Christmas wish I hope that somewhere in Sigma’s research department, someone is right now gluing a Merrill sensor to the inside of a Quattro body. What a camera that would be!

SDIM0428
Sigma DP3 | http://www.richardjwalls.com

In the meantime if your primary interest is image quality, and you’re thinking of buying a Sigma camera my advice is don’t hesitate!

Temple of the Winds | Sigma Merrill DP3 | www.richardjwalls.com
Temple of the Winds | Sigma Merrill DP3 | http://www.richardjwalls.com

If you can put up with the clunky old Merrill, and carting around pocketful of batteries and a tripod, then for £300 you’ll have a camera that will simply amaze you with the results it produces.

Cathedral Cavern, Little Langdale| Sigma DP3 Merrill | www.richardjwalls.com
Cathedral Cavern, Little Langdale| Sigma DP3 Merrill | http://www.richardjwalls.com

If you’re not so patient, and who would blame you, the Quattro, at ~ £700, is still a steal, and will produce images on a par with cameras three times or more the price.

Adam & Eve, Tryfan | Sigma Quattro DP2 | www.richardjwalls.com
Adam & Eve, Tryfan | Sigma Quattro DP2 | http://www.richardjwalls.com

Whatever you decide I doubt you’ll be disappointed …

 www.richardjwalls.com


4 thoughts on “Sigma Quattro V Merrill Comparison – Conclusion

  1. I have read and looked through this remarkable series, and I thank you for it. I’m a former user of a DP1 and current user of a DP2M and DP3M. In your photos, each image got identical processing. The result was quite useful. But I’m wondering whether, at some point in your investigation, you tried matching a Quattro image output to a Merrill image output for color, contrast/clarity and so forth. In other words, can you get a Merrill look from a Quattro image with a bit of post processing work? Regards JD, Adelaide, South Australia

    1. Hi Jon. Thanks for the comment. I did try to match the two cameras though it is some time ago now! From memory you can get close, but I don’t think I managed to recreate the inherent micro-contrast of the Merrill’s with the Quattro. That said, having used the cameras for a while now, I’ve naturally found that I prefer the Quattro DP0 for “typical” landscape over the Merrill’s, and that I prefer the Merrill’s over the Quattro for architecture or mountain close ups, where they bring out the detail but avoid the harshness. The preference is very subjective and has built up over time, and I’m sure others will have a different opinion. Of the Quattro’s the DP0 seems to be the one that best captures the Foveon look (at the launch day most people there were of the same opinion), but I haven’t played with any of the other variants for a while. Hope this helps. Regards Richard

  2. Hi Richard, thank you for your informative posts. I’m currently debating whether to buy a SD Quattro. I currently own a DP2 Merrill. I wonder if you could share some raw files of your comparison, as I would like to check by myself the difference btween Quattro sensore and Merril sensor. Thanks

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s