Last month I picked up a Sigma FP and have already put it to the test on a number of shoots. So far, I’m quite impressed. While the camera does have its quirks, the image quality and versatility of this camera is pretty remarkable.
In a nutshell, the FP is a pocket sized full-frame camera with the ability to shoot 4K video internally in Cinema DNG RAW. It has a dedicated “Cine” mode, allowing the camera, menus and display to function like a true cinema camera, making it optimal for filmmakers.
I have been shooting stills in addition to video with the FP, but for the purpose of this post I primarily want to focus on video functionality. The stills (unsurprisingly) look gorgeous coming off this sensor, but my primary need for this camera is video, so that’s what I’ll explore here today.
It’s also worth noting that my review below is based off my experience with the latest Sigma FP firmware (1.01). Prior to installing the update, I was running the original 1.0 firmware, which had loads of little bugs.
For starters, practically every image I captured with firmware 1.0 had a flicker issue. The shadows and mid tones would bounce up and down, as if the camera was auto-exposing. It looked brutal.
Other issues I encountered included:
- Inability to record 4K RAW internally to the recommended 300 MB/s SD Cards
- Poor image quality when recording to 1080p, including in RAW
- Buggy electronic image stabilization that wouldn’t activate immediately
A few days into using the camera, I actually considered returning it. These were all major issues that essentially made the camera unusable in any real world setting.
But I decided to hold off until the first firmware update, as there were still a lot of things to get excited about with the FP, and based on the intended feature-set it seemed like Sigma’s priorities were in the right place.
Thankfully, when firmware 1.01 came out, all of these issues disappeared. My cards starting working with 4K RAW, the image quality improved immensely in 1080p, stabilization issues were solved, and the camera seemed to run more smoothly overall.
It’s amazing to see how quickly Sigma was able to update the firmware to solve these problems.
All of this really made me do a 180 with the camera. I went from feeling unsure about even keeping it, to being pretty blown away its capabilities.
So with that in mind, below I’m sharing my thoughts on the new and improved Sigma FP, running 1.01 firmware.
Here we go –
DESIGN & BUILD QUALITY
Anyone who truly loves pocket-sized cameras is going to have an immense appreciation for the FP. It’s a minimalist’s dream camera.
Despite having a full frame sensor, the camera body is incredibly tiny. By far the smallest camera I’ve ever owned, yet it still somehow feels incredibly strong and built for pro use. It also is really comfortable to hold in you hand, even without a cage or grip configured.
There are loads of manual controls on the body, which I love.
Most notably, a button on the top of the camera allows you to switch between cine mode and still mode. Settings, menu functions and screen information will automatically change depending on your selection.
You’ll also find some useful shortcut buttons on the bottom of the camera, including Tone & Color. The Tone button allows you to manually adjust the contrast curve of your image, and the Color button gives you access to a wide array of picture profiles.
Although there is no dedicated ISO dial as you’ll find on Fuji’s cameras, the ISO can be accessed easily through the Quick Select menu button on the back of the camera. And there are two additional dials (one on the top, one on the back) that can control aperture and shutter speed.
There’s a single SD memory card slot next to the camera’s battery, which is secured with a small battery door and metal latch. This is a nice added touch as it gives you some more security when shooting in the field.
In addition to a standard 1/4” 20 thread on the bottom of the camera, you’ll also find one on each side of the camera. This makes it easy to mount on a standard tripod for vertical video or stills.
This side of the body also has a few ports – USB data output, Micro HDMI port and a mic input. I haven’t yet used the data port, but this can be utilized to output a full 4K 12bit RAW image to an external hard drive. In a future firmware update, you should also be able to export 4K 12bit RAW through the HDMI output for use with external video recorders.
All in all, the build of this camera is optimal. Small, rugged, weather sealed, easy to rig up and configure however you like… Not a whole lot to complain about.
My only real issue is that the camera doesn’t have a dedicated headphone jack. This can be worked around by using a USB-C to Headphone adapter and monitoring from the USB port, but it’s always better to have a dedicated sound output.
I imagine some other filmmakers and photographers may be frustrated by the LCD screen too. While the screen delivers beautiful quality (and is bright even under harsh sunlight), it doesn’t swivel at all and is locked in place. For me, this isn’t really an issue based on the way I like to shoot. But worth considering depending on your specific needs.
It’s also worth highlighting that the camera uses an L-mount, which has an incredibly short flange distance. This means you can adapt practically any lens to the camera – so long as the image circle covers the sensor. For those of you who own a lot of Canon glass, Sigma has created the MC-21 adapter which converts EF to L mount with electronic pass through.
RECORDING OPTIONS & FEATURES
By far the biggest draw about the Sigma FP is its ability to record Cinema DNG RAW. The camera can currently output 12bit RAW to an external drive in 4K (UHD) resolution, and can record 12bit internally at HD resolution. For internal 4K RAW, you step down to 8bit color.
