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Ricoh GX200 Small

Ricoh GX200 VF-1 Kit - Digital Camera Review
Review Date: 05/10/2008
Rating: Recommended
Author: Joshua Waller
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Introduction: Announced on the 24th of June 2008, the Ricoh GX200 is a 12 megapixel update to the Ricoh GX100 and features a 24mm wide angle 3x optical zoom lens, 1cm macro, ISO1600, full manual controls, a new 2.7" screen, a new image processing engine Smooth Imaging Engine III and various accessories are also available such as the electronic viewfinder kit reviewed here. The Ricoh GX200 VF-1 Kit is available from around £369. The camera is enclosed in a black plastic body and measures approx. 111.6mm(W)×58.0mm(H)×25.0mm(D) (excluding protrusions), and weighs approx. 208g. excluding lens, battery and memory card.

Ricoh have this to say about the camera:

"A super wide-angle high performance 24-72 mm/f2.5 (wide) - f4.4(telephoto) zoom lens with superb optical performance comparing favourably to SLR interchangeable lenses. Attach the unique tilting electronic viewfinder, linked to the focal distance to zoom and frame your subject with the feel of an SLR or medium format camera and add GX200 host of versatile accessories to enter a wider realm of creative photography. For the photographer who knows the depth and joy of photographic expression, the GX200 transcends the limitations of a compact camera."

You can find more information on their website.

The Camera: a visual tour: (Photos of the camera taken with the Canon Powershot SX100 IS)

Ricoh GX200
Front view - camera off normal lens cap.

GX200 Flash
Front view - camera on, flash open.

GX200 Top
Top: flash open, fn1, flash hot-shoe, power, shutter, scroll wheel, mode dial.


VF-1 Electronic viewfinder with diopter correction - it can be tilted through 90 degrees.

Size Comparison: Compared to a Pentax PC-550 35mm film camera - a medium/compact sized 35mm film camera.

GX200 Size
Size comparison.

Specifications / Features:

  • 12 megapixel CCD Sensor
  • Wide angle 3x optical zoom lens (24 to 72mm equivalent).
  • 2.7-inch 460,000 dots HVGA LCD display
  • Up to three "My Setting" mode options can be defined.
  • Electronic level
  • 1:1 Aspect square format images in RAW mode.
  • CCD-shift-type image stabilizer
  • HD Output : No
  • Red-Eye Reduction: Yes
  • ISO : AUTO/AUTO-HI/ISO64/100/200/400/800/1600
  • 1cm Macro mode
  • Modes / Scenes: Auto, Program, A / M, My setting 1,2,3, Scene: Movie, portrait, sports, landscape, nightscape, text, skew correction, and zoom macro.
  • Histogram available: In playback and record
  • Exposure bracketing: Auto Bracket Function (-0.5 EV, ±0, +0.5 EV /-0.3 EV, ±0, +0.3 EV)
  • Optical viewfinder: No (Electronic VF-1 available)
  • Manual WB: Yes

Box Contents:

  • GX200 Digital Camera
  • Hot shoe cover
  • Wrist Strap
  • Rechargeable Battery
  • Battery charger and lead
  • Lens caps and strap
  • USB cable
  • AV Cable
  • Software CD Rom
  • VF Kit: VF-1 viewfinder, case, manual, warranty.

GX200 Lens Cap EVF

Average box contents with the standard kit - A memory card supplied as standard would be nice, I highly recommend getting a case as one is not supplied as standard, and it would be worth purchasing the LC-1 (self retaining lens cap shown above) as manually removing the standard lens cap can be a pain. The VF kit provides an electric LCD viewfinder, and there are several other accessories available such as a wide angle lens (DW-6), tele conversion lens (TC-1), hood and adapter (HA-2) and others.

Menu system: The menu system is logical and very easy to use. It doesn't take long to get used to the way the menu system works. The adjust and function buttons gives (along with the other buttons on the back of the camera) quick access to the most commonly used options with just one press of the button. You can further speed up access to your favourite settings by customising the function buttons. The playback menu gives you a collection of picture reviewing screens as well as more advanced options such as resize, skew correction, level compensation and white balance compensation.

