An Open Request to Ricoh and to Assist with an Informed Buying Decision

Started Jan 15, 2010 | Discussions
barjohn
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An Open Request to Ricoh and to Assist with an Informed Buying Decision
Jan 15, 2010

I have purchased the GXR with A12. I have identified the following issues that need to be addressed by Ricoh in firmware. I believe that most of these issues can be either fixed or improved in firmware. At the same time I think prospective buyers need to know as much as possible about the camera and any shortcomings it may have. Further, despite these issues, I believe it is an excellent camera, especially when used in zone focus (snap) mode and with the fixing of these items it could be an all around winner. It's major competition in IQ will be the Samsung NX and the Leica X1. From the raw images I have seen I think it will fair very well except for those with vivid imaginations that think they see some mysterious Leica glow but would be unable to identify it in a blind test (it's actually red dot glare).

My list of issues with the GXR/A12:

Auto Focus Issues:

1. Slow spot mode auto focus in normal room light level, reaches acceptable though not GF1 speeds as light level increases (avg. full press AF speed =1.08sec) (GF1 avg. full press AF speed =0.36sec with 20mm f1.7 lens, average speed with 14mm-45mm zoom at 14mm is 0.23sec)

2. Multi-autofocus is so slow it is almost unusable except for still life (Avg. focus speed 1.39sec)

3. Image in the EVF & LCD freezes during AF then jumps to a new position when focus is achieved

4. Low light level for focus assist light to come on is set too low resulting in inability to lock focus in conditions that are brighter than conditions in which the light turns on and auto focus is achieved

Manual Focus Issues:

1. Center magnify is insufficient and needs to be either made adjustable and set in a menu (like one button playback magnify) or have two steps 5X and 10X

2. Focus ring response is jumpy and moves in click steps rather than in a smooth continuous motion and the lens response lags the physical change causing focus to be missed as one overshoots the focus point and then on return undershoots the focus point

3. In full manual mode the image brightness on the LCD or EVF varies with the exposure setting making manual focus in low light difficult; this may be by design to show the user what the exposure looks like but there needs to be a simple override during manual focusing such as when turning the focus ring it should automatically brighten the image to assist with focusing

Other Issues:

1. Screen leaves live view after shutter release for about 1.9sec. This results in a blank screen for the 2 seconds or if image review is on and set to less than 2 seconds, the image is frozen for the period of review less than the blank time

2. If reviewing an image (playback), a full press of the shutter takes it out of playback but does not fire a shot in auto focus or manual mode (the GF1 will focus and fire the shutter)

3. When auto flash mode is selected the TTL feature does not seem to function properly and images either over or under expose

I hope this is of help to both Ricoh engineers and forum members. As a software engineer, I think some of these issues could be resolved by double buffering which would improve the perception of responsiveness by making the camera more responsive. Also, examining the servo loop software algorithm might gain improved performance. I realize there are some limits inherent in the macro lens design and the sensor readout speed but within those limits improvements are clearly possible as seen in bright light performance.
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VladimirV
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Re: An Open Request to Ricoh and to Assist with an Informed Buying Decision
In reply to barjohn, Jan 15, 2010

This is an excellent post and one of the best I have read about the GXR.

I fully agree with what you say and have came to some of the same conclusions. Let's hope Ricoh can fix and improve these things in a firmware update.

One extra thing they need to improve is to fix the banding at ISO 1600 and higher, this should not occur in a camera of this class and price.

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mitchall
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Re: An Open Request to Ricoh and to Assist with an Informed Buying Decision
In reply to barjohn, Jan 15, 2010

John:

Thanks for an excellent and thorough analysis, with which I agree. While I assume, on the basis of the firmware improvements that Ricoh has made to the GRD cameras, that the company is working in these matters, I'd like to stress for people considering this camera that it is still a very usable camera with outstanding image quality, about which you've also written, and would like address some of the key issues from the point of view of a user.

Some people have been concerned that the autofocus is too slow for street photography. My point of view is that even the fastest autofocus system that I'm familiar with, that of the Nikon D300, is also problematic in that at least half the time, in the type of dynamic, close-up (1-3m) street photography that I like to do, the D300 will focus on the wrong subject because one simply does not have the time to select the AF target quickly enough. Similarly, the excellent rangefinder system of the Leica-M cameras is also too slow in such situations, which is why most street photographers have traditionally used zone focusing, by pre-focusing to a fixed distance and stopping the lens down to f/5.6 or f/8 to take advantage of available depth of field.

