Learn Digital Photography Now

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

RICOH IMAGING to exhibit a reference product at CP+2015 camera and imaging show


from Ricoh-Imaging.co.uk

RICOH IMAGING COMPANY, LTD. is pleased to announce the exhibition of a reference product — a digital SLR camera currently under development — at CP+ 2015, one of the largest and most comprehensive camera and imaging shows in Asia. This annual event will be held from February 12 to 15 at the PACIFICO Yokohama convention centre in Japan.

Reference Product
Digital SLR camera
Product name: to be decided
・K-mount digital SLR camera with a large, 35mm full-frame image sensor
・Compatible with DA-series interchangeable lenses, using an image-cropping function
・Currently under development for market launch by the end of 2015
Note: The specifications and exterior design of this product are yet to be finalized.

Shades of the past; Concept illustration supplied by Ricoh Imaging co.uk of the new camera to be announced at CP+2015. 

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Tuesday, January 13, 2015


by Jonathan Eastland. 

I was first introduced to Nikon's Nikonos 35mm film camera in the 1960s.

A middle aged and smartly dressed magazine editor I first met around that time, wore a Nikonos II around his neck over a tie and blue blazer; attire that rarely changed for almost any assignment over the next decade and a half before he retired.

For him, the Nikonos was an appropriate piece of kit. Covering yachting events was probably the nearest he ever got to being close to the sea and he knew only too well, the damage that element could do to a fine mechanical instrument.

Unlike cameras designed primarily for use on terra firma (or the moon..) which could be used underwater with a special - and usually, cumbersome - housing, the Nikonos was designed from the ground up as an amphibious, water, dust, shock and weatherproof full frame compact 35mm film camera produced by the French offshore machinery development company La Spirotechnique.

Founded in 1943 by well known explorer, film maker and underwater experts Jacques Cousteau and Emille Gagnan, Spirotechnique first worked up a 'Spiro' prototype camera designed jointly by Cousteau and crew member of his converted minesweeper exploration ship Calypso, Belgian engineer Jean de Wouters d'Oplinter.

Some years elapsed, until the first Calypso camera (named after Cousteau's ship.) sporting a Som Berthiot 35mm f/3.5 lens was launched. A truly amphibious and compact tough watertight camera of modular design, it became a huge success amongst the diving fraternity.

Enter Nikon,

who had been contacted by La Spirotechnique through Teikoku Sanso KK with a view to large scale manufacture and marketing.

Nikon had already developed an underwater housing for its 35mm Nikon S rangefinder cameras enabling use of their highly regarded W-Nikkor 35mm f/2.5 lens but saw the huge potential the more compact Calypso offered. The company subsequently acquired exclusive production and sales rights for the camera outside of France and the European Common Market as it then was in 1962.

 Moss green Nikonos V

Thus began a long production history of the amphibious all-weather 'O' ring sealed Nikonos camera. In its early years, it sold at a rate only second in line to the venerable Nikon F 35mm single-lens-reflex (SLR).

Early models I through III were basic mechanical cameras with an Albada type full frame 35mm AOV viewfinder. By the early 1980s Nikonos IV-A incorporated the electronics of a Nikon EM SLR camera to bring auto aperture-priority exposure control to underwater shooting, followed in 1984 by the Nikonos V using Nikon FG SLR electronics to add manual exposure control override for those who had asked for it. Both models incorporated improved film winding/rewinding and inverted Galilean Albada viewfinders, now with suspended bright-line frames and LED exposure information. The V camera also introduced TTL flash control with its special Speedlight electronic flash units and like the IV-A, its vertical travel metal bladed shutter is one of the quietest to be found, muffled as it is, by the camera's hefty metal body housing.

Cross section through a Nikonos V fitted with W-Nikkor 35mm f/2.5 lens. Auto-exposure measurments are obtained with an SPD cell reading off the shutter curtain.

Ergonomically, various aspects of functionality changed as Nikonos models were incrementally modified until the major shape change unveiled with the IV-A. One thing that was maintained through its history from the earliest French made Calypso model however, are the two rotating knobs either side of interchangeable objectives; one controls aperture setting, the other distance. In or out of water, the genius of this functional simplicity, its instant visibility and ease of use is one of the many things I like about using a Nikonos. The lens face diaphragm and distance settings combine with  a moving depth-of-field gauge similar to red arrow devices found on some other marque lenses such as early C type Zeiss Hasselblad.

