Ricoh GXR & A12 lens unit – A User’s Review

I had earlier did a hands on preview of the Ricoh GXR with a A12 unit – 50mm f2.5 GR lens.. This time I was given a chance to test this camera on a 9 days PMPE3a to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. I had some experience understanding the strength and weaknesses of this camera unit and the 50mm GR lens.

I was in luck, on the day before I left for this photo trip, the firmware upgrade 1.07 for the GXR A12 and S10 units were released.  I downloaded the firmware and installed it in the camera.

I must admit, I am not used to shooting with a 50mm equivalent lens. I find that it is more like a telephoto lens for me. I would prefer a 24 to 35mm equivalent lens. This increase in working distance to the subject shows in my photos. I have not realized this problem previously as I shot all my street photos with a 35mm or 28mm lens. I used to stand about 3 to 8 feet away from my subjects. Now I have to stand about 10 to 12 feet away. It is strange how a couple of feet can make so much difference.

Well, I have to change my style of photography to accommodate the fixed 50mm unit.

I am doing this review base on User Experience.

  1. Auto focus

The AF speed improved after the download of the upgraded software. However, you need to use QK-AF. In this mode, you can’t use track focusing. I find that it is marginally faster than the FR-AF. Overall the AF speed is not as fast as a mid entry DSLR.

There is a “snap” mode if you want to take “street photos”. The camera uses a hyperfocal technique to pre-focus the lens. This mode is ideal for if your aperture setting is smaller than f5.6.  I prefer to use an aperture of f8 for this purpose.

Manual focusing is great for “macro” photography. The AF for macro work is slow.

Testing A12unit 50mm GR lens for flare resistance

Testing A12unit 50mm GR lens for flare resistance


1. Image quality

The prime GR lens is a very sharp lens comparable with the best prime lens in the DSLR market.. The image quality (dynamic and tonal range) comparable to cropped frame DSLR if not better. It is very easy to convert the color images to B&W without much PP.

2. High ISO capabilities

I have tested this camera before on its ISO capabilities and I find the A12 unit is very good in this department. This camera can be used in low light situations.

3.  Ease of use.

I find the user interface very user friendly. The controls are well place for easy access. Some of the buttons are programmable to suit each individual’s preference. There are 3 preset  settings where you can set your personal preferences  (eg. Landscape, portrait, B&W etc)

There is no built-in viewfinder. One can opt for an external electronic viewfinder. I do not find this lack of viewfinder a major hindrance. It makes up with a large 3” high resolution LCD screen.

4.  Battery life

The battery life per charge is not outstanding. However, in the field one can get about 300 to 350 shots per charge

5.  Camera Size

One of the main reasons why photographers would buy a smaller camera is the size or foot print factor. Well, the Ricoh GXR with an A12 unit is not exactly pocketable. One would need a very large pocket to accommodate it. Its size tends to make it feel like a main camera unit. The Ricoh GXR coupled with a few lens units will blow this combo up to the size of a small DSLR system.

6.   Build quality

The camera feels solid and is comfortable to hold. All lens units are sealed, hence; there is no necessity to clean the sensors through out its working life.

Conclusion

The image quality from the A12 unit is very good and some Camera Review sites have compared this camera to the Leica X1. (Leica X1 has a fixed 35mm lens and a APS-C size sensor.)

The Ricoh GXR gives an impression that it is a camera “under construction.” So far it has come out with only 2 lens units, the A12 and S10. Ricoh has announced another 28mm GR lens unit to be launched soon.  Personally I would wait for the 28mm GR lens unit as this will suit my style of photography and yet give a better image and ISO capabilities than the famed Ricoh GRD III.

So far PMPE participants who bought the GRD III were very happy and satisfied with this small pocketable camera.

(To view a larger image, click on the image itself)

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