There were lots of rumors and speculation regarding the new Ricoh camera. Would it be an interchangeable lens camera, would it have a small sensor or an APS sensor, would Ricoh team up with Pentax and use a variant of their K-mount and even use rebranded Pentax lenses? These and more speculations kept the people in forums busy, it was no secret that Ricoh was working on something big but nobody knew what it was exactly.
Today, Ricoh has finally revealed it and we were all way off, their new “camera” is neither of the above but something completely unique and different.
It is not a camera in the traditional sense, it has no interchangeable lenses and both a small sensor and an APS sensor. What it is, is something new and very exciting. It is called the GXR and is the first ‘Interchangeable Unit Camera System’ as Ricoh calls it. It is a new system not constrained by any of the current limits.
Lets have a closer look at it and see how it compares with traditional cameras and the competition.
Until now when buying a camera you had to decide wether you want to buy a dSLR or a small sensor camera and recently also the new micro 4/3 cameras.
While the dSLR gives you the flexibility of changing lenses, big sensor with low noise and good dynamic range, fast AF and fast operation, they are very large and not easy to always carry around. This leads to missed photo opportunities.
A compact camera is small, light and has the advantge of very high DOF, which is very usefull for street photography. The problems here arise when a high dynamic range, low noise and a fast AF are needed. Ricoh has been making some of the best serious compacts to date with their GRD line but also with the GX100 and GX200. Still, as good as their cameras were they always strugglled to overcome tne limitations imposed by a small sensor.
The new micro 4/3 cameras seemed to be what people were waiting for, a compact camera with a big sensor, fast AF and the ability to change lenses. These could have been exactly the cameras everyone was waiting for but the relatively poor lens quality and selection and a body not much smaller than a entry level dSLRs.
Enter the new GXR, the first ‘Interchangeable Unit Camera System’.
The name GXR comes not from the fact that Ricoh merged the GX camera line with the GRD line but refers to the GX line of digital cameras, from which the GXR took the controls and customization options, and the XR film cameras, from which Ricoh took the interchangeable lens roots.
When I first heard of the new GXR, I did not quite understand it because I was thinking about a classic approach to a camera and not something as unique and radically different.
On the GXR, you have the sensor, the imaging engine and also the lens as part of the interchangeable units. The body has no sensor and is there to provide only the physical controls, screen, battery and the SD-card reader. This means that the interchangeable units are the actual camera. In other words you don’t change lenses but cameras instead.
This by itself is not easy to understand and could make it difficult for people to sell this camera.
Below you can find the main features from the camera explained, I hope to be able to provide a full hands-on preview and a review soon.
The body as such has the usual Ricoh controls with the same fantastic screen found on the GRD III and the CX1. It is now slightly bigger though. Ricoh has also refined the controls and has implemented a different shutter button, a different power button and have added a ‘Direct’ control panel. Other new features include a 16:9 mode, a auto macro mode, the often requested AE bracketing option with customizable steps, EV customization from +2.0 to -2.0 in 13 steps and the ability to save the settings both in the body but also in the units.
Now we get to the interesting part, the actual interchangeable units. At launch Ricoh will release 2 units.
The first unit is a 12mp APS-C unit coupled with a new 50mm f2.5 GR macro lens. This unit also offers 720p HD video recording, ISO up to 3200, a 4cm macro distance and a manual focus ring around the lens.
The next unit is something a lot of people have been waiting for, it’s basically the GX300 camera sporting the same sensor as the GRD III but with a new processing engine and the same excellent lens as on the GX100 and GX200 before. All accessories like the adapter and hood, 19mm wideangle and the 135mm telephoto lens will also be available for this as will be a new improved LC-2 lenscap.
After Ricoh pioneered the first external EVF on the GX100, which has since then been copied by both Panasonic and now Olympus for their m4/3 cameras, Ricoh has introduced the first ever 920,000-dot EVF for the new GXR.
Ricohs new system could be the most significant development in digital photography, it certainly is the most exciting one. The possibilities are endless, Ricoh could release unitss with only lens mounts on them, for example a full frame sensor with Contax G-mount or a Leica mount to compete with the M9, or release a mass storage unit, a mini polaroid printing unit, dedicated HD movie units and so on.
The GXR will be released in one months time so ready for the Christmas shopping season.
More about the new GXR in the coming weeks after I get the chance to get my hands on one. One thing is clear now, Ricoh have created something unique and the GXR could change the way people think about digital cameras.
Find below some further links to the press release and other interesting pages to it.
Press page : English
Main page for GXR:
Special page for GXR (available from the 11th):