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CSC : Digital Compact System Cameras - This new category of digital Compact System Cameras with interchangeable lenses was mislabeled for a time as "Mirrorless Cameras" by those forgetting about "Mirrorless" Rangefinder cameras.  Such confusion is easily understandable, since interchangeable rangefinder cameras were only recently introduced in 1932.  hmm.    CSC or Compact System Camera is probably the best category description to date, although I am fond of the old RFF desigation of  CEVIL  indicating Compact Electronic Viewfidner Interchangeable Lens.   This forum is here at RFF because via adapters these cameras offer an inexpensive way to use rangefinder lenses on digital cameras -- in addition of just about every 35mm SLR lens you can think of.  All  offer the photo enthusiast an incredible array of adopted lenses which was not possible before these new digital formats.   This group continues to grow in popularity and new camera models! 

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Ricoh GXR vs. Sony NEX-5N (and the M8) with manual lenses - my opinion
Old 01-13-2012   #1
kanzlr
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Ricoh GXR vs. Sony NEX-5N (and the M8) with manual lenses - my opinion

now that I wrote this reply, I thought I put it in its own thread, for reference and because the same questions pop up all the time.

I own all three, the M8, NEX-5N with EVF and the GXR with mount module.

Management summary: I will keep the GXR, sell the NEX and will not get, for now, another M8 (although I may spring for one if I get it at a good price point).

Usability
From a usability standpoint I'd rate them:
1. GXR
2. M8
3. NEX

why? The GXR is much faster than the M8, easier to hold, more ergonomic and the buttons can be configured to all most used functions (dedicated buttons for iso+/-, dedicated ev-comp, etc.). The M8 has, for me, an unergonomic shape, is hard to hold due to the sharp edges and has the known limitations of a rangefinder (and its benefits, of course). And it is slow to write RAW files and review them if needed.
Lastly the NEX...it is fast, and the 5N is at least somewhat configurable. But for example, the MF zoom button his hardwired to the lower softkey. hard to reach when using the EVF. The buttons in gereral are too flat. The body is also rather cramped and a bit too small to handhold. My hands hurt after half a day of shooting.

Focusing
with wides:
1. M8
2. GXR
3. NEX

with longer lenses (50, 90, 200)
1. GXR
2. NEX and M8 (for the 50)

the Rangefinder is DOF agnostic it is just as easy to correctly focus an 28 as it is with a 50. The GXR shows what has the most contrast, ie hardest edges in the frame. That works well, but not perfect. You don't know if you already reached peak contrast on the face of the person you focus on, for example. You just know that you are somewhat there, till you overshot. Still, it is much easier to see the plane of focus on the GXR in Mode2 than it is with Sonys peaking. The colored peaking is a bit harder to decode and I had much more misfocused shots with the NEX than expected, at least with the 28/2.8 wide open and the 34/1.4 stopped down a bit. With the [email protected] it was ok, and with longer lenses the NEX is almost as easy to focus than the GXR.

What really makes peaking more usable on the GXR, tough, it that it works a bit more intelligently: halfpressing the shutter gives you ALWAYS a clear, full frame view of the frame. It disables peaking and zooms out if you are zoomed in for focusing, so you can check the composition. Releasing the shutter button again, brings you back to whatever you used before. VERY convenient and it works in practise almost as well as a manual SLR (not like a rangefinder, though...). I have, for when I need critical focus, on a portrait shoot for example, used it this way:

* zoomed in
* halfpress shutter for rough composition
* release shutter, which returns to zoomed in
* focus
* halfpress shutter to spotmeter and re-check the composition
* fullpress the shutter

thats VERY fast in practise.

Other things to consider

GXR and M8 have hotshoes. Thats handy for a bounce flash, studio flashes or a GPS tracker on vacation (or the GXRs EVF).
Sonys EVF is way superior to the GXRs, but still it is a bit easier to focus with the GXR due to its focusing aids.
With the M8 you have to remove the bottom plate to change battery and SD Card.
on the Sony you can mount a camdapter strap. with the GXR this is not possible, because it blocks the battery door. Thats very unfortunate.

and finally, a comparison photo:

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Old 01-13-2012   #2
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Can you tell me anything about the GXR's video mode? I have never seen anyone say anything about it, except that it exists. Steve Huff said it was lame but provided no details. Are manual controls available in video mode?

