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Friday, 27 May 2011

Comments

Lens+Aperture / Sensor+Shutter / Body+User Interface

The GXR is exactly the same as every DSLR, just different. Lens+Sensor instead of Sensor+Body. I guess I'd rather not have any of these three permanently bound together.

If packaged, it ought to bring me some benefit. Cost? Quality? Ease of use? Size and weight?

Why not just buy three or four mid-level DSLR bodies, one for each lens, and consider the whole thing a permanently bound unit.

Meh, the GXR is interesting because nobody's done it before, but I cant really see it as new.

Dear Mike,

And somewhat related, the new electric SmartCar manages to get it totally wrong, by hitting a price/performance point that makes no sense to either an electric car or SmartCar afficionado.

I cannot figure out who they're expecting to buy it. (It's not quite like the Sigma SD-1, except in price point, because the Sigma probably offer good performance, whereas the eSmartCar doesn't.)

pax / Ctein

Curious. It would seem to me that by fixing some elements of a camera system, you can take advantage of innovation in other parts.

For instance, fix a body and its lens mount, and you can improve your lenses over time. And, of course, film. Fix you lens(es), your body, and just care about this year's emulsion, or old onto tried and true stuff like Tri-X, etc.

The problem with digital is that there's still innovation happening on the sensor, not only in MP but also even in size. And when the sensors aren't fixed yet, then your lenses and bodies can't stabilize in the market either.

I suppose Ricoh is trying to get around this by coupling the lens with the sensor. A very bold concept that turns the idea of a camera sorta inside out.

Perhaps this is an attempt to find that sweet spot between holding on to some legacy part of your system, and being able to take advantage of market innovations (better lens-sensor units).

I love my GXR for the high quality results it delivers. Fantastic LCD, fast and precise focussing, solid build. But this love suddenly grows more dangerous: I drool imagining the category-bending patents Ricoh has just filed to add a printer module, a projector module, and a hard disk storage module to the system. Ricoh is the anti-Nikon: all upstart innovation. And by the way, "hybrid" is just a dumb techno word for an acknowledgement of the fact that we are good/bad, white/black, young/old, smart on some days, goofballs on others. Hybrids expand the range of our categories--and biases. Nice when a humble camera colludes with social transformation!

"You get thus-and-such better mileage; gas costs X; therefore you will save Y dollars a year; but the hybrid car costs K dollars more than the regular non-hybrid version of the same car...so you won't save money in the long run.

Doesn't that assume that "put[ting] a sizeable bite in America's dependence on foreign oil" has no measurable economic value? Or even direct cost to you in the form of taxes paid to maintain the security state and wage wars that are in at least part driven by the political dynamics of oil. Buying oil supports despotic governments in places like Russia, Saudi Arabia, Venezuala, Iran, and Canada. I could go on. The point is, if you're going to make an economic argument, you've got to count all the costs.

To me, the GXR totally misses the point. Being able to put different sensors behind the SAME lenses is the point -- just like I used different films with the same lenses in the past. And having to buy a new sensor with each lens is ludicrous.

I'd like a slow high-res color sensor for art / landscapes, and a medium-speed medium-res color sensor for wildlife / flash, and a high-speed low-res (6MP would be a great plenty) B&W sensor for low light work. I have uses for all of those with the 70-210/2.8, and the 50/1.8, and the 24/2, and with other lenses.

Wow, Ricoh on TOP! I own the GXR and the two A12 units (28 and 50mm). I have tried a number of other serious compacts and keep returning to the GXR (I also own and love the GRD3). I don't use the small sensor GXR units and personally I think Ricoh should make the GXR system into an entirely APS-C system.

I really, really like the GXR. Cost is not a factor in my decision to own it and here's why. First, I get great pictures out of it. Using my PP tools (I prefer RAW Developer) I get great color and B&W images. This is entirely personal. Second, the cameras are designed for photographers and they are extremely easy to use and make changes on the fly, and even customize. The industrial and UI design is fantastic. Additionally, the EVF and LCD are both top notch. Finally, Ricoh is constantly updating the FW and improving it.

I have two "cameras" (backs?) and carry both A12 units already installed on each one, so for me the bean counting is even worse. When the m-mount unit is released will I buy another "camera" too? Not sure yet. Switching units is easy but inconvenient if done too often when out taking pictures.

The 28 and 50mm units are two focal lengths I use a lot so it's a great fit. I would like to see a 21mm A12 unit someday, which is a focal length Ricoh has used before. Then I'd have my perfect GXR system. The rumored APS-C unit due this year will also be convenient for simple travel and family snaps.

For me, the GXR is a great camera system (and brand). I get great pleasure out of using it so the cost is just, well, the cost of doing business.

But the same cost accounting question would apply to the super hot Fuji X100. One camera, one focal length, forever. People are willing to pay more for what works for them and they enjoy using.

BTW my wife has a Prius and sorry but my Subaru turbo is a lot more fun to drive!

