Rear of camera controls

Again, users of Ricoh's other high end compacts will feel at home here; the layout and functionality is very similar to the GRD III and GX200. The back of the camera is, to be honest, a little crowded. That huge screen doesn't leave a lot of space for buttons, but Ricoh has still managed to squeeze more than a dozen of them onto the remaining real estate, meaning it's easy to accidentally press things when handling the camera. The flip side of this is that the GXR offers a level of control on the body that's unmatched in pretty much any compact (and means you'll rarely need to visit the menus when shooting).

On screen settings adjustment

The GXR offers such myriad customization options (virtually every button can be reassigned to suit your needs or shooting style) that in this review we can only give a taste of its operation using the default settings. There are essentially four different ways to change the most commonly accessed photographic functions:

  1. Assign one of the function buttons to give direct access
  2. Use the menu system
  3. Use the ADJ. button's 'quick menu' (you can define up to five functions to this)
  4. Via the Direct Screen

This level of customization is, of course, something of a double-edged sword. The sheer complexity of the GXR's user interface makes mastering it - or even getting it to the point where the buttons do what you want them to - something of an uphill struggle. The default 'out of the box' settings are far from ideal, and when faced with that daunting endless list of options it's hard not to wonder if Ricoh's designers should perhaps have spend a little time designing a user interface that didn't require quite so much customization in the first place.

In normal shooting the display looks much like any advanced compact, with settings information (mostly icons) littered liberally around the preview image. You can choose to have a black frame around the preview (so the icons are clearer). At the bottom of the frame you can see the (optional) level guide. Pressing the DIRECT button brings up an interactive settings screen.
Like everything else on the GXR the Direct Screen can be customized - though in this case the only option is how opaque it is (you get three options: light, dark and 'picture off', which gets rid of the preview image altogether). The Direct Screen is persistent: it reappears after each shot until you kill it by pressing the DIRECT button again. We'd like this feature a lot more if you could use it on the main LCD when using the VF-2 finder for framing.

You use the directional buttons (or the ADJ lever) to move around the Direct Settings Screen. Turning the front dial cycles through the various options for that particular setting.
Alternatively press the OK button with one of the settings on the Direct Screen highlighted and you'll be taken directly to the menu for that setting.

The GXR has a version of the quick menu concept popular on this type of camera. This being Ricoh it is, of course, highly customizable (you get to choose the functions it controls). When not in Direct mode press the ADJ button to bring up a row of icons. You can then use the ADJ lever (or left/right buttons) to pick the setting you want to change.

Buttons / controls

DIRECT Direct Screen Shooting settings

The Direct Screen is (as shown above) an interactive 'control panel' that gives an at a glance overview of current shooting settings, and allows direct control over those settings.
OPEN / Flash up / Flash mode

Press this button to release the pop-up flash. Once activated this button also cycles through the flash modes (Off, Auto, Red-Eye, On, Slow Sync, Manual)
VF / LCD Viewfinder / LCD switch

Toggles between the built-in screen and the optional VF2 electronic viewfinder (if attached). When no viewfinder is attached this button simply turns off the LCD display completely.

ADJ (rear) dial

The ADJ dial is actually a lever switch, but it acts very much like a second dial, and is used to change exposure settings and navigate menus. It also has a button switch and you can assign up to five frequently-used shooting menu items to the ADJ. lever for easy access - simply press the button and a small menu will appear. Functions that can be assigned to the ADJ. button are:

  • White Balance
  • ISO
  • Picture Quality
  • Image Setting
  • White Balance Correction
  • Focus
  • Metering
  • Drive mode
  • Bracketing
  • Flash Compensation
  • Manual Flash Amount
  • Exposure Compensation

The ADJ lever is also used in the direct menu to move between the various settings.

Play mode

Enters or leaves play mode, the GXR is a shooting priority camera which means you can always return to play mode by half-pressing the shutter release button.

Macro mode

Enters or leaves macro mode. Capabilities will depend on lens unit currently attached.

Zoom Rocker

These buttons are used for zooming (optical when a zoom lens is attached, digital when a prime is attached) and for changing playback image magnification and showing playback thumbnails.

Menu / OK Button

The Menu button activates and dismisses menu and also acts an a confirmation ('OK') when accepting changes to modal controls.

Directional Pad

In menus (and when the Direct Screen is active) the directional pad is used to move up/down and left/right (where applicable it can also be used to move diagonally). The four marked positions on the pad (+, - , Fn1, Fn2) are all, naturally, customizable, allowing yet another way to get direct access to your favorite settings

+ / - button assignment options

• Off
• Flash Comp
• Flash Amount
• Exposure Compensation 

Fn 1
Fn 2
+ / -

Fn (left and right arrows)

The FUNC buttons can be each customized to offer direct access to any of the following controls (some of these are simple toggles/invokes, others bring up menus):

Fn1 / Fn2 assignment options

• AF/MF toggle
• AF/Snap toggle
• AE Lock
• JPEG>Raw
• Color>B&W
• Color>TE
• Exposure Comp
• White Balance
• WB Correction
• Quality
• Focus
• Image Setting
• Metering
• Cont. Mode
• Auto Bracket
• Macro Target
• Flash Comp

+ / - button assignment options

• Off
• Flash Comp
• Flash Amount
• Exposure Compensation 

DISP button

The DISP button cycles through the various different information overlays in normal ('picture mode') live view shooting. The button also acts as a 'cancel' in certain menus and dialogs.
Self-timer / Delete

When shooting pressing this button brings up a small menu with several self-timer options. In playback it brings up a delete menu (with options for deleting some or all pictures).