Picture Size / Quality: The camera lets you choose the image size (12m, 10m, 9m, 8m, 5m, 3m, 1m, VGA), and how much compression is applied to the images (RAW, Fine, Normal). In addition, aspect ratio can be set to either 4:3 (default), 3:2 (at 10m), or 1:1 (at 9m). Higher quality images take a large amount of memory, so a high capacity memory card is definitely recommended, unless you're prepared to sacrifice image size or compression to fit more pictures in memory. There is a good choice of image sizes, compression options and aspect ratios with very few cameras offering 1:1 square format photos.

GX200 Bottom
Bottom - Speaker, Battery (DB-60, 3.7v, 1150mAh), memory card slot (lockable cover), metal tripod mount.

Battery usage: Battery life is rated at 350 shots (according to CIPA standards) - I was able to take around 300+ shots before the battery went flat. Battery life will be dependent on the kind of use you make of the camera. The camera will also accept 2 x AAA batteries which could be handy in emergencies, however I don't expect battery life to be as good.

Memory cards: The highest quality large JPEG Fine images take over 4 megabytes. Typically a 1gb memory card would provide room for about 200 images, which I would recommend as a bare minimum. If you intend to use the camera's RAW mode (and included software) a 2gb or larger memory card is better. You can use SD, and SDHC memory cards - I tend to use Sandisk Ultra II Plus USB SD memory cards as these let you plug the memory card straight into a USB socket making it easy to transfer images onto any computer, they are currently available as 1GB, 2GB, 4GB SD cards. Listed below are links to memory cards that will work with the Ricoh GX200:

Find the latest prices for SD memory cards at Amazon.co.uk: 1gb (1000mb): £4, 2gb (2000mb): £5, 4gb (4000mb SDHC): £6, 8gb (8000mb SDHC): £10
Need more help deciding what memory card to buy? Have a look at our guide to digital camera memory cards or our article what size memory card should I buy?

Speed: The camera can take its first photo from 'off' in 2.2 seconds (without flash), which is quite quick. Focusing seemed very quick. The camera shutter response seems instant when pre-focused, responding immediately - and shot to shot time was average, with a delay of around 2.0 seconds without flash. The flash recharge time was quite quick allowing a shot to be taken every 2.5 seconds, flash is not available in the continuous shooting mode. Continuous shooting is average, at roughly 1.4fps at the highest quality JPEG setting until the card is full. The playback and menus are also very quick.

GX200 Back
Back - 2.7" screen, VF/LCD switch, adjust, play, zoom control, 4-way controller, Menu / OK middle button, self-timer, display buttons.

Ease of use: The camera is very easy to use, particularly in the AUTO mode and has a number of scene modes that help get good results. The controls on the back of the camera are very intuitive and the menus are responsive and easy to use, and the options are big enough and easy enough to see clearly. The several modes are easy to access, mainly thanks to the clear dial at the top right of the camera and a lot of the commonly used options can be accessed using the buttons on the back. It's easy to see when photos are in focus (thanks to the extremely clear screen) and I didn't have any difficulty using the manual mode. The image stabilisation means that more of your shots will be blur-free.

GX200 Teleconvertor
Optional lens - TC-1 1.88x Tele convertor and HA-2 Adapter (Hood not shown).

Ergonomics and Buttons: (Feel, placement, labels, etc) The layout and size of the buttons and controls are good, with the most commonly used options reachable with your right thumb. The camera has a very good rubberised hand grip - both at the front, and at the back. I thought the camera felt good, with a solid and strong feeling metal body. The camera feels good ergonomically and it feels well built and the shape of the body is very comfortable. The only buttons that I feel could do with improvement are the zoom control (which is a little bit small and fiddly) and the shutter release (I much prefer the Canon style round shutter release that is surrounded by the zoom control, for example on the Ricoh R8, SX100 and others), but saying that, I'd be happy if they just improved the zoom control as the shutter was generally fine.

Image Quality: Here are some real world sample photos taken in various settings, such as Inside, Outside, Macro, to demonstrate the quality of pictures taken and also show different features of the camera. Larger versions of these photos, plus more photos are available in the Ricoh GX200 Sample Photo Gallery!

Inside:

Heather and Flower (ISO238) Flash photo (ISO100)

Inside: The camera has good colour - It took a good "Heather and Flower" photo - there is no red-eye in the photo. Otherwise it is very good, coping well with group photos, although red-eye was quite noticeable. On AUTO ISO, the ISO setting was quite low, and noise was acceptable. The camera did a good job at focusing even in low-light where the focus assist lamp kicks in. Colour is quite natural, though lacking in contrast, this can be improved using Image settings - I left the camera on Normal - but it is possible to change contrast, sharpness and colour depth by customising the image settings in camera.