What's wrong with bean counting?! Pays for all the gear I would ever want. By the way, what you are describing is not Cost Accounting as much as Cost/Benefit Analysis. :-)

I've actually had the pleasure of playing with one owned by a friend. I really is a very well put together system with excellent IQ for the APS module - especially the 50mm macro which I'm told is made by Leica (the lens). And while not "pocket size" compact, she carries the camera, three modules, EVF and miscellaneous accessories in her regular shoulder purse.

There are two sides to the "sales" issue I think.

The first is the brand - not a mass market brand an one more noted for "cult" following high end P&S cameras. This is the Hyundai syndrome that prevents people from accepting a luxury product from what is perceived to be a mid or "downmarket" brand. If this had a Leica, Zeiss or Nikon logo on it would we be more attracted to it?

The second is the cost issue you outlined - but that's again a perceptual issue. My 12MP Rebel XSi with a good lens cost me about the same as a similar package for the GXR. The plus for the XSi is the lens is a zoom with a very flexible range but the IQ on the Ricoh is better. Just upgrading the lens on the XSi to get the best out of the sensor will cost me $800 - more than the cost of a lensor module for the Ricoh.

The kicker in all this is the Leica M module coming later this year. That puts the camera into a whole new niche as a low cost alternative to the super expensive RF. I'm waiting to see what Sony does with the NEX-7 before I decide, but I'd have no problem shooting with a Ricoh and some M mount glass.

I don't own a Ricoh GXR, but I was an early adopter of hybrid auto technology in the US. (2000 Honda Insight #1884 of about 3000 made that year.) Unlike many later hybrid buyers who purchased a Toyota Prius as much to make a statement as anything, I bought my Insight simply because I am cheap and have a hard time forking over regular sums of money at the pump.

You are right, at the moment I'm at about the break even point cost-wise. But there is a degree of satisfaction in paying up front and getting the expense out of the way. Basic economics tells me my money would have been better served amortizing the cost over the life of the car (paying the extra cost a little at a time at the pump), but I have to say there is a level of satisfaction that I get driving 600 miles on $30 of fuel. I don't feel the same satisfaction with my wife's car which was much less expensive to purchase but gets half the fuel economy.

How does this relate to the Ricoh? Eh... I'm not really sure it directly correlates beyond a level of satisfaction that a GXR owner may feel that can't be defined by number crunching.

It might make sense if the major part of the cost of the camera was in the "back" - but given what we know about consumer electronics, it doesn't seem like there is much money to be saved there.

So then the only advantage is consistent user interface. Well - that could be achieved by just keeping the user interface the same in new camera models (and, of course, suppress UI improvements).

Over the past several years, I have loved the fact that I can buy a new dslr body, and then instantly attach its improvements to lenses I already own; for example, going from 8 to 18 *quality* megapixels has given my telephoto lenses more "reach" for birding, and improvements in high-ISO performance have made my 24-70 more useful for event shooting. With GRX, the lens gets stuck with its original sensor.

Not a good idea at all, IMO.

I thought it was a goofy idea, and I still do. Some people say that you've got to give Ricoh credit for trying to rethink the basics, but I ask, "Why?" Do we give Ford credit for trying to rethink the automobile with the Edsel? Or Pontiac with the Aztec? No, they were just bad ideas. The Ricoh is a bad idea on many levels, and it makes me wonder how it ever got off the drawing board.

Mike, you suggest that the camera is future proof ... but what *is* the camera ? If it's detached from the sensor, then it doesn't contain image processing circuitry. So it's a shell that holds the power supply and the LCD - both of which benefit from upgrades - and gives you something to grip plus your other connections and buttons. The body alone sells for $349 right now. Personally, I'd rather pay for one new body when I upgrade a sensor, and get the benefits with all my lenses. (A Sony NEX runs around $500). Of course, one benefit is that you can theoretically stick with a nice, simple control layout and not worry about future models being "dumbed down" with touch screens replacing buttons and PASM dials being cluttered with HDR modes.

I thought Ricoh was rumored to be working on a lens "unit" that doesn't include a lens but provides a Leica M mount. That sounds a lot more modular to me, in a way that makes more sense. Now you're looking at a system I think a lot of Leica lens owners would prefer to a Sony NEX.

I agree with you on the economy issue, but disagree that the idea ever made sense in the first place. The cost of ownership isn't buried in the details, but tied to high level concept of bundling the sensor with the lens. Basically, it's a system of different fixed lens cameras that require/share a common back. It has a somewhat neat & tidy appeal, especially for traveling, because you can effectively have a variety of different cameras and have all your pictures recorded sequentially on your memory card; carry a single battery charger and only one type of battery. But the biggest potential I see for this system is the Leica M interchangeable lens unit, which basically throws half the concept out the window. (With an M mount, you can then adapt other lenses).

Another fly in the ointment of the hybrid car accounting is the energy cost of the extra expense. This applies both in terms of the extra energy required to produce the more complex car and the energy cost required for you to have say $5,000 more in your pocket to by said car. Uh-oh.

I've always viewed the GXR as a solution in search of a problem.

I have the same problem with my furnace. I'd love to replace my maybe 65% efficient, mid fifties furnace with a 95% efficient one.

But . . . Even with Fed and State incentives, the payout is over 20 years - and the expected life of this electronically complex furnace, built to contemporary (low) quality standards, is 15 years.

