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Bought a Sigma fp L

stevev

Member
Hi all,

I have bought a Sigma fp L and am using it as a "digital back" on the rear of a Cambo Actus G. I also have a Lumix S1R and Nikon Z7, but the Z7 is now likely to be sold off. I use a variety of medium and large format lenses on the front of the Cambo.

Am I happy with it? Mmmmm.....yes.......

Put it this way - you have to know what compromises you are making coming into this and if they have any material impact on your ability to make good images. There are so many compromises that Sigma made to bring this product, in this form factor, to market that for most people it would not make sense. Just buy an A7RIV instead, or pass and move on.

For me the tradeoffs seem to be as expected. My use case is landscape or architectural photography, on a tripod, doing flat stitching to create very high resolution images, often panoramas. What the fp L offers me that I think no other camera does is that it has no grip. None. That is a negative for most people, but important on a camera system like the Actus, especially when using some wide angle lenses, as these can mean that the grip can foul the bellows when shifting, causing various problems. This occurs with the Z7 and S1R.

The fp L frees me from that issue and adds another 16 MP of resolution above the Z7, for example. It is also light weight, which means I can carry it and a lightweight wide angle lens like the Rodenstock 55mm APO Sironar digital in my backpack and contain the weight to something reasonable, especially given the capabilities of the system i.e. tilt, rise/fall, shift, elimination of parallax errors and converging verticals, high resolution etc.

I have been using a small external battery to deal with the woeful internal battery life and that seems to work well. There are several other things I have noticed that I was not aware of, for example there is no sensor cleaning so I will have to use the blower regularly, the focus peaking has very thick edges, which can make it harder to find critical focus (vs the Z7 that has 3 levels of peaking sensitivity) and other minor things.

If anyone is thinking of buying one and has any questions, feel free to ask away.

Steve.
 
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Godfrey

Well-known member
Very interesting ... thanks for posting!
I hadn't heard of the Sigma fp L yet. An interesting body/back ... I'll need to study up on it a bit more.

G
 

iiiNelson

Well-known member
I love the idea of the Sigma fp and the only things that stopped me from getting one was lack of mechanical shutter and that the screen doesn’t tilt. Great concept though and I’m happy that someone sees value in a modular camera still.
 

stevev

Member
Yes, it is a very specific product for only a handful of specific use cases, I think. I am keen to try the ISO6 (!) mode, which I believe stacks multiple images to simulate that ISO. Might be good for some scenarios, so looking forward to testing that out. Maybe I can leave the ND filters at home...

A further use case is back-packing/hiking with the fp L and one of the new, small light and sharp, i-series Sigma lenses like the 24mm f/2 or the 35mm. That would make a very lightweight kit that my back, neck, knees and hips would greatly appreciate:)
 

sc_john

Active member
Steve,

I have also bought the fp-L, mostly based on its size and weight relative to resolution. Something that has surprised me is the difference in initial look of images processed in Capture 1 or Affinity vs Sigma Photo Pro. Sigma Photo Pro seems to get me 90% of the end product, vs the others requiring a lot more processing. I have not yet tried Adobe Camera Raw w/ Photoshop. How are you doing your initial raw processing?

John
 

stevev

Member
Hi John,

I have only tried Capture One 21 and DXO Photolab with my shots from the fp L. I forgot that Sigma had their own software! (I got off the Adobe bandwagon when they forced subscription on me, although I still have Photoshop CS6 and Lightroom 6.14.)

Sounds like I had better download, install and process some images using Sigma Photo Pro.

Thanks for the heads up and I will let you know if I notice the same improvement that you did.

Cheers,
Steve.
 

sc_john

Active member
Steve,

I was unaware that DXO Photolab supported the fp-L. I'll have to give that a try for it's noise reduction capabilities. Also, this YouTube video may help to get started with Sigma Photo Pro; the interface isn't exactly intuitive. SPP Overview

John
 

MGrayson

Subscriber and Workshop Member
Steve,

I have also bought the fp-L, mostly based on its size and weight relative to resolution. Something that has surprised me is the difference in initial look of images processed in Capture 1 or Affinity vs Sigma Photo Pro. Sigma Photo Pro seems to get me 90% of the end product, vs the others requiring a lot more processing. I have not yet tried Adobe Camera Raw w/ Photoshop. How are you doing your initial raw processing?

John
Camera reviews are largely reviews of the default parameters of their chosen RAW converters.
 

sc_john

Active member
Camera reviews are largely reviews of the default parameters of their chosen RAW converters.
I wasn't referring to a review. I was referring to hands on with the software (Capture One being my primary image editor). For me, Sigma Photo Pro had a much better starting profile, and while I was able to get close with C1 and Affinity, I didn't match it (to my eyes). Then again, I am admittedly not an expert or certified user of any of these programs. Just an old hack...😂.

John
 
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MGrayson

Subscriber and Workshop Member
I wasn't referring to a review. I was referring to hands on with the software (Capture One being my primary image editor). For me, Sigma Photo Pro had a much better starting profile, and while I was able to get close with C1 and Affinity, I didn't match it (to my eyes). Then again, I am admittedly now an expert of certified user of any of these programs. Just an old hack...😂.

