Sigma fp; The world’s smallest and lightest full-frame camera - a first look.
Earlier this summer, Sigma announced they would be releasing a new camera, the Sigma fp. Unlike the dp or sd Quattro series camera, the fp uses a full-frame Bayer sensor, and uses the L mount. The fp is meant to be a seamless hybrid camera, useful for photographers and videographers alike.
The design of the fp is very simplistic. Up top you have the power switch, a switch to go between “CIne” and “Still” modes, a dedicated record button, and a dial with the shutter button in the center (that also doubles as the record button). The rear is mostly occupied with a 3.2” LCD, an AEL button, a QS quick menu button, another dial with a center button, and a menu button. Along the bottom you have a playback and display button, a mode button, and a tone and color button. Between the lcd and main camera body is a heat sink, and despite this, the fp is still dust/splash proof and has sealing on 42 points.
The body has three ¼-20 mounts, one on the bottom, and one on each side (where the included strap lugs can be mounted if-so desired). Also included in the box is a cable holder/hot shoe unit that screws into the side of the camera (and adds a ¼-20 mount on the end of it). While no external charger is included, the camera can be charged via USB-C, and charges fairly quickly, but you cannot use the camera while it’s charging.
A few reasons why Sigma was able to make the fp as small as it is, is the lack of a mechanical shutter, and no IBIS system. This presents a downfall for both photographers and videographers. The lack of IBIS makes it more difficult for run-and-gun videographers to get stable, handheld footage, and the electronic shutter often times results in banding when shooting under certain lighting conditions, among other issues.
The camera itself is not the most comfortable to hold, as the body has no curves or areas to get a good grip on. Two of the dedicated accessories Sigma is releasing for the fp are hand grips, though it would be nice to have something included in the box. The camera itself seems like it was made to be used in a rig setup instead of being handheld. Another downside is the fixed LCD, especially if you’re a photographer. The screen is bright enough to be seen in most situations, but shooting at low or high angles is difficult without being able to adjust it.
Optional accessories for the Sigma fp:
LVF-11 | LCD Viewfinder - 2.5x magnification
BPL-11 | Base Plate - features ⅜” threads for common video accessories
HG-11 | Hand Grip - small hand grip that mounts to the side of the camera
HG-21 | Large Hand Grip - large hand grip that mounts along the bottom
CR-41 | Cable Release - comes with a stereo mini plug for microphones
SA-STTL | EF-630 TTL Flash
MC-21 | Mount Converter for Sigma SA or Canon EF to L-Mount
MC-21 | Mount Converter for PL to L-Mount
BG-11 | Base Grip that allows for handgrip-style shooting
AC Adapter, DC Connector, and External Battery Charger also available.
The fp uses a 24.6MP sensor, and shoots dng raw, along with various sized JPEGs. Movie recording formats are MOV (H.264 ALL-I/GOP) and CinemaDNG (8 bit internal, 10/12 bit external). Unfortunately the Sigma fp does not have DCI 4K and makes due with UHD 4K24/25/30p. In FHD, you can record at 120p, but playback is at regular speed. The fp uses a USH-II card slot which is located in the battery compartment, and you have the ability to connect a SSD via USB-C.
The fp has 49 autofocus points, and is a contrast detect based AF system. The ISO range is 100-25,600, and is expandable from 6-102,400. Like most cameras, the fp’s shutter speed range is 30sec-1/8000sec, but bulb mode is limited to 5 minutes. If using flash, the max sync speed is 1/30 (1/15 in 14bit), another drawback of the electronic only shutter.
When shooting photos, Sigma says the fp can shoot at approximately 18fps on high. The downside is that the buffer fills up quickly, and the camera slows down after about 9-12 photos, even when recording to a SSD.
Sigma is marketing the fp as a dual-use camera, but the list of video features definitely outmatch the photo features. As mentioned previously, the fp can record raw video. At UHD/24fps it can record in a 12-bit format, and UHD/30,25, or 14fps in 10 or 8 bit. Another useful feature for some is the ability to use the fp as a camera for live streaming using the USB-C port. Sigma knew that the fp would be used in conjunction with other camera models in the cine world, and added a directors viewfinder function, which allows users to simulate different framings of cinema cameras from Arri, Red, and the Sony Venice.
The menu system on the fp has different options based on if you’re in CINE or STILL mode. When in CINE mode, you have the ability to change the shutter speed to shutter angle, and to have a waveform display instead of a histogram (waveform is also available in STILL mode). If using cine lenses, the T-stop value is displayed instead f-stop. One other useful feature is that the LCD will display the focal distance the lens is at (in both photo and video mode), instead of just showing a scale that goes from close focus to infinity. The fp also supports time code recording. You can choose from Free Run or Rec Run, and switch between Drop Frame and Non-drop Frame. Knowing that the fp is likely to be used with external recorders, it supports Atomos open protocol, which lets you start or pause recording on a recorder, directly on the camera’s side.