So I can expect at the very least repairs and possibly repairs beyond economic sense, before the micro $ savings have paid off.

In the mean time, lube the bearings once a year, change filters and old faithful keeps going. Would be different, I expect, in a less mild climate. It's all the fault of those fools over 50 years ago who thought a furnace should last forever. /;-)>

(I did have to rewire it with a relay to work with cheap electronic thermostats, but I had the parts and time on hand.)

So it's near the top of my list for uses of any economic windfall. I would like to use less fossil fuel, but how much am I willing to pay?

Same problem with solar, at least around here.

Moose

The GXR is a fine idea. Don't own one but like the concept.

An even better idea is an all electric car. I can't believe in this day and age bright engineers are unable to make a decent electric car. Not hybrid, electric. Not only would it improve the oil situation but the internal combustion engine, despite it's modern refinements is ancient tech.


Even if electric is not for everyone it would work great for folks like myself who drive 6 miles one way to work. Wouldn't surprise me if there was some influence against such technology by big oil itself.

While I don't doubt Ricoh's ability to match lenses with sensors in appropriate and desirable ways, the whole concept ignores the nature of cameras in the electronic era: lenses, and the bodies that are standardized around their mounts, are among the most durable of artifacts. Their intrinsic qualities are only very gradually supplanted, and even then we sometimes prefer the older versions. Sensors and processing technologies are so short-lived (even shorter than personal computers in many cases) that they ought to be treated more like film, exchanged after a few thousand exposures rather than 24 or 36. My partner's Olympus C-5060 is optically and mechanically very good, but its sensor is now so archaic that every shot she takes with it is a guilt-inducing missed opportunity. Yet I can't let it end up in a landfill....

I think the GXR is an interesting idea, but that it was obvious from the very start that it makes no sense anymore. Probably the other camera makers had the same idea and did the sensible thing: They didn't implement it. Probably didn't even start R&D.

Why? Well, what does the GXR let you re-use? The electronics (after sensor), and the housing.

Electronics are dirt cheap, just look at sub-100 € point and shoots. Their electronics don't differ that much from higher-end cameras.

But you can re-use the housing! Yeah, but you'll have to buy two just to get one camera.

And Ricoh adds complexity, compatibility issues, and a high-speed electronic interface between lensor module (heh) and back.

It should have been obvious from the start that this wouldn't save any money, except in a world where good sensors cost next to nothing - but in such a world, the electronics behind the sensor also cost next to nothing.

And the claim that you can keep using the back and just get new lens modules is an illusion: As technology advances, the back will hold the lensor (hehe) back more and more, in terms of AF speed, recycling time, metering, image processing, etc. - except if you put nearly ALL the electronics in the lensor module (hehehe!), which would defeat any cost-saving, and mean that you'd have more or less a camera with a detachable screen and buttons module. Now that's an idea! And make it cordless!

I won't even challenge your Lens0r trademark. Just send me one to play with :)

I agree that cost accounting is the problem with the GXR, but I think the cost accounting you're talking about isn't the biggest problem. Adorama is currently asking $915 for an A12 33mm + GXR body kit. That's a bit overpriced for a good prime lens + large-sensor compact combo, but it's not that overpriced. And if you want, say, a macro lens with a ~50mm-equivalent focal length, it's currently the only game in town in the large-sensor compact world. The $400 that BandH wants for an S10 module is getting closer to ridiculous, but that mainly shows the S10 is overpriced relative to the rest of the system.

As I see it, the real problem with the cost accounting here is a problem shared by all fixed-lens cameras, which is their increased cost over the course of several upgrades. The issue is that sensors have a short obsolescence cycle, and lenses have a long one.

This means that many of us with interchangeable lens cameras buy lenses with the expectation of going through, say, two to four sensors over the life of the lens. With any unit that inseparably bundles a lens with a sensor (be it the Ricoh A12 or the Fuji X100) stuck buying a new lens every time you want the improved performance of a shiny new sensor, so over the course of n sensor upgrades, you need to pay for n*m lenses instead of just m (where m is the number of lenses you use), and as n gets larger that can get to be a pretty intimidating cost difference. Or, rather, that's the best-case scenario. In the worst case, they don't make the same lens for the new sensor, and your beloved lens gets obsoleted with its sensor (this is what happened to fans of the Sony R1).

Or, to put it another way, the real calculation for some of us is not that we want interchangeable-lens cameras for versatility. It's that we want interchangeable-camera lenses for economy. I'm basically happy using one lens (a good fast-ish, normal-ish, reasonably close-focusing prime) for everything, but I still have a hard time seeing myself ever buying a fixed-sensor lens. For this reason alone, the cost-accounting on the Ricoh A12 looks pretty bad. The shell-reuse thing is a gimmick that's negligible next to this consideration.

Interesting comparison. I think both products suffer from the same problem. They are problem based designs rather than solution based designs.

What do I mean? I mean that both products are designed to solve only one primary problem, but in so doing compromise on other features to an unacceptable extent and, because of added complexity, cost more as well.

This all falls apart in both cases because there are cheaper solutions which create fewer compromises.

