Recently, I had a chance to experiment with the SIGMA fp L camera at my home in Georgia and while I was preparing for a macro photography class at the Philadelphia Flower Show, and WOW do I ever have a lot of feelings about this tiny beast! When I say tiny beast, I mean it!
Getting Acquainted with the SIGMA fp L
The SIGMA fp L the world’s smallest and lightest full-frame mirrorless camera. Since it features a completely electronic shutter, that means it’s absolutely silent (if you turn off the sound, of course). As a macro photographer, I liked this a lot because it doesn’t scare away little critters like lizards or bugs with a loud clicking noise. The fp L is also a huge 61 megapixels, so it makes for big files for big prints, plus I can crop in at 100% for even closer macro details and still get good images out of it.
The controls are easy, the buttons can be programmed, and I could easily set it up how I like with back button focus. The focusing system itself is very robust for such a small camera. It’s incredibly fast with the SIGMA 105mm F2.8 DG DN Macro | Art lens, and had zero trouble finding the eye on the lizards I was taking pictures of. Of course it helps that this 105mm lens is one of the fastest focusing macro lenses ever made for any camera, but the software that drives it has to be quick too, which the fp L has covered.
I also love that it’s weather sealed! I live in Georgia, so the humidity or a surprise rain shower is nothing to this little-but-powerful camera, making it the perfect lightweight hiking buddy.
If you’ve read my other reviews for SIGMA, you might remember that I am a little bit of a klutz. I think I’ve dropped every lens that I own (and some loaners that I don’t own) in the grass at some point. I now change my lenses sitting down so they have less room to fall. This camera’s durability was definitely tested in Heather fashion, because I sat on it. No, really. I was trying to get down to eye level with a lizard, and managed to slip in the mud, turn my ankle underneath me, and sit directly down on the entire camera. I got myself a nice little pointy bruise on my hip, but the camera was none the worse for wear. I simply wiped the mud off of it and kept going.
SIGMA also let me test out the 1.4x (TC-1411) and 2x (TC-2011) teleconverters for L-mount with this camera. Holy wow am I ever impressed with those! These are utterly solid add-ons for any lens. Instead of an extension tube, which is just empty air in the middle of the tube, these babies have an actual magnifying glass in there. It was amazing how much more detail I could see with them on the camera. I was able to use the autofocus on the camera along with these teleconverters, making them seamless with the rest of the SIGMA fp L experience.
A Truly Small and Light Macro Combo
So now let me talk about weight. I am not a muscular person. I’m 6 feet tall, so I’ve never been called “dainty”, but I also physically cannot haul around 20+ pounds of gear and not be utterly exhausted later. When I go out for a macro photography walk, I usually stay out about 4-5 hours or so in the morning. It’s Georgia, so it’s 90 degrees by the time I’m ready to stop at around noon in the summer. It’s humid, it’s hot, and I don’t enjoy making that combination worse by trekking along with my entire gear kit. Lightweight and sweaty hands-free is the name of the game for me.
The SIGMA fp L camera and 105mm F2.8 DG DN Macro | Art lens combination was so small and light in my Spider Holster that each morning felt like an effortless stroll instead of a slog through the pea-soup humidity here. Not only is the fp L and 105mm Macro Art lens combination lightweight to begin with, but with it off of my neck and at my hip instead, the walk is even more enjoyable. I walked around with nothing in my hands! Such freedom. Extra batteries and cards in my pockets, and the teleconverters in a lens pouch on the holster, and the entire thing was less than two pounds. I probably could have just worn it messenger style on a cross-body strap and felt nothing on my shoulder.
The additional HG-11 handgrip makes it even easier to handle. I have big hands and long fingers and it was very compact yet comfortable for me to use (but there’s a bigger HG-21 for meatier hands). If you miss having a viewfinder (the screen works just fine for me), you can easily attach the EVF-11 electronic viewfinder, which is available bundled with the SIGMA fp L.
I trucked the fp L and 105mm combo around my yard, the local Georgia State Botanical Gardens, and then I traveled with it to the Philadelphia Flower Show. During the flower show, the weight and heat was even more of a factor as the show was held outdoors for the first time in its hundred-year history, and Philadelphia was in the grip of a record heat wave at the time. The day before the show officially began, I toured the gardens under a blazing sun, wearing the SIGMA fp L on my Spider Holster for the entire day. I drank five bottles of water, got 20,000 steps, and I was VERY thankful for my sunscreen, but at least I wasn’t sore at the end from carrying around heavy gear all day.
Excellent Image Quality and Smooth Post Processing
As a macro photographer, my love is in the tiniest of details. The image quality from the SIGMA fp L camera is so stunning and so sharp that I found myself challenged to keep getting the tiniest bit closer and turning up my aperture. This meant turning up the ISO, which the fp L handles with ease! I kept expecting to see a lot of noise in the background with higher ISOs, but none of that seem to happen with these images. It was amazingly wonderful to just be able to focus on getting closer and closer to my subjects and not have to worry about how crunchy the photos would be later. This is certainly not to say that the final images are in any way soft, except in the buttery bokeh behind the subject. Each image has amazed me with its sharpness on the areas of the image that I wanted to be sharp. The hairs on a bee, its legs covered in grains of pollen that you can see individually. It was all stunningly sharp and real in the final images.
The bokeh produced by the fp L and 105mm F2.8 DG DN Macro | Art is definitely something that I wanted to address. When I first started pulling images off the cards I was struck by how smooth the colors are in the background of each of my images. I am really super impressed with the amount of color blending behind the subject in each of these. No matter what I took a picture of, the background colors and the way they blended into each other with the light was astonishingly beautiful. It’s not noisy in any way, and it doesn’t get crunchier with post processing. I was absolutely blown away by the quality of each image and the smoothness that I saw. Even at higher f-stops, it remains gorgeously un-sharp in the background of each image, making sure that the viewer’s attention is on nothing but the subject!
Another thing that made me super excited about the fp L camera is its rendition of color. I had no trouble with the hottest of hot pink or light purple flowers, which can be troublesome on other cameras. The fp L rendered them all perfectly, and I love that I didn’t have to spend more time in post processing fixing those colors.
Macro with the SIGMA fp L – Overall Impressions
Overall, I’d say the SIGMA fp L camera is an utterly perfect camera for someone wanting to carry something lightweight and small, yet still get stunning final images with amazing bokeh and color. If you are looking to not be completely wrecked carting around tons of gear on a photography walk, give this camera your full attention and you’ll love it.