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Monday, 09 November 2009

Comments

In the past, one would note that Ricoh is very good in its implementation and looking after photographer need. The only fly is that t is fixed lens. This might be the read deal for DMD. As one would say, keep in view!

DOA, IMHO.

Not stated in the video (unless I missed it) is that the sensor with the "50mm" lens is APS-C sized (and the lens is actually 33mm, 50mm-e), whereas the sensor with the zoom is 2/3".

I like the idea, but I'm not sure I like the pricing. As far as I can tell, the lens + sensor combination for the zoom lens would cost you about as much as a new Canon G11, for example. So I'm not sure what the benefit is from swapping out the lens/sensor vs. having both a G10 or G11 (or a Panasonic LX3) and the Ricoh with the 33mm/50mm-e prime.

Still, a cool idea and it should be interesting to see how it is received.

Best,
Adam

Hmmm,

I think I want to see the REAL announcement tomorrow before I comment. This business of selling a lens and sensor as a single module seems odd enough that I want official confirmation of it before trying to analyze it.

pax / Ctein

Ohhhhh, no. Brilliant idea, though.

I hate brilliant ideas.

Ricoh always does things differently. Very cool, especially if the overall IQ really is top notch.

Perhaps more appropriate to say the camera has an exchangeable back LCD and battery compartment unit.

Would be much more interesting if lens and sensor were also separate units. Then you could buy only the sensor in the future. A good lens is costly enough, owning as many sensors as lenses, well... and when the sensor is outdated then you need to chuck the lens as well.

The glass is half full here.

Anything that begins, however modestly, finally to realise the theoretical advantages of digital over film technology (setting aside the tweaky processing options we have already) should be welcomed.

It's for real, all right: http://www.dpreview.com/news/0911/09111001ricohgxr.asp

They just brought out a third generation GR-DIII, with continuing improvements in its image quality (given the choice of small chip, short focal length, nearly infinite DOF), shooting speed, AF speed, and controls. Maybe that will migrate into a slice that can be inserted into the GRX framework. That's a lot of new product development to be absorbed by the market in a single year. Good luck to them.

scott

i'm not digging the zoom lens module, being larger and more costly than the gx200. the 50mm module looks nice, though.

it would have been really cool if the body was modular, like if you could take out the popup flash and stick in an optical viewfinder or EVF, or if the LCD was interchangeable. they could have one that was fixed, another that just tilts up and down, and one that flips out to the side.

i guess they could provide these options with additional bodies, so from that perspective, it's not so bad that the lens and sensor come in one unit. however, if they only have this one body design, it's not something i would buy.

Now That's Outside of the Box Thinking.

The M3 was pretty rad - viewfinder AND rangefinder combined with a bayonet mount - radical dude.

The F was pretty rad too, single lens reflex for professional, nice.

Then arguable things was relatively stagnant until the D1 or the 30D, depending how you value affordability vs. professional usability.

Micro 4/3 kicks up the dust a bit. It points to a way of the future.

Now there's the Ricoh GRX. Now that's NEW think, changeable sensor+lens unit. Just what some of us have been saying. In a small form factor.

A Hasselblad for the new age? Just may be...

Things are really getting interesting.

No US distribution is a dealbreaker for me personally (damn you karietsu's), but more than that I hope it succeeds, if only to add more fire to a hot digital rangefinder segment.

So, by my count, we have gone from one (the way prescient ricoh GR digital) DMD to nine in the last 3 years.

1) Leica M8
2) Panny LX-3/Leica DLux
3) Panny GF-1
4) Oly EP-1
5) Leica M9
6&7) Ricoh GX (the 7 is a push because there is a 2/3" sensor in the zoom module, but the LX-3 proves this isn't a dealbreaker, with decent RAW support)
8&9) Sigma DP1-DP2

If you quantify some of the TOY cameras like the Yashica you metioned here and the crazy toy digital cameras designed to take advantage of the lomo craze, is it not safe to say the golden age of photography is now upon us?

All the tools in the world won't help me make my photos better (blurry shots can be made with any camera), but I have to say, the equipment is all there... to the professionals, it's like this: when a client comes to me and says I missed the shot(s), there really isn't any way I can point to the camera.

For amateurs looking to capture the moment... you can have an arsenal of weaponry that bests almost any 35mm print from any darkroom sitting on your desk (I'm thinking an iMac and an Epson 2880). Couple that with one of these new, cheap, big sensor cams, and, well, the limits are now only bounded by your creativity.

I am happy for T.O.P. being the vanguard for this new photographer. The worm has definitely turned.

Ok let me state the obvious: With this system now both your "lens unit" and body will become obsolete!

Why would you invest in this system? Why wouldn't they just continue to make non-interchangeable lens cameras using the same premise, but they could also upgrade the body (LCD, processor, etc.) with each new model? This makes no sense to me. I feel like I am missing some completely obvious advantage, but can't figure out what it is.

pax/ Ctein

It's pretty real- check out dpreview for an official announcement.

This is fantastic.

Anything that is different is great right now!

