Jun 232013
 

Hardly a day goes by without a new review of the Ricoh GR camera appearing, the latest being the one by DPReview. At long last, DPReview has finally acknowledged that Ricoh make superb digital cameras, as anyone with a Ricoh GRD III or GRD IV will attest, and the GR has been duly given a Gold Award.

Ricoh GR camera.

Picture courtesy of erickimphotography.com

Ricoh meisters such as Cristi on One Day, One Picture and Wouter Brandsma have already had the chance to put the new offering from Ricoh through its paces and both are impressed. Check out their websites and you can see why. Street photographer Eric Kim has also thoroughly reviewed the camera, which he annoyingly refers to as the Ricoh GRD V, and gives it a strong recommendation for those photographers wishing to downsize and go for a minimalist approach to street photography. Of course, there is more to the Ricoh GR than just street photography, as Jorge Ledesma so ably points out.

When the Ricoh GR was first announced, it ticked all the boxes for me. Just fractionally larger in size than a Ricoh GRD III but with a 16.2Mp APS-C CMOS sensor with no low-pass filter and a 28mm equivalent f/2.8 lens that is already being hailed as a classic, why wouldn’t it? I placed a pre-order at the beginning of May with B&H and hoped that it would arrive before I left for the UK. Sadly, time ran out and I had to cancel my order.

Availability on this side of the Atlantic is also scare. I have checked several UK Ricoh dealers online, some make no mention of the camera, while others have it listed as a pre-order.

The dilemma I face is whether to put in a pre-order. My financial situation following my recent divorce is healthy in the short term but starting a new life in the UK is going to draw heavily on my limited resources. I need to find an apartment and then furnish it. I don’t have a stick of furniture to my name, not even a knife, fork or spoon.

I also don’t have any income, although that situation could and, hopefully, will change in the future. I would like to think that I could possibly find employment that draws on my expertise and experience but my age could work against me.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2013. All Rights Reserved.

I have also discovered that former work colleagues, you know who you are you bastards, have also disowned me and won’t even give me the courtesy of a reply to my emails. As a consequence, my network is not all that I thought it was. Fortunately, some people have a more kindly disposition, strangely enough those who have gone on to higher and better things than those individuals who refuse to acknowledge me could ever dream about, and have agreed to give me a reference should the need arise. People are strange. I guess it takes adversity to remind us all of that fact.

So will the purchase of a Ricoh GR give me a much needed psychological boost or will it be a purchase that I may well regret six months from now if the money runs out and I have to throw myself at the mercy of the state?

I wonder whether I should post this piece on the Leica forum? I would be sure to get a sympathetic ear from Leica owners, don’t you think? The cost of one of the cheaper Leica lenses would keep my head above water for three or four months.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Ricoh GRD III. ©Calvin Palmer 2013. All Rights Reserved.

It’s a tough call knowing what to do. In the meantime, my Ricoh GRD III continues to give me excellent service, as the photographs above show, which makes the purchase of the Ricoh GR all the more appealing. Also one UK dealer is throwing in a free Ricoh GC-5 leather case, which makes the camera even more tempting.

Decisions, decisions…

Apr 272011
 

Digitial Photography Review, more usually referred to as DPReview, recently had a poll on the question: What should we call mirrorless cameras?

Mirrorless cameras are cameras such as the Panasonic Lumix G models, Olympus Pen Digital models, Sony NEX and Samsung NX series.

DPReview prefaced the poll with this introduction:

Just what should we call mirrorless cameras? Ever since the launch of the Micro Four Thirds System, the photographic world has struggled to find a satisfactory generic term to describe similar systems. The current front-runners appear to be “mirrorless” or “compact system cameras” but there is nothing like consensus yet. We have put some of the more common options and some alternatives we have had suggested to us, in a poll to see how you think of these cameras. It is a chance to have your voice heard, since we have had more than one camera maker ask us which name is most widely recognized. So have a look to the right of this story and register your vote.

If the cameras are called mirrorless cameras, why do they need a new name? It seems the photographic world did not struggle too much to come up with the term mirrorless camera. With this poll, DPReview has simply instigated an exercise in redundancy.

But the geeks and techno-freaks want something to chatter about, anything rather than take photographs – the sole purpose of a camera. No, these people would rather spend hours debating the merits of a CCD sensor versus a CMOS sensor. And of course everyone who posts on DPReview is an “expert”.

The trouble with DPReview is that it takes itself far too seriously. It is essentially an amateur production that cashed in on the Internet explosion and all credit to them for doing that. But where is its authority? It doesn’t really have any since it was never put to the marketplace in the same way that print publications are.

The preface to the poll would be a little more credible if it named the camera manufacturers that see DPReview as the font of all knowledge. Are camera manufacturers facing such hard times that they no longer have marketing departments or cannot afford to hire a marketing consultant to find out the answer?

