Taking the photography world by storm, (actually, the video world) Sigma debuted their first and only full-frame camera body back in July of 2019. It seems like ages ago, however, we’ve spent many months working with the Sigma FP over the past year-plus, and we’re excited to bring you our review of this promising, albeit specialty, quirky, product.
Indeed, the Sigma FP is not your average full-frame mirrorless camera. It is unmistakably more like a miniature cinema camera, with a very compact, boxy design, and overall ergonomics that are clearly designed for the camera to be operated as part of a “video rig”.
The highlight is one simple fact: gorgeous image quality for both photo and video, thanks to the universal DNG raw file format that both stills and RAW video are recorded in, and the truly incredible 24-megapixel BSI, dual-ISO, CMOS sensor.
(Yes, that’s right, this camera’s RAW 4K video capability saves individual frames as GND files in 4K resolution. This means you can “color grade” your video footage in Lightroom as if it were any other raw image workflow!)
Other than that, the Sigma FP is pretty minimalistic as a camera. There is no electronic viewfinder, and the rear LCD does not articulate. Indeed, for maximum utility of this camera, you will probably want to invest in an external monitor and/or recorder.
For those who want to record raw video as Cinema DNG files in 12-bit, you can do so via an external recorder, too, at up to UHD 4K30p, or FHD at 120 FPS.
If you’re looking for a truly pocket-sized full-frame mirrorless camera, one that focuses on quality video footage and “gets the job done” in terms of still photos, you should definitely consider the Sigma FP. It is one of the most affordable ways to record video in RAW, period, and even after 1.5 years on the market, it is still one of the only full-frame cameras that can record any type of RAW video internally!
Is it perfect? No, in fact, there are a handful of things we would love to see improved, either in a firmware update or in a next-generation camera. Still, the FP shows tons of promise, and could be precisely the type of camera you were hoping to see on the full-frame mirrorless market!
Sigma FP Specifications
- SENSOR: Full-frame, back-illuminated, (Bayer pattern) 24 megapixel CMOS sensor
- LENS MOUNT: Leica L-mount (full-frame)
- STILL IMAGES: 6000 x 4000 JPG & DNG raw, 14-bit
- VIDEO (INTERNAL): H.264
4K UHD (3840 x 2160) at 23.976p/25p/29.97p)
Full HD (1920 x 1080) at 23.976p/25p/29.97p/59.94p/100p/119.88p
- VIDEO (EXTERNAL): 4:2:2 12-Bit
UHD 4K (3840 x 2160) at 23.976p/25p/29.97p
Full HD (1920 x 1080) at 23.976p/25p/29.97p/50p/59.94p/100p/120p
- ISO: 100-25600Dual ISO (100 & 3200)
- AUTOFOCUS: Contrast-Detection AF system, 49-point
- SHOOTING SPEED (FPS): 12 FPS continuous, 18 FPS burst
- SHUTTER SPEEDS: 30 sec to 1/8000 sec & bulb mode, fully electronic shutter
- METERING RANGE: -5 EV to 18 EV
- STABILIZATION: No
- VIEWFINDER: No
- LCD: Fixed, 3.15-inch, 2.1M dot touchscreen LCD
- CONNECTIVITY: HDMI D (Micro), USB Type-C (USB 3.0)
- STORAGE: Single Slot, SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-II)
- BATTERY: Sigma BP-51 Lithium-Ion, 7.2 V, 1200 mAh
- BODY CONSTRUCTION: Metal, weather-sealed
- SIZE: 4.43 x 2.75 x 1.78 in. (112.6 x 69.9 x 45.3 mm)
- WEIGHT: 14.89 oz / 422 g (w/ battery and SD card)
- PRICE: $1,899 (B&H | Adorama | Amazon)
Sigma FP 4K RAW Sample Footage Demo Reel
The above video was made entirely on the Sigma FP using 4K RAW DNG internal recording. All of the video clips were batch-processed in Adobe Lightroom Classic.
Sigma FP Review | Who Should Buy It?
Let’s cut right to the chase here: The Sigma FP is a very specialized, but highly capable, video-centric camera. In other words, if you don’t shoot video, then right off the bat, the FP is simply not going to be very friendly or attractive to you. From the actual features and specs to the physical interface, this camera is made to serve one main purpose: capture very high-quality video.
