Small. Feather-Light. Full-Frame. We are talking about the Sigma FP mirrorless camera. Sigma has thrown a ton of great features into one tiny camera body. CDNG, HFR in HD, an incredible thin L-Mount, and a director’s viewfinder feature all meant to adapt and use the Sigma FP in the way you want. Let’s cut the bull and get down to a review, shall we?
The Sigma FP feels good in the hands. A Sigma FP’s collective weight with a battery and an SD Card is less than 15 ounces or less than a pound. The Sigma FP and its small size and weight are lighter than the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K, which weighs in at 1.5 pounds.
Placing a Sigma 40mm or Sigma 28mm and Canon EF to Sigma L mount adapter and the Sigma FP becomes front heavy. The need for the optionable handgrip for the small Sigma FP becomes essential if you want to wield the camera in your hands with comfort. The handgrip becomes vital when shooting still photos with the Sigma FP.
When the Sigma FP is rigged up for shooting video, the small camera can become swallowed up by accessories and cords. Yet, if one decides to shoot with the Sigma FP stripped of accessories, they will find an easy to use mirrorless comfortable on a slider or gimbal. I know I did.
When one removes the body cap to the Sigma FP, they are met with a sizeable full-frame sensor. In fact, the Sigma FP’s sensor looks out of place inside a camera this small. Big sensor. Small body. The combo is not usually paired together.
The Sigma FP comes with an L-Mount. What is the L-Mount? Well, the L-Mount is a partnership between Leica Camera, Sigma and Panasonic, designed to give photographers one unified lens mount standard. Leica Camera developed the L-Mount, allowing photographers to combine lenses and cameras made by any of the three partner companies. If you have Canon lenses, then you will need an L-Mount to Canon EF-Mount adapter, which Sigma makes. I tested the adapter with the Sigma 28mm and Sigma 40mm EF-Mount lenses. The camera performed as if the lenses were natively mounted.
I will break up noise performance into Still and Video. In Stills mode, I found the Sigma FP performed admirably. For me, a big noise test is to shoot photos outside and protect my highlights and then lift shadows in post. 75% of my photography falls into this category. To test this, I took several photos with harsh sunlight and deep dark shadows. In these still photo tests, the Sigma FP performed about as well as my Nikon Z6. For what it’s worth, an unscientific test gives a slight edge to Nikon here.
My low-light tests included chasing fireflies with my daughter in the evening. To take the test even further, I threw an ND .09 on my lens. Photos of a three-year-old chasing fireflies is not easy. If you pixel-peep, you can see a little bit of noise at the high ISO. I think I shot around the top two ISO settings. I say the Sigma FP did pretty darn well here.
In Video, both CDNG and All-I UHD, I found the noise pretty darn acceptable in the higher ISO ranges. Now, I tested the noise performance on the Sigma FP a firmware update ago. Since my testing, Sigma added a dual gain setting to the Sigma FP, improving the tiny camera’s low-light performance. If the sensor in this camera gets enough light, the noise is minimal at high ISOs. If the sensor is starved for light, the noise becomes much more apparent. Low-light behavior like this is mostly the same for all sensors. TBH I was expecting the Sigma to top out at 6400 ISO and then become unusable at ISO settings above 6400. I was wrong. Again, the Sigma FP continued to impress me.
I usually see multiple color profiles, or picture profiles, as a gimmick on digital cameras. Some cameras can have downright weird picture profiles, and I honestly do not know many who use them. The Sigma FP has 13( Standard, Vivid, Neutral, Portrait, Landscape, Cinema, Teal & Orange, Sunset Red, Forest Green, FOV Classic Blue, FOV Classic Yellow, Monochrome, and Off ). “Off” is as close to a log picture profile as you will get with the Sigma FP. It isn’t log, but it is close. Here is an example of closed Coronavirus testing sites shot in the “off” picture profile. I am showing you tow videos: one with the picture profile “off,” and the other in color corrected.
