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Ricoh GXR review




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Whether you call them “interchangeable lens cameras”, “mirrorless system cameras”, or my current favourite “compact system cameras”, a new type of camera was born with the launch of the Panasonic Lumix G1 in 2008. Olympus joined in early last year with its popular Pen E-P1, and this year Samsung and Sony have both jumped on the bandwagon. However they will have found to their consternation that Ricoh was already there, having launched its innovative but rather strange GXR system in November last year.

Although it has a tiny share of the market compared to the likes of Panaonic, Sony and Samsung, Ricoh has always been one of the great innovators of the digital camera industry, coming up with a number of ideas which other companies have copied and taken on to commercial success. However while long-zoom compacts with wide-angle lenses have proved to be a big hit, whether the GXR concept will become as popular remains to be seen. While the other manufacturers have adapted the traditional SLR system of lens mounts and interchangeable lenses, the GXR has a unique modular design, with the lens and sensor combined as a removable, interchangeable unit. Ricoh has reasons for doing this, and to be honest they are good ones, but while there are some advantages to doing it this way, there are also disadvantages.

Ricoh claims that by having the lens and sensor in a combined unit it avoids certain optical compromises that have to be made with an interchangeable lens and mount design, allowing each lens to be matched to a sensor that can be optimised to suit its optical properties. It also avoids a problem that plagues all interchangeable-lens digital camera designs, that of dust getting on the exposed sensor when the lens is removed. It also saves a bit of weight and bulk by eliminating the mount. The major disadvantage is that the lens/sensor component is much more expensive than a corresponding lens for another system. It is also potentially larger and heavier.


August 23, 2010, 7:59 pm

I actually really like the principle of this camera. The idea of having a compact camera that can switch from being a versatile super zoom with a smaller sensor for general photography to a fast 50mm (or indeed 70-100mm) for portraits/arty shots while having the total package still be very compact appeals greatly. It would certainly be an interesting alternative to carrying around an SLR with a couple of fast lenses (24-70, 70-200) or a super zoom lens and a prime. Sadly Ricoh doesn't seem to have got the balance right. Hopefully the company will have the chance to give it a second go.


August 23, 2010, 8:53 pm

@Cliff - Are all shots taken from the P10 lens?


August 23, 2010, 10:05 pm

I'd like to see what gets a 1 or a 2 out of 10 for value.


August 23, 2010, 10:16 pm

I suppose by changing the sensor size, they can keep the total package a compact size, whilst giving the choice of big sensor + prime or small sensor + zoom. For the money though, I'd rather get a NEX-5 or G2 - they're small enough whilst giving the benefit all the time of a large sensor. Otherwise, something like a TZ will give you all the versatility you need, in a very cheap, compact package (though I guess won'd give the dof or low-light abilities). People are used to investing in lenses, as although expensive they can be used over several generations of cameras. Whereas integrating them with fast-obsoleting electronics could seem like poor value in the long run.


August 24, 2010, 4:20 am

The concept is commercially crippled from the start by disallowing the interchange of the lens as well as sensor. One way of adding value would be to market a Foveon module, alhough commercially that would still be trying to make the best of a bad job. Ricoh should be getting in bed with Foveon anyway.

Cliff Smith

August 25, 2010, 2:55 pm

joose - Yes, that's the only lens unit that was supplied with my review sample. I'd like to see what sort of image quality the 12.3MP 50mm APS-C lens unit can produce, but at £500 it's still very poor value for money.

jopey - No, you really wouldn't.

Matt - Correct on all points.

Hedgeporker - An interesting idea, but Foveon is owned by Sigma now, so that's unlikely to happen.


September 2, 2010, 12:39 am

I used to own one of the very first film based superzoom/bridge camera in the form of a Ricoh Murai so I was expecting great things from the digital equivalent; but reading all the reviews available in the photographic press the Ricoh GXR comes out as an overly expensive rubbish system, irrespective of the sensor/lens combination.

Ricoh must have spent tens of thousands developing what should be a class leading camera system. Somewhere along the way they saw fit to hamper it with the full range of underdeveloped and incapable software, tiny noisy and inadequate sensors coupled to milk-bottle bottom lenses.

All of which produces results that are no match to Ricoh's own compact cameras. One wonders just where all the money was spent; it cannot all have gone on fitting two metal rails into a hollowed out GR body, or the sensor/lens connectors with their protective caps!.

Stir in a lens focus system which might or might not produce a sharp result...sometime, even in ideal conditions. The final system really has nothing going for it; for either entry level or creative photographer searching for a flexible lightweight alternative to their DSLR.

A quick study of the Ricoh CX3 or GR shows where this camera should be in terms of quality and ability. I so wanted the Ricoh GXR to be a step up from my Olympus 510 but the quality of pictures and cost involved mean the GXR is a photographic cul de sac. Ideally this camera should be finished in LEMON YELLOW with BLACK BANDS to warn off potential purchasers.

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