Simple top-deck layout with rotating shutter time and mode setting dial under film advance lever;note rotating aperture and distance setting lens knobs.
Lens face distance measurement scale with self adjusting depth-of-field arrow pointers in red.
The last of the true viewfinder type Nikonos cameras stayed in production for 17 years, finally coming to a halt in 2001. Nothing since, in the way of digital compact all-weather cameras, has been able to replicate or replace the functionality or utility of a Nikonos V, in my opinion.

It's waterproof down to a depth of 50 meters (150+ feet.) and pressure tested to 6kg/cm2 (85 lb/in2.). It's built like a tank, die-cast in copper silumin oxidised aluminium with a hard surface treatment coating called 'alumite', yet not much larger than a Leica rangefinder camera. 

Nikonos V silumin oxidised aluminium body parts

The use of greased rubber 'O' ring tubes originally developed for the aviation industry are the secret of its compact design and watertightness. Open it up and the inside looks like that of a regular Nikon FG film camera.

 W-Nikkor 35mm f/2.5 lens is a 60+ year old design, upgraded here in its Nikonos configuration with NIC coating. 

6 bladed lens diaphragm

The standard W-Nikkor 35mm f/2.5 lens is now a 60+ year old optical design first produced for the Nikon S Rangefinder* camera models, but don't let that fool you; it is capable of stellar performance and in it's later Nikonos iterations, was upgraded with Nikon's Integrated Coating (NIC) and is far superior to Spirotechnique's original Som Berthiot lens. The W-Nikkor is a symmetrical 6 element design (7 elements in the Nikonos V including front protective glass.) in 5 groups, housed, like other objectives in the Nikonos family, in a pressure tested double barrel construction. It delivers excellent detail resolution and contrast even when used wide open.

Nikon Nikonos V optional interchangeable objectives and viewfinders for use on land or underwater illustrated in the camera brochure.
A special damp/moisture proof 28mm f/2.8 LW-Nikkor lens based on the optical design of the Nikon-E series lens was also introduced for use with the Nikonos in 1983. It looks like a a regular 28mm Nikkor Ai-S wide-angle lens but it won't jam if you're caught in a thunderstorm or go surfing (centre right under orange camera in the picture above.).

What can you use a camera like this for?

Schooner Vera Mary; The Nikonos is happy in or out of water. Prints are available.

I use it almost anytime I know I might encounter inclement weather or an environment that puts ordinary tools at risk; use it on the street, at the beach, in the sea, in the desert, in the rain, in the muck and mud, under a dust cloud, in fact, anywhere where a bit of rough and tumble will likely damage more conventional kit.

Wish you were here! Happy Nikonos Days.....
Or here....take a Nikonos anywhere!

Mint+ examples are becoming harder to find with prices trending in the range £160 - £250; about half what I paid for a new Nikonos V in 1987. There are many well hammered examples out there - Nikon sold a lot of these cameras. Things to watch out for in particular; jammed shutter release in IV-A and V models, often caused by a rusting or dry bent wire exterior/interior release connector (Hidden under the grip casing.). Dry/brittle rubber 'O' rings; remove carefully, clean and re-grease. Replacement ex-factory kits occasionally appear on internet auction sites. My orange '87 model is still going strong, backed up by a pristine Moss Green sample just in case the former fails me.

Nikonos 'O' ring kit

Just one thing; very few cameras could survive the fierce fire and explosions this Nikonos V was caught in (see below). A luxury yacht's propane gas store used to power its hot-air balloon exploded and trashed the ship (and the camera.) in the fire that followed. 

*The Complete Nikon Rangefinder System by Robert J Rotolini (pub: Hove Foto Books, Newpro UK Ltd. 2007. ISBN: 13:978 1 87403 177 2) available from Camera Books.com

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Thursday, July 10, 2014



To use an old fashioned expression, 'press photographers' of long ago cynically described any image adorning the pages of newsprint as a 'smudge'. The word came into use largely because very often, the ink on newsprint hot off the printing press having not had time to fully dry, easily smeared. This derogatory description could be applied to any image, whether aesthetically good or bad, and often was.

