Saturday, 13 August 2011

GXR Mount A12 Preview

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.


  1. Thanks for your analysis. Was curious about how fast the write times were when you were shooting RAW. Plus when shooting raw, is the raw file saved as a DNG that also requires a JPG for viewing on the LCD?



  2. The write times are the same as on the other GXR modules so in normal mode it can take one picture after the other pretty much till the card is full but you will always have a delay of at around 0.5 seconds in between shots, in continuous mode you can take up to 5 pictures at 3fps till the camera needs to write to the card (have not tested it though).

    Ricoh cameras always use the JPG next to the DNG for review on the LCD screen so you have to shoot both.

  3. Thanks a lot for publishing this analysis, Cristian.

    Really comprehensive and cover a lot of the points I was wondering about.

    Can I please ask you three questions?

    1) I am planning to get the
    Voigtländer Nokton f1.4 35mm as my first lens for the module. Looked like it performed really well - but do you have any drawbacks you noted about the lens?

    2) In general, with the M mount module,I understand one should...
    a) Set the GXR to Aperture priority
    b) set the aperture on the lens
    c) set the gxr body to the same aperture value as set on the lens. Is it the correct mode of operation?

    3) When I focus manually with my A12 28mm I use a lot the depth of field indicator on the GXR LCD to check how much of the image is in focus. Does this work for the M mount as well? I mean the depth of field is function of aperture and lens focal length... how can the GXR work out the focal lenght of the attached lens?

    Thank you so much !!!


  4. P.S.: And thank you also for posting a photo of the camera with the
    Nokton mounted on - I was really curios about how it would look, the proportions, etc... and I have to say it looks great!

  5. Thanks for your comment Fabrizio!

    Find below my answers to your questions.

    1) The Nokton 35mm f1.4 is a very good lens, it is fast, small and light. With the crop you get a 53mm lens which is the reason I bought it for my RD1 and to use on the GXR. It is actually smaller and lighter than the A12 50mm module so makes for a great combination if you don't need macro.

    2) You can work in one the following ways:

    a) Set the camera to A, P or Auto mode, set the aperture on the lens and let the camera set the shuter speed.
    b) Set the camera to S mode, Auto High ISO and set the aperture on the lens, now the camera will raise or lower the ISO when possible to mantain a correct exposure.
    c) Set the camera to M mode, the aperture on the lens and shutter speed on the camera.

    3) There is no DOF indicator in the camera but the lenses have DOF indicators on them over the distance scales. With the MF assist functions it's actually quite easy to see the in focus areas on the screen when focusing.

  6. Thanks so much for the information Cristian.

    I hand't thought about the possibility of shooting M with auto ISO... intriguing...

  7. Hi Cristian and thanks for your first impressions. One question concerning the illumination- handling when shooting with smaller apertures, f.e. 5,6 or 8?
    How is the EVF when the cam tries to screw up the signal?

    Thanks Bernd

  8. Hi Bernd, I am not 100% certain but don't believe the camera actually amplifies the signal so the view will be dark. With the MF assist 2 functon you should still be able to compose and focus ok though.

    I will need to check this again though.

  9. Hy. Thank you for the review. I have NEX 5. Used with Zeiss ZM35mm f2 as standard lens. The lens rasor sharp... even at f2. Outresolves the sensor wide open. But the results on the NEX are quite.. flat! BEtter colours in your Ricoh pictures. And I find in NEX5 the magnifing mode not so well implemented as in the Ricoh. Reading firmware release, the magnification (central portion or complete screen) will disappear with half press of the shutter botton and come back after releasing. This is the feature I want. In NEX5 you need to switch magnification on every time, and only to full screen. NEX5 peaking focus is to inaccurate for very sharp lens. I have missed focus in many shots.
    I will definitely switch over to the Ricoh as soon as available.

    Bye, Devid

  10. Thanks for your comment David!

    I had a look at the Zeiss 35mm f2.0 this weekend on my RD1 and like the rendering a lot. Hope I can try it out on the GXR Mount at some point.

    The firmware of the GXR is very good and the focus assist works very well.

    I always liked the Ricoh colours and now with their Multi-Pattern WB the colours are very good but still natural.

    Hope you will enjoy the Ricoh when you get it and let me know how you get on with it.

  11. Hi Cristian,

    I hope the camera will not be so noisy at 1600 ISO as inj this picture here...

    I hope noise reduction was off or something similar...

    Anyway I should be able to try shots end of next week or in 10 days if my dealer told me the truth....

    Bye Devid

  12. Hi Devid.

    This looks like a out of camera JPG but you will get some noise with the sensor. But if you use RAW it's not too bad even at ISO 3200:

    I would not really recommend using NR in the JPGs though since it will remove a lot of details so it's always best to use the RAW files. RAW Therapee is actually very good for processing them.

    Looking forward to hear your impressions and see your pictures with the GXR Mount.


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