Why is No One Talking About the Sigma FP?

Whether videographers, photographers, or both, we're always on the look out for a hidden gem. Has this camera flown mostly under the radar?

Sigma, while a staple in the lens industry, aren't well known for their cameras. They do have an interesting line-up with DSLRs, a mirrorless, and a couple of niche bodies, but one of those mirrorless bodies — geared more for videographers — might be severely underappreciated. That camera is the Sigma fp.

While it can shoot stills, there's no doubt about it, this is a videographer's camera. This incredibly lightweight body with L lens mount has a full frame 24.6MP sensor, 49-point AF system, and shoots UHD 4K 30p video with 12-Bit CinemaDNG. The latter of those points puts this little camera in a league of its own. As Spenser Sakurai points out in this video, shooting 4K in 12-Bit raw is usually reserved for cameras with a financial entry point of 4-5x the price of the Sigma.

Do you own a Sigma fp? Have you used one? What are your thoughts? Share in the comment section below.

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michaeljinphoto's picture

Without a Foveon sensor, it's just another boring old MILC like every other MILC out there (at least as far as photography is concerned).

Spy Black's picture

Actually, it reminds me of a video version of the original Nikon F. It's a system camera that is rigged as needed. It's strikes me as rather useless for still, but for video this camera may become a hot ticket. It appears as tho it still needs quite a bit of refinement, but if the shortcomings get worked out this is an interesting design concept.

The best going for it is that it DOESN'T have a Foveon sensor.

michaeljinphoto's picture

Foveon has its flaws in its terrible low light performance, but take it into a studio setting where you don't have to boost your ISO and you'd be hard pressed to get better results from a camera with comparable sensor size. As far as stills photography goes, the Foveon sensor is the most interesting thing that Sigma has brought to the table outside of their ART lenses. Granted, that's a rather niche use that comes with some significant trade-offs, but it's still an interesting feature nonetheless.

I can't speak too much about the video part as I've far less experience there and it doesn't appear from any of the marketing that Sigma was looking to position this as a video-centric camera. Having said that, I'm not really sure why someone looking to use a camera for video would opt for this over a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema.

Spy Black's picture

Even if it did make some great image under controlled lighting, let's face it, what camera can't? Unless you want to invest in a very limited production niche, pretty much ANY camera is a much better investment. Foveon is crap as far as I'm concerned. It's a great idea that never evolved.

The FP is rough around the edges right now, just look at the user review below. However if Sigma is responsive to criticism (they may or may not be, I dunno), this camera can become the effective core of a cinema system camera. At this time the Blackmagic camera is certainly a better cinematic choice.

michaeljinphoto's picture

"Even if it did make some great image under controlled lighting, let's face it, what camera can't?"

I haven't seen a camera with a Bayer or X-Trans sensor that can put out the quality of image as a Foveon sensor. The color fidelity really is like nothing else on the market that I can think of. Whether that's worth it or not, like all things, is up to the individual.

"However if Sigma is responsive to criticism (they may or may not be, I dunno), this camera can become the effective core of a cinema system camera."

What do you think makes this camera particularly suitable for turning into a cinema system camera that cannot be said of any other camera on the market at the moment?

Spy Black's picture

The engineering that went into to allow it to be whatever you want it to be. Yes, you can do that with any number of cameras, but that's only because third-parties have engineered around those cameras. The cameras themselves were not engineered to be used that way, with some exceptions. So yes certainly not much stopping someone from doing exactly that today with other cameras. Assuming Sigma can iron out the shortcomings on this body, it could very well become a new lower end pro camera to compete with the likes of a Blackmagic pocket cinema camera or GH5.

michaeljinphoto's picture

I get why this type of thing was important when everything was optical pathways, but given the fact that modules today are components being connected by wires, is this still that important to have a physically customizable block?

I'm not sure that it's the physical aspects of the camera that matter so much in this regard as simply having the proper connection types available and having the right software features. Yes, third parties have engineered solutions such as screen recorders or external microphones, but with cameras like the Nikon Z6, we're seeing companies engineer their products with those third party solutions in mind from the start, too.

Spy Black's picture

I think it will be a niche product. Time will tell if Sigma properly improve the beast.

Spy Black: to compete with the GH5 and Blackmagic, the camera would need
- cleanly downscaled 4K from the 6K sensor
- an internal 10bit codec + Log profile comparable to the GH5's high bitrate codec with VLog or BM's internal ProRes with Film Log
- 4K 25p, 29.97/30p and 60p plus true 24fps (instead of just 23.98fps) for better compatibility in projects shot with different cameras
- ideally also 4K DCI
- optional XLR audio connectors, audio level adjustment while recording, audio levels that can be set lower than -36db
- timecode (but here the GH5's implementation sucks, too)
- simultaneous Zebras & focus peaking
- USB remote control on gimbals (mobile apps will be physically impossible since the camera lacks wireless hardware).

As well as urgent bugfixes such as standard-compliant CinemaDNG that is recognized by third-party software (particularly Resolve) and, if possible, elimination of the 0.1 seconds shutter lag in stills mode.

