Mini-Review: Ricoh GX-100

   
     

by Eric Jeschke

Last update: Mon Mar 31 08:42:22 HST 2008

(Summary of updates at the bottom of the article)

Introduction

I recently purchased a Ricoh GX-100 digital camera, because, well… I just love serious compacts, and it’s about time for a new camera. The main things I was looking for in the upgrade were a wide-angle lens, RAW mode, full manual controls, image stabilization, and a decent lens. Given the rapid introduction of camera models in this age, I’ve decided to publish my review early in the hopes that it will help anyone considering this cam, and update it as I learn more about it. The camera has already been out for around a year, so if anything this review may help some people still sitting on the fence regarding buying this camera now, or waiting for the next version, or who may be interested in picking up the GX-100 at a bargain price later.

Initial Impressions

Out of the box, the GX-100 was a little smaller than I expected, but larger in length than the Casio EX-P600 and considerably larger than the Fujifilm Finepix F31fd (you may wish to refer to both of those linked reviews to explain some of the criticism, good and bad, that I will heap upon the GX-100 in this review). It is a little too large and heavy to realistically carry in a shirt or pants pocket, although it might be at home in a cargo shorts pocket. It is certainly suitable for a coat pocket, brief case, purse or backpack. The photo of the three cameras hopefully gives some idea of the size difference.

   
     

The build seems a little flimsier than I had expected, based on Internet descriptions. The case seems to be a robust flat black metal with a nice rubberized grip, but the controls don’t work as smoothly as I would expect, and don’t give the feeling that they will take much abuse. The pop-up flash seems quite flimsy and there is the usual, barely attached rubber flap covering the USB and video out ports. Sadly, this seems to par for the course with the vast majority of digicams. At the initial street price for this camera ($600+) I would have expected more. At the price that I got it ($440), it seems grudgingly acceptable.

On the upside, I had read a few reports of “lens wobble” (i.e. the lens feels loose), but it does not seem overly so to me (mine certainly doesn’t wobble, but does move slightly if you push it). Similarly, I had read that the lens racking out and focus is (audibly) noisy, but that too, does not seem overly annoying, at least compared to my other cams, just a bit more noticeable in a very quiet place, perhaps.

There is a metal tripod socket located in a reasonable place near the center bottom of the camera. The battery/media slot door feels a bit flimsy, but does close with a reassuring click. The camera takes SD and SDHC cards up to 4GB.

The camera package includes a handy, lightweight, external charger. I picked up a spare Li-ion battery so that I wouldn’t get stuck with a dead battery while out shooting. An extremely positive feature, the camera can take two AAA batteries in a pinch, although you will want to use NiMH if at all possible, the camera is only rated for something like 30 shots on a pair of standard AAAs. Still, that the camera can take them at all in addition to the proprietary battery is impressive. Power drain will be discussed later in the article, but I’ll note here that the camera does get warm after being on for a while. Unfortunate, since that undoubtedly increases the sensor noise.

There is no built in optical viewfinder on this camera. Some may find that to be a serious omission. I do not, since it helps keep the camera size down, and I generally prefer to compose on the LCD. An accessory electronic viewfinder is available (I did not spring for it…yet), as are several options for rangefinder style optical viewfinders that plug into the hot-shoe on the camera’s top. The electronic viewfinder seems to have an even split of opinion on the internet forums as to its quality and effectiveness. The LCD is a good size (2.5 inch), is bright and very readable from reasonable angles of view. With 230,000 pixels it has good resolution as well.

Startup is decently quick for a digicam and the camera feels ready to shoot without much hesitation. Mind you, this is not a DSLR, but it’s respectable. If you’ve been shooting with a camera that has a built-in retracting lens cover (as I have), you’ll have to get used to popping off the Ricoh’s lens cap before you turn the camera on. Although the lens cap is a more solid, uncomplicated protection for the lens element, I must say I’d gotten used to the hassle-free, uncluttered convenience of having a built in lens cover. Aiding the responsiveness, the GX-100 also has the (thankfully) now-common shooting-priority image review mode, by which you can press a dedicated play button to review images, flip back and forth, zoom, etc. and then return immediately to shooting mode by simply pressing the shutter release button.