Print on the page quality has long since dramatically improved. Combined with technological advances in image origination, newsprint repro quality is streets ahead of where it once was 40 years back. Today's image reproduction on glossy magazine or quality 'coffee table' book pages would have had some old editors now long since departed this world, groaning in envy at the advances made.

This was all brought home for the umpteenth time recently while searching through my files for an old picture I needed for the front cover of a new book project, and which despite turning the archives upside down, still eludes me.

As more and more frustration set in - I could see the picture in question clearly in my head, I turned to boxes of thousands of tear sheets in a final effort to locate something I could use to re-create the original.

Scanning an old smudge isn't the best solution, but it's better than nothing at all; with modern software most of the halftone screen can be removed effectively and so long as the new repro isn't too large, the image on the page will probably look better than it did when first printed.

This lengthy search process also provided much time for ruminating on another old chestnut. In truth, a fairer and more accurate description of that process would be 'head banging'. As a long time user of silver halide film and a relative newcomer (well, more than two decades.) to the convenience of digital capture, I remain indecisive; stuck on the fence, vacillating between the two media.

A recent smudge on the front cover of the NUJ's Journalist magazine depicting events during the 1980s coal miner's strike brought home an aspect of working with film that simply cannot be replicated with digital capture.

Several have tried, but not even the repros I've seen from Salgado's latest work Genesis have impressed. Digital and film have inherently different aesthetic states which may be difficult to describe but which are evident nonetheless on the printed page.

Doubtless, it would be easy to persuade oneself for a variety of reasons, why one process is better than the other and just get on with it. But I don't find it so simple. Different is what it's about, not better. 

Ricoh GXR with S10 lens/sensor unit and EVF. ISO 400.

For most of what I do, digital works. Where I find it doesn't is when I'm on the street comme le flaneur. Here, film, or to be more precise, the tools I prefer that use film, remain unequalled for ease of use, focus accuracy and what they ultimately deliver.

But there are often things I see out there which would make useful stock that doesn't need a film interpretation. To this end, a small and efficient compact digital camera is ideal. As mentioned in previous blogs, I carry a Ricoh GR much of the time for just such occasions. 

While these small cameras have proved to be excellent performers, I was persuaded some years back image quality obtained from one lens/sensor unit of the Ricoh GXR system came closer to what I hoped for from digital than the fixed lens compacts. 

Ricoh GXR with A12M sensor module fitted with Leitz SA 21mm f/3.4. Optical finder is a Ricoh GRD 28mm AOV accessory, not perfect, but close enough to 32mm AOV for street work and smaller the the GXR EVF.

The Ricoh GXR digital system camera is a compact harking back to the modular concept philosophy of Victor Hasselblad's 500 series medium format film cameras, enabling simple switching between modules featuring fixed and or zoom lenses and different sensor sizes.

For many, this innovative system hardly made any sense, to the extent that now, the GXR has been discontinued more than a year.

I reviewed the GXR at length when it was launched in 2009 and again later as new lens/sensor modules were introduced and while very taken with both functionality - very similar to the GRD cameras - and image quality, I felt the system was overpriced.

Not having one to hand however, especially after the introduction of the A12M Leica-M (Leica M6TTL Handbook is currently out of print.) lens mount, niggled its way into my mind. While preparing the reviews, I found the S10 short zoom unit combined with the camera's EVF more practicable in some respects than a GRD and at that time, compared with a GR II, the S10 delivered excellent IQ using the same sized sensor as its counterpart. Like earlier GX 100 and GX 200 models, the S10 unit appeared to utilise the same lens and sensor with a slightly improved A/D image processor.

GXR A12M sensor lens mount unit with integral shutter (right) and Leica Elmar-M 50mm f/2.8 (left), handy when using a Leica-M film camera, and when not, both easily carried in a pocket.

That same sensor also seemed to deliver marginally better quality than the later and current GR IV, though it's much harder to distinguish. Tests made with many different Leica-M lenses were also encouraging and showed beyond any reasonable doubt large prints could be obtained from both the small and larger sensored modules approaching the kind of aesthetic I expected from film. So yes, noise was (is) an issue, but one manifest agreeably in the right aesthetic direction. 

