SIGMA fp / fp L

Sigma fp for Still Photography: First Impressions

In a small, dimly lit coffee shop, my thoughts change from the conversation to how I like the way the light is falling on the face of a friend. I need to capture that moment. So I pull out the small camera from my coat pocket, press the mode button to select my pre-programmed portrait setting and while eye detection autofocus locks on, I have that look…that moment in time captured.

A lone seagull stands on a rock in the middle of a small waterfall. An image appears in my mind that needs to be captured. Dialing the camera down to ISO 6, I press the shutter and capture that dream scene. Perfect.

The local football team is in the red zone and ready to score. The lighting on this high school field is not the best. I press the shutter and get the shot. Looking down, I see that my ISO is 40,000.

These scenarios are just a few examples that help define the new Sigma fp.

The Sigma fp is the smallest and lightest full frame camera on the market. “fp” from a combination of extremes: FORTISSIMO and pianissimo. Bold yet quiet. And while the camera may be small, its feature set is large.

At first glance the Sigma fp appears to be a simple black box. Add the 45mm f2.8 Contemporary lens and it takes on a retro look not unlike the old Argus C3 camera that sparked my interest in photography several decades ago. Trust me…the new Sigma fp will spark your photographic interest going forward. While much is said about the strengths of this camera in the realm of video, I had the pleasure to explore the features of the Sigma fp as a still photographer for the last six weeks, and it can really deliver. 

 

ISO 2000; f4 at 1/160 sec. Sigma 135mm f1.8 L mount lens- My friend Ryan sitting in the coffee shop with window lighting illuminating his face from the front. A good chance to try the eye detection autofocus of the Sigma fp camera. I programmed my basic portrait settings, such as aperture priority, frame rate, and focus mode to the C1 mode button so I would always be ready when a candid moment like this happened.

This little black box is designed to be modular. You can add the accessories you need for the job at hand. While right out of the box it’s easy to hold in your hand, the addition of a hand grip makes it even easier to shoot. The hot shoe unit not only lets you connect a flash, but also has a cable lock. There are also base plates, and a wired remote, and an LCD viewfinder. But what I found easiest to add to the camera was my creativity. To me the Sigma fp begs to be pushed to the limits of its features. Because I could shoot at ISO 6, it pushed me to find waterfalls and waves to create beautiful blurs in my photos. Because I could shoot at extremely high ISOs, it pushed me to shoot on the street at night. Because of the built-in intervalometer, it pushed me to think of ideas for time lapse and remote photography. And because of having a silent, electronic shutter it pushed me into more situations to capture candid moments.

ISO 6; f16 at 1 sec. Sigma 135mm f1.8 L mount lens in crop sensor mode for a little extra reach (202mm equivalent) – No need to always carry along a neutral density filter when your camera can lower the ISO to 6. The slow shutter speed allowed by such a low ISO gives this photo a dreamy, artistic effect.

 

ISO 40000; f1.8 at 1/6000 sec. Sigma 135mm f1.8 L mount lens – Small town football fields are notorious for poor lighting at night, especially near the end zone. This was captured in DNG format with minimal noise reduction added in post production. I was increasing ISO with each play just to see how high the Sigma fp camera could go and still produce an image capable of being published.


ISO 1600; f1.4 at 1/400 sec. (-1.7 stops exposure compensation). Sigma 35mm f1.2 L mount lens – Gabby, one of my cats, sits in her house and watches birds through the window while the sun casts shadows from the window blinds. There are those moments with the light seems perfect and you just have to capture the idea you see. Such was the case with this photo of Gabby. I love the shadows from the blinds framing her face, and the sharpness of the Sigma 35mm Art lens really makes her eyes the focal point of the image.

Because the camera is so small and light, it became my dedicated remote camera. I added an L bracket to the camera to be able to mount it to a special clamp set-up I use on airplane struts. Using the built-in intervalometer, I set the camera to take a picture every two seconds. With everything checked for safety, I touched the shutter, the little fp started firing, and the pilot took off. Forty minutes later the plane was back and I had 1200 images to look through to find the best to fit the job. And there was still about 25% battery charge left!
ISO 500; f18 at 1/50 sec. Sigma 14-24mm f2.8 L mount lens – Remote capture of a Piper Cub flying over Lake Butte des Morts using the built-in intervalometer. I find the advantage of this type of remote photography is that I don’t have to hard-wire the camera to fire, or add the bulk of an IR or radio remote receiver. And it records the entire flight, which in turn gives me so many background and lighting options to pick from. This flight produced 1200 images, which allowed me to find the best one for the client. And, even after 1200 images, there was still about 25% battery charge left.
ISO 800; f4 at 1/640 sec. Sigma 14-24mm f2.8 L mount lens – After leaving the car sit out in an autumn rain, this was the colorful composition I found looking up through the sunroof. Since the Sigma fp camera is so small, it’s easy to always carry it in a coat pocket or briefcase…so it’s always there to capture a special moment.
ISO 2500; f9 at 1/400 sec. (-1.7 stops exposure compensation). Sigma 45mm f2.8 L mount lens- Waiting for my breakfast order in a New York deli, I saw the silhouettes of two gentlemen sharing coffee and conversation. A quick mode change to C2, which I have programmed for shutter priority, plus the selection of silent shutter. I moved the focus point with my finger to the top right third of the frame, pressed the shutter and captured the moment.

