Ricoh GXR –Hands on preview – a new revolutionary concept in camera design

Ricoh, a niche camera manufacturer has once again produced a very new concept in camera design. The new design concept has bridged the gap between a P&S digicam and the DSLR. Though it seems strange for the general market but it is a logical progression for Ricoh.

Ricoh an office equipment manufacturer shot into prominence through their popular photocopying machines that have since become industrial standards. In 1996, they decided to enter the photography industry with their Ricoh GR fixed lens pocket cameras. These little cameras were beautifully designed and had captured the hearts of professionals and photo enthusiast alike. It soon became a must have second camera to back up the ever growing SLR systems.

Since then they have concentrated on a niche market to supply well designed P&S cameras with high quality lenses catering for the top end of the P&S market. Built on their past experiences and market feedback, they have started designing high quality and very portable P&S cameras targeted at the discerning Photographer who appreciates image quality and ease of use. One of their successful products is the Ricoh GRD III which I had a chance to use it on a PMPE trip to Vietnam. I must admit that it is one of the best P&S cameras I have tested so far.

So why did Ricoh come out with a revolutionary camera design concept like the Ricoh GXR? The concept is basically a P&S camera body with interchangeable lens/sensor unit. The interchangeable lens unit allows Designers the flexibility to continued their R&D and coming out with more niche lens/sensor designs and coming out with new products from time to time.

The advantages of this concept are:-

  1. Sealed sensors to avoid the dust problem associated with DSLRs.
  2. There is no need for a mirror and the size and vibration problems that is associated with it.
  3. Consumers will only need to upgrade the lens/sensor unit while keeping the main camera body. This would keep the cost of upgrading down
  4. Designers now have the flexibility to design lens/sensor/software combos to cater for different genres of photography like macro, portraits, landscapes, street, B&W etc.
  5. There is a possibility of incorporating a full frame sensor/lens combo in the near future. Presently they have come out with a 50mm/AP-C sensor.

Of course one of the main disadvantages is the price. It is priced at a premium when compared with the other Japanese Camera Brands. But then it is no ordinary camera, it is priced to compete with the best of the best of the German Brands like Leica where for the price of a single 50mm f2 lens one could get the whole Ricoh GXR set with the 2 lens combo with some money to spare.

From my personal survey which is by no means an industrial standard or the gospel truth, this camera appeals to Leica Users and Lady Photographers.

Conclusion

I had the opportunity of using it for about 10 days and was really impressed with the form factor and ease of use.

The 24-72mm lens unit caters to the general needs for family and travel photography. Personally I would prefer the GRDIII for this genre. It is not that this lens/sensor combo is not good but then it is not the best in Ricoh’s stable

I was really impressed with the 50mm lens/sensor unit. Firstly the AP-C sensor made this unit very DSLR like in image quality and feel. I took this unit out during the “Poison Me Please session” and the PMPE Kuala Selangor outing. The image quality was very good and the high ISO performance was outstanding. I took shots at ISO3200 (the highest ISO setting in the camera) and I am pleasantly surprised with the noise control. This lens combo is also  very capable of doing macro photography too.

Would I get one to play with? Sure my favorite combo would be the 50mm lens.

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