The GX-100 presents itself as a mass storage device when plugged into a USB port with the cable. This is desirable, since no special drivers are needed. It makes full use of USB 2.0 high speed transfers, so image copies go fairly quickly, although I find I get better speed from a dedicated SanDisk SD reader.

Handling and Features

   
     

The GX-100 menus are straightforward to navigate, and many users probably will not need to crack the manual to operate the camera. The camera feels comfortable to hold, the molded grip in front providing a good hand hold (but also bulking up the camera a little). Overall, the camera feels solid, and falls comfortably to the hand, with most of the controls in the right places. It is definitely easier to hold than either the EX-P600 or the F31fd, albeit at a cost of a larger package.

Although I was not overly impressed with the smoothness of the controls, I was impressed with how the adjust wheel and rocker combo controls work at changing common settings. You push in the adjust rocker on the back of the camera with your thumb, and up pops a menu of four available settings. These are user-assignable, and I’ve assigned mine to exposure compensation, ISO, white balance and AE mode. You then select the setting by nudging the rocker right or left with your thumb, followed by adjusting the setting by turning the wheel in front with your forefinger. The whole process can be done with one hand with the camera in shooting position, very much like a DSLR. Since the exposure compensation is automatically selected after the first press of the adjust rocker, it is quite fast to dial in exposure compensation, a necessary and frequent operation with this kind of camera. Dialing a wheel also seems faster and smoother than multiple button presses on the 4-way toggle, although that method will also work, if you are used to working that way. I’m sort of left wondering, however, if they couldn’t have included 5, or 6, or 10 settings on that rocker switch. I’d like to have Focus Mode on there as well as some other settings.

There is one caveat about the rocker switch. When you are in macro mode, pressing the adjust rocker puts you into an AF point selection mode. This mode is a handy one to have for the critical focus one often needs in macro work. Unfortunately, the display does not indicate that your other settings are available as well (the ones you assigned: WB, ISO, etc.) Just toggle the rocker to the left or right and you will then see the other settings. This also begs the question of how to engage focus point selection when I am in non-macro mode. Can it be done? There is nothing in the manual on that. Typically cameras that have focus point selection (e.g. the EX-P600) let you do it regardless of whether you are in macro mode or not.

The camera does have a live (shooting) histogram (a critical feature), but luminance only, no separate RGB channels. It also has a 2/3rds cross hairs for composition, a feature I use a lot. Unfortunately, Ricoh has chosen not to allow both histogram and cross hairs to used at the same time (something I do all the time on my Casio), so you are forced to choose one or the other.

One of the real pluses of the GX-100 is the two user customizable modes “MY1″ and “MY2″, which select SETTING1 and SETTING2 respectively. These modes are on the mode dial, and selecting one instantly recalls the user’s choices that have been saved for that setting. Almost any user adjustable setting on the camera can be saved to those modes, including zoom position. This sort of thing just immediately endears the user to the camera, and makes it efficient to use.

For those of us that sometimes like to work in JPEG, the camera has separately adjustable sharpness, contrast and saturation (“color depth” in Ricoh-speak) controls. These can (in fact, have to) be set for the custom user SETTING1 and SETTING2, so you need to be in “MY1″ or “MY2″ mode to use them. This is not a big limitation, as I normally shoot on these two settings. Unfortunately, they cannot be used in conjunction with B&W mode. If you choose B&W mode, you cannot adjust the contrast except in post-processing.

Lens and Focusing

   
     

The auto focus on the GX-100 is a bit slow compared to my comparable digital cameras. In fact, the occasional hunting that it does reminds me of my old Nikon Coolpix 990, a camera that is circa 2000. In 2008, I really don’t see a good reason for that, especially as this camera uses a combination of contrast and phase detection (using a separate detector on the front of the cam in addition to the CCD signal). Of course I do turn off the focus assist light, because that is incredibly annoying when photographing people. But I do the same on my Fuji F31 and it focuses much faster. That said, I’ve found the auto focus fairly reliable so far.

As a serious compact, the camera has manual focus capability, and like most cameras of this ilk, it works OK. I really wonder how big it would make the lens to have a manual focus ring (probably “fly-by-wire”) and a real, manual zoom ring. The zoom ring in particular would save a lot of power drain, and be welcomed by the class of user that buys this sort of camera. The camera also thankfully features an infinity focus setting, and (bonus!) a “snap” (hyperfocal) setting. The latter is extremely useful for street and candid photography, because there is no AF lag whatsoever, and coupled with the huge depth of field of this sensor/lens combo, you are almost guaranteed to get your subject in focus.

