Ricoh GX200 Review – Part 8

Conclusion

Read on for the conclusion and to find a link to more sample images.

Looking for a serious compact is not easy, all cameras have their strengths and weaknesses and none is good at everything so you always have to make some compromises. The question is what these compromises are. If you have read the full review and have looked at the samples in Part 2 and the different comparisons you have probably made up your mind already if the GX200 is the right camera for you.

For me it is a difficult to fully recommend the GX200.
On the one hand it is the most customizable camera you can find and the handling is excellent. Like the GRDs and the R10 it is a camera that feels good in your hand and that inspires you to go out and take pictures. The controls are the best you will find in any compact camera, the build is very good and it has one of the best lenses you will find in compact cameras, only the prime lenses on the GRDs and the DP1 are better. The lens has only little distortion, almost no visible chromatic aberrations and no problems with flare at any focal length. The EVF is great and works very well, it can also be tilted to 90° and better to use than any OVF I have seen in digital compact cameras. The 19mm lens is also a welcome addition and very good for landscapes and architecture shots although it has due to the extreme wide angle more distortion.
So the hardware is great and there is nothing to complain about. One could maybe argue that the wobbly lens does not inspire confidence but it is no problem at all and is a design decision and not a fault.
The operation works very well, everything can easily be accessed and changed and the camera remembers literally everything you want. The 3 My Settings are a big help in quickly adjusting the settings to match your requirements. The step zoom feature on Ricoh cameras is very good and allows you to use external optical viewfinders without problems. The improved RAW buffer is a welcome addition and makes the camera much more responsive. The white balance is pretty accurate and only struggles indoors and when using a high ISO, it is more accurate when using low ISO indoors.
The image quality using RAW and when keeping under ISO 800 is very good and only lacks a bit of dynamic range to be better than the GRD II. Using the GX200 for long exposures also gives you great quality in both RAW and JPG.

On the other hand, the camera has a few problems you can not ignore.
The biggest problem is the screen freeze when focusing, this for me almost rules this camera out completely for any action shots. You can compensate a bit for this by using Snap or manual focus but I expect better from a serious compact and can not ignore it as I did on the R10. Don’t get me wrong, the DP1 and GRD II have exactly the same problem but it does not excuse it and is for me the main area that needs improvement. This is especially bad when considering that even the old GX and up to the GX100 do not suffer from this problem and focus faster.
Another area where the camera falls short is the image quality in JPG mode and especially when going over ISO 400. The noise reduction is too strong and smears details away, this is clearly visible when you compare it to the GX100 which has a better JPG processing. The noise reduction and JPG processing is another area where Ricoh needs to improve their cameras, what is strange is that they already had very good JPG engines in their cameras. I don’t understand why it’s not possible to add a true ‘NR Off’ option in firmware. This should be easy enough to do and would prevent Ricoh getting the same reputation Panasonic had for smeared pictures.
Going for a 12MP sensor might be nice if you keep the ISO low and shoot in good light but in low light and using high ISO the sensor shows all the issues associated with a high MP count. The IQ drops considerably, there is a color shift, a lot of noise and even more smudging going on up to the point where the colors become desaturated. ISO 1600 is really bad in this camera and worse than any other Ricoh camera I compared it to, it is basically unusable. Your only chance to use ISO 800 and to an extent ISO 1600 is to underexpose the image by one stop and use the b&w mode or process the RAW files and try to remove the noise as much as possible.

So is this a camera you should buy? If you want the camera with the best controls and handling and don’t usually go over ISO 400 then yes, it is a fantastic camera and one of the best compact cameras at the moment. You need to be prepared to shoot RAW to get the best image quality. It also has some unique features not found on other cameras like the removable EVF, the step zoom, AAA battery support and the electronic leveler. But if you need a camera for low light and action shots it is not recommendable due to the bad high ISO performance and the screen freeze issue will make it difficult to use AF for moving subjects.

There is no perfect camera available and although the GX200 comes very close in many respects it falls short in other areas. If you already have a GX100 there is no real need to update unless you need the faster RAW mode or the electronic leveler but are prepared to sacrifice image quality at high ISO and in JPG mode.

You can find more full-size samples in the gallery here.
The comparison pictures will be provided on request.

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27 responses to “Ricoh GX200 Review – Part 8

  1. Very nice review. You should add a few things for those undecided about the camera. Snap mode should be explained somewhat better.
    I have to agree with your conclusions, although I would rather not.

    The GX200 is a joy to use, great control but as you stated, fails where you really need it. IQ at 400 and above.

    Keep up the good work.
    Don

  2. Your review makes me realize again how much I miss my GX100. Despite all the speed improvements of the GX200, I am still not as excited with the image quality. The GX100 was just so much better.

