Most people know Sigma for its range of lenses, but if you dig a little deeper the company also produces a range of cameras, with today’s focus being on the Sigma fp. On the surface, it’s an unusual little camera that houses a full-frame sensor, is equally capable in both stills and video mode, and also has some features the competition probably wishes they had thought of earlier.
The camera can take interchangeable L-mount lenses and, with an adapter, other lens types can be fitted such as Canon EF and Sigma SA lenses. As a high-quality solution that should be equally capable of both video and stills, it will be interesting to see how this little unit fairs in both capacities.
As the Sigma fp has such small dimensions, this can be both a blessing and a curse. For any high-quality camera this small and lightweight, strapping on large lenses is going to be at the least very front heavy. There’s also the case that the camera has no traditional viewfinder and it relies on an electronic shutter. However, Sigma is well aware of the situation and the rest of the features on the camera more than make up for things.
There are a bunch of manual buttons on the rear of the camera, below and to the right of the main touchscreen, with most of the operations done by the screen itself. The QS button is a quick way to access the main options while using the jog wheel and there is a dedicated menu button to access the bulk of the in-camera options.
As the functionality of the camera is equally split between stills and video, the video side of things is trying to replicate more advanced units. You can view video footage as you would through high-end cine cameras, with lots of models to choose from. Plus, there is a wide range of color grading options, which can be accessed by the dedicated tone and color buttons.
Sigma has a good range of accessories for the fp, which makes sense, as the feel and functionality is more like the heart of a wider system. It may feel like a small metal box, but the full aluminum body shell feels like it’s designed for professional use. The top plate has simple controls, with a regular on-off switch, cine and stills modes, a separate record button, and a control dial that surrounds the shutter button. Depending on if you are in stills or cine mode, the menu system changes for each shooting application.
The Sigma fp In Use
The focusing system on the Sigma fp uses contrast AF, which in the past was much slower than phase-detect systems. But on this unit the system works extremely well, quickly locking into focus even in low-light conditions. There are also additional tracking features such as eye and face detection, with static AF working very well, though continuous AF can miss shots on more fast-moving subjects.
Although there isn’t an optical stabilization system included, there is no electronic version, which can merge frames together. This isn’t as good as the real thing, but it’s better than having nothing at all. However, as a straight stills shooter, it can pull plenty of resolution and definition from its full-frame sensor, with clean images available up to ISO 1,600 although it can go far higher. Images can be processed in-camera with a variety of looks or RAW files can be post-processed in the usual manner.
As the Sigma fp has leanings toward the video side of things, full 4K output is best reserved for using an external recorder. Internal recording is restricted to 8-bit and 25/24p and the 4K 30p mode will be recorded in MOV files. Luckily, regular firmware updates bring more video capabilities such as support for more external recorders.
Due to its small size, you’ll need additional equipment to keep things steady, but as it’s so small it can be easily fitted onto a gimbal. The continuous AF reacts the same way in video mode as it does with stills. It’s not the fastest system in the world, but hopefully, future firmware updates will remedy this.
Does Canon Put the fp in Its Place?
Having an equally-capable video and stills camera is a fine balancing act. As the Sigma fp feels weighted more towards the video side, but is still a capable stills shooter in a tiny package, it’s hard to come up with a direct comparison. One camera that is optimized for night-time shooting with a built-in IR cut filter is the Canon EOS Ra.
As a stills shooter, the Canon is probably the best bet as it has all the mirrorless functionality you could ever need. But as the Canon is more adept at stills, it can shoot 4K video with advanced features, but maybe not to the same level of refinement as the Sigma.
|Sigma fp||Canon EOS Ra|
|Image Stabilization||Digital||Digital, 5-Axis|
The Sigma fp Is Worth a Look
This full-frame camera is a fine little mirrorless solution in reality, carving its own path in both design and functionality. It is almost modular in its design principles, able to take a variety of lenses, and can be expanded out with different camera accessories, depending on the ways you like to work.
As the Sigma clearly leans more towards the video side of things, videomakers will find this camera more useful than the stills guys. But it’s important to note that still images come out with more or less the same levels of resolution as the rest of the mirrorless fraternity.
The size of the camera could also make it a quite good mirrorless travel camera. But the range of lenses available makes it more apt as a full-sized mirrorless camera when considered as a whole.
The Sigma is definitely worth investigating, with a heady mix of both video and stills functionality, which can be equally capable in both areas. The modular approach will appeal to those who like to expand a central core system. But for those who want more of a traditional design, you will have to decide on your orders of priority for either the latest and greatest mirrorless camera or a dedicated cine machine.