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Tuesday, 09 August 2011


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Eh? Overlap? The M Module has an APS-C sensor - the Q has one the size of a q-tip. Most of the speculation I've seen is whether they can develop / afford a FF sensor for a GXR M-mount. That would be a game changer. You Mike, could then have your dream digital 35mm F2 lens...

A chicken running around with its head recently cut off is a sight you will not soon forget.

Actually, I think this module is what the GXR should have been in the first place, and I think it will prove succesfull. Now, imagine a K-mount module and we get to a seriously nice result of the Pentax-Ricoh takeover.

And really, who in his right mind would cancel the GXR and not the Q?

I don't think we've heard the "fundamentally unrecommendable" aspect of your GXR experience. Very curious to hear.

The M mount unit will certainly be a niche product in a niche product line.

The initial marketing, integrated lens+sensor modules, convinced a lot of us that Ricoh just didn't "get it". It takes quite a bit of work to move people away from their initial impressions of something.

The M module is a step in the right direction in that regard, at least.

(You can make theoretical arguments for optimizing lenses and sensors for each other -- but high-end DSLRs are quite satisfactory imaging tools for most of us, and "good enough" is much more important than "optimal" for actual users. "Optimal" tends to be the domain of pixel-peepers. It is, as you say, the concept of changing sensors without replacing the rest of the system which is so attractive to so many.)

I had high hopes for Ricoh for a while. In fact the first GRD was the only time I ever wavered from the "Never buy the first edition of anything." maxim I hold. While it was an inspiring form and the controls were better than any other small camera at the time, there were a couple bugaboos. The image quality and RAW write times to name two. It was useless at ISO 200 and above. And when people say the noise is "more film-like" than other cameras they're only justifying a camera they spent too much money on. And the write time for a RAW file is better timed with a calendar.

So I guess what I'm saying is it'll be a seriously long time before I spend too much money on an untested idea that has obvious shortcomings that should have been worked out in the lab.

I'll let others take the lead on their next offering.

As always, the lenses are the investment, the body+sensor are the disposable part. Ricoh's smart to at least choose a mount whose lenses are considered to be an investment, as opposed to a mount that is less established. Now that they own Pentax I guess they would have not much to lose by creating a Q module. It would make more sense than the K module I see people speculating on, which would look too thick.

It would seem that the large sensor without the AA filter would make it the sharpest of the small cameras depending on your lens choice.


I bought a GXR system (28 and 50 mm modules) based on Thom Hogan's review. I love it. It's rugged, small, has the usability of a DSLR, and produces a high quality digital negative. I use it as a street camera; the M module only makes it more useful for that purpose.

As a regular reader, I really respect your judgement, but I'm puzzled. You seem to like the camera, but at the same time dismiss it.

Norm Nicholson

If they stop making small size sensor/lens combinations for the GXR system, and in the future stick to the APS-C sensor, the whole Pentax/Ricoh line would make perfect sense:

From medium format to APS-C sensor DSLRs, and then two different interchangeable lens systems for those who prefer compact cameras - and especially if they added a GXR sensor for the K system. That would make the GXR concept more interesting also for Pentax DSLR owners.

do you know "Mike the headless chicken"? An amazing story:


Well I for one would love to see a K mount module, and I suspect that if Ricoh develop a sensor module which works with one SLR mount its a very low cost engineering option to offer it in other legacy SLR mounts since the flange to sensor distance is essentially the same (give or take a couple of millimeters). So roll on please the 42mm screw mount option too. As long as the lenses have a manual diaphragm to operate in stop down mode, whats the problem? now FF instead of APS module, that would really be the icing on the cake. Don't write off the Ricoh!

How am I dismissing it? I've probably written more about that camera than any other over the past twenty months.


No matter WHAT I write about on TOP, I always learn something new!


First, I agree with Greg about the chicken - you definitely wouldn't forget that too soon, especially if the animal is on your plate some 2 hours later (and tasting good).

About modularity: well there is a truly modular system or two, and it's called medium and large format. Too bad that these digital backs are a bit off my budget, but I clearly see the advantages. But advantages for us as buyers would probably be disadvantages for the camera makers - just imagine a modular D700, where with the change of the sensor module you could turn it into a D800. Ah, but then again, possibilities would seem endless. A full frame 4/3rds format with 24x32mm (or even better, 27x36mm), finally. Or a square one, or whatever.

Maybe it's time to put on our engineer hats, and to develop one of those ourselves...

Without a serious commitment to professional photography - "full frame" sensor in 35mm terms, true black and white sensor, higher framerate, higher resolution ... - the Ricoh will stay in its niche within a nice.

