Camera Obscure Huh? – Sigma DP3 Merrill

The Sigma DP3 Merrill was released in 2013 for a list price of $999. The camera uses the very unique Foveon 3 layer sensor with 45 million photo sensors, producing 15 megapixel images. Since each “pixel” in the image has the full color info from the 3 stacked sub-pixels, there is no need for any AA filter, or bayer mask requiring demosaicing. The DP Merrill cameras came in three versions, each with its own fixed focal length (DP1: 28mm DP2: 50mm and DP3: 75mm equivalent focal length lenses). Foveon cameras have an almost cult-like following, with claims of 3D-like images, magical colors, medium format quality, and razor sharp images…

Miniature Golf Shark
Miniature Golf Shark (click and expand to see the details)

I purchased my lightly used DP3 in 2019 from Adorama for $565 dollars, and the prices continue to hover around that amount today. While I am not a cult member, I can confirm that under the right conditions, the camera captures an exceptional amount of detail and great colors.

Fall Folliage
Fall Foliage
Flowers after rain
Flowers after rain

There are downsides to the camera that may deter some potential purchasers :

  • The Merrill cameras X3F images are not supported by Lightroom, and must be edited in Sigma Photo Pro and converted to tif before importing.
  • Images can be very noisy above iso 400, and you should probably stick to iso 100 where possible.
  • Getting a good exposure is critical, there is not much headroom to recover blown highlights, and you don’t want to underexpose too much.
  • The cameras are slow, with poor battery life… multiple batteries are needed to get through a day of shooting.
  • The images are very large (50mb raw, 80+mb 16bit tiff)

Iris on black background
Iris on black background

For me, the camera is for “special cases”. If you have a static subject, with lots of color and detail and good light, the camera will shine. The lens is very sharp, even at f/2.8. I don’t like to use the camera for regular “people shots” since the extreme sharpness can be a little harsh to skin.

Leaf Detail
Leaf Detail (with Nikon 6t Diopter)

As an owner of an old D800, i can confirm that the detail captured by the DP3 Merrill is very close to that cameras larger 36mp sensor, but the pixel level sharpness of the Sigma is sometimes mind-blowing. The default sharpening in Sigma Photo Pro may need to be dialed down at times. The lens is perfectly matched to the camera/sensor, an advantage of not having to support multiple lenses/bodies.

NYC Mural
NYC Mural

Because of the limitations of the camera, especially the need to stick to low iso settings and the battery life, I would not recommend the DP3-M as an everyday camera. It’s compact size make it easy to take along with other gear and when the situation is right, it really can capture some stunning images.

NYC Fire Escape
NYC Fire Escape

If you have the budget, and some patience, the Sigma Merrill cameras will still deliver some amazing images, over 7 years after their release. Sigma/Foveon fans have been patiently waiting for a new version of these special tools, but the current used prices would allow someone to purchase the camera, try it out, and decide to keep or resell it based on their results, without taking a severe hit to their wallets. I am glad I purchased the camera, and will be holding on to it unless a new magical replacement is ever released. – Sean

Summer in Vermont

We spent the first week of August in Burlington, VT for our family vacation. I was worried about the summer heat, but we got lucky and the weather was perfect. We spent our mornings hiking, kayaking, and biking, taking advantage of the cool lake breeze. Afternoons were spent having lunch outside, topped off with the occasional maple creemee and a well deserved pint for me.

On one of our slower days we took a trip to the Shelburne Museum which I highly recommend if you are in the area. The museum features many rescued relics from all over Vermont, including the Steamboat Ticonderoga, a covered bridge, and many historic buildings rescued and moved to the museum. One of my favorite exhibits was the General Store which was stocked to the brim with items you would see in a Sears Catalog from the 1800’s.

If you like beaches, you will enjoy North Beach Park. We rented our Kayaks there and explored the rocky shoreline around Lone Rock Point. If the kids were not with us, we probably would have spent a day at the beach relaxing.

The other big highlight of the trip was a 23 mile bike ride along the Burlington Greenway, across the Lake Champlain Causeway. We hopped on the Local Motion Bike Ferry to go to South Hero for lunch at The Hive Cafe. The rented bike I wound up with was not ideal, but there are only a few hills to navigate.

For photos, I brought along the Fujifilm X100V, Panasonic GX85 and the Fujifilm W3 3D. The X100V was a great camera for walking around with all day slung over my shoulder. I used the built in ND filter a few times, and later forgot that it was still on… I wish it turned off when the camera went to sleep.

The Panasonic GX85 is a great camera for action and telephoto shots. I used the 12-32mm pancake lens for shots like in the Kayak below. The woodpecker shot was taken with the Panasonic 100-300mm lens which has become my go-to lens for telephoto shots. I love the Micro 4/3rds system for the compact size and image stabilization… I just wish they would come out with a new updated bsi sensor with higher resolution.