    And if a tiny CMOS chip is the direction Ricoh is heading to improve the image quality, than the GX200 will be my last Ricoh camera.

    In the meantime you have put up an excellent review and pretty much underlines my impressions of the camera too.

  3. Thanks Don, I will add a bit more about the snap mode and update part 2.
    I would have been happier to write something else in my conclusions, I have started to really like the GX200 and together with the GRD I it makes a perfect combination but by itself it’s not quite there.

    Thanks Wouter, the GX100 is a fantastic camera and I believe the GX200 with the GX100 sensor and processing would have been the best serious compact to date.
    If you look at the R10 crops you will see that it actuall performs very well and if it would not be let down by the processing and the NR, which is too strong, it could be very close to the other cameras. A CMOS sensor with better processing could deliver very good IQ for this class.
    But for the GX300 and GRD 3 Ricoh need something better, a bigger sensor will be the answer.

  4. Cristian,
    a very good read and interestesting comparisons! I cannot judge the ricoh’s but admire them for their consistency in delivering cameras for photographers. I always like what I see from the GRD1 on the net, and even with the gx100 and 200 the nosie that i see has a certain non smeared quality that i do like.

  5. Thanks for your comment Ronald.
    Ricoh cameras do feel and handle like they have been designed by photographers and this is the biggest attraction, no other camera handles as well as the Ricoh cameras and the GX200 in particular. I bought the GRD I after holding the camera and using it for 2 minutes because it just felt right to use.

    Don, following your suggestion I have added this on part 2 to explain the snap mode better:
    “The snap focus is one of the best things about Ricoh cameras since it takes advantage of the big depth of field the sensors have and pre-sets the focus to 2.5m. This means you get a sharp picture from 2.5m to almost infinity. This method also helps to eliminate the auto focus lag and together with the none existent shutter lag makes this the preferred mode for street photography. It works very well in practice, as long as you don’t require the focus to be much closer than 2m, and you can assign it to one of the Fn buttons for fast switching between normal AF and Snap.”

  6. My only grip on this review is that after reading it one would think that ISO 400 and on are the only settings of any value, when exactly the opposite is true for most shooters in most circumstances. ISO 100-400 are where most people take their shots (check your exif data everyone), and this camera shines brightly at ISO 64-200.

    Your emphasis on higher ISO’s would make one turn a cheek to a camera that could truly provide them professional results and happiness for a lifetime.

  7. Thanks for your comment Mark.
    I hope my review does not give the impression that people should not consider the GX200. There is only one page with pictures at ISO higher than 400 and most pictures and comparisons are shot at ISO 100. I tried to keep it as balanced as possible.
    My biggest complaint was also more regarding the AF speed and that the overall IQ is somewhat worse than on the GX100.

  8. Cristian,
    Thank you for a most interesting review. I have a GX100 which suits my needs very well. The two biggest GX100 problems for me are:

    (a) Noise even at ISO80
    (b) 5 secs write time for RAW files.

    I was wondering about getting a GX200 as I recently dropped the GX100 and put a very nasty dent just below the screen. It seems to be fully functional, apart from the battle scar.

    Based on your review the GX200 would solve problem (b) whilst making problem (a) a lot worse, and adding a number of problems (focussing) that I did not know existed.

    I will hang on to the battered GX100 and wait to see if a GX300 arrives with the improvements I would like to have.

    I suppose I could send the camera to Ricoh for repair, have youany experience of getting repairs done in the UK

    Thanks again, nice to have a review done by a proper practical photographer!

    Peter

  9. Thank you for your comment Peter. Glad you found the review interesting and helpful.

    The improved controls and speed of the GX200 are very good but unfortunatelly they come at a price so overall if you already have a GX100 there is no need to upgrade just yet.

    I have sent my GRD in for repair and got the camera back within one or two weeks. You ship it to a UK address but it will be fixed in the repair centre in Germany and sent back to you.
    You can log your request here and print the necessary documents: http://www.service.ricohpmmc.com/?language=1

  10. Cristian

    Many thanks for the service details.

    Peter

  11. Hi Christian,

    thanx for this nice review. I am a user (and big fan) of the GX [5MP]. I make 20cmx30cm prints from its files. From time to time i zap around the web to read if there are other people using this “dinosaur”, so i come around here and i am impressed how the old GX performs against these shiny new models (i choosed a Powershot G9 last year over a new Ricoh).
    What a pity you didn’t compare the GX in long-exposure :)
    What i miss in the GX is a real RAW-mode. The Tiff-Mode is very decelerated [16sec.] ;) and if loading the tiff-files in another software than the Ricoh own all EXIF-Data is gone, but i can live with. What i don’t know, and i hope you will know it: Is the picture the GX-Tif-Mode gives, like a real RAW from f.ex. GX100 or are the tiff-files in-camera-processed like the jpgs?