With that in mind, this entire “who should buy it?” section is going to be aimed at videographers. Of course, if you’re just looking for a truly TINY, ultra-portable full-frame camera, but you do focus more on stills or time-lapse work than video, you can still consider the FP! More adventurous types of landscape photographers, for example, might really appreciate that the Sigma FP is not only the smallest and lightest full-frame camera body on the market but is also still weather-sealed with a metal frame!
If you’re an aspiring movie-maker/filmmaker/cinematographer, then the Sigma FP could be your gateway to quite literally making your first film! From the physical user experience and features, (remember, you’re definitely going to want to use some sort of external monitor, and use the camera on a gimbal or other support “rig” system!) …to the video image quality itself, the FP is ready to produce a Hollywood/Sundance-quality film, on an extreme budget.
Wedding & Portrait Videographers
If you’re a working wedding videographer, you probably want a little more versatility in your setup. The Sigma FP might be right for you, if you’re approaching your wedding jobs as a cinematographer, who always takes the extra time to set up a slider, and manage your rig’s accessories like an external monitor and a full audio setup, however, most wedding video shooters are going to want a more versatile system, with face/eye-tracking autofocus, in-body stabilization, dual card slots, and of course a massive array of lenses that fit any and every price range.
In short, it’s likely that the Sigma FP might be a little too niche for what you do, and a Sony or Panasonic video system might work better, however, the Sigma FP is still a winner if you value image quality more than a beginner-friendly, versatile user experience.
Vloggers & Youtubers
If you’re going to be making Youtube videos, you probably fall into one of these two categories: The vlogger who uses a GoPro, phone, or another compact, portable camera to create truly “homemade” content, or, of course, the vlogger who is into creating cinematic masterpieces with high-end gear, even if it’s just your review of the latest fancy coffee beans you just tried.
In other words, if you’re a more casual, simple vlogger, then the Sigma FP is at the wrong end of the spectrum for you, but if you love quality output, and you actually love the process of filmmaking, period, then the Sigma might just offer a delightful spark of creativity that inspires you to obsess over things like “shutter angle”…
Action Sports & Wildlife Videographers
If you’re making video of anything high-speed, then you have to ask yourself two questions: First, do you need extremely reliable, class-leading autofocus that can track subjects like glue? If so, then Sony should be your first choice, plus Canon and Nikon are now offering solid choices as well, with reliable face, eye, and wildlife/animal detection & tracking modes, even when shooting video.
Second: Do you need a lot of options with extremely high frame rates? You won’t get 4K 60p out of the FP, and to get to 120p (119.88p) RAW video you’ll still have to use an external recorder.
Having said that, there are plenty of wildilfe/nature scenarios where the Sigma FP will still perform amazingly well! (See the above full-length Youtube demo reel for more!)
The bottom line is this: with a max 4K framerate of 30p, (29.97p) and “average” or “decent” autofocus tracking capabilities, the FP may not be a high-speed or slow-motion video camera, but it sure delivers beautiful results if you can make it work for you.
Landscape & Time-Lapse Photo/Video
Last but not least, here is where the Sigma FP can really and truly shine: Situations where 30p is plenty, autofocus demands are not extreme, and of course, where image quality is everything.
If you’re making nature videos of landscape scenes, and especially if you’re mixing video, photo, and time-lapse work within the same final content, the Sigma FP is a dream camera because of its universal DNG file format for everything. You can capture 30p video of a scene one second, and then switch to time-lapse the next, …and edit the files exactly the same way in Adobe Lightroom and LRTimelapse! It truly is a beautiful thing…
It is also a refreshing comfort to know that the FP is also weather-sealed, and the whole frame of the camera is a solid-feeling “block” of metal! Most full-frame mirrorless cameras only seem to get bigger and heavier as they get better and better weather-sealing. (Looking at you, Sony!)
If you’re a wilderness adventure time-lapse photographer, pair the Sigma FP with an external dummy battery that you can charge via solar power, and you’ve got one of the most ultralight full-frame kits available for landscape video+time-lapse.
Sigma FP Review | Pros & Cons
There’s a lot to love, and if you want what the Sigma FP offers, I would recommend it without hesitation. However, a few minor things are either just plain quirky or downright limiting, and depending on what type of video you want to capture, I might recommend either going with a different option or, quite honestly, that you wait and see what a “mark 2” version offers if I didn’t immediately need this type of camera!
