The Sigma fp is a hard camera to pin down. On the one hand, it sports a full-frame sensor and delivers high-quality stills and video. On the other hand, it is currently missing key cinema features like log shooting, and it’s size and shape make it somewhat unwieldy without additional accessories. Then, it throws a wrench in the works with odd-ball features like in-camera cinemagraph creation and a Director’s Viewfinder mode. Is it a pro cinema camera? A convenient B-cam? The camera you take with you on vacation? We are honestly not sure. And with frequent firmware updates and a modular approach to accessories, we can only guess how the Sigma fp will continue to evolve.

Key specs and image quality

The Sigma fp uses a back-illuminated 35mm full-frame Bayer sensor with 24.6 effective megapixels. It can shoot UHD 4K at up to 30 frames per second and HD video at up to 120 fps. It can also capture 12-bit CinemaDNG raw video in HD at frame rates up to 60 frames per second internally to the SD card, as well as 8-bit CinemaDNG in 4K.

In addition to the internal recording options, the fp can also capture 4K 12-bit CinemaDNG raw video to a portable SSD connected via USB-C. Paired with an Atomos recorder, the fp can capture Apple ProRes RAW at up to DCI 4Kp24 or UHD 4Kp30. Blackmagic RAW recording is also possible with a Blackmagic Video Assist recorder.

All of this delivers excellent image quality with pleasing color reproduction and impressive low-light performance.

The world’s smallest and lightest full-frame cinema camera

Sigma bills the fp as the world’s smallest and lightest full-frame cinema camera — at least at the time of launch. This is certainly a small camera. It is small to the point that it is a bit awkward to hold.

We recommend investing in one of Sigma’s optional grips for the camera if you are planning to use this camera handheld. Other reviewers have attached top handles and cages to make the camera easier to handle. Without some grip or handle, there is nothing for your fingers to hang on to.

In the marketing materials for the camera, Sigma claims that its size makes the fp perfect for “everyday snaps.” We can confirm that the camera is small and lightweight enough to pack into a bag for a day trip, but if you want a camera you can take with you, this isn’t the one that we would recommend.

We found that without two crucial accessories — the loupe and a grip — the camera is very difficult to shoot with. The shape makes it necessary to add a grip or handle for any kind of handheld shooting, and the limitations of the rear monitor mean you’ll most likely want to add the loupe or an external monitor. By the time it’s outfitted for comfortable shooting, the camera is actually quite bulky — not to mention the additional cost.

Cinema and stills

The Sigma fp is supposed to be half stills camera and half cinema camera. It even features a dedicated switch on the top of the camera for toggling between modes.

However, while the photo image quality is quite nice, the ergonomics of the camera make it hard to use for photography work.

Fixed touchscreen LCD monitor

As usual, there are some options only available in stills mode, including an expanded ISO with a minimum of 6. An expanded ISO helps out when other factors limit exposure, and you do not have an ND filter available.

A modular cinema camera

For video, on the other hand, the fp’s size allows you to keep your overall rig size down while having the advantages of using a full-frame cinema camera. That is the real appeal of this camera.

With its modular design, the Sigma fp makes a lot more sense as a cinema camera. Its boxy, light-weight design is great for rigging up or mounting to a gimbal. Plus, it is small enough to fit into areas larger full-frame cinema cameras cannot.

Sigma seems to assume that this camera will be outfitted with an array of filmmaking accessories. An external monitor is almost a necessity, especially for those who prefer not to shoot through a viewfinder. The optional loupe may be an acceptable solution for some, but it is not ideal in the eyes of many videographers.

Sigma LVF-11 LCD Viewfinder

In addition to the loupe, Sigma offers three different grip options for the fp. The camera also comes with a removable hot shoe that mounts to the side of the camera. Those who use the hot shoe often may find this annoying, but having the option to remove the hot shoe could make mounting easier when space is limited.

No log shooting

There is no logarithmic picture profile currently available on the Sigma fp. This seems a little odd for a cinema camera. Sigma does, however, promise to remedy this in a future firmware update. Still, as of now, many DPs will miss having a log shooting option.

Does raw shooting make up for it?

If you are looking for the most flexible image without shooting raw, this is your best bet. Luckily, the fp gives us options. Though it is missing a log picture profile, the fp does have something arguably better: 12-bit raw video recording. The catch is that you can only record 4K 12-bit raw to an external SSD, with only 8-bit 4K raw available in camera. That means yet another accessory to purchase and mount to your rig if you want to make full use of this camera’s capabilities.

We also appreciate the option to favor a greater bit-depth when resolution is not a priority.

When shooting HD, however, you have the option to capture 12-bit CinemaDNG raw at up to 60 fps directly to a SD card or to an external SSD. This option could make for a great intro to shooting, grading and editing 12-bit CinemaDNG files. We also appreciate the option to favor a greater bit-depth when resolution is not a priority.

