Unconventional and completely new, the Ricoh GXR camera system may change the way we think about the relationship between cameras and sensors. Richard Sibley examines the new system
There are two GXR camera units available at the launch of the system. The first is the S10, which has a compact camera-sized, 1/1.7in ten-million-pixel CCD sensor. We have been given hints that this is the same sensor as found in the Canon PowerShot G11. The second camera unit is the GR A12, which houses an APS-C-size 12.3-million-pixel CMOS sensor.
Another benefit of housing the sensor and lens in the same unit is that dust and dirt are prevented from reaching the sensor or rear lens element. However, it may still be possible for dust to enter, particularly through the movement of the zoom lens, in the same way that some people have a problem with dust on a compact camera sensor. However, the chances of this happening are significantly reduced.
Of course, the differently sized sensors in each camera unit affect the image file size, as well as the continuous shooting rate. When shooting at below ISO 800 with noise reduction turned off, the A12 fires at a continuous rate of 4fps compared to the 5fps of the lower-resolution S10 camera unit.
Images can be saved as either JPEGs or raw files, with the raw files saved in Adobe DNG format. There are also five different image aspect ratios that can be used: 16:9, 4:3, 3:2 and 1:1 square. These should cover the requirements of most photographers.
The two cameras also have slightly different sensitivities, with the A12 having an ISO range of 200-3200, and the S10 a slightly wider range of ISO 100-3200.
Both camera units are capable of capturing video footage, although again at different resolutions. The A12 unit can record in high definition, but I’ll report more on this later.
So far, the hybrid cameras we have reviewed have all been based on the Micro Four Thirds format, although we are eagerly awaiting the new Samsung NX-format camera. The GXR is similar in some ways to the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 and the Olympus Pen E-P1. Like these two cameras the GXR lacks a reflex action, meaning it is reliant on using the 3in, 920,000-pixel screen or the optional VF2 electronic viewfinder for framing images.
It has to be said that there aren’t a lot of bells and whistles on the GXR. Unlike some cameras we have seen recently, the GXR lacks in-camera HDR image creation or any sort of dynamic-range optimiser, or indeed any exciting pop art picture styles.
However, the camera isn’t primarily aimed at an audience to whom these features would be of interest. Given its price, design and feature set, it seems to me that the GXR system is aimed at those who have in the past admired the quality and precision of 35mm Ricoh and Contax cameras, such as the GR1s and G2.