Saturday, 9 October 2010

GXR P10 Field Report: Image Quality

(Full-sized images included; links given in the paragraphs)
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(continue from yesterday)
The images at normal setting taken with Ricoh cameras are with an unmistakeable character: the images are less heavily coloured.  The colour is less contrasty, giving out a taste of what mellow is to red wine, supposing you are not a teetotaller.  For those who preferred images with vivid colours, Ricoh cameras used to give an impression of producing washy images.
RIMG0816 (Medium)This is a shot by P10 giving out a colour of Ricoh's distinctive less contrasty feel adored by many Ricoh fans.
Probably after GX200, Ricoh has done some adjustment to the image settings to cater for users with such a taste.  The adjusted choices for colour settings are also carried through to the GXR, allowing users to switch between Vivid, Standard, Nature, Black and White, Blank and White (Toning Effect) and two customisable settings whereby users can adjust vividness, contrast, sharpness and highlight individual colours.  (Note: Fact is, if you wonder, the functions and photographic settings of the GXR are applicable to any modules mounted on it.) For those who prefer vivid colours, the image is like this (the second image is at Standard setting):
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A real-world shot at the Vivid setting:
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Many Ricoh camera owners, notably the GRD users, are attracted by the texture and film-like grains of its black and white images.  The effect is more pronounced in images at high ISO values.  The P10 is of no exception in this regard.
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The images produced by the P10, as well as by CX3, have an above average crispness on the whole.  Certainly the level of sharpness can also be tweaked to your liking in the camera.  The images are not at the top of the class in crispness though.  But generally speaking, images taken at the widest focal length are pretty in shape from corner to corner.  At the farthest end of the lens, the images seem soft at corners but the details on the whole are retained to a fairly satisfactory level.  Bear in mind the sensor is really tiny:
At 24mm :-
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At 300mm :-
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crop 1 farthest
crop 2 farthest
Ricoh's Smooth Imaging  Engine IV boosts a much improved algorithm in processing the images as compared with that of the GX200.   My impression is that from ISO 400 onwards, the GX200's images are outshone.  Actually, under the right lighting conditions at daytime, the GX200's images can look lacklustre in comparison.
For the detailed performance of the P10 at all ISO values, visit here to check out the full-sized images.  In a nutshell, the noise and details are nicely balanced for images at as high as ISO 400.  Images at ISO 800 are with smudgy details to a reasonable extent, taking into consideration the sensor size.  Ricoh has done a adequate job in this area.
For those RAW shooters, the full-sized RAW shots taken at ISO 800 are uploaded here,  The shots were done at similar settings and locations as those taken with the cameras tested before.  You will find your way after the link.
(to be continued)

Friday, 8 October 2010

GXR P10 Field Report: In Action

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(continue from yesterday)
When the P10 and the CX3 arrived on the desk, the first question sprang to mind was the rationale of choosing the P10 over the CX3 in terms of price because they are just twin brothers clad differently.  Of course, for existing GXR owners, the query on their mind may be the need to give the diminutive-sensor camera all the additional functions by the strength of the GXR body.  "If I really want one, why don't I simply buy the CX3, leaving the existing module on the GXR module?" they may ask.

But after using the P10 and the CX3 concurrently for a few days, the difference was unmistakeable just as a Panasonic Lumix Phone is not the same as a Panasonic Lumix camera.

The Pluses of P10
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The P10 allows users to shoot RAWs.  Both cameras have a high speed continuous shooting function.  With the P10, you can do it in RAWs too.  Giving the RAW capability to the tiny-sensor P10 is generous.  The interesting question is why users wish to shoot RAWs with a tiny-sensor camera.  It is a point which should not require making that experienced users can get juicier images out of RAWs.  However, the advantages are not that huge in this case.  After all, the limitation is in the tiny sensor.

The really noticeable edge of the P10 over the CX3 is in the GXR body.  The ergonomics, the availability of S/A/M modes, the one-press snap shot function, R1230244 (Small)the swift access to tunings and lots of customisable adjustments with the GXR simply put the P10 at another level.  When you use the P10, you possibly won't realise that it is a point-and-shooter.  And it is not, having regards the quick response the GXR body allows the user to get what he wants with the right photographic settings. If only it has an APS-C sensor.

