Saturday, 17 January 2009

GX200: A SLR User's Verdict (Review 2 of 3)

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A Smooth Transition

In actual operation of the rule of “overexpose it right”, the trick of duping the camera with the ISO dials no longer works since the film (sensor) and the camera are merged into one. So, the photographer has to either tweak the EV or use the manual mode. With the GX200, I mostly go manual because it is easier, quicker and more flexible. Otherwise, I would preset the EV to +0.7 (to be adjusted according to different lighting situations) for my matter of taste and go shooting. Although it is noted that the GX200 is defaulted to bias for some overexposure, I haven’t noticed significant overblown areas in my photos taken with the +EV setting, in case you wonder.

For its unrivalled ergonomics, the GX200 is a bliss to use when these tweakings have to be done. Take for example, in M mode, a press of the Fn2 button with my right thumb gives me the “right” exposure combo according to the preset aperture. From there, I just turn the front wheel or back wheel with my index finger / thumb to adjust the aperture or shutter speed. It works speedily like a SLR/DSLR, I must say.

For changes on the EV, the exposure mode, the flash output, the image setting and virtually every items in the menu, I can arrange the most used ones neatly on the special menu accessible at a press of the back wheel. The ergonomics of GX200 gives me an easy transition from using a SLR to a serious digital compact. If I am to choose between better ergonomics and better image quality (many have found that the IQ of GX200 lags behind its competitors at high ISOs), I vote for ergonomics. Unless you usually take colour photos at high ISOs, the GX200’s IQ is as good. For B&W images, the high ISO noise adds a grainly film-like texture which I like. Yes, some post processing work may be required. Interestingly, as a user pointed out, the noise matter is of lesser concern in large prints.

R0011449 (Medium) (2)

As an aside, rumours have it that the LX3 cheats on its ISO values because its ISO number corresponds to the behaviour of a lower value. I cannot judge this without testing it myself. Well, different machines produce images of different characters, which is subject to individual taste. To me, the IQ and high ISO issues are being exaggerated. For the moment, no small sensor camera gives out IQ as good as a decent DSLR’s at high ISOs. Unless the quality of its image is bad enough to be discernible regardless of the image size, or you decidedly hate it at 100% magnification, no camera, a serious compact of not, produce photos worse enough to be a photographer’s stumbling stone. Maybe the lack of photographic skill is.

A special mention should be made about the elbowroom I find in using the in-camera flash of GX200. Not only can the flash be tuned to first- or second-curtain sync, but it can also be adjusted for the light output by way of EV or the manual flash mode. Coupled with the aperture combinations, I can effectively control the reach and intensity of the flash output. It is like using a manual flashgun on a SLR, with the benefits that you can experiment to get instant results.

In short, if you are used to the great controls of a SLR or DSLR, be prepared to be familiar with the GX200 almost instantly (of course, you should read the users guide beforehand). Its two wheels design is a gem. But I hope that Ricoh can redesign the back wheel (it is in fact something like the side “dial” on some SonyEricsson cellphones) in the next GX model to be like the real back wheel on the GRD. A real wheel will work smoother than a dial. The GX200 has impressed me the similar way as my Minotla Dynax 7, which has been noted for its award-winning ergonomics and design. With its lighter weight, the GX200 even surpresses the 7 in the ergonomics aspect.

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To Part One <-- --> To Part Three

Friday, 16 January 2009

GRD II Sold for a LX3: First Impressions

Hmmm, this is my second "contributions" in this Week of Review. Please clap your hands for me... thank you, thank you, thank you :) . Some months ago, we read comments of a local user who sold her LX3 for a GX200. She just found the colours in the LX3's images too "plastic" to suit her taste. I think it was just the same as in the film days when people preferred Kodak to Fujifilm to some other brands. I am sure that there are lots of people who have been happy to have sold the GX200 for a LX3 instead. Afterall, your own photographic style, experience and taste matter a lot. Now, we have another user who sold his GRDII for a LX3. He has posted photos and written some thoughts about the shift here.

