Ricoh GXR S10 24-72mm F2.5-4.4 VC
Category: Mid Range Interchangeable Lens Camera / DSLR
Conclusion - Pros
- Decent resolution in ideal shooting conditions - bright, sunny days (but soft low contrast detail)
- Excellent build quality and handling
- Highly customizable and flexible user interface with a large number of external controls
- Very nice 3.0 inch, 920,000 pixel TFT screen
- Good operational speed
- New Multi-P white balance mode for mixed lighting
- Decent lens with good corner-to-corner sharpness and little distortion
- Optional distortion correction (does not work when shooting RAW)
- Electronic level
- High-res optional electronic viewfinder
- Comprehensive software package included
Conclusion - Cons
- Blurring of detail in low contrast scenes, even in good light and at base ISO
- Heavy noise reduction at high ISOs results in loss of detail and unattractive 'noise blobs'
- Battery life not great
- Low-spec video mode (VGA, no manual controls, no focus, no external mic)
- Fastest shutter speeds not available at largest apertures
- Some minor glitches in the user interface (see operations and handling summary on live view page)
- Tripod mount not in the center of the lens
Although with the S10 24-72mm module attached the GXR is in many ways a very different camera to the GXR/A12 50mm combination that we reviewed a little while ago, some of the points made in the conclusion of the A12 50mm review are valid for the GXR system as a whole, rather than a specific body/lens module combination. The relevant paragraphs have therefore been taken over from the GXR/A12 review.
As we've said previously the Ricoh GXR's concept of interchangeable camera modules makes it a very unique proposition in today's digital camera market and it is therefore difficult to benchmark the GXR body/lens module combinations against other cameras. Viewed in its own right the Ricoh GXR with the S10 24-72mm lens module is an advanced compact camera albeit with a user interface and build quality that can typically be found on semi-pro DSLRs. Unfortunately at $990 ($550 for the GXR body and $440 for the S10 module) the GXR/S10's price tag is also quite close to the latter category of cameras.
Of course the GXR's unique selling proposition is the ability to swap lens modules. The system is currently still small and the the only other currently available camera module (A12 50mm, $830) converts the GXR into something like a Sigma DP2 or Leica X1 - a large sensor 'compact' camera with a fixed focal length lens. If and how this system will develop in the future is at this point in time pretty much unknown but will largely depend on its commercial success. At the PMA trade show earlier this year Ricoh announced the development of two more units, the P10 28-300 mm F3.5-5.6 VC and the A12 28 mm F2.5, but it remains to be seen if any third party manufacturers will jump on the bandwagon.
However, it's arguably the cost of the system that could turn out to be the main barrier to mass-take-up. While the interchangeable lens module concept undoubtedly has got its technological benefits (completely sealed units, potential to optimize lens/sensor combinations) it remains to be seen whether those are enough to make consumers hand over the fairly sizeable sums of cash that Ricoh is asking for. On its own the GXR/S10 24-72mm is simply a very expensive compact camera but even if you consider the S10 module to be a useful addition for existing A12 50mm users it's pricing is still questionable. After all, the S10 module alone is more expensive than a Panasonic LX3 and almost as expensive as a Canon G11, arguably two of the currently best compact cameras.
From an image quality point of view changing a lens module on the GXR system is pretty much like using a completely different camera. The specification of the lens and sensor on the S10 24-72mm module is quite similar to some advanced compact cameras such as the Canon G11 or Panasonic LX3. Therefore, while the A12 50mm lens module that we tested a little while ago, with its APS-C sensor produces DSLR-like image quality, the S10 24-72mm's output is firmly based in compact camera territory.
At base ISO, in good light and in scenes with good contrast the S10 is capable of producing good results that are in line with what we would expect from a decent compact camera. However, things get a little more difficult in low contrast scenes. Distant foliage in landscape shot for example is often rendered an almost plain-colored mass by camera's noise reduction, even at base ISO and with noise reduction set to 'Off'. You can get some more detail out of a RAW conversion but you will almost inevitably also increase the noise levels. On the plus side the S10's default output is quite 'unprocessed' and responds well to some extra sharpening and level adjustments in post production.
In low light and at higher sensitivities the S10's again delivers good compact camera image quality but cannot quite keep up with the best models in this sector. A lot of fine detail and noise is blurred by strong noise reduction and as a consequence images have a soft overall appearance with unattractive 'noise blobs' in the shadow areas. At ISO 1600 and 3200 chroma noise also starts creeping in.
All in all the S10 module's image quality is approximately in line with what we've seen from other advanced compact cameras but cannot quite keep up with the class leaders Canon G11 and Panasonic LX3.
With the S10 24-72mm F2.5-4.4 VC lens module mounted on the GXR body, the camera is, from a dimension and weight point of view in the same ballpark as the Canon G11 which makes it one of the largest digital compact cameras around. On the plus side the Ricoh's build quality and comprehensive user interface are as good as it gets in the compact camera sector and firmly located in semi-pro area. The camera might be too large to be carried in a shirt-pocket but thanks to its reassuring weight and rubberized surfaces it handles very well at all times.
Operation is, apart from zoom and manual focus, identical to the GXR/A12 combination. Virtually every button on the GXR body can be reassigned to suit your needs or shooting style. Initially the larger number of controls and customization options can be a little intimidating and maybe even confusing, but if you take the time to set up the camera (and occasionally have a look at the manual), you'll end up with a user interface that is as close to your requirements as it can get. There are still a few teething problems though that we've detailed in the operations section of this review. However, most of those could be easily fixed with a firmware update.
Despite of these small quibbles, with its tank-like construction the GXR always feels like a quality product in your hand and its user interface is arguably the most flexible that you'll find on any camera of such relatively small dimensions.
The final word
Despite of its tank-like build quality and abundance of external controls, with its 1/1.7 10 MP sensor the Ricoh GXR with the S10 24-72mm module is still a digital compact camera at heart and produces compact camera image quality. It is difficult to justify the GXR's, compared to similarly specified cameras, exorbitant price point of $990 with the build quality and user interface alone. Ultimately you pay this premium for the ability to swap the S10 module for the A12 50mm (or other lens modules that are to come in the future) which will set you back another $830.
The GXR/S10 24-72mm combination as a camera in its own right is simply too expensive for what it does. The purchase of an S10 24-72mm module probably makes most sense for existing A12 50mm users who would like to combine the S10's more compact dimensions with a user interface that is already well known to them.
We thought long and hard about whether to score the GXR S10 24-72mm VC as a compact or an 'interchangeable lens camera' and eventually opted for the latter, mainly due to its price and the fact that it's a system camera. If we would have scored it as a digital compact camera it would have done a little better in some areas.
Ergonomics & handling
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Movie / video mode
Anyone wanting DSLR-like controls and build quality in a compact package.
Not so good for
Pixel-Peepers or low light photographers
The GXR S10 24-72mm VC comes with the control interface and build quality of a semi-pro DSLR but only produces compact camera image quality. Given its price point, the S10 probably makes most sense as an additional module for existing GXR/A12 users who do not want to familiarize themselves with yet another user interface.
Click here to learn about the changes to our scoring system and what these numbers mean