- Impressive still image quality
- Impressive video image quality
- Rugged physical build quality
- Excellent (and silent) heat dissipation among raw-capable video cameras
- Lightest & smallest full-frame camera body available
- Numerous highly unique video features/tech (shutter angle, waveform
- Extremely versatile L-mount lens arsenal (Sigma, Panasonic, Leica)
- Versatile, powerful external recording options (USB-C & HDMI)
- DNG raw video is an interesting take on RAW, resulting in “color grading” familiar to Lightroom users
- Incredible value for RAW video shooters
- No articulated LCD display, no EVF
- Minimal physical controls
- Interface & menus could be more user-friendly
- Battery life not very impressive, charges slowly via USB-C, not USB-PD
- Battery/camera cannot operate directly from USB power (dummy battery required)
- Battery life meter not available as a percentage
- ISO not displayed at all in some situations, only displayed after exposure is locked in “Auto ISO”
- Cannot dedicate a physical button to change ISO (It’s in the “Quick Menu”)
- For a “rig” style camera that is supposed to be all about external output recording, a medium or full-sized HDMI cable would have been preferred
Image quality can be summed up very easily: This 24-megapixel sensor is on par with all the other full-frame 24-megapixel sensors out there. That is to say, it is incredible. Whether you’re shooting at ISO 100 or ISO 10,000, you’ll be pleased with the raw images’ dynamic range, low noise, and colors. There is no horrible color cast or banding pattern to be revealed when you “dig deep” into the shadows.
In terms of video image quality, the full-sensor width 4K frames are beautifully detailed whether shooting RAW, or another format. Dynamic range and colors are truly impressive and versatile as well.
Again, we cannot overstate the bonus that is DND video frame editing. For anyone who has photography experience in Lightroom or another raw editing software, the editing of video frames from the Sigma FP will feel second-nature compared to the advanced skill (and high-powered software, and high-powered computer) required to process those raw video files.
AF is quite impressive, more than adequate for most subjects. However, when the action gets truly high-speed and/or erratic, the acquiring and tracking of subjects does leave a little to be desired, compared to, say, a Sony A7S III or a Canon EOS R5.
The question is, to all you amateur movie makers out there: are you even trusting an AF system, or are you “pulling focus” manually?
The overall responsiveness and speed of the camera is actually quite impressive. From the obvious speed-related specs such as the FPS and the shooting/shutter lag times to the quickness of menu browsing and changing settings, the camera does feel snappy and professional.
For video shooters in particular, we have to give a huge nod to the overall category of “performance” because of the sheer versatility of the camera, but we’ll talk more about that when it comes to features & customizations, next.
Features & Customizations
The Sigma FP feature set is truly unique among most cameras in its price range, and even among all full-frame mirrorless cameras. Waveform, the “histogram of video”, is a delightful feature to have, and the ability to set a shutter angle, instead of a shutter speed, makes it much more intuitive to change your camera’s video framerate without worrying about sub-optimal shutter speeds.
Additionally, there are numerous subtleties that make the camera both professionally capable, and fun to shoot with. There are in-camera curves adjustments for highlight and shadow management of (non-raw) video files, and very versatile zebra exposure monitoring/warning.
In terms of customization, though, there is a little (well, maybe quite a bit) left to be desired. Right off the bat, I discovered that I couldn’t reprogram any of the buttons to control ISO, I had to go into the quick menu to do that. Having said that, the “QS” button itself winds up being the de facto ISO button, and it’s not that bad unless you frequently need to change a lot of the other quick menu settings.
Honestly, there’s just not as many buttons on the camera, period, to be customized. Compared to a Sony A7-series, with four “C” buttons and nearly full customizability of quite a few other buttons, or even the Canon and Nikon button customizability, …the Sigma FP feels like there’s not much real customization you can do.
Having said that, there is extensive customizability built into the video features themselves. Physically, there are buttons dedicated to TONE and COLOR. In the menus, you’ll find extensive customizations for things like zebra stripes and focus peaking.
Oh, and for those who do shoot both stills and video, the FP offers quite a few separate customizable settings so that when you flip that convenient, simple switch from “CINE” to “STILL”, you don’t have to take still photos with some of those more specialized video-centric customizations dialed in.