My preferred picture profile was portrait because I felt it gave me the best image to review in camera and was a good starting point for editing. The oddest setting is a tie between the “Cinema” and “Sunset Red.” These are my personal preferences. You might find “cinema” to be your starting point. The “Cinema” setting was odd to me because high contrast and low saturation looked nothing like cinema. I reserve the right to be wrong here too. Again, this is my personal opinion. I shot video of the flowers on my back patio to see how the “Vivid” picture profile performed.
Like a few other features in the Sigma FP, this one feels unique to the tiny camera. The director’s viewfinder mode should not be overlooked at all. The director’s viewfinder is the camera’s strong point. The ability to share high-quality still frames to all departments can keep everyone well informed. When shooting full-frame or S35mm, the Sigma FP can be the tool director’s and cinematographer’s use to keep creativity moving forward.
Get the loupe
The number 1 and number 2 accessory for the Sigma FP are: first, the handgrip, and second, the loupe. You will not be disappointed. I am, oh, this is not fun to say, middle-aged. There I said it. I’m middle-aged, and my eyesight is going to shit. I have already lived an entire life myopic, and contacts corrected my vision, but I am reaching for reading glasses more and more these days. I like to joke that I am three pairs of reading glasses old. Why do you care? Because it will happen to you, trust me.
When it does, looking at a small LCD screen on the back of an already small full-frame camera is not much fun. I need a loupe or an EVF. I bet you will too. I suggest you get the loupe or use a monitor. The loupe keeps the camera small and in your hands. A monitor on top of the Sigma FP lends itself to a tripod because the monitor may weigh more than the camera.
First off, Sigma must change now shooters adjust the aperture on the Sigma FP. Diving into a quick menu to change the f-stop is not ideal. This setting feature is a pretty big oversight, in my opinion. Cameras need to be quick and easy. Adding a step to change any exposure settings is not quick or easy. I think, and hope, Sigma will fix this issue. I found it frustrating that I left my aperture alone and adjusted the ISO since it was easier.
Video. I see the Sigma FP to be used in one of three ways consistently: Parked on a gimbal, a dedicated slider camera, or as a small “B” or “C” camera for more significant multi-camera interviews news magazine-style. Yes, someone may use the Sigma FP as their primary camera of choice. The camera will do just fine as an “A” camera. One could be very successful shooting a full-blown feature film on the Sigma FP if they wanted too. The necessary tools are in the camera. The good is the Sigma FP is so small. The Bad is the Sigma FP is so small. Hear me out. To get the most out of the camera, you may need accessories on the Sigma FP, and if so, you will need to distribute that weight in a well thought out way.
I shot with the camera on a slider most of the time. It was just easy to set up and shoot. The Sigma FP’s size and weight made it ideal for a slider, and I’m guessing it will be ideal for a small gimbal like a Ronin S or Ronin SC. I like having a dedicated camera for a slider or gimbal, especially a gimbal because prepping the package may take time, and no one wants to stop a shoot to balance a camera.
The Sigma FP can record UHD CDNG to a USB-C device. I think the better option will be either the Atomos Ninja V or the Blackmagic Design Video Assist. I lean very hard in the direction of using the Blackmagic Design Video Assist because Blackmagic RAW has more control in post that ProRes RAW. I do not want to start a ProRes RAW vs. Blackmagic RAW fight. You choose what you want. Both options are more efficient than CDNG. I just think you will be more satisfied with Blackmagic RAW in the end. I did not test high frame rate shooting in FHD because that firmware update was released the day before sending my review camera back to Sigma.
Since the UHD CDNG recording is a ton of information, I shot ALL-I most of the time. I found ALL-I to be more than acceptable for broadcast work in both HD and UHD. Look, not everything needs to be shot in raw. When deadlines are strict, and you’re going for a basic look, ALL-I is a perfect match. Important to note, the Sigma FP records UHD ALL-I internally to a suitable SD Card. I even shot ALL-I in the “off” picture profile. When I took the footage into DaVinci Resolve to color grade it, the footage head together.