In the case of the Prius the problem it is trying to solve is CO2 emissions. However, the complexity of the solution (derived from the need to allow both engines to power the wheels directly through a complex transfer box) means a heavy car with poor packaging and higher cost. A turbodiesel is just as (or more?) efficient, cheaper and makes no compromises in terms of weight, space or freeway performance. The only issue is particulate emissions. No problem in Europe.

In the case of the Ricoh, the problem is providing an optimum match of lens and sensor in a compact, interchangeable lens camera. However, if you want a zoom lens, you have to make do with a digicam sensor, so the "optimum match of lens and sensor" does not actually translate into an IQ advantage unless you buy the prime modules, which are very expensive. I can buy an EPL2 prime kit for much less money and a zoom lens (also cheaper) that makes very few compromises as a prime based camera and as massively superior as a zoom camera. The only downside is the size of the longer zoom, but then the Ricoh primes are not very compact either.

That doesn't mean that hybrid cars or module based cameras are a bad thing, it means that the current offerings tried to convince people to part with more money for a gain that was not fully realised and involved major compromises.

But take the hybrid and modular concepts to the next stage:

1. A compact multi-fuel turbine charging a recyclable, battery pack that can also be mains charged. Use the electrical output (from either) to directly drive four lightweight, computer controlled electric motors, one per wheel. Full time 4WD, ABS, ESP and traction control with no gearbox, no driveshafts and no clutch. The overall complexity, mass and component volume could be 20% that of any current gas engine, let alone current hybrids, and the efficiency much higher.

Not unrealistic - Jaguar are already looking at such a concept...and it's beautiful. Give it five years and license it to the Koreans.....

http://blogs.howstuffworks.com/2010/10/01/the-amazing-jaguar-c-x75-concept-hybrid-uses-gas-turbines-rather-than-a-piston-engine-to-recharge-batteries/

2. A modular camera with a lens mount. You could change sensor format, type (IR module or B&W?), low light or high res. You could also interchange lenses independently, even if all lenses may not work with all sensors. This would make more sense - even if the initial purchase cost was higher - because you could upgrade sensors, bodies or lenses independently. It would be camera geek paradise.

If Ricoh can make a module for the Leica mount, this is obviously possible and the Ricoh form factor is, in all other respects, very nice to use in practice. If it works, all interchangeable lens digital camera systems could end up this way.

There's a whole lot more wrong with hybrids than cost accounting. Biggest is that any hybrid weighs roughly 1000 lbs more than an equivalent internal combustion car. That is 4 - 250 lb Bubbas riding in your back seat everywhere you go. The physics of the matter are very simple and very clear: it takes more energy to move more mass any given distance, period. That is NOT more efficient, it is more along the lines of "New, Improved Laundry Detergent"
which is to say, a marketing exercise. Sorry for the rant, but I absolutely hate hybrids and detest the sham that they represent. I have been an auto repair shop owner and mechanic for 40 years and all my colleagues feel the same.
best wishes,

If we consider cost accounting and a set of maximum choices to be all that is important, the GXR loses ... no way that selling combined sensor/lens combinations will be as inexpensive as selling just lenses, and there's little hope that a small manufacturer like Ricoh is going to produce every potential lens choice that every possible owner might like to have. I have no problem with that evaluation ...

However, I don't buy cameras based entirely on cost accounting, nor do I need every possible lens and body combination. I buy cameras based on what the manufacturer offers in lens choices, their ergonomics and control design, and the quality offered by their lens and capture performance.

Ricoh's lens options for the GXR include two small sensor zoom modules ... no real interest to me as I almost never choose a zoom lens anyway ... and two APS-C sensor prime lenses both with nice fast f/2.5 aperture and superb quality. Upcoming soon is a Leica M lens mount APS-C camera module which will expand the versatility of the system enormously, should I need more options than those two lenses.

Moreover, the GXR's fit and finish is superb, it feels like a quality piece of equipment the moment you pick it up. The controls are delightfully well arranged given the small form factor of the camera and thoughtfully optioned ... and customizable for my shooting needs. The menus are very easy to work with too, very little hunting is needed for most any day to day use. The optional EVF is very high quality, right in line with state of the art EVFs from Olympus and Panasonic on their Micro-FourThirds cameras. And I can use optical viewfinders too, which I often prefer.

As a shooting camera, the AF is not quick but it is very accurate, and the combination of one-touch toggle to Manual focus and Snap focus modes makes it much more responsive than you might otherwise think. The lenses are superb performers, the A12 series sensors are quite good even at ISO 1600 and 3200. The camera balances well in the hand and proves flexible and quick in a surprising lot of circumstances.

Best of all, the entire two lens kit plus spare battery, EVF, optical finders, charger and card wallet fits in a very small, light bag, making it an excellent alternative to my pro DSLR kit when traveling light.

The GXR was a 'dark horse' pick for me when i was looking for a compact alternative to my pro DSLR kit. I'm very glad I discovered it and have found it to be more than just capable. Even though it's somewhat expensive and the system is limited in scope, it suits what I do very well and produces image quality that is nothing short of excellent while being a pleasure to use.

