The NEC Photography Show – One Year On

With the 2015 Photography Show just around the corner it’s time for a quick retrospective.

This time last year I’d Ebayed my D800 and collection of heavy Nikon glass I’d built up over the years. Photography had ceased to be fun; the lenses were too heavy to drag around; the high resolution sensor was, in my hands, over sensitive to camera shake; and the results, to my eye, lacked a certain magic compared with the superb D700. Like so many I’d fallen into the pixel peeper trap of chasing resolution and the lure of a  traditional brand.

Buachaille Etive Mor | Nikon D700 | www.richardjwalls.com
Buachaille Etive Mor | Nikon D700 | http://www.richardjwalls.com
Ghent | Nikon D700 | www.richardjwalls.com
Ghent | Nikon D700 | http://www.richardjwalls.com

Now I wanted a small, light solution, that promised the same quality. With some trepidation I entered into the world of mirrorless; discovered the FF Sony RX1; luckily spotted one on Ebay; and immediately did the deal.

Stickle Ghyll Beck Study | Sony RX1 | www.richardjwalls.com
Stickle Ghyll Beck Study | Sony RX1 | http://www.richardjwalls.com

The RX1 covers just about every base. I love the constraint of a single focal length; the operation is a superb ergonomic mix of modern and traditional; the bokeh is smooth and creamy; the resolution seems the equal of the D800; wide open the images are awesome; and I can stick it all this in an (admittedly large) jacket pocket! Camera bliss.

But, as I headed to the inaugural 2014 Photography show, I still had some cash left over from the D800 fire sale.

Catrigg Force | Sony RX1 | www.richardjwalls.com
Catrigg Force | Sony RX1 | http://www.richardjwalls.com

Without lenses to buy my interest had turned to sensors and the different looks they might produce, just like different film types in the old days. The Foveon sensor had intrigued me for a while but it was Fuji’s xtrans technology packaged up in the newly released, retro styled, X-T1 that caught my eye. External controls, weather sealed, compact, great EVF, the lack of an optical low-pass filter; it looked perfect. The X-T1 was my target …

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

… And it was the X-T1 that I bought … but still having a little cash left over I headed toward the Sigma stand and discovered, right next door,  a DP3 Merrill selling for £300.

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

Over a cup of tea I contemplated my purchases. I was pretty pleased with the XT-1 but was thrilled with the DP3. I couldn’t believe my luck. I’d bought a DP1 Merrill for £650 a few months before only for it to be stolen on its first serious outing to Slovenia.  But the few test shots I’d managed to take in the week before looked stunning. Now, four months later, I’d picked up a DP3 Merrill for less than half the price. I’d almost forgotten I’d got the X-T1. I recall trying to persuade random people to get on over to the Sigma stand and pick up the bargain of a lifetime. Most thought I was mad.

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

The rest, as they say, is history. The XT-1, good though it was, couldn’t come close to the Sony in quality or versatility (I shouldn’t have expected it to), and the Sigma’s IQ and unique Foveon look simply blew me away. Both very different cameras, both unique propositions, both excelled at what they were designed to do. The XT-1 offered no original look, and no specialist purpose; there was no room on the shelf and within two weeks it had been consigned to Ebay. I think I lost £100 on the deal.

Lime Works, Peak District | Sigma DP3 Merrill | www.richardjwalls
Lime Works, Peak District | Sigma DP3 Merrill | http://www.richardjwalls

As I plan my trip to the 2015 show it feels like I’m going full circle. I still own the Sony and DP3 Merrill, and have now replaced the stolen DP1 Merrill, but now my attention is fixed on the DP Merrill’s big brother, the SD1, and pairing it with a couple of decent lenses.

Going Home | Sigma Merrill DP3 | www.richardjwalls.com
Going Home | Sigma Merrill DP3 | http://www.richardjwalls.com

Yes I know that over the past 12 months a hundred superb new cameras have been launched; each leap frogging the last with technological innovations; each offering ever higher resolution and ISO; each in ever smaller bodies; but each, sadly, much of a muchness in terms of IQ and look (I’ll exclude the Sony A7S from this statement as it is one camera that truly bucks the trend).

Tin Barn | Sigma DP3 Merrill | www.richardjwalls.com
Tin Barn | Sigma DP3 Merrill | http://www.richardjwalls.com

In this company an SD1 at £800 (body only); a Merrill sensor wrapped in a weather sealed magnesium alloy body; seems like a bit of a bargain!

I know a Quattro armed version can’t be far away, and a FF version must be on the cards and what a camera that would be, but the little bit of Merrill magic is just two hard to resist!

Any thoughts on lenses to pair the SD1 with would be much appreciated!!

http://www.richardjwalls.com


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