John
John,

Sorry I wasn't clear.

I meant that *we* have to work hard not to base our opinions on the default processing parameters. And that reviewers almost never take that effort. You *are* doing that, and it is difficult. I encourage experimentation. Sometimes, one Adobe profile will make everything close to perfect where all the others look awful. Sometimes they change with a software update (without informing us, of course).

Matt
 

stevev

Member
John,

You are quite right about Photolab. It shows the file thumbnails but won't open fp L files as they are not supported. Both PL4 and PL5. When I replied I had PL5 open and was looking at those thumbnails and replied without engaging my brain. C1 21 definitely opens and edits the files and I like what I am seeing there.

Installed SPP and it was slow (i9/128GB/18 cores) and I did not like the interface. The file, with default settings, did not look as good, to my eyes, as C1 at the same stage. I will persist and see if I get anywhere with it. I need to spend some time with the software.

Cheers,
Steve.
 

hotshoe

New member
Hi Steve,

Thanks for sharing your experience. I have a Sigma FP (non-L version) today, and I agree with your comments regarding peaking. They have an attachable EVF now as well, but I don't find it helps much in terms of nailing focus.

-Roland.
 
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stevev

Member
Hi Roland,

(Replying to your original unedited post where I think you asked for some detail on the lenses/bodies I use).

I use the Sigma fp L, a Nikon Z7 and a Lumix S1R on the Actus and have the corresponding Camera camera plates for Z mount and L mount. I will likely keep the fp L and sell the other two bodies. Let my profligate spending be your tour guide for the initial stages of your technical camera journey and then turn to the fine and much more experienced folk here, such as Rob De Loe (see his threads here and check out his website regarding the Toyo VX23D). Along with the Toyo option, there are other cheaper solutions than the Actus ( a Chinese one I can't remember the name of) and more expensive ones from Arca Swiss.

I have the following lenses that I can use, with varying degrees of success:
  • Nikkor 19mm PC F/4 tilt/shift lens with an F mount plate from Cambo. Only 12mm of good shift and the corners need F/11 to be decent. However the lens turned out not to fit correctly to the Cambo plate. I am awaiting a reply from Cambo on that problem, although it may never come.
  • I have four Mamiya RZ67 medium format lenses. They are all excellent, although they are large and heavy. I have the 50mm ULD, the 65mm LA, the 75mm and the 90mm. These all work without limitation with any of the bodies I use. They have very good contrast, vibrant colours and they are relatively sharp to the shifted edges. You need a RZ67 lens plate from Cambo. I have two but I might sell one (let me know if you are interested).
  • I have three Nikkor SW large format lenses - the 65mm, 75mm and 90mm F/8. (There is a wider aperture version of the 90, but it is larger and heavier). These are all very affordable (a few hundred dollars each) and a bit cheaper than the Mamiya lenses. In the central 60-80% of a shifted & stitched frame the Nikkors are excellent, but the sharpness tails off somewhat behind the Mamiyas in the extremities. The colours, out of the camera, are brown and muddy in comparison to the Mamiyas, and I need to spend a bit of time getting the white balance right, adding contrast and sharpening the edges a little. Then they are fine and the difference closes right up. (I have shot the Mamiyas against their corresponding Nikkors and have over a GB of raw file comparisons. Let me know if you want a link). The Mamiyas always have more contrast and sharpness, but with work you can get the images from the SW lenses quite close.
  • I also have a Rodenstock 55mm F/4.5 APO Sironar Digital large format lens. It sits closest of all to the camera plate, so much so that the grip on the Z7 and S1R fouls the bellows when I shift the body the full 20mm to the left. That is why I got the fp L (it has no grip), in addition to its small size, light weight - and the fact that it went on special for $1,000 off :) BTW, the Rodie has increased in price since I got mine for around $1200 USD late last year and I am seeing them now for nearly $2K.
  • The Rodenstock has a significant blueish lens colour cast/vignetting across the outer third of a stitched frame. In the central 60% or so of a stitched frame (3 rows/3 columns) it is as sharp as anything else I have and the colours are great. The Nikkors vignette a bit less than the Rodie and the Mamiyas don't vignette or have much of a cast until you run right into the fully shifted corners.
  • The Nikkors score points for being affordable, small and light. You need a Copal 0 mount from Cambo for them and for the Rodie. And you need to a little more time in post to get the colour/contrast where you will want them.
Let me know if you have any questions regarding all that :)

Cheers,
Steve.
 
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hotshoe

New member
Hi Steve,

Thanks for the thoughtful and detailed reply! : 0) I answered my own questions from pre-edited post so I edited out since answerable with little effort and I didn't want to have my first post on getdpi be lame (for lack of a little effort on my part). I love your journey of experimenting with different lenses and camera bodies, which is something I can all too well related to, and thanks for sharing your learnings because niche gear is not something that can easily be sold for small loss if not a good a fit.

