By Josh Fate
These "units" slide quickly and easily onto the GXR body and snap into place. This design allows the camera unit to stay sealed, keeping out moisture and dust. The body features all of the camera controls that will need to operate either camera unit. It also features a pop-up flash unit and 3-inch, 920,000 dot LCD screen with full sRGB color reproduction, allowing you to see exactly what your images will look like. There is an optional electronic viewfinder and external TTL flash unit available for the body (compatible with both camera units).
Packaged with the 50mm fixed lens is a 12.3-Megapixel CMOS imaging sensor and Ricoh's GR III imaging processor. This 50mm lens closely represents the field of vision of the human eye, and allows the photographer to be close to the subject while shooting. This unit also excels at macro photography allowing a magnification of 1/2x, which can allow for more light by leaving the camera further away from the object. Finally this unit allows for the capture of 720p HD videos with sound, which is not available with the other camera unit.
If you are looking for a little more versatility than you get from the 50mm, then the 24-72mm zoom lens is what you will want. Not only does the unit allow you to zoom, there are also several accessories available to increase the versatility even more extending the range to 19mm on the wide end and 135mm on the telephoto end via conversion lenses. Included with this unit is a 10-Megapixel CCD imaging sensor and Smooth Imaging Engine IV. Macro photography is even better with this lens as it can focus on a subject that is just 1cm away from the lens. Ricoh has also included a Vibration correction system on this unit to assist in reducing motion blur and camera shake caused by low-light situations and shaky hands.
The compact GXR body was designed to be portable and still provide the image quality of a professional camera. Ricoh did a very good job of this, especially when the 24-72mm camera unit attached. This unit allows the camera to be put into a small bag, camera case or even a large pocket. The larger 50mm unit needs a little more space but is still smaller than a dSLR or compact super-zoom camera. If you are not sure which camera unit you will need, they are small enough that it doesn't take a whole lot of extra space to carry the other unit with you.
Although the body is small, there are more than enough controls built-in to easily and quickly operate the camera. A quick-menu system has been created to change the commonly used settings, similar to the information screen found on most new dSLR models. Also like these cameras is the GXR's menu system. Here you will find all of the features and settings of a dSLR, allowing you to have complete control over what the camera is capable of doing. Viewing these menus, as well as shooting and viewing your images is done on the high-resolution, 920,000 dot LCD screen. This screen is usually reserved for bigger cameras and is a great addition to this pro-level camera.
S10 Camera Unit:
Performance from the S10 (24-72mm) camera unit is good for a point-n-shoot model. When turning the camera on, the unit is able to capture its first image in just 2.8 seconds. The shutter lag is less than 1/10 of a second when the camera is pre-focused, and between 4/10 and 5/10 of a second when allowing the autofocus system to work. In single shot mode, the shot-to-shot delay is 1.62 seconds when shooting without the flash, but jumps to 3.18 seconds when the flash has to fire with every shot. The GXR also includes 3 burst or continuous shooting modes. Normal continuous is able to capture 10 full-sized images in 5.4 seconds or a rate of 1.85fps. These results were the same when shooting in M-Cont + (LO) mode. M-Cont + (HI) mode only captures a VGA (640x480) sized image, but is able to capture 10 images in just 3/10 of a second or 33.33fps. All of our tests were completed using a Lexar Pro 133x, 2GB SD memory card, Program shooting mode, ISO Auto, flash off and all other settings at the factory defaults unless noted otherwise. All times may vary depending on lighting, camera settings, media, etc.
The image quality from our outdoor sample images is fantastic. Our samples show a sharp image, with excellent exposure and color reproductions. There were no noticeable instances of chromatic aberrations at any point through the 24-72mm zoom range. At the wide end of the zoom, you will have no problems capturing extremely wide landscape shots however; you will see some barrel distortion at this end. On the other end at 72mm, you will be able to get slightly closer to your distant objects, but don't expect too much. This mid-telephoto zoom is much more useful as a composition tool, helping you to frame your images.
