It’s Wednesday

This time of the year it is often hard to find adequate time for some photography. The amount of available daylight is getting shorter and shorter. The weather is often unpredictable with mostly gray overcast. And even though I am thinking on some new projects I feel the inspiration slowly goes into a deep wintersleep too.

Since it is mostly dark now all I do is shoot wide open. I try to find the last bits of light around. As a result I haven’t used my Ricoh GX200 since October 10, but I also hardly have used the DP1. Both cameras just don’t have the fast lenses I personally want. Of course, you can push the DP1 up to 3 stops, but I still prefer the option of having the faster lens. And the GX200 is just nowhere near the performance of the GRD III for instance.

So I am actually thinking about selling my GX200 and that means that I am looking around for other cameras on the market (new or old). The thought about selling the Ricoh hurts me and although I am no real gear guy it is unfortunately something you have to do once in a while….. Sigh.

My post last week about the new Ricoh GXR received a lot of comments. Thank you all for that. Even though people might like or dislike this new camera system. It certainly brought a lot of stir among photographers. To me it brought a lot of mixed feelings. At first I was impressed by the solution provided, but also impressed with the prices! Then I felt this system might certainly have some potential which all depends on Ricoh’s commitment to produce interesting and demanded lens units. And at that point I also have my strong concerns.

Is it really smart to replace the GX200 with the GXR and the S10 lens unit? Some of the samples at higher ISO’s seem to provide much better performance than the GX200. Definitely more in line with the Ricoh GRD III, Panasonic LX3, Canon G11, and the S90. But I had also hoped for a faster lens and that didn’t happen. So the new lens unit with the new sensor and the unchanged lens design makes this in my opinion a very expensive follow-up of the GX200. And since the GRD remains the number one camera in their line I expect that Ricoh won’t produce a 28mm lens unit either.

What they did mention is that they will produce a 28-200mm zoom lens (like the one you’ll find with the CX2), but I just don’t want to spent so much money on a system that will at first only provide small sensor zoom lens units. Of course they will also produce the A12 50mm macro lens unit with an APS-C sized sensor. And although the lens and sensor looks promising I personally don’t understand why they opted for a 50mm macro lens. I would have preferred a 35 or 40mm lens, certainly faster than the 50, and more pancake design too. I don’t mind it that Ricoh tags that camera with the GR signature, but many do now that they also produced really good 21 and 28mm L-mount lenses in the Nineties. Both these lenses are based on the concept of the GR lenses which were developed for the GR1 and the GR21.

I hope to be proven wrong, and the first results and impressions will likely be in favor of this camera. But I do expect that it will mostly be the result of the always great Ricoh user interface, camera handling and their expertise with optics. I sure have no doubts about that. The only reason I see to be proven wrong is a small glimpse into the future with a likely roadmap for their lens units. But Ricoh always seem to follow the Apple course with only serious news leaks in the last few days before the actual announcements. Therefore I see very little chance that I might eventually own a GXR.

Now this brings me to the alternatives. The most serious alternative is the micro four third (MFT) system adopted by Olympus and Panasonic. There are already five models available and more will follow in 2010. And rumors mention that Fuji might even come up with a MFT camera. The lens options from Panasonic and Olympus are still limited and some lenses are really hard to get too, like the 7-14mm wide angle zoom lens. On the other hand, there are a lot of options available to use legacy lenses on these MFT cameras like M or L-mount lenses, c-mount, FD, K, F, and OM-mount just to mention some (and I likely miss many others). There has been a lot of experimentation going on and some lenses gained prices on ebay just because of this experimentation.

I am not really sure if I should consider the Leica X1. Certainly not from a price point of view. And although I would have preferred to see a slightly faster lens I kind of like the camera too, because it has that simple, I mean essential, interface I want to see in a camera for so long. No scene modes, just the necessary dials to set the shutter speed and the aperture. So, if there is a manufacturer who feels they should produce such a camera too without a red badge, please don’t hesitate.

And of course there are still the small sensor cameras. The LX3 and the D-Lux 4 with their fast lenses, although I don’t prefer their user interface. The strange choices from Canon like the S90 with the fast lens, but simpler interface, and no option to attach a viewfinder (unless you glue it on the top of the body). And the G11 with the more professional appealing body, but the much slower lens. And there is the option of my favorite camera, the Ricoh GR Digital III. Very fast lens and adjustable snap mode. And what all these cameras share is some of the best low light performance of any small sensor cameras.

I still kind of prefer the GRDIII though, even though I am kind of interested in the MFT’s. First, it is Ricoh. Secondly, it has in my opinion the best camera handling and it comes with the fastest lens around for a small sensor camera. So this fall and winter I will give myself some good head banging  and I will go through every option to make up my mind. And of course, force myself to leave the Canon 10D at home and use my GX200 more often again. To see if I can find the magic with that camera again.

All photographs by Wouter Brandsma

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