ISO Noise Test: Noise: Noise is generally a bad thing - it fragments detail, and gives a grainy effect over the image. With digital cameras noise can be a real problem as it is often made out of blue, red or green dots. As the ISO setting increases, pictures tend to have more noise and noise is most noticeable in darker areas. The camera has an Automatic mode for ISO levels (ranging from ISO 64 - ISO1600), and manual ISO settings (ISO: 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600). The camera also has several options for Noise Reduction (on, on above ISO401, on above ISO801, on ISO1600, or off) - for these tests the Noise Reduction was set to Off as this is the default settings.

Below you'll find the noise test image, plus actual pixel crops, viewable at 100%, from the image taken at different ISO settings, compared with the 12 megapixel Fujifilm FinePix F100fd and 10 megapixel Panasonic Lumix FX35.

Fujifilm FinePix F100fd (12mp) Ricoh GX200 (12mp) Panasonic Lumix FX35 (10mp)

ISO Noise Test Photos - Flash is off. Fujifilm FinePix F100fd on the left, Ricoh GX200 in the middle, Panasonic Lumix FX35 on the right. Any tonal difference is due to white balance or lighting / metering differences.

Fujifilm FinePix F100fd (12mp) Ricoh GX200 (12mp) Panasonic Lumix FX35 (10mp)
   
ISO64 - NA ISO64 - Actual Pixels ISO64 - NA
ISO100 - Actual Pixels (1s, Nightmode) ISO100 - Actual Pixels ISO100 - Actual Pixels
ISO200 - Actual Pixels ISO200 - Actual Pixels ISO200 - Actual Pixels
ISO400 - Actual Pixels ISO400 - Actual Pixels ISO400 - Actual Pixels
ISO800 - Actual Pixels ISO800 - Actual Pixels ISO800 - Actual Pixels
ISO1600 - Actual Pixels ISO1600 - Actual Pixels ISO1600 - Actual Pixels

Noise results: Noise is very noticeable when viewed at 100% as shown above. ISO400 is probably the highest ISO setting you would want to use with this camera as noise degrades image quality quite dramatically at ISO800 and above. This can be combated, slightly, by switching on Noise Reduction, however, noise is still high compared to the competition. Examples of Noise Reduction switched on can be found here.

Image Stabilisation: The Ricoh GX200 comes with built in "Vibration Correction" and moves the sensor in order to counter any camera movement when taking photos - this feature helps reduce image blur due to low light or long zoom photography. Examples showing this feature switched on and off can be seen below.

IS Off
ISO154, 1/6
IS on
ISO154, 1/6
Actual Pixels Actual Pixels

With image stabilisation switched on the images are much sharper and clearer, and are much more likely to come out blur free, especially in low light, when using the zoom or when using slow shutter speeds. The camera's image stabilisation system appears to work well, and it's good to see that this feature is becoming the norm with digital cameras and Digital SLRs.

Outside:

Liverpool shops (ISO64) Koln Airport, Germany (ISO154)

Outside: The camera has good colours - on default settings they are natural and accurate. There was good detail, and the camera took a number of pleasing images outside with good contrast. Images were slightly soft on default settings, so it could be worth increasing saturation and sharpness settings. In general jpeg artifacts are not easily seen at 'lower' quality setting, however areas with strong contrasts benefit from use of the highest quality setting.

Zoom: The lens provides a 3x optical zoom equivalent to 24 - 72mm. I've included examples below to show what the zoom is capable of. An example of digital zoom can be seen in the gallery. Optional lenses are available such as the wide angle conversion lens DW-6, and the 1.88x TC-1 tele convertor lens - an example of this is shown below.

Wide-angle (24mm) 3x Optical Zoom (72mm) Full optical zoom with 1.88x TC-1 teleconvertor.

Exposure: The photos of the clock tower are exposed well with detail in the dark areas, although there is some highlight clipping. Exposure in other photos was generally very good. Vignetting was not noticed in these photos. It can be useful to under expose images with bright backgrounds (eg; sky) with use of exposure compensation.

Lens noise and zoom: The shutter makes very little noise and the lens is fairly quiet and gives you very good control over how you frame your subject with roughly 30 steps between wide and telephoto zoom. The camera also gives the option of step zoom - this lets you zoom to the following set positions: 24mm, 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, and 72mm.