While the camera we were using had Firmware 1.0, some features were not available. Currently there is no ability to playback cinema DNG on the camera itself, no ability of recording/playing video with the director’s viewfinder. Sigma has said playback ability should come with a future firmware update, along with HDR shooting in CINE mode, and a Cinemagraph function.
Real World Use
Sigma send us the fp to test out for a few days, and while the majority of my work is photography, I had the chance to film a few video clips as well.
Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to try out any of the hand grips, so carrying the camera around all day wasn’t a very comfortable experience. With some of Sigma’s Art lenses, it’s almost easier to carry it by the lens. Battery life is moderate, and I managed to get a little over 220 photos before getting down to the last bar. One issue that I had with the small body size is that when attaching a tripod plate (using one about 50mm long), there was no convenient way to do it. If attaching it along the base of the bottom, the plate would prevent the battery/card door from being opened. When attaching it perpendicular to the camera, the plate would either stick out the back, or hit the lens that was attached due to how close the lens mount is to the bottom of the camera. A small, square plate should work just fine though. If you plan on using the camera on a gimbal, a riser will most likely be required due to the fact that the camera/lens combo will be front heavy, and the video plate would not fit without hitting any of the lenses I tried with it (SIgma 14-24mm, 24mm, 50mm - all L-Mount).
The autofocus capabilities on the fp are hit-or-miss. The contrast detect system definitely slows it down, and sometimes the results are inconsistent. When shooting landscapes and some automotive photos, the results were fine, and there wasn’t much hunting. But, when photographing a person towards sunset, there was a good amount of hunting, and the camera often times would focus on the background. The AF tracking at times seemed like it was guessing and would move off the subject, even if there was no movement. Despite having Eye-AF turned on, I could not get it to work with any of the lenses I used. I briefly tried out the Sigma MC-21 with some Canon lenses, and while the continuous AF worked, it was very inconsistent and tended to hunt around a lot. Hopefully Sigma focuses on improving the AF with future firmware updates. If shooting video, manual focus is definitely the way to go, which is disappointing for run-and-gun videographers.
When using the camera, adjusting autofocus points is often a 2-3 step process. You can touch the LCD to choose a focus point, but then have to confirm it by pressing the center button.It would be much more convenient to be able to double tap the LCD to select and confirm the focus point. One big feature that Sigma left out of this camera was a headphone jack. For a camera that has as many video features as the fp, not including a headphone jack is a bit of a head scratcher.
The Sigma fp is a pretty drastic change from their other cameras, and a large improvement. It definitely has its drawbacks, and some flaws that can potentially be addressed via firmware updates. The fp is a good candidate to be used by professional drone pilot with its small form factor and high quality video. As a main camera for a run-and-gun videographer, or a photographer, it’s not likely to be a top choice. There are features that make it a good candidate, but unfortunately the inconsistent autofocus, and electronic-only shutter just don’t hold up against other options. For more serious videographers that are more concerned with video quality, expandability, and specs over autofocus and ergonomics, it’s definitely worth taking a look at. Priced at $1,899, the fp is competing against hybrid (photo/video) mirrorless cameras like the Sony A7 III ($1,798), Canon EOS R ($1,799), and Nikon Z6 ($1,697). If your work includes a lot of photography, or requires the use of autofocus, the fp doesn’t quite hold up. When compared to some more niche cameras like the Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera, it is more of an even matchup, and despite having a much larger sensor, the fp is considerably smaller.
Things to like about the fp:
USB-C port allows for it to be used for live-streaming, and to save data to SSD.
Sensor quality for photo and video (No low pass filter, back-side illuminated)
Built-in heatsink to prevent overheating issues when recording video.
Ability to adjust color/tone/fill light.
Expandable ISO down to 6 for when you don’t have a ND filter.
Directors Viewfinder feature
Dedicated adapters for Canon EF, Sigma, and PL mount lenses.
Things not to like:
Long-term comfort if hand holding for long periods of time
Autofocus performance is inconsistent
Extremely short buffer for RAW photos
Flickering and Banding under artificial lights
No Log profile
No 4K60, or DCI 4K
Can’t use camera while charging via USB-C
No headphone jack.
Micro-HDMI Port instead of mini or full size.
You can order the Sigma fp in body only, or as a kit with the Sigma 45mm f/2.8 L-Mount lens here.