When looking at our indoor image samples, with the increasing ISO's, it is easy to see when noise starts to show up and when it becomes a problem. With the S10 camera unit, noise really isn't even noticeable until ISO 400 and doesn't start to take away from the image until ISO 800. This is not to say that ISO 800 is not a useable image, especially with prints of 8x10 and smaller. Helping with your low-light images is either the built-in, pop-up flash or the optional GF-1 external TTL flash unit. With a max range of only 4.5 meters at ISO auto on the built-in unit, you will need to be fairly close to your images when using the pop-up flash. The external flash provides significantly more power, but makes the camera a little awkward to hold and handle.
Capturing video on the GXR is a little disappointing but not surprising, since it is a secondary function of the camera. At a max resolution of 640x480, the S10 videos are dark and grainy when shot in less than perfect lighting. These movies can be played back on either the camera itself or on a TV via an HDMI cable or A/V cable, depending on the TV. A built-in microphone captures all of the sounds around the camera. It is very sensitive and will pick up a lot of background noise, as you can hear in our sample movie. To avoid this, be careful where you position yourself, keeping away from anything that makes noise, such as a furnace or A/C unit.
A12 Camera Unit:
Performance from the A12 (50mm) camera unit is slightly slower on the overall camera performance but does excel when it comes to the continuous modes. When turning on the camera, it takes 3.0 seconds before the first image can be captured. The shutter lag is less than 1/10 of a second when the camera is auto-focused, and depending on the amount of available light and distance, the auto-focus can take anywhere between 4/10 to 1.1 seconds to work. In single shot mode, the shot-to-shot delay is 2 seconds or 3.1 seconds when allowing the flash to fire with each shot. In continuous shooting mode the camera was able to capture full, 12.3-Megapixel images at a rate of 3.33 fps in both normal Continuous and M-Cont + (LO) modes. Shooting with M-Cont + (HI) mode I was able to capture 10, 1-Megapixel images in just 3/10 of a second or 33.33 fps! All of our tests were completed using a Lexar Pro 133x, 2GB SD memory card, Program shooting mode, ISO Auto, flash off and all other settings at the factory defaults unless noted otherwise. All times may vary depending on lighting, camera settings, media, etc.
Our outdoor image samples for the A12 unit show us a larger, 12.3-Megapixel image, with an overall image quality that is just a little bit better than the S10 unit above. Showing excellent exposures and colors like above, the A12 images seem to be just a little sharper. With the fixed 50mm lens you can see the lack of versatility vs. the other lens, since all of the images were taken from the same spot for both units. With this lens, barrel distortion is kept to a minimum, as are the chromatic aberrations, which did not show up in any of our images.
Looking closely at our indoor sample images, you will see that there is far less noise in the mid to high ISO settings. ISO 200 through 1600 are useable for making large prints and even ISO 3200 will work for images 8x10 or less with no problems. To assist you in your low-light images, Ricoh has given you two options. You can use the built-in, pop-up flash which only has a range of up to 3 meters, or you can use the GF-1 external TTL flash unit which provides a great deal more power. Shooting in macro mode is outstanding as well, although the larger lens does get in the way of the flash if the camera is too close. The digital macro mode, with a 1/2x magnification allows you to keep the camera back further to help with this issue.
Shooting movies with the A12 lens is very similar to the S10, except that it is able to capture 720p HD video. The video is a little dark and grainy, but does look a little better than the S10. Again this is just a secondary function and you should not expect optimal quality from a digicam. The microphone that captures the audio for your movies is built into the body, which means that it has the same sensitivity and picks up the same background noises that you hear in the S10 samples.
Powering the GXR is a 3.6V, 1700mAh Li-Ion rechargeable battery. Using this battery I was able to capture 275 images and videos on a single charge while completing our tests, during which the camera units were switched back and forth repeatedly, showing how well the battery would do for a photographer using both units. This falls short of the 320 (A12) or 410 (S10) images that Ricoh claims the battery is capable of supplying. With this in mind, you will want to have a spare battery ready and on hand at all times. With the included external battery charger, it is easy to keep a spare ready to go.
Bottom Line - The Ricoh GXR is a revolutionary new camera system that allows you to choose the best "unit" (lens, processor and imaging sensor) for the current situation. This allows for the best images possible in all types of situations. Both of the units provide outstanding image quality with good performance. With additional accessories, the GXR can become a very versatile camera that provides dSLR-like image quality in a much smaller package. With a MSRP of approx. $550 US for the body, $880 for the A12 unit and $440 for the S10 unit; you are looking at a very hefty price tag for this unique camera setup.
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