Ricoh GXR A12 28mm Review

December 17, 2010 | Mark Goldstein |


The Ricoh A12 28mm is the fourth lens-sensor module for the revolutionary Ricoh GXR camera system, which combines the lens and sensor into a single interchangeable unit. The new A12 28mm unit combines a 28mm f/2.5 lens with a 6-group, 9-element configuration and a 12.3 megapixel APS-C CMOS image sensor. It simply slides into and out of the front of the GXR body, with virtually all of the features of the camera body available for any of the four units that are now available. The Ricoh GXR A12 28mm module also offers an ISO range of 200-3200, GR Engine III processor, manual focus ring, and 1280×720 pixel HD movies. The Ricoh GXR A12 28mm camera unit costs £529.99 / $699.

Ease of Use

As the Ricoh GXR body is common to all of the available camera units, virtually all of the comments that we made in our original GXR review apply equally to the new A12 28mm camera unit. Rather than repeat them here, you should read the Ricoh GXR review first and then our specific comments about the A12 28mm unit below.

With the A12 28mm camera unit fitted, the Ricoh GXR weighs 410g and measures 113.9 x 70.2 x 55.6mm (although still not including the the battery or memory card). When the lens is fully extended, the camera measures just over 6.5cm in depth, with the lens extending by 1.2cms from the front of the camera unit.

Ricoh GXR A12 28mm Ricoh GXR A12 28mm
Front Front

The A12 unit has a 12.3 APS-C image sensor and a 28mm f/2.5 fixed-focal lens. This is a unique offering in the Ricoh range, and is the second Ricoh camera module to feature the same-sized sensor that the majority of DSLRs use. When the GXR is fitted with this unit, it's automatically in the same league as a DSLR or the other compact cameras that have an APS-C sensor, the Sigma DP1 and DP2. The Panasonic GF1 and Olympus E-P1 / E-P2 cameras all use the smaller Four Thirds sensor size, so in theory the GXR with the A12 unit should deliver better image quality.

The choice of the 28mm lens is also interesting, in that a focal length of 28mm is well-suited to wide-angle land and cityscapes and useful for street photography, and the fast maximum aperture of f/2.5 is a real benefit for low-light shooting and creating that out-of-focus bokeh look. The A12 28mm has a responsive manual focus ring, and you can also make fine focus adjustments after the camera has auto-focused, useful if it hasn't quite focused on the specific area that you want.

Ricoh GXR A12 28mm Ricoh GXR A12 28mm
Front Front

The GXR A12 28mm is the second Ricoh GXR camera unit to offer HD video recording, the must-have feature of 2010. There are three movie sizes available - 1280x720, 640x480 and 320x240 pixels - all at 24 frames per second and all saved in the AVI file format, which unfortunately does result in some rather large file sizes. Sound recording is mono only, and there are no advanced features like Windcut or Pause / Restart as seen on other cameras, so Ricoh still have some work to do in this area.

If you don't like composing your photos by holding the camera at arms length and looking at the LCD screen, there's also another way of framing your shots. You can additionally buy the completely removable optical viewfinder, the new VF-2, which we'd particularly recommend for the A12 28mm camera unit. This slots into the hot-shoe on top of the camera, allowing you to hold the camera up to your eye and instantly giving the GXR the feel of a single-lens reflex camera.

Ricoh GXR A12 28mm Ricoh GXR A12 28mm
A12 28mm Camera Unit A12 28mm Camera Unit

The start-up time from turning the Ricoh GXR A12 28mm on to being ready to take a photo is fairly responsive at around 2 seconds. Focusing with the 28mm camera unit is quite quick in good light, taking around 0.5 second with a discernible in-and-out action of the lens barrel, and the camera happily achieves focus most of the time indoors or in low-light situations. It takes about 0.5 second to store a JPEG image, allowing you to keep shooting as they are being recorded onto the memory card, and there is virtually no LCD blackout between each image.

Shooting in RAW mode is also very quick, with the GXR only taking around 1 second to store a RAW image. In the fastest Continuous mode the camera shoots at a fast 4 frames per second for RAW images, or 3fps if noise reduction is turned on, taking a further 5 seconds to record the images before you can take another picture. This compares very well even to entry-level DSLRs. For JPEGs, in single shot mode image are recorded instantaneously, and in Continuous mode the A12 28mm shoots at the same 4fps rate as RAW files but for an unlimited number of images.

Now that we've discussed the new features that the A12 28mm brings to the Ricoh GXR system, let's take a look at its image quality.