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Sigma SD1 Merrill review

Now a fraction of its original price, but is a revolutionary sensor enough?

According to Sigma, the Sigma SD1 Merrill is 'for photographers who refuse to compromise'. We'd call that poetic license. You compromise on live view and video - standard features on the majority of DSLRs. You have to make allowances when it comes to shooting action, thanks to the achingly slow write times for the best quality files. You need to think twice before stretching the camera to ISO 1600 or above.

However, if you're planning on doing lots of slow-paced, methodical photography in good light, where frame rates and high ISO performance don't matter, then the Sigma SD1 Merrill represents a very fine offering indeed. It comes with a very capable sensor that produces some fantastic images.

We liked

The camera delivers on its picture quality promise at low ISO settings and, despite its lower 'true' resolution, it has the potential to outshine cameras with bigger sensors.

We disliked

Images may be sharp, but the performance in other areas isn't. Picture noise debuts at lower ISO settings than we'd like, and the slow processing/write times can be crippling. There's no live view either, so if you're the kind of photographer who relies on this function for magnified manual focus, then you're going to have to look elsewhere.

Final verdict

In terms of specification, the Sigma SD1 Merrill might lack the finery of other cameras at this price point, but its stripped back set of controls is refreshing.

Its limitations do mean that this isn't a camera we can recommend as an all-rounder, though. If you're after a DSLR that offers high resolution, high speed and high-spec features, look at the Canon 5D Mark III or Sony Alpha A77 instead. This way, you'll also be able to use Sigma lenses without being restricted to a camera that just has a Sigma mount.

Both delightfully simple and deeply frustrating, the Sigma SD1 Merrill is the Jeckyll and Hyde of DSLRs. For photography in good light at low ISOs it's absolutely terrific. For everything else, it's just OK.

Tech Specs

Product TypeDigital SLR Camera Body Only
Battery Size SupportedProprietary Battery Size
TouchscreenNo
Wireless LANNo
Effective Camera Resolution46 Megapixel
GPSNo
USBYes
HDMINo
Memory Card SupportedCompactFlash (CF) Card
Image StabilizationNo
Digital ZoomNo
Brand NameSigma
DurabilityWeather Proof, Splash Proof
FeaturesContinuous Shooting Mode, Self-timer
Screen Size7.6 cm (3")
Viewfinder TypeSLR
Weight (Approximate)700 g
Image Sensor Size23.50 mm x 15.70 mm
Maximum Image Resolution4704 x 3136
Display Screen TypeLCD
Height113.5 mm
Width145.5 mm
Depth80 mm
Image FormatsJPEG, RAW, TIFF
External FlashOptional
Focus ModesAuto, Manual
ManufacturerSigma Corporation
Product ModelSD1
Product NameSD1 Merrill Digital SLR Camera
Exposure Control
  • (P) Program AE
  • (S) Shutter Speed Priority AE
  • (A) Aperture Priority AE
  • (M) Manual
Manufacturer Part NumberC26900
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.sigma-imaging-uk.com
Marketing Information

This truly groundbreaking digital SLR camera incorporates a 46 megapixel (4,800x3,200x3 layers) 24x16mm APS-C X3 direct image sensor. The SD1 is Sigma's flagship digital SLR model housed in a solid magnesium alloy body making it extremely lightweight with an overall nice feel and pleasant handling. The splash proof feature protects the camera from the effects of harsh weather conditions. Incorporating a 24x16mm APS-C X3 direct image sensor, dual "TRUE (Three-layer Responsive Ultimate Engine) II" image processing engines and the 46 megapixel sensor ensures that high resolution images are processed quickly with high definition and a smooth and subtle graduation of color delivering an image size of approximately 35/45 mp in raw/tiff files. This latest technology meets the strictest standards and requirements of professionals and enthusiast photographers for all types of photography.