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
Like the Micro Four Thirds-format cameras, the absence of a reflex mechanism in the Ricoh GXR means that it is reliant on using a contrast-detection autofocus system. While this method isn’t as fast as phase-detection AF systems found in DSLRs, these days it is good enough for most types of photography.
With contrast-detection AF, it is unrealistic to expect to take images of fast-moving subjects with the GXR, although with only a standard zoom and a fixed 50mm equivalent lens available these types of images aren’t what Ricoh had in mind when it designed the camera. It is safe to say that the GXR is best suited to the landscape, documentary and travel photographer in much the same way as a rangefinder camera.
With this in mind, the Ricoh cameras have one particularly useful AF mode: Snap AF. This locks the focus point to a user-definable distance between one and five metres, or infinity. With the AF distance locked to a set point, it becomes far quicker to use the camera to point and shoot, making it ideal for candid street photography. It is obviously advisable to set a reasonably small aperture when in this mode to maximise depth of field.
Other focusing modes include the more general Multi-Point focusing and Spot focusing. The latter allows you to specify an AF point to use.
Sadly, though, this is not simply a case of holding a button down and using the directional control button on the rear of the camera. Instead, you must press the ADJ button select to change the focus point, then use the directional control to change the position of the point, before going back to the main shooting screen to take your image. Should you wish to move it to another position you must go through the process again. Anyone used to changing the AF point on an enthusiast DSLR will find the process quite tiresome.
Manual focusing is also a feature of the Ricoh GXR. Once switched to this mode, the Macro button must be held down while the front control dial is then used to focus back and forth. Sadly, there is no option to show a magnified view on the rear screen, although the screen is of a high-enough resolution that accurate manual focusing is possible.