Review of GX200 by Wouter Brandsma #3 of 3

chi version (GX200 Impression 3)big chi version (GX200 Impression 3)cont (按:這是GX200評測第三部分.全文完)
(Note: The text and photos below are published by courtesy and with copyright of the original author, Wouter Brandsma. The copyrighted Chinese translation is done by Nevin. Permission is required for use.)

Appropriate workflow

The success of a digital camera is probably most determined by someone’s workflow. And that workflow consists of the camera handling, photography making, and editing. A well handling camera is more likely to be picked up by a photographer, even when the camera won’t give you the best results (this matters especially for amateur photographers). The photography making has all to do with how well the camera exposes, your personal skills, and learning the limitations and possibilities of your camera. And for the editing you try to find the application that works the best for you, and achieves the best possible results you envision.

I for instance use Adobe Lightroom as my primary editing application. When I want to do more with editing like burning and dodging, I edit the photographs in Photoshop. I have tried several other application like Silkypix, RAW Developer (Mac only), LightZone, and Capture One for editing my RAW files, but I still prefer the user interface and results of Lightroom. Some applications might give you better end results, but are not necessarily the most user-friendly applications.

When I first opened my GX200 RAW files in Lightroom I had some problems with my favorite B&W conversion technique. This was mostly the result of more noise in the blue channel. But also underexposing affected the RAW files more than the GX100 RAW files (because of the different sensor and processing engine).
Instead of using the luminance sliders to brighten or darken particular colors in Lightroom, I started to experiment with the exposure, black point, and brightness slider to give a pleasant contrast that didn’t give more noise. Especially RAW files that were exposed with the most information captured in the brightest section were so much better to be edited.

Another application (or better said plug-in) that is pleasant to use, is Nik Silver Efex Pro in Photoshop (can also be used in Apple Aperture, but that is Mac only). Edit the RAW file basically in auto mode with ACR and then use Silver Efex Pro. It is absolutely a stunning piece of software that delivers great looking results.

Ricoh GX200, f4.6, 1/12 sec, 24mm equivalent, ISO 200, -0.3 EV (DNG edited in Adobe Lightroom)

For whom is the Ricoh GX200 intended? The GX200 is intended as a versatile, but serious high-end compact camera with serious photography in mind. It enables photographers to shoot a wide range of scenes including landscapes, portraits and close-ups. If you know a thing or two about photography you will probably like this camera. It is a great travel camera, or a second ‘where-ever-you-go’ camera next to your larger camera system.

Nevertheless Ricoh has little presence in some of the largest consumer markets, like the US and Canada. They are very popular in Japan, and they have a pretty loyal fan base worldwide. For long it seemed photographers, manufacturers (and reviewers) didn’t notice Ricoh, despite the fact that the GX100 and the current GX200 have some very unique features. I mention the 24mm wide angle, the step zoom, the three registered personal settings, the additional DW-6 wide angle and TC-1 teleconversion lens, and the VF-1 electronic viewfinder (although I don’t use that). Most consumers looked at the Canon Powershot G9, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2/Leica D-Lux 3, or the Nikon P5000.

Panasonic/Leica are the first manufacturers who looked at the GX200 and tried to improve their top compact cameras. The market reacted enthusiastic and basically said that the new Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3/Leica D-Lux4 are one of a kind cameras with a very fast 24-60mm lens, and extra accessories. But when you take the domestic market of Japan, it becomes obvious that the LX3 is directly targeted against the GX200. And it is likely that Ricoh will respond adequately with a GX300, as they acknowledged to me at photokina. They will remain fully committed to further improving their GX (and GRD) cameras, especially the image quality.

And is the Ricoh GX200 a suitable camera for you? If you own the GX100 and you are pleased with that camera, I might say that an upgrade isn’t really necessary. When you still own the older GX or GX8, than the GX200 will be a major improvement. If you want a fast responsive, and versatile camera capable of shooting RAW, than I can really recommend this camera. It is excellent competition for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 and the Leica D-Lux4. The Panasonic/Leica combo have the edge in their fast lens with a maximum aperture of f2.0, but that lens does seem to suffer from more barrel distortion and chromatic aberration. Currently you can only use Silkypix (for the Panasonic) and Capture One (for the Leica) to process their RAW files since both manufacturers worked closely with the developers of these RAW processors to automatically adjust some of the lens flaws. I am not being fair though, because also RAW Developer (though Mac only), RAW Therapee (beta) and dcraw can open and process the RAW files from Panasonic and Leica. But these applications don’t apply any correction.