    Thanx
    XebastYan

  12. Hi XebastYan.
    Thanks for your comment, glad you liked the review.
    Like you I find the GX a wonderfull camera but mind has developed a problem and won’t start up most of the time and the focus has also problems more often than not. The image quality is pretty good though.

    The long xposure mode is very good and does not fall behind the GX200 much but unfurtunately I did not have it along for the cmparison.

    I have used the TIFF mode a few times but could see no major difference. The TIFF mode is unlike RAW processed by the camera with the same parameters as the JPGs but is not as heavily compressed and should prove more robust to post processing.

    Enjoy your GX!

  13. Hi Christian,
    thanks for your review. Very thorough. I want to compliment my Nikon D200 with a smaller compact camera for every day use. I find that as I am getting older the Nikon is very heavy to carry all day when walking….I liked the look and feel of the Ricoh. It seems to have want I want in a compact – view finder, manual options, light weight but i take quite alot of action shots so this sounds a problem?. It is very confusing trying to sort out what is best to get. Any other options you think are worth looking at??

  14. Hi Jane,
    Thanks for your comment.
    I think if you have a Nikon dSLR the Ricoh GX/GR cameras will be great for you since the controls will be very familiar. No other compact comes close to the handling.
    For action shots I think the best is to get a GRD I if you don’t need the zoom and only shoot JPG, the GX200 if you don’t intend to use ISO 1600 but need a fast RAW buffer and can use the Snap focus mode for action shots.
    The GX100 on the other hand will be the best compromise between the two, it does offer the zoom from the GX200 with a fast AF and a good JPG engine similar to the GRD I.

    Overall, the GRD I and GX100 are best when it comes to their AF speed but the GX200 is best if you plan on shooting RAW but will have to use the Snap focus as a compromise and can not really use ISO 1600.

    I have tried the G10 and while the AF is faster than the GX200 it is not as fast as the GRD I or GX100 and it is very big (too big for me), the LX3 has a fast lens with compromises but the AF is not very fast. And both are not as good as the Ricohs for handling and controls.

    For you, I think going with the GX100 will be the best compromise and it can be found for very good prices at the moment.

    Hope this helps, feel free to ask more questions if something is not clear or you need more details.

  15. Hey Cristian, thank you so much for your review! I’ve recently bought a GX200 after reading LOTS of reviews looking for the “perfect” middle point between a DSLR and a point & shoot, and I think the GX200 wins the prize. I’m very happy with this camera.

    However, I’m having lots of trouble trying to get nice nighttime pictures using the flash. I’ve found that the GX200 does a fantastic job taking nighttime pictures WITHOUT the flash, but of course both the camera and the subject should not move at all if you want a clear picture (not the best conditions to take pictures of people at a party). Using the flash, most of the times I get either really noisy pictures or overexposed subjects. What would you recommend to a non-photographer like me to work around this problem? Do you have some sort of “optimal settings” for this camera working under such conditions? Any input on this is highly appreciated. Thank you so much in advance! :)

  16. Hi Alvaro, glad you decided on the GX200 and are happy with it.

    Flash is something that can be a bit tricky on Ricoh cameras. It is improved on the GX200 but still needs some work.
    I found that in order to get decent results you need to use Spot AF and make sure the camera focused properly on the subject. Even then using Flash exposure compensation to -0.3 is good. The best is also to use a fixed ISO and not let the camera pick the ISO, the best is to use 200.

    The most important thing is that the camera achieves focus or it will fire the flash at full power and so overexpose most people. If you use Snap focus then it is best to use Flash Exposure compensation at -1 or 1.7 even. The ISO for best reslts is always 200 as I found out but here even 100 works well.

    Hope this works for you.

  17. Thank you so much for your reply, Cristian! I’ll try your advice and let you know what happens. Again, I’m not a dedicated photographer, so I have lots of things to learn. One more question: Do you think it is a good idea to work with a fixed ISO for daylight pictures as well? In other words, not use the auto ISO at all? Thank you again! :)

  18. I hope the flash will work better with the settings.
    I don’t use Auto ISO because on older Ricoh cameras Auto ISO always started at 100 and never at 64 or 80 which was the lowest. Although the Auto ISO on the GX200 works quite well I prefer to set the ISO manually all the time. I generally tried to use ISO 64 most of the time in daylight with the GX200 and only go higher if the light levels dropped.
    Hope this helps.