Paris. GXR and S10 zoom lens sensor module with EVF.

As time passed, a few images from the GXR test period turned up on magazine pages. The repros were good enough to keep me thinking I should bite the bullet and buy one; the more pragmatic me however, continued to sideline the issue on the grounds of cost. I had everything I needed.

Until, well, how can I put this..? Along came an offer I couldn't refuse.

A year after it was unofficially discontinued in Europe, SRS Microsystems got their hands on a consignment of boxed GXR bodies with S10 modules, what's known as new-old-stock in the trade.Then the same company unearthed a cache of A12M units. 

Wait long enough, and destiny will deliver what you deserve at the right price. 

Ricoh GXR and P10 zoom lens/sensor module; focal length 5.4mm (28mm AOV equivalent).

Several weeks down the line of GXR ownership, I find myself re-visiting those old reviews. In some respects, the camera is a bit of an enigma; it stops short of being something it could have been. A fully articulating rear LCD screen like the one found on the Panasonic G1 models would have considerably improved versatility. A solid state HDD module was an obvious omission from the outset; a simple, small and reliable back-up file storage system is exactly what is needed when days are long out in the field. The A12M APS/DX sized sensor was probably a mistake; if not full frame, it should have at least been the same size as a Leica M8 sensor. But all of this would have added considerably to an already expensive piece of kit as it was originally.

I can see where Ricoh were hoping to go with the GXR, but unfortunately for them, the concept was riddled with conflict in trying to merge the excellent functionality of its compact fixed lens sibling (GRD) into a modular system that fell short of true versatility and the possibility of really useful expansion. GXR developers might have done better to study Victor Hasselblad's classic or Yoshihisa Maitani's modular 35mm prototype in much more detail. 

Top; Full Frame using GXR S10 lens sensor module at the wide end focal length range; bottom, 100% crop from top image.

However, limitations notwithstanding, I now find I carry the GXR almost everywhere. The S10 unit is more versatile than the GRIV and having the A12M unit stuffed in a pocket has proved useful when also carrying a Leica-M and a couple of lenses. The articulating EVF gets a lot of use, but it's vulnerable to knocks and regularly needs taping in place. 

Top; full frame using GXR A12M mount fitted with an old Leitz 5cm Summarit f/1.5 against the light with no hood at maximum aperture. Some light flare is evident top left of the image. At maximum aperture, micro detail is soft in the image centre and decidedly blurred on the periphery. (click on image for a larger view.) Best operating aperture range for general shooting is between f/5.6 and f/8: Here, 100% crop of centre and right target was made at f/6.3.

As modern mirrorless, interchangeable lens compacts go, the GXR still packs a hefty punch. Like a lot of now 'obsolete' digital camera models, IQ performance more than satisfies my smudge-on-a-page bench mark;  what I want in the future is not more megapixels and machine-gun rate of fire - for that I can use a movie camera - but better build quality, improved operational functionality and greater electronic reliability.


Visitors, users and viewers of the foregoing content may copy and re-use it in other internet content sites on condition the source of all material so used is acknowledged with the attachment of the following.
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Friday, July 04, 2014




Jonathan Eastland.

The late and great French photographer Willy Ronis was in his mid 80s when he began jumping out of aeroplanes and para-skiing down snowy mountain slopes armed with a Minox compact camera. While David Bailey extolled the virtues of the Olympus XA clamshell rangefinder in a series of tv ads, American taxi driver and artist David Bradford was just beginning to make the images for his masterpiece work, Drive-by Shootings (pub.2000, Konemann; ISBN; 3-8290-2891-1), shot entirely on a pocket Yashica T4.

Almost since the beginning of photographic time, manufacturers have been churning out compact camera designs in one form or another; but not all make the grade. In this day and age, whether design by individual or committee, it seems to me the underlying remit of functionality begins with an LCD monitor, touch screen or deep menu control and a notion the outstretched arm can efficiently combine with technology to produce tools that work in every situation demanded of them.

I correlate the manipulation of modern digital image capture devices closely to that of using an old Kodak Brownie box camera. Hold it at waist level, carefully compose using the tiny landscape or portrait viewfinder, release shutter smoothly when ready. If users were proficient, they got a frame that was sharp. Today's auto-focus and multiple choice auto exposure modes may have increased acceptable frame rate alongside a seemingly infinite capacity for increased image production, but as the old adage goes, more is not necessarily better.