The Gimmicks
Both cameras boost a DR (dynamic range) function, which has become the norm in many cameras, big or small.  The function on the CX3 is activated on the function wheel, while on the P10 it is subsumed under the scene mode.  In short, under the DR function, the camera takes two shots of the same scene to combine into one.  The end result can show the image with a wider dynamic range of, to my eye, an approximately +3 EV.

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Since two shots will be taken at the same time, the user has to hold the camera steady.  I have no problem with this at all.  Any meaty belly can be a free, gentle and reliable platform to steady it as long as the owner can hold breath for a R1230253 (Small)split of a second.

The P10 module is suffixed with the abbreviation VC, meaning vibration correction.  Shake correction is a genius invention for cameras.  But all experienced photographers know that the function is best used for when the lens is zoomed out and a higher ISO setting is not preferred; not when you really shake your hands.  Below is an image taken with the P10 zoomed to the equivalent of 300mm on my hand which leaned on a railing.

Roll down for the two 100% crop images.

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crop a1 crop a2

It worked fine. 

Another shot below was done at a focal length of about 70mm at 1/20s, which is five steps beyond the safety shutter speed.  I just handheld the camera, did a few shots and got this right one.  The 100% crop is right underneath.

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crop b
Worked fine too. (Note to UK readers: photographing police is neither a sin nor an offence in Hong Kong)

Another gimmick which worth mentioning is the multi-pattern auto WB.  It is designed to work around scenes with mixed light sources.
 
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This shot was done with the light on the ceiling (yellowish light bulbs) and the table lamp (white light) turned on.  All the colours in this final image are correctly rendered, which are very close to the original colours in reality.

(to be continued)

Thursday, 7 October 2010

GXR P10 Field Report: Introduction

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The GXR is the system which Ricoh has been working diligently on and firmly believes in.  Its initial launch received mixed feelings among the photography community.  Those who were for it believed that the future expansion could make it exciting.  Those who objected it queried the design to bundle the sensor and the lens which is against the common logic.  This situation still holds true.

It has not been a long time since the system saw the light of the day.  But we have since then seen lots of development in the camera market.  While the mirror-less cameras have started to even eat in the market share of the DSLRs according to some market survey, the niche market used to be Ricoh's stronghold has become pretty crowded with models from most market players.  The GXR system is obviously sitting astride the two markets, which sounds even less optimistic against this background.

After all, its price tag doesn't sound right at the existing fierce market competition.  That said, the success (and the fall of, for that matter) of either an individal, a company or a country is the ability to dream and realise it.  It is hard to believe that the GXR is a coincidence.  When the system is expanded to a certain stage with some interesting components, the landscape can change.  It is also noted that Ricoh, at least in Hong Kong as we noticed, has regularly made special offers for the GXR body.

ricoh-GXR-roadmap
Before Ricoh delivers the promises as per the roadmap it announced in Photokina 2010, and the availability of the new APS-C module, there are three existing modules for the system.  GX Garnerings has already produced a user's report for the 50mm APS-C module and the 24-70mm 1/1.7" module (which is in fact the equivalence of the GX200).  Several weeks ago, the P10 module, along with the CX3, was sent to GX Garnerings for field testing.

This user's report is going to focus on the P10 module, with a few notes about the CX3 for comparison purpose because the P10 is actually its GXR version.

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Handling
The control of the GXR system is ace, save the menu system which is simply listing out the shooting options and the camera setups in respective taps.  People new to Ricoh cameras will take some time to get used to it.  The good news is that the chance for users to dive into the menu proper is few and far between.

It is a standard design on the GRDs, GXs and now the GXR that the menu settings can be accessed through the customisable quick menu.  A press on the adj. rocker (right under the on/off switch; see image below) takes the user to exactly that menu where changes to four customised settings can be made by rolling the front wheel on the body and a few presses on the rocker.

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As noticed in the image, the MY slots are also customisable so that user can actually put each set of their commonly used settings into each of them for quick recall.  This implementation has been adopted by other camera makers to different extent.