The GX200 DNG RAW files on the other hand can likely be opened and processed in your favorite editing application, ranging from the Adobe Photoshop family, Apple iPhoto and Aperture, and the mentioned RAW processors above, and many more. That way you can easily integrate this camera in your current workflow.

Ricoh GX200, f4.3, 1/1000 sec, 28mm equivalent, ISO 100, -0.7 EV (jpeg edited in Adobe Lightroom)

The Ricoh GX100 has some caveats. Some owners, including me, had problems with dust in the lens or on the sensor. The lens assembly and sensor are produced as a single unit, and therefore Ricoh will always replace the lens assembly when dust problems occurred. Although Ricoh at first hesitated acknowledging this problem with the GX100, they were aware that either the rather unprotected battery compartment or the telescopic retraction system of the lens could be faults for this problem. Also some owners had problems with a stucked lens on the GX100 and had to remove the battery completely in order to make the camera functional again. In the last three months I personally had no problems with the GX200, and also haven’t seen any mentioning of problems with the GX200 on forums. I really think that the GX200 is a much more reliable camera and they pushed the limits of what is possible with a small sensor camera.

More than with any other small sensor camera, you might have noticed that many Ricoh owners prefer to use their camera primarily for B&W photography. Search for instance on flickr, or see the numerous forums with Ricoh topics. The nice thing about the Ricoh GX200 is that you can set the in-camera settings to B&W, see your scene in B&W on the screen, and still save an unedited RAW file. In particular the fine noise structure of the RAW files gives a pleasant texture to the B&W photographs from the GX200.

I should say that this camera performances best up to ISO 400. If that is perfectly fine for you, and you still want a zoom lens with a little, but very usable zoom range (although I personally never use the 50 and 72mm focal lengths), than this camera can be a strong contender against the new Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 and Leica D-Lux 4. Where the image quality probably will be better from the LX3 and D-Lux 4, especially at higher ISO’s, the GX200 will absolutely be the better handling camera. The grip and user interface are unrivaled by any other manufacturer.

Ricoh GX200, f2.7, 1/160 sec, 28mm equivalent, ISO 200, +0.3 EV (DNG edited in Adobe Lightroom)

And if you want to learn about this camera and the decision making continue here.

All photographs by Wouter Brandsma

To Parts One, Two <---

Thursday, 15 January 2009

GX200: A SLR User's Verdict (Review 1 of 3)

Some six months after the release of GX200, it is gaining growing popularity among photographers. In its hometown, Japan, the GX200 was voted the second most popular compact of 2008 after Sigma DP1. Besides the applause for its surperb ergonomics, it has also won design awards in Germany, Japan and Taiwan.

In recently weeks, I have come across a number of undecided bloggers wondering if the GX200 is the right camera for them. For a quick answer, it depends really on the specific photographing style and experience of each photographer. The GX200 can be used by tyros as a full automatic P&S for sure; but it should be put to the much better use it is built for. If you are still undecided and comparing it with other comparable cameras, maybe you will find some of my previous posts/ ideas useful here, here and here. For those who are coming from the film era as I do, I am wrapping up some additional thoughts about the GX200 versus film cameras below (specifically, my Minolta SLR Dynax 7).

Digital Mindset for a Film Photographer

I bought the GX200 six months ago, which is the first serious digital camera I own. Since then, I have left the Minolta Dynax 7 gear largely untouched in the camera cabinet. In the past, besides doing portrait sessions, I would definitely bring with me on a trip the Dynax 7 at its combative best: on a 24-105mm lens plus a 75-300mm lens, a flashgun, filters and rolls of slide films. For the last two trips, one to China and another for bushwalking, I brought the GX200 instead. The relatively short period of working with the GX200 "sabotage" my almost two decades' experience with the film cameras.