There is a custom “Fn” button (exactly one) on the top of the camera, that can be assigned to one of several options. The factory default is for AF/MF switching. If you have it set this way, a great feature is that you can press the shutter halfway in AF mode to lock the focus, then release the shutter button and press the Fn button to switch to manual focus and the camera will retain the focus of the focus lock. This allows you to let the camera do the initial work, and then you can fine-tune the focus (e.g. for macro work). Another press of the Fn button returns you to AF mode.

The Ricoh lens on the GX-100 is highly touted. It is tack sharp, and nicely contrasty, with very little distortion or vignetting. I haven’t used it long enough to get a feeling for chromatic aberration or purple fringing, but by other published reports it is very good in this regard. The maximum aperture is 2.5 at the wide end, and 4.4 at the long end. For this size lens, those are pretty respectable figures. The aperture is advertised as having a 7-blade design, for smooth bokeh.

The 3X zoom range is 5.1 to 15.3mm (same as 24-72 mm in 35mm equivalent terms). This wide angle is absolutely liberating on a compact camera, and something I have been wanting for a long time, since I did a lot of landscapes in 24mm with my film cameras. It’s clear the public wants more wide angle lenses on their compacts and the manufacturers are following suit, if slowly. Panasonic comes to mind as another maker who has gotten the message. Of course, it would be a more useful lens if it was a 4X, but I know there are some big trade-offs in lens design once you go this wide, and I for one would rather have a sharp 3X lens than a not as sharp 4X lens. At the long end of this zoom, 72mm is sufficient for doing portrait work, even if I have to work a little closer to my subjects than I would sometimes like.

Another really interesting and unique feature of this camera is the step zoom. On my Casio, I complained about it’s “step zoom”, in the sense that the zoom steps were too discrete, and it was difficult to zoom to exactly the crop you wanted without resorting to some footwork. Well, with the GX-100, if you enable it, there is a really discrete set of zoom steps. The difference is they are tied to known focal lengths: 24mm, 28mm, 35mm, 50mm and 72mm. This is different than having a zoom that isn’t quite smooth. As others have pointed out, this is really like having 5 focal length primes in your bag, because the focal length is shown on the LCD. I’ve found this feature to be really desirable, and basically leave it on all the time.

One of the negatives of the Ricoh zoom is the dreaded “digital zoom”. Most digicams have this feature, where once you zoom to the long end of the optical range, the camera will continue to zoom using “digital” zoom (i.e. cropping). I absolutely detest this feature. The bad news is that the GX-100 doesn’t let you turn it off…unless… you are shooting in RAW. I wish Ricoh could provide an option to disable it (it’s just a firmware issue, after all).

Another outstanding feature of this lens is macros. At the wide end, a 1 cm limit! And at the long end : 4 cm. This allows for some really great macro opportunities. Even though I complained earlier on the way the AF point selection was initiated, I am glad to have the feature on the camera. It is exceedingly useful with the camera on a tripod and doing macro work. I just wish Ricoh would figure out a different way to turn it on.

All in all, a very fine lens on this beast. And that translates into great image potential. I’ll mention one final negative regarding the focus. There is no facility for focus bracketing on this camera. A high-end feature, perhaps, and yes, not many other cameras of this size have it either. But my Casio EX-P600 does. And it comes in very useful sometimes, particularly with macro work. I wish the Ricoh programmers could add this to the camera’s firmware.

Sensor, Metering, Exposure and Image Quality

   
     

The GX-100 features a 1/1.75″ 10.1 megapixel CCD sensor. I wish I could say something nice about this sensor, but I can’t. The pixels are tiny, and there are more of them than there should be. It’s noisy. And the dynamic range takes a hit. And if you understand these things and accept them as the trade-offs that they are, it’s mostly good news after that. Like my EX-P600 I pretty much have to stick with ISO 80 or 100 for smooth, buttery images (even then, noise is visible at all ISOs, if you look hard for it). ISO 200 is definitely usable, but beyond that it starts to go south pretty quick. As many have pointed out, however, Ricoh takes a pretty hands off approach to noise reduction, and their “Ricoh color engine” processing leaves noise mostly showing up as luminance noise, and not so much the more objectionable chroma noise. Furthermore, you have RAW processing (DNG format–yay!) to get the best results you can with state of the art post processing tools.