For the vast majority of shooting scenarios, 8bit RAW on this camera is plenty to work with. Especially when you consider that this effectively becomes 12bit color if you downscale to HD or 2K, as you increase your color information per pixel.
While I absolutely love the look of the internal 4K 8bit RAW files (more on the below), the file sizes are just so massive. A 128GB card only gets about 10 minutes of record time in 4K RAW, compared to nearly 30 in HD RAW. Most of the time I end up mastering to HD or 2K anyways, so for smaller shoots where I don’t want an external recorder, 1080 will often be the way to go.
Of course you can also record in compressed formats on this camera too, either with ALL-I compression (420Mbps) or Long-GOP (120Mbps). With ALL-I, you get 32 minutes of record time on a 128GB card in 4K, compared to 2 hours and 46 minutes with Long-GOP.
One feature of the camera that I use often is the “DC Crop” mode. This effectively crops the sensor to Super 35, giving you the ability to utilize lenses that don’t cover a full frame sensor. I’ll even use this setting while shooting with full frame glass to get a more traditional S35 field of view.
I toggle this feature on and off so much that I’ve made it one of the shortcuts on the camera’s quick menu, along with white balance and ISO.
As for the camera’s color modes, I have been shooting everything with the “Portrait” setting. There are a number of other color presets/profiles in the menu too, but most of them are too stylized for my needs. “Portrait” seems to be the most subtle, and retains the most dynamic range to my eye.
I’ve been tempted to try to preserve even more detail by adjusting the tone controls, which allow you to lift your shadows and pull down your highlights. But after some experimentation, I didn’t find any real benefit to adjusting the colors in camera, and have had better results leaving those settings as-is.
In any case, it looks like Sigma will be releasing a log picture profile in a future firmware update, so that will surely be the go-to profile for anyone shooting compressed.
Although the camera has no in-body stabilization capability, it does offer an ES mode which will stabilize your image digitally, not optically.
I’ve shot quite a bit with this mode, but have had mixed results. In some cases it’s worked as well as IBIS on other cameras, but on other shots it seems to really struggle. It’s never terrible, but at times you can really feel the digital movement, which I don’t like.
That said, I’m optimistic that this feature may improve with future firmware updates, as there’s already been a bump in quality since firmware 1.01 was released.
On the plus side, the FP is packed with so many other essential features for filmmakers – Zebras, focus peaking, frame guides and even a director’s viewfinder mode.
The director’s viewfinder is very cool, although I haven’t really had a need to use it in the real world just yet. It replicates an optical viewfinder that you might use on set to help you work through your shot setups.
It has presets for many cinema cameras, including Arri Alexa and RED, and can even de-squeeze your image if you’re shooting anamorphic.
Right now you aren’t able to record in this mode, but that’s a feature that could potentially be added in the future.
All things considered, the feature set is pretty incredible on this little camera, and clearly designed with the filmmaker in mind.
For me, image quality is the #1 consideration I take into account when choosing a camera, and the Sigma FP really delivers on this front.
Unsurprisingly, shooting in RAW at 4K (3840 x 2160) will give you the best overall results when shooting internally.
Even in 8 bit, the images have so much color information and retain detail beautifully in the shadows and highlights. They grade incredibly well and under no circumstance (yet) have I felt limited by not working with a 12 bit file.
I do often find myself shooting in 12 bit / HD, but that’s really just a means to save card space. For most of my projects HD is plenty to work with, so I suspect this will be a bit of a sweet spot for certain jobs.
In both 4K RAW and HD RAW, the images coming off the cards truly feel like they’ve originated on a cinema camera. Even ungraded, they are rich and dynamic, and have the sort of depth and texture you might expect from a much more expensive cinema camera.
The two compressed modes (ALL-I & Long-GOP) are useable as well, but nowhere near the quality that you’ll get when shooting RAW. Between the two modes, ALL-I looks a bit better to my eye (likely due to the higher data rate), and will play back more easily on most machines. The Long-GOP codec is practically identical in quality though, and the much smaller file sizes will make it ideal for lower budget or documentary projects.
For narrative work or higher end commercial projects though, I wouldn’t recommend shooting compressed. The images just feel thinner somehow, even before you grade them. They are slightly grainier (even at low ISOs), and definitely have more of a DSLR look.
Much of this is to be expected as compressed files never look as good as RAW, but I have to wonder if we’ll see improvement in this area too via a future firmware update. Other cameras seem to maintain higher quality even with more compression, so perhaps this will be refined as time goes on.
Regardless of whether you shoot RAW or compressed though, you’re going to benefit from really amazing color science.
This is such a massive variable for me as I do a ton of color work, so naturally I’m very happy Sigma has delivered on this front too.
Whether in daylight, tungsten, fluorescent or LED, the Sigma FP renders beautifully accurate color palettes, natural skin tones, and excellent contrast.
The highlight rolloff is really subtle and filmic too, which helps so much in high contrast scenarios.
As for dynamic range, the camera seems to give me about 11 or 12 stops while shooting in RAW – to my eye at least. This is more or less average for cameras in this budget tier.