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The Freedom

Needless to say, I was pounds lighter without the film camera gear clinging to me. The versatility of GX200 gave me a new perspective as a photographer on a trip: I was less buried by the entangling camera bag, the camera itself and the trouble of changing lens. I can finally enjoy the trip per se more! I still love the feel with the film SLR though: the bright, useful viewfinder, the instant start-up time and focusing speed, the possibility to use different lens and filters.

While using a film SLR, I found myself more aware of the technical side of photography like the exposure combo. Maybe the same feeling apply to the use of a big DSLR. With the palm-sized GX200, I can enjoy not only the scenery more but also a freer scope on composition and creativity. This is not because exposure is unimportant for a digital camera. But the very different costs of film and digital images do make me more generous (and carefree maybe) in pressing the shutter of GX200. Also, the extensive depth-of-field of a small sensor and the ease of post-processing reduce the technical tweaks on the spot to a minimum. So, there is much more freedom with a digital camera, especially it is a small one with a 24mm focal length and when you are on a trip, with the caveat about the need of pre-focusing which is put under Coveat Emptor in the later part of this article.

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Determining Exposure under a New Rule

There are some classic advice for exposure: "Expose for the highlights, and let the shadows take care of themselves" which works with slide film; for negative film, the classic advice is to bias the exposure towards light shadows. So, maybe you have also met some film photographers who worked around the rule by dialling the camera to, say, ISO 100 for a roll of slide film at ISO 80 and exposed without the rule or the other way round for negative films. In human language, meter light shadows with negative films but meter highlights with slide films (alternatively you may try the zone exposure method but some photographers believe that these methods are not necessary because modern SLRs are fairly reliable with their sophisticated metering systems).

For GX200 or any digital camera, a digital image should be rightly overexposed (i.e. more to the right of the live histogram without overblowing a scene) to retain the largest amount of data. So, there is a widely known new rule in digital photography, "Expose to the right (of the live histogram)", or, in my philosophical version, "overexpose it right".

Finding the "right overexposure" is important because the point of overblowing a bright area comes abruptly under the linear character of digital images, and overblown areas are irreverisable for retrieving data. With the live histogram of GX200, I have found this not difficult at all. Actually, I have found that the instant image review makes the right exposure a near no-brainer achievement. Here, a little tip is to set the image review to the "hold" position so that the image you just took shows until the shutter is pressed again. Then, in case of doubt, press the "DISP." button to check the image out on the white saturation highlights display. This saves you the trouble of pressing buttons for image review shot after shot. So, in relation to determining exposure for a desired result, I am impressed that the GX200 is as easy to use as other digital cameras and miles easier than a film SLR.

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--> To Parts Two, Three

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Film vs Digital Prints

So, we are in the Week of Review. This is my contribution (well, I just provide the link):
TheOnlinePhotographer published a post linking to a test for film versus 12MP digital in large prints. Mark that the review is in video format with sounds.

Review of GX200 by Wouter Brandsma #2 of 3

chi version (GX200 Impression 2)big
(Note: The text and photos below are published by courtesy and with copyright of the original author, Wouter Brandsma. The copyrighted Chinese translation is done by Nevin. Permission is required for use.)

The images
The GX200 sports a different sensor than the GX100 with 2 megapixels extra. Since Ricoh doesn’t develop their own sensor they have to buy what the markets offers/forces them. As a result of the new sensor Ricoh updated the GX200 image processing engine.

The new sensor resulted in some different features like a lowest ISO of 64 instead of ISO 80 with the GX100. They increased the amounts of possible in-camera settings with more B&W settings (just like the Ricoh GR Digital 2), and there is a new feature to compensate the white balance.

Even with the noise reduction off there is still some noise reduction applied on the in-camera jpegs, even at the lowest ISO. For the pixel peeper this might be a problem, but for those who actually print their work I personally see no problems. But if you don’t like any noise reduction, or you want to do your own noise reduction, it helps to shoot in RAW. And that brings me to the RAW files.

