We said of the GX8’s predecessor – the rapid-fire 5MP GX – “this may well be the only digital compact you’ll ever need”. But Ricoh had to attempt to prove us wrong with this latest upgrade barely six months later.
This beefed-up version is in danger of over-egging the pudding by piling on the pixels; all eight million of them. Improved resolution aside, we get the same unusually wide angle lens as before (28-85mm equivalent), a ‘Smooth Imaging Engine’ which claims to ensure accurate colours, low image noise and class-leading close ups down to 1cm from your subject. There’s also a rapid shutter response time of 0.10 seconds, 1.3 second start up, plus – unique at this price – a hotshoe for off-camera flash (a built-in alternative sits right of the lens), manual focus, exposure and aperture priority. An SLR-style command dial sits in front of the shutter button.
Snappers have the opportunity to preserve detail by saving files as TIFF as well as JPEG, and like the FinePix F10 – but a rarity nonetheless – light sensitivity is offered up to ISO1600 for shots in the dark. Continuous shooting of up to 16 frames within a two second-duration is handy for action shots, while optional conversion lenses can be attached for added creativity. There’s also a movie mode, but of the quality is largely forgettable given the other riches on offer.
If all this sounds like unbelievably good news for the point-&-shoot brigade, it very nearly is. The package’s only bad points are the inclusion of two standard AAs rather than a rechargeable lithium pack, and a meagre 26MB of internal memory – an improvement of sorts on its predecessor’s 16MB – rather than a larger removable card. Budget £20-30 for a 128MB SD card, though, and this latter gripe is surmountable.
It would have been nice to see a larger LCD screen than the 1.8 inches on offer – especially as the optical viewfinder is tiny – and the zoom lever and supplementary controls on our review sample were smaller and more recessed than necessary. More positively, the Ricoh’s build quality is excellent while images are naturally rendered. The overall impression is of a serious contender for those who care about the craft of photography. The RX8 offers versatility and creativity, yes, but not without compromise.
I can’t help thinking that the improved resolution offered by the GX8 is largely superfluous since the same lens set up is doing the job of resolving that many more pixels. To my mind, overall speed of operation has been compromised, though this may have been down to battery power ebbing away. That said though, this is an enthusiast’s product for a beginner’s price. With this sort of feature set the GX8 will appeal most to those photographers who already own an SLR but would like something more portable to stash in the car for shots on the fly.