The Devils in the Detail! | 35Chronicle

28mm, 35mm, 50mm, black & white, close-up, landscape, nature, photography, rural, skies, waterscape

Sigma DP Merrill Series – Still Relevant in ’21.


First of all, I want to say a huge thank you (and I really should do this more often, I’m sorry) to everyone who contributed and commented on my last post. It was actually extremely warming to know that, despite the fact that I’m back working with what is to me (again, and for the present time at least) a new system, that I was still able to make a few frames worthy of such kind contributions. Thank you!

The DPM series, as it has been written many times (and then some) – is not a system for the faint-hearted photographer, and – having been doing this for many, many years, it still manages to scare me a little, in a way; and herein lies the reason for it. Knowing its (vast array of) limitations is absolutely the key to being able to exploit its one massive strength; this helps hugely to maintain a constant focus on the real possibilities and easily dispels the airy-fairy visions we often have for our own personal photography. This one element is so important for serious photographers and cannot be overstated. I can think of one analogy that explains this perfectly: I once bought into a M43 system and for the most part, I loved it. I loved it because it opened up a whole new slew of opportunities for me to expand on what I have always enjoyed doing and, in a portable system with reasonably decent IQ. A few lenses here, some colour options there, modes galore – and the reasons why I took to it so well in the beginning were to become the very reasons why I began to resent it after only a few months. In my heart and in my head – I shoot the way I shoot and no amount of gear is going to change that, no matter how many bells or whistles there are. I began to realise that all I needed was a lens, and the means to change my Tv, Av, ISO, WB and metering mode. That was all I wanted – oh, and a decent sensor would be a bonus. Even mid-range DSLRs were coming equipped with scene modes, crap ‘kit’ lenses and therefore, being the snob I can be – I resented even those aspects too. I began to feel that photography was being made – cheap, too accessible (an archaic, short-sighted, even elitist view) and, I didn’t like it. 

I didn’t like it at all.

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I | Talla’s Pump-House | 1/400th – f8 – ISO:200

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All I really wanted to carry was a camera, the way I used to in the 90s. No faff, no bullshit modes – just a camera, a lens, a little bit of know-how and inspiration. Sigma’s implementation of these core photographic aspects were brutal and necessary. Right back as far as the original DP series, the DPs, the DPx, and then – the hallowed DPM, core photographic values were held close, if rather shunkily implemented in reality of their limited hardware / software collusion. (I can’t include the DPQ here because I have never used them and, the design simply does not enamour me at all). In a huge way, Sigma went down the route that I always felt that Ricoh should have taken with their GR (APS-C) series. What I would have given to see them offer the tools that Sigma came up with. As much as Sigma cameras can be much of a mystery to most, to those who’ve used them and persevered, the draw is easily understandable. With a little thought, and a little work – they still produce today some of the finest image quality that I have ever seen. Whilst their JPGs far outweigh any OOC jpg I have seen in any Bayer systems, their RAWs are mind-blowing. Limitations accepted – but keeping within them, there’s still nothing like it today. (The Fp can be argued as yet another Sigma revelation – but that’s a whole different system).

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II | Fruid Reservoir & Hills | 1/250th – f8 – ISO:200

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Three years ago this very month, I started writing this blog. My initial view for these pages was to only shoot a 35mm FL and display just how ridiculously versatile this focal-length is. Not long after I started publishing, I then wrote a page that you can still read here  discussing the huge value I have always given to short prime lenses. With this understood as still very much an aspect of my ethos – it’ll come as no surprise as to why I refer to the DP1/2/3M series as the Holy Three. 

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III | A Talla Prince in Disguise? | 1/100th – f8 – ISO:200

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My creativity is limited, my imagination is flawed, my images far from perfect and yet, with these three in the bag – I have more brain-space to use for composition and less to waste on the airy-fairy. This surely, can only be a good thing and, among other things – what photography should always be about. The image.

As always, thank you for reading and, I wish you all a fabulous weekend. 

R.

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[All frames: X3F to 16-bit tif in SPP & Exported to Lr for final edits].


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15 thoughts on “The Devils in the Detail! | 35Chronicle

  1. I don’t use the majority of what is capable with my camera, the Canon 5d Mark IV. I prefer to set things as I wish and not let some engineer decide that for me so I agree with you about too much frill. I literally have never used a preprogrammed setting…unless aperture priority qualifies. OTOH, I am able to make use of the improved light sensitivity and detail quality. But it comes down to the photographer’s vision, not necessarily technical expertise. When viewed on a wall, pretty much no one talks about the camera used or whatever bells and whistles it offers…unless it is a camera manufacturer’s rep. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Steve, I think you’re absolutely right! Back in the day, I’d always be in manual on my old ME Super and yet I do like Av mode and take advantage of that often. But as for unnecessary ‘frills’… I have absolutely no need for them and with so many apps and programmes that apply filters with a click, I’m not sure that in-camera, they’re all that relevant anymore. But… the first company to make the so-called ‘perfect’ camera, will see very high sales at first, and very little by comparison afterwards, when there’s be little point in upgrading. Upgrades = marketing, surely? Vision, as you rightly state, comes from within. And despite all of the pictures on my walls being made with various different cameras, the styles are mine and I often struggle to recall what I used for some frames. Cue smug grin though… 5D series had me ditching Nikon and I have absolutely no regrets! 😉🙏📷

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  2. What I take away is that limitations are a path to creativity if one is not naturally inclined to out of the box thinking. What is creativity after all if not seeing the mundane as magical? It seems to me, as the viewer, you are presenting a fresh vision through the path of these self imposed limitations.
    I also appreciate how you mentioned about photographing the way you photograph no matter the options. I am sure that only comes after years of shooting.
    Congratulations on three years blogging, I for one favor this to social media although that has its place too.
    Thank you for sharing your perspective, it has expanded my own vision.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Christen, thank you for your very thoughtful response. I can only apologise for the time it has taken me to reply to you. Yes, three years yesterday and though I have tried FB and Instagram – I can’t seem to bond with those platforms in any way that I find useful or enjoyable. I’d set up an account and get rid of it not three months later. But the WP community is where I have always been happy and shall remain, to whatever end. I do enjoy it here, so much.