It's certainly a new and revolutionary concept - although I suspect it might be rather too new and revolutionary to succeed.
There's a certain innate conservatism in camera design and this one breaks the mould.

It does have interesting possibilities, though. For example, imagine a module with a sensor designed for black and white photography - no colour filteringd over the sensor, no anti-aliasing, no interpolation - just pure black and white.

Kudos to Ricoh for trying something new.

I've been carrying a GX100 for a couple years now, and I can testify that the Ricoh ergonomics and lenses are really outstanding; the sensor, well, OK. The GX100 is getting kind of beat-up (I'm tough on compacts) and I'm wondering what next. This looks expensive though and Ricohs are hard to buy in North America...

Hye Ctein
It is not the first time it is shown. Actually, I´ve got the suspicion that Ricoh implemented the patent from Pentax/Hoya, as they showed a very similar concept four years ago [if I´m not mistaken].

In principle, the idea is the right one: no compromises when designing the lens-sensor unit, having the ideal combo on both.

This should have been the starting point of the digital camera.

But this has the very risk of being the equivalent of Wankel rotary engines of the cameras: a brilliant idea left behind for the lack of competition.

I thought about this a while and I concluded that this is less about a 'system' camera and upgrades than it is about developing a modular product in a market-responsive way. By this I mean it's more about maximising their product permutations to give them competitive advantage.

The reality of digital camera advances is that the performance of the sensor is tied to the processing power of the back, and people are likely to upgrade the back and their lens unit at more or less the same time, because an even modestly improved sensor will inevitably place more demands on the back.

I'm sure Ricoh understand that most users with 'systems' in mind are going to opt for a more traditional approach, and thus this is more about them making sure they can keep their product line as simple as it has been and deliver more camera options at the same time.

Ctein, while it seems a crazy enough thing to announce, Which? are pretty much the most reliably unbiased and hype-free publication in the UK, so you can feel reasonably confident that there's no misrepresentation here. Intriguing that Ricoh gave them the scoop, though; that's subtle marketing, because Which? subscribers tend to deliberate for a while over their purchasing options.

It is headed down the path of something I quite like.
Once upon a time I used to put in different film for a different look - now I can swap the sensor (I'd rather not do it with a lens too but...).
Price is a bit extravagant. Yet very good to see a fresh approach to camera design.

Hmmmm.... A bit expensive for what amounts to a totally dedicated system. It better have some inbuilt major advantage!
At least the Pana and Oly let us use other lenses, this one will never.
I was reminded of the Pentax 110 slr...

Phew!!!
And this is actually the second coming of this type of thinking:
Minolta Dimage 1500:

http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/minolta1500/

It is official now and indeed odd. However, what gets me thinking is my contrarian definition of
"Newthink": That which Canikon do not do.

It seems that we are starting to see the maturing of the digital camera market and the initial leaders are doing the same thing over and over; improve low light efficiency and keep the price down. OK, they have added video to SLRs but that is hardly Newthink.

Others are doing cool things that may change the industry. These include micro 4/3, Foveon (a failure but something better will replace it), Ricoh, even Leica with the S2 and X1. Who would have expected that Panasonic, Leica and Ricoh would be the new thought leaders of the camera industry? Perhaps one should include Red in that list but I am not yet convinced.

I cannot wait for the next surprise - wonder who it will come from?

Can't help but notice it's not smaller than the Olympus or Lumix Micro 4/3 once you stick the 50mm equivalent lens on the front.

So if you want to use the bigger sensor, you pay for it in size.

OK, Ctein, analysis please!

;-)
Adam

P.S. I'm actually serious, I would be interested to hear what you think...

In cost or weight, isn't this close to buying a separate camera for each lens? What's the point of interchangeable lenses if you have to ditch a lens each time you upgrade the sensor and each lens incorporates half the weight and bulk of a camera body?

If you use two or three lenses or more, this sounds like the heaviest, bulkiest most expensive solution around.

Look at the sample images on dPreview. Aalmost all of the hi iso images are with the large sensor, but all but one of the zoom lens images are at low iso. So we know nothing about the hi iso IQ with the small sensor. When I see a wide angle lens with an aps sensor, then I will seriously consider this camera.

Dude, that's crazy.

Looks really interesting.

• Body: £419
• VF-2 viewfinder: £219
• GF-1 flash: £239
• A12 (ASPC CMOS) 50mm (equiv) lens: £600
• S10 (1/1.75" CCD) 24-70mm (equiv) lens: £330

If each of those prices were £100 - £150 less, I could even contemplate a purchase.

It's "official" now. I would not consider this system unless there is a way to swap sensors while keeping lenses (maybe by sending them to Ricoh?). Lenses are relevant for a much longer period than sensors and this will probably remain the case for a number of years: it is a shame to discard a perfectly good lens every time you want or need a new sensor.

The pricing is wrong. It should follow the consumer printer model. Buy the ink and get the printer essentially free. Something like buy the body for $50.00 and pay a premium price for the lens/sensor, printer, projector, what have you.

This one will go the way of the compact digital (2-3mp) with the removable lens/sensor unit you could stick on the end of a pole to get high shots. Was that a Ricoh camera?