With the GX100 I intentionally underexposed slightly to retain enough information in the highlights, and because the camera had a tendency to overexpose to retain information in the shadows. Photographs had a nice and fine noise, even so after post processing that could increase the noise. With the GX200 RAW files I noticed more noise in the blue channel that restricted my post processing possibilities. As a result, I looked at how I could improve the image quality of the RAW files, prior before shooting and in the post processing. I will explain more about the post processing in the last segment, ‘the appropriate workflow’. But how to get better quality of files from a camera with a small sensor and a limited dynamic range?

More than with a dSLR you have to make choices when you expose for a scene. When you underexpose you will likely get more information in the highlights, but you will also get darker shadows. I personally don’t mind darker shadows, but unfortunately underexposing will also result in darker mid grays. In post processing this can (and I noticed often will) lead to more blotchy noise in your images. I noticed that when you don’t compensate your metering, or even slightly overexpose, at daytime or with a bright light you will get more detailed RAW files. This works really well at ISO 200 and even ISO 400. And with some luck, when you nail your exposure right, you will get pretty decent ISO 800 photographs too. The most important part is to expose your subject right, even when that will give some blown highlights at other parts of your photograph.

Ricoh GX200, f4.6, 1/30 sec, 35mm equivalent, ISO 200, +0.3 EV (DNG edited in Adobe Lightroom)

Use the LCD screen or viewfinder to frame, and use the live histogram to expose properly. The histogram is so much more accurate than the LCD screen. The metering system is pretty accurate, and the white balance works quite well (although for my B&W photography I am personally less interested in the accuracy of the white balance).

While I had some difficulties with the RAW files at first I start to like the look of the GX200 RAW files. I just took some extra time. The reason I start to like it has to do with the last segment. I have already made large A2-sized prints and they look sweet. The noise that might be a problem for you on screen will mostly be gone when printed (or give a pleasant texture).

But how are the jpegs? In my opinion these are very useful. Sharpness at +2 will give you some sharpening artifacts. Like said before, there will always be some sort of noise reduction, even when you switched the in-camera noise reduction off. But I think it doesn’t harm the photograph. Of course for those who prefer to view their photographs at 100% magnification it will be. But those who actually view them normally or even print them will have no problems in my opinion.

Ricoh GX200, f4.1, 1/470 sec, 35mm equivalent, ISO 100, 0.0 EV (B&W jpeg edited in Adobe Lightroom)

To Part One <--    --> To Part Three

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Mini Review of GRD II by Colin Bradbury

Today, we are going to learn some useful insights from Colin Bradbury in his mini review of the GRD II. Colin is a professional photographer stationed in Hong Kong. Photos are copyrighted to him.

(St Agnes, Cornwall. 'Environmental' portrait)

By COLIN BRADBURY: Just back from 2 weeks in rural England with the family over Christmas. Since this was a family holiday and not a photography trip I wanted to travel light. On that basis I left my DSLRs at home and took the GRDII as my only camera to save weight but also to see how useful it would be as the only camera in a variety of photographic situations. I have to say I was very pleased with it and didn't miss having a zoom or longer lens at all. The 28mm is a perfect Bradbury02single focal length and proved itself useful in a variety of situations. Landscapes are clearly well suited to the 28mm but less obviously I have also found it to be great for portraits. With a 28mm you are forced to do 2 things. First, to get in closer to the subject, which gives the images a real feeling of intimacy. Secondly, I found myself naturally including more of the surroundings in my people pictures, making them much more interesting as environmental rather than just 'straight' portraits.

(Bodmin & Wenford steam railway, Cornwall. Available light portrait)

As far as settings were concerned, I bought the camera primarily for it's high degree of manual control and ended up using manual exposure, Spot Bradbury03metering and Spot AF most of the time. The ability to switch to manual focus for landscapes and 'action' shots (pre-focusing in the case of the latter to make use of the large depth of field for the 28mm) gives the GRD additional flexibilty and expands the range of situations where the camera 'works'. Overall, the user interface is very intuitive and the shortcuts which I used for rapid shifting of ISO and focus modes were used regularly.