On the GXR/A12, the best way to pre-focus or to zone focus is to either estimate the distance — I find that thinking in meters makes it much easier to estimate focus than thinking in the shorter measure of feet — or, better, to use autofocus to focus the camera at the distance of interest and then switch to manual focus, which keeps the camera focused at the original distance, so that no estimation is required — this is very easy to do because one can assign one of the Function buttons the function of changing between manual and autofocus. I should also note that scale displaying the distance and depth of field of manual focus is excellent.

Nevertheless, even using the zone focusing approach, the most urgent matters for Ricoh to improve are the the autofocus and the manual focus systems, as you suggest. While even a minor increase in the speed of the autofocus system will be useful, the biggest deficiency, in my view, is of the manual focus system: the center magnification currently is useless in that it is extremely difficult, and sometimes impossible, to see when the plane of interest comes into focus, except in the case of macro shooting. Also, as you point out, the jumpiness and step-function of the focus ring is problematic.

Like you, I hope that Ricoh will be able to fix these issues soon, but stress that this remains an outstandingly good camera.

—Mitch/Bangkok
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milano22
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thanks, and question about LCD panel
In reply to barjohn, Jan 15, 2010

John,

Thanks, as a potential GXR buyer I was very interested to read your post. As you extensively used GXR I wonder would you be so kind and answer unrelated question:

most modern digital cameras use LCD panel which is protected by an additional rigid glass or plastic panel integrated, and often designed to be flush with the body, see for example here:

It appears to me that GXR uses 3" TFT screen which is unprotected by any such layer - am I correct? The product photos do not really show it clearly. BTW, I realise that there are various after market solution to add (glue) a protective sheet of plastic or thin glass, but I was curious how the original GXR surface feels to touch - does it appear to be semi-soft and potentially easy to damage?

thanks, Derek

barjohn wrote:

I have purchased the GXR with A12. I have identified the following issues that need to be addressed by Ricoh in firmware. I believe that most of these issues can be either fixed or improved in firmware. At the same time I think prospective buyers need to know as much as possible about the camera and any shortcomings it may have. Further, despite these issues, I believe it is an excellent camera, especially when used in zone focus (snap) mode and with the fixing of these items it could be an all around winner. It's major competition in IQ will be the Samsung NX and the Leica X1. From the raw images I have seen I think it will fair very well except for those with vivid imaginations that think they see some mysterious Leica glow but would be unable to identify it in a blind test (it's actually red dot glare).

My list of issues with the GXR/A12:

...

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Sagar Joshi
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Re: An Open Request to Ricoh and to Assist with an Informed Buying Decision
In reply to barjohn, Jan 15, 2010

John, once of the excellent post, I have come across. It has helped me to take an educated decision to go ahead with my purchase.

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barjohn
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Re: An Open Request to Ricoh and to Assist with an Informed Buying Decision
In reply to Sagar Joshi, Jan 16, 2010

Derek, to be honest I did not touch the LCD screen. However it is recessed below the frame. I immediately ordered a ScreenPatronous shield that is very clear and very impervious to scratches. Since it was a new camera to them, I carefully measure the LCD and sent them the dimensions. I received the protectors today and they fit perfectly into the recess and provide excellent protection. They may not be needed but I always do this as a precaution to protect the LCD from damage.
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milano22
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Thanks, John! (n/t)
In reply to barjohn, Jan 16, 2010

barjohn wrote:

Derek, to be honest I did not touch the LCD screen. However it is recessed below the frame. I immediately ordered a ScreenPatronous shield that is very clear and very impervious to scratches. Since it was a new camera to them, I carefully measure the LCD and sent them the dimensions. I received the protectors today and they fit perfectly into the recess and provide excellent protection. They may not be needed but I always do this as a precaution to protect the LCD from damage.
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Andrewteee
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LCD dimensions
In reply to barjohn, Jan 16, 2010

John, Would you mind sharing the GXR LCD dimensions. Having decided to keep it my next step is to install some LCD protection. Like you I don't know if I need it, but I do it anyway. Thanks.