This is also an interesting comparison:

Pentax Kx - 580g
DA35 macro - 215g

GXR body - 160g
A12 50mm F2.5 MACRO - 263g

Certainly intriguing and this is on quite a few websites.

A 33 APS-C module (50 mm equivalent) and a separate small sensor 24-70.

Oh here is a hands-on preview.

BTW I could see the video but got no sound.

Very interesting concept, but not exactly cheap.

The body and 50mm module costs more than a compact DSLR and isn't exactly pocketable.

I'm very curious to see a fast 35mm prime module (APS-C).

Hmmm. One of the things I like about the recent crop of "serious" compact cameras (which started with the Sigma DP1) is the trend away from gimmicks and back to basic photographic functionality. This Ricoh seems to be reversing that trend.

I don't want a gimmicky piece of electronics. I want a camera. The two involve very different mind-sets.

New think... I beg to differ, interchangeable sensors have been around for ages, its called film :)

As for the GRX, personally I dont see the point of paying extra for the privilege of turning my (already expensive) crop camera to a p&s.

If it was interchangeable sensors only, that would be a good idea. When the new sensor comes out you just pay for the sensor, not the whole body and a whole bunch of new but largely useless features. But that would probably be bad for business :)

Yeah I'm in a bad mood today...

Seems to be officially announced now. I have to admit that it appeals to me, but may be because it's a little offbeat. One minute it's a large sensor DMD, next minute a HD video camera, modular designs are neat.

I am fascinated when a company takes a leap of faith in the "me too" very conservative corporate world. I can just imagine the meeting at Ricoh when the decision boys finally said, "Yeah, sure, what the hell, let's do it and see what happens." I wish them well, but can appreciate the irony of a gadget-happy consumer rejecting a radical corporate design because it's too "out there".

I don't need another camera, but still feel the desire to own one, just to play with it.

I love the skeptics...whirring away as usual. These are the ideas of the future for digital cams. The somewhat modular camera for folks who march to town with axes and pitchforks after they become sick and tired of the incredibly wasteful model that digital photography is.

The replaceable sensor should be coming...keep your body, keep your lenses...swap out a new sensor module into a better made camera body.

this model maybe DOA, as said..but, hopefully, it will cause thse camera makers to start thinking outside of the box..the film box.

Ricoh has made several interesting cameras along the way. As one of the smaller camera manufacturers they have to try harder. Here, in Canada, the importer blew it big time in distribution in the '70s and '80s. In spite of some very good products!
I doubt I will see one for sale here.
Best of luck to them, it is certainly differant.

Kudos to Ricoh for thinking outside the box, but this is technological immaturity disguised as innovation.

Ricoh knows what we want -- a pocket camera (the size of one with the 24-70mm zoom module, e.g.) with a large sensor -- but it can't deliver given the state of current technology (at least at a profitable price point). So, instead, it gives us two "cameras," neither of which we really want.

There are three camera companies that persist in thinking in a refreshing divergent way from Canikon and clones: Ricoh, Sigma and Leica. More power to all of them, but especially Ricoh. I hope that their product is a success.

You have to admit it IS newthink. I can't see myself stepping into a new "system", but you have to give them credit for trying something new. Unfortunately, in the short term at least, it probably will be DOA. Too much new concept for the intended buyers, assuming they be "dmd" types and those who want high quality compacts. I want to see more though.

It's official. There's a preview on the usual camera review site. It's definitely an interesting idea, newthink indeed.

As far as the market potential, well Ricoh were the ones that put out noisy, small sensor fixed-focal cameras with prosumer-level controls and handling.

They priced those cameras at a premium level.

People still bought and raved about them.

I admit that they were compelling, and if I was someone with more disposable income and time I would probably own one or two incarnations of those cameras. Everyone remarked about how gutsy Panasonic was with the LX3 to put out a small-sensor camera with such a limited/short zoom range, but Ricoh did it well before they did (GX100), albeit with far less speed.

I don't know that any of their odd-ball cameras has been really commercially successful, but certainly they must have been profitable, else they wouldn't keep making them. If there's an idiosyncratic player in the market that can make this work it's probably Ricoh.

One bit of unsolicited advice from me to them: make an interchangeable imaging module with a fixed focus 40mm-e f/1.7 lens with an APS sized sensor and no Bayer filter. I'm not saying that I'd buy one myself, it would depend on pricing, but I have a strong suspicion that many others might.

Well..it does solve the dust on the sensor problem.
And it does allow the sales of new improved physical UIs - you know, the camera body. It might be a great solution for industrial/scientific uses; you buy just the sensor/lens combo you need to bolt onto your production machine/stereoscope/bullet-time array without being locked into a camera shape. That alone might make for a lot of high-dollar sales that they would otherwise be denied.*
I can't count the number of times that commenters here have wished to swap in new sensors as they become available instead of having to throw away the whole camera. I guess it fits with that, and selling the lens+sensor as a unit does solve all kinds of alignment problems for replaceable sensors. It would also save some space, since you don't have to allow for flange/bayonet distance, so you could get a physically smaller package for the same size sensor.