I’m getting about a stop and a half less DR when shooting compressed, but that’s a rough estimate and different results may be found in a lab.
As for low-light, the Sigma FP is a beast, no matter what mode you may be shooting in.
The highest ISO I’ve ever actually needed to use was 6400, which is really clean. This was somewhat to be expected as the camera is full frame and low-light technology has come so far in recent years, but still I have to give credit where it’s due.
I took a few more test shots at even higher ISOs, and the camera continues to hold up really well. Above a certain point (roughly 25,600), it does start to get really grainy and the image quality takes a big hit. But that’s to be expected on any camera, and most of us never need to shoot anywhere near those levels.
6400 and below is safe not only for grain and noise, but for color and dynamic range too. Even pushed that high, the camera still captures a ton of color information and more than enough DR to give you options in post.
Below is a little test video I shot with the Sigma FP in Malibu a few days ago around sunset. It wasn’t a particularly vibrant sunset, but the camera still picked up the subtle color gradations beautifully. And the footage was really easy to grade.
I tested out a ton of my CINECOLOR LUTs on the footage as well, which worked like a charm!
All the shots below were taken in 4K RAW 8bit with the Sigma 45mm lens. Mostly at ISO 800 or below, but a few shots here were captured at 1600. The files were converted to ProRes 422 HQ using DaVinci Resolve, and were edited and graded in Final Cut Pro X –
45MM KIT LENS
I wanted to add a few words here about Sigma’s 45mm lens, which can you purchase as a bundle with the camera.
There’s quite a bit to like about the lens – It’s compact, well constructed, has a manual iris ring, and most importantly captures very detailed images.
From a technical standpoint, there’s really not much to complain about… From a creative perspective though, it’s not my favorite piece of glass.
Character is really important to me in a lens, which is why I like shooting with vintage lenses or modern cinema lenses that have unique qualities to them. The 45mm from Sigma feels pretty neutral and sterile – which isn’t usually what I’m looking for.
For some filmmakers, this may actually be a positive thing, especially those shooting documentaries, events or corporate spots. If that’s the case, the 45mm may be perfect: Small enough to go anywhere with you, while capturing objectively accurate images with minimal distortion.
It seems silly to pick on on a lens for being too “correct”, but if you’re going for a more classical or analog look then this isn’t the lens for you.
Another issue for me (and maybe only for me!) is the focal length…
My favorite focal length for everyday use is 50mm paired with a Super 35mm frame. I wrote a whole article about how if I had to shoot everything on one lens, I’d shoot on a 50.
Factoring in the crop, a 50mm lens on Super 35 is like using a 75mm lens on full frame. So when shooting in FF mode on the Sigma FP, to get the look I’m usually after I would need to shoot on a 75mm lens.
Again, this is a personal bias, so don’t let it sway your decision. But for my needs, 45mm on FF is too wide for closeups and portraits, but not wide enough for landscapes or establishing shots. I would have preferred something a touch wider or a touch longer, but that’s just me.
All that said, the 45mm lens is still extremely capable of capturing gorgeous images in the right hands. It just comes down to your personal needs and creative taste.
For me, this camera is definitely a keeper. It’s fun to use, extremely versatile, captures stunning images and will only get better with future firmware updates.
Is it right for everyone? Probably not… But no camera ever is.
As an A camera, it’s perfect for indie filmmakers on a budget, documentary shooters who need to be inconspicuous, and small corporate/commercial productions too.
As a B camera, I can see it being matched with higher end cinema cameras (notably Alexa & RED) on larger productions, used for specialty shots in tight spaces, and of course rigged up on drones and gimbals.
Anyone planning to use the camera for stills in addition to video is going to be very happy – the still image quality is astounding. A viewfinder would make it even better in a practical sense (I do miss having an EVF when shooting stills), but I doubt that will be a dealbreaker for most hybrid shooters.
People often compare this camera to the Blackmagic Pocket 4K/6K, but I see them as very different tools. Blackmagic’s cameras are designed for video exclusively. They function and operate more like a traditional cinema camera and will give you that user experience in the field.
The Sigma FP on the other hand is more of a Swiss Army knife. It’s for the jack of all trades who needs a camera that can do everything, or a working cinematographer looking for a versatile b-cam. It’s offers a totally different paradigm that is ideal for a certain type of filmmaker.
It’s certainly one of the most innovative and forward thinking cameras I’ve seen in a while, and for me that counts for a lot. I can’t say that it’s right for everyone, but it’s definitely earned a spot on my gear shelf.
I look forward to seeing how the FP evolves over time with firmware updates, and will aim to post more footage when I can!
What are your thoughts on the Sigma FP? Leave a comment below.
Noam Kroll is an award-winning Los Angeles based filmmaker, and the founder of the boutique production house, Creative Rebellion. His work can be seen at international film festivals, on network television, and in various publications across the globe. Follow Noam on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more content like this!