Today, I got the chance to try the new GXR Mount A12 module. So let me start by first saying a big thanks to Ricoh for letting me use the unit.
While the weather was grey and rainy and I only had a few hours of shooting but it was great to be able to finally see it and use it to take pictures.
I brought two of my Voigtlander lenses with me, the Voigtländer Nokton f1.4 35mm, the Voigtländer Super-Wide Heliar f4.5 15mm and Ricoh gave me the Ricoh XR Rikenon f1.2 55mm for K mount with a m-mount adapter. This gave me from wide-angle over normal to portrait a good kit to use the module for a wide range of pictures.
Read below for my full first impressions and to see some sample pictures taken with the lenses, please note that the module was still a pre-production unit with unfinished firmware.
Let's start by talking about the module itself, the build is as is to be expected very good and the mount and rails look like they can support quite some weight. The bulge on the side for the shutter is actually great in use since it fits your hand very well and makes focusing the lenses very comfortable.
Turning the camera on prompts you to update the firmware, something I think is great with the GXR system. As mentioned before the firmware was not final but worked great and I had no problems at all during my use.
The main thing I wanted to see was how the manual focus aids are implemented since this is what makes or breaks this module. You have the choice between two modes and different magnification ratios.
The first mode is similar to the peaking mode you can find in the Sony NEX cameras with the difference that the contrast areas don't appear in red but shimmer white/grey, this works very well but I would like to maybe see an option to choose the colour in a firmware update.
The 2nd mode and my favourite is a kind of high pass filter mode, you have to see this in action to fully appreciate how great it works. After using it, I can honestly say this is simply the best and fastest way to manually focus. I was not sure if it would be possible to frame when using this mode initially but framing is very easy and by half pressing the shutter you get a normal preview, here it would be cool to be able to have this mode also as a transparent overlay. I was able to focus accurately even in almost complete darkness and in places where it would be very difficult or impossible to focus using a rangefinder or any other method I have seen so far.
You can magnify the whole screen or just an area and select the magnification ratio between 2x, 4x and 8x, I found 2x and 4x to work best and prefer to just magnify the center of the screen. When using the 2nd focus assist mode however I had no real need for any magnification at all with any of the lenses.
The next part of interest were the physical and electronic shutters. The physical shutter is very quiet, especially when compared with the GF1 or RD1 but even the Sony NEX-3, I would go as far as to say it's the quietest shutter on any mirrorless camera but have not had enough experience with Leica M cameras. The ability to close it when the camera is powered off is great and something other manufacturers should do.
The electronic shutter is only available as a scene mode and requires full manual control when it's enabled. Ricoh says it should not be used for moving subjects but I took pictures of people and when moving myself without any problems. I did get the rolling shutter effect on one occasion when trying for it and panning very fast. In normal circumstances it should never really become a problem so it's a shame Ricoh 'hides' it in a scene mode, here I hope for a firmware update allowing this to be enabled on the fly by one of the Fn buttons.
Now let's look at some pictures, all pictures are RAW files and unfortunately due to the limited time I overlooked that I set the aspect ration to 4:3. Also, please note that the module was still a pre-production unit with unfinished firmware so things might change upon release.
Voigtländer Nokton f1.4 35mm
Voigtländer Super-Wide Heliar f4.5 15mm
Ricoh XR Rikenon f1.2 55mm
Last but certainly not least is the sensor, Ricoh has said they have modified it to work with a wide range of lenses and especially wideangle lenses, which are always a bit problematic. As you can see from the pictures above the sensor is certainly improved and from the looks there is also no AA filter in place. Ricoh has confirmed that the glass filter they mention in the press release is more an IR filter and to help eliminate any lens aberrations. The image quality is certainly much better than what you get from a GF1 with m-adapter but also better than what the RD1 achieves and without the heavy vignetting (especially when using the Heliar lens).
So overall this module is so far everything I hoped it would be and more, Ricoh has done a great job with it and I can't wait to get a final version so I can spend more time with it.
If you have any questions please ask and I will try to answer them. This also brings me to the Q&A session with Ricoh, the answers there will also be posted soon.