Other Image Quality issues: Purple fringing / Chromatic aberration was not an issue and was very rarely seen.

Macro Lens Performance:

Timex Watch Macro Actual Pixels (ISO68)

The camera can take macro photos where the subject is roughly 1cm away from the lens in macro mode! Colour and detail is very good, and there appears to be very little noise at ISO200. The camera has manual white balance which can help get better shots in artificial lighting.

Video mode: The camera features a video mode option on the scene mode - VGA videos can be recorded at 30fps with sound. Optical zoom is not available whilst recording, only digital. The videos are recorded as AVI files and quality appears to be fairly good.

Conclusion

Image Quality: Image quality is generally good - with good colour, saturation and contrast. Noise is higher than average compared to the competition, but detail is generally good (until ISO400 and above where results could be classed as unusable). There was some red eye in group photos, but generally red-eye was low. To get the best results then some tweaking may be required as images are slightly soft on default settings. The camera was quick at focusing. The built in image stabilisation in the camera was effective. I didn't notice any vignetting (darkened corners). There is a good range of image sizes, compression options, and aspect ratios including RAW support and 1:1 square format photos. White balance and metering seemed to be very good with plenty of scope to cope with different lighting situations. The camera gives very good control over image quality with full manual controls as various options such as saturation, noise reduction, contrast etc. (7/10)

Everything else (the camera as a whole): The camera is available in black finish and has a strong metal body. The camera has a very good 2.7" LCD screen with a high resolution - it works fairly well outside. The camera feels well built and is light and comfortable to hold. It is easy to use and has quick access to the most commonly used options. The layout of buttons and controls is excellent and overall shape is comfortable. The camera speed is good, with a good switch on time, fast focusing time, excellent shutter response, quick playback mode, quick menus, average speed continuous shooting, and good flash recharge time. The camera has a wide range of features that should suit most people, such as numerous scene modes, manual modes, custom white balance, excellent macro mode, image stabilisation, and excellent scope to customise it for your particular needs by using the customisable buttons and "MY" mode dials. (9/10)

Value for Money: The Ricoh GX200 from around £299 (without VF-1), is quite good value for money, and is one of the cheapest "serious" compact digital cameras available with RAW support, wide angle lens, and image stabilisation. The Ricoh GX200's main rivals are the Canon Powershot G10 (£449), Panasonic Lumix LX3 (£328), Sigma DP1 (£375), Nikon Coolpix P6000 (£369), and Ricoh GR Digital II (£354). (8/10) See more digital camera reviews sorted by megapixels here.

Summary: More and more it seems like you have to buy a Digital SLR in order to get manual controls - not so with the Ricoh GX200 - it features full manual controls and more customisable buttons than most Digital SLRs! With this camera you can have all the great Digital SLR features, without the size, with the GX200 neatly fitting into coat pockets. Where the GX200 can't match a Digital SLR is in image quality - the GX200 shows excessive amounts of noise when used at ISO400 or above. If you can stick to the lower ISO settings, and want a compact wide angled digital camera with full manual controls then this is worth considering. The Ricoh GX200 has some unique features such as an electronic "spirit level", 1:1 aspect ratio photos, a 24mm wide angle lens, and more customisable buttons then necessarily needed! If you want a camera that can match a Digital SLR's features and controls, but definitely don't want the size of a DSLR, then the Ricoh GX200 is recommended!

Ricoh GX200 VF-1 Kit Rating: Recommended (8/10)
With VF-1 £369 Without VF-1 £299 - or Get the best price below!

What I like:

  • Good image quality
  • Image stabilisation sensor
  • Excellent 2.7" screen - very good resolution
  • Robust, compact metal body
  • Good battery life
  • Excellent macro mode
  • 1:1 Aspect ratio (Square format) available
  • Electronic level
  • Numerous customisable quick access adjust / function buttons
  • Three "MY" custom modes on the dial
  • Full manual controls

What I don't like:

  • Auto closing lens cap an optional extra (and not standard).
  • Zoom control a little small.
  • A lot of noise at ISO400 and above.
  • Electronic viewfinder quite small - especially if you wear glasses.

Additional Test Images are viewable in the Ricoh GX200 Sample Photo Gallery.
Tested with Firmware version 1.07. Get the latest Ricoh GX200 Firmware here.

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