It would be great if Sigma could address these points with firmware upgrades + new hardware accessories. But I won't hold my breath to see it happening in this generation of the camera (which reminds me a lot of BM's first-generation Pocket camera with all its flaws)...

Spy Black's picture

Yeah I think this camera will have a place if Sigma can address the issues. Hopefully they can. It has potential.

Because it can't do 4K60.

I own the fp, and it's a rather awful stills camera. It has 0.1 seconds shutter delay - with the recorded image not actually being the image you see on display after having pressed the shutter, which makes the camera unsuitable for any kind of action photography. Autofocus is contrast-detect only, slow, often hunts and unusable in low light, with AF-C being generally unusable. Metering tends to overexpose and is inconsistent between images. Rolling shutter as well as color banding under energy-saving or projector light occur because the camera only has an electronic shutter. In M mode and with Auto-ISO, exposure compensation cannot be put on a dial or easily accessible control button. Many camera settings are buried in submenus of submenus and confusingly named. The rear wheel is loose and bad to use for camera control. Flash sync speed is 1/30.

Aside from lacking features that cameras in the same price range do have, such as a viewfinder, sensor stabilization, phase-detect autofocus, double control wheels, customizable function buttons.

As a RAW video camera, the fp has various issues: In full frame mode, it only records 4K from the 6K sensor, producing an image with line skipping artifacts, aliasing and moiré. In APS-C crop mode, it doesn't have any native lenses for its mount. CinemaDNG is uncompressed (not even losslessly compressed) to circumvent RED's patents and results in enormous file sizes, as opposed to modern raw video codecs like REDcode, Blackmagic RAW or ProRes RAW. It is not clear what the native ISO of the camera is and how the sensor needs to be best exposed in Raw video mode. Zebras and focus peaking cannot be used together. The recorded CinemaDNG files are not recognized as valid CinemaDNG by Davinci Resolve and need to be imported and stitched together as separate image sequences and sound files. Sound recording levels can only set in a camera sub-submenu, and not lower than -36db, which can result in clipped audio when recording loud sources (such as rock concerts).

The camera does not present a great value as a raw video camera because Blackmagics 6K and 4K Pocket Cinema cameras are superior in practically every respect, with the 4K camera being cheaper than the fp, and the 6K producing a better image in APS-C than the fp with line-skipped full frame recording.

The fp is a compromise in every respect. As an ultraportable camera, it performs worse than a Canon EOS-M100 for a fraction of the price (except for the full frame sensor), as a full frame photo camera, it is vastly inferior to a Sony A7iii for the same price, as a video camera, it is inferior to the Blackmagic Pocket 4K and 6K (in recording options/codecs, full sensor image quality, audio connectors, time code and remote control options, menu ergonomics, touchscreen operation, on-screen assist functions including zebra and focus assist during recording etc.)

Its only selling point is that it combines, with lots of caveats and compromises, the core functionality of a full frame mirrorless camera and the core functionality of a raw video camera in a body the size of a compact APS-C travel camera.

Tony Northrup's picture

Thanks for writing this, it's the most detailed review I've seen.

Yet you own it... GTFOH

Brian Knight's picture

But it's so cute!

Thanks for the review, well thought out and articulated. Doesn’t sound like the camera for me.

I was close to buying one, just because - well it is cool, was trying to find an honest review to sway me one way or the other...... thank you for taking the time. I am swayed away.

Sigma, the one body manufacturer that Pentax outsells.

Jeff McCollough's picture

But does it have duel card slots?

Yes, the second slot you have to attach to the camera.

Jeff McCollough's picture

Is that an extra dongle?

The camera doesn't have and can't be equipped dual SD slots. (Marius was probably joking about the camera's modular add-ons.)

Jeff McCollough's picture

I was being sarcastic as well.

Deleted Account's picture

Because people only want poplar and successful brands to bolt their Sigma lenses too?

Dave Morris's picture

Because no one really cares I presume

Rk K's picture

Because it's really quite awful and shouldn't have been released in this state.

He basically advocates using the camera for M-mount manual focus lenses. For this purpose, the camera (with its very decent manual focus assist functions) works indeed rather well.

Tom Reichner's picture

I only shoot stills, and I shoot a lot of rapidly moving subjects in high-speed bursts, such as birds in flight at 10 frames per second.

I am concerned about a camera like this because I don't know what supertelephoto wildlife lenses there are for it, that will fit natively without the need for an adaptor. Adapted lenses typically don't give optimal results when focus-tracking rapidly moving subjects, and all else being equally, result in more frames being slightly out of focus than native mount first-party lenses do.

Are you sure that this camera would really meet my needs for fast action still images? Unless it is better than this than the other cameras in its price range, there is no reason for me to consider it.

The fp is not suitable for your needs because of its shutter delay and buffer of only 12 frames.

You can (theoretically) use any l-mount lens on it (natively), but your only super tele options are the Panasonic Lumix S Pro 70-200mm/f4 for about $1800, S Pro 70-200mm/f2.8 for about $2700 or the Leica 90-280mm/f2.8-4 for about $6000. Since these lenses do not balance well with the tiny fp body, you better get the Panasonic S1 (with the same lens mount but more and better features).

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