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
- New GXR system
- 10-million-pixel camera unit
- 12.3-million-pixel camera unit
- Street price around £750 with S10 24-72mm camera unit
It is human nature to overcome obstacles, to expand our knowledge, and to improve and evolve the objects around us. This is as true of photography as it is of anything else.
We have moved from the camera obscura to wet plates, to film and now digital photography. Along the way camera design has adapted as technology has advanced, leaving us with the current process whereby a lens focuses light onto a digital camera sensor.
Ricoh’s GXR camera system doesn’t provide any new technological breakthroughs; the system is still based around a lens, a light-sealed box and an imaging sensor. What it does do, though, is combine the sensor, light-sealed box and lens into a single camera unit.
However, this unit alone cannot take any images – think of it as being like a Box Brownie, except with no shutter-release button and no way to remove the film. To actually capture an image the camera unit must first be attached to a body unit. When the camera and body units combine, the GXR becomes a fully functional camera.
To put it simply, you don’t just change the lens on a Ricoh GXR, you also change the sensor at the same time. Ricoh claims the advantage of this is that the sensor and lens can be designed specifically to complement each other, whereas other sensors have to work with a variety of different lenses.
In theory this is a great idea. Since digital photography became popular, photographers have wondered whether it would be possible to have a camera with a sensor that could be upgraded, similar to the digital backs of medium-format film cameras.
However, connecting the sensor directly to the lens creates its own problems, which are largely related to having the two most expensive components of a camera attached to one another.
Currently, the GXR system body unit costs around £450 – that is, without a camera unit. Combining the body unit with a Ricoh S10 24-72mm f/2.5-4.4 VC ten-million-pixel camera unit will set you back £750.
This may sound reasonable, but remember that you could buy a number of entry-level DSLRs for a lot less. Also, this camera unit only features a ten-million-pixel compact camera sensor, putting it on a par with the Canon PowerShot G11, which costs around £250 less.
Now, should you already have the body unit and wish to buy the A12 50mm f/2.8 Macro 12.3-million-pixel APS-S sensor camera unit, this will cost nearly £600 more. To put this in perspective, the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D lens currently costs £129.99.