Interesting.
*I remember seeing a list of all kinds of weird optics with F mounts. Apparently Nikon is/was very popular in industry. Imagine if Nikon was able to not just sell a lens, but sell a sensor to those industries too!

Dpreview now has their writeup online. Beautiful, but that's really expensive for a small sensor camera. $549 for the body, $440 for the 24-70/10Mp, $880 for the 50mm macro/12Mp.

Seems a little redundant to me...

This will be remembered as one of technology's classic dumb ideas.
Ricoh has invented the planned obsolescence lens!

"to the professionals, it's like this: when a client comes to me and says I missed the shot(s), there really isn't any way I can point to the camera."

Has there ever been a time a professional could say that? Not that I'm aware of...I'm just sayin'....

Mike

I've made some extensive comments on my blog, but the bottom line for me is I think this is a cool idea that will tank. I really, really hope I'm wrong, because the industry needs bold ideas like this to pull it out of its conformity slumber.

"For example, imagine a module with a sensor designed for black and white photography - no colour filteringd over the sensor, no anti-aliasing, no interpolation - just pure black and white."

I'd buy that.

Mike

This thing is real and official already, DPReview has some pretty decent samples online (with the 33mm/50mm-e at least, nice ISO 1600 and sharpness).

I knew it was only a matter of time. For the past two years I have been predicting that someday we'll have interchangeable sensors. I've mentioned it twice here in TOP comments.

So here is another prediction: This is just the beginning. It's going to be huge, and none of the major players will be able to stay out of it (they're all probably working on it now).

I see this sensor/lens combination as just a beginning step toward swappable sensors that will work with any lens. The sensors will carry the processing logic, then hand the image over to the camera for writing to the card.

Someday interchangeable sensors will be the norm. There will be various resolutions to choose from, dedicated B&W and infra-red ones, ones without AA filters, etc.

Regards,
Clayton

Ricoh beats competitors in the way the cameras handle. The cameras seem to be designed by real photographers. Too bad they are so expensive.

I am not sure that replacing body+sensor obsolescence by lens+sensor obscolescence is a good one...

The obvious benefit is trying to keep the size down by reducing the sensor as you go to longer focal length but it looks mighty expensive to go that way.

Still waiting for a truely upgradable sensor+processor that would really be the digital analogue of the thing that used to be called "film" but I am not holding my breath: increasing the durability of a given product does not appear to be on the priority list of any modern business nowadays...

I have seen more "why can't we upgrade the CCD in a body?" posts around the internet than I can count. This seems a step in that direction.

Perhaps the evolution of this system could offer optimized sensors for B&W, IR, etc.. The discussions on this blog about CCD's being analogous to film would be even more apropos with this style of system than anything else currently available. Could we be seeing the beginning of "film cartridges" for our digital cameras? Worth a thought. . .

I am intrigued by the concept of coupling optimized lens/CCD combinations, but I personally would have been more impressed with a selection of lenses for each CCD. This would allow a medium-format-like system in which different lenses, bodies, or backs could be used interchangeably. The body for the Ricoh system would keep the LCD, processing and controls, while swapping CCD modules would be analogous to swapping backs. The hang up, again, would seem to be the limit of one lens per CCD. Still, it's nice to see innovation!

I am think of "mount modules" - Module that has an APS-C or full frame sensor plus a lens mount.
The mount can be anything:
Pentax K
Olympus 4/3
Sony/KM Alpha
Nikon F
Lecia M (!)

And all those older mounts:
M42 screw
Olympus OM
Canon FD

Now I can dream...

Oh I forget, Contax C/Y and Lecia R mount too can...

Seems like they missed the point -- which as I see it is that photographers have been clamoring for using their EXISTING lenses with newer sensors, without replacing their entire body. By integrating the sensor, processor, and lens, they pretty much make that impossible.

Dpreview has beta sample galleries. The images look very good to my eyes. High ISO looks very good indeed, and the 50 mm module is very impressive.

There really may be something to this idea!

Interesting idea.
The next evolution may be to combine the two.

I wonder if there is an sensor type/size:focal length benefit?

Then we could get third parties to build us a body with flip up/out LCDs. ;)

The one 'DMD' feature where Ricoh seems way ahead of everyone else, which I use every day with the GRD3: Full Press Snap focus.

GXR announcement at dpreview:
"The full press snap function shoots at a preset distance for a one-push full-press of the shutter-release button."

I see this evolving into the more technical field-- Telescope cold cell mod. Microscope Mod. and many other things. You can move your camera body around to different recording devices with out having to have your own dedicated lens for each item.
Different sensors-- IR, UV, etc.
Mike, I don't see the B&W sensor for photographers, in order to have any control you would still have to use color filters to darken sky etc.
There probably will be a technical B&W sensor with out the anti-aliasing filter with RGB filters inside to make 3 color shots or just B&W. and only using one filter. Again more in the scientific, crime, etc vain. It does have endless possibilities-- Just has to marketed right.

