That overused adjective “unique” finds a wholly appropriate partner in the Ricoh GXR, which turns the concept of the interchangeable-lens compact (ILC) on its head. Unlike ILC cameras from Olympus, Panasonic, Samsung, and Sony, the GXR employs interchangeable camera modules, each housing its own lens, imaging sensor, and processing engine.
So far, three “camera units,” as Ricoh calls them, are available: the 10MP 24 –72mm equivalent f/2.5–4.4 S10 ($437, street, module only; $800, with body), the 12.3MP 50mm equivalent f/2.5 macro A12 ($829, street, module only; $1,176, with body, and the P10, comprising a 10MP CMOS sensor and 28–300mm equivalent f/3.5–5.6 lens. (If you want a backup, the GXR body alone can be bought for $547, street.)
Typical of Ricoh’s compact cameras, the GXR body feels more solid than the usual compact. It and the camera modules have magnesium-alloy chassis similar to what you’d find in many DSLRs. The rails used to slide the body and modules together are made of stainless steel that has gone through a soft-nitriding process to make them less prone to scuffing and more resistant to corrosion. The connector is unlike any we’ve seen on camera equipment, and the modules exchanged flawlessly in our field tests. One of our testers managed to misalign the rails on the first attempt to attach a module, but had no further trouble afterwards.
Also typical of Ricoh compacts, you’ll find more than the usual complement of customizable buttons, along with very utilitarian menus. The typeface is on the small side, but we like the look of these menus.
The Direct menu, located on the left of the camera body, gives you quick access to the most commonly changed settings, such as ISO, white balance, and AF mode. Want to control these with your right hand? You can assign any of them (up to four) to the ADJ rocker switch, which you can also push inward to make selections or activate its custom menu. We found this switch, located right next to your thumb, more convenient to use than the menu in field testing.