It gets out of the way and lets me concentrate on photographing my subject matter, which is the best thing I can say about any camera.

I've put a link below to a small set of GXR photos from my recent trip to New York ...
http://www.flickr.com/photos/gdgphoto/sets/72157626653542529/

Well, I own GXR with 28mm module (GR1s and GR Digital too).
I love GXR IQ but still, I would definitely prefer GXR body with sensor and wide choice of GR lenses (this year expected APS-C large aperture zoom will not be GR).
And no, I really dont care about M mount module. I would rather prefer AF lenses optimized for the sensor/mount/camera (same goes for m4/3 or Nex - thank you, but I dont want to bother with ancient lenses).

For me, the problem is that the part of the camera that you keep (when you switch modules) is basically a handle with buttons and knobs, and some circuitry in it. In quantity it should cost about 50 bucks, but it's $350. The part that you have to re-buy, the lens and sensor, is the expensive part. The buttons and knobs are the bits that are likely to break, and I suspect that that part could be made more economically if it wasn't detachable.

The whole concept seems to me like the answer to a question that nobody asked.

Regarding hybrid cars, I claim no expertise at all, but before I bought one, I'd want to know how long that great big battery lasts, how much does it cost to replace, and what does that replacement do to the overall cost of the car, not just in cash, but in carbon, recycling, use of resources, etc., etc. Plus, come to think of it, we're still mostly burning Mr. Peabody's coal to make the electricity that charges it.

Ain't nothin free, in this life.

I have the GXR with the A12 50mm macro and the P10 28-300mm small sensor zoom. One reason I love this combination is for the reason you quoted - two quite different cameras with a consistent interface. In fact, most agree that Ricoh has the best user interface of any camera in its class.
The GXR with P10 is cheaper than a Canon A12. The A12 50mm/f2.5 macro is rated by reviewers right up with the Leica X1 regarding image quality.
When the M mount lens module arrives later this year I will be able to use a dozen or so M mount legacy lenses that I have.
I think the GXR is here to stay and perhaps Ricoh has at last realized that it might be worthwhile to market it in the US. A lot of people just don't know about it.

Mike,
On the Ricoh GXR, is it really correct to compare cost with "standard" fixed lens point-and-shoot cameras? It is after all, while not an SLR, an interchangeable lens camera. Maybe it is better to compare cost to a low end prosumer camera with multiple lenses? In that case, it may have a better cost factor.

I encountered this very problem when I considered getting a GXR as a portable alternative to my K7.

I wondered whether, starting with the A12 28mm module, would I buy any others? If not, it's a heck of a pile of cash for a premium 28mm compact. So instead I spent £180 on a used Sigma DP1s they had in the window and I still marvel at both the excellent results and the many flaws.

I love the GXR concept and there are some crazy patents for things like printer and hard drive modules, but they rely on the owner investing in the system for a term longer than seems normal in the digital camera world. Once you've bought a few modules over the lifetime of the body, the original cost of that body doesn't seem such a big deal.

I've had a couple of Ricohs in my time and still haven't ruled out a GXR if the price is right.

Mike,

there must be something in the engineering design of a combined lens plus sensor that made it attractive to Ricoh, because the alternative of having three modules (sensor, lens, and the control unit) makes so much sense. I have no idea what that something is. Even good dust sealing can be achieved on a separate sensor module.

Do you recall about 10-12 years ago a company had the idea of interchangeable digital backs for 35mm bodies? Another company even thought it could be done as digital "film" cartridges. I know it never got off the ground, but I still think it is a good solution if it could be made to work. After ten years of maturing sensor designs and increased miniaturisation of components, I wonder if it is now feasible? Certainly Nikon used to offer a range of backs for their pro film cameras, so swapping out the hinged back of a film SLR is a proven design.

You do know that the energy costs of producing hybrid cars and the batteries they require are stratospheric, and, that actually over the long term save very little oil and in no way help people and societies adapt to a time when we no longer have 'black gold'?

Maybe you could ride a Rivendell?

This comparison is so flawed, it is not even wrong, as the celebrated spoilsport and great physicist Wolfgang Pauli would have said.
The Ricoh GXR suffers from guilt by association, where it should be allowed to fail on its own merits.
Of that failing it is quite capable, as Mike shows. No quarrel with that.
But contrasting costs at the micro level — the individual driver — with potential benefits at the macro level (being what? the planet? the common good?): no, Mike, sorry, that doesn’t cut any ice.

We are all, singly and collectively, drivers, bikers, pedestrians, couch potatoes, paying a huge and increasing bill in hidden costs of fossil fuel. We all are subsidising oil, willing or not, knowing or not. To make matters worse, we are also heaping the costs and consequences of oil on our children, and on theirs. Your son, Mike, is going to pay for every gallon of gas you’re burning today. The are cases where the whole is the sum of its parts.

If the real costs of oil were to be micro-accounted for at the petrol station, you’d start by paying at least the double of what you’re paying now. If, as the most realistic estimates are suggesting, we’re already in the region of the Hubbert peak, the real price of gasoline at the pump should be close to twice as high again ($15-16 at the present rates). Factor that, and you’d jump for hybrid, yelling for full electric or hydrogen at the earliest opportunity. Compared to the internal combustion engine automobile, the Ricoh GXR suddenly begins to look like the apex of thrift.