I will wait until the body and the APSC module settle down in price a little. I'd skip the 24-72 module but I will get the 10X zoom module they will bring out next year. To my mind, a big advantage of the digital age in photography is these fast CMOS sensor tiny cameras with 10x or 12x zoom lenses stuffed in them. Photographers in the past would have been delighted if such options were available to them. I'd happily use the zoom module in good light and switch to the macro module in low light. Their 10x module will probably also do HD video so you can have one system with a 28-280mm-e lens, and a 50mm-e macro lens for a great deal of versatility.

My concerns are: DPReview reports that autofocusing was not up to mark in their review unit. This would be a problem for a system that is so pricey. The other thing is that the macro lens unit is not stabilized. Pentax is using the same sensor (apparently) and is able to stabilize it in their K-X so I don't know why Ricoh left it out. That would have given them a great deal of advantage.

What'll blow everyone's socks off is the upcoming cell phone attachment...

Turnabout is fair play!

In all seriousness, this will fail, how long is one to keep paying the cost of a full system for a new lens only to continue using the same LCD and battery?

Ricoh will never hit the economies of scale necessary to make this system sing.

I am a little confused by the "obsolescence" comments. How is this obsolescence any different than the many generations of obsolete digicams we've just seen fly by in the last decade?

DSLR owners can re-use lenses when they change bodies, but that's about it when it comes to re-usability, really. And even that is mitigated by the fact that they've had to purchase new lenses along the way for use with APS-C sensors.

As I am more and more dislike the idea of not being able to keep e.g. the APS-C sensor for different lenses, I think one area where this thing could be interesting (but not for me, I think): "Convergence"; Think: this one body looks like a nicely handling photographer-centric stills camera, but one could possibly build a camera far better suited for video while still using the same lens/sensor modules (if their video/processor is good enough) - maybe even a better microphone/mic-input on that other body.

By the way. This truly is the one camera, many lenses theory, not the m4/3s.

The m4/3s is yet another mount, as you need adapters to use any other lens but the m4/3s. Same with the Eos EF/S, DX, K, 4/3s, Sigma mounts.

What this camera solves is the fact that the lens-sensor combo should be designed to perfectly perform as a system by itself.

That does not happen with current dslr. Stellar older lenses -me, as a suferer or the K mount, had done it with russian old glass- do not work propperly with the reflective nature of the sensor.

I took me a while but I think I've got it.

At first having the sensor change with the lens seemed baffling: When I pick up a camera I want to know what sensor characteristics to expect. That's something you lose here, but... only if you change lenses.

I think of this new Ricoh as not so much an interchangeable-lens camera as a *customizable* fixed-lens camera. Remember of the debate among prospective buyers of the Sigma SP-1 and DP-2: Some wanted a "50mm equivalent" lens, some a 35 and some a 28. (Some might not want a large-sensor camera with a fast prime at all, but rather a small-sensor camera with a super-zoom.)

If I were to buy one of these I'd get it with a fast prime and be done with it. I'll bet the majority of buyers stick with one lens for this camera. Probably exactly what Ricoh intended.

I posted this on another forum as well but:

At first I thought the idea was a bit odd, but now I'm starting to think it makes a good bit of sense for a lot of people assuming the system develops a bit more.

First let's consider all these recent fixed lens P&S cameras that have been coming onto the market...ie sigma dp1/dp2, Leica X1 etc. They aren't exactly cheap, but I do see their appeal and have been tempted to purchase one. Inevitably though as soon as one of these cameras comes out we hear "wow this is great but I won't buy one because it's not a 24mm lens, or a 50mm lens or whatever". If Ricoh had a choice down the road where you could select your favorite prime focal length for that body you wouldn't be stuck with the fixed focal length that isn't quite right for you.

Also, I could keep a 35mm f/2 stuck on a camera body most of the time, but it would be really nice to be able to switch it out to a 24-70 zoom once in a while if I'm just going out to a party or something and want some snap shots. I don't even care if it means dropping down to a smaller sensor size when I switch the module. Now I know people are going to say "you could get a small P&S for less then the sensor/lens combo". While this is true, I myself am getting really tired of having to learn new menu and UI setups for each different camera, dealing with different batteries and chargers and all that crap. I'd gladly pay $2000 for a really high quality fixed focal length 35mm that I could swap to a 24-70 once in a while for some snap shots or maybe down the road grab a 85mm sensor/lens combo for it. Assuming they come out with a 35mm module in the future, it looks like I could get the combo I mentioned for that price and have a much nicer spec camera then the Leica X1 that has a bit more flexibility as well. Just wish it had that red dot.

Oh one more thing. I almost want to buy one just because a company finally had the guts to do something other than cram a digital sensor in an old film body they designed 20 years ago. Whether it's a good idea or not...I almost don't care

I think you could argue that this was a modular camera if the lens was separate -- otherwise, the "body" is mostly like one of the detachable battery packs for Nikon, Canon, Pentax, etc., with an added LCD and less functionality. That is, the "body" really has no camera functions; all the camera functions are in the separate module.

All they've really done is move the "interchangeable" from the lens to the sensor, and I'd argue that given a competent sensor, that the lenses are the more important part of the package. (That is, it's more important to be able to change lenses than it is to change sensors.)

