Archive: Compact and Bridge Cameras 2011-2012

REVIEW / Ricoh GXR P10 28-300 mm

1 readers want this I want this!
 
Add to favourites

Jump to...

Franck Mée
Morgane Alzieu
Published on January 4, 2010
Updated on January 4, 2010
Translated by Catherine Barraclough
 
This is an archive page, the content is no longer up to date.

SPECIFICATIONS

  • Sensor BSI CMOS 10 Mpx, 1/2.3" , 35 Mpx/cm
  • Lens 10.7x 28-300 mm f/3.5 -5.6
  • Stabilisation Mechanical
  • Viewfinder NA
  • Screen 7.6 cm, not TN, 920000 dots, 4:3, Not touch-sensitive
  • Sensitivity (ISO range) 100 - 3200 ISO ext. 28 mm
While the current trend is for compacts with interchangeable lenses—offering the advantages of an SLR but with a much reduced form factor—Ricoh has taken a different approach to things by building a basic camera body that can be fitted with various 'modules', each equipped with a different sensor and lens combo (see sidebar). The third module to be released for the Ricoh GXR, the P10 28-300 mm, has a 10-Megapixel backlit sensor and a zoom equivalent to 28-300 mm—just like the Ricoh CX4, also up for review today.

Handling

The name GXR will sound fairly familiar to most people who've used a Ricoh compact. The GX and GR ranges are the brand's classic expert compacts, often held up as examples of fantastic handling among experienced users.


The GXR camera body holds no great surprises for anyone who's familiar with is predecessors. It's particularly similar to the GX200 and GR Digital III, for example, and has the same excellent VGA screen. As Ricoh is pretty stingy with picture file compatibility in its cameras, we weren't able to test the screen with our sensor, as the GXR wouldn't display any of our test shots.

Other familiar features include the control dial and the ADJ thumb wheel, which can be clicked to bring up the quick menu. Plus, there's a four-way controller, two customisable Fn keys and a new Direct Menu button.

The menus are dense and can seem rather complicated at first, but there are plenty of options for customising the camera and your settings can be saved in thee custom modes. In this field, at least, the GXR is up there with expert SLRs.

The camera's build feels similar to previous Ricoh compacts and is fairly sturdy on the whole, with rubber detail for excellent grip. Some features, however, (such as the mounting of the built-in flash) leave a little more to be desired. Modules slide into the camera body on runners and the system feels reassuringly robust and works well. It doesn't feel like the modules will fall off when you're using the camera. On the other hand, we were rather worried about the electronic connection between the camera body and the module: what if some dirt or a grain of sand got in between the pins? A flat connection (like between an SLR and its lenses) would have been more reassuring, not to mention easier to clean!

The 28-300 mm module basically has the same lens as the CX4 but its construction is slightly different, with two telescopic elements instead of three. This seems intended to improve control over the positioning of the elements by reducing movement when the lens is deployed. The downside, however, is that the GXR is bulkier than the CX4, and at 50 mm thick, it's larger than other expert compacts currently on the market.

Responsiveness

The bad news is that the GXR is slow to start up, taking over two and a half seconds. That's a shame for a camera that's lined up to compete with compacts with interchangeable lenses, which are usually as fast to start up as SLRs, often taking under a second.

Once started up, the camera does its job well: it isn't quite as fast to focus as the best models out there, but it's still good enough. Saving photos is fast too, although the camera does take a little longer to turn itself around with RAW shots, taking a perfectly acceptable 1.7 seconds. The burst mode clocks up 5 fps for five shots in RAW or 20 Jpegs, which is excellent.