Battery Life & Charging
One area where the Sigma FP could unquestionably be improved is, the battery life and charging/power protocol. Unfortunately, with a mid-2019 release, direct USB power, or the USB-PD protocol, were not yet par for the course, and are absent from the Sigma FP.
The battery life on the FP is just barely good enough that you’re not swapping batteries incessantly unless, of course, you’re shooting 4K RAW video and have the LCD brightness turned all the way up in bright sunlight.
Either way, we highly recommend that all-day shooters get a dummy battery so that they can plug their FP into an external battery pack, and not worry about swapping batteries on a camera rig.
It would have been nice, though, if the FP could have been directly powered via its USB-C port. Now that USB-PD is becoming more common, maybe there will be adequate enough power in that new standard to fuel the camera’s energy consumption needs even when shooting 4K RAW video. Hopefully, we’ll find out in a “Sigma FP mk2”!
Design & Durability
We can’t knock the camera for missing a big grippy grip and a plethora of customizable buttons, or an EVF, and ignore the fact that we’re also praising the camera for being the smallest and lightest full-frame mirrorless camera that still has extremely rugged physical construction.
In other words, you probably already know whether the FP’s design and ergonomics are what you’re looking for, or at least you would know after spending just a short time holding and working with the camera.
As far as 4K RAW-capable video cameras are concerned, the Sigma FP is an incredible value, period. If you want the look that a full-frame sensor (and fast aperture lenses) can provide, there is no competitor in this price range that offers as diverse an output.
Sigma FP Review | Compared To The Competition
It would take numerous articles just to list the different specifications between all the great video-capable and video-oriented cameras out there, so we’ll skip the exact side-by-side comparisons of all the framerates, bitrates, and other video specs. Suffice it to say, the Sifma FP has one of the most extensive video capabilities around, if you include external recording options. It’s not a speed demon, but it sure is an overall image/video quality champion.
Instead, we’re going to focus on the individual advantages and disadvantages of the Sigma FP, and help you decide which camera is right for you based on real-world factors of usefulness and practicality.
With that in mind, first and foremost, if you’re looking for a camera that you can raise to your eye, look through a viewfinder, and work with like it’s a “photography camera”, then the FP is going to be hard to recommend compared to any of the similarly priced full-frame mirrorless cameras from Sony, Nikon, Canon, and Panasonic. They’re all much better cameras for general photography.
So, what if you do shoot mostly video, and care more about video quality than things like autofocus speed, or even “video speed”, AKA framerate? Well, the Sigma FP quickly becomes an attractive option, considering its price and the 4K RAW spec, let alone the plethora of additional video specs when recording externally. By comparison, two of the hot new full-frame cameras from 2020 that can capture 4K RAW video, the Canon EOS R5 and the Sony A7S III, cost ~$3,900 and ~$3,500, respectively.
If you’re getting into any sort of filmmaking, then you could buy TWO FP cameras for about the same price as the Canon or the Sony. (Oh, and the Panasonic S1H is $4,000)
Honestly, though? Remember, also, that truly high-end video cameras can cost tens of thousands of dollars, and/or be truly enormous cameras. The fact that you’d even think of comparing the $1,900, 422g FP against a Canon C-series cinema camera, or let alone a RED, is testament enough to what an attractive value the Sigma offers.
Sigma FP Review | Conclusion
What’s the bottom line here? It’s the simple fact that the Sigma FP is one of the most promising video-oriented cameras we have ever come across. For 4K RAW, it’s easy to love Sigma’s DNG approach. For any serious video shooter, even if you don’t need raw options, it is easy to appreciate Sigma’s unique features that allow the camera to behave more like a very high-end filmmaking tool.
Indeed, the FP has enough quirks and drawbacks that we’re excited to see what comes next, but the fact that we’re dying to see what Sigma replaces the FP with should tell you everything you need to know about how capable this first-generation camera is. With an external monitor, and/or an external recording device, the FP becomes a truly high-end, even exotic, professional video tool. It shows a lot of promise, and is indeed already well worth the investment.
Check Pricing & Availability
The Sigma FP is available for $1,899 (and is often on sale for $1,799, by the way) as a body-only, or for $2,199 as a kit with the Sigma 45mm f/2.8 DG DN Contemporary.