I have used it and liked it for what it was (small and nice looking) but went back to my bigger DSLR that is ultimately faster in use.

I grew tired of missing shots because the Ricoh needed seconds to maintain proper focus. Using a Leica lens on a LCD screen is probably even worse...

The body, LCD and button controls are the cheapest elements of a digital camera, which is why a $200 compact has a screen of the same quality as a premium Micro 4/3. The expensive parts are the sensor and lens.

This can be readily verified, as the GXR modules cost as much as—or more than—the complete cameras they compete with. And changing between two modules takes longer in the field than simply picking up a second camera.

I'm so puzzled about this system... Are people really that frightened of a little dust? Was Ricoh targeting the OCD community?

There's an interesting aspect to this: Ricoh makes a camera that accepts interchangeable lenses, but no lenses for it! Sure the mirrorless cameras have boatloads of adapters for them, but first came the manufacturers' lenses, then the adapters after it was seen how many people want to use them. Now Ricoh doesn't make a single M lens, only the camera and sensor.

I would see this as yet another sign of the fundamental change of the business. Long ago, camera makers wanted to sell lenses and lens makers made cameras to sell lenses. Now electronics companies make cameras and making lenses is a side-effect, sometimes a necessary evil. I actually welcome this development, since one thing that would be nice to do (since prehistoric times) would be to use lenses of different brands on the same camera without serious drawbacks. Maybe we're one step closer to that.


I'd hate to appear to be "Petulant, the Truculent, and (a) Naysayer", perhaps put me down as "puzzled by the hype". In functional terms, what is different between a GXR-M unit and a Leica M body or Voightlander or Zeiss Ikon? To those you can also add a Leica lens and your sensor of choice. From reading your thoughts over the last few years, I'm sure that there'll be some combination of one of those bodies, lenses and sensors that you would like.


shows the focus peaking mode.

Let me know when they make one of these sensor packages available for the Olympus OM-2; I want one!

Once you have that M-module, the idea can expand. You said about b&w module. How about different microlens for each type of lens (35, 50, ... etc.) but it could still use for others using software instead of hardware adjustment (of microlens). ...

Simply if one can standardizes the interface (especially the electronic part, it becomes "film"!

The only architecture difference perhaps real film is that it is film + shutter (otherwise it would be restrict to electronic shutter plus leave shutter.

Good development.

"Mike, I'd hate to appear to be 'Petulant, the Truculent, and (a) Naysayer',"

Present company excepted of course!



In other words (as Dennis has pointed out) this is 'revolutionary' because we are returning to the older paradigm of lens + camera + film?

(It's worth noting that 'revolution' also refers to circular motion.)


I should have said: damn with high praise. You're right though. It is a niche camera, but it fills very nicely a niche I was looking to fill.


If I may address James's point, the potentially exciting thing about the M module is that it's been reported to have optimally modified microlenses in the sensor, which possibly (my speculation) addresses the compatibility issue of Zeiss and Voigtlander M (and even some Leica) lenses on APS-C sensors. Look at the tests that Photozone have done with some of these on a Sony NEX 5: the edge performance is nothing like as good as on film cameras, and they speculate that this may have something to do with the angle at which lightwaves hit the sensor. If Ricoh have done something about this, is it conceivable that we might get close to the performance of an M9 with the same lenses, but on a body that costs a bit less than the GDP of Wales?

The fundamental mistake people make when talking about the GXR system is to think that they need to buy every part of the system. Therefore, they end up buying several sensors that would not need to be bought if one gets a DSLR or an Olympus Pen. Just pick one lens/sensor and stick with it. Forget about the rest. That way you get a very well built and well thought out compact camera with a good lens and a sufficient number of megapixels. I would say better in user interface than any other compact digital on the market today, including X1, X100, DP1, EP2, GF1 etc etc. This is the point of the system. I have the 50 macro lens unit. (I also happen to have the 28-300mm lens unit. It is a very small and cheap addition to give more flexibility when travelling and when one might occasionally need a compact superzoom camera.) But almost all of the time I have the 2.5/50 (egv) lens unit mounted, with a Voigtlander life size 50mm optical finder in the hot shoe. 12mp, APS size sensor, good fixed focal length lens with the traditional normal focal length, bright optical finder that is 1:1 so both eyes can be kept open when composing. What could be better than that? And image quality is fully on par with the X1, X100 and most 10-15Mp DSLRs with agood lens.

Once the M module is in the wild, the entertainment potential of the reaction and responses from the Red Dot crowd is limitless.

I can't wait.

Mike said: "…just thinking about what might happen when the engineers of the Q system and the engineers of the GXR put their heads together is going to be tantalizing indeed."