The picture gets even sunnier if you are the sort that likes B&W imaging. The GX-100 noise looks quite acceptable as “grain” in B&W images, whether straight from the camera, or processed out of RAW. I have been shooting a lot more B&W this last year or so, and I think this camera is only going to encourage me farther in that direction. The B&W images really have a great, gritty look to them. That was a selling point for me, seeing all the great B&W work on the Ricoh forums around the net.

If B&W is not your bag, don’t despair. The GX-100 has great color too, with the “Ricoh look”. Fuji is also known for their great color (that’s why a lot of wedding photographers shoot with Fuij DSLRs) and I have this recurring fantasy about “what if” Ricoh, Panasonic and Casio had licensed the Fuji sensor used in my F31fd (6 mpix, 1/1.7″, great low light capability) and put it in something like the GX-100. Ah, one can dream.

One of the big pluses for me with this camera is all the options for aspect ratios. You have 4:3 (my favorite), 3:2 and even 1:1 (although 1:1 cannot be used with RAW–why?). I love the option of being able to compose and shoot square frames. A 16:9 option would be nice, pity they didn’t add that as well. Oh, and while you are at it, Ricoh, how about a panorama stitch assist?

A couple of notes on metering, a very important subject for photographers. You need to know and understand your meter, and be able to trust it. It doesn’t matter if it is “off”, so long as it is consistent about being off, and how much it is off. The GX-100 has a tendency to clip highlights, like many compacts, and while I’m still getting a handle on the metering for this cam (it takes a while), it feels like a consistent -0.3 or -0.7 EV will be dialed in most of the time (sure wish there was a -0.5 setting!). It would be nice if the GX-100 had full time, always “hot” exposure compensation buttons, like my EX-P600, because I use that a lot. Fortunately, as I described earlier, the Ricoh system is pretty efficient with the adjust rocker and the wheel at changing EV compensation. Bottom line, metering is not particularly accurate, but it is consistent, and judicious use of exposure compensation will take care of clipped highlights. This may be a good time to mention that the GX-100 has a “blinking highlights” display in playback mode, which is very useful for a quick spot check of clipping.

There are the standard AE matrix, center and spot metering modes, of which I use all three frequently. I especially like Ricoh’s analog-y “needle match” exposure indicator, which is very easy to see and understand. One absolutely “must have” feature for me is an autoexposure lock (AE) button. Fortunately, the user-customizable “Fn” button I described earlier can be set to do this, and even better, the camera retains the setting until you press the button again (perfect for stitched panoramas!). As a super bonus, if you are in manual exposure mode and press the AE lock, it causes the camera to set the exposure to the auto exposure value, from which you can then tweak it. Nice!

I will take this opportunity to complain about the location of the Fn button, which, on the top of the camera, is not in a very good location for an AE lock button. Ricoh should either add a dedicated AE button in the right spot (a la the new Sigma DP-1) or (better) add more customizable Fn buttons, some on the back of the camera. Trust me, Ricoh, users would love more Fn buttons!

The camera includes AE bracketing, perfect for doing HDR images, or just making sure you nailed the exposure, but frustratingly the bracketing only goes to +/-0.5 ev. It would be nice if one could at least go out to +/-1.0 ev.

There are the expected Auto, Manual and Aperture-priority modes, but interestingly, no Shutter-priority (what gives? I use that all the time on my other cameras). There is also a very nice Program-Shift mode, which is basically Auto, but allows you to roll the front finger wheel to scroll through all the shutter/aperture combinations for a given autoexposure calculation. This is slick, taken straight from DSLR-land, and probably reduces the need for shutter priority (although I still wonder why they omitted it). The mode dial also sports the ubiquitous “scene” modes (sports, landscape, portrait, etc), which are of little use to the enthusiast segment this camera is marketed to, but, like more megapixels, face detection, smile detection and all the other gimmicks, seems to still find its way onto “serious” compacts (thankfully the Ricoh dispenses with most of the others).

