“A large sensor in a compact body.” Appearing all over the media, this phrase neatly summed up Sigma’s DP series of high-performance, high image-quality compact cameras.
Ever since digital cameras ousted film cameras from their mainstream status, the image sensors used in compact cameras had been far smaller than those used in SLRs. Of course, photo sensor size plays a crucial role in determining image quality. This was true in the days of film, and it’s just as true in the digital age. Yet compact cameras had been getting steadily smaller and lighter. Meanwhile, the all-important pursuit of higher image quality had become an afterthought, for reasons of cost and technological difficulties.
What’s more, digital compacts were all about extra functions and more megapixels. Higher pixel-counts were achieved simply by making the pixels extremely small, so that more of them could be crammed in, while the sensor itself remained as small as ever. In terms of the essence of photographic expression, pixel counts don’t really count. Yet competition on this front had reached fever pitch by the spring of 2008, when the Sigma DP1 made its long-awaited debut.