(Porthtowan, Cornwall. Use of wide angle / perspective)



I had been considering buying the 40mm and 21mm converters but I think I will wait awhile and make myself learn much as possible about the potential of the 28mm. There is definitely something satisfying about taking photography back to basics and I think one of the really attractive aspects of the GRD is that 'less is more'.

(Porthtowan, Cornwall. Landscape - benefits of manual exposure control)


About Colin: 20 years photographic experience. Started as a hobby - landscape, travel, underwater photography - then 9 years ago I spent 3 years studying for a photography degree before turning professional. I opened 2 high street portrait studios and ran them for 4 years. Also continued to work as a freelance photographer covering sailing, local press work and landscape work for local tourist board. Current gear - GRDII, Nikon D2x, Hasselblad 501.

(Sai Kung, Hong Kong. Marmite the family dog. Close up wide angle)

Monday, 12 January 2009

Aim At the Moons

No pun intended. No typo. I really mean aiming my eyes at the moon...s. I didn't aim the camera at the moons, of course. The auto-focusing would have easily failed.

I have been arranging posts for this week, featuring reviews of the GX200 and the GRD II. But over the weekend I still took lots of pictures with the camera when I was not on the computer. I took pictures until quite late into the day. So when I was on my way home, the crystal clear sky with the cold breeze and an almost empty street was so refreshing that I simply stood on the street as long as my legs could afford me, holding up my head and aiming my eyes at the moons. There, I chased the moonlight to watch the love stories of the Moons. Let me tell them to you with my camera.

Tonight there is a stir among the palm leaves, a swell in the sea, full moon, like the heart throb of the world.

From what unknown sky hast thou carried in thy silence the delightful secret of love?

~ adapted from Tagore Rabindranath

R0012470 (Medium)(1) Moons in Love: The young Mr Moon has just accompanied her girlfriend, Miss Moon, home after a night of good times. Before leaving, Mr Moon turns around towards the girl and waved kisses to say goodnight.

R0012418 (Medium)(2) Moon Walking: Now the young Mr Moon is going back home. He is light-spirited, visualising the sweet smiles of Miss Moon, and whistles to himself. He walks past and lightens up the hills which greet him in chorus, wishing him a good love relationship.

R0012466 (Medium)(3) Moons' Romance: Our young Mr Moon is almost home. It is no wonder that he is going to have a good relationship with his love. He has two good examples: his parents, Father and Mother Moon. When Mr Moon is at the doorstep, he overhears the poem read by the old man to the old lady. The poem is, No Love Like Yours that Conquers More, written by Nevin Young:

I love watching you do the household errands Cos your swift movements always stage a graceful dance

I love waiting for your next laugther Cos it's a treat to a feast with the best starter

Sometimes I grow weary But your smiles ascent me to His heavenly beauty

Sometimes I lose heart But your prayers fill me with hot faith tarts

So when I wake up at dawn Sniffing your sweet aura I wonder why life can't be made as long As an everlasting song

Review of GX200 by Wouter Brandsma #1 of 3

chi version (GX200 Impression 1)done
(Note: The text and photos below are published by courtesy and with copyright of the original author, Wouter Brandsma. The copyrighted Chinese translation is done by Nevin. Permission is required for use.)

Ricoh GX200, f2.9, 1/80 sec, 35mm equivalent, ISO 100, -0.7 EV (B&W jpeg edited in Adobe Lightroom)

Late August I posted my first initial impressions of the Ricoh GX200. Being enthusiastic about the previous GX100, and the handling of the GX200 prior to my writing, I was somewhat disappointed by the quality of the GX200 RAW files. I had used the camera for a few weeks after receiving it without being able to review the photographs. When I viewed the photographs large on screen the first time I noticed I could not process the photographs the way I used and wanted to do. The editing resulted in more unintended noise, and I missed the byte. The following months I kept using the camera, changed in-camera settings, experimented with under- and overexposing, and had a relook at my image processing in Adobe Lightroom (or other applications) to improve the quality of the images.