I guess the important part of this is that it demonstrates that it is possible to have a sensor module that can be critically positioned by the user. But, without the interchangeable lenses, it's silly. If this were a D3 or similar camera, and you could click in the high-ISO D3 sensor, and then change it for the D3x sensor, and then maybe a pure B&W or IR sensor, it might make sense, although I expect the modules would still be really expensive.

One of the items on the DPR announcement, by the way, was to say that the lens-sensor module made it inherently difficult for dust to get inside. Didn't say "impossible." To me, that would suggest that it *is* possible to get dust inside, but impossible to clean it.

To me, this has more the smell of marketing than it does the odor of engineering.
JC

After thinking about this for a while I now think Ricoh is about 5 years ahead of its time. In a few more years sensors will be near dirt cheap and I imagine IQ advancement will slow to a crawl as well. After that happens then having a sensor built into the lens won't be an issue because they'll be no need to upgrade sensors and since sensors will also be so cheap you're not really paying much of a premium over just a lens alone.

Oh wonderful!

Now every single part of the camera will be open to obsolescence.

I can see absolutely no good reason for this system.

Why would you invest in this instead of one of the Micro 4/3rds concepts?

Great idea

Larger sensor sizes for low light, wide angle
small sensor sizes for fast zooms, tele situations...

They would do even better if in the future they would create "double" modular standard, to add interchangeable sensor into the lens as well...

in any case it's a great start and for those who say that the price is too high - it is about M4/3 or mid level SLR, for a smaller camera with a bigger sensor than 4/3... for what it is, the price looks very reasonable at launch.

I like it. Both for what it is and for what it points to.

Designing lenses expressly for digital sensors - that was Olympus' main motive in designing the four-thirds concept, wasn't it? An advantage that was drowned out by all the flak over their "too small" form factor.

Concerning obsolescence: the lens only becomes obsolete if a sensor appears on the market sometime soon that blows this one away. Does anyone see this happening in the next five years?

I haven't read about the details but there's potential for an outstanding match between hardware and software if each combination of sensor and processing unit has to be optimised for just one lens (and vice versa). In the case of fixed focal length lenses, there's even more potential for very high image quality. I can envisage some truly clever sensor stuff going on in the future if Ricoh can sell enough to get custom imaging sensors designed. Think of what Kodak recently did with Leica, increasing the spacing of the sensels towards the outer edges of the sensor to help catch oblique rays of light. The software could also be programmed to deal with lens faults very well, working to correct known issues rather than having to identify them in the image when unknown lenses were used via adapters.

Maybe I'm just thick, but what's the point. I can't see an advantage to this system over something like a micro 4/3rds.

It might be new-think, but I'm not sure i can call it good-think.

I'm wondering if this is really a bet by Ricoh that practical sensor improvements are starting to level off, with most future improvements going forward coming from backend image processing: optimize each lens-sensor system, and periodically upgrade the handgrip that contains the main processing engine, storage, and viewing system (s), all of which may at this point be advancing significantly faster than sensor tech.

That would be a daring bet, indeed, but there is some evidence to support it. The next big sensor improvement is to use back-illuminated sensors which have higher quantum efficiency, and this is in fact being implemented for very small (cell phone sized) sensors. Beyond that, though, it's not clear that CCD and CMOS sensors have a lot of room for improvement without somewhat radical technological changes (e.g., EM-CCD) that are going to be hard to implement in a small camera without thermoelectric cooling. Indeed, it's a near certainty that a lot of the recent ISO race has been driven by backend processing advances.

If this conjecture is correct, then the real change that will happen over the next decade is that really good CMOS sensors are completely commoditized: cheaper and cheaper, but not a whole lot better at any price that would allow inclusion in a consumer device.

At that point the Ricoh strategy makes all kinds of sense: sealed assembly, perfect alignment, ideal matching of sensor and optical system -- all the advantages of a digicam -- with upgradeable processing engine.

Wow, quite a stir this is causing. It seems to me that if Ricoh had come out with this camera, without the modularity factor, looking just like it does, with the 50mm fixed lens, I would have found it pretty cool in its own right. If the image quality is (really) good, I'd say this very much the type of thing that a lot of "DMD" dreamers have been looking for. It's a nice, simple box with a good sized sensor. The fact that it does allow for alternative lenses (regardless of the fact that the sensor comes with them) makes it all the more interesting.

Isn't it also possible that one day they could come out with a full frame sensor/lens combo for this unit?

Again, even if it were just a 50mm fixed lens camera, I'd think it was pretty cool.

(Though, adding up all the components, it is a bit expensive.)

Ricoh's got guts or some really interesting market research! I'd love to try the system.

However, I agree with others that it's a step forward and a step backward. Optimizing sealed modules is a nifty idea...but not for someone who disagrees with the "marriages" offered. For example, the 50mm equivalent doesn't have image stabilization (like the 24-70) and the 24-70mm equivalent doesn't have 3fps (like the 50). One does HD video, one drains the battery slower, one goes down to ISO 100, and they both have different ranges of shutter speeds. The GXR's fundamental problem is increasing the number of variables for the photographer to consider.