This is a corporate merger. Most likely one team or the other will be given the pink slip. Best case scenario is half of each team gets pink slipped -- probably the most expensive halves, meaning the good ones. Onward the march of the MBAs and their spreadsheets, making the world safe for mediocrity.

I am completely underwhelmed since my GF1 will be the last digital camera I guess (my second and my last), since it contains all my digital needs in a small tight package, and for all my other needs I guess 4x5 is the way to go. And please I don't see any point in shooting 1930s Leica glass on a Ricoh (or on a Panoly for that matter) as the Ricoh, Oly and Pana lenses are more then adequate for that camera. And if you have Leica glass lying around, buy a M9, since you'd probably able to afford it and portability wise they are in more or less the same ballpark.

Greetings, Ed

From what I read on the Ricoh site, it seems Ricoh is *attempting* to give us what the original Leica did in its heyday: a relatively compact camera you can take anywhere, with interchangeable lenses and uncompromising image quality. Lens and sensor combinations must be optimized -- if you want to maximize quality and retain operational features that are important for particular focal lengths and shooting applications -- in a small package.

Fujifilm crafted a highly optimized lens-sensor combination in the X100 with outstanding results. I love my X100, but am now wishing I could use it at a 50 mm equivalent focal length. That is what Ricoh is aiming to offer with the GXR: a selection of highly optimized lens-sensor packages in a compact form factor. If the system delivers what it promises, I'll be selling my DSLR, and maybe, just maybe, my beloved X100.

Steve Rosenblum:
I have a number of M mount lenses in my cabinet [...] At the moment I don't have any digital way of using them short of scanning film

Yes, you have - SONY NEX with APS-C sensor + M mount adapter.


Perhaps the Lytro is a good choice for the Landmark of Camera Development for 2011.

Just signed up to follow your excellent blog, after seeing a post by Mindling on FB.


K mount? Olympus OM mount?

From the press release: "...can, of course, handle M-mount lenses, and if a conversion adapter is used many more types of mounts can also be accommodated." Presumably for stop-down metering, and manual focusing.

How would the "optimized micro lens layout", affect the photos of lens-on-adapter users? ...for the more fastidious than I out there!

Personally, I'm quite interested in the GXR with the 28mm module, as a discreet street shooter. Much more so than the Fuji X100.

I thought the idea of the Ricoh GXR sensor and lens combo's was to provide a closed and dustless environment.
The M-module opens (so to speak) up different possibilities.

Nerd Camera

What about the LCD screen? What about jpg processing? What about memory card advancements? Higher resolutions?

Are we to believe the body and all its expensive contents are designed to be sufficiently future proof? If not, this is a raw-shooters landscape camera.

How is this different/better than a medium format back? Would this arrangement of components have allowed Phase One to do what its been doing in the past five years?

I think its a 'neat' camera, but kinda like the three wheeled Reliant Robin.

I guess I belong to the small minority for whom Ricoh's sensor modules make a lot of sense. I'm using the 50mm macro module most of the time but occasionally mount the 28-300mm small sensor module and use it as my sketchbook of sorts - experimenting with focal lengths. Ricoh's excellent implementation of the snap focus mode makes both units quite fast in practice. I also shoot film on a Leica M6 with 35mm and 75mm lenses so I am tempted by the M module though I'd need to get new lenses. A 28mm lens to get the 42mm focal length and a 50mm lens to get 75mm.

Ben wrote: "And changing between two modules takes longer in the field than simply picking up a second camera."

I think the veracity of that claim depends on what the two cameras are. Are you picking up two different cameras with different UI? Where is that WB control again? How do I get it out of sleep mode? Where do I look, lcd or evf? (Going from my E-5 to my E-P1, I sometimes stupidly ended up with the E-P1 on my face...."Wow, what an expansive viewfin...DOH!)

Changing modules takes marginally longer in my opinion than swapping lenses on a DSLR. Turn off the camera. Take out module. Put in new module. Turn camera on. I just did this three times and measured it. It took 5-7 seconds. Not a big deal.

I think the GXR can easily serve as a platform for the Pentax mirrorless line. I mean the serious mirrorless line, not the whimsical Q series. A k-mount adapter certainly seems possible at least in APS-C. Would they have enough room for a focus motor? That's questionable--though that might be the largest impediment to any Pentax K-mount EVIL camera, not just the GXR. Pentax still relies heavily on mechanical in-camera focus drives. So those things being equal, the GXR is about as a good as a base platform as you can imagine. It would fit right in with the sturdy, well-designed and compact K-5 and the small Pentax primes are a very good size for the GXR--advantage Pentax here over other competitors, even Olympus, who still found it necessary to scale down their 4/3 lenses to Micro4/3 size. I see a lot of potential for the GXR as an interchangable lens/interchangable sensor camera with a few specialized lensor units.

