Sigma DP3 Merrill for Amazing Close-up Details

The Sigma DP3 Merrill is the newest member of the DP family, and the fourth camera in the Sigma line built around the amazing Merill Generation Foveon Direct Image Sensor. The DP3 Merrill is fitted with a 50mm F2.8 DP prime lens that equates to 75mm on the APS-C stacked image sensor. And, in a first for the DP lineup, it offers 1:3 macro magnification.

Carving Knife

Antique ramhorn handled carving knife and asparagus. Sigma DP3 Merrill. Lit with a softbox strobe. ISO 100 1/400 at F/8. I chose the very high shutter speed to ensure no camera shake.
Here is a 1000×667 pixel view at 100% (Click the photo to fly out to 100% view) Notice the incredible level of detail in the knife, the asparagus, and the wood grain!

The combination of macro focusing combined with the incredible detail captured at every pixel location due to the unique Foveon sensor design adds up to images absolutely loaded with the finest details perfectly captured–every thread and fiber in silk ties and scarves, spots of pigment in watercolor paintings, and  even the tonal fluctuations in the grooves of an LP.

Ties and a freeform opal and diamond ring captured with the Sigma DP3 Merrill. Look at the amazing level of detail in the ring and the fabric of the tie, and also the beautiful focus falloff.
Here we are shooting straight at the ties to keep everything sharp edge-to-edge. 1/640 F6.3 ISO 200. Strobe lit.


Here again is a 100% view of the detail captured by the Sigma DP3 Merrill. Fly this out to fullscreen to appreciate the fineness of the fabric recorded by the DP3M!

The lens barrel is a little bigger in diameter and longer in length than the lenses on either of its DP stablemates, so overall it’s more of a pouch-sized, than pocket-sized camera, since that big, bright lens and lens barrel doesn’t retract. But still,  it’s a compact camera capable of making photographs with serious visual impact.

Artist Carol Kroll makes these amazing, tiny watercolors. Holding this in a hand helps show the scale of these tiny pieces of art. Be sure to follow the link to Flickr at the bottom of this article to explore this one at 100% to really grasp how amazing the DP3 Merrill captures fine detail! 1/400 F/8 ISO 200. Softbox lit.

As this is the first DP-series camera with true macro capture, I’ve focused this first piece specifically on the close-up detail and macro capabilities of the DP3 Merrill. We’ll follow up with another blog posting featuring portraiture and general distance photography to look at the capabilities of the 50mm F2.8 lens on more distant subjects, both in color and in the new, dedicated monochrome mode.

Here’s a 12-inch LP shot with the Sigma DP3 Merrill near the close-focus point. You can easily read the cryptic message on the lead-out groove area, and even see the tonal fluctuations in the last song on this side, “Stairway to Heavan (sic).” (Search for it on Youtube, if you want) 1/500 F11 ISO 100. Strobe lit.

One of the things that is most remarkable about the Merill DPs is the feeling of excitement when a shot is blown up to inspect the incredible detail, first on the three-inch LCD, and then, to an even greater degree, once the X3F Raw file is processed in Sigma Photo Pro. And the paired resolving power of this sensor and this 50mm F2.8 macro lens is simply staggering.

iMac memory card, shot straight on at 1/640 F11 ISO 100 lit with a studio strobe hard right of frame. The level of detail captured is amazing.
Here’s the same memory chip at a skewed angle, close focused at F9. Notice how shallow the depth of field is, even stopped down!
And here’s a 1000×667 slice of the above image to show the critical plane of focus. Click the image to view at 100% to really appreciate the fine detail!

For studio photographers, this camera offers a great feature set including a 1/2000 flash sync (at F5.6–maximum sync at F2.8 is 1/1250), 1:3 macro for close ups and details of even the finest fabrics, textures and microstructures, with no moiré artifacting, and easy, intuitive operation.  For art reproduction work, as our tiny watercolor example shows, this camera is a champ. And it is much less bulky (and costly!) than a medium format setup.

Scarves of different fabrics and colors captured in the studio. All the fine detail is recorded, with no moiré! 1/800 F11 ISO 100

I’ve posted all the photos in this blog posting at full resolution on Flickr. You’ve got to see these at full resolution to really appreciate the image quality!

A small daffofil bloom. The texture in the leaves is just lovely. 1/800 F11 ISO 100. Softbox lit.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m getting back out and exploring more of the world with the Sigma DP3 Merrill. Check back in a few weeks for more shots of people and places!

Published by

Jack Howard

Jack Howard is a lifelong photographer and author of two editions of the how-to book, Practical HDRI. Based in Central Jersey, Jack's go-to photography spots are backroads and beaches of his home state. He loves to travel far and wide with his wife and daughter, visiting national parks, museums, tropical islands and more along the way.

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