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Ricoh's GXR digital camera, shown with optional APS-C sensor / 50mm equiv. lens module attached. Photo provided by Ricoh. Ricoh: Two new camera modules for GXR body
(Wednesday, February 24, 2010 - 13:59 EST)

Japan's Ricoh Co. Ltd. has announced the development of two new camera modules for its unusual Ricoh GXR camera system, which features interchangeable lens / sensor / image processor combinations that slot onto the front of the GXR camera body.

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 launch last November, 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. To these initial selections, Ricoh has added a further two modules.

There's a new long-zoom module with a back-illuminated CMOS sensor of unspecified (but likely rather modest) size, coupled to a 28 - 300mm equivalent, f/3.5 - f/5.6 lens. This module also incorporates vibration correction, although it hasn't been specified which technology Ricoh has opted for. The tentatively named "Camera unit RICOH LENS P10 28-300 mm F3.5-5.6 VC" module has a frame rate of 120 frames per second, although it should be noted that Ricoh hasn't specified the sensor resolution yet, let alone whether the high-speed burst mode is available at full resolution. Other functions of this module include Raw shooting and multi-point AF.

Alongside the long zoom module, there's also a new fixed focal length module based around an APS-C sized CMOS sensor. Tentatively named the "Camera unit GR LENS A12 28 mm F2.5", this module offers an effective focal length of 28mm with a maximum aperture of F2.5, manual focusing capability, and GR Engine IIII image processor.

Both new units will be on display at the Camera and Photo Imaging Show in Japan next month. 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.

Original Source Press Release:

Ricoh announces the development of two new units for the GXR interchangeable unit camera system

Tokyo, Japan, February 23, 2010—Ricoh Co., Ltd. (president and CEO: Shiro Kondo) today announced the development of two new camera units for the GXR interchangeable unit camera system introduced on December 18, 2009.

The GXR is a revolutionary new interchangeable unit camera system in which lenses can be changed by mounting camera units that integrate lens, image sensor, and image processing engine into a single unit. In addition, to fully utilize this system's unique ability to accommodate interchangeable units other than camera units, Ricoh is also investigating possibilities for development of a variety of other devices.

This announcement concerns the introduction of the following two new camera units, as an addition to the two camera units introduced at the same time as the GXR body.

  1. Camera unit RICOH LENS P10 28-300 mm F3.5-5.6 VC* (name tentative)

    • With an original Ricoh noise reduction function and a back-illuminated CMOS sensor, this camera unit expands the photographer's range of expression by making it possible to shoot high-quality images in scenes ranging from low light to bright light.

    • Featuring a high-magnification 10.7x (28-300 mm) optical wide-angle zoom, this unit has 120 frame/second high-speed continuous shooting ability plus a wide range of other functional capabilities such as RAW image recording, image settings adjustable to nine levels, multi-target AF, and much more.

    • Start of sales planned for the summer of 2010.

    • The "VC" designation indicates that this unit has the vibration correction function developed independently by Ricoh.

  2. Camera unit GR LENS A12 28 mm F2.5 (name tentative)

    • Featuring a newly developed 28 mm fixed-focal-length GR LENS, this camera unit achieves high resolution and high imaging power.

    • A 23.6 mm x 15.7 mm (APS-C size) CMOS sensor is used. The combination of this sensor with the GR ENGINE III image processing engine enables the camera unit to shoot high-quality images with smooth tone gradations as well as high definition and low noise.

    • There is a manual focus ring that can be used for precise focus adjustments.

    • Start of sales planned for the winter of 2010.

We plan to have RICOH LENS P10 28-300 mm F3.5-5.6 VC camera units on display at the CP(+) CAMERA & PHOTO IMAGING SHOW to be held at PACIFICO Yokohama from March 11 (Thu.) to March 14 (Sun.).

* The names, specifications, and release timing of the above products are subject to change.
* All of the lens focal lengths in this release are converted to the equivalent values for a 35 mm film camera.

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