The M module effectively eliminates the major complaint most people had with the system, which is that at some point (whether due to failure or perceived obsolescence) you replace the lens and sensor together. Now you just replace a "module" which is little different from replacing a body. In other words, it's gone sensibly mainstream :) Personally, I wouldn't jump on this without seeing what Sony's rumored NEX-7 looks like (rumored to be a rangefinder styled camera body with a built in EVF and more traditional, enthusiast-oriented control layout). The expected announce is only 2-3 weeks away, so you might as well see the competition.


I have adored reading camera reviews and hearing about all the new kids that surface on the block on the TOP website. (As a matter of fact, TOP is the reason I bought a Chamonix large format camera some years ago and, more recently, a Zeiss Ikon 35mm rangefinder camera. These cameras, along with a few others I own, somehow fulfill what I need, in terms of photographic equipment, at the moment.

These cameras have made it so that I now have absolutely NO desire or need, whatsoever, to read, even one, camera review that graces the internet forums and reviews columns. This is simply because the cameras I now use are fine for my needs.

So now, when I see a new camera review grace the fora headlines,I switch off.

But, as cameras are the backbone of making photographs, I praise TOP and blame TOP for,on one hand,its terrific help and, on the other, its necessary ballast.

But, as my mother says, 'you'll not need another camera until the next one'.


Your kidding right? You used the camera and you do not really really really love the UI, the IQ? You are just having a bit of fun, I am sure....

I actually do love "the UI, the IQ." It's a sweet, fun little camera to use, and gives results that seem a cut above even my Micro 4/3 camera.


Hello Mike
I usually can count on a few fingers where I disagree with you but I think on this post , there are lots of things that do not make sense

First of all, I don't see how Ricoh buying Pentax ( and not the opposite mind you ) makes the investment in the GXR more iffy or uncertain. Ricoh owners believe in this project and I bet it is here to stay regardless of the short term sales figures. Not to mention that the Pentax acquisition may bring more options considering the number of compact Pentax primes

I hope this post won't be deleted because I think I have a valid point


Unfortunately, history shows that when one camera company buys another, some rationalization of the various overlapping lines usually follows. (Witness the very unfortunate demise of the Sony F828 after Sony bought Minolta's SLR division.) You might be right--the GXR might survive. The Q System might survive too. Or, either one or the other might not. We really just have to wait and see.


I've been using the Ricoh GXR and its A12 28 and 50 Macro camera units almost exclusively for several months to do my photographic work. I have the A12 Camera Mount on order to use with my M-bayonet lenses, and I'll likely pick up the P10 camera unit as well at some point for that pocket auto-big zoom camera thing. It is essentially like having four completely different, compact cameras with superb imaging qualities and the same excellent user interface.

I don't know that it is "unrecommendable" except on cost ... The GXR system is not cheap nor disposable like most point and shoots are, and while it can be used by a beginner, its feature set is likely to be appreciated by only reasonably sophisticated users. The materials and build quality of the body and camera units are outstanding, the lenses are excellent, and it strikes an extremely useful and practical balance on features/performance/capabilities/size/weight for a compact, modular camera system of a totally different design from the Micro-FourThirds, NEX, NX and Q systems. I also have a couple of years experience using the Micro-FourThirds system.

Using the GXR as I have done—every day making my fine art photographs for this year's major project sets, family and friend gatherings, for some small product tabletop work, for casual architecture and interior studies, and for simplistic video captures again in the art and family event world—it is simply amazing how capable this camera is. It's not without its limitations (that's why I own an SLR kit as well) but the limitations are not an issue for the vast majority of what I need in camera function. The A12 Camera Mount will expand that capability enormously and provide upwards compatibility with the Leica M9 body I plan to purchase next year ... while providing more adaptability than that does as I can also use my longer SLR lenses on the "GXR-M" easily as well with mount adapters.

I think it's way too early to dis the GXR system, or to suggest that the Pentax Q system is somehow alike to it or competitive with anything else. Ricoh is a big and successful company, their camera division has produced many excellent photographers' cameras over the years if never in the volumes of Pentax, not to mention Nikon, Canon, Olympus, or Minolta (nee Sony). In my view, Pentax failed ... what was Pentax is now just a $100M "Pentax Imaging" company unit under control of Hoya until Ricoh takes it over and obtains what they want from it.

