Ricoh GXR/P10 28-300mm F3.5-5.6 VC Quick Review
Since all the GXR modules use the same flash that is built into the GXR body it is not a surprise that the P10 28-300mm's flash performance is generally not far off the S10. The flash unit is not very powerful but does a decent job most of the time. Both sample images below have a very slight warm color cast which is quite useful for portraits. However, the portrait could do with a third or so of a stop negative flash exposure compensation.
Like on the S10 and many compact cameras the P10 28-300 mm's macro mode at the wide end of the lens allows you to focus so close that it almost becomes impractical as the camera/lens ends up shading the image area (we use our backlit test chart for this shot). At the long end of the tele you can't get as close and the covered image is much larger. Nevertheless at the tele end of the zoom the macro mode is arguably more useful for subjects that cannot be approached to closely.
Image quality suffers considerably at the closest focusing distance at wide angle. Like on the S10 not just the corners but large proportions of the frame are distinctly soft. There is also strong distortion in the image. Soft corners are also visible at the long end but distortion is hardly noticeable.
Barrel and Pincushion Distortion
The distortion is noticeable but fairly well under control, with 1.0% barrel distortion at the wide-angle setting and fairly little (0.4%) pincushion distortion at the other end. This is not bad at all for a wide-angle travel zoom lens on a compact camera. However, these days many cameras correct distortion with software and the GXR offers this function too. The distortion correction feature can correct distortion on the P10 28-300mm at the wide-angle end further to 0.2%. Fortunately there is no visible loss of sharpness in the corners of the corrected image either. At the tele end there is so little distortion that correction does not kick in at all.
|Correction Off: Barrel distortion - 1.0% at Wide angle
Equiv. focal length: 28 mm
|Correction On: Barrel distortion - 0.2% at Wide angle
Equiv. focal length: 28 mm
|Pincushion distortion - 0.4% at Telephoto
Equiv. focal length: 300 mm
Raw image quality
The GXR-body comes with the Irodio Photo & Video Studio software package that is capable of processing all the different modules' DNG-files. You can read more about the software in our review of the S10 24-72mm module. However, for this test we have processed the P10 28-300mm's RAW files with the latest version of Adobe Camera RAW - ACR 6.1 - to see if it's possible to squeeze any more detail out of the RAW files than the camera's JPEG engine.
|JPEG||ACR 6.1 - sharpening 30, radius 1, detail 38|
|100% crop||100% crop|
|JPEG||ACR 6.1 - sharpening 31, radius 1, detail 50|
|100% crop||100% crop|
As you can see in both our studio test shot and the real-life shot, converting a RAW file and applying some careful sharpening in the process gets you some additional fine detail, especially in low contrast areas of the image such as the lady's face in the studio shot or the foliage in our harbor scene. On the downside, with all noise reduction turned off the image is slightly noisier but nevertheless, with a carefully customized mix of noise reduction and sharpening, converting the P10 28-300mm's RAW files gives you the opportunity to slightly improve your results. Just be aware though that any difference will almost certainly only be visible at output sizes close to 100%.
While the GXR S10 module only offered VGA resolution in movie mode the P10 28-300mm now at least comes with a much more adequate 720p HD video mode. Having said that the video specs and features still aren't anything to write home about. The lack of any manual controls or an external microphone jack means the P10 28-300mm module is good enough for the occasional Youtube/Facebook snapshot video but little more. The recorded footage is also stored in the slightly outdated and inefficient Motion JPEG format (which means that the files are high quality but very large). Sound recording is monaural and there is no wind-noise reduction function.
Despite the fact that the P10 28-300mm can produce 720p HD files the video quality itself isn't great. In lower light the footage can be a little noisy and there are, just like on the S10, some subtle but slightly jerky shifts in exposure noticeable. As you can hear in our sample video the GXR is very susceptible to wind noise. We also found the image stabilization not to be terribly effective in video mode.
|1280 x 720, 30 fps. AVI (MJPG) file. 8 sec. 35.0 MB|
Overall Image Quality / Specifics
Despite the GXR body's semi-professional look and feel and not-so-compact dimensions, coupling it with a small sensor module such as the P10 28-300mm or S10, turns it (at least from an image quality point of view) into a compact camera. The P10 28-300mm's lens and sensor specs are very close to 'travel-zoom' compact cameras such as the Panasonic ZS/TZ series, the Casio EX-FH100 or Ricoh's own CX3. In fact, the P10 28-300mm shares quite a few components with the much cheaper CX3.
It's not really a surprise then that the P10 28-300mm's image quality is pretty much in line with this type of camera. At base ISO it appears to be using a little less noise reduction that the CX3, resulting in some more fine detail, but it cannot quite keep up with the Casio and Panasonic ZS which we tested in our Travel Zoom group test a little while ago. The Ricoh uses just a tad more noise reduction which results in more smearing of details, mainly in low contrast areas. At some focal lengths we also found the lens a bit softer in the corners than the competition. Having said that, at base ISO the differences between cameras of this type are only be visible at very large magnifications.
We found the colors to be pleasantly vivid without being unnatural. The camera also gets the basic stuff such as exposure, white balance and focus right. Thankfully (a lack of) dynamic range is much less of an issue with this latest generation of compact cameras and while the P10 28-300mm occasionally blows bright highlights this is very much in line with its competitors.
As you would expect, things get worse pretty quickly at higher sensitivities. At ISO 400 and higher the P10 28-300mm delivers typical compact camera output with strong noise reduction and detail smearing. At high ISOs none of the cameras with such small sensor are much good but thanks to its customizable noise reduction the P10 28-300mm maintains some more detail than its stablemate the CX3. It's on a similar level as the Casio EX-FH100 or Panasonic ZS7, with, a little less blurring at default settings (NR off), but at pixel level slightly more noise and artifacts. At ISO 1600 and 3200 the P10 28-300mm also produces more than average chroma (color) noise and all in all, as with most all cameras in this class, we would recommend reserving these settings for smaller prints.