I guess it's better than the M8's, at least ...
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Old 01-13-2012   #3
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no idea. I hate movies

the 5N video seems to be of good quality, but the microphone is so-so.
the GXR...well, really no idea other than it is lower in resolution.

gosh, who shoots video, except Hustler?

I'd say the GXR is a photographers camera, period. The NEX is not.
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Old 01-13-2012   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kanzlr View Post
no idea. I hate movies

the 5N video seems to be of good quality, but the microphone is so-so.
the GXR...well, really no idea other than it is lower in resolution.

gosh, who shoots video, except Hustler?

I'd say the GXR is a photographers camera, period. The NEX is not.
Did you spend time adjusting contrast, sharpness and Focus peaking level on the 5N? That makes all the difference with focus peaking.

Saying the NEX isn't a "photographer's" camera is silly. Where I come from, M mode with easy shutter and aperture adjustment is all that a "photographer" needs, and that pertains to all three of these cameras.
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Old 01-13-2012   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by douglasf13 View Post
Did you spend time adjusting contrast, sharpness and Focus peaking level on the 5N? That makes all the difference with focus peaking.

Saying the NEX isn't a "photographer's" camera is silly. Where I come from, M mode with easy shutter and aperture adjustment is all that a "photographer" needs, and that pertains to all three of these cameras.

haha, I should have put a sarcasm smiley next to that sentence
but then, the NEX is the only one of these three where you need the menu to change between M and A

see, I DO like the NEX. It is a wonderful achievement and it works very well. It is just a bit too small for me to hold and while it is good, it is inferior to the GXR in terms of ergonomics and usability. Maybe I should have said that the GXR has a stronger emphasis on stills photography...or a more classic approach, whatever. It feels like a real photo camera, whereas the NEX is a bit more computerish, iphoney. Thats not bad, I loved my iPhone 4...it's just a harsh contrast coming from an M8.

And yes, I played around with all the recommended settings. I liked most shooting RAW + B&W-JPG combined with red peaking.
And I do agree that it works well. All I said is that in my opinion, the GXRs Mode 2 works better, which is evident for me because I can reliably focus the 28/2.8, whereas I had trouble to do so with the NEX. But then, I do not like Mode 1 on the GXR much either, which is, again, similar to the NEX way of peaking.
Third, what I said about HOW it is integrated with the shutter button halfpress makes it very quick and easy for me.
When I am zoomed in (for people photography often times, I halfpress the shutter to find the subject I want to focus on, release the button to focus, and halfpress/recompose/shoot. Thats not possible with the NEX and it is a way of working I like a lot.

so it is personal preference to a degree, of course. But I think not many here have used both cameras for at least a while, thus my opinion DOES count at least a bit, even if it is just taken as what it is: an opinion on the internet

so what I wanted to say: NEX good, GXR better (for using M lenses and real flashes)

the NEX has its benefits. AF lenses, Alpha Mount compatibility with phase detect AF, superior movie mode, a touchscreen if you want that, a tilt LCD and a much better EVF.
But that does not make it a better camera to use M lenses with
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Old 01-14-2012   #6
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Which contrast and sharpness settings did you use for peaking? I don't want to dwell on it, but I find focus peaking so easy to use that I'm wondering what could be off. Heck, the 5N EVF is so good that I barely need focus peaking at all.

Since, as I mentioned, I use just about all cameras the same way, and just need an aperture dial on the lens and a dial for shutter speed on the body, the enjoyment of using the camera comes down to a few things to me:

-Feel of the camera in my hands: the 5N isn't great on its own, IMO, but my Italian leather half case adds just the right amount of extra grip and feel.

-shutter responsiveness

-the viewfinder experience: I used my friend's GH2 the other day, which is supposed to have the second best EVF around, and I was completely turned off by it. It directly affected my enjoyment of using the camera. At this point, the viewfinder experience is probably the most important feature for me.

As I've mentioned before, when Ricoh makes an equivalent or better EVF, all be all over it. In the meantime, I'll stick with the 5N.

Thanks for the comparisons!
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Old 01-14-2012   #7
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I have tried , and liked most:
B&W JPG + RAW, red medium peaking and sharpening and contrast increased to 2 or 3, as it has no effect on the RAW anyway.

I never said it is not good, just that with the GXR Mode 2 it works BETTER, while Mode 1 is inferior to the NEX.