I fully expect a barrage of flak from every driver, climate doubter and “economic realist” on the web. You’d better hope for the Camping alternative, though: "rapture" would be less expensive. That whooshing sound you hear is your money being sucked away at the pump. And some of your future, too.

The GXR seems like a neat technology in search of a solution. If sensor dust was such a big problem, wouldn't it be hard to sell millions of dSLRS and mirrorless cameras? The part you keep is the cheapest part and the modules suffer high price from lack of manufacturing scale. Even given that price were no barrier, and I really liked the two modules you mentioned; I'd always have the wrong module on the base, for the opportunity that presented itself. Switching would be a hitch if I had both with me, just the same as having the wrong lens on the body of my dslr. So I'd be back to multi backs and lenses, so whats the advantage?

ps the problem with a hybrid car for me isn't that you can't ROI the extra cost of the car with fuel savings. Its not a good thing to be doing, you still burn gas, and the total life cycle cost of mining, manufacturing and shipping that goes into the battery makes it a very dirty car before you even drive it a mile.

"Doesn't that assume that "put[ting] a sizeable bite in America's dependence on foreign oil" has no measurable economic value?"

Moopheus,
As I said in the first paragraph, it does--it just doesn't work on an individual basis. If you figure out a problem then act to solve it, the impact of your action is highly limited if you're the only one doing it. Like my friends who get all their electricity from solar power. It would sure make a huge impact if everybody did it. But if only one person does it, then that person is just a crank. Maybe an earnest and benevolent crank, but still....

Mike

" ... never mind that [hybrid cars] make sense at a macro level ... "

On the macro level, the K dollars more spent on the hybrid are K dollars less that can be spent on more important and more immediate problems like education, third world child nutrition and urban poverty.

"Ain't nothin free, in this life."

Except sunshine.

Mike

@ Moopheus.

Canada is a despotic regime? I'm going to have to break this news to my Canadian cousins very gently. They labour under the misapprehension that they live in an enlightened society that pretty much takes most of the really significant freedoms people in the US enjoy, and removes an appreciable amount of the underside of American society. Not everything is perfect in the land of maple syrup, of course, but until your revelation, I had thought that the old Canucks had a pretty good balance.

moopheus writes.

Doesn't that assume that "put[ting] a sizeable bite in America's dependence on foreign oil" has no measurable economic value? Or even direct cost to you in the form of taxes paid to maintain the security state and wage wars that are in at least part driven by the political dynamics of oil. Buying oil supports despotic governments in places like Russia, Saudi Arabia, Venezuala, Iran, and Canada. I could go on. The point is, if you're going to make an economic argument, you've got to count all the costs.

A despotic Canadian government-really?
A good read is Ezra Levant's Ethical Oil. The book is well researched and gives one a new perspective on world oil.

Interesting to see that most of the people who actually use the camera like it a lot, and don't regret the price. While those who comment negatively don't like the "concept" or the pricing structure.

The truth is, the GXR (along with its various components) is expensive for a compact camera, and will become obsolete all too soon, like most digital gear. Its real competition, the x1 and the x100, have the same problems, along with some of their own.

In the meantime, the GXR and A12 lenses are beautifully made and engineered, and produce impressive results. Worth the premium over less expensive compacts, in my opinion. I have also found that Ricohs have decent resale value.

p.s. I second the comment about using Raw Developer with GXR files. Harder to get the best results with ACR.

I have a GXR with the A12 28 and S10 modules. It is easily the best handling and most easily configured compact camera I've ever used (GF1 owner, and I've handled pretty much every EVIL camera on the market). Ricoh's settings menus are a joy to use and are far more intuitive than anything Sony, Panasonic, and Olympus have on the market right now. I suppose the A12 sensor is not quite as advanced as what you would find in the NEX series, but the benefits in the handling more than make up for those deficiencies.

For what it's worth, I always thought Mike's opinion on the Konica-Minolta 7D was right on the money. I still think it's the best handling DSLR. Although it's not perfect like the 7D, Ricoh's GXR has now taken the prize for best handling compact camera in my estimation. Mike, you should really give it a try if you aren't too stuck on 35 mm as your focal length of choice.

I look forward to seeing how the M-mount unit performs with some of my Leica lenses.

From a product development engineering point of view this idea makes good sense. Think out of the box for a minute. Who says the camera body should contain the sensor? That was fine for film but is it ideal for digital? A standard format will evolve. Ultimately, there will be much more variety available. Different companies will offer different lenses/sensor combinations. The choices for the photographer will be greater than what we have now. The cost of the sensor/lens combination will come down, the limiting factor will be the optics, as always.

