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.
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.