Nowadays hardly any new DSLRs are announced without a video mode and therefore it only makes sense that the GXR would come with this feature as well. After all video is much easier to implement on a mirrorless camera than on a DSLR (you don't need to flip a mirror out of the way to record). Having said that, the GXR does not offer the fast AF (in fact there's no focus at all in movie mode) or the same degree of control over video capture as a dedicated camcorder. However, a relatively compact camera that offers the ability to shoot movies with a large sensor and therefore a cinema-like, shallow depth of field will be an attractive option for many budding video-shooters.

Video specification

The A12 50mm camera module comes with a rather inconspicuous video spec. The recorded footage has a maximum resolution of 1280 x 720 (720p) at 24 frames per second and is stored in the somewhat outdated Motion JPEG format (the files are high quality but also very large). Monaural sound is recorded via a built-in microphone, there is no connector for an external mike, nor is there a wind-cut function. Video recording is completely automatic, you cannot intervene manually.

Sizes 1280 x 720 (720p) at 24 fps
640 x 480 (VGA) at 24 fps
320 x 240 (QVGA) at 24 fps
Audio Mono (Internal Mic)
Format MJPEG (.AVI)
File size 3.44 MB/sec (720p)
Max file size per clip 4.0 GB
Running time 90 min or until SD card is full

Using Movie Mode

There is no dedicated video-button on the GXR body but you can access the movie mode pretty quickly by rotating the mode dial to the 'Scene' position. Movie mode is the default scene mode and you can start recording video immediately by pressing the shutter button. A second press of the button ends recording. While recording you cannot change any settings at all. Shutter speed, aperture and ISO are all selected automatically and you can't apply any exposure compensation either.

Before starting the recording you have to prefocus. This can be done using the AF or manually. During recording you cannot focus at all - not even manually. You can use the digital zoom but we would advise against it as it is very jerky.

When you are in movie mode the shooting menu options are significantly reduced. You can set the movie quality, focus mode (for pre-focusing), white balance and white balance compensation. In contrast to some recently launched DSLRs you cannot take a stills shot while recording a video. All in all the A12 module's movie mode is very simple and easy to use but it also offers very little flexibility. The fact that in movie mode you cannot even focus manually means that you have to make sure the subject distance doesn't change while shooting, otherwise you'll end up with out-of-focus footage.

Video quality comments

The video footage recorded with the A12 50mm camera module is not quite as detailed as the 1080p output of some mid-range DSLRs or the mirrorless camera with arguably the best video output - the Panasonic GH1 -but is certainly on par with the results from other APS-C/720p cameras.

The A12 50mm's sensor is APS-C size and therefore you can't quite create the same depth of field effects as on a full-frame-DSLR such as the Canon EOS 5D Mark II but you still get a much shallower, more cinematic depth of field than with any digital compact camera. When recording video pretty much all functions are automated and inevitably the use of higher sensitivities in low light leads to grainy footage. However, the Ricoh is not noticeably worse in this respect than the competition.

What's more of a problem is the lack of image stabilization. At an equivalent focal length of 50mm you can probably live without this feature for stills photography but in video mode you inevitably end up with slightly jerky footage.

Like pretty much all cameras that record video on a CMOS sensor the A12 50mm suffers from distortion caused by its rolling shutter. The readout of the sensor means horizontal lines of the image are scanned, one after another, rather than the whole scene being grabbed in one go. The upshot is that verticals can be skewed if the camera (or the subject) moves too fast - the top of the image has been recorded earlier than the bottom, so vertical lines can be rendered as diagonals. The GXR is pretty bad in this respect. The effect is clearly visible even in fairly slowly panned shots (see sample video below).

When changing the framing from dark to bright scenes or vice versa the exposure adaptation (via change of aperture and/or gain) is less smooth than we've seen on other large-sensor cameras. Below you'll find some examples of videos taken with the GXR and A12 50mm for you to download and draw your own conclusions.

Sample video 1

This video was shot in 1280 x 720/24fps mode in low(ish) light. There is some visible image noise (the GXR does not report ISO in its video EXIF, so we don't know what sensitivity this was recorded at) but the camera records a large, high quality image with smooth motion. Make sure your video card is powerful enough for watching these large video files. On slower machines the motion can appear jerky.

1280 x 720, 24 fps. AVI (MJPG) file. 12 sec. 44.8 MB

Sample video 2

This video was also shot at 1280 x 720/24fps in the evening and shows some faster motion. In situations like this you have to prefocus at the point where you'd like the subject to be in focus (in this case I prefocused on the steps in the foreground).

1280 x 720, 24 fps. AVI (MJPG) file. 4 sec. 17.5 MB

Sample video 3

This video shows the GXR/A12 50mm's slightly staggered response to harsh changes in lighting. The transition is not as smooth as on other cameras we've seen before.

1280 x 720, 24 fps. AVI (MJPG) file. 8 sec. 30.7 MB

Sample video 4

This video shows the pretty common problem of skewed verticals which is caused by the line-by-line readout of CMOS processors. The phenomenon is pretty pronounced on the Ricoh.

1280 x 720, 24 fps. AVI (MJPG) file. 5 sec. 20.5 MB

Sample video 5

Eventually we had our first sunny day since October or so, so you even get to see a video that was recorded in good light.

1280 x 720, 24 fps. AVI (MJPG) file. 5 sec. 20.8 MB

Sample video 6

Another video in good light, this time with some panning.

1280 x 720, 24 fps. AVI (MJPG) file. 9 sec. 35.6 MB