Greg said:
"There's a whole lot more wrong with hybrids than cost accounting. Biggest is that any hybrid weighs roughly 1000 lbs more than an equivalent internal combustion car. That is 4 - 250 lb Bubbas riding in your back seat everywhere you go. The physics of the matter are very simple and very clear: it takes more energy to move more mass any given distance, period. That is NOT more efficient, it is more along the lines of "New, Improved Laundry Detergent"

The most comparable hybrids are the virtually identical RX350 and hybrid RX450 SUV hybrids from Lexus. I have had both, sequentially. The AWD version of the hybrid weighs 309 pounds more than the AWD version of the gas engine. The FWD version weighs 342 pounds more (but overall, less than the AWD.) This is not close to 1,000 pounds.

Besides, even if it takes more energy to move the extra weight, the extra energy comes from regeneration, not from the gas pump, which is why the mileage is higher for the hybrids. The problem isn't how much energy is used, it's how much oil is used. I wouldn't drive a hybrid only to save money -- I drive one because I use less gas for the same amount of driving, and that's good for the environment. I think all SUVs and pickups (especially) should be hybrids, by government mandate.

As for the Canadian government being despotic, it perhaps isn't in most ways (although their wildlife cops certainly are.) However, the endless promotion of the oil sands as the solution to the energy problem is an on-going environmental disaster that makes America's development of the North Slope look like a thing of beauty and light. The next time you get tired of a Canadian liberal bragging about the Mozart channel on CBC, ask about the oil sands.

When Princess Diana was killed in a Paris car accident, she was riding in a Mercedes S280 -- a car you can't even get in the US, because we start with S350s and go to S550s. Those numbers indicate the liter size of the engine. I'd suggest that if royalty can ride around in luxury and attain speeds of 100mph or so, that should be enough for any of us. If we would limit car engines to two liters, we could save an enormous amount of gasoline, without any necessary reduction in luxury or legal speed capability. Why don't we do it? Because we want to brag that we can go 0-60 in 4.5 seconds. That's about it. And that's killing us, our kids, and our environment.

A cable to connect the module to the body would be nice - like the old Minolta Dimage V - it will be the ultimate articulating screen.

Maybe someday you'll be able send in the module for a sensor (and associated electronics) upgrade. Perhaps even a circular sensor, or B&W or Foveon, who knows.

And when will they come up with a film module? Half-frame? APS revival?

Back in the B.D. (before digital) days I owned a Ricoh 35mm point and shoot camera. It cured me from ever considering a Ricoh camera again; but even without that experience, the GXR makes no sense to me. Why lock your future into a camera company that may not have much of a future?

If you really want to reduce dependence on foreign oil, trade your F250 pickup or your Chevy Suburban on a Toyota Corolla or equivalent.

So far, the lens/sensor module technology of my 1965 Rolleiflex T/Ilford HP5 has held up pretty well.

Shouldn't we be questioning our own brainwashed acceptance of the inevitability of market-driven obsolescence, rather than the efforts of one brave company to buck the trend?

@ Greg Smith. My hybrid gets 4.1L/100km which is 57.3mpg. Regardless of its kerb weight that is what I get, family of 4 with the usual crap left in the back.
I check this regularly against the same petrol pump and distance travelled as I never have trusted the fuel measurement on a car, although mine is accurate.
It is not common knowledge at all that each time you use the brakes in a hybrid you charge the battery, that power is then used for acceleration or cruising even at high speed. Hit the brakes in a standard car and all you get is heat.
Don't get me wrong, I don't believe hybrids are the answer. When the oil does run out we will all find ourselves in a lot of trouble.

I don't like this idea at all. It just doesn't work in my mind. It destroys the entire concept of why DSLRs and mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras work in the first place. We buy these because we can get good lenses which serve us a lifetime, without being bound by sensor technology which is continuously improving. To me binding sensors to each and every lense seems pretty much like a waste of sensors. Talk about environmental friendliness! Now if only we could buy separate lenses and sensor modules and join them together, *that* would be something! That wold revolutionise photography as we know it.

Speaking as someone who has owned a Prius for the last 6 years, I think the point is that buying cars and cameras is not a completely rational act. If it was, then people wouldn't buy Leica-badged Panasonic point-and-shoots, or cars with leather seats and 2000 euro sound systems.

There's often an element of self-indulgence about these purchases; in my case it was a question of opting for one potential self-indulgence (in my case buying a very nice piece of car engineering which happens to use less fuel) against other options (I nearly bought a Jaguar).

So the Ricoh GXR is just a different kind of self-indulgence.

PS I like Helena Bonham-Carter, too.

@Bill Rogers: "Back in the B.D. (before digital) days I owned a Ricoh 35mm point and shoot camera"

I carry one now. It's an FF-9. It lives unobtrusively in my waistcoat pocket or on my belt, it has a pretty good semi wide angle 35mm f/3.5 lens, half a press on the release locks the focus, when I press the release it takes a shot right away, it has a viewfinder; I can see what I'm aiming at on sunny days.

There is no digital equivalent.

To everybody: And now I'm going to have a rant. England has changed into a country where for most people there is no option but to own a car. Without your own personal transport life is much harder. Now the government has achieved this over many years they tell us how frivolous and selfish we are to drive everywhere and then they tax us.