Whether the GXR system concept survives in the long run or is replaced by the even more module concept of body-sensor-lens modularity that the A12 Camera Mount unit provides ... such is the life of technological progress. But at this particular moment in time, it is the most innovative and interesting camera technology that's appeared on the radar in some time, and it produces excellent results in actual use as well. I can't help but be enthusiastic about that!


I guess it will sell in bigger numbers than the M9.

Ricoh are not really selling into the mainstream but into a niche. By inhabiting a niche they are less likely to be eaten by one or other of the big camera names.

Your words are contoversial as they are meant to be, but in reality I think Ricoh will sell as many cameras as they need to do.

Where the M mount module shines is that it properly promotes an affordable return to manual photography with a twist. Other cameras make do with adapted manual lenses on cameras designed to use automatic lenses - here we have a whole camera that is designed specifically for manual lenses. Why the big deal? Well back in film days when even affording film was a bother it was hard to master manual photography. Now that digital replaces film and instant real time feedback enhances learning using manual lenses is fun and more like a stick shift in a sports car on a windy road than an automatic with the strereo turned for amusement between traffic lights. So it is not for everyone, never meant to be.

"Headless chook" indeed.

Tom Caldwell

It's clear so far the GXR camera concept has failed to set the world alight whereas the X100 did.

However with the GXR being a modular system, there's nothing stopping Ricoh next updating the body to include a optical finder with projected frame lines and EVF like the X100.

What about the LCD screen? What about jpg processing? What about memory card advancements? Higher resolutions?

The LCD screen is pretty good. Good enough to review histograms. I really do not need to change a camera to get a bigger or higher resolution LCD screen as long as the current one is decent enough. Separate electronic finder can easily be upgraded. JPG processing and newer models of SD cards can most likely be handled by firmware updates. Ricoh has been pretty good at supporting and improving the capabilities of their cameras with regular firmware updates. And if in the end so many improvements come along that a new body is really needed, it is a fairly cheap upgrade, compared with changing the sensor at the same time as has to be done in every other camera on the market. Higher resolution would need a better lens and maybe a full frame sensor. That's a hard thing to do in a small enough package. And very few people actually need that. I am happy that they have kept it at 12Mp and not gone to 16 or 18 as they easily could have done. The 28-300 module is a very reasonable 8Mp. How many new cameras can you buy that are 8Mp, a level that the sensor and lens can actually (almost) handle? All this proves that Ricoh actually thinks about these things, and has some serious photographers in their staff or as advisors. After this M module, and once the Q system has actually been released and in use, Ricoh could easily make a small Q system module to use the same lenses. Nobody buys the GXR and M-module and then starts to buy a set of M lenses for it. That is entirely for people who already have lenses for the M system. There are plenty of them in Japan, the main market for this camera system. And many of us have already bought the GXR because it is the best handling compact digital camera with good image quality on the market, very Leica M like in that respect.

..Nobody buys the GXR and M-module and then starts to buy a set of M lenses for it. That is entirely for people who already have lenses for the M system. ..

I wouldn't say nobody, Illka. I've bought one lens preparing for this camera unit .. a lens I've wanted for some time .. and will add a few others as well. I prefer working with manual focus, manual aperture lenses for most of my work. I'd already planned to add an M9 body to my kit, but the GXR-M is 1/7 the price of an an M9 body and presents a usefully more compact alternative with four other camera configuration options as well. I'll get a lot of use out of these lenses while I put away the money to acquire the M9 body.

The Ricoh GXR is the best compact camera ! Love it !


Best regards.

"I can't really see the difference between the Ricoh and, say, the Zeiss Ikon — regarded as cameras designed for use with M-mount lenses."

Again, this is again just personal, but I wouldn't use Leica lenses on a Zeiss Ikon. I'd use the lenses Cosina makes for the camera. Ditto my Konica Hexar RF--I use a Konica lens on it. I'm not saying I'll never change, but that's my habit.


Godfrey, clearly your comment of planning to add M9 to your kit confirms that you already have invested into the M system. That is what I meant with my comment. I do not think there are many, if any, photographers who start from scratch, with no M lenses at all, and then decide to buy the GXR and M module and a set of fairly expensive lenses (even used) for it. I have not bought any new M lenses for many years because I was not too enthusiastic of the digital options available. As you pointed out, this new module can well change that.

Developed matching will likely pertain at the freshly formed Ricoh-Pentax, or anything it's to be called (do we understand yet? I've been away). Plans set in shift before the amalgamation will extend of their own inertia for a while yet. It's not too tough to deduce that the Pentax Q scheme and the Ricoh GXR, while incompatible with each other,

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