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Camera manufacturer Sigma has released an open letter today that explains the delay with their long-awaited DP-1 camera. The camera was announced with much fanfare at the 2006 Photokina show, but nothing further was heard from the company after that. Now, they have issued an update that explains the delay: It seems that the issue lies with the quality of the images that the camera (based on the Foveon X3 chip) produces. Sigma CEO Kazuto Yamaki claims that the "the image processing pipeline we had developed for the DP1 was not ideal for achieving the best image quality...we had a choice between compromising image quality and moving forward or taking a different path. After long and sometimes intense discussions, we finally decided to change the entire image processing pipeline.". This process involves a fundamental redesign of the camera, which could take some time. Yamaki did not comment on how long this redesign might take beyond saying that "we know that many people would like to know when the DP1 will be available for sale, we honestly cannot say at the moment.. Also, we feel that it is much more important to get it right than release it early."
The full statement is below.
"Dear Valued Customers,
Over one year has passed since we announced the DP1 and showed the first concept prototype at Photokina 2006. At the following PMA in March, 2007, we showed some redesigned engineering samples of the DP1. Since then, we have not made any announcements on the DP1. I apologize for this lack of information, and I would like to give you an update on the development status of the DP1 now.
After PMA, we reached the pre-beta product development stage early in the summer. During this pre-beta work, we tried to optimize the image quality, but we found it was difficult to achieve image quality as good as in our other SD cameras. The images looked okay, but they clearly did not have the special image qualities that we see in our SD cameras: delicate, refined and 3-dimensional images rendered in fine detail. After a careful evaluation, we found that the image processing pipeline we had developed for the DP1 was not ideal for achieving the best image quality as it was intended for the faster image processing speed, and we needed to make major revisions to it. At that time we had a choice between compromising image quality and moving forward or taking a different path. After long and sometimes intense discussions, we finally decided to change the entire image processing pipeline.
When we decided to change the entire image processing pipeline, we also decided to return to the simple and original product concept of 'a camera with the best still image quality in a compact body' and dedicate all of our DP1 development resources to that concept. Because of this change, we had to change some of the specifications that we had announced. (An official announcement with the final specifications will be made at the appropriate time.) However, as far as I can judge from what I see in the current version of the DP1, I am convinced that the camera is moving in the right direction now.
I would like to inform our community of loyal and prospective users that we have now started the next major phase leading towards production. At the beginning of November, we began alpha testing of what we feel will be the final design. Unless we encounter serious unforeseen problems, we now think that the following development steps will progress well.
We are very aware of the many discussions in the Internet about the length of time we are spending on the development of the DP1. We have also read about the disappointment of many prospective users who wanted this camera very soon after the announcement. Although we know that many people would like to know when the DP1 will be available for sale, we honestly cannot say at the moment. Much will depend on how smoothly the next development steps go. Also, we feel that it is much more important to get it right than release it early.
We have also noted the many different ways people want to be able to use the DP1. This is heartening. However, we hope that prospective users look carefully at the finished product in light of how they intend to use it. Like our previous digital cameras, this will be a tool for photographers who value excellent image quality above all else – this time in a smaller package. It will also be a good camera for people who would like to see this quality in their own results. And, finally, we are also sure that creative users will find many uses for the DP1 that we have not even thought of.
Again, I deeply apologize for the length of the time you have been holding out for the DP1 and appreciate your patience very much. I know it is difficult for some of you to wait a little more time, but we’re working very hard to deliver a camera that we think will be worth the wait.
Thank you very much.
Chief Operating Officer