The overall style of the GX100 is very functional, with the same uncompromising box-like rectangular body shape as the GR Digital. Naturally for such a versatile camera, there are a lot of controls dotted about its body, but thanks to a sensible layout and the camera’s relatively long, thin body it manages to avoid being cluttered and there is plenty of room on the back for a large thumb grip, with a rubberised texture also covering the large front handgrip. As well as the usual D-pad and mode dial, the GX100 also has an SLR-style data wheel just in front of the shutter button, and a sprung rocker lever on the back, which provide a very quick and simple way of entering exposure adjustments in manual mode. The rocker lever has a dual function, because when pressed in it activates a quick function menu with up to four options that can be pre-set via the menu. By default it has three options; exposure compensation, white balance and and ISO setting. Also user-defined is the Fn button on the top plate, which by default toggles manual and automatic focusing. Despite the complexity of the camera’s options and features, the control interface is superbly simple and quick to use. Everything you need to adjust often is right where you expect it to be, and the user-programmable controls mean that you can set up the camera to work the way you want it to.
The range of control is impressive to say the least. The exposure options on the mode dial are full automatic, program auto, aperture priority or full manual, as well as movie mode, scene mode and two user-defined settings for often-used custom modes. Manual shutter speeds from three minutes to 1/2000th of a second in 1/3EV increments can be selected, and the range of apertures from a maximum of f/2.5-f/4.4 to a minimum of f/9.1-f/15.8 can also be set in 1/3EV steps. Manual ISO settings of 80 to 1600 are available, and in auto mode an upper limit can be set by the user. In the menu there are a range of pre-set colour options, and another two user-programmable custom settings, with adjustable contrast, saturation and sharpness. Naturally the GX100 has multi-zone, centre-weighted and spot metering, and multi-zone, spot and manual focusing, as well as snap focus mode that sets the focus point to about 2.5 feet. Even the picture size modes are more versatile than usual, with the inclusion of a 7-megapixel 1:1 square-format mode.
There are a couple of options that are notable by their absence however, such as a movable AF or spot metering point, or flash output compensation. It’s also rather strange, considering that the GX100 has a flash hot-shoe, that there is no flash white balance mode. However I found that the daylight setting worked well enough, and any fine adjustments could be made in to the RAW file afterwards. The overall impression however is of a camera designed by photographers, for photographers. For anyone who like to experiment and take unusual photos it is a very satisfying camera to use, and its small size and weight means that it can be used in situations that might be inaccessible to a larger camera. Another useful feature that is unique to Ricoh’s high-spec compacts including the GX100is the ability to use either the supplied 1150mAh li-ion rechargeable batteries, or a pair of AAA batteries. This could be very handy if you forget your battery charger on holiday.
One area where Ricoh still need to do a lot of work is the supplied software. The Ricoh RAW converter is slow, clunky and offers only a limited range of adjustments. Fortunately however the GX100 uses the Adobe Digital Negative (DNG) RAW format, so anyone with recent versions of Adobe Photoshop, which will include pretty much everyone who is likely to buy this camera, can process their pictures using Adobe Camera RAW, which is far better. Using RAW mode brings out the true versatility of the GX100, offering a far greater range of image control and adjustment than the camera’s on-board controls.
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