As I mentioned in the review of the Caplio R1V a few weeks ago, Ricoh has recently launched a range of new cameras in an effort to regain something of the dominant market position it had in the late 1990s. At the top of its new range is this, the impressive 8.2 megapixel Caplio GX8. It is currently the most powerful compact digital camera we’ve seen, a full megapixel ahead of its nearest competition. At the time of this review, if you want more pixels than this you’ll have to buy a digital SLR costing over £3,000. Since the GX8 is available for £239.99 it has more shooting power per pound than pretty much anything else on the market.
The GX8 is a very high specification model, with a range of features designed to appeal to the creative photographer. Its key selling points, apart from its sheer pixel-power, are its 3x optical zoom, 28-85mm (35mm equivalent) lens and its high-speed performance. It is ready to take pictures in just 1.3 seconds from a cold start, and is equipped with a hybrid autofocus system that can lock onto a subject in one tenth of a second, virtually eliminating shutter lag. Its shot-to-shot times are equally impressive. In maximum resolution mode (3,264 x 2,448 pixels, fine mode) it can shoot at 1.7 second intervals until the memory card is full, and in high-speed burst mode it can shoot 16 frames in two seconds, displaying the results in a single image as a 4x4 grid - useful for analysing high-speed action such as sports performance. It also has a second burst mode that can capture three frames in a second. In 640 x 480 resolution mode it can keep this speed up until the card is full.
The GX8 is also compatible with a wide range of accessories, including a wide-angle adapter that increases its already impressive 28mm maximum to 22mm, ideal for landscape shots. An accessory adapter allows the camera to be attached to telescopes, spotting scopes or microscopes, plus there’s an external USB equipped cable release which would be useful for self-portraits as well as preventing camera shake during long exposures. Unusually for a compact camera the GX8 has a hot-shoe for attaching an external flashgun, which improves the flash range and recharge time. It has no metering connection, so a non-dedicated flash will be your safest bet. The GX8 also connects directly to a personal computer or a PictBridge printer with a USB connector, so stored pictures can be downloaded or printed with ease.
Despite the relatively low price for this specification, Ricoh has not compromised on build quality. The camera has a tough die-cast aluminium body with a scratch-resistant textured black finish, a large and comfortable rubberised handgrip and solidly mounted controls. The GX8 isn’t a particularly small camera, so it avoids the handling problems of some ultra-compact models.
Control layout is sensible and uncluttered, with the main adjustments – exposure compensation, white balance and ISO sensitivity – controlled by a single button separate from the main menu. In addition to this, menu options include multi-zone, centre-weighted and spot metering, adjustable sharpness and contrast, and four focusing modes; auto, snap, manual and infinity. In macro shooting mode a further option is available that allows you to position the focus target point anywhere in the frame, helpful for those close-up, tripod-mounted shots where the subject may not be in the centre of the frame. For normal hand-held shooting the camera has an AF lock function. Other exposure options include manual and aperture priority shooting, as well as a useful selection of scene modes.