Sigma, popularly known for its lenses, recently launched a brand new mirrorless camera called the Sigma fp, which is now available in India. Sigma’s camera lineup might not be as well-known as its lenses here, but the new fp is touted as the world’s smallest full-frame mirrorless camera, which makes it special. That’s not all; it’s designed with professional videographers in mind and boasts of in-camera RAW video recording, timecode, and lots more cinema-grade features.
Like most full-frame cameras, this one comes at a steep sticker price of Rs. 2,15,000 for just the body. It’s time to see what this professional-level camera is like to use on a day-to-day basis, and whether it makes sense for you to pick it over the more mainstream choices in the market.
Sigma fp design
The design of the Sigma fp is something that we immediately loved. The body is deceptively small for a full-frame camera and it looks like just a small block of metal and rubber. With the battery and SD card inserted, the weight is still only about 422g, which is quite light. The compact body is also somewhat pocketable (without a lens attached of course).
The body is built from aluminium, which makes it very sturdy. The whole structure is claimed to be dust-proof and splash-proof. The Sigma fp is designed to be adaptable and flexible, which is why you don’t get any built-in flash or even an electronic viewfinder. The camera ships with the HU-11 hot-shoe flash unit, in case you need to use an external one. Even the clips on the sides for a camera strap are both removable; held in place with standard tripod mounts.
The Sigma fp features a dedicated switch for changing between stills and video shooting
Another unique and conspicuous addition is a heatsink, the ridged edges of which are visible just around the edges of the rear display. Sigma says this should help control temperatures when shooting for prolonged periods, especially in 4K RAW. Coming to the buttons and ports, we have a USB Type-C (USB 3.1 Gen1) port, HDMI (Type-D); a 6-pin terminal, and a dedicated microphone port on the left. All of these are covered by rubber flaps, but the one for the HDMI port isn’t attached to the camera, so it could be easy to misplace. There’s no built-in headphones socket for monitoring audio, which means you’ll have to use an accessory.
You get a decent selection of buttons on the top and back of the camera, along with some dedicated ones for tweaking the tone and colour. There’s a switch to change between Still and Cine modes, which we found very handy. You also get a dedicated record button, two dials, and shortcuts for the quick settings (QS button), and AEL (exposure lock).
The display on the Sigma fp is sharp and offers good visibility even outdoors
The Sigma fp features a 3.1-inch touchscreen with a 2.1 million dot resolution. The screen is fixed and doesn’t tilt or flip in any way, but considering that the camera is designed to be used with an external monitor, this shouldn’t be a huge dealbreaker. The battery compartment and SD card slot (up to UHD-II speeds supported) are on the bottom of the camera. You can even record footage directly to a portable SSD via the Type-C port.
Overall, the build quality and finish of the Sigma fp are impressive. The matte black material doesn’t pick up smudges or dirt easily, it’s incredibly compact, and we love the modular nature of the design. However, if you’re going to be using this camera without a rig, it might not be great.
For instance, the fp doesn’t have a handgrip, as the front is completely flat. This didn’t give us the best confidence when shooting with one hand. We also found the rear dial to be a little fiddly, as it has a bit of play and can easily be rotated with even an accidental touch. However, the quality and feedback of the rest of the buttons and switches are very good.
Sigma fp specifications and features
The Sigma fp features a 24.6-megapixel, full-frame Bayer CMOS sensor. Sigma has only used an electronic shutter here, which is how this camera is able to achieve 18fps burst shooting. The fp uses the L-mount, which makes it compatible with lenses from Leica, Panasonic, and Sigma, along with Sigma’s own DSLR and Cine lenses using adapters, which you’ll have to buy separately. An optional MC-21 mount adapter lets you use Canon EF lenses too.
For stills, the fp is capable of shooting 14-bit RAW (DNG) images. It has an ISO range of 100-25,600 (expandable to 6-1,02,400), and a maximum shutter speed of 1/8,000 of a second. The Sigma fp has 49 selectable autofocus points and relies on contrast detection autofocus. There’s no on-sensor phase detection autofocus here, which is why continuous autofocus is a little slow.
The Sigma fp is easy to handle, thanks to its compactness
When it comes to video, the Sigma fp can record in 12-bit CinemaDNG (8-bit for in-camera recoding) or in the MOV format using H.264, if you need something that’s easier to share and edit. You can shoot at up to 4K 30fps, with other framerates such as 24p and 25p are also available. Full-HD resolution videos can be shot at up to 120fps. The fp can also capture metadata such as a timecode, for use in filmmaking. It supports features such as the ability to adjust the shutter angle, a frame guide for different cinema-grade aspect ratios, and has something called ‘Director’s Viewfinder,’ which simulates how the frame would look on cinema cameras such as the Red Mostro 8K.
Sigma sent us the 45mm f/2.8 DG DN lens with the fp for our review. This is part of Sigma’s ‘Contemporary’ series and features a focus ring and an aperture rung. This prime lens doesn’t have any stabilisation of its own, which means you’ll have to rely on the camera’s electronic stabilisation.
The menu system of the Sigma fp is fairly simple and easy to get used to. It’s segmented into three main categories — Shoot, Play, and System. The Shoot menu has multiple tabs which let you configure things like Auto ISO, drive mode, bracketing, HDR, crop mode, and stabilisation. The Shoot menu changes depending on whether you’re in the Still or Cine mode. Some additional features promised for future software updates include HDR for video recording; Cinemagraph, which lets you create animated GIFs from small video clips; the ability to play and review RAW footage on the camera itself; and the ability to record video using the Director’s Viewfinder option.
