The 10MP, 10.7x zoom modeule for the ground breaking GXR system
Ricoh’s GXR removable lens/sensor system now has a third option in the form of the P10 28-300mm lens. This 10MP and 10.7x optical zoom combination requires the GXR base unit to function, and can be swapped out with the A12 or S10 units reviewed in issue 159 of What Digital Camera.
Ricoh GXR P10 28-300mm Review – Value
Our previous issues with the system when reviewed earlier this year stemmed from the price, which was usually higher than buying an equivalent all-in-one product, and the poor performance of the autofocus on both units. The price issue is still present, as the £500 street price for the GXR and P10 together is double that of the Ricoh CX3, which has virtually the same specs.
The only real benefits would come from already owning the GXR body alongside another sensor, which would have been around £600 in it’s cheapest kit, but even then the P10 unit alone costs around £300, £50 more than the CX3. Although cost isn’t the entire be all and end all of camera quality, it does make a huge difference when the camera in question utilizes extremely similar, if not the same, components to produce what would surely be almost identical results.
Ricoh GXR P10 28-300mm Review – Features
Although the 3x zoom S10 sensor unit and P10 have the same megapixel rating, the sensor size on the P10 is fractionally smaller, at 1/2.3 inch as opposed to 1/1.7 inch. The burst rate is one of the more impressive features, on paper at least, as it’s possible to shoot at 5 frames per second in Raw mode and up to 120 frames per second in VGA quality. The autofocus can’t keep up with the fastest pace, but the Raw mode doesn’t result in too many soft images.
Manual control is also possible via the top dial, and there are three customizable ‘My’ settings to cater the camera to frequently used options. The customization available is one of the major plus points of the GXR, as there’s an impressive amount of settings to alter and buttons to customize. The only real annoyance stemming from this is the Direct menu which, much like a DSLR LCD display, allows for most of the important settings to be altered without having to delve into menus.
Annoyingly the screen remains after a setting has been changed, obscuring the image preview. In some cases the amount of choice can become a distraction, such as having two adjustment dials when one would suffice. This occasionally led to the wrong setting being altered which could get especially frustrating in the case of the manual focus, as once it’s activated a menu visit is required to change back to AF. There’s a HD movie mode, at the 720p resolution, as well as sensor shift-based vibration correction.
One element which has undoubtedly received a huge boost is the focus speed and accuracy, which caused a few issues with the other two sensors. Even at the top end of the zoom a focal point could be found rapidly, and the end results showed only a small percentage of missed depths. The zoom is also both nippy and responsive, even if the small control is fiddly to use. Having the bayonet fitting gives some degree of versatility, as wide angle lenses can be attached, and the hot shoe gives the availability of attaching a flashgun or viewfinder. The fact that both the high dynamic range function and the noise reduction can be adjusted through various levels means that even pixel smoothing can be reduced when required.
Ricoh GXR P10 28-300mm Review – Image Quality
The photos produced by the Ricoh are, unsurprisingly, very close to those of the CX3. To that end the colour depth and quality is often excellent, producing some impressively faithful reds and greens. Automatic exposure tends to edge toward underexposing, giving a fractionally darker end product than expected more often than not.
Macro mode could produce some stunning images, much like the CX3, and achieved the correct balance of sharpness and blurring of the background with a fairly striking level of colour. In lower light the settings determine a degree of the output, as pixel smoothing can be adjusted to varying levels, but with the processing turned off performance seemed fine up till ISO 800, then started to take on much more noise at 1600 before losing the majority of the colour and detail at the 3200 mark.
Although sharpness is both faster and more accurate than the other two sensors from our previous review, there are limitations. At the top end of the zoom the focus isn’t particularly reliable, missing depths and detail on frequent occasions. Although the lens seems to find sharpness quickly it rarely does when working up close, making it necessary to pull back slightly to be assured of focus. The majority of the other shots did look excellent though, making the zoom performance all the more frustrating.
There’s been obvious improvements over the last two sensors, especially where the speed of focus is concerned. The gimmicky burst mode has its uses, although the fastest option doesn’t allow the focus to keep up. Thankfully the image quality is decent enough that extra features aren’t a huge concern, but at the top end of the zoom there’s still an air of uncertainty that the camera will find sharpness even if happily fires off an exposure, giving all the indications that the end product will be in focus. Most damning of all is the price, which at £500 is the equivalent of two Ricoh CX3’s, which bear the same sensor and zoom size and almost identical image results.