White balance controls are typical, with a manual WB option that works like you expect. There is even a WB bracketing option, although it doesn’t let you choose the amount in degrees K. That would be really useful. No, this WB bracketing just brackets by a preset amount. It still may be useful for when the WB can not be accurately determined. I haven’t really shoot enough color with this camera yet to report on the accuracy of the AWB, but I will update this when I get a better feel for it.

The GX-100 offers an “Auto-HI” sensitivity setting, which chooses a higher ISO, if possible (the upper limit can be set via a menu setting). This is a handy setting if you are shooting moving subjects in low light situations, where a higher shutter speed is preferred over the image stabilization feature, but you are working fast and don’t want to be messing about in manual mode. Unfortunately, there is no setting where one can limit the upper ISO chosen in the default “Auto” mode. This would be a very useful addition to the firmware or for a future model.

The camera is a little slow to write files, and I’m testing with a SanDisk Extreme III and JPEG. I attribute this to the camera hardware and software combo, not to the card. Much has been said in various forums about the slow RAW write speed, and a need for buffering, and I’m sure Ricoh will address this in future models. Part of that solution should be to allow the user to turn off the recording of a JPEG file in addition to the RAW–currently your choices are JPEG or JPEG+RAW. Not having to write the JPEG file will certainly speed things up a little, and save some space for the user. Major, major, kudos to Ricoh for choosing DNG as their RAW format, which instantly makes the camera’s files usable with most modern RAW image processing workflows and greatly increases the chances that the user will have to work with the RAW files well into the forseeable future.

Since I have only had the camera a short time, I can provide only a brief observation on the overall image quality. And that is, cautiously, so far I am quite pleased. I had set my expectations low, considering this was a 10.1 mpix 1/1.8″ CCD, and that was wise. Living with noise is part of living with a small sensor digicam (although I pray fervently that the DP-1 will change this and jump-start a new market segment for serious compacts). And, as many have noted, you fight the noise, or accept it and make it work for you. I think the latter zen approach is what Ricoh does with this camera, and I find myself aligned with that style of thinking.

I will update this section later with some more concrete thoughts about the IQ as I gain more experience with the camera.

Miscellaneous Aspects and Features

   
     

I generally dislike the look of flash pictures, and avoid using flash if at all possible (mostly this means I don’t have a lot of experience with flash, since I see a lot of excellent work over at The Strobist). With that disclaimer, here’s my take on the GX-100’s flash. It’s decent, and covers the basics. I’ve already mentioned that I’m not a huge fan of the flimsy pop-up design (although the visible absence of a flash on the front of the camera might make some museum person comfortable, in a pinch). The flash does cover the wide 24mm setting, which is a plus, and there are the usual settings, including my favorite use for flash: a slow-sync night scene mode. Some users have lamented on the forums about the lack of flash compensation, which is definitely a reasonable complaint for Ricoh to address in the future. No, the saving grace for the GX-100 is the presence of a real hot-shoe on the top of the camera, which opens up a world of possibilities for attached and remote flash, external viewfinders, GPS geotagging, etc.

There are a couple of settings on the camera for continuous shooting and high speed shooting. Since I almost never do any of this kind of shooting, I’m not really qualified to comment, but my casual opinion is that these basically gimmicks, because the images are small and recorded together as one large (that is to say, regular) image file. Might be useful for analyzing your golf swing or something. I doubt I’ll ever use it.

One feature that I miss on the GX-100 is a sound recorder mode. It is excellent for recording field notes when one is out shooting. Of course, you can use movie mode for this, but that wastes a lot of space for just generating an audio file. It also comes in handy for impromptu interviews, music recording, idea brainstorming, etc. The camera does have an annotation feature for photographs, and it works reasonably efficiently, but annotations are limited to 8 seconds of audio. Another request to Ricoh…audio record mode, please? That produces a WAV file? No time limit, except due to card space?

Another feature I miss frequently that I find on my other cameras is a “world date” feature; basically, this allows you to set a second timezone into the camera, and then toggle between the “world clock” and the “home clock”. This is exceedingly useful when traveling, and spares you having to reset the clock on the camera, in the case where you want to record the local time of capture in the EXIF data of the photos.

