Ricoh GXR 50mm f/2.5 macro lens unit review
50mm f/2.5 macro lens unit
The 33mm macro lens - an equivalent 50mm in 35mm terms - has a large APS-C sized sensor and is ideal for close-up shooting or high-quality peripheral field of view shots. It's quite a specialist bit of kit and as such carries a fairly hefty £600 price tag to boot.
The lens isn't as top-class as would be expected, though. When shooting in macro mode the front element extends forward for up to 1:2 magnification (not true 1:1 macro). With autofocus it then continues to move the lens forward and back as focusing isn't internal - a frustration for macro work. Furthermore, with a minimum focus distance of 7cm it doesn't feel as though the capability is there to get as close to the action as desired. The autofocus is slow and frequently fails to attain a focal point, even when well within the limits of the lens' potential. Multi and Spot AF options display the slow speed that is often associated with contrast-detect AF systems, though other manufacturers such as Pansonic's G-series system have partially resolved this speed issue. Not the case here - it's far from snappy, even with the slight improvement offered by pre-focus AF. Unless, that is, you employ the ‘Snap' mode, which has a pre-fixed focal distance defined between 1-5m or infinity which is certainly handy.
Flick to manual focus and pin-point accuracy does become available, but the focusing ring is so under-sensitive it needs to be rotated fully and multiple times before attaining close-up focus. This is accompanied by an unnerving ‘grinding' sound. Neither of these manual focus issues are isolated, as both a pre-production and second 50mm unit responded the same way.
When things are in the right place, though, image quality is premium and truly DSLR-like. The benefit of the large APS-C sensor and wide f/2.5 aperture is a key benefit to behold. While the quality box may be ticked, the performance falls far short of the mark to what should be expected from a macro lens.
Ricoh GXR 50mm f/2.5 macro - Image Quality
That APS-C sized sensor does provide glorious shallow depth of field and images are sharp and detailed. The quality here unquestionably matches that of a DSLR. ISO pushes into the high sensitivity of 3200 and, while a tad grainy, the overall quality is more film-like than disruptive to quality. In fact, black and white images lend themselves rather well to this. Up the noise-reduction option in camera and some greater softness does occur, leading to a preference of keeping the feature turned off and doing any work in post production. For those who like to shoot Raw, the GXR offers Adobe's native DNG format for immediate use with Camera Raw (ACR) and Photoshop. Ricoh software is also provided in the box should you not be a user of these, however.
Auto white balance, for the most part, did slightly lean towards warmer magenta tones, but was otherwise good. Raw file adjustment can correct for this, though it's an area that could be improved upon.
All in all, very impressive optical quality from the lens and detail rendered from the sensor that would easily match up against a decent quality DSLR when compared side by side.