The perfect GXR
This seems to be an odd post from a man who has just bought a Ricoh GXR so I’ll just preface it with the statement that I love my GXR and think it’s a really novel and interesting idea. However it could have been so much better.
The idea Ricoh presented with the GXR was that of a camera that you never have to replace because you can buy new sensor/lens combinations as technology improves, and Ricoh would keep the body software up to date with frequent firmware releases. To an extent this was true for a while as initially there were new updates quite frequently which added bug fixes and new features to the camera. The sensor/lens combinations however have been, with a notable exception quite un-imaginative.
The P10 unit, which I bought with my GXR, is basically the same sensor and lens combination as a Ricoh cx4, which was their current travel zoom offering when the P10 was introduced. The S10 is a copy of the GX200 sensor/lens. Now these are reasonable cameras and the GXR body is much better than the body supplied with either of those cameras, but the cost of the lens units was similar to the cost of buying the individual cameras.
Ricoh also have APS-C sensor units. Several 12M units fitted with 28mm wide angle, 50mm Std, and a short zoom 24mm to 85mm. These give very good performance, but each time you buy one you are basically buying another copy of the same sensor.
The one exception to this trend is the A12 m-mount unit. This is a 12M sensor fitted with a Leica m-mount, allowing you to fit any m-mount lenses to it. The lenses are manual focus, but the GXR body has great focus peaking support to enable rapid manual focusing, and a quick search on flickr will show the quality of this combination. However, Leica m-mount lenses are not cheap; I think this option is really a way for users who have an old 35mm film camera with these lenses to move into digital at a fraction of the cost of buying a digital Leica.
However, the m-mount lens is, I think, the direction Ricoh should have gone with the GXR, but in an even more imaginative way. The current trend in small cameras is to use a large sensor for quality, so I’m only really thinking APS-C here. Just think of the sort of camera system Ricoh would have if they had a set of sensors, say 12M, 16M, 24M and 36M all fitted with an adaptall type mount. To this sensor you could fit any lens which had a mount adaptor, there by allowing you to buy/use any lens from any manufacturer. That really would be a camera that you could upgrade in parts if you wanted to. Personally, I have several k-mount lenses which I would love to use on the GXR, especially if auto-focus was still an option.
There is a rumour circulating that Ricoh are about to produce a new version of the GXR. It would be great if the sort of system I’ve outlined here was the result – Ricoh Rumored To Be Working On New GXR Camera (ubergizmo.com)