Other notable omissions: remote shutter release, either via a small wireless remote or via the a USB connection (you can use the self-timer, but it’s really no replacement), a calendar playback feature (to review photos by date–handy when traveling), a decent movie mode. You can quibble about whether some of these are necessary in a “serious compact”; I’ll argue that for this genre of camera, why not? They are there on some of the competitor’s models.

A cool, somewhat unique feature that the Ricoh does have is a built in intervalometer, allowing you to do time-lapse photography, or remote unattended photography without having to tote an extra gadget along.

A note about the image stabilization feature. Once of the selling points of this camera for me was that it features a real, CCD-moving image stabilization feature, something my other cams lack. I can report that this feature works well, and I leave it on by default. It is totally in the background and you can just set it and forget it. Reports are that it doesn’t work as well as in some other cameras. Since I have no others with this feature I can’t comment on that. But I have appreciated this capability almost immediately: I notice my hand held shots in lower light are much sharper at speeds that would give me trouble on my other cams. Thumbs up.

My initial experience with battery life is that it is only “fair”. You will definitely want to order an extra battery to have along; I’m seriously considering ordering a second spare, for 3 batteries total. The CPU and hardware are perhaps not the most efficient, compared to some other cams. I will report back my average number of pictures in an update to this post, but so far I’ve not been overly impressed,.. or depressed.

Conclusion

This is definitely a preliminary conclusion, and interested readers should check back to this section later on to see what, if anything, has changed in my opinion after using the camera for a few months. I decided to post my review early, because my experience is that if I don’t, the GX-200 (?) will be out before I have the review up. The camera has already been out for around a year, so if anything this review may help some people still sitting on the fence regarding buying this camera now, or waiting for the next version, or who may be interested in picking up the GX-100 at a bargain price later.

Overall, this is a great compact camera for the serious, thinking photographer. It is definitely not a P&S (“point and shoot”–that term is so overloaded that almost no one can look at this camera and not call it that, but you would be soooo wrong to think you could get good results from just pointing it and shooting on auto). No, this camera requires thought, but will delight the user once they have mastered it’s idiosyncrasies (true of every serious camera).

The lens is superb, the noise reduction very “hands off”, and the handling is pretty solid and ergonomic. RAW mode, image stabilization, full manual controls and good customizability (is that a word?). All in a hardy little package. Sure, there are some nit-picks in this review, but many of them are simply software (firmware) issues, and could easily be addressed by Ricoh in the future. So, without further ado, the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

The Good

  • Nice grip, general ergonomics, good size (although I am always looking for smaller, the Fuji F31 size really fits in a pants pocket with the same size sensor!)
  • Rocker adjust switch + wheel
  • “MY1″ and “MY2″ user-customizable modes
  • Superb lens, reasonably fast aperture, with good zoom range and excellent macro capabilities (goes wide to 24mm equivalent!)
  • Nice step-zoom mode and 1:1 aspect ratio option
  • RAW image capture in DNG
  • Full manual controls
  • Real hot-shoe
  • “Hands off” noise reduction
  • Built in intervalometer
  • Workable image stabilization

The Bad

  • Manual lens cap ( I know this is debatable, some may call it a Good)
  • Some missing things: shutter priority mode, audio recording mode, more customizable Fn buttons (or dedicated buttons for AE lock, etc), remote shutter release
  • Only fair battery life
  • AF a bit pokey (slow)
  • Cannot disable “digital zoom”
  • Write times a tad slow, especially so for RAW
  • Cannot adjust contrast or sharpness in B&W mode
  • Image quality could be better, including video (movies)
  • Digital zoom cannot be turned off except via “step zoom”.

The Ugly

  • Flimsy pieces on an otherwise solid build: the USB cover, pop-up flash, etc. I would file these under “Bad”, except that the camera was so expensive at first launch that this is inexcusable.

Things that Ricoh should improve

Here is a single list of all the things I wished for throughout this review, collected into one place, plus a couple of others.

