When Ricoh announced its GXR modular camera system--a lens/sensor module that slides into a housing that includes the rest of a point-and-shoot's pieces, including the LCD, controls, hot shoe, and flash--it sounded odd, but I withheld judgment. After all, a great implementation could trump oddity. Unfortunately, there's no trumping going on with the GXR+S10 24-72mm module. For instance, one of the rationales for the GXR architecture is to be able to create optimal pairings of lenses and sensors. But it seems as if Ricoh is just creating me-too versions of competitors, with no standout advantages. Why did Ricoh choose the same small sensor as all the compact competitors, most of which have bigger zoom ranges, rather than the larger APS-C or Micro Four Thirds sensors in interchangeable lens and dSLR models? Why is the lens so slow? And why do the lens/sensor modules cost the same as an entire camera?
I can't answer any of those questions; all I can say is that despite shaping up to be a serviceable version of an enthusiast compact, there's nothing in the GXR+S10 configuration of the camera to merit buying over any of its competitors.
For example, I have really mixed feelings about the camera's photo quality. Overall, I think it's good, but it has a few significant weaknesses. It is strongest when taking photos at low ISO sensitivities and for macro shooting--but that's generally true not only for most of its competitors, but also for most cameras. It renders nicely accurate color in its Natural mode, though the default Standard setting tends to oversaturate greens and blues a bit, and the automatic white balance tends to be overly cyan in shadowy daylight.
Close and macro shots photos look sharp, and there's very little fringing; it tends to appear where you'd expect, on high-contrast edges near the corners of the frame. But beyond close-ups, there's a very point-and-shoot-like processed mushiness to the images, not just the JPEGs, but also to the raw files as well. At all ISO sensitivities, Ricoh seems overly aggressive with its blurring for noise reduction, and there's serious aliasing (jaggies) on some edges. I wouldn't recommend shooting JPEGs at anything higher than ISO 200. While shooting raw allows for better noise reduction, you can also see some of the native edge aliasing. In the latest firmware update, Ricoh added a Max noise reduction option, but as far as I can tell that just increases the blurring even more.
The GXR's in-camera distortion correction is relatively subtle, partly because there isn't much lens distortion, at either the wide or narrow ends of the lens. However, there's an odd white-balance difference between corrected and uncorrected photos, with the corrected versions looking noticeably cooler and darker. And though the lens is on the slow slide, it produces a relatively nice effect (bokeh) in out-of-focus areas.
Its performance is pretty middling as well: relatively average overall, with slow focus and shooting in dim light. It takes about 1.8 seconds to power on and shoot, with an adequate shot lag of 0.6 second in good light but a slowish 1 second in dim. Two shots in a row run about 1.9 seconds, and flash recycle time adds another 0.8 second to that. You can shoot continuously at 1.7 frames per second, which isn't bad; however, burst mode isn't terribly useful until you hit about 3fps. The camera has a faster sequential shooting mode, but it stores the images as a stack in a nonstandard file format.