  19. Cristian
    Want to use the GX200 for bird photos. You appear to be saying that the Gx200 will not be useful for this purpose (as birds would come under “action shots”) What then is the best option including non Ricoh products. You dont appear keen on the P6000 either.

    Thanks

  20. Thank you for this excellent review!

    Like Jane, I’m a dslr heavy user. I have a Voigtlander Bessa R and I’d like to have something similar but digital, to carry with me all the time. I’m looking at the Sigma DP1, the gx100 and the gx200. The Sigma’s sensor is the best (I think) of the compact cameras, but as you know, the camera is slow, the AF is slow… so it’s hard to think about buying one if you want a versatile camera, with fast AF (in case you’re taking pics of your kids), ergonomic controls etc.

    Now, my thoughts have gone to the gx200 but I’m quite surprised to see that the gx100 performs in some ocasions, better. I’d like to have a fast AF, and a good IQ. I’ve never (or almost never) shot higher than ISO 400, so these Ricoh could be good for me.

    Now the question arises… which one do you think would be better, the gx100 or the gx200? (I’ve found a gx100 brand new, so I could buy it).

    Thanks!

  21. Hi Grahame,

    The GX200 is not as fast as other cameras and the screen freeze could cause problems for bird shots unless you use manual focus or infinity focus, which considering the distance of the birds to the camera should be fine. For digiscoping you would focus on the eyepiece so you could use manual focus for taht and it will also eliminate the screen freeze and be instant to take the shot. The GX100 is faster to focus or the CX1 is the fastest and most accurate Ricoh camera but it does not offer RAW or manual controls.

    Hope this helps.

    Hi Guillem,

    I am glad you found the review helpfull.

    If you never shoot over ISO 400 the GX200 will perform very well and will give you fast RAW buffer, electronic leveler, better customization and longer battery life. The GX100 however will be as good when it comes to the IQ and better over ISO 400 but the AF will be faster, it has no RAW buffer though and you will miss out on the leveler and other improvements.

    If you can get the new GX100 for a good price, I would not hesitate to get it. If the price between the GX100 and GX200 is too similar and you want to shoot RAW then I would rather go for the GX200, especially if you try not to go over ISO 400. Both are very capable cameras and while the IQ will not be as good as the DP2, the zoom will make the cameras more versatile and both have a great handling.

    Hope this helps, let me know if you have more questions.

  22. Nicely done, very helpful review. The GX200 is on my short list, so it is great to get such a close, detailed “look” at it. Thanks!

  23. Purcahsed GX200 for digiscoping. It is very good – sharp and has lots of flexibility. Only problem is the flimsiness of the lens adapter mechansism and actual lens hood. “Screw” on section on both the camera and lens hood are extremely light and I suspect will be susceptible to cracking and breaking off if knocked. I expected steel or aluminium fittings in a camera of this quality.

  24. Thanks for your comment Tom!

    Grahame, I am glad to hear you are happy with the GX200.
    The lens barrell and hood might seem a bit flimsy but are very sturdy and won’t break. The plastic is very solid so you don’t need to worry about it.
    I managed to drop my test sample on concrete with the lens extended and it only had a minor scratch from it. Overall it is more solid than it feels, especially the lens hood.

  25. I just bought a GX200 a couple of days ago and I am finding, as you said, the slowness to focus and the screen freeze to be real problems when i try to take photos of my kids (always moving around).

    I am so disappointed, this is my first ‘high quality’ camera, and I am just not getting the results I expected. Am starting to think I should have stuck to the old point and shoots. :(

    what can I do, setting wise, to improve the situation?

  26. Hi Abby’s Mummy, I am sorry to hear the slow AF and screen freeze is causing you problems.
    The best solution is to utilize the big depth of field of the sensor and use the Snap AF instead of the Spot AF, this will get rid of the AF lag and will almost eliminate any screen freeze (the only minor freeze being caused by the IS system).

    I hope this helps with your problem. Most point and shoots will have the same problem but the Ricoh CX1 has solved it thanks to the CMOS sensor. Otherwise a Panasonic m4/3 camera will be a good choice.

  27. Hi,
    my name is felix. Im from the philippines….. have been in love with photography since way back 1983…….
    i have a nikon D70s and D200 for a camera with only two prime lenses ever since i started shooting…. a 1.8 35mm & 50mm 1.8
    i bought my ricoh gx200 last nov. 2010……. love it….
    when ever i feel the need to shoot in B/W this is the tool i use….. ive learned to overcome its short comings……. by using snap af or by manual focus and then using it as a trap shooter……
    love it and never goes a day without it by my walking side…..
    thank you very much….
    will keep on reading your site
    felix.

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