Will Ricoh (or a potential 3rd party) make a 16-35mm equivalent zoom over a small sensor that's optimized for resolution? What about a fast portrait lens equivalent that's optimized for dynamic range? Marrying the sensor to the lens may be more limiting than marrying the sensor to the body.

I'd be pickled tink if I faced the following decisions before taking a K-mount camera with me somewhere:

large or small body?
high-res, high-ISO, high DR, or dedicated B&W sensor?

Until then, the DPR samples look good enough and I hope the GXR is a success. I also hope other companies see that success as an indication they need to experiment and try new things.

These aren't ideas for the future, though. As someone pointed out, Minolta did this 10 years ago. So ... for the price for a GF1 & 20/1.7 and an LX3, you can have three pieces of equipment. The body & APS-C combo is bigger than a GF1 or EP1/pancake combo (not pocketable at all) while the body & zoom combo is bigger than an LX3. You can't shoot with both at the same time. You can't give your wife one while you shoot with the other. If the body dies, both cameras are dead. It's a solution in search of a problem, unless they can find a way to provide a cost advantage. Otherwise, it's a novelty that will sell to a few gadget hounds.

I think about the cameras I had in 2006, and in 2003, and I think which bits I'd like to keep. The lenses were just fine, as were the control wheels & buttons. But the sensors were awful, and the card-writing circuits were slow, and the screens were tiny.

With the traditional lens/body divide, I got to keep the lenses, and throw away the rest. With this divide, I would have thrown the whole thing away. So from this perspective it sounds like a bad idea.

Instead of worrying about obsolescence you could instead imagine buying a varied kit at once. One body and two lenses? But would it ever be cheaper than (say) an LX3 and a GF1 together?

So, in short, I don't see the point. Although as part of the trend towards much greater variety, I'll give them full points for trying!

Did anyone notice that Ricoh is talking about an m4/3 module? Lor Grunin's Cnet piece goes a little beyond the press release.

http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-10393512-1.html

@Adrian: Yes, that seems to be the plan. And a great potential in this concept--a sort of meta-system, not locked into a particular mount. Unlike adapters, such mount modules would theoretically be able to implement full native AF/AE and other features.

What's more, Ricoh is clearly thinking beyond camera.

The Mirror claims to have seen prototypes of a number of modules: "a GPS unit, wireless transmitter, printer, storage unit and best of all, even a projector". http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/technology/2009/11/10/ricoh-gxr-projector-bolt-on-revealed-115875-21812180/

Once you get that the plug-in need not be a lens/sensor, the possibilities are endless, and some downright compelling. Whatever the module happens to be, it obviously can be equipped with any necessary additional UI, structural, or interface elements.

I'm sure this outs me as a curmudgeon and a misanthrope, but I'm just not willing to sit through a video. Even a 2 minute video. Thanks for the dpreview.com links.

Interesting idea, but I'm going to see how this plays out a bit before I even think about buying one.

Wow... 62 comments after the mere post of a video!! The must be a record in TOP, right?

Now on topic: after reading the many comments here and elsewhere, I'm a bit confused: on the one hand this is one of the most innovative cameras (or rather, systems) I have seen in a long while; on the other hand, it might well happen that the market discards such brilliant idea.

If Mike lets me remind an analogy from the world of hi-fi, I remember, many years ago, when the modular systems were pushed by some big Japanese brands, whose idea was to produce high quality CD transports and put a D/A converter module which was upgradeable. In principle the idea looked terrific, but if I recall correct, they never received any significant success in the market. And in the end, pretty much all CDs (integrated or transport + converter separated) became complete systems, so if you wanted to upgrade, you purchased a new component.

In the end, it seems we customers do want to jumpt to something completely new every few years, and don't enjoy too much the idea of keeping the basic skeleton of such product. After all, we all are humans, and new stuff is always exciting to us (Santa anyone??).

"DOA, IMHO.

Posted by: John Camp"

No, this is the future. Prices will come down, as with all electronics.

Remember, digital is in its infancy. Traditional photography has been around since circa 1860, and has matured. Don't be impatient.

A nice length of cable between the lens/sensor/head unit and the back would make this interesting, and I can see the stereo photography folk jumping on this. In fact I can think of all sorts of uses for this as the basis of custom rigs for the industrial, scientific, and hardware-geek markets. I hope enough consumers buy them to keep them in production.
I wish that the Sony R1 had sold in high enough quantities to support a modification market. The R1 with the electronics of the Sony a550 is my current dream camera

These will be hanging around every 20-somethings neck in Japan. Maybe this will kill the current film camera fad over there. Ricoh will make a bundle in the Japanese market.

I don't know how this concept will eventually play out, but on a more mundane note, it's worth noting that the high ISO APS-C samples seem quite clean. The 'newthink' aspect aside, in each of its forms this may turn out to be a camera that delivers rather good images.

If I'm not mistaken, in the old days one could change the lens and sensor (aka film) independently. Oldthink is newthink now? Well, I didn't expect to get THAT old.

A solution in search of...? I am not sure I understand which burning issue this approach resolves?

