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CES 2013: New Sigma DP3 Merrill packs a Foveon sensor and short telephoto lens

Sigma was the first company to bring an APS-C point-and-shoot digital camera to market with the 2008 release of the DP1. It has continued to improve and expand the DP line, bringing out models to satisfy the needs of users who were looking for different focal lengths. The DP1 and its successors are wide-angle 28mm shooters, while the DP2 series offers a standard-angle 41mm field of view.

The new DP3 Merrill goes even tighter, packing a 75mm-equivalent (50mm f/2.8 with an APS-C sensor) lens into the same pocketable body as the other cameras in the series. Sigma is no longer the only company in the big-sensor compact market—Leica has its X2, Fujifilm has the X100, and Sony has the full-frame RX1—but it’s the only one that offers models in three different focal lengths and with Foveon sensor technology.

The Foveon sensor, which is also used in the SD1 Merrill D-SLR, is a three-layer design, each sensitive to a different type of colour - one red, one green, one blue. This differs from the traditional Bayer sensor design used in the vast majority of digital cameras - that approach uses a panchromatic sensor with an overlay grid of red, green, and blue pixels to create a color image. Bayer sensors have been criticised as of late, as the low-pass filter that is often paired with them to reduce color moiré effects can rob sharpness. Recent cameras like the Leica M9-P , Pentax K-5 IIs , Nikon D800E, and most medium format digital cameras like the Pentax 645D do away with this filter - increasing image detail, but at the same time increasing the chances of the moiré effect rearing its head.

The DP3 Merrill uses the same 46-megapixel image sensor found in the SD1 Merrill, and incorporates dual True II image processors for enhanced performance. Its lens has a minimum focus distance of 8.9in, for a maximum magnification ratio of 1:3. It's capable of capturing a burst of 7 Raw images at 4 frames per second, and can grab up to 14 shots in a burst at 5 frames per second if shooting lower-quality JPG files. There's a 3in rear LCD with a sharp 920k-dot design, a hot shoe, and the camera's ISO range is 100 to 6400.

Pricing and availability for the DP3 are yet to be announced.

Sigma is also releasing a new version of its Photo Pro software, which is included with its cameras. The new version of the software features a colour - channel mixer that can be used to enhance monochrome conversions of colour Raw files. It will give black and white photographers more control over how different colours appear in monochrome images, and also features film grain emulation to give shots more of a film-like look. It will be available for download in February.