Ricoh GXR P10 Micro-system camera at a glance:

  • 10 million effective pixels
  • 1/2.3in CMOS sensor 28-300mm equivalent zoom lens
  • 120fps burst mode
  • 3in, 920,000-dot LCD screen
  • Street price £499.99 including GXR body unit

When we first tested the Ricoh GXR system in AP 23 January, we found the concept highly intriguing, despite having reservations about its price and practicality.

Ricoh describes the GXR as an ‘interchangeable-unit camera’ system. The lens, sensor and image-processing engine are contained within a unit that slides onto the camera body. In effect, it is like having a new camera each time a new unit is bought, but with all the controls and dials retained on the main part of the camera body.

At the launch of the GXR, Ricoh introduced two modules: the 12-million-pixel, 50mm f/2.5 macro A12; and the ten-million-pixel, 24-72mm f/2.2-4.4 VC S10. Now Ricoh has released the P10 with 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 VC lens. Combined with the body unit, this module is aimed at those looking for the size, convenience and the large zoom of a compact camera but with the level of control of a DSLR.


The P10 module does not feature a true 28-300mm optic, but rather a 4.9-52.2mm lens. As the sensor of the P10 is a small, 1/2.3in, back-illuminated CMOS sensor, the lens is the equivalent of a 28-300mm optic on a 35mm model. This sensor is the same size as that used on many compact cameras and is just a fraction of the size of those sensors used on DSLR cameras.

As a result, you would expect the image quality of the P10 to be comparable with that from a compact or bridge camera.

Following the approach adopted by Canon with its PowerShot G11, Ricoh has opted against using an extremely high-resolution sensor. Instead, the P10’s sensor is restricted to ten million pixels, aiming for better image quality over higher resolution.

The ten-million-pixel CMOS sensor used on the P10 is also back illuminated. This has nothing to do with the sensor being illuminated in the same way as an LCD screen, but instead refers to the fact that the sensor is wired at its rear, which makes more efficient use of the light hitting the sensor surface. In turn, this should allow the camera to perform well in low light, compared to a standard CMOS sensor design.

Given that Ricoh has stated that the lens design of the P10 is the same as that in the Ricoh CX3, it is likely that the ten-million-pixel, back-illuminated CMOS sensors used in both cameras are also the same.

One feature of the P10 that isn’t found in the other two GXR camera units, or the CX3, is the Ultra High Speed Continuous Shooting mode. This allows an impressive burst frame rate of 120fps. However, this does have its limitations, as the burst is restricted to 1sec and the resolution is reduced to only 640×480-pixel VGA resolution.

Although the GXR P10 looks rather minimalistic, below its surface are a number of features that on paper should make it stand head and shoulders above most top-end digital compact cameras. With the price of the GXR body and P10 camera unit kit having an RRP of £499.99, it is an interesting prospect, not just for existing GXR-system users, but also for those looking for a high-end compact camera.

Build and Handling

Like the other GXR units in the range, the P10 slides onto the front of the camera body. Both the camera body and the P10 camera unit are made of magnesium alloy and lock firmly and securely into place.

Before the GXR body can control any new camera units it must first have its firmware updated. This task is effortless as Ricoh has loaded the firmware into the P10 unit so that it automatically installs the first time the camera is attached to the GXR body.

As the body component contains all the buttons and controls, the handling of the camera remains largely unchanged from our test of the existing two camera units.

Without zoom and focusing rings, the 28-300mm lens is operated as it would be on a regular compact camera, with a rocker switch used to zoom in and out.

In Step Zoom mode, the lens stops at the 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, 105mm, 135mm, 200mm and 300mm equivalent focal lengths. However, Stepless mode allows for around 30 different positions along the zoom range. Zooming through the entire focal range in this mode is reasonably fast, taking a respectable 1.5secs.

Compared to the other top-end compact cameras, the GXR P10 is comparable in size and specification to the Canon PowerShot G11. However, it is far larger than the Ricoh CX3, with which it shares the same lens and image sensor.

Noise, Resolution and Sensitivity

Despite the backlit sensor being designed to reduce noise, I found that luminance noise is present in images captured at all ISO sensitivities, including the minimum ISO 100. However, it doesn’t become an issue until around ISO 800.

The default noise-reduction setting helps to reduce the luminance noise, but images do start to show the characteristic smudged appearance as the sensitivity increases. Of course, DNG raw files show the true extent of the luminance noise, but also more detail.

Chroma noise also increases with the ISO sensitivity and by the time the maximum ISO 3200 sensitivity is reached, JPEG images are almost devoid of any fine detail and look like impressionist paintings.

With no noise reduction, raw files are obliterated by both luminance and colour noise, and it is difficult to make out any details. Even with the colour noise reduction in Adobe Camera Raw 5 set to 100, purple and green patches are still visible. Reducing the luminance noise is even more difficult and it is almost a fruitless task, with results no better than the in-camera JPEGs.

