Even at first look before the acquisition, Ricoh and Pentax seemed pretty similar. They both released cameras that were smaller than the class norm. that also included quality materials like magnesium alloy and an overall solid feel. More specifically, cameras like the GR Digital and the Pentax K-7/K-5 series. In their fight to gain and keep market share they sometimes have gone outside the box in ways that just didn’t make much sense.
The Ricoh GXR system is one such camera to go far out of the box.
It’s not an interchangeable lens system and it’s not a fixed lens camera like their GR Digital. The body that houses the grip, controls, LCD, and battery is one unit. The other half of the camera gets mounted inside. This has the lens, sensor, and processing electronics. On first…and second… glance the system doesn’t make much sense. It is expensive because to use a different lens you must pay the price premium to buy a sensor and processing engine with it. Your old lens doesn’t gain any benefits from the new sensor because each unit is completely self contained. While they can argue that the lens sensor units are weather sealed, the connection between that and the hand grip unit seems like just as much of a possible point-of-failure.
So with lens units that fit into a common hand grip unit, things just didn’t look very appealing. It is certainly a different concept, but with no benefit that jumps out at you.
The story doesn’t end there though. Ricoh just released the “GXR Mount A12” that is a module that has a Leica M mount instead of a lens. Yes, the system starts to finally make sense, at least in part. The unit is $650 at the time of this article, which is expensive yet cheap at the same time. It is the cheapest M mount camera you will find, but from a more global market perspective, you can spend half the money and buy a micro 4/3rds mount camera. For anyone who already owns the grip portion, it isn’t a bad deal if you have or want to get some M mount glass.
Beside the new M mount module, I can see some nice possibilities for the GXR system.
– Now that Ricoh owns Pentax, they should release a K-mount module. Modules like the K and M mounts have a long history with thousands of lenses out there.
– Offer up a grip module that has an optical viewfinder. That could be with a fixed lens or a mount that would allow for such.
– Offer up a module and/or grip portion geared toward different uses like videography. Imagine using the new M mount module with a grip module that has pro level features used in videography. The challenge there might be that the grip modules don’t really do much of the technical processing engine related work. Even so, the grip could have a great interface and handling to expedite the work of each style.
Note: The Thailand flood pushed back getting the new mount module, but come February it should be available.
While still and odd bird of the current systems out there, the GXR seems to have some promise. That is if they can deliver more interesting things like the A12 mount module.