Picture Quality

Basically, the P10 28-300 mm module is a Ricoh CX4 without the screen or grip handle. It's therefore no surprise to see that picture quality in the two models is very similar indeed. Noise is handled in exactly the same way up to 400 ISO, with sharp, clean pictures. Smoothing then starts to appear, and is a little more pronounced in the CX4: as the GXR is aimed at more advanced users, it takes shots that are naturally more grainy and thus more accurate. It's fair to say that 800 ISO is the maximum limit for an 8" x 10" print, and for a 4" x 6" print 1600 ISO is already problematic. You could, however, always switch to RAW (DNG format) for easier post-editing.



The 28-300 mm lens found in the P10 module is very similar to the lens used in the CX4. However, its limited retraction seems to improve accuracy, particularly in wide-angle mode. In our test shots, the GXR gave slightly better results than its compact counterpart, but at 200 mm, there's barely any difference at all. There's a slight loss in sharpness in the corners of shots at all focal lengths, and the lens is generally outdone by certain superzoom compacts, particularly Panasonic and Canon models.


The 1 cm macro mode is worth a mention, obviously for its impressive magnification, but also for its irritating blurriness. The depth of field is logically very short—around 1 mm—and the GXR will release the shutter as soon as one thing in the frame comes into focus, no matter what it may be. In our example (above), the background of the graphics card is sharp, but the surface of the component is clearly blurred—very annoying!

Video

In the Ricoh GXR, the video mode changes from module to module. The P10 28-300 mm module films in 720p HD. The optical zoom can't be used and is instead replaced by a low-quality digital zoom. And while picture quality is pretty good in decent light, speckles and fuzz are a problem when filming indoors.

Perhaps the most disappointing thing is the low-rate mono sound. As it's recorded at the rear of the camera, there's no chance it'll improve as new modules are released as the mics are built into the GXR camera body.

Modular Design
We've already seen plenty of cameras with interchangeable lenses, as well as fully modular cameras (generally mid-format models with a removable back or viewfinder), but the Ricoh GXR is something else entirely—a grip handle with interchangeable cameras! Various 'modules' can be attached to the GXR back, each with its own lens, sensor and processing chip—or in other words, all the technical components of a stand-alone digital camera. Without one such module attached, the GXR is effectively a grip handle with a screen, power supply, memory card, flash and a few connections.

The main advantage of this approach is that you can pick the sensor and lens combination of your choice, so you can turn the same basic camera unit into a compact with a small sensor and zoom, a compact with a large sensor but no zoom, or potentially a camera with a large sensor and a zoom (bulky). The obvious downside of this is that if you want to change the lens or switch to a more modern sensor, you have to shell out for both the lens and the new sensor in a new camera module

Another problem, for us at least, is how to classify the camera. Fitted with a module with a small sensor, the GXR is similar to an expert compact. However, with a module with a larger sensor, it could either rival a compact with interchangeable lenses or an SLR. We've therefore decided to create separate reviews for each module we test, some of which will be found in our compact camera reviews, and others will be found alongside reviews of SLRs and other cameras with large-format sensors.

PROS

  • Fantastic handling, loads of settings
  • 10.7x zoom with the form factor of a compact + pancake lens
  • Good burst mode, even in RAW
  • Original modular system
  • Good battery life

CONS

  • Can be complicated to use (direct menu / ADJ menu / general menu)
  • Each new lens comes with a new sensor - cost effective?
  • Slow start-up
  • Lens and sensor worthy of a compact but with a considerably bulkier design
  • Disappointing video mode (mono sound, no zoom)

CONCLUSION 4/5

With the P10 28-300 mm module, the Ricoh GXR is basically a large expert compact with a record-breaking zoom (7x is usually the limit in that particular market). On the whole, it's pleasant to use, but it's a bit pricey for image quality that's only really equivalent to a compact. It's suitable for anyone who already has a GXR body, but isn't the best module for a first buy.
4 Ricoh GXR P10 28-300 mm DigitalVersus 2010-01-04 00:00:00
Add to favourites

USER REVIEWS (0)

No users have reviewed this product yet. Post a user review
ADVERTISING

Similar Reviews

Find competing devices:

ADVERTISING