On further consideration of this being stupid, it's still stupid: basically the only part of the camera that's left is some wiring that connects the memory card to the sensor, with a bit of processing in between. Nothing much of significance. Oh and the shutter button, flash shoe and LCD.

So if you are really going with the modular camera idea, why don't you make some incredibly basic cameras with lens, sensor and shutter button, and then make the LCD, flash shoe and anything else clip on to that? That would be cool to me. This seems nuts. I can't imagine very many of these selling. What would possess someone to buy one of these?

If there were obvious cost-savings, I could see it. If there were some kind of guarantee that they would support this exact mount with future sensor-lenses for 10 years, and always come out with a reasonable selection of each so I can have the right combo for my needs, it might be interesting (this is quite rare in the electronics industry).

But it seems like a lot of effort to be able to keep your grip.

It's also not just the sensor technology in a camera that changes, but the processor, LCD, software, and other electronics, so I'd rather buy a new camera with a different grip and learn the controls than have to pay so much for such a small gain. For the same or less money I can hang two "less versatile" cameras around my neck and be quite happy, with less fiddling in a bag for lens modules, and greater overall redundancy (in case of drops, battery failures).

As for the image quality, that's where I'll reserve judgment. What's on DPR looks pretty good. I'll take a weird camera if it's of sufficiently high quality and fun to use. If I can afford it. That strikes me as the bit they haven't worked out, so I'm surprised this made it out of committee. I give them an A for effort and applaud the innovation, but have seen too many ideas like this come and go to have much hope for it.

I think that combining the sensor with the lens makese sense from at least one perspective: sensors of identical size are really not that different one from another (are they?). Improvements in image quality for similarly sized sensor happen at intervals bigger than camera replacement cycles (I guess...) So, to make changing sensors interesting, they offer different sizes, which of course means that you have to change the lens too (or not? if you change from big to small sensor maybe you don't need to change the lens...?) it's very late here, that may explain my sudden stroke of genius ;)

It’s understandable that each one of us has our own vision of the perfect camera. Nevertheless, lets not let that keep us from a rational evaluation of new equipment and designs that do not meet our perfect paradigm. It’s like the single person who spends their life trying to find the perfect spouse and winds up alone.

The GRX is the most creative design of a digital camera that any of us have seen. It is a giant step towards a truly modular design. It offers the ability to perfectly pair sensors and optics in a completely sealed module. As some other commentators have noted, I see a world of possibilities. Don’t judge the GRX by what it is, but what it represents and what it could be. Depending on Ricoh’s willingness to partner, I could envision dedicated lens units and those that are merely a sensor matched to a mount. And why stop with photography? How about video and other optical applications?

If you insist on a digital version of a 50 year-old camera design go for it. It’s only a matter of money. I prefer seeing what a 21st century camera could be. Like any passionate person I will read the reviews and study the sample images. Then I will make a judgment. But for now, the GRX is a pretty cool idea.

You can buy a fixed lens camera for less than a lens/sensor module. Why pay a premium even if you don't need to learn a new interface? Something doesn't compute.
bd

A B&W-only sensor's a great idea. But how is a lens incorporating a B&W sensor any more efficient/cost-effective than a B&W-specific body?

Photographers aren't technological stick-in-the muds. Digital effectively killed film within five or six years. But I don't get what problem the GXR solves. It's certainly not cheaper, lighter, smaller or more flexible than current systems.

mwg,
I'm with you, I generally dislike watching video on the computer. It makes me go at its pace, not mine, and I have to turn off my music. Both bad things.

Mike

I don't think looking at this as a body with interchangeable lenses bundled with sensors is correct. It is, to my mine, a pair of fixed lens cameras that share a "service module" (to borrow NASA's Apollo terminology) and line of accessories.

The "service module" is not a camera body. All true camera functions are in the so-called lens/sensor units, including the shutter and the AF system. The SM provides support for viewfinders (rear LCD and removable attachment eyelevel EVF), flashes (internal and via hot shoe), card reader/writer, and main global firmware (probably).

The removable SM does allow some interesting economy in that you can use its reader/writer and display with either a HD storage unit or a projector. Also, the remote cable/wireless link are interesting and could be very useful in some situations.

The two core "camera" modules do seem rather limiting. I wonder if they've considered a true interchangeable lens module.

Fixed lens cameras from pocket digicams to the Sigma DPs already let manufacturers optimize lens to sensor. The results don't indicate that's a huge advantage.

Thinking some more ... and I still don't think it's a great idea for many people ... I can sort of see it not so much for upgradability, but for portability. Sure you could duplicate (more or less) the functionality with a similarly priced kit consisting of LX3 & GF1 ... and then whatever corresponds to the next unit they offer. But let's say you're interested in a number of these units. You want the APS-C/33mm unit, you want the 24-72 compact, you want the superzoom video camera. And you want to travel with them. You have one battery charger, one type of battery to duplicate, one kind of memory card to stock up on, one kind of raw file to process. One LCD protector to replace when it gets scuffed up, one EVF module. I have no idea what kind of numbers Ricoh is forecasting, but maybe this will appeal to enough photographers to be viable. (How many people do you know who are going to buy a Leica X1 ?)

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