It has become my go to camera for taking out on the street. I love street photography. I love the lights and sounds and high buildings in big cities. But most of all, the people. On a recent trip to New York, it was easy walking around with the camera tucked into a coat pocket. Although the camera does not have an electronic viewfinder, I felt using the rear LCD screen worked better for being a little bit discrete when trying to capture a street scene. And because this camera is able to shoot high ISOs with little noise, it became standard to set my ISO to least 3200 or 6400 when walking around in the evening, knowing I was going to get the shot. On one assignment I had to shoot at ISO 25,600 with more than acceptable results.
ISO 1600; f2.8 at 1/500 sec. Sigma 45mm f2.8 L mount lens – To me there is something about rainy streets in mid-town that just says “New York” to me. So much so that I stopped in the middle of the crosswalk to try to capture that feeling of lights and reflections and people. Despite the small size, the Sigma fp has 42 points of weather-sealing to keep out rain or dust.
ISO 125; f11 at 1/3 sec. Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 EF mount Sports lens with MC-21 adapter – Could the Sigma fp be used for an assignment using flash? While I didn’t have the dedicated Sigma flash to use, I did have a group of 5 Godox radio controlled flash units that I use when I photograph airplanes and automobiles at sunset. Sigma touts the scaleability of adding third party accessories to the fp, so I just needed to get the camera and radio remote to talk to each other. The solution was an old-fashioned PC cord and hot shoe socket. And mounting the fp on a tripod for the long exposure required kept the shutter speed well under the slower sync speed of the camera.
ISO 800; f14 at 30 sec. Sigma 14-24mm f2.8 L mount lens- The flat bottom of the fp allowed me to set the camera on the surface of my driveway to take this image of our first significant snowfall. Shooting in manual mode, I set the exposure and used the built-in timer to avoid camera shake while triggering the shot.

One of the coolest things about the fp camera is how Sigma presents all of these options to you. The menu system in the fp is one of the best I have used. Not just the clean and easy to read layout—but being able to drive down into submenus with ease. Plus the ability to touch the focus point on the rear LCD and not only move it to where I want on the screen, but for a menu to pop up that directs me to various functions using the buttons at the bottom of the camera.

But what is the biggest, coolest thing I have found since using the Sigma fp camera for the last six weeks? Just look at the photos taken with this camera and you’ll see it’s the image quality. These are just beautiful images in color and tone and sharpness.

ISO 6; f22 at 30 sec. Sigma 14-24mm f2.8 L mount lens- One of the things I like about long exposures of water is how it smooths out any motion and gives it a dreamy feel. This was my first time using ISO 6 with the fp, and I was amazed at how easy it is to make an image like this when your camera can go down to such a low ISO.

 

ISO 4000; f1.8 at 1/250 sec. Sigma 135mm f1.8 L mount lens – A stylized portrait of my friend Annie using the one of the twelve built-n color filters in the fp. Not only can you select from a variety of color tints, but each selection can be customized lighter or darker in the menu. And you can combine a color filter with a tone adjustment and fill light for an even more customized look.
ISO 6400; f2.8 at 1/1250 sec. Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 EF mount Sports lens with MC-21 adapter- My assignment was a local street fair at sunset, and my favorite lens for an event like this is my Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 Sport lens. While there are 14 lenses available in native L mount, the fp can also utilize 29 Sigma DSLR lenses in EF mount by using the MC-21 adapter.
ISO 1600; f6.3 at 1/8000 sec. Sigma 60-600mm f-4.5-6.3 EF mount Sports lens with MC-21 adapter- Although it’s a small camera, the Sigma fp mounts to the biggest of lenses to let you zoom in when the action happens.
ISO 800; f1.8 at 8 sec. Sigma 35mm f1.2 L mount lens- I think the Sigma fp is going to be an ideal tool for astro photography. It has the ability to handle high ISO with little noise and the built-in intervalometer will make time lapse easy. For longer projects, the battery in the fp can be replaced with an AC adapter, which will plug into an all-purpose battery I use for long time lapse projects.
ISO 800; f4 at 1/1250 sec. Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 EF mount Sports lens- This is the view of the Quick Set menu. All of your favorite settings at the touch of a button. All of the menus in the fp are easy to read, even in daylight.

The Sigma fp can charge and download using a USB-C cable, making it easy to charge from an outlet in your car, to downloading (and charging) from your laptop at the coffee shop. With most assignments I’ve been doing, I find I’m getting around 900 images per charge.

Comments (6)
  1. Your photographic expertise is just exceptional. The new Sigma camera is exceptional as well.
    Just excellent images, thanks for the education on the camera.

  2. Robert Ikenberry says:

    Looks like a fascinating camera. Thanks for the extensive review. One potential correction: the 35mm, ISO 800, f1.8 image with star trails above the water does not appear to be 8 seconds. Maybe 8 minutes?

  3. Shane says:

    What happened to the Foveon Sensor? That’s what makes Sigma cameras unique and creates the tack-sharp images. Every other camera out there already uses a bayer-sensor. I thought Sigma would improve on the Foveon for their first full-frame camera — not get rid of it.

  4. George Hollida says:

    Funny you mention the similarity to the Argus C3. I too cut my eye teeth with my dads C3 and developed pictures in the basement with his old darkroom equipment.
    I am looking at the fp to sullement my DJI drone video.

  5. George Holloda says:

    I also noticed the resemblance to the C-3 that I first used in the 60’s. My plan is to use the fp to supplement drone footage on travel videos.

  6. John says:

    Great review – and your images are exceptional. However, I’d love to know how you get 900 images per battery charge – I’m getting 200-300!

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