Enjoy the photos and let me know if you have any questions! – Sean

Sunset on Lake Champlain, Fujifilm X100V
Sunset on Lake Champlain, Fujifilm X100V
Kayaking near North Beach Park, Panasonic GX85
Kayaking near North Beach Park, Panasonic GX85
Lake Champlain Navy Memorial, Fujifilm X100V
Lake Champlain Navy Memorial, Fujifilm X100V
Luggage aboard the Steamboat Ticonderoga at the Shelburne Museum, Fujifilm X100V
Luggage aboard the Steamboat Ticonderoga at the Shelburne Museum, Fujifilm X100V
Ticonderoga Life Preserver at the Shelburne Museum, Fujifilm X100V
Ticonderoga Life Preserver at the Shelburne Museum, Fujifilm X100V
Ye Olde Smokes, Shelburne Museum, Fujifilm X100V
Ye Olde Smokes, Shelburne Museum, Fujifilm X100V
Garden Statue, Shelburne Museum, Fujifilm X100V
Garden Statue, Shelburne Museum, Fujifilm X100V
Items at the General Store, Shelburne Museum, Fujifilm X100V
Items at the General Store, Shelburne Museum, Fujifilm X100V
More Items at the General Store, Shelburne Museum, Fujifilm X100V
More Items at the General Store, Shelburne Museum, Fujifilm X100V
Even More Items at the General Store, Shelburne Museum, Fujifilm X100V
Even More Items at the General Store, Shelburne Museum, Fujifilm X100V
Old Barn Door Latch, Shelburne Museum, Fujifilm X100V
Old Barn Door Latch, Shelburne Museum, Fujifilm X100V
Hummingbird Mural, Downtown Burlington, Fujifilm X100V
Hummingbird Mural, Downtown Burlington, Fujifilm X100V
Woodpecker at Red Rocks Park, Panasonic GX85
Woodpecker at Red Rocks Park, Panasonic GX85

Camera Obscure Huh? – Fujifilm Finepix Real 3d W3

FujiFilm W3 3D
FujiFilm W3 3D

FujiFilm released the Finepix W3 3D in 2010. I purchased my camera in 2014 on Amazon for $190 as a brand new import from Japan. The 3D TV craze had pretty much died by then, and while according to WikiPedia, the camera initially sold well, it was eventually discontinued and a FujiFilm never released a follow up model. While there have been various cameras with 3D capability since then, like the Lenovo Mirage and the Vuze XR 3D VR nothing has really surpassed the FujiFilm camera for 3D photography in my opinion.

First, let me start off by talking about why a camera made in 2010 is not ideal…

  • It features 2 tiny 10 megapixel sensors, that are very bad in low light, and have very bad dynamic range (blown highlights are common)
  • The battery life is very bad… i have 3 batteries, and I usually bring them all when I take the camera out.
  • The autofocus is slow and inaccurate, the auto white balance is bad, and the exposure controls are not intuitive.
  • Due to the placement of the lenses, you have to try really hard not to get your fingers in the way.
  • The built in flash is positioned in the worst possible place, and is basically unusable.

Summary: The camera is not good in any kind of way you would expect a modern camera to be. But… it does do the following :

  • It takes 2 photos at exactly the same time, with lenses spaced at about the same distance as the human eyes, in a form factor that easily slips into a coat pocket or bag.
  • It actually has an LCD that can display the images in 3D!
W3 3D Rear View
W3 3D Rear View

Ok, so we have a camera that takes 3d Pictures. The images are in a format called MPO. You can read about MPO files here, but it is basically 2 jpeg images (left and right) imbedded in a single file. In fact, if you rename an .MPO file to .jpg, you can import it into Lightroom, and view them in your catalog, but you will only see the left image. Since Lightroom will not modify your original files, you can always rename it back to .MPO if needed.

When taking 3D photos, you want at least 6 to 10 feet of distance between you and your subject. Try to keep distracting objects like tree branches out of the foreground. You want to have some separation between your subject and the background to create a greater feeling of depth. Finally, keep your fingers off of the lenses!

After you take the picture what do you do with it? How do you share it? How can you see it in 3D without using the camera?

Step 1. Download StereoPhoto Maker at : https://stereo.jpn.org/eng/stphmkr/

Step 2. Watch a bunch of YouTube Videos : https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=stereophoto+maker

Step 3. Spend a lot of time figuring out what method works best for you!

You can download this original MPO image to play with : dustandrust.com/images/DSCF8586.MPO

The simplest way to share 3D images is the old wiggle-gif :

Skull at La Brea Tar Pit
Skull at La Brea Tar Pit, FujiFilm 3D W3, 2019

Another option is to go back to 1950’s technology with these old school 3d glasses and create an anaglyph image :

Skull at La Brea Tar Pit - Anaglyph
La Brea Tarpit Skull – Red/Cyan 3D Anaglyph (Glasses Required for 3D effect)

StereoPhoto Maker also lets you create Lenticular Images! Basically you buy some Stereo Lenticular lenses from a company like Vue-Thru. I purchased these 5×7 lenses. To make a long story short, this requires a lot of trial and error. Lenticular works better with more than 2 images, and while it might work ok for some stereo images, it works best if you have 7 or 8 images created using depth maps… too much to discuss here.

So where does that leave us. I present you with the best way, in my opinion, to view the images created with this camera. A technology so old, it was all the rage during the 1800’s :

Owl Viewer and Stereo Cards
Owl Viewer and Stereo Cards

StereoPhoto Maker lets you easily print Stereograph Cards, and all you need is a viewer like Brian May’s (yes the guitar player from Queen!) Owl Viewer. Brain May is a very interesting guy. He has a website dedicated to stereo photography : LondonStereo.com. Check out some of his books on Amazon.

Here are some more 3D related links you may Interesting :

In summary, the FujiFilm 3D W3 is not a camera for everyone. There are other options… but over 10 years later, it is still a viable and popular option for digital 3D photographers to consider. A message to FujiFilm : Please make us an updated version… I promise we will buy it!

A photo blog by Sean Unruh