Regarding the Rodie 55, the Cambo lens compat chart claims "restricted movement" for Leica L, Sigma, Panasonic. What limits have you run into on the FP using this lens, and any issues with focus to infinity or sensor clearance concerns? Regarding the color cast, have you tried LCC correction in CO? Other than the 19 PC, have you had any luck with wide lenses? And in terms of the 19, it seems odd to use on a tech camera (based on my noob understanding of this space) unless if only for the larger image circle that it provides.

Thanks again for sharing your insights!

-Roland.
 

stevev

Member
Hey Roland,

No worries! Yes, I saw that on the chart too, yet with the Rodie I was pleased to find that I could focus to infinity and shift the full 20mm in every direction. I have only tilted a few (1 or 2) degrees, but could probably tilt more if needed. So no real problems - just the grip getting in the way on the Z7 and S1R, but not of course on the fp L. I will have another look over the weekend to see if tilting more than a few degrees is an issue with that lens/body combination.

I did buy the LCC - Lens Cast Correction Tool (essentially two small plastic sheets) from Capture Integration, but haven't used them yet to correct the Rodie lens cast in Capture One Pro. I am capturing up to 9 shots as it is and I figured shooting another 9 would be a PITA, so I haven't got around to trying it yet. Often I am shooting those 9 shots with only a few minutes of good light - and often they are longer exposures. There is just no time to shoot another 9 sometimes. So instead I am creating a stitched DNG file in Lightroom and then using the Lens Correction panel in C1 Pro to adjust Light Falloff and Sharpness Falloff. That takes a few seconds. The colour issue I deal with in CS6. You could argue taking 18 shots would be quicker. Dunno.

The Mamiya 50mm when shifted 20mm left and right on a 36mm wide sensor produces a FOV the equivalent of a single shot taken with a 24mm lens (or thereabouts) on the same sensor. So that is reasonably wide already. That would be even wider on a GFX sensor I imagine. There is a 45mm F/4 Pentax 67 lens which you might be able to adapt to the Pentax 645 Cambo lens plate. That is not a strong performer on the edges though, if that matters to you. I did own a copy of that lens, but sold it on.

One reason why you might put the Nikkor 19mm on a Cambo Actus is that when you shift/rise/fall you are moving the camera and not the lens, so you avoid the parallax issues you would get if you shifted the lens. And that lens really shines with strong foreground subject matter that can be very close to the lens, so you want to avoid those issues. Cambo sell the Actar 19, a rehoused Nikkor 19mm lens, so they must think there is some demand for that lens on the Actus. If you didn't already have the Nikkor 19 you might consider getting the Actar 19, high price notwithstanding.

Hope that helps. Any other questions, please feel free to fire away :)

Cheers,
Steve.
 

stevev

Member
And if you haven't already considered using a Fotodiox TLT ROKR adapter, that is another option that lets you shift and tilt for only a few hundred bucks. I have the Pentax 67 and 645 versions and they work OK, but they don't address the parallax problem and you don't get the precision - especially when tilting - that the Actus offers. Of course you can slide the camera in your tripod head the opposite direction to your shifts, by the same amount...but the Actus is simple and elegant. And that comes at a price.
 

hotshoe

New member
... is that when you shift/rise/fall you are moving the camera and not the lens, so you avoid the parallax issues you would get if you shifted the lens.
Thanks again Steve. Regarding quoted, precisely, which is why I find it odd to put a PC-E lens on the Actus, unless for the larger image circle and for the glass itself, which sounds like might be the case. Just curious if I'm missing something. I agree shifting & stitching images with a 50 can be a a good way to achieve an effective wide fov at high resolution, if the situation allows. I'm already doing this quite frequently and is one of the reasons for my interest in a tech cam. My shooting style for landscapes/architecture is slow and purposeful, and I enjoy taking time to setup, compose, & shoot -- often times getting back from an afternoon of shooting with only a handful of images.

The FP/Actus solution sounds like a good yet cost effective option. I'm going to evaluate others options over the next week or two before making any purchasing decisions, but I found your post to be very helpful. Thank you! : -)

-Roland.
 

stevev

Member
My pleasure :)

Yes, you are right - it is the large image circle that makes it worth trying the 19mm (and any lens for that matter) on the Actus in the first place. Next is the no parallax benefit. The other benefit of using a tilt/shift lens on the Actus - for scenes that have no parallax issues - is that I can shift both the lens and the camera (in opposite directions of course), gaining more than the 12mm of shift that the lens itself offers. The image quality deteriorates quickly though and there is not much room left beyond that 12mm unfortunately.

I have to say that I love using the Actus, especially with the Mamiya lenses for best quality, and with the SW Nikkors for best portability. I get great enjoyment from the process itself, especially when the scene allows me to wind in some tilt - and I love the resolution and overall quality of the final stitched images.
 

hotshoe

New member
Very cool, and thank you again!! For the money, the FP/Actus G combo sounds hard to beat, esp. for someone who is already a fan of the FP, like myself.
 
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