I guess there is nothing wrong with self-inflating one’s ego. It certainly hasn’t done Donald Trump any harm.

If DPReview is so all-knowing and speaks for the camera industry, why has it never reviewed the Ricoh GR Digital III camera? DPReview does seem to have an inherent bias against Ricoh cameras and likes to play its favourites – another reason to level the charge of amateurism.

The results of the poll are now in.

The winner was Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera with 45.2 percent of the vote, a total of 14,392 votes; second place went to Interchangeable Lens Compact with 18.6 percent, 5,920 votes.

One wag on a DPReview forum noted his disappointment, I would guess tongue-in-cheek, that the poll did not have Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Format as one of the voting options.

I think that comment was the only good thing to emerge from this exercise in futility.

Boys and their toys, huh?

Feb 052011
 

This week Ricoh announced it was developing an M-mount module for its GXR cameras. As much as I love Ricoh cameras, this module and the GXR will not be at the top of my shopping list.

I do not own any Leica M-mount lenses; if I did, I would be shooting with a Leica M9 camera, which blows the GXR, fine camera that it is, out of the water.

I am also somewhat troubled by this announcement because it seems to fly in the face of what Ricoh was saying when it first launched the GXR system — a system where the lens and sensor are combined into a module that some call a lensor.

Introducing this new concept in digital cameras, Ricoh stated:

It is the lens that gives life to the photograph. In interchangeable lens camera systems up to now, the distance from the mount and the back of the lens to the sensor image plane was subject to requirements for flange back distance and back focal length. This made it difficult to achieve both compactness and high optical performance. Eliminating the lens mount, however, means that the back focal length can be freely defined for the GXR, enabling the new system to use the most optically efficient lens designs and giving it excellent potential for future expansion. This practical concept has given birth to camera units that achieve compact size without compromising image quality.

In order to make the best use of the inherent power of the lens and the image sensor, the ideal solution is to combine both in a single unit. Consider, for example, the low-pass filter covering the surface of the image sensor. The dilemma faced is that while the filter helps prevent color noise and color moiré, increasing this benefit results in an ever greater sacrifice in lens resolution. Traditional interchangeable lens systems use a single low-pass filter for all lenses so they are unable to avoid situations where the filter effect is excessive or inadequate. With the GXR, on the other hand, we can design a filter optimized for the resolution of the specific lens. In this way, Ricoh has succeeded in effectively preventing color noise while suppressing filter influence on lens resolution.

The ease with which dust can adhere to image sensors has been a system problem for interchangeable lens digital cameras up to now. In the case of GXR camera units, however, the lens and the image sensor are integrated into a single unit. This structure makes it difficult for dust to get in since it is not necessary to expose the inside of the camera when changing lenses. In addition, the inside of the units are highly airtight with light-shielded walls. Even in highly dusty shooting environments, camera units can be changed without hesitation.

The planned introduction of an interchangeable lens mount in autumn suggests to me that all the above was advertizing hype. Having made the case for not introducing a camera that allows interchangeable lenses, Ricoh appear to have done a U-turn.

The M-mount module has been well received by most people on the Ricoh Forum of DPReview, although a few people do express concerns similar to mine.

In theory it sounds fine to be able to fit one of the the best lenses in the world, Leica lenses undoubtedly are as their cost reflects, but focusing them is not going to be an easy task. The electronic viewfinder that can be bought as an accessory for the GXR will become an essential item for anyone wishing to use manual focus lenses. Trying to focus a heavy lens at arm’s length using the LCD will not be easy, unless your arms have muscles of steel.

No doubt those people who persevere with the GXR and an attached Leica lens will produce good results but not with every shot they take. They will have to get used bracket focusing, for want of a better term, whereby you get the subject in focus and then keep tweaking the focus a fraction on successive shots. Viewing all the shots on a computer screen will reveal the one truly in focus. That approach is fine for static subjects, not so good for anything that moves. And those that think focus confirmation is the answer are in for a rude awakening. Focus confirmation can assist but it will not nail the sharpest focus.

When I bought my GRD III, I was torn between waiting six months or so for the launch of the GXR with a 28mm lens module. The great advantage the GRD III has over the GXR is its compactness, which means the GRD is always with me. There is no denying that the APS-C sensor of the GXR is far superior to the CCD sensor in the GRD III but that superiority only becomes really marked at higher ISO settings. But what good would that superior image quality be if the camera is sitting on the desk in my office.

As the saying goes, the best camera is the one that you have with you and for me that is the Ricoh GRD III.

I would have much preferred Ricoh to have expanded its range of lens modules for the GXR and so make it a more complete, as well as innovative system, to compete with the micro four-thirds cameras.