Regardless of resolution, 12-bit raw video is going to provide maximum flexibility when it comes to color correction and grading. It’s especially great for puling out detail from apparently overexposed highlights. The only downside is the additional space required to store the uncompressed raw video data.

Color profiles

There are several color profiles to choose from, including standard, vivid, neutral, portrait and landscape, along with some more niche color casts. Teal and orange, for instance, emphasizes the contrast between cool and warm tones in your frame to give your shot that action-movie look. You can also choose to shoot monochrome in-camera.

Top of camera showing cinema and photo mode switch

Our preference, however, was to leave the color profiles off entirely — a new option in the version 2.0.0 firmware. Shooting with the color profile set to off avoids baking in the somewhat contrasty and over-saturated look that the provided color profiles offer. This gives you a relatively flat image closer to what you might get when shooting in a log profile. We found this to be the easiest image to grade in post, though video shot in the standard color profile looked great without grading.

Tone control

Next to the color profile button is the tone button. This button brings up a menu where you can adjust the tone curve using either Sigma’s Strong or Mild presets or your custom adjustments. This tool allows you to bring up the shadows without affecting the mid-tones or highlights. It is especially useful when shooting in mixed lighting where details in the shadows or highlights might otherwise be lost.

The Sigma fp now supports dual base ISO

With the latest firmware update, the Sigma fp joins the growing ranks of cinema cameras offering dual native ISO. The camera now uses a base ISO of either 100 or 3200. This should mean less noise in the image at higher ISOs. In our tests, we did notice a subtle decrease in noise when moving between 2500 ISO and 3200.

Overall, the Sigma fp offers impressive low-light performance. Minimal noise shows up in the image down around 1600 ISO, but the footage remains usable all the way up to 25600.

The monitor isn’t great

We have already complained a bit about the ergonomics of this camera due to its size. The fp is also limited when it comes to monitoring your shot. With neither an optical nor an electronic viewfinder, the only preview option is the rear display. The rear display is insufficient in direct sunlight and makes shooting outdoors rather tricky without the optional loupe.

The autofocus isn’t great either

The contrast-based autofocus on the Sigma fp honestly not great. Though it does manage to find the subject and lock onto the eyes relatively quickly when using Face/Eye Detection AF, we did not find this feature to be reliable enough for regular use. We recommend using manual focus for any video work.

The menu is awesome

A lot of cameras struggle when it comes to the menu, but the menu on the Sigma fp is surprisingly simple and well thought out. Different options appear depending on the mode selected — cinema or still — and all options are broken down into three logical categories. Another nice touch: Even if an option is grayed out, selecting it will give you an error message explaining the conflict.

There is also a customizable quick selection menu that puts all of your most-used functions behind a single button. The simplified menu system complements the minimalist button layout on the camera body. Sigma puts the essential features within reach with making the camera feel cluttered.

Shot assists

Along with the menu system, we also appreciated the numerous shot assist tools built into the camera. These helped achieve proper focus and exposure. The camera features adjustable zebra stripes and focus peaking, as well as the option to display either a waveform monitor or histogram.

Side port and additional 1/4 20 mounting point

Beyond the typical shot assists, the Sigma fp also offers a Director’s Viewfinder mode that allows you to preview the look of a lens paired with a professional cinema camera like those from Arri or RED. With this unusual feature, Sigma gives us one more reason to keep the fp handy on set — even if it will not capture any footage.

Image stabilization

The Sigma fp supports optical image stabilization with a capable lens. Still, since none of the lenses we used had this feature, we had to rely on the camera’s electronic image stabilization. The built-in electronic stabilization is subtle enough not to distort the shot while effectively smoothing out minor bumps and wiggles.

Lens options

The strength of the camera is its flexibility. The flexibility comes from its size, shape, and its versatile L-mount. L-mount lenses are quickly becoming more popular, especially with new L-mount cameras coming from Panasonic. On top of that, the L-mount is famously easy to adapt to fit other popular lens mounts like EF and PL.

Indeed, in addition to the Sigma 45mm f/2.8 DG DN Contemporary kit lens, we also used two EF lenses from Sigma — the 28mm F1.4 DG HSM Art and the 40mm F1.4 DG HSM Art. We adapted these to EF using the MC-21 mount converter.

Rechargeable lithium-ion battery

We immediately missed the aperture control ring on the 45mm when we switched over the to EF lenses, but all three lenses looked great on the camera. Though image quality was not affected, the lens mount converter added length to already-hefty lenses. Consider this if you are choosing the fp based on its size.

In-camera cinemagraphs?

One unique feature we were excited to try out is the in-camera cinemagraph creation. The basic process is to record a clip, then head to the menu to find the cinemagraph option under the Play section. The camera will then guide you through the trimming and masking process, outputting the result as a ready to use GIF.

It is a clever trick that we are sure some people will get a lot of use out of. For many, however, it is likely to be little more than a novelty. Regardless, we have never made a cinemagraph so quickly nor with such minimal effort.