I'm iffy on Hybrids. I am not sure what the production and ultimate replacement of the batteries does to the vehicle's carbon footprint. If you are buying a hybrid to establish your credentials as an environmentalist this should be a factor in your decision.
If on the other hand you are just cheap then a Honda Fit might pencil out better in the long run.
That said, out here in the heart of darkest Iowa, plug in hybrids look pretty good, at least to me.
Here's why. Iowa is now the number two state in the US for wind generated electricity.
Fill the state up with plug in hybrids as a sort of collective battery. They could sit in garages and barns charging all night long. Most people don't drive much over twenty miles a day so many of these vehicles would could do the day on electricity alone.
Having them plug in at night and near to the wind generators means the charging would take place during off peak hours. This would both reduce the wear on the grid and the proximity to the generators would cut transmission loss.
There are a lot of really smart people who visit this site. Many of you have engineering backgrounds (something I lack). If I missed something here feel free to straighten me out. It's Saturday morning, I'm full of coffee and just vamping here.

I can't comment on the Ricoh. I've never even seen one in person, much less held or used one. I like the idea of a modular body/sensor/lens combination, though.

I just have to say that I'm happy to see the discussion about hybrids on what seems to be TOP's second-favorite subject, cars. While I applaud the efforts of any individual or company to try to reduce consumption, I'm left puzzled by hybrids.

In the mid-1980's you could buy a Volkswagen Rabbit diesel that got about 60mpg. Around 1990, you could buy a Honda CRX that got about 50mpg. In the early 1990's, some models of the Honda Civic hatchbacks got about 50mpg with manual transmission.

I've driven a rented Prius and thought it was a nice car. But for actually buying something, I'd rather have the option similar to those older Rabbits, CRX's, or Civics, where I could get high gas mileage without the hidden environmental costs of the batteries and without the complexity and potential repair costs of the hybrid system.

The SD1 foveon sensor in this guise would have made waves!! (still not $10000 tall waves)

On the hybrid car thingy, I don't apply morals to ecology, I'll only embrace what works for me or my loved ones.

The GXR is something I'm not interested in. The comparison to hybrid autos is not entirely valid as there are several hybrid models that will save you money in the long run over their conventional stablemate.

A hybrid Camry stickers about $1700 over a similarly optioned four cylinder Camry XLE. It'll save you over $4,000 if you keep it for five years. It's also quicker than the four. I own the hybrid and I've rented the four on business trips. Merging onto a freeway with the hybrid is way less of an adventure (and more fun).

Here is a site with the hybrid savings winners and losers:

http://autos.aol.com/gallery/hybrid-savings-winners-losers/

1. Would the Ricoh approach of building Sensor+Lens modules generate any interest unless Ricoh had built a reputation for building great photographer-centric bodies and a user base who seem to love their Ricohs almost as much as Mac users lover their Macs?

2. Did anyone answer the question asked earlier about the fundamental advantages of combining the sensor module and lens module (over the seemingly more sensible idea of making the lens module separate from the lens)? If not, I would love to hear some plausible explanations from any of you who know about such things. If I missed the answer, sorry for my redundancy.

3. If someone takes the time to answer Question 2, perhaps you could also discuss the problems to be overcome for a third party trying to build sensor only modules (and lenses to mount on these sensor modules) for the Ricoh bodies? Not the legal problems or the profitability problems, simply the technical challenges.

4. Is there any massive technical problem that makes it impossible for Ricoh to produce both Sensor+Lens modules AND Sensor-Only modules plus a line of Ricoh-branded, fully compatible, autofocus lenses to mount on such modules?

Thank you.

"4. Is there any massive technical problem that makes it impossible for Ricoh to produce both Sensor+Lens modules AND Sensor-Only modules plus a line of Ricoh-branded, fully compatible, autofocus lenses to mount on such modules?"

Bruce,
This is where my thinking was going. If they could pull THAT off, that would, as they say, change the game.

Of course, that would negate part of the beauty of Ricoh's approach, which is to match certain lenses to certain size sensors. By using a p/s sensor with the zoom lenses they can make those lenses very small, while restricting large sensors to a short and a normal prime they can insure lens quality to match the sensor--without excessive lens size. It's a nice compromise. I suspect it's really only when you use the GXR as "two cameras in one" in this way that it really comes into its own and shines.

Mike

Mike i think the GXr will become the betamax of the vcr era the far better system but less popular and that unfortunately what counts

Craig

Sorry for posting several days late, but I guess that's inevitable with Friday night (in Europe) blog entries.

It just occurred to me what problem Ricoh is trying to solve with this approach, and it is not a camera user or camera buyer approach at all! This modular "lensor" system is designed to solve a typical small scale manufacturer "design and produce" problem.

Product cycles are very short. Having to redesign an entirely new camera every year consumes a lot of engineering resources, especially for small scale manufacturers like Ricoh. Human biology only changes significantly every million years or so, but lens and sensor innovations are constant. What if you could design and build the ergonomic part of the camera only once, and concentrate all your R&D efforts on the components that can actually improve with innovation? Hence the Ricoh modular approach.

I am not saying Ricoh came up with a good solution for the problem. I am saying that everyone has failed to describe the problem Ricoh is trying to overcome with its modular approach. The modules are not designed to make our lives easier, they are designed to make Ricoh's life easier.

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