Sigma fp L hands-on: Tiny size, big resolution, enormous compromises

Sigma caused a stir with the original 24-megapixel FP thanks to its cool, tiny body and high-end video capabilities, including RAW recording. Now the $ 2,500 fp L has been introduced with the same chassis but a 61-megapixel sensor with a much higher resolution. Along with the camera, Sigma introduced an external electronic viewfinder, which was the most requested feature on the original model.

The Sigma fp L is still the smallest full-frame mirrorless camera that you can buy. What’s more impressive is that it’s also the full-screen, high-resolution model associated with Sony’s A7R IV (which likely uses the same sensor). Is the size too small for the sensor? I got my hands on one for a week along with some of Sigma’s best lenses to find out.

Gallery: Sigma fp L practical gallery | 25 photos

Gallery: Sigma fp L practical gallery | 25 photos

The fp L has a strange, box-like shape like a squashed Leica rangefinder. Manual controls are sparse, with just a dial for adjusting exposure settings, plus video recording, stills / videos, and a power button on top. On the back there is another (fiddly) dial with a middle OK button and eight buttons for the AE lock, the quick menu, the menu, the mode, the color, the sound, the display and the playback.

The 24 megapixel fp was designed as a video and street camera, and the small, square body was suitable for this purpose. The fp L, however, has a 61-megapixel sensor, making it less useful for videos (more on that in a moment) and better for portraits and landscapes.

However, the lack of a suitable handle and tilting screen is problematic for these situations. Although small and not heavy compared to competing cameras (427 grams compared to 665 for the Sony A7R IV), it is not very comfortable to hold. The lack of a handle makes it easier to drop, although it has an armor-like construction.

Another problem is that a 61-megapixel sensor begs for heavy, high-quality glass. For example, Sigma loaned me their excellent DN Art lens with a 35mm f / 1.2 GN that weighs 1,090 grams. Without a decent grip, it’s difficult to hold the camera and lens in place without a tripod or other support.

Steve Dent / Engadget

While manual controls are sparse, I found that the top and rear dials can handle most of my exposure settings. However, the rear dial D-pad controls are too sensitive. While trying to rotate it to adjust ISO or other settings, I accidentally kept the focus setting on.

With the fp L, Sigma introduced the external electronic viewfinder EVF-11, which also works with the original fp. It is attached to the side of the camera and connected to the HDMI and USB-C ports.

Hooking up the EVF was difficult as I had to wiggle the connectors into the ports and then screw them into a standard tripod receptor, which is a lot of juggling. However, once connected, the 3.69 million-dot display offers decent resolution, color accuracy, and refresh rate. It is tilted at 90 degrees so it can be used for both regular and low-angle shots.

The touchscreen is reasonably bright and color accurate, but unfortunately it’s fixed in such a way that it doesn’t tilt or swivel. As a result, I found it difficult to use them for high and low angle shooting, especially video.

Touch functions are limited to focus selection, similar to older Sony cameras. However, it is relatively delayed and not particularly accurate for this purpose. However, since there isn’t a joystick, you can either use this one or the rear dial / D-pad – and the latter is pretty slow too.

Sigma fp L mirrorless full-frame camera you can touch

Steve Dent / Engadget

The menus are not particularly well designed either, as it is difficult to tell at a glance whether you are in the main or submenus. For this purpose, the quick menu will be your friend when you are using this camera.

Performance is not ideal. The specs don’t sound bad with burst speeds of up to 10 fps and a new phase detection autofocus system that supports face and eye detection autofocus. Despite technological change, the AF system could not capture my subjects very quickly and often could not track moving subjects. As a result, I missed some shots and many others that were out of focus.

In any case, the lack of a mechanical shutter means that continuous shooting is almost out of the question, as the rolling shutter of this camera is pretty bad. If you try to pan a moving subject, excessive distortion or distortion may result, rendering recordings unusable. The lack of stabilization in the body doesn’t help as you have to rely on lens stabilization. Many L-mount lenses that you want to use with this camera do not have this function.

If you are shooting subjects that do not move too fast (e.g. landscapes or portraits), the fp delivers L in terms of image quality. The 61-megapixel sensor enables sharper photos than any other full-frame camera, except of course the A7R IV from Sony.

Gallery: Sigma fp L sample picture gallery | 53 photos

Gallery: Sigma fp L sample picture gallery | 53 photos

Colors and skin tones are clinically correct, so they can be easily warmed or cooled if necessary. As before, the fp L delivers great JPEGs straight from the camera and offers several preset color modes (nature, portrait, landscape, monochrome, etc.) that make post-processing superfluous.

The RAW DNG files are easy to tweak in the post if you need to restore highlights or shadows. As with the Sony A7R IV, given the small pixels, it’s not as bad as you’d expect in low light. In many cases it is better if you underexpose a little and pull up the shadows in the post.

The fp L offers excellent specifications for video on paper, e.g. B. 4K 30p recording with 8-bit RAW-DNG or H.264 or even 12-bit 4K RAW-DNG recording when you connect an SSD via the USB-C port. However, the 61-megapixel sensor has a slow readout speed and a resolution about seven times higher than for 4K, which makes it poorly suited for videos.

Sigma seems to use oversampling instead of skipping lines like Sony does with the A7R IV. This produces very sharp videos, but a terrible rolling shutter because the sensor has relatively slow readout speeds. There is less rolling shutter when you export video to an external recorder using the mini HDMI port, but then it switches to a line skip mode which provides much smoother video.

Under the right circumstances (internal 12-bit RAW recording on an SSD without much camera or subject movement), the video quality should be solid. However, as Gerald Undone pointed out, and as I’ve seen myself, it seems you can either have decent dynamic range or good color accuracy, but not both.

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