Broken Camera, Rise Victorious!

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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.

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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. 

GX200 banding fault

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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

Thanks for reading. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too.

16 thoughts on “Broken Camera, Rise Victorious!”

  1. Unfortunately a flawed camera, even slightly so ruins the pleasure for me. That’s the silly perfectionist in me.

    I have bought that gorgeous, clean and great working Spotmatic SP1000 and found the light meter is dead. I could shoot it like my Leica but as it is supposed to have a meter I want it to work…. silly guy, no?

    1. I have what’s generally considered to be the pinnacle of Spotmatics, the F, with light meter and open aperture metering. But I think I’ve only shot a couple of rolls of film with it using the meter, the rest have been Sunny 16 because I couldn’t be bothered to get a new battery. To me it feels far more in the spirit of a film camera of that era to shoot as manual and as simply as possible. I have my later cameras like the Contax 139Q and Pentax Program A when I want things like light meters and aperture priority!

      Just enjoy that beautiful Spotmatic the old school way!

      1. Ok Dan! I promise!

        And by the way I’m on a radical change right now. I sold my Pentacon lenses and the Praktica. I will concentrate on exactly 2 film cameras, my XA2 as long as it will work and a Spotmatic (I’ve come to love the feel of that camera – got one with working meter on the way, can’t help it…). I keep 3 lenses, Takumars that are on the way too. The 55 1.8, a 28 3.5 and a 135 3.5.

        As for digital we’ll see. If the K10D works out for me it’s going to stay and perhaps some rugged compact always-in-pocket thing. Or the dreaded iPhone??

        As you see, my Leica will most probably go on to a new home! Never liked the viewfinder and after all those lenses cost too much.

      2. Frank this sounds like a superb set up. I’ve been thinking again about further simplifying, as I have three SLR bodies, three film compacts, three DSLRs and three digital compacts as my main kit. I don’t need 12 cameras.

        A Spotmatic plus XA2 sounds excellent – for me I’d substitute the XA2 for my Mju-1.

        On the digital front I don’t really need three very similar DSLRs, so maybe one can go. And with the compacts, the GX200 doesn’t really do anything the GX100 can’t. The GX100 is just a bit slower, but not an issue for my style of shooting.

        If you liked the GR1, I’m sure you’ll like a digital GR. Check out Paulo Moreira’s little comparison –

        Family ties: Ricoh GR1 & GR Digital

        Very different to an iPhone and almost as pocketable.

        If you want more “rugged”, Ricoh have made quite a range of action/adventure cameras over the years… Just came across this rather interesting page – http://www.ricoh-imaging.co.uk/en/wg-compact-cameras-history.html

  2. Living in a robotic world of homologous and where with one click you can solve all or almost problems if you are one with a minimum income, otherwise .. A World good but without a soul. In fact many people goes at discovery, if so say, of the ” old” object (in this case an ancient digital camera) that lets you guide it and does not guide you soul, or something that resembles him. Strange Humanity running towards the Abyss …

      1. I’m a juggler between photography (my way) poetry again and contemporaneity that I speak full: sociology& philosophy, for this reason my text is almost “obscure” sense.

        1. About ten years ago, before I was really making photographs deliberately, my main creative outlet was writing, more specifically poetry.

          I went through a phase where I was writing almost exclusively short stories (fifty words, no more, no less) and haiku.

          Haiku especially became the bridge from poetry to photography – writing a haiku for me is like describing a Polaroid, and making a photograph is a more direct form of writing a haiku.

          If that makes sense.

          Thanks for prompting that memory!

  3. have you considered doing an Ir or Full spectrum conversion on the gx200, a different perspective on B&W, your description of the discolouration reminds me of what you get with unfiltered full spectrum.

    1. Yes using it in some kind of custom way is the most likely option. I thought again about listing it on eBay, but whilst I know that the faults are actually easy enough to get around, most prospective buyers will run a mile I expect and I’d get next to nothing for it.

      But I wouldn’t be likely to use it if it was very similar to the GX100, which in standard from it is.

      Do you have any links/photos showing those conversion you talk about?

      Thanks Toby!

      1. Not wanting to encourage GAS but a R8 for £14 atm finished in 2 days
        https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Ricoh-R8-digital-camera-Boxed-Mint-condition/132405068570?ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT&_trksid=p2055119.m1438.l2649

        I don’t have that camera any more I gave it away, I did loads of reading around the subject generally.
        Here are a few links to the sites I recall. Also one I got to asked about doing a conversion. They said they would strip the camera and check the possibilities with a Panasonic they’ed had never done one on before with the arrangement that if it wasn’t possible when they looked the camera would be reassembled and no charge cost was about £80 if I recall.
        I have a very dead R8 which assuming familial commonalities with other Ricohs I stripped down last night to take a look for you at how easy it appeared to convert. IIt looks more tricky, more fiddley to strip down even though I have the knowledge gained from the one I have doneon a Samsung ES70. That was so much simpler to disassemble but lacked a bit of manual control to make it as effective as it could have been. I only did it as there was loads of dirt inside one that came with a lot of stuff from eBay.

        Again with half an eye on familial comminalities the last link has DIY tutorial of converting a GR and GRII.
        and a few links to the IR and full spectrum stuff I’ve done. It was very early days in my dabblings some false colour stuff and some B&W. Hope all the links work ok

        Aylestone Meadows and Bradgate Park

        Posted by Toby Brownson on Thursday, July 9, 2015

        Posted by Toby Brownson on Sunday, May 8, 2016

        Posted by Toby Brownson on Saturday, May 14, 2016

        Posted by Toby Brownson on Thursday, May 12, 2016

        https://kolarivision.com/product-category/diy-infrared-filters/

        http://www.instructables.com/id/infrared-digital-camera—the-real-way/

        https://www.lifepixel.com/tutorials/infrared-diy-tutorials

        1. Thanks for the info and links Toby, much appreciated. These conversions look way beyond my kind of ability and patience though!

          Re the R8, actually last weekend I was watching an R10 and due to a frustrating and unexpected timing out by eBay I missed bidding, and it was well within what I was willing to pay.

          But then a few days later a CX1 I was watching still had no bids and I put in a last second bid and won as the only bidder.

          Supposedly fully working and I think from reading they were similar to the R series but a bit higher spec. Hopefully will be £20 well spent!

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