Something else.

My natural instinct when manipulating a camera is to bring it to eye level in order to see more clearly the reality of the unfolding event and the image I want. A more or less simultaneous calculation sets object distance, which on any manually focused camera, I will have instinctively set prior to or during engagement on the lens.

Auto focus systems on Dslr cameras are quick and accurate, but contrast based AF detection systems used in modern compact devices are, in my estimate, considerably less so. And it remains the case. There is no guarantee that what you hoped to capture is what you will get, especially when the subject is moving rapidly.

This observation notwithstanding, I rarely leave base without my Ricoh GR compact. Over the years  since the first model was launched, the tool has been useful for grabbing the odd stock frame or increasing assignment image choices. With each new model launched, some incremental progress has been achieved by the maker improving image quality until it was possible with the GR4, to be moderately satisfied with an A3 spread.

Satisfaction however, being entirely dependent on the subjective notions of individual demand and effect, was always going to be compromised, no matter how clever the camera image processor, by the very small 1/1.7 inch image sensor used in these cameras. After continued harassing by many users, Ricoh launched a GR compact in 2012 fitted with a 16.2 mp CMOS APS-C sized sensor, simultaneously taking some of the steam out of the launch of the Nikon A. While In almost all other respects, the GR (V) mimics both design and functionality of its earlier siblings, it also closely matches both lens and sensor specifications of the Nikon.


Squeezing a substantially larger sensor into the magnesium alloy shell of a GR required a marginal increase in body size, adding an extra centimetre in length and a millimetre or two to handgrip thickness, compared to the GR4. While the new model seems to benefit ergonomically, affording more button space to the rear panel, the main control dial in the front grip seems pinched by the grip's slight extra thickness at its top edge.

The rear control panel has gained an extra AEL/AFL and C-AF switch with central press button enabling near instant focus for the whole distance range covered including macro. Selective pin-point focus is also assisted ably by moving the focus target with options to magnify a screen portion. These are practically useful features which help to improve focus accuracy and speed of capture. The playback button normally found here, is re-located under the zoom rocker switch. An effects button has been added to the left side of the body and can be programmed using the menu. I used it as an additional function button for rapid format changes between the full frame 28mm and optional 35mm focal length AOV image cropping feature. Keeping the button held down also jump starts a depth-of-field preview, enabling the user to see the range of motif sharpness and out of focus effect. Useful, but for that purpose it might have better been placed on the camera front.

An extra TAv exposure mode option (shutter and aperture priority AE) and symbol change adorns the new model's mode selection dial, the more comprehensive menu adding a neutral density filter enabling wider exposure control. Wi-Fi connection with appropriate SD cards and in-camera RAW processing also feature alongside a new processor, the GR Engine V. Outwardly however, the GR camera remains pretty much the same as its predecessors, replicating the original design and size of the 35mm GR1 film camera launched in 1994. Like that tool, consecutive digital iterations of the model have gained a substantial cult following with enthusiasts and some pros.


On the face of it, image quality from earlier smaller sensored GR cameras was not significantly better than anything else with comparable specifications. At default settings, images out of the box featured a warm colour palette, marked even at low ISO settings, by a slightly filmic appearance - the effect of image noise distributed more randomly over the frame than in some other models. Users shooting the GR in b+w mode at higher sensitivities produced an iconic Tri-x'y look which, when combined with the camera's functionality and near perfect ergonomic design, soon caught on.

And it is ergonomics which may play a bigger part in tool selection today than it used to when choosing a film camera. While I particularly liked the look of images out of the new Nikon A, points it scored for handling were at the low end of the scale, despite having a dial that could be used for shutter time control located in exactly the right place. It's sleek appearance, enhanced by an optional silver chrome finish, is certainly attractive, but like the slinky Sigma DP (pre Quattro.) series, it lacked the instantly positive feel the utilitarian Ricoh endows to the user straight out of the box.


