An elegant slimline digicam that provides many of the features and functions keen photographers require.As we noted in the Winter 2007 issue of Photo Review Australia magazine, there are few digicams that meet the needs of serious photographers. Ever an innovator, Ricoh has gone part of the way to provide a solution through its new Caplio GX100 model, which won the 2007 TIPA Award for the Best Prestige Camera. The GX100 has many of the features serious photographers require but, unfortunately, the physical dimensions of its sensor are rather small for its 10.1-megapixel resolution. . . [more]
As we noted in the Winter 2007 of Photo Review Australia magazine, there are few digicams that meet the needs of serious photographers. Ever an innovator, Ricoh has gone part of the way to provide a solution through its new Caplio GX100 model, which won the 2007 TIPA Award for the Best Prestige Camera. The GX100 has many of the features serious photographers require but, unfortunately, the physical dimensions of its sensor are rather small for its 10.1-megapixel resolution.
On the plus side, however, the GX100's zoom lens is both faster (f/2.5-4.4) and covers a wider angle-of-view than any slimline digicam on the current market. Consisting of 11 elements in seven groups, this new lens includes aspheric surfaces and high-refractive-index, low-dispersion elements to minimise distortion, chromatic aberration and edge darkening in wide-angle shots. A seven-bladed iris diaphragm ensures attractive 'bokeh' for portraits and close-ups.
Taking advantage of this lens requires photographers to shoot with one of the Program AE modes (P, A or M), rather than shooting in full auto mode or using the scene settings. In A and M modes, users can set lens apertures between f/2.5 and f/9.1 with the wide lens setting or f/4.4 to f/15.8 at full zoom extension. Program shift allows users to adjust apertures when the P mode is used. CCD-shift optical image stabilisation adds further appeal.
Both manual and aperture priority shooting modes are provided, along with a usable ISO range. The GX100 also supports RAW and RAW+JPEG capture modes and uses Adobe's "universal" DNG Raw file format. Menu design has evolved since its predecessor, the GX8, was launched two years ago and it's easy to scroll through the three-page shooting menu by using the control dial in front of the shutter button.
The proprietary Smooth Imaging Engine II processing system has been used in several earlier models is also used in the GX100. Functions associated with this processor include the Skew Correction Mode, which lets you straighten skewed images of objects like buildings, display panels or name cards and the three burst mode settings (continuous, stream-continuous and memory-reversal-continuous). Ricoh also allows photographers to choose between continuous and step zoom for optical zooming and normal and auto resize for the digital zoom.
One of the most customisable digicams on the market, the GX100 provides two ways to personalise camera settings, using the set-up menu. The Function button on the left side of the top panel can be set to provide quick access to focusing, exposure compensation, AE lock, white balance, ISO, quality, metering, auto bracketing or continuous shooting controls The Adj. lever just below the power button allows photographers to assign up to four groups of frequently-used settings and recall them with the aid of the arrow pad buttons. Functions covered include image quality, white balance, exposure compensation, ISO, focus and metering modes, continuous shooting and auto bracketing.
Photographers can also choose from three aspect ratio settings, the standard 4:3 and 3:2 plus a new 1:1 Square Mode to satisfy 6x6 medium-format film photographers. Other noteworthy features include the provision of white-balance bracketing, manual focus, a time-lapse mode and multi-segment, spot and center-weighted metering. The flash is popped up by pressing a lever on the top left panel and must be pressed down manually. A hot-shoe (with a removable cover) is provided for add-on flash units.
Front view without LCD viewfinder.
All these capabilities are packed into a slim, inconspicuous body that is tough and nicely designed. The body shell is made from aluminium alloy, which combines light weight with durability. Finished in matte black its moulded grip is rather shallow but has a rubberised coating for comfort and security. The control dial wheel sits within the upper edge of the grip, with the shutter button behind it, both in easy reach of the index finger. The mode dial is located further back and closer to the edge of the camera body so it's difficult to operate all three controls single-handed.
Rear view with LCD viewfinder attached.
The rear panel carries a 2.5-inch LCD monitor plus a reasonably large arrow pad. Buttons are provided for switching between the LCD and optional VF-1 LCD viewfinder, playing back and deleting shots and changing display modes. Though small, these buttons are widely-spaced and, therefore, much easier to use than the tiny, cramped buttons on most slimline digicams. The add-on viewfinder attaches to the hot shoe, where it provides 100% field-of-view coverage without parallax error plus a multi- information display similar to the data shown on an LCD monitor. On-demand gridlines and a small histogram are among the display options for the LCD.
Unlike most slimline cameras, the GX100 has strap lugs at either end of the top panel. Although only a wrist strap is supplied with the camera, having two anchor points allows you to attach a neck strap and wear the camera around your neck where it's readily available. A clip-on lens cap is supplied with the camera, and you're supposed to get a slim tether for attaching it to the camera (it's slotted through a short channel in the perimeter of the cap). Neither it nor the handstrap was provided with the test camera.
We did, however, receive the VF-1 LCD viewfinder, which is an option for buyers of the basic camera package. It was easy to clip onto the hot-shoe and proved valuable in situations when it was difficult to use the LCD monitor for framing shots. Diopter settings are adjusted by turning the eyepiece. The viewfinder supplied with the test camera was bright but did not provide an accurate rendition of either colours or tones. It was also prone to the streaking that plagues all EVFs in bright lighting. Aperture and shutter speed settings are displayed on the screen.