      Mundane into magical? I like your analogy very much (who wouldn’t, though?) Thank you, Christen! It is often difficult to see the everyday in a way that creates some kind of visual drama and, often, apathy is the culprit because, it is in doing what we do, with the passion we feel for it, that creates anything in the first place. If I am able to present an image in any way that moves even one person to tell me what they thought or felt about it, either positive or negative – then I have succeeded in doing even one thing, worthwhile. I also feel that self-limitation is absolutely the key to working harder to this end; hence the satisfaction enough of a final result, enough to share with anyone who might be interested. I have, as in my response to Alessandra, earlier, had so much gear in the past which in the end only ever served to slow me down and this aspect alone is enough to curb creativity. Freedom lies in travelling light – which was indeed the inspiration for the very first post I ever published here. Some things never change. Like the way we shoot… it’s perhaps a combination of learned behaviours, safe-zones and stubbornness, I think! But it always wonderful to read responses such as your and, I hope very much to keep your interest still further!

      Have a great Sunday, Christen and, thank you again!

      Very best, R.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I enjoyed the read although half of the time I didn’t know what you are talking about. Never heard of the DPM system from Sigma, although I follow a street photographer who uses a Ricoh model in his work and claims one needs nothing else. Shoot jpg, he says, its simpler, work on your composition and capturing that especial moment. I like your photographs, this looks like a decent camera. A friend of mine likes to say, it’s difficult to buy a bad camera these days. I think he is right. I can see the point in having one camera that is portable and does not call too much attention. And whatever we use, we need to learn to use it well, to our advantage. As one who has spent quite a few thousand dollars on my equipment, and now having the finest lenses and decent cameras, I often find myself degrading my images (adding noice, softening corners, adding a vignette etc) to give them some character, some charm. Go figure.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sorry, Alessandra, I can waffle on a bit sometimes! Here’s another example… forgive me. I’ve been using the Ricohs (both the GR series and the GXRs) for around ten happy years now and have always been happy with their black and white output. Not being a colour shooter (very much) I love the fact that no matter what modern cameras hit the market, the cleaner and crisper the shots they produce, the more I love my old Ricohs – they have a very organic ‘feel’ to their mono images and seems to hark back to the days when I would consume many rolls of Ilford back in the day. But the Merrills are a completely different beast and produce amazing clarity and, it’s so good to have it when I want it. Even my full-frame 5D3 struggles to keep up with DPMs, with good prime glass, too. Your friend is right though; it is very difficult to buy a bad camera – but it is possible. It just depends on what the user wants or expects – and these are the only real differences. All cameras make pictures, but it’s what we do with those files which dictate to us exactly what gear we need to fulfil that. I will be looking forward to a nice selection of prints from these Sigmas because I know just what they will reward me with. My only worry is about the amount of frames I’ll take down off my walls to make room for them. The house is looking like a gallery now – not a bad thing but oh, the agony of choice!

      As regards spending on gear – you’re talking to one who has literally spent tens of thousands over the years and though not regretted it, I wish I could have hit on my magic formula years earlier than I did. Finally, I have the (compromise of) equipment which covers all I need. Getting it as right as you can in camera is surely the way to reducing the amount of post-processing, knowing your settings and developing your style through them. I agree that shooting jpg too is a very simple way to work but from my own perspective, I find RAW no more time-consuming or difficult. I wouldn’t buy, for example, a very fast car only to drive around in third gear. RAWs provide the best that the camera can produce and also, far more lateral headroom for editing than jpgs which, will break-up far sooner under even moderate processing. With the Merrills, I only shoot RAW. I considered RAW+ (including fine jpgs) but the write times of this camera are already so slow that removing the jpg recording, cuts the write time by a shocking!) 7-10 seconds. Scary, eh? Even though the Sigmas jpgs are extremely good in my opinion and make wonderful black and whites, the RAWs are just wonderful for that extra headroom and clarity. Because the DPMs are so easily configurable to my own style, there is very little I need to do with the files during editing. Never in my life have I had to reduce in camera sharpness so much. However – set it, forget it; shoot. It’s all about headroom, it seems!

      I do hope you’re having a lovely Sunday, forgive me please for my late response and thank you hugely for your thought-provoking response!

      Very best, R.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Looking forward to seeing more photos with your Signa setup. I hope some day also arrive at some simpler compromise. Right now I’m having fun with my Nikon mirrorless and a 50 mm. Very small, light, crisp photos.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Limitations are good, the help us focus on whats there. I read about a guy using a 150 (or so) megapixel camera and I thought to myself what a pain that must be, and about $50,000!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh, Mike – that we might be as into this is that… I’d bankrupt my entire family! Limitations are necessary, you’re right, or where would it stop? I’m very happy with the tools I have and will never tire of the joy they bring! 150MP? I’m happy with 12! Hope you’re having a great weekend, my friend! All the very best – R.

      Liked by 2 people

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