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mitchall
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Re: LCD dimensions
In reply to Andrewteee, Jan 16, 2010

I've never used LCD protectors on any digital camera, except on the Nikon D300, which comes with one. Never had a problem.

—Mitch/Bangkok
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Andrewteee
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Re: LCD dimensions
In reply to mitchall, Jan 16, 2010

Me neither. It's just habit. Maybe I'll try to break it (the habit) this go round.

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Andrewteee
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Re: An Open Request to Ricoh and to Assist with an Informed Buying Decision
In reply to barjohn, Jan 16, 2010

Even with its "beta" qualities, I'm getting some stunning results with the GXR/A12! Within its current limitations it works beautifully. IME with Ricoh it will only get better.

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barjohn
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Re: LCD dimensions
In reply to Andrewteee, Jan 16, 2010

Andy, ScreenPatronous has the right dimensions now and is a good source for really great screens that are easy to apply and remove later. However, I will have to remeasure in the AM and post them for you.
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benaparis_01
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Re: An Open Request to Ricoh and to Assist with an Informed Buying Decision
In reply to barjohn, Jan 16, 2010

Thanks John for your very interesting and clear review of what could/should be improved with the GXR.

After almost two months using the GXR and especially with the A12 lens module I must agree with almost all your comments especially with AF issues.

But for manual focus issues even if I understand your concerns I do not totally agree.

barjohn wrote:

1. Center magnify is insufficient and needs to be either made adjustable and set in a menu (like one button playback magnify) or have two steps 5X and 10X

The problem here is a lack of screen/EVF resolution when using the magnifier, a 1 800 000 dots instead of a 920 000 dots (which is very good) would be helpful if you want to have a nice and trully efficient magnifier, I only use it for macro and when perfect focus is critical, but 99% of the time without the magnifier if you get used to it making perfect focus where you want in the frame is possible 90% of the time without problems thanks to the sufficient resolution of the screen and EVF. To be honnest it is even easier for me to manual focus with the GXR A12 than with my D3 and my Zeiss ZF 50mm without the focus assist confirmation.

2. Focus ring response is jumpy and moves in click steps rather than in a smooth continuous motion and the lens response lags the physical change causing focus to be missed as one overshoots the focus point and then on return undershoots the focus point

As explained before, I got used to it not an issue for me, the focus ring is smoother than you think, maybe it is the sound of the focus by wire that makes you think and feel that the focus ring response is jumpy (I have used 3 different A12 two for test and the third is my own). Nevertheless, if you are used with traditionnal manual focus mechanism I understand that focus by wire could be disturbing and some people will never get used to it.

3. In full manual mode the image brightness on the LCD or EVF varies with the exposure setting making manual focus in low light difficult; this may be by design to show the user what the exposure looks like but there needs to be a simple override during manual focusing such as when turning the focus ring it should automatically brighten the image to assist with focusing

Why not, it could be an option. But if your subject is correctly exposed you have sufficient light to make focus. Don't forget you have a brightness adjust option for LCD, unfortunately not for the EVF which is missing.

Vladimir noticed banding issues from 1600 iso, well it is fair to say that it only occurs in specific conditions (mostly in the sky when you make night shots), otherwise I noticed no banding at 1600 and only at 3200 and not all the time and it is very slight when I process raw files, and if you see it on screen (sometimes screen are too bright 95/100cd should be a correct value to match prints) it may not be visible on prints. Of course when using high isos it is mandatory to make perfect exposure to avoid problems.

Two pictures at 3200iso without banding :
http://dl.free.fr/getfile.pl?file=/Pxo1vteA

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benaparis_01
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Few other things that should be improved by firmware
In reply to barjohn, Jan 16, 2010
  • When in AF mode the ability to override the AF system when turning the lens barrel in order to switch automatically in manual focus mode. For the moment you have to wait for the AF system to stop before using manual focus. (BTW the full press snap option is really nice and helpful in some case).

  • Speed setting for Auto Iso (instead of 1/48)

  • In video mode : ability to make manual focus while recording video and ability to choose aperture.

  • For B&W jpegs settings the ability to simulate Red, Orange, Yellow, Green and Blue filters.

My two cents.

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barjohn
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Re: Few other things that should be improved by firmware
In reply to benaparis_01, Jan 16, 2010

Ben,
Let me touch on a couple of the items in your response.

