The Ricoh GXR is an entirely new concept camera with interchangeable all-in-one lens-and-sensor units. What Digital Camera reviews the 50mm f/2.5 macro lens unit...
Ricoh GXR camera concept:
First came Micro System Cameras, such as Olympus and Panasonic’s Micro Four Thirds system or Samsung’s new NX range – cameras with DSLR-like quality, but minus the mirrorbox and optical viewfinder, therefore being much smaller. Ricoh’s take is also an interchangeable system camera, but with a difference – each ‘lens’ is a self-contained ‘lens and sensor’ housed into one detachable unit. By tailoring each sensor to match with its lens, the idea is to squeeze the utmost quality from an ideal pairing between optics, sensor size, resolution and processing. But does this solution over-exaggerate the very need for such a resolution, or is it an unforeseen ingenious idea?
The Ricoh GXR concept makes sense from some angles – dust isn’t a problem when changing lens units. On the other hand, it’s an unorthodox approach that poses new issues by its very conception: as sensor technologies advance there’s no possibility of upgrading a single camera body to maintain use of all lenses in hand and, importantly, the cost implication of £400 for the body only is considerable; with each new lens unit carrying the approximate or greater cost of buying yet another new camera. Also, should a sensor ever happen to need repair then the whole unit is out of action, with no quick option to retain the lens for use on another body like DSLR users can often benefit from. Although the GXR isn’t trying to be a DSLR, the comparison is worthy on a cost basis alone – the body with electronic viewfinder and both available lens units will total some £1,525, the same as a Nikon D90 or Canon 50D with more than one lens.
The GXR camera itself is a straightforward design, with a good build quality. A front and rear thumbwheel offer DSLR-like control at times, which makes it simple to cycle through options. The d-pad on the rear offers quick-access function buttons and a plus/minus adjustment to various options within the menu. Further quick-access buttons allow for playback, macro, self-timer and display options. The zoom-toggle on the back of the camera isn’t ideally placed though, especially as neither current lens unit has a manual zoom ring.
The 3in LCD screen on the back is excellent upon playback, fluid in use and images are dashingly detailed. Should you want to add an electronic viewfinder (EVF), Ricoh offers the VF-2, a high-resolution multi-angle option for around £220 separately or less when purchased as part of a camera kit.
In-camera options have nine settings allowing for ‘natural’ shooting, black and white, ‘vivid’ and similar options including a highly user-definable setting including vividness, contrast, sharpness and individual five-channel hue and vividness colour adjustment. There’s also the usual excellent Ricoh staple of a ‘horizon level’ feature, which even has an optional beep to indicate the camera is level as well as showing up on screen via a yellow bar.