It's easy to see the GXR's lineage in its design, especially with the S10 zoom lens attached: it bears a close family resemblance to Ricoh's high end compacts (the GRD and GX series), with a similar design and control layout. It's (inevitably) quite a bit bigger than either of those models, being a lot closer in size to the Olympus E-P1 and Panasonic GF1, though with the zoom attached and powered down it's noticeably slimmer than either (and is a lot nearer to being genuinely pocketable).

The body is built around a strong, light magnesium alloy chassis and finished with the same combination of textured metal and rubber as the GRD, giving it a serious, quality feel.

Under the skin the GXR sports a lightweight magnesium alloy body shell.

Despite its compact dimensions the GXR has an extensive array of external controls, including a control dial on the front and a faux dial on the back (the ADJ switch acts like a dial that can also be clicked like a button). Inevitably things are a little crowded round the back, and those with larger hands might find they're accidentally pressing buttons with their thumb, but overall - like all Ricoh's high end compacts - handling is surprisingly good, with all photographic controls easily accessible (and hugely customizable).

The GXR body itself is very light (it is, after all, missing half a camera) - around 200g (7oz) with battery, and, being the half that has the power, can be operated without a lens unit attached (the menus all work and you can play back images on the card, if that's what you want to do).

In your hand

One area where the GXR wins - if you'll excuse the pun - hands down over the current Micro Four Thirds equivalents is handling. The black, textured body might not be that pretty, but it feels remarkably good in the hand, and its got a decent grip too. The controls (once you've got it set up to suit your style of shooting) are very well placed and, like the GRD, seem designed by people who actually understand what photographers do with cameras. With the S10 zoom attached it's a perfectly usable 'one hand' camera (the A12 50mm prime is a bit front heavy and feels a lot more stable supported by both mitts).

Side by side

The table below shows that Ricoh's rather convoluted claim ('the world's smallest internal flash, interchangeable lens digital camera with lens attached') doesn't tell the whole story. With the S10 zoom attached it is indeed a lot slimmer than the Olympus E-P1 or Panasonic GF1 with their zooms (or even their pancake primes) attached, but it's hardly a fair comparison: the S10 zoom has a compact camera sensor, and with it attached the GXR is little different to something like a Panasonic LX3 or a Ricoh GX200 - just a lot bigger and a lot more expensive. When you add the bulky S12 50mm prime the GXR turns into something a lot less pocketable.

Camera Dimensions
(W x H x D)
Body weight
(inc. battery & card)
Ricoh GXR 113.9 mm x 70 mm x 28.9 mm (4.5 x 2.8 x 1.1 in) 200 g (0.44 lb)
Panasonic Lumix GF1 119 mm x 71 mm x 36.3 mm (4.7 x 2.8 x 1.4 in) 348 g (0.76 lb)
Sigma DP2 113 x 60 x 56 mm (4.5 x 2.4 x 2.2 in) 280 g (9.9 oz)
Olympus E-P1 121 x 70 x 36 mm (4.8 x 2.8 x 1.4 in) 355 g (12.5 oz)
Panasonic LX3 109 x 60 x 27 mm (3.3 x 2.4 x 1.1 in) 264g (9.3 oz)
Canon G11 112 x 76 x 48 mm (4.4 x 3.0 x 1.9 in) 402g (14.2 oz)
Ricoh GRD III 109 x 59 x 26 mm (4.3 x 2.3 x 1 in) 208 g (7.3 oz)

To give you an idea of how the GXR compares with its most obvious competitors the table below shows how the dimensions compare when the lenses are taken into account:

Camera Lens (35mm equivalent focal length shown) Depth
Ricoh GXR 24-72mm S10 45.5mm (1.8 in)
Panasonic LX3 24-60mm 43mm (1.7 in)
Canon G11 28-140mm 45mm (1.8 in)
Panasonic Lumix GF1* Panasonic 40mm F1.7 61.8mm (2.4 in)
Olympus E-P1* Olympus 35mm F2.8 57mm (2.25 in)
Sigma DP2* Sigma 41mm F2.8 60mm (2.2 in)
Ricoh GXR* 50mm F2.5 A12 74mm (2.9 in)

*These are large-sensor compact cameras and therefore not directly comparable to the GXR with S10 24-72mm module.

As you can see, the GXR's 'world's smallest' claim to fame only applies when the S10 zoom is attached - and even then only when closed down, at which point it certainly is thinner than either Micro Four Thirds camera - even with their slender pancake primes attached. If you put an equivalent zoom onto either of those cameras the difference is greater (adding another inch or so), but it's interesting to see that with the 50mm prime attached the GXR is actually the deepest camera/lens combo here.

This is because the APS-C sensor is actually pretty big (1.6x bigger than Micro Four Thirds), so - no matter how thin the body - there has to be some space between the back of the lens and the sensor (meaning the lens unit has to be quite long), and the result is a fairly hefty unit.

Lens units

Key to the GXR concept are the slide mount lens/sensor units that combine optics and capture device into a single sealed unit. They're solid, heavy beasts (the 50mm A12 module weighs in at a hefty 263g / 9.2 oz) that slide into the body in a single, easy action. As discussed earlier, the lens units contain several key components, including optics, sensor, image stabilization (S10), processor and focus/zoom motors. At the time of launch Ricoh is offering two lenses for the GXR: the 24-72mm, 10 megapixel S10 (shown below) and the 50mm F2.5 GR macro with a large (APS-C) CMOS sensor.

Physical connections (and construction quality) aside the two lenses initially available (and those to be introduced in the future) have little in common. The S10 is a very compact powered zoom (which collapses back into the body when power is off) with a compact camera CCD, whilst the A12 50mm is a hefty prime with a generous manual focus ring (focus by wire, unfortunately) and a sensor similar to the one you'd find in, for example, a Nikon D300. For the first time in history, switching lenses effectively gives you a completely different camera.

Other Accessories

As well as lenses Ricoh is offering several accessories for the GXR (some of which already exist as part of the GR or GX compact camera system). These include:

  • CA-1 cable switch
  • GV-1 external viewfinder (optical)
  • GV-2 mini external viewfinder (optical)
  • VF-2 LCD viewfinder (electronic)
  • GF-1 external flash (TTL, bounce)
  • DW-6 Wide Conversion Lens (0.79x, for S10 zoom)
  • TC-1 Tele Conversion Lens (1.88x, for S10 zoom)
  • HA-3 lens hood and adaptor (for S10 zoom)
  • Cases, batteries and chargers

The S10 lens module box contains the unit, manual, a lens cap and an adapter ring for the optional conversion lenses.