These images show 72ppi (100% on a computer screen) sections of images of a resolution chart, captured using the lens set to around 105mm equivalent. We show the section of the resolution chart where the camera starts to fail to reproduce the lines separately. The higher the number visible in these images, the better the camera’s detail resolution is at the specified sensitivity setting.


Image: The dark midtone produced by the P10 leaves plenty of detail in highlights when adjusting raw images

As the Ricoh GXR P10 module is designed to replace a compact camera, most photographers will no doubt take advantage of the P10’s 256-segment Multi metering system.

Multi metering does a good job of second-guessing exactly how to expose scenes correctly, with a tendency to underexpose slightly to preserve highlight detail. Sometimes this leaves images needing a slight boost to the contrast, either by changing the camera’s image settings or editing in post-capture software.

On an extremely bright sunny day, the maximum f/3.5 aperture and ISO 100 sensitivity pushed the 1/2000sec shutter speed to its limit. Obviously the aperture can be stopped down, but only to f/7.5 at the widest focal length, and occasionally even this 1EV difference caused images to be a shade too bright. At the 300mm end of the zoom the smallest aperture is f/15.4, which I found fine in bright conditions.

When dealing with scenes that are difficult to meter, exposure compensation allows the metered exposure to be adjusted by up to ±4EV. Centreweighted and spot metering are also available for even more precise exposures.


With no mirror-reflex mechanism, the P10 relies on contrast-detection AF. In most conditions the P10’s lens focuses quickly, but it does struggle a little in low light, hunting back and forth once or twice before detecting the highest point of contrast. In such situations the camera’s built-in green AF-assist LED illuminates the scene, helping the camera to focus.

When the lens is set to the 300mm focal length, the maximum aperture becomes f/5.6, which again seems to slow the AF down slightly compared to when it is at is widest setting.

The focusing of the P10 camera module is comparable to high-end compact cameras such as the Canon PowerShot G11 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ series. Focusing is more than quick enough for holiday photographs and social occasions. For even more precise focusing manual focus mode is available, although it is awkward to use.

White Balance and Colour

Colours in the P10’s standard image settings are realistic, but with enough saturation and contrast to be printed or displayed with no adjustment.

When the DNG raw files are opened in Adobe Camera Raw 5, the images are a less vivid, and could do with a touch more contrast. The major advantage of using the DNG raw format, rather than a proprietary format, is that it can be edited in nearly all raw image-editing suites without the software needing to be updated.

The automatic white balance setting of the P10 also generates pleasing results, although it does have a tendency to render images slightly cool in bright but hazy conditions.

Under tungsten lighting both the AWB and tungsten settings do a good job of removing enough of the orange/yellow colour cast but without being completely neutral. This leaves images with some of the atmospheric ambient lighting that can otherwise be lost.

Image: In most situations the colour and contrast in images produced by the P10 are good, although midtones could do with brightening slightly

Dynamic Range

The main problem with the dynamic range of the GXR P10 is that the detail in the shadow areas is affected by noise.

Generally, highlights are preserved with most exposures, but it can be difficult to lift dark shadow areas to bring out detail. While brightening the exposure by +2EV helped to reveal shadow detail, it also revealed chroma noise, even at ISO 400.

Again, this shouldn’t be too much of a concern for those who are looking at the P10 as a replacement for a compact camera. However, those photographers who like to edit and adjust images may be a little frustrated by the amount of information that can be recovered.

Live View, Viewfinder, LCD and Video

One thing that became very apparent on a bright sunny day is how difficult it is to see the 3in, 920,000-dot screen. It also inconveniently shows up any fingerprint marks. In these situations it is far easier to use the optional VF-2 LCD viewfinder (price £219.99). With a 920,000-dot resolution, the viewfinder is bright and offers a 100% field of view.

In more subdued lighting conditions the screen is bright and clear, and its resolution means it is excellent for checking that fine details have been correctly captured.

Like the other camera modules, the P10 is capable of video capture with a maximum 1280×720-pixel resolution. Unfortunately, the camera suffers badly from sensor wobble, with vertical lines very noticeably tilting even when panning at a fairly moderate speed.


Looking at it as a camera in its own right, there is a lot to like about the P10. The 28-300mm equivalent focal length is perfect for taking on your travels, and the ten-million-pixel resolution should allow images to be printed and displayed at a reasonable size.

While noise is visible even at the lowest ISO setting, it doesn’t start to become detrimental until ISO 400. Most photographers will rarely shoot above this setting, and those who do would be advised to look at another model.

The main problem is that the P10 and GXR body has a street price of around £500. This is over £100 more than the Canon PowerShot G11. It is also £200 more than the smaller and lighter Ricoh CX3, with which the P10 shares the same lens and sensor.

Those photographers who already own a GXR body unit will find the P10 a useful addition, but it doesn’t offer enough over existing top-end compacts to entice new photographers to the GXR system.