An 18.3mm focal length multicoated 7 element (including 2 of aspherical design in combination with extra low dispersion and high refractive index glasses.) in 5 group lens with aperture range of  f/2.8 - f/16 delivers an equivalent 28mm AOV in 135 format. The lens is fitted with a 9 blade diaphragm delivering naturally rendered out-of-focus objects while an optional 0.75X wide conversion lens with petal shaped rubber hood can be quickly attached to the camera with its bayonet adapter to widen AOV to replicate the 21mm focal length.

Like the GR (V) itself, Ricoh accessories are very well built and the wide angle converter is no exception, being a hefty glass construction in a metal barrel. Standard sized 62mm threaded filters can be fitted to protect the vulnerable front end and are recommended as the supplied rubber hood has a habit of slipping if not taped securely in place.

The lens is matched to a Sony sourced CMOS sensor, similar but not identical to that used in the Nikon A and like the latter, lacks an anti-aliasing filter. With an ISO sensitivity range of 100 - 25600, out of the box Jpegs in 3:2 picture ratio have a pixel measurement of 4928 X 3264, plenty enough for large prints at 300ppi as well as ruthless image cropping when needed.


A useful tool in confined spaces

       Pre-focus on the sign helped get the swinging arm sharp

An opportunity for a bit of flying with the Royal Navy coincided with delivery of the GR review sample, its size ideally suited to the kind of cramped head banging environment in which larger cameras frequently come off the worse for wear.

As is often the case with military PR facilities, time is of the essence; schedules have to be met, so while an hour's flying time may seem sufficient, using the untried GR also meant replicating almost every shot with regular tools. One has to work fast, hoping the technology will do its bit.

Halfway through my second flight, the GR locked up. This was like a Mac PC frustratingly going into hang mode for no apparent good reason. Back on terra firma, the only way to unlock the camera was by removing the battery, which was almost too hot to handle, and let it cool down.

Two things became apparent. When left powered on continuously for more than fifteen to twenty minutes, camera grip temperature rises dramatically, perhaps indicating a problem with interior heat dissipation or, as has been widely reported elsewhere on the subject of lithium batteries, a technology issue. Either way, continuing to leave the review sample GR powered on, eventually locked it up.

The second issue was the discovery that Ricoh's DB-60 batteries used in earlier generations of its compact cameras, don't fit the new model. They look the same except for a small indentation on one corner. DB-65s are the answer; they fit both new and older models.


Since the launch of the GR (V), debate has run high on the merits of its lens compared to that fitted to its more expensive and nearest rival, the Nikon A. Comparison of MTF charts may give the nod to the Ricoh, but I would venture to say, such study is an irrelevance. Being mindful that today's computerised lens designs rarely deliver the kind of poor performance lemons occasionally seen in decades past, image analyses of many motifs captured under a variety of lighting conditions provides more useful information.

There's no doubt the Ricoh delivers extremely sharp and highly resolved images straight out of the box at all default settings. As a long time Ricoh GR user, they are what I expect; sharp edge to edge with more clarity (less noise) than images from earlier small sensored models, endowed with excellent characteristic colouring.

The Nikon A is a different animal with its own strong image personality, and so far in my subjective estimate, unmatched by other models of comparable specification. High contrast dominates, the lens design drawing the viewer more toward the centre of the image as rendition fluffs slightly toward the periphery in a typical old Nikkor glass way; a tendency to vignette at mid to maximum apertures, aiding the effect.

Where Ricoh's colour palette for everyday shooting has always worked best (for me) with white balance set to shade, cloudy or outdoors, Nikon's AWB hits the right mark every time; hues appear sublimely matched to reality, needing little or no colour balance correction in post.

From a purely technical perspective, the Ricoh gains marks for overall image IQ; the Nikon moving ahead slightly for IQ character. But not all users will appreciate that and when combined with the ergonomic versatility of the GR and its options to tweak image character, the money may be on the Ricoh.


(An edited version of this review first appeared in print in the September 2013 issue of the BJP.)

Visitors, users and viewers of the foregoing content may copy and re-use it in other internet content sites on condition the source of all material so used is acknowledged with the attachment of the following.
www.ajaxnetphoto.blogspot.com 2014.
www.ajaxnetphoto.com 2014.
This content may NOT be used in any print media made available for commercial resale.
The products and companies named in this website content are trademarks , registered trademarks or servicemarks of their respective owners or licensed user.

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