Sigma is better known for its lenses than its cameras, and the shooters it does release tend to exhibit staid, anonymous design like the DP Merrill series. But the company is turning that image on its head with the the new DP Quattro line, on show for the first time at CP+ 2014 in Yokohama, Japan. The cameras are similar to the Merrills, specs-wise — fixed 19mm, 30mm, and 50mm f/2.8 lenses paired with Sigma's unique Foveon APS-C sensor — but the industrial design is a radical departure from anything else on the market.
The DP Quattro's body itself is extremely thin, but the grip veers off at impossible angles, actually extending beyond the rear of the camera. The overall effect is strikingly minimalist, reducing the camera down to the bare essentials: a lens, a grip with controls, and a box to house them all.
Sigma representatives told me that the design is based on feedback from DP Merrill customers — particularly Western males — that the blocky form factor wasn't comfortable enough. As a large-handed Western male myself, I'm not altogether convinced; although the buttons were all easy to reach, I was never quite sure where to rest my thumb, and the grip doesn't feel as chunkily comfortable as that of a DSLR or a mirrorless camera like Sony's NEX-7. It's an improvement on the traditional bricks that came before it, but not a huge one.
The DP Quattro will always be a niche product, in any case. Like the DP Merrill, its fixed lenses and the Foveon sensor's trademark color reproduction appeal to a certain kind of photographer, but many will be put off by the slow (if accurate) autofocus and unconventional controls. It'll be a premium product, too, if its predecessors are anything to go by; each DP Merrill sold for $999, though Sigma wouldn't confirm a price for the Quattro. But whatever it ends up costing, Sigma deserves credit for innovating with camera design in a way that we haven't seen since the advent of mirrorless models. The DP Quattro is a risky, beautiful product that just might make others take notice and think outside the box.
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