Ricoh GXR - Breakthrough or Asterisk?

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Ricoh GXR - Breakthrough or Asterisk?

Ricoh has never been a power player in the camera world. But they've produced some nice cameras over the years. (Perhaps someone remembers the Hi-Color 35 Marine System from the 1970's?)

But Ricoh's latest offering - the GXR - has me scratching my head and asking, "What were they thinking?"

Instead of interchangable lenses - such as on Panasonic's G1 "four-thirds" digital camera - the GR has lens modules that slide in and out of the body. Each module includes a lens, a sensor and a processor in an "airtight" housing.

The one real advantage of this arrangement - no dust problem - makes some sense. But from every other angle, I just don't get this digital camera.

Ricoh makes much of the idea of coupling each lens with an optimum sensor. For instance, the 50mm f/2.5 macro lens comes with an "APS-C" sensor. That's the same size as found on most "prosumer" digital SLR's. So far so good.

But the 24 - 72mm zoom is coupled with a tiny 1/1.7" sensor. With a reported $440 price tag - and that's without the $549 body! - this tiny zoom/tiny sensor combo just doesn't compute. For two-thirds of that price, I could buy a Leica D-Lux 4.

Yes, the GXR has lot's of manual control. And, yes, Ricoh is promising a whole series of lens modules. But Canon, Olympus, Nikon and Sony all offer DSLR's - with a 14 - 42mm or 18 - 55mm lens - priced under $500.

Their compact size gives four-thirds system cameras a selling point that makes them worthy of consideration. But I can't find anything about the GXR that justifies the premium price.



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