I cannot reliably focus the 28/2.8 on faces. On a fence pole, some texture, a car, etc. it works reasonably well, but not on faces, because everything seems to shimmer red, and I don't know if I am there yet, or only close. With the GXR Mode 2 this is a non-issue, and additionally, the zoomed-in and half press to check composition works so well, whereas this is not possible with the NEX.

the EVF is really superb on the NEX, I agree, while the GXR one is barely adequate. I just use the GXR one in bright light, otherwise it is in the bag.
And yes, most lenses I used the NEX EVF without peaking, you can see a slight moire on focused parts in the EVF
But that works with 35/1.4 for me, not with more DoF.

yes, the shutter responsiveness on the NEX is great, but the GXR is not much behind imho. I thought about a half case for the NEX, and will also buy one for the GXR, thats for sure. Still, the raised buttons and the location of these is so nice on the GXR.

for example, I have set the ADJ wheel to push ISO up and down, the +/- buttons to do EV-comp, the two FN key to enable/disable focusing aids (Mode 2 on/off, zooming in/out), the ADJ Menu to change WB, RAW/JPG, Metering Point, etc.).
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Old 01-14-2012   #8
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Oh, don't get me wrong, I wasn't saying the Nex was better than the GXR in terms of shutter response or feel of the camera. I was just saying that it's the one category of the EVF that has kept me from switching over immediately (I did forget to mention the tilt EVF as part of that category, which is also important to me.)

I do definitely feel that, if you're changing a lot of camera parameters all of the time, the GXR is the better choice. I wish the Nex-7 played better with M lenses, because it has a better control setup than the 5N, too.
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Old 01-14-2012   #9
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well, I change ISO and EV-Comp and sometimes metering mode. Pretty typical I guess. Oh, and from A to M to A

The NEX is nice, really. But the small body is not worth much if you add the same lens and an EVF to both cameras, they become very similar in overall size/pocketability.

the EVF is really in a class of its own on the NEX, but the GXR one, while obsolete, still works good enough for taking in focus photographs

just zooming in and out for MF freaks me out on the NEX, and that it does not disable the peaking with a half press is also not optimal.

mind you, I bought the NEX because I thought 5N + EVF is superior to the GXR. I had no plans to get another GXR (having sold two last year, because the AF is so slow on the 50, and only acceptable on the 28, and I missed a 35 or 40 equiv, as well as a longer portrait lens for head+shoulders shots). I just got such a deal I could not say no (brand new GXR body + Mount module for € 690,-- with free shipping) that I said ok, I'll try it and sell it if I do not like it better than the NEX, which I was excited with a few weeks ago

I did not noticed the NEXs weaknesses until I saw them bettered by the GXR.

I do not shoot video, I do not need AF lenses, but I do use radio triggered flashes and some times on camera bounce flash. And while the NEX EVF blew me away in being almost as good as the D700 one, I can live with the GXR one, because peaking on the rear display works good enough as long as I can see the screen.

oh, and the GXR VF tilts, too
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Old 01-14-2012   #10
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oh, one more thing: The GXR VF is smaller, looks further away. Thats usually a con, but when I wear glasses it is actually beneficial
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Old 01-23-2012   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kanzlr View Post
oh, one more thing: The GXR VF is smaller, looks further away. Thats usually a con, but when I wear glasses it is actually beneficial
Concur.

I even used the EVF's base as a Thumbs-Up. Placed my thumb on it, and all other fingers on the cam's grip. Just nice!
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Old 01-23-2012   #12
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I use the 5n for 50mm sometimes with 35mm Mount lenses. And with it's kit lens, especially for video. It works exceedingly well as a tiny, easy to hold video device. It's weight (or lack thereof) and steady shot make for some easy video work. I'm not very impressed with the corner performance with wide angle M mount lenses though. I found the lack of microlensing to not make for great wide angle photos.

But, I totally agree with the assessment of the GXR. It really has the usability advantage as a photographer's tool. With easily customized buttons, the My settings selectable on the top dial and the focus assist really works well. The ability to halfpress the shutter to get back to normal view is a big advantage for accurate focus and accurate composition. I won't hesitate to buy into the next Ricoh body, M mount or EVF.

Overall though, the options we have today are great and only getting better.
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Old 01-24-2012   #13
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But I do have to admit that the Ricoh VF looks like a tiny cinema for mice compared to Sonys IMAX.
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