New sensors for my Ricoh GXR

I bought my Ricoh GXR camera a couple of years ago now, but although I think it’s a really good camera I haven’t put it to the use I would have liked to. There are a couple of reasons for this: I don’t have the optional EVF and I find it difficult to compose a picture in bright sunlight but the main reason is the sensor units I have.

Ricoh GXR - Camera body with 4 lens units, S10, P10, A12 28mm & A12 50mm
Four cameras in one

When I bought the camera, the two lens units which were available cheaply were the P10 and the S10 which are both small sensor units. I bought the camera with the P10 unit fitted which made it a point and shoot similar the a ricoh cx4, and I bought the S10 a couple of weeks later when I found that SRS microsystems in Watford were selling discontinued units for about £90. With the S10 fitted the camera is basically a Ricoh GX200 with updated software, which is nice but I really wanted to get one of the APS-C modules to use on what is a very good camera body.

I was really pleased therefore that I recently found a supplier in China offering new A12 28mm units for £118 and secondhand A12 50mm macro units for £88. Although these are now 4 year old lens/sensor units, the 12M Pixel sensor fitted to each of these units is still a good piece of kit – it was the sensor used in the Pentax K-r, and when I owned one of those I found it to be really good. In fact for most applications, 12M pixel is more than adequate.

I really hankered for the 28mm unit for street photography, but in the end after a lot of toing and froing about which would be most useful I settled for the 50mm macro unit…… and the 28mm! (Well, the 50mm was only £88 and considering the original price of these units were well over £300 each it was too good a bargain to miss).

I was really impressed with the delivery from China. I ordered the units on Monday evening, paid £1 extra for express delivery and they were delivered the next Thursday lunchtime! I’ve known eBay deliveries within the UK to me slower than that! Although the 50mm unit was described as second hand I think this is only because there was no lens pouch or box – the unit was in completely pristine condition and still had the original plastic over the runners which slot into the body. The 28mm unit came in it’s original box was again was in perfect condition although I had to apply a firmware update to bring it up to the latest version.

So with the units received and having tried them for a few days what are my impressions?

Well, both units are capable of some pretty nice pictures but the star as far as I’m concerned is the 28mm unit. It focusses a bit quicker than the 50mm unit, it’s smaller and quieter and makes the gxr body into a brilliant street photography camera. The body helps here because the pre-settable user modes allow the whole camera to be set up for a specific application which can then be recalled with the turn of the mode dial. It’s particularly nice that the user settings are stored in the lens unit memory, so I can set My1 on the 28mm lens to be ‘Street Photography’ and My1 on the 50mm lens to be ‘Insect Macro’ without them interfering with each other.

Another thing I’ve rediscovered is how much I like the GXR as a camera and find even now, some 4 years or so since the last set of firmware was released, how advanced some of the configurability and options are. For example, I found today that when the unit is in manual focus the small scale which shows the focus distance also has a green shaded background area which shows the depth of field for the chosen aperture. This makes it really easy to set the hyperfocal distance to make sure everything to infinity is in focus. In fact, if you couple that with the feature called ‘Full Press Snap’  (which is used to pre set a focus point when you press the shutter release all the way down), it’s possible to pre-set the aperture to be correct for the lighting conditions and still be sure to have the best focal range for quick street photography. It really brings home what a shame it is that Ricoh didn’t continue with their gxr experiment. A full frame sensor unit would still be a good idea to add to the body.

I’m going to keep my eye on eBay to see if I can find a second hand VF-2 electronic view finder and may also consider finding one of the leica m-mount units to add to the body.

Samples

These are some sample test pictures I’ve taken over the first few days I’ve had the units – nothing special photographically, but they do show nice colour performance and definition. You can see the pictures at full size by following this link. At some point in the near future I will do a proper review of the gxr with each of these units fitted, as I did for the P10 and S10.

 

 

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