The GXR body itself consists of only the LCD display, a flash strobe and hot shoe, microphone and speaker, secondary image processor, miscellaneous connectivity, battery and flash slots, plus the various control buttons and dials. It's an interesting approach that offers a combination of advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, the GXR's sensor and lens designs can be tailored to each other for optimal image quality and performance. The sensor technology and size can vary depending on the lens with which they're bundled. More complex zoom lenses can be reduced in size and weight by using a smaller imager, while less complex lenses can be matched with a larger sensor offering better image quality. Potential drawbacks include the increased complexity of the mechanical and electrical connections between camera module and camera body, as well as the fact that lens upgrades are tied to sensor upgrades. The design also places the most expensive components in the camera module, leaving only relatively lower-cost componentry in the camera body for reuse with each module.
At its November 2009 launch, Ricoh offered two lens/sensor modules for the Ricoh GXR. One provided a 3x optical zoom range from 24mm to 72mm equivalents with an aperture varying from f/2.5 to f/4.4 across the zoom range, and included a 1/1.7" CCD image sensor. The other offered a fixed focal length equivalent to 50mm with a maximum aperture of f/2.5, and opted for an APS-C CMOS image sensor. In February 2010, Ricoh announced the development of two additional modules -- an APS-C 28mm prime, and a 28-300mm zoom -- and it the latter of these that the company has further described today.
Officially named the "Camera unit RICOH LENS P10 28-300 mm F3.5-5.6 VC", the new module is based around a 1/2.3"-type CMOS image sensor with ten megapixel resolution, coupled to a 28 - 300mm equivalent, f/3.5 - f/5.6 lens. The module also incorporates sensor shift-type vibration correction, and allows focusing as close as one centimeter at wide angle, or 27 centimeters at telephoto. Shutter speeds range from 1/2,000 to 30 seconds, metering modes are 256-segment multi, center-weighted, and spot, while focus modes include multiple, spot and manual. ISO sensitivity ranges from 100 to 3,200 equivalents, and operating modes include Program, Aperture- or Shutter-priority, and Manual. Full-resolution burst shooting is possible at 5 frames per second for 15 frames, or as many as 26 frames can be captured in a 30fps burst if resolution is dropped to 2.2 megapixels. If you're willing to reduce resolution more drastically to just 640 x 480 pixels, there's a burst mode capable of capturing 120 frames in a single one-second burst.. Still image file formats include DNG Raw and JPEG.
Pricing and availability haven't yet been announced, but are likely to remain Ricoh's largest challenge in marketing the GXR. US street pricing for the GXR camera body alone is around $550, while the current camera modules are priced at around $440 for the 1/1.7" CCD-based 3x zoom module, and around $830 for the APS-C based 50mm prime module. Presuming similar pricing for the two new modules, it seems likely that a full system with two primes, a 3x zoom and a 10.7x zoom will run somewhere around $3,100 without the optional external viewfinder accessory. That could prove a tough sell, given that one could easily purchase a couple of compact cameras and an SLR body with similar lenses and sensors for significantly less.
For more details, read our Ricoh GXR preview. Several sample images can be seen on Ricoh's website.