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
Build and handling
Both the body and camera units are made of magnesium alloy, and the result is a reassuringly solid camera. To look at, the GXR can best be described as having a minimalist military style, similar to that of the Ricoh GX200 and GR Digital II cameras.
With its gun-metal black finish, the GXR lacks the retro charm of the Olympus E-P1 and the sleek look of Panasonic’s GF1, but it still owes much to previous Japanese film cameras, particularly the Contax G2.
In terms of size, the GXR is a little smaller than its Micro Four Thirds-format competitors. In fact, excluding the lens protrusion, it is closer in size to the Canon PowerShot G11. With the S10 camera unit attached, the GXR is compact enough to fit in a coat pocket, although fitting the larger A12 unit will require the camera to be carried in a case or bag.
However, carrying the lens and body units separately means it is possible to carry all three easily in different pockets, and with the lenses being sealed in the camera unit, the possibility of dust affecting images shouldn’t be an issue.
Each of the camera units slide very easily into place on the body unit, where a loud click confirms that the electronic and mechanical connections have locked in place. Detaching a camera unit from the body is as straightforward as releasing a catch and sliding the unit off the body.
On the rear of the GXR body unit is a standard array of camera controls. Although they are all easy enough to use once you are familiar with the camera, I would have made a few changes to improve the GXR’s use. I feel that the zoom control on the rear of the camera is placed too far to the right. It would be better placed in the position currently occupied by the ADJ rocker switch so that it could be easily adjusted while using the camera.
The ADJ switch itself is something of an oddity. Rocking it from left to right does nothing, except change the shutter speed when in manual exposure mode. To use it fully, it must first be pressed in. This reveals a customisable settings menu, which, by default, allows you to change the white balance, ISO sensitivity, image quality, image style and AE/AF point. To switch between these settings, the left/right rocker switch or standard four-way control buttons can be used.
However, as the standard four-way control dial must then be used to adjust the individual settings, the left/right rocker switch becomes almost redundant. However, with the GXR system potentially having so many different directions, it is likely the ADJ button will play a large part in the use of future accessory units.
Most of the settings you regularly need to change can be found by pressing the Direct button, which is located above the LCD screen. This displays the current shooting and exposure settings, and includes most of the options that are found in the ADJ menu. All the other settings can be revealed by pressing the Menu/OK button.
It is worth noting that the body unit can be operated without a lens unit attached. At present this only really makes it useful for reviewing images, but it opens up the possibility that the GXR body could be attached to other units that would allow images to be displayed, printed, organised or even edited.