And I can say that I have changed my initial thoughts about the GX200. I will explain how I have experimented with the camera and processing software to change my mind. Therefore I will describe a few important items that matters to me when it comes to a camera (though understand that every item is my personal opinion and the readers opinion may and can certainly differ). The three most important items are:

  • Camera handling
  • The images
  • And appropriate workflow

Camera handling

In my first initial impressions I described some of the improvements to the previous model, the GX100. Probably most noticeable is the larger LCD screen with more pixels. As a result the screen is much sharper and works pleasantly. It remains a bright and clear screen that is very useful at bright sunshine. The addition of the third MY setting and an extra function button are welcome new features too. With the GX100 I had assigned the AE option to the function button, but I had to use my left hand to press that button. Now I have the AE option assigned to the second function button, and I can change the most important settings with my right hand. The first function button is not assigned to ISO, so when I want to change the ISO value I can access that menu with a single button.

Ricoh GX200, f4.3, 1/440 sec, 28mm equivalent, ISO 100, -0.3 EV (DNG edited in Adobe Lightroom)

The shape and grip of the GX200 haven’t changed, but there was really no need to in my opinion. The camera is slightly larger than the Ricoh GR Digital II, but significantly smaller than the Canon Powershot G9 and G10. The camera really has the appearance of a serious camera with a nice black finish.

The camera comes standard with a removable lens cap. Some people, me included, do sometimes forget to remove it when switched on. Thankfully the screens displays a warning. And for those interested, Ricoh supplies a handy pizza like lens cap.

The most significant improvement of the GX200 are the writing times when shooting RAW. It is fast and nimble, and there is basically no hesitation to not shoot RAW with this camera. It now even can shoot 1:1 RAW (requested by many)! Ricoh also added flash compensation to the GX200 which works perfectly in my opinion.

I personally think that Ricoh listened really well to their Ricoh GX100 users, and last year reviewers. Many of the changes on the camera are related to the handling and were requested on many forums and in reviews. What remained is an excellent, easy, comfortable, and most definitely fast compact camera that fits within a niche market. The camera has some unique features unrivaled by its competition, like the step zoom, the three recorded settings, the clear and user-friendly LCD screen and user interface.

Ricoh GX200, f4.3, 1/1400 sec, 28mm equivalent, ISO 100, -0.3 EV (B&W jpeg edited in Adobe Lightroom)

--> To Parts Two, Three

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Few and Far Between (Tai O Series #5)

taio3 (Medium)

I strolled along a barely paved path that eventually led to the woods with a modest Chinese pavilion perching on a hilly western tip and commanding a faint view seaward to the airport sitting in the valley afar. Unlike weekends, the sight of visitors was few and far between on the way. A few friendly locals might have passed me by. I, turning at far many more bends than expected, saw time and again tall trees drag out of the ground enormously entangled roots as if waiting aimlessly to be untangled, electricity poles spontaneously point to the sky as if inviting passers-by to cloud-gazing, and raw banana bunches overhang earthy parapets as if yearning for a peek of the path and the world beyond.

Twists and turns lay ahead and as unprepared as I could be this picture was unfolded to me. A smart red mailbox, however makeshift it might be, stood atop a melancholic pile of bamboos wanting to join their peers and discharge their rightful duties whether on the bridge or in the opera hall. I almost heard them lament. I paused, feeling the camera hanging on my neck, and reached for the mailbox. No sooner had I instantly held up my camera than a boy shouted to her mum through a window at the end of the adjoining alley, "Mum, what is he taking?"

I took the picture, smiled back to the boy, with whom the mother was too engrossed in her washing to give him an answer, and walked on. 

And so this closes the last instalment of the Tai O series.  The slow progression of this series in five instalments is intended to give readers an impression that there is also a very slow pace of life existing in Hong Kong.  If you wish to review the previous instalments, here are no. 1, 2, 3 and 4. (All photos taken with Minolta Dynax 7)

If you're interested in visiting Tai O the next time in Hong Kong, its location is illustrated below (Tai O is accessible by bus from the Tung Chung bus terminus next to the Tung Chung MTR Station.  The HK Int'l Airport is close to Tung Chung):