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But in addition to the MY slots, Ricoh further enhances this area by adding a Direct button for activating a DSLR-like menu for quick tuning of the most critical functions. When activated, the menu is superimposed on the screen in a 4-level density. On the forth level, the Direct menu is translucently superimposed on the LCD display, allowing users to check the image and various settings at a glance.  The changes to the options can be made through pressing the rocker and rolling the front wheel.  It is blissfully intuitive.

On top of these, the Fn1 and Fn2 can also be customised for activating the frequently accessed functions.  All these features are brought together in a well-thought out layout.  During the period testing the three GXR modules, the need to dive into the menu proper is minial.

Look at the image right above, and you will see that the other buttons at the back of the body are pretty self-explanatory.

R1230258 (Medium) This shot of the colour setting further illustrates how extensively the camera settings can be tweaked and turned to the user's liking.  Once confirmed, your favourite colour tinge can be stored into the any of the MY slots.  So, even though at the heart the P10 and the CX3 are the same, the GXR has given the P10 much versatility over the CX3.  And this tradition to give users such an elbow's room is a big draw for fans of Ricoh's GRD, GX and the GXR series.

Of all the serious compacts cameras, including the S95 which GX Garnerings has played with too, the GXR is still top-notch in handling in its class.  We have not tried the EX1 yet, however.

(to be continued)

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Cheek-by-Jowl

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When the British colonial rule was at its heyday, Hong Kong was an important member of the Empire.  The most important wherefore for the why is that Hong Kong is located cheek by jowl with communist China, whom the Americans tried to, and still does, encircle.  With such an advantage of close proximity, Hong Kong was engineered to become the Far East commanding post to spy China in the many years to come.  The guess of removal of Britain's spying facilities from Hong Kong before the Union Jack was lowered in 1997 was so widely circulated that it almost became a known secret.  Granted, there will probably be no definitive evidence to prove the mystery.

East and West: China, Power and the Future of AsiaOut of the need to rule, the British colonists had undoubtedly laid the foundation for Hong Kong to become a great, and certainly rich, city.  As Lord Patten, the last governor of Hong Kong, pointed out in his book "East and West", the British had in its many colonies been "installing democracy [not really until the last few years, mark that], training civil servants, policemen adn soldiers [British soilders were always stationed in Hong Kong which were assisted by the Gurkhas and other paramilitary corps], establishing indepedent courts, entrenching civil liberties."

In the case of Hong Kong, there was one more achievement, and an unmistakable one, which outshone the rest on the list of colonies: it was and still is a rich city.  The robust economy had fueled up and in returned been fueled by speculative activities on the property market.  Today, this trend is carrying on with the influx of captials from the emerging riches in Mainland China on a daily basis.

Lots of postcard show the scenery view of Hong Kong from the Peak Tower, which is the distinctively wok-shaped building in the background.  Here we have a view looking back up to it, showing you how densely built this territory actually is.

The property market opportunists have played a major part in this cheek-by-jowl setting, you bet.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Beauty Contest: Cast Your Vote

We all know that there was a reason why cameras in the more proper film era were black: any colour cast on the body could dupe the metering or be reflected onto the subject under certain circumstances; the black colour makes the best non-reflective surface for that matter.

Today, while cameras are becoming consumer goods like cell phones, more cameras are turned into clownish colours.  This infectious disease is spreading far and wide as evidenced by [eye-blinding warning] here and here.

What save us from the outbreak of a possible epidemic is the welcomed wind of change which clothes a larger number of cameras in what would be tailcoats to men.

So, ladies and gentlemen, please cast your vote for the best looking winners:

Monday, 4 October 2010

Trip to Treasure Town 2

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Venturing down to the old areas in Hong Kong, you will see traces of the once possibly bustling neighbourhoods through the sight of some long-forgotten businesses.  These stores of yore are usually stuffed with materials useful to their customers but totally unimaginable to the minds of those otherwise.  To these spectators' eye, what  is more valuable about them is that they showcase what the district thrived on in the past.

This "ships' stores" is located in Yau Ma Tei, which is at the heart of the busy city centre on the Kowloon side to this day.  There are stores galore of the same sort in the area.  They are actually the standing testimony to Yau Ma Tei being a seamen's district in the old days when merchant ships coming into Hong Kong moored nearby for replenishment before sailing.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Load Off

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Overloaded?   Great that we have a break!

This is Sunday.  Have a rest day!