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Performance

In use the Ricoh GXR with the A12 50mm F2.5 camera module feels snappy and responsive most of the time. Switching the camera on and off takes a little longer than most SLRs but is well within acceptable limits. The menus and review mode can all be navigated in a speedy fashion, too.

Continuous shooting is probably not something that the typical user of this camera would have high up their priority list but if required the Ricoh's speed of 2.9 frames per second is on par with many entry-level DSLRs. There's one area though where the Ricoh cannot keep up with even the slowest DSLRs. Like most large sensor cameras with a contrast detect AF system, the camera is slightly let down by its AF speed.

When focusing on a high-contrast target in good light the GXR does a good job but when conditions are not quite perfect the performance deteriorates quickly. The focus slows down, you'll find it hunting for a lock and occasionally you even get a false positive. It's not the worst camera in this respect but cannot match the Panasonic G-series, which currently offers the fastest AF of all mirrorless large-sensor cameras.

Timings & File Sizes

Timing Notes: All times calculated as an average of three operations. Unless otherwise stated all timings were made on a 4288 x 2848 best quality JPEG (approx. 4,100 KB per image).

The media used for these tests was a 8 GB Sandisk Extreme III (30mb/s edition) SD card

Action
Details
Time, secs
(8 GB Sandisk)
Power Off to On *1   1.5
Power Off to Shot   2.4
Shot to shot time (JPEG) Manual focus, no flash 1.3
Shot to shot time (RAW) *2 Manual focus, no flash 1.9
Power On to Off *3   2.1

*1 This is the time from turning the switch to the 'On' position to the live view display appearing on the LCD monitor.
*2 This measurement is for a RAW + VGA size JPEG file. The GXR does not offer the option to shoot RAW only.
*3 This is the time from when the switch is set to off till the status LCD going blank.

Continuous Drive mode

To test continuous mode the camera had the following settings: Manual Focus, Manual Exposure (1/500 sec, F2.5), ISO 200.

The tests carried out below measured the following results for JPEG and RAW:

  • Frame rate - Initial frame rate, this was 2.9 fps (+/- 0.1 fps) in JPEG mode and 1.9 fps in RAW + JPEG mode
  • Number of frames - Number of frames in a burst
  • Buffer full rate - Frame rate if shutter release held down after burst (buffer full)
  • Write complete - How long after the last shot before the SD lamp goes out

Burst of JPEG Large/Fine images Continuous

Timing
8 GB Sandisk
Frame rate 2.9 fps
Number of frames no limit
Buffer full rate -
Write complete 1.8 sec

Burst of RAW + JPEG (VGA) images Continuous

Timing
8 GB Sandisk
Frame rate 1.9 fps
Number of frames 4
Buffer full rate -
Write complete 3.1 sec

The GXR/A12 50mm can shoot JPEG (Fine) files at a speed of 2.9 frames per second. On a fast card there does not appear to be a limit to the number of frames - you can shoot until the memory card is full. When shooting in RAW format this slows down to 1.9 frames per second for four frames after which shooting stops completely. To shoot another burst you have to wait for the images to be processed first and then press the shutter button again. Unlike most DSLRs the GXR/A12 50mm does not keep shooting at a slower frame rate once the buffer has run full. On the GXR you cannot shoot in 'RAW only'. The RAW file is always accompanied by a JPEG image. You can choose the size of the latter but it does not really effect the burst rate.

The A12 50mm lens module also offers a HI and LO M-Cont mode which records a burst of 30 images at 24 fps or 15 images at 3 fps respectively. Instead as individual files the images are then saved into one single .MOP file. Individual frames can be extracted from this file using the supplied Irodio software. Individual images can also be viewed on the camera LCD in playback mode.

USB transfer speed

To test the GXR USB speed we transferred approximately 500 MB of images (mixed RAW and JPEG) from a SanDisk Extreme III (30MB/s edition) SD card. When the GXR is connected to a computer via a USB cable, by default the camera appears on the system as a 'mass storage device'. At 6.9 MB/sec the transfer speed is usable but a good external card reader will speed things up noticeably.

Method
Transfer rate
Ricoh GXR/ - Mass Storage 6.9 MB/sec
Sandisk Extreme III (using built in USB connector) 20.2 MB/sec
SanDisk Extreme III in USB 2.0 reader 11.3 MB/sec

AF speed

The A12 50mm's autofocus speed is fairly quick and usually very accurate, averaging around 0.6 sec in bright light. Having said that in lower light or when focusing on low contrast areas the system can slow down noticeably, in a worst case scenario going through various focus cycles before locking on which can often mean that your subject has disappeared before you had a chance to press the shutter-button. We've also had the occasional spurious focus confirmation. Things slow down further in macro focus mode, to 1.5 sec for a focus lock in good light. When focusing at close distance the AF also tends to hunt a lot. In those circumstances manual focus is often the better option.

As for our Leica X1 review, we compared the AF speeds of various cameras that are using contrast detect AF. We ran some basic tests, using a high contrast AF target at 1m from the camera (which should be easy to focus on), at a light level of around 11 EV. In the table below you can see how the GXR with the A12 module shaped up against some of its rivals. In good light it's one of the quicker CDAF cameras but cannot quite match the benchmark in this area, the Panasonic G-series. The Ricoh is not moving the lens elements quite as quickly (when focusing from nearby to infinity for instance) but, like the GF1, it only tweaks focus very slightly when the focus distance remains unchanged between images. Some competitors (for example the Olympus E-P1) go through a full focus-cycle, even when the subject is still in focus.

Camera
Approx AF time
Ricoh GXR/A12 50mm 0.6 sec
Leica X1 1.4 sec
Panasonic DMC-GF1 + 20mm F1.7 ASPH 0.4 sec
Olympus E-P2 + 20mm F1.7 ASPH 0.6 sec
Canon Powershot G11 0.7 sec

For those who trust their own eyes more than the camera's contrast detection, the GXR/A12 50mm also offers manual focus. The A12 50mm module has a focus ring but, unlike most SLR-lenses, it uses focus-by-wire technology rather than a mechanical coupling. Using the focus magnification (press and hold the OK button) this allows for quite reasonable manual focusing but cannot match the feedback and speed of a mechanical focus ring.

Battery life

The manual states 320 shots (CIPA) battery life for the GXR's DB-90Li-Ion battery pack. We found we could just about reach this number if image review and other non-image-taking-tasks that require the LCD screen were reduced to a minimum. Obviously the exact number of shots you can get out of a charge will depend on all sorts of parameters and circumstances but if you shoot a lot during a whole day it might be a good idea to bring a spare battery. For those who are using the GXR in reach of a power socket there is also an optional AC adapter (AC-5) available.

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