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Monday, 09 November 2009


Following up on my comment, I can just picture what I take on vacation. One camera bag full of chargers, USB cables, A/V cables (on the off chance we want to look at the days video/pics on TV) for a DSLR, digicam, video recorder. Thinking about a safari in another year or so and contemplating gear, I have to keep this in mind ... carrying a compact alongside a DSLR or a second DSLR body might entail an extra battery charger.

Apart from whether it is a viable concept in the long run, the sample images over at DPReview look very nice (APS-C sensor). Detail in the Tower Bridge pic is clear and, allow me to throw a fox in the chicken coop, in a bit of a different league from the m4/3 offerings. At least judging from the samples provided. Now, if Ricoh were to provide a wider solution (40/35mm eq) it would be a good rival for the Panasonic 20/1.7 perhaps.

I applaud weird ideas and daring concepts, we have been looking at boring DSLRs for too long now. Yay Ricoh!

Dear fuji6x9,

No, it took digital almost two decades to "kill" film. You only noticed the last few years when it became a big part of the market.

Most of those two decades, it was below your radar, that's all.

pax / Ctein

Wow, there are a lot of new possibilities with this approach....

...imagine a cable to connect one of the lens/sensor modules to an iPhone or a laptop for interesting tethering options?

...imagine a lens/sensor module attached to the end of a stick held high overhead in a crowd - and tethered and controlled by a "camera back" that's at eye level?

...imagine a lens/sensor module attached to a mount that transmitted camera signals to the "camera back" via Bluetooth?

...imagine a cube (or even a dodecahedron!) with a wide angle lens/sensor module mounted on each face, tethered to a laptop or some other computing module to create realtime, 360 degree, 100 megapixel immersive images and video?

Kudos to Ricoh for trying to shake up the staid world of camera design. Now release an SDK or Open Source platform and let these crazy ideas fly!

I think they should just build face plates that accept all the popular lens mounts in conjunction with the OEM Ricoh units. Make the sensor independent and similar to a film holder/cassette that slides in and out. You could then pick your sensor, like you pick your film. I saw some other accessories, such as remote controllers, tethered shooting units, hard drives and projectors.

Like B&W? Great. High ISO your bag? Done. Don't need more than 5 mpx? No problem.

I realize dust is an issue, but the marriage of lens and sensor is still confusing to me.

Why are people assuming that the "base" can't be upgraded? I haven't seen or heard anything to suggest that that's not possible.

Nor do I see any evidence that the design necessitates sealed sensor+lens combinations. Ricoh reportedly is considering a micro 4/3 module, not to mention various non-camera modules. If one interchangeable lens mount is possible, so are others. Not that it will happen, but even a mirror box and pentaprism finder module do not seem impossible.

The lack of any recycling strategy for the modules is disappointing. I'm sure Ricoh would have mentioned it already if it had one. Not that other camera makers do well in that department.

One thing for sure: the buzz around this thing is impressive. So is the fact that Ricoh was able to keep it substantially under wraps until a month before it goes on sale.

At this point, I think the modularity is less for the consumer's benefit, and more for Ricoh's. Over time it ought to enable them to develop more variants of their small camera concept for less development effort.
Given Ricoh's past problems with reliability and decent image processing, it also gives them the option of tweaking the body/electronics without re=engineering the whole camera.

I don't even know if they expect customers to buy more than one lens module.

Of course, the high prices are a serious problem for the feasibility of the idea, but on the other hand Leica expect to sell the S2.

Over time, the modularity concept will be hugely influential to the development of micro 4/3rds, which is ideally suited to it.

Look how long Sigma took to implement the DP1. Even after announcing it. And how long it took for the photo community to declare that the implementation was less than hoped for.

Ricoh effectively kept the GXR under wraps: it appeared to spring almost from nowhere. And within 24 hours, many photo enthusiasts judged the new system to be DOA: An expensive solution looking for a problem.

This suggests that Ricoh has indeed stirred the drink (and the drink is likely not Kool-Aid). The GXR does something that 99.9% of new cameras do not: it points to the future of photography. It may even, with one or both of the introductory modules, take pictures as good as many other state-of-the-art cameras.

I still use lenses that I bought thirty years ago. If they were inseparably wedded to the film I was using then, those lenses would be long gone.

While I enjoy seeing and thinking about new design and the new possibilities it might bring, I can't help but wonder why so many criticize Nikon and Canon et al. for building on and refining proven technologies that have allowed for a virtually uninterrupted workflow over the last fifty years.

For my part, I have no problem with the traditional lens, body, film paradigm. I think that Ricoh took the wrong fork in the evolution of photo equipment. The right move would have been to separate digital film from the camera body. Until this happens, digital cameras will lag behind the flexibility that film has afforded photographers from the very beginning.

But what do I know? I don't design cameras. I only use them.

In response to Ctein:

WRT digital killing film, I measured the five or six years from the point at which a product entered the consumer marketplace. I'm well aware consumer digital cameras didn't emerge from thin air. While the points on the timeline can be here or there depending on definitions, the basic point--which I don't think you'd disagree with--is that digital conquered film and gutted the pretty significant infrastructure associated with film way faster than most people thought would happen.

Though it's still vapourware, isn't this a step in the same direction as the Red Epic/Scarlet cameras? Modular.

Until someone convinces me otherwise, I see it mainly as a camera with an APS-C sensor and without interchangeable lenses. There are not many of those. I can think of the Leica X1. Any others?

I remember some time ago one 'source' who replied when asked which lens this GXR will take:

'the lenses you have'

Yes, the first modular system is in its infancy but will grow and will be followed by many others.

A module with a micro four-thirds sensor and a micro four-thirds lens mount in place of a lens would certainly prolong this camera's life in the marketplace. Also, a module with a Leica M mount while you're at it.

I see all of these respondents passing judgment before the camera is even out for them to get their hands on (even you, Mike and Ctein), and I wonder what all the fuss is about.

What will make this camera work, in my estimation, is if lens modules will be able to be sent back to Ricoh for upgrades when improved sensors become available.

As I said in a previous comment, like during the first years after photography was invented, we are currently in an era of rapid evolution of the technology, and I don't expect that it will slow down any time soon. Up to now I have dealt with that issue by having a very good lens that does pretty much everything I want it to do -- the Nikon 18-200VR -- and upgrading camera bodies around it.

What if this move by Ricoh were an attempt to separate what is not going to change from what is? What if, ten years from now, I would still have my original camera body, but had been able to return my lens modules every time (or maybe every other time) they are upgraded with new sensors?

That might be a really interesting proposition.

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