As with other Ricoh digicams, the GX100 provides two battery options. Best power consumption comes through use of the rechargeable lithium-ion battery that is supplied with the camera and is C.I.P.A. rated for 380 shots. But if you get caught out with a flat battery, inserting two AAA alkaline batteries will provide power for 35 shots (the camera can also use AAA NiMH rechargeables). The card slot is located in the same compartment as the battery and accepts SD, SDHC and MMC cards.
Pictures taken with the test camera were clean, detailed and colourful with a slightly warm colour bias and slightly elevated contrast. Exposures were well positioned to record a good tonal balance. JPEG compression was slightly high for a digicam of the calibre of the GX100 and the camera has an interesting mix of high- and lower-compression settings for the resolutions it offers (see table below). Raw files are also slightly compressed.
Imatest showed the GX100 to be capable of high resolution with both DNG-RAW and JPEG files and confirmed excellent edge-to-edge sharpness. Some minor colour shifts were revealed in red and cyan hues but overall colour accuracy was very good and saturation levels were modest. Lateral chromatic aberration was negligible and we found no evidence of coloured fringing in outdoor shots from the test camera.
However, barrel distortion was obvious in shots from roughly mid-way along the zoom range to the widest angle of view, rending these settings unsuitable for architectural work or any application requiring dimensional accuracy. Little distortion was observed at the tele end of the range.
Image noise became apparent at around ISO 400 and obvious at higher sensitivity settings. Close-ups were competently handled and the ability of the lens to focus to 1 cm from subjects provided some excellent shots with attractive bokeh. Digital zoom performance was above average, although not outstanding.
The test camera had the usual colour balance problems with incandescent lighting, where neither the auto mode nor the tungsten pre-set delivered neutral colours. In contrast, casts from fluorescent lighting were effectively neutralized in both the auto and pre-set modes. Manual measurement produced good results with both lighting types.
The GX100's image stabilisation system was reasonably effective, although not outstanding. We estimate it will allow photographers to shoot at up to two-stops slower with stabilisation switched on than with it off. (Sample images are shown below.)
1/4 second exposure with the lens at full tele zoom and no image stabilisation.
The same subject photographed with the same exposure settings with image stabilisation switched on.
The test camera suffered from serious autofocusing lag. Whenever the shutter button was pressed the camera appeared to zoom in and out on the subject until focus was achieved. On average, this took just over 2.2 seconds. However, by pre-focusing we were able to reduce the average capture lag to 0.15 seconds, which is acceptable for a compact digicam. It took an average of 1.2 seconds to process each JPEG shot and 4 to 5 seconds for each DNG-RAW file.
In continuous shooting mode, shots were recorded at 0.4 second intervals. It took just under 10 seconds to process a burst of 20 JPEG files taken with the 5M (2592 x 1944 pixel) setting. Continuous shooting cannot be used for raw file capture or with the RAW+JPEG setting.
Photographers who are looking for a capable, full-featured digicam with good performance plus a high degree of user adjustability will find the Caplio GX100 meets many of their needs. It's a pity Ricoh didn't use a larger sensor chip and we don't feel it necessary to compromise performance in pursuit of ever higher sensitivity ratings. That said, however, the GX100 is the nicest camera to take pictures with of the pocketable digicams we've tested in the past half-year and would be a good choice for situations where you don't want to carry a bulky DSLR.
Image sensor: 7.7 x 5.8 mm CCD with 10.3 million photosites (10.01 megapixels effective)
Lens: 4.4-15.8mm f/2.5-4.4 zoom (24-76mm in 35mm format)
Zoom ratio: 3x optical, 4x digital
Image formats: Stills - JPEG (EXIF ver 2.21) DCF, RAW (DNG); Movies – AVI (Open DML Motion JPEG format compliant), Audio - WAV
Image Sizes: Stills - 3648x2736, 3648x2432, 2736x2736, 3264x2448, 2592x1944, 2048x1536, 1280x960, 640x480; Movies - 640 x 480, 320 x 240 at 30 fps
Shutter speed range: Still images: 180, 120, 60, 30, 15, 8, 4, 2, 1 to 1/2000 sec, Movie: 1/30 to 1/2000 sec
Image Stabilisation: CCD-shift vibration correction
Exposure Compensation: 1/3 EV step, -2.0 ~+2.0 EV
Focus system/range: External Passive/CCD method; range 30 cm to infinity; macro to 1 cm (W) or 4 cm (T)
Exposure metering/control: TTL-CCD metering with Multi Light (256 segments), Centre-weighted, & Spot settings; Auto, P, A and M shooting modes plus 8 scene modes, 2 user memories and movie capture
ISO range: Auto, Auto Hi, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600
White balance: Auto: Outdoors, Cloudy, Incandescent Lamp, Fluorescent Lamp, White Balance Bracket, Manual
Flash modes/range (ISO auto): Flash Off / Auto / Red-eye reduction / Forced Flash / Soft Flash/ Slow synchro.
Storage Media: 26MB internal memory plus SD/SDHC card slot
Viewfinder: optional VF-1 LCD viewfinder (attaches to hot shoe)
LCD monitor: 2.5-inch Transparent Amorphous Silicon TFT LCD (approx 230,000 pixels)
Power supply: DB-60 (3.7V) Lithium-ion rechargeable battery
Dimensions (wxhxd): 111.6 x 58.0 x 25.0 mm
Weight: 220g (without battery, card and strap)
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