Just bought a GXR

Started Mar 11, 2013 | Discussions thread
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Tom Caldwell Forum Pro • Posts: 27,251
Compare GXR and NEX6 in practical use

anthony mazzeri wrote:

After some further time, here's what I think about these different UI:

The Ricoh GR/GXR controls have been designed and optimized in the digital age. The Ricoh twin dial/ADJ. control system (along with function buttons and +/- rocker buttons for exp. comp.) are the most fluid controls I have personally ever used. Not only are most all features right there for you (after customization), most adjustments can be made while holding the camera one-handed- that's pretty amazing IMO.


So much so I'm continually astonished why other cameras don't do the same.

Sony has played catch up with their NEX6. It has a dedicated Fn button on the front plate, it is filled up out of the box with six functions to access. Unfortunately as soon as you attach a non-Sony lens four of those functions are greyed out. I managed to scratch around and "just" scraped up four more functions to fill the greyed out slots - it is more useful now. But there are no alternatives that can be substituted, the useful function barrel is bare and I am quite pleased that I found enough to flesh out the use of the key.

It has a top dial. The settings are the usual PASM plus two levels of "i" (ignorant?) mode, a panorama mode - which actually works with my Canon EF lens! and a scene mode that cycles through various icons discreetly shown on the top corner of the lcd - the usual portrait, night scene, landscape, macro, etc. Not flashy or in your face with gaudy coloured pictures, so I should not disparage it - it would be useful for those unsure of the deeper workings of a camera.

It has a very nice large horizontal adjustment wheel just under the mode knob where it can be accessed easily. It works well in combination used with the thumb and the forefinger on the front Fn button.

The movie button has been thankfully shifted part way around the corner of the thumb rest where non movie buffs can pretend it is not there and those that like movies can still find it. Down the back there are the usual collection of buttons. The ones worth mentioning are two soft-keys and the "ok" button is effectively a third. The soft keys are labelled discreetly (again) in the rightmost side of the lcd and are context driven. Surrounding the ok button is the usual four way controlled which can be pressed but also serves as the second control wheel.

Where context is immaterial either wheel seems to do a similar duty. For example scolling through the menu can be made by either wheel and the top wheel is much more suited to this. Of course the menu is lineal and quite long. There are no pages or section jumps and items that cannot be adjusted (quite a few in my particular setup) are still shown but "knowingly" greyed out. Getting through the Sony menu can be tedious. Luckily once you have set your configuration you are flat out of options and there is very little to configure - smile shutter, face recognition, face detection, soft skin effect, you get the drift. There are the more normally useful things as well but only the configuration you set - no custom configuration modes whatsoever.

Various items such as B&W are regarded (reasonably enough) as "creative style" and have to be atached to the Fn key menu. You can delve into the creative style and change contrast saturation and sharpness settings. If you set jpg capture only you can play with creative effects, but their colour extraction setting that I tried only works partially and not nearly as efficiently as a similar one on the Pentax Q.

So what do we have - an excellent camera with a great sensor, excellent built in evf, a tilt lcd that can be very useful at times. It does take good images. Fitted with an RJ Glassless adapter it will do slow contrast detect AF with seemingly all Canon EF lenses and will communicate with the camera body - f-stop can be set via the camera and P mode works perfectly - as do "ASM". But it is a very basic PASM camera at heart - I cannot complain as such as the necessary controls are easy to access and use but it is the competent family sedan compared to a GXR which is all open cockpit with things you can adjust and tweak readily available. Someone who is deeply into the GXR would have a mode for most types of photography already set up and their camera would go from action sports to calm landscape to high contrast arty black and white in a tweak of the mode dial and yet Ricoh keeps all this horsepower easy to use. Effectively Ricoh says "you are smart enough to make your own custom scene modes" - the Sony makes them for you if you choose to use them. With the Sony you can PASM adjust away fairly easily but you have to do it at the time the action is happening (or preset of course).

Time lapse? (for instance) Maybe it is in there somewhere in a menu, haven't looked but I don't remember it on my way through. Focus peaking only works with lens set to MF and whilst it works well it over-blotches in non-magnified view or gets too fine-line in highest magnified view to be seen at all ("focus peaking, hey focus peaking where are you?" Luckily the screen is so sharp that focus peaking is not really always necessary). I suspect that the thickness adjustment takes the place of auto scaling highlights that the Ricoh Mode 1 system seems to do. Magnified view does not work when the lens is set to AF nor does focus peaking, so if you wish to check the focus achieved with your slow contrast detect AF on my particular set up (with non-oem adapter and lens) you have to rely on the "focused" green square which sometimes does not appear - only a second little green circle.

Conclusion? They are both great cameras and each has it's great attributes, they are both about the same physical size - the NEX6 has the built in evf that is addictive, a tilt lcd and a shaped grip. It is built for a less involved user and the GXR is built to be analysed and driven with relish by it's users.

I like them both, but if I was mainly using MF lenses then the NEX6 would not be my camera of choice. It works well with the Canon EF lenses on appropriate adapters and for that reason I really like the extras it supplies, but I would prefer the Rioch firmware and the control structure of the GXR is better laid out than that of the NEX6 but only in my own opinion.

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Tom Caldwell

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