   
     
  • Enable AF point selection in non-macro mode.
  • Add a built in neutral density filter, like the one on the Canon G9. Very useful in bright light situations.
  • Add one or two more custom function buttons, and improve the placement of the buttons (they should go on the back, where the thumb can reach them. Basically, I want an AE lock button in the right place!).
  • Provide a way to turn off “digital zoom”
  • Add focus bracketing
  • Add shutter priority mode, audio recording mode
  • Add world date setting and calendar playback mode
  • Add a user-settable upper limit to ISO in Auto ISO setting
  • Increase the possible range of EV bracketing to at least 1 stop (current limit is +/- 0.5 EV)
  • Remove the need to store a JPEG with every RAW
  • Add flash compensation
  • Allow contrast and sharpness to be used independently with B&W mode
  • Allow simultaneous use of the “thirds” composition lines and the live histogram.
  • Have the option of a histogram showing separate RGB values
  • Have a built-in lens cover (I’m still waffling on this actually)
  • Quieter operation
  • Improve AF speed
  • Provide a way to remotely control the camera (esp shutter) through USB cable or wireless remote
  • Improve file write times, buffering, esp. for RAW
  • Smoother controls (but robust!)
  • Better battery life (manual zoom alone might do it)
  • Less flimsy flash, port cover, battery door

And these are big, and possibly unreasonable wishes:

  • A larger, less noisy sensor (but only if the camera size does not increase significantly)
  • Manual zoom
  • A 4X zoom range would be nice, but only if it doesn’t decrease the sharpness of the lens significantly. Keep the wide end based at 24mm (this may be entirely unrealistic, but this is a wish list, so there it is!)

Addendum

  1. I’m aware that the review currently lacks color images. I will be adding some…
  2. Modified notes on digital zoom after a reader pointed out an error
  3. Modified notes on adjust rocker switch and AF point selection after a reader pointed out an error

12 thoughts on “Mini-Review: Ricoh GX-100

  1. Thanks for you informative review.
    I would like to point out a couple of errors, in my experience with the camera.
    Settings 1 and 2 ( contrast,etc) are not limited to MY1 and My2 modes. They can be used in other modes as well. Try it.
    Digital zoom is also possible in step zoom mode. Just push the zoom lever and it continues to zoom out.
    Hope I read you correctly, and these make sense.
    Kind Regards,
    Antara

  2. Antara,

    I confirmed what you said about the digital zoom. Perhaps I had it in RAW mode when I was in step zoom before. I don’t like that at all–too easy to make a mistake. Can you elaborate on setting1 and 2 being used with other modes? For example, can I use B&W mode with increased contrast?

    –Eric

  3. Eric
    I believe you can use Settings 1 and 2 in most modes. I took some tests(in dpreview Ricoh forum near the top) in P mode in color with different settings.
    I just shot a B&W with -2 and +2 for contrast and sharpness and , altho its low light here at my computer, it seems to confirm that
    it works. Try it yourself. You will notice BW staya “marked” even when you move down to Settings in the menu
    Antara.

  4. This is an excellent review and I also agree on some of the proposals you added for a follow-up of the GX100. Like the larger sensor, larger buffer for faster raw write times, extended EV compensation for bracketing, built in neutral density filter, flash compensation.
    Some things I find personally less interesting. For instance shutter priority (it is not a speed deamon), extended date settings, and digital zoom (I hardly use the 72mm anyway).
    I wrote an impression of the GX100 in my blog (http://wouter28mm.wordpress.com/2008/03/22/my-ricoh-gx100-impressions/) and for Seriouscompacts.com (http://www.seriouscompacts.com/2008/03/my-ricoh-gx100-impressions.html).
    Thanks for sharing. Wouter Brandsma

  5. Eric,
    I tried Settings with BW again this morning and I believe I was mistaken about being able to use both at the same time.
    Your tests? I’m just getting acquainted with this camera.
    Antara

  6. Eric,

    I don’t use the HA-2 adapter or anything similar. I was considering it and I also asked Ricoh if it would be sufficient, but they seriously did not know. They even remarked that the GX100 is actually an indoor camera! I just said them they shouldn’t mislead me. Nothing about that is mentioned in their manual, not even on their site. They didn’t tell me that when I bought the camera. 4 out of 5 example photos on their site are obviously taken in the outdoor. I replied that if the GX100 is indoor camera than at least supply the camera with proper flash compensation, because it is mostly too bright.
    It is a great camera. The overal built is good en lens gives outstanding results. But the lens assembly has a problem. If the GRDII would haven been available in June last year I would have bought that camera.

    With regards,
    Wouter

  7. Pingback: Ricoh GX100

  8. Pingback: Ricoh Caplio GX-200 [digital!]

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