Following the magnificent twin revelations of the Ricoh GDR III and GX100, I inevitably looked further into Ricoh’s back catalogue, and found the GX100’s successor, the GX200.
On paper it’s not a radical overhaul, just a fractionally larger and higher spec’d sensor (12MP vs 10MP), bigger and greater resolution screen and an additional custom “MY” mode being the highlights. Oh and it writes RAW files much quicker than the GX100.
I was curious enough to seek one out and found an example for sale across the pond.
The price was reasonable, the postage was not, $70! I enquired and the seller agreed he could probably reduce it and after a bit of a haggle we agreed on a price of $150 overall, about £115.
Still not cheap, but considering it was listed as fully working, with spare batteries, SD card, and wide angle (19mm!) lens, it wasn’t bad.
The camera arrived a week later, and on powering up I was disappointed to find ugly markings across the screen.
Furthermore, the screen was strongly tinted purple, especially in the bottom corners.
I hoped this was just the screen and not the lens or sensor so took a few pictures and uploaded to my MacBook.
The good news was the black marks were just on the screen and not on the photos.
The bad news was the purple was not just the screen, and presumably is some kind of degradation of the sensor.
Added to this, after another attempt in better outside light, I found that when examined at 100% the pictures seem to show a strange (to me!) horizontal banding. Having not seen these on pictured on my GRD III or GX100 I assume this is a further fault in the sensor.
Oh dear, the poor little GX200 was rather the worse for wear, and my wallet was feeling somewhat mugged.
Obviously, I was not happy, and the seller wasn’t helpful, just advising me to “adjust the settings”, then later “I’ll do you a deal on some accessories next time you buy from me!”.
But, I’m always keen to experiment within restricted parameters (for often this is when our creativity thrives most!)
So I looked again at the facts.
Yes the GX200 has ugly marks on the screen.
But these don’t affect the photos. And on b/w mode (which these cameras all seem born to shoot), it’s barely noticeable when shooting.
Yes there are those strong purple tinges.
But again on b/w mode I can’t see these, and though the RAW files are of course in colour and show the purple, once converted to b/w they again disappear.
Yes that banding is a bit ugly up close.
But after further play it seems much worse at ISO400 (I don’t use anything above). So using the camera’s clever “Auto Hi” ISO mode, I can set the limit at ISO400 (or even 200 to improve things further still) and the camera will always use the lowest ISO possible.
Given that I use all of these cameras aperture priority and wide open as often as possible, the camera is most often at its base ISO64 in good light anyway, then it’s just the shutter speed that adjusts.
Plus, I’m not anticipating having huge prints made of these photographs, so it’s unlikely I, or anyone else, will much notice the banding. And did any Monet or Pollock fan ever worry about the fact that their paintings look a bit of an accident in a Dulux factory up close? Nope, they just stand back and admire.
Everything else on the camera appears to work as intended, and in use it’s just as instinctive, fun and rewarding to use as its siblings.
Yes, I did pay way too much (about £115) for a “broken” camera.
But in the end, I believed I’ve greatly reduced if not entirely eliminated these issues. And I did get that wide angle lens plus the adapter you need to fit it on, which works on the GX200, GX100, and the GRD III, and I’ve seen these sell for £100+ on their own. And I’ve got two extra batteries that work in all three cameras and an extra decent SD card.
The morals of the story I would say are two-fold.
First, if you buy enough on eBay, you’re going to eventually get burned (I’ve been incredibly lucky in the 15 years I’ve been active!).
Second, even if a camera at first appears broken, it might still have some life in it, so don’t write it off too soon.
A further happy accident in this tale came when I was post processing the latest RAW files made with the GX200.
I had shot them as b/w and planned to process them as such, and they looked good that way.
But by accident, for one of them I clicked a different (colour) preset, and with a tiny bit of tweaking the images now look, to me, way beyond my initial expectations of the little GX200 that moment I first powered it up and saw the damaged screen and sensor…
Is it different enough to my GX100 to warrant keeping? As yet the jury is out, but probably not. But it’s one of those cameras where the faults make it not worth selling.
And if can keep getting images like I have so far, I might just emulate what many do with film, have one camera always loaded with b/w, the another always loaded with colour.
The GX200 might just have to be my colour compact, as a companion to its beautiful b/w bros the GRD III and GX100.
Have you ever got unexpectedly pleasing results from what you initially thought was a broken camera? Please let us know in the comments below.
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