Marketplace

New full-frame mirrorless cameras have flooded the market over the past couple of years, and there are several comparable options at or near the Sigma fp price point. These include the Sony a7 III, Canon EOS R, Panasonic S1, and Nikon Z6. Though not a full-frame camera, the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 6K also competes quite well against the fp.

The Blackmagic PCC6K is the only other camera on this list to offer internal raw recording, but the Panasonic S1 comes through with internal 4:2:2 10-bit, HLG and V-log.

The Sony, Canon and Nikon cameras can all capture log footage externally via HDMI, but a bigger draw on these cameras may be their more sophisticated autofocus systems. The Sony and Nikon options also offer built-in sensor stabilization.

Though these cameras all sit a similar price point, the choice may come down to the specific features you need — or do not need — for the kind of work that you do. Also, keep in mind that the Sigma fp continues to get updates, so its appeal may increase over time.

Final thoughts

The Sigma fp packs in so many features that we are barely able to touch on in this review. It is as if this is the first version of what could evolve into an excellent cinema camera. We expect future firmware updates will add to the fp’s capabilities, but there are also physical design choices that make this camera hard to recommend as a grab-and-go solution. Overall, the Sigma fp is an interesting camera with a beautiful image and lots of potential.

Sigma

Price: $1,800

Strengths

  • Unique feature set
  • Great image quality and low-light performance
  • 12-bit CinemaDNG

Weaknesses

  • Hard to use handheld without additional accessories
  • No log profile (yet)

Recommended uses

  • Narrative Filmmaking

Tech specs

  • Imaging
    • Lens Mount: Leica L
    • Camera Format: Full-Frame (1x Crop Factor)
    • Pixels Actual: 25.38 Megapixel
    • Effective: 24.6 Megapixel
    • Maximum Resolution: 6000 x 4000
    • Aspect Ratio: 1:1, 2:1, 3:2, 4:3, 7:6, 16:9, 21:9
    • Sensor Type: CMOS
    • Sensor Size: 35.9 x 23.9 mm
    • Image File Format: JPEG, Raw
    • Bit Depth: 14-Bit
    • Image Stabilization: Digital
  • Exposure Control
    • ISO Sensitivity: 100 to 25600 (Extended: 6 to 102400)
    • Shutter Speed: Electronic Shutter
      • 1/8000 to 30 Seconds
      • Bulb Mode
    • Metering Method: Center-Weighted Average, Evaluative, Spot
    • Exposure Modes: Aperture Priority, Manual, Program, Shutter Priority
    • Exposure Compensation: -5 to +5 EV (1/3 EV Steps)
    • Metering Range: -5 to 18 EV
    • White Balance: Auto, Color Temperature, Custom, Custom 1, Custom 2, Daylight, Flash, Fluorescent, Incandescent, Overcast, Shade
    • Continuous Shooting:
      • Up to 18 fps at 24.6 MP for up to 12 Frames (Raw)
      • Up to 5 fps at 24.6 MP for up to 12 Frames (Raw)
      • Up to 3 fps at 24.6 MP for up to 24 Frames (Raw)
    • Interval Recording: Yes
    • Self-Timer: 2/10-Second Delay
  • Video
    • Recording Modes: H.264 UHD 4K (3840 x 2160) at 23.976p/25p/29.97p, Full HD (1920 x 1080) at 23.976p/25p/29.97p/59.94p/100p/119.88p
    • External Recording Modes: 4:2:2 12-Bit UHD 4K (3840 x 2160) at 23.976p/25p/29.97p, Full HD (1920 x 1080) at 23.976p/25p/29.97p/50p/59.94p/100p/120p
    • Audio Recording: Built-In Microphone (Stereo)
    • Audio File Format: Linear PCM (Stereo)
  • Focus
    • Focus Type: Auto and Manual Focus
    • Focus Mode: Continuous-Servo AF (C), Manual Focus (M), Single-Servo AF (S)
    • Autofocus Points: Contrast Detection: 49
    • Autofocus Sensitivity: -5 to +18 EV
  • Viewfinder and Monitor
    • Monitor Size 3.15″
    • Monitor Resolution 2,100,000 Dot
    • Monitor Type Fixed Touchscreen LCD
  • Interface
    • Memory Card Slot Single Slot: SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-II)
    • Internal Memory: None
    • Connectivity: HDMI D (Micro), USB Type-C (USB 3.0)
    • Wireless: None
    • GPS: No
  • Physical
    • Battery: 1 x Sigma BP-51 Rechargeable Lithium-Ion, 7.2 VDC, 1200 mAh
    • Dimensions: (W x H x D) 4.43 x 2.75 x 1.78″ / 112.6 x 69.9 x 45.3 mm
    • Weight: 14.89 oz / 422 g (Body with Battery and Memory), 13.05 oz / 370 g (Body Only)

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here