High Frame Rates
One of the features added to the Sigma FP with the new firmware was the addition of High Frame Rates. In HD these frame rates go up to 120 fps. Interestingly enough, I found on my MacBook Pro the 120 fps clips play like iPhone slow-motion videos where the video starts normal speed and then slows down. In DaVinci Resolve, this iPhone effect turns off and 120 fps is 120 fps. Again, flowers from my backyard. Shot with the picture profile “off” and a second video with a quick color grade added to the clips.
If you want ProRes HQ in UHD or HD, then an External Recorder will be needed. Again, the Atomos Ninja V or Blackmagic Video Assist 12G will work for you. The Atomos Ninja V is much lighter than the Video Assist 12G, giving the Atomos a little bit of a better feel when mounted to the tiny Sigma FP. Apple ProRes in both HD and UDH seemed as easy to use as the internally recorded ALL-I. I don’t think you are going to disappointed in either situation.
I see the Sigma FP as a video camera capable of being a decent still camera. Test after test confirmed my thoughts. The Sigma FP is a video camera and a very capable video camera. The raw recording, the USB-C port, the time-code features all point to a dedicated video camera.
The still photography half of the camera? Not nearly as feature-rich. Yet, it is decent. Most of my photography is photojournalism. The Sigma FP is not a photojournalist’s camera. To be so, the Sigma FP needs faster autofocus and an EVF. The autofocus, with the firmware I tested, was not fast enough for me. I took the camera with me during my coverage of the BLM Protests. I ended up shooting in manual focus because the Sigma FP automatically zooms into the image for critical focus if you turn the focus barrel on the attached lens.
Pictures of my daughter were more natural to capture. Generally, the moments were a little slower than a crowd of protesters. In these tests, I found the color and clarity of the Sigma 28mm and Sigma 40mm delivered great color and shallow focus. When paired with the Sigma FP set to the “portrait” picture profile, I found the skin tone incredibly accurate.
What is interesting is the super low ISO settings found in the Sigma FP. The lowest setting is ISO 6. I learned the hard way this setting is “a dragging” the shutter setting. I thought it would be normal speed, but something interesting is happening with the Sigma FP at ISO 6. For other artists and photographers, they may be able to exploit this feature to very dramatic effects. Alas, ISO 6, and the other low ISO settings are just for still photography and not video. Below I give two examples of the LOW ISO settings. The tree was shot at ISO 6 and the dandelion was shot at ISO 50. In the tree photo, you can see the leaves have motion blur from the shutter drag. My shutter on that photo was 1/25th a second.
The Sigma FP can be connected to your computer and act as a webcam. A very nice bonus for Sigma FP owners in these times of working from home. With the latest firmware, you can now change any camera settings after the USB has been plugged into a computer. I’m talking about ISO, F-stop, color profile, and any setting requiring access to the camera’s menu. An earlier version of the Sigma FP did not allow these setting changes. Thankfully, Sigma changed this feature after listening to users. I used this webcam feature a ton—a lovely bonus for Sigma FP owners.
Sigma FP Key Features
- 24.6MP Full-Frame BSI Bayer CMOS Sensor
- UHD 4K30p Video with 12-Bit CinemaDNG
- CinemaDNG 25 and 29.97 fps (UHD 12bit) shooting
- CinemaDNG 100 fps (FHD 12bit) shooting
- CinemaDNG 100 and 119.88 fps (FHD 8bit and 10bit) shooting
- 3.15″ 2.1m-Dot Touchscreen LCD
- 49-Point AF System
- Electronic Image Stabilization System
- 18 fps Shooting, ISO 102400
- Electronic Shutter & L Lens Mount
- USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C & Micro-HDMI 1.4
- Director’s Viewfinder