GXR Lenses, lensors & Misc.

Started 7 months ago | Discussions thread
Tom Caldwell
Forum ProPosts: 17,580
Off on one of my rants ;)
In reply to Runnicle, 7 months ago

Runnicle wrote:

Tom, as always thanks for the tips. I'll be experimenting and growing into the GXR M-mount over time. Because of its multiple applications and facets, the GXR takes a long time to learn in full, particularly considering the fact that each lensor unit is in effect its own camera.

I find this forum invaluable as an educational tool, and I'd also like to recommend to every one's attention another resource that to me represents the equivalent of a graduate-level course in GXR's M-mount. I am referring to Michael Reichmann's "Field Notes" on the M-mount that he wrote way back when this lensor unit was first introduced.

His comments are particularly valuable, I feel, because of his half-century as a photographer during which he used every Leica camera system except for one (the M-6). So, when he talks about how GXR stacks up against M8 or M9, you feel as if you are getting the benefit of a truly expert and informed opinion. Also, at the end of his long treatise on the M-module he links to another LL article on the GXR by Sean Reid. Here's the link to Reichmann's article for those who may never have read it:

M. Reichmann's article on GXR-M


Thanks for linking Reichmann's article, I did read it some time ago but I had forgotten how much he had "damned th GXR-M with faint praise" and spent so much time talking about how good Leica was in a review that was purportedly one about a Ricoh camera with M mount module "you should really have a M9 but you probably could not afford one". Otherwise wait for the NEX7.

Obviously all reviews must necessarily be coloured by the reviewers own pre-perceptions.

Things that irritate are:

Praise of the Leica "build quality", Ricoh is good, but ... so as my Ricoh cameras are also well built and seem to last forever, no gaps, squeaks, rattles or movement, buttons and wheels hang in there well, then how much heavier does a GXR have to be to meet "Leica build quality?"

The old ostentatious saw: "I only shoot raw" (therefore in-camera jpg is useless). Ricoh fixed this for those that do and immediately raised complaints that the tiny embedded jpg in dng files was too small for the (jpg) playback image. If jpg was soooo bad then even using it in playback would not be useful at all and raw shooters could simply wait until, like the days of film, for the soft glow of "the darkroom". Ricoh now graciously provides "raw only" but with a very small embedded jpg for unmagnified playback. It is not that I have any problem with shooting raw and do this myself it is the use of it as a "superiority" by-word as if only the most mature photographers disdain to use the in-camera raw processing and must back their own laboratory processing against what the camera can do.

I am going to get into trouble over the previous paragraph but happily say that when the in-camera processed jpg is good enough for my "slack" photography then I save myself the trouble of re-processing it myself. When I make a mistake in capture or have a really great image (occasionally) I like to process the raw file that I save as well. However to say "I only do raw" is to say that your captures are all either mistakes from sloppy technique or excellent eye-popping captures. The third possibility is that all raw files are simply batch processed in PP and therefore the user must believe that Adobe or someone else has a smarter appreciation of what you and your camera was thinking abbout at the time and the best efforts of the guy who produced the custom raw processing routine in camera.

The having to delete the jpg captures is also the Australian "Furphy" as by producing jpg from the raw file captures you only end up creating much the same thing, but I have no doubt about and willingly endorse that intelligent processing of a raw file can and does refine captures but the benefit is less apparent when the camera is set up correctly at time of capture. If the white balance is not right then processing raw is the best solution.

Having that rant out of the way ... ;

Reichmann dismisses Mode 2 focus peaking as "cartoonish" thereby showing his long association with RF cameras and optical viewfinders. This is not really fair to him has he does go to some pains to describe just why the optical RF might be becoming a trade of the past. But he seems to like the NEX focus peaking system in preference.

I had wondered about the Sony system of focus peaking as compared to the two Ricoh systems but did not know how they directly compared until I bought a NEX6 some months ago. If you have used either of the Ricoh focus peaking systems for any time then the Sony implementation will drive you mad. I presume that all on this forum have some idea on how the Ricoh systems work so I will mainly comment on what Sony offers.

Firstly as "features" Sony allows three levels of peak thickness lines and three optional colours. As will be shown these are effectively "features made out of necessity" and only partly compensate for the basic weakness of Sony focus peaking. It does not seem to be scaled to screen magnification. On a non magnified screen the peaks tend to blend together into one thick mass that I call "ink-blot" this is because the level of focus peaking is too high and everything "nearly in focus" is peaked - the result is that it is generally only useful for zone focus type operation. Follow focus with a wide angle lens is more possible with Sony focus peaking as (say) Ricoh's mode 2 is simply too accurate and you usually spend some time madly twisting the focus ring to maintain that precise accuracy. Ricoh Mode 1 is better for follow focus as the dof can generally be seem by the area covered by the shimmer. Mode 1 is similar to Sony FP but does not seem to degenerate into the "ink blot". Once magfication level 1 (4.6x on the NEX6) is used the ink blot goes away and is replaced by a Mode 1 type shimmer - this is the best and probably only practical level of Sony FP. By the time you get to their only other level of magnification at level 2 (9.6x on the NEX6) the focus peaking has disappeared on all but the highest resolving lenses, even when there are very faint edge traces left you have to (slowly) hunt for them and it is always easier to simply use your personal eye-judgement on the most excellent high resolution Sony screen. At this level of magnification to all extent Sony's focus peaking is in name only. Contrast this with Ricoh's Mode 2 which is still quite active at 8x magnification and can be used to precisely focus on a very small point of focus.

"Cartoonish" the Mode 2 might be but it works very well and I will excuse Mr Reichmann on the grounds that the GXR-M is probably a more sophisticated camera than any Leica no matter what anyone feels about "build quality" and it is certainly "streets ahead" of the NEX in the focus peaking department. Unfortunately the GXR cannot even nearly compete as a user camera in the built in evf and tilt lcd department.

The last indignity of the NEX6 that makes a user of magnified focus peaking boil in frustration is that a soft press of the shutter cancels the magnified focus peaking permanently (!!) This means: get your focus right by level 2 magnification (the only one that works in any serious snese) then soft press to check framing, clunk the magnified screen is gone. Grope around for the low placed flush fitting "soft key B" practically dislocating your thumb in the process, pick up first level of magnification again ... repeat as is necessary. Worse when you cannot find the point of focus in your magnified image and need a temporary "normal" screen to locate it.

"Mode 2" might be cartoonish but is certainly works and works very quickly. It is a most excellent focusing tool only and I can live with the cartoons. I am afraid that, with respect, Mr Reichmann did not stay with the GXR-M long enough to really appreciate just how well the whole combination worked in practice. It was a good review but I doubt if his "faint praise" sold too many Ricoh GXR cameras.

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Tom Caldwell

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