Saturday 20 September 2008: The GX-200 review
I've been so impressed by the battery life on this wee thing that I was going make a point of waiting until it'd run out before writing this review. But a full month and precisely 490 pictures later, the battery indicator is still showing 100%.
Yes. 100%. I charged the battery the day it arrived and it's still going strong.
Here are some of the other things I love about it...
1. It's got an unusually wide lens for a compact - the equivalent of 24mm on a full frame SLR (for comparison, the G9 is the equivalent of 35mm at its widest).
I like wide. In fact, Lightroom reliably informs me that my 17-40mm lens is on my 5D 48.6% of the time. (I like numbers, too.)
2. It saves DNG files instead of its own proprietary raw format, which means I don't have to wait three months for the next Camera Raw update to be able to process files from my brand-new camera.
(Although in fairness, that also means I don't get the benefit of Adobe's experts tweaking Camera Raw specifically to get the best out of my camera, but I'm impatient and I can live with that.)
3. Rather than providing lots of presets like 'sports' and 'portrait', you get three 'slots' of your own which you can fill up as you please.
Everything including the shooting mode, ISO, aspect ratio, exposure compensation, focus settings (and how many sugars you take in your coffee) are stored and always accessible on one of the notches of the main dial.
I've only created one so far, which I call 'Blip Mode' (one day all cameras will have it as standard). It crops to square (more on that in a second), underexposes by 2/3rds of a stop and flips to black and white. Regular viewers will notice I've been using it rather a lot lately.
That leaves me with two slots left and a lot of excitement over what I could fill them with. (Ooo-er, missus.)
4. Unlike most other cameras which let you select different aspect ratios, it actually crops the raw file.
That might sound a bit crazy, but it does impose a constraint and I think in the age of being able to fix everything later it's sometimes nice to have constraints. You're committing to a crop in camera and there's no going back.
Combining that with my recently discovered way of shooting in raw but keeping the image in black and white has been fun.
5. If your rechargeable battery runs out, you can replace it with three AAA batteries. You don't even need an adaptor - they just slot in where the rechargeable one does.
Admittedly I haven't used it, but normally it's sensible to buy a second battery for your camera. This time I won't bother.
6. The camera has a character of its own, something I think is important in a compact. I love everything about the G9 apart from the way it persistently scratches itself, but it is a clinical camera without much in the way of soul. It provides an excellent quality base image, but you often have to work it to get what you want.
The Ricoh isn't really like that - I've done very little to most of what's come out of it so far but been very pleased with the results.
7. It's got a mammoth longest shutter speed of something ridiculous like three minutes. That means you can do cool stuff at night without any extra gadgetry.
8. It's a lovely small size, particularly compared to the G9, but I think it's even a bit easier to carry than the Lumix LX1 and 2 with their large lensy protrusions.
So what about the bad stuff?
Well there really isn't that much of it:
1. The noise levels are noticeably worse than the G9, but I was fully expecting that.
2. Like the Lumix, the lens cap comes right off the lens and attaches to the camera body with a little piece of string. The string is annoying but I daren't get rid of it for fear of losing the lens cap. (There is a weird self - opening version, but it looks a bit something on the side of building a Thunderbird would have launched itself out of, so I'll not be getting that. Plus, I musn't grumble about this too much; a fancy self-opening lens cap was the cause of my falling out with the G9.)
3. For some reason, there's no shutter priority (Tv) mode. Not that I can see myself using it very often, but its strangely conspicuous in its absence.
And that really is about it. My last month's obsession with pretending I own a Hasselblad has rather limited what I've done with the camera so far, but I do know shoots in colour too and intend to try that feature next.
Would I recommend it? Absolutely.
This feels like a camera designed by someone who takes a lot of pictures but understands that everyone takes pictures in their own way. Thanks mostly to that, I think we're going to enjoy one another's company.
P.S. - If you're interested in taking a closer look at a raw file, you can click here to dowload a DNG of this.