The GX200 is a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to the images. At lower ISO settings in good light it can certainly produce the goods. Colour and tone are very pleasant and images have plenty of punch. Sharpness is good throughout the zoom range and there’s plenty of detail in the images.
From ISO 400 and over image noise spoils the pictures. ISO 400 is gritty but usable, but 800 and 1600 are frankly abysmal – amongst the worst I’ve seen. Chroma noise makes the images look like a Roy Liechtenstein painting. The noise reduction helps to improve JPEGs, but not much.
In terms of other problems, there’s a little bit of fringing in the corners of images – especially in high contrast conditions, such as objects against bright sky. At 24mm the lens struggles to keep barrel distortion under control, with obvious bowing, though in general you wouldn’t notice for most pictures.
Another concern is the flash. Shooting at wide-angle, with flash on normal and subjects at around one or two meters away (standard for most people) the flash was overpowering. Reducing flash power using the flash compensation, and even knocking back the exposure by a stop helps, but it is hit and miss.
One thing I particularly like is the square format, particularly when combined with the black and white mode. The camera does a very good job of b/w conversions, and has image setting controls to modify it further.
Ricoh has tried to make a camera for the enthusiast photographer, a camera that the pro or enthusiast could slip into his pocket for a day and make sure he can still get a great shot. Design-wise, the company has pulled it off. The tough little camera is a beauty to hold and a joy to use, and I couldn’t wait to see the pictures. It’s the imaging aspect that’s a disappointment though, and really lets the camera and Ricoh’s ambitions down. The 12MP sensor and processing combination is frankly poor.
In fact I question the wisdom of such densely populated sensors on compact cameras. The small pixels are bound to produce more noise and processing will only get you so far.
Ultimately, the camera works well at lower ISOs and does have some fantastic features, such as the best EVF and monitor yet in a compact, the b/w conversion and square format are fun and the accessories available add up to a nice little system. It’s just not as good as it should be,