The focus by wire comment is based on not just a comparison with true mechanical focus lenses but in comparison to the Panasonic GF1 that I have with either of its lenses. If you watch carefully you will see the focus jump in discrete small steps rather than a smooth continuum.

The GF1 with only a 460K resolution screen offer 5X and 10X image magnification for focusing assistance and it is noticeably easier to manually focus as a result. This is especially true for those of us with less than perfect eye sight. The higher resolution screen of the GXR combined with the higher magnification should really help. I am not the only one that has observed this need. Even using the GF1 230K resolution EVF is easier to focus due to the increased magnification. There is more of a snap into focus phenomenon.

Lastly, let me discuss the image brightness on using manual mode. It really helps to have the LCD or EVF fully illuminated and only indicate the exposure on the scale (which it does in the scale at the bottom eft of the screen) rather than create a preview of the stopped down or high speed shutter selection. The screen brightness, even at maximum is not as bright as the GF1 screen. The worse our vision the more we need it. Where it became noticeable to me was when I wanted to use a combination to get faster flash synch than 1/48th. The screen may darken to the point you can't focus it if you want to do manual focus.

I hope this helps clarify my earlier comments.
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barjohn
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Re: Few other things that should be improved by firmware
In reply to barjohn, Jan 16, 2010

Andy, LCD dimensions are 61mm x 45mm. I hope this helps.
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benaparis_01
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Re: Few other things that should be improved by firmware
In reply to barjohn, Jan 16, 2010

Thanks John for clarifying...
barjohn wrote:
,

Let me touch on a couple of the items in your response.

The focus by wire comment is based on not just a comparison with true mechanical focus lenses but in comparison to the Panasonic GF1 that I have with either of its lenses. If you watch carefully you will see the focus jump in discrete small steps rather than a smooth continuum.

Ok, but like you said it is discrete and it is not really obvious and in real life it is not an issue for manual focus efficiency. As I told you before my rate of good focus is around 90% even wide open whatever the focus distance after two month of manual focus with GXR. So IMHO it is more a question of comfort than an issue.

The GF1 with only a 460K resolution screen offer 5X and 10X image magnification for focusing assistance and it is noticeably easier to manually focus as a result. This is especially true for those of us with less than perfect eye sight. The higher resolution screen of the GXR combined with the higher magnification should really help. I am not the only one that has observed this need. Even using the GF1 230K resolution EVF is easier to focus due to the increased magnification. There is more of a snap into focus phenomenon.

You make a point, but in my pratice I noticed that when I use the magnifier I made more focus mistakes than without (except with some macro shots) because the image in the magnifier lacks of resolution, so it is not so easy to feel the focus for subject at around 3/5 meters. But if some people needs a x10 magnifier why not, I won't blame anyone for that of course.

Lastly, let me discuss the image brightness on using manual mode. It really helps to have the LCD or EVF fully illuminated and only indicate the exposure on the scale (which it does in the scale at the bottom eft of the screen) rather than create a preview of the stopped down or high speed shutter selection. The screen brightness, even at maximum is not as bright as the GF1 screen. The worse our vision the more we need it. Where it became noticeable to me was when I wanted to use a combination to get faster flash synch than 1/48th. The screen may darken to the point you can't focus it if you want to do manual focus.

Ok here it is very clear, as I did not use the flash very much with the GXR it was not clear for me...

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Andrewteee
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Thanks!
In reply to barjohn, Jan 16, 2010

Thanks!

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ruinog
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Re: LCD dimensions
In reply to mitchall, Jan 17, 2010

mitchall wrote:

I've never used LCD protectors on any digital camera

Me neither, but I fel t the need for an anti reflex one. So I ordered the Giottos, but I'm not sactisfyed with it.

How does Screen Patronus work's regarding reflex on the LCD?

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kevinparis
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Re: An Open Request to Ricoh and to Assist with an Informed Buying Decision
In reply to barjohn, Jan 18, 2010

so the camera is a dog... ok maybe a cute mongrel puppy ... would everybody stop trying to wish it into being the salvation of digital photography. Its a flocking camera... if it doesn't work for you as a camera buy another one.

I have seen nothing anybody has posted that shows any quantum leap forward from what you can get from a micro four thirds.

give me a compact mirrorless full frame then i might get interested
peace

K
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