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Ricoh GXR – Quick Hands-On

I had the opportunity to play with a Ricoh GXR yesterday. For those of you not familiar with its craziness, it is a camera with a removable lens+sensor package rather than just a removable lens. Why? There are a few. 1. So you can switch sensor sizes but still retain a relatively compact frame. A small P&S style sensor gives you a lot of depth of field but mediocre low-light performance. A large sensor gives you very shallow depth of field but better image quality and much better low-light performance. 2. In theory, you can just upgrade your lens+sensor package instead of buying a whole new camera. Of course, this is contingent on Ricoh staying in business after taking a punt on a very bold idea and continuing to make these lens+sensor packages.

DPreview has an outstanding preview of it as always – http://www.dpreview.com/previews/RicohGXR/

I was playing with the GXR and the large sensor / 50mm (35mm film equivalent) lens module. In brief:

  • Very nice build and near identical controls to the Ricoh GRD III.
  • Somewhat wimpy flash, seemed identical to the GRD III.
  • Much larger than I expected, similar to the Canon G11 and almost as big as the Panasonic GF1.
  • Very nice image quality from both the sensor and the lens. It is after all a DSLR sized sensor, even bigger than m4/3. The lens itself is sharp even at the edges.
  • Autofocus is quite slow.
  • 50mm is a tad narrow, I wish they made a 24 or 28mm.
  • Expensive! I had a look while I was in Hong Kong and they wanted around $1400 for the “body” + lens+sensor

[image with a Panasonic GF1/40mm 1.7]

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Canon S90 vs Ricoh GRD III Conclusion (?)

This will seem like an ass-backwards way to discuss these two fine cameras but I want to throw this out first:

Gun to my head, the S90 is the “better” camera.

How and why do I dare make such a sweeping statement? Firstly, I rate both cameras very highly. The S90 is really only marginally better overall. That is why I put the conclusion in the first sentence and hopefully saved some readers the hand-wringing wishy-washy to follow. Secondly, while I can easily balance the pros and cons of the two cameras in my head, I instinctively reach for the S90 over the GRD III 70% of the time.

The S90 is:

  • Very fast, as in fast to focus, fast to record, fast to display a RAW.
  • Feels nice, as in it feels good in the hand. Even when it’s off, I can’t stop holding it. It’s almost perverted.
  • Has a novel and effective control system. The barrel mounted control wheel on the S90 is a good idea well executed.
  • Versatile, as in has a zoom lens, has a very bright wide end (f/2.0!) and has image stabilization.
  • Surprisingly small.

The GRD III is:

  • Quite fast, as in quite fast to focus, quite fast to record and quite fast to display a RAW.
  • Feels quite nice, and I do very much like the two dial control system. There is something very satisfying about its heft.
  • Optically excellent. The GRD III lens is superb. It’s great all the way to the edges and it is brighter than the sun. (f/1.9 is pretty similar to the sun right?)
  • Very nice on screen information layout. Icons are small but clear and information is presented concisely.

See? if you read the points above, you would have a hard time deciding which camera is better, no? Aren’t you glad I put the conclusion first?

[photo above with Canon S90, photo below with Ricoh GRD III]

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Canon S90 vs Ricoh GRD III Size Comparisons

[photos with Panasonic GF1 / Panasonic 20mm f/1.7]

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Canon S90 vs Ricoh GRD III

A long hiatus. The real world can be so troublesome sometimes. A few photos first. Words later.

[photo above with Canon S90, photo below with Ricoh GRD III]

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