Sigma fp performance and battery life
We begin with the video performance of the Sigma fp, since that’s its primary purpose. The small size made it very convenient to shoot video on the go as well as to capture candid moments. This camera is also handy for street shooting since it doesn’t draw too much attention. We primarily used the fp handheld, but professionals will ideally want to use it with a gimbal or in a camera rig, which is where its true potential lies.
Still, for casual shooting using the MOV format, we were very impressed with the quality of videos that the Sigma fp managed to capture. Colours were accurate, sharpness was excellent, and the prime lens we used produced some very nice bokeh. Video quality was equally impressive in low light, with good detail, sharpness and colours. The fp does hunt for focus a bit more than usual in low light, especially when trying to focus on distant objects.
One of the best features of the fp is the ability to play around with various tone and colour settings through the dedicated buttons while recording. There are a large variety of preset colour options or filters to choose from, and the strength of each filter can be adjusted based on your style of shooting. The ‘Tone’ button lets you manipulate shadows and highlights on the fly, which we found immensely helpful.
Coming to the camera’s other features, there is face and eye detection, which works well as soon as you point it at a human subject. Continuous autofocus isn’t very quick, due to the contrast detection AF system, but if you tap a different area in the viewfinder and press the shutter half way, the focus jumps quickly. There is tracking autofocus too, but this isn’t accessible in Cine mode. We tried the electronic stabilisation, and found that it does an okay job of stabilising video. While shooting, the Sigma fp did get warm but never too hot.
Switching to photo mode, the Sigma fp is quite competent in this area too. The stills we captured had excellent amounts of detail. The edges around objects had good sharpness, and colours were pretty accurately represented. Burst mode works very well, and thanks to the electronic shutter, it’s virtually silent. Stills captured in low light had good dynamic range and detail. Noise was dealt with very well and colours were well represented.
Close-up shot from the Sigma fp: ISO 800, f/2.8, 1/500, 45mm (resized for web, tap to see larger image)
Portrait shot from the Sigma fp: ISO 100, f/2.8, 1/100, 45mm (resized for web, tap to see larger image)
Shot using the ‘Cinema’ colour profile: ISO 160, f/2.8, 1/500, 45mm (resized for web, tap to see larger image)
Low-light shot using the Sigma fp: ISO 6,400, f/2.8, 1/50, 45mm (resized for web, tap to see larger image)
With a UHS-II class SD card in the camera, we didn’t have to wait long before burst images were saved. We wish the touchscreen had a bit more functionality, as other than using it to shift focus and zoom into an image in playback mode, it can’t be used to interact with the quick settings or in the main menus. We still managed to get around quickly using the two dials, but it would have been nice to have had the option to use the touchscreen.
HDR for stills is handy when you need more dynamic range, but HDR photos of people didn’t always turn out great. Skin tones looked a bit reddish, but for landscapes, it wasn’t too bad.
We put the Sigma fp through our ISO test to check how usable the higher ISO levels really are. The camera delivered excellent sharpness till about ISO 3,200, at which point, we started to notice mild noise and a dip in sharpness. There wasn’t much of a difference after this till ISO 12,800, where details took a more visible drop.
ISO test (tap to see full-sized image)
However, noise levels were still very much in check. At the maximum native ISO of 25,600 details and textures looked noticeably smoothened and sharpness was considerably reduced. Going through the expanded ISO range, we saw that image quality was still salvageable till ISO 51,200, but going beyond that, it took a big hit.
Battery life wasn’t the best. When only shooting stills, we managed to get around 220-250 shots per charge, and if we recorded a few 4K video clips in between, this number dropped to about 175 shots. You’ll probably want a spare battery handy during shoots. You can record video when this camera is plugged into an external power source too. The bundled USB Type-C charger can fully charge the battery in under two hours. You can charge also charge it using a power bank if needed.
The Sigma fp might look like a mainstream mirrorless camera but it’s anything but that. It’s designed to compete with professional-grade cameras such as the Cinema Pocket series from Blackmagic, rather than offerings from Sony or Nikon. The biggest advantage of the fp is its size and flexible nature, which makes it easy to fit into any rig or professional setup. Plus, its compatibility with a wide range of lenses is an added bonus. The build quality is excellent, video quality is very good, high-ISO performance is solid, and stills are also decent.
Focusing speed and battery life could be better, and if you are looking for something for more casual use, then cameras such as the Sony A7 III or even Nikon Z6 would be better options. However, if you’re looking for a compact camera with cinema-level features for filmmaking, you might find the Sigma fp more appealing.
- Sigma fp – Rs. 2,15,000
- Sigma 45mm f/2.8 DG DN lens – Rs. 47,500
- Robust and compact
- Pro-level features
- Solid ISO performance
- Good image and video quality
- Continuous autofocus is slow
- Limited use of touchscreen
- Battery life could be better
- No built-in handgrip
Ratings (out of 5)
- Build/ design: 4.5
- Image quality: 4
- Video quality: 4
- Software/features: 3.5
- Battery life: 3
- Value for money: 3.5
- Overall: 3.5
Source: NDTV Profit