Despite all this adaptability, the GX8 does have some important limitations. It has no built-in AF illuminator, and as a result it has some difficulty focusing in low-light situations. The built-in flash is capable of good close-range results, but if the AF system doesn’t lock on to a close range subject properly then it is inclined to fire at full power and over-expose the shot.
Compact wide-angle zoom lenses are difficult to make, which is why most digital compact cameras have zoom ranges starting at 35mm or more. Ricoh is one of the few manufacturers to equip many of its cameras with lenses capable of zooming out to the equivalent of 28mm, which most photographers would agree is the minimum requirement for wide-angle shooting. The lens on the GX8 is an extremely good one, especially considering the price. It manages to avoid the edge distortion problems that bedevil some other wide-zoom models, and it also has a maximum aperture of F2.5 – F4.3, which is commendably fast.
Another unusual feature of the GX8 is its ISO sensitivity range. Most digital compacts have a maximum sensitivity of 100 – 400 ISO, but the Ricoh can go all the way from 64 to 1600. Unfortunately this is of limited usefulness, because at the highest two settings there is an awful lot of image noise, and some apparent breakdown of reciprocity resulting in low contrast, odd colour distortions and inaccurate exposure. There are situations where the GX8’s very high sensitivity might be useful, but for general photography it would be better to stay under 400 ISO.
Apart from the low-light performance and high-ISO image noise, photographic quality is very good. Colour rendition is excellent, focusing and exposure are consistently accurate in good light, and eight megapixels of resolution means you’ve got room to enlarge. It is possible to make photo-quality prints up to 16 x 12 inches from these shots, which is going to look great hanging on your wall.
The only real problem with the GX8 is its ultimate purpose – a purpose that falls between two stools. Serious photographers looking for an eight megapixel camera are more likely to opt for the much more expensive but unquestionably more capable Konica Minolta A200 or similarly specified Nikon Coolpix 8400, while buyers looking for a powerful snapshot camera are likely to be put off by its complexity and businesslike appearance. This is a shame, because the GX8 is a technically impressive camera that is versatile enough for creative photography. It certainly deserves to do well, but I fear it occupies too much middle ground for it to really stand out.
The Caplio GX8 is a technical marvel with superb adaptability, outstanding performance, some very useful features and good handling. For the price it offers more pixel power than almost anything else on the market, but there are other even more capable cameras available to the advanced user. You’ll have to decide if it’s really what you’re looking for, but if it is then it won’t disappoint.