How do you review a cult camera with a growing fan-base since 1996? This is the 10th reincarnation of the simple point and shoot camera with a fixed 28mm lens. Nothing really much has changed in terms of appearance. Not many camera brands can boast of such an achievement other than Leica. Here are the reincarnations in chronological order:-
- Ricoh GR1
- Ricoh GR10
- Ricoh GR1s
- Ricoh GR1v
- Ricoh GR21
- Ricoh GR Digital
- Ricoh GRD II
- Ricoh GRD III
- Ricoh GRD Iv
- Ricoh GR
The naming convention is hard to predict. What do you think the next Ricoh GR series will be named?
Here are the key features of the Ricoh GR
- 16.2 MP APS-C sensor with no low pass filter
- 18.5mm (28mm equivalent) F2.8 lens
- ISO: 100-25,600
- 3” 1.2m dot LCD
- Up to 4fps continuous shooting
- 1080p movie at 24, 25, or 30 fps
- 12 bit RAW in DNG format
- Built-in 2 stop ND filer
I had the opportunity to bring this camera out for a ride on our photosafari trip to Cebu and Malapascua Islands. Right out of the box it looks very similar to the other Ricoh GRD’s that came before it. The shape, buttons, controls and grip looks identical. I had reviewed the GRD III, GRD IV and the GXR. In terms of ergonomics, it is similar. The whole set up is very intuitive and some of the buttons can be programed to suit the photographer’s needs.
My unit came with a leather neck instead of a hand strap. The neck strap is great if you are just carrying one camera. However, it becomes a bit meddlesome if you carry two or more cameras around your neck. Size wise it is small enough to fit into a trousers’ pocket.
What goes on beneath the exterior?
For starters, the body shell is made of magnesium alloy. This gives it a very solid feel. It sports a new 16.2 mega pixel CMOs APS-C size sensor which has a crop factor of 1.5. The earlier sensors of the GRD I, II, III and IV were CCDs.
There is also the absence of an AA flter in front of the sensor. This is in line with so many similar offerings from Sony, Nikon and other camera brands.
What is new?
Other than the bigger sensor, the Ricoh has added a TAv mode or auto ISO mode similar to the Pentax DSLR offerings. This is a very useful feature as one can set the desired aperture and shutter speed and the camera automatically decides on the ISO sensitivity to use. Other cameras have this feature too but it needs to be set in the menus. Pentax and Ricoh have it on the dial.
For those who must have a movie mode, the new GR offer movie capture in full HD. Personally I have not tested this mode and I do not think this camera is specially made to be the best in the field for movie capture.
User Experience in the Field
I have been a Ricoh GXR user for some time now. I find the controls are very similar to the GXR controls. It is very intuitive. The “ADJ” lever can be set to your favourite settings like ISO, Picture size, Aspect Ratio, Focus, Image, Exposure metering, Continuous Mode, Auto Bracket, Flash Compensation, Flash amount, Dynamic Range Comp, Snap Focus Distance and Effect. However, you can set any five of those controls.
The exposure compensation lever rests on the extreme right. This often gets in the way and cause errors in exposure compensation. I have noticed that it is set nearer to the ADJ lever than the GXR.
Focusing is quick to lock-on in good lighting conditions; however, it hunts a bit when the lighting is down to below EV6 when the AF assist light is switched off. Focusing here is more critical than the earlier GRD models as the DOF is more pronounced with a larger sensor. I find the AF is spot on in most instances.
Ricoh GR has added an “Effect” button on the left side next to the flash pop-up switch. Picture effects only work in jpeg mode. There are nine modes, Black &White, B&W (TE), Hi-contrast B&W, Cross Process, Positive film, Bleach by-pass, Retro, Miniaturize and High key. I have not tested this feature as I am shooting in RAW mode all the time.
The 28mm (equivalent) prime lens is very sharp even at the corners. Vignette, barrel and chromatic distortions are very well controlled. Flare control is also pretty good when shooting into a light source. The absence of a low pass filter brings out the fine micro details similar to those found in pictures shot with German optics.
Ricoh has kept the colours tuned to be similar to their earlier GRD models with CCD sensors. I like the colours than come out of this sensor. It looks quite balance with no overpowering colour bias or luminosity.
What I really like is the high DR qualities of the sensor; it makes B&W conversions very easy. In-camera B&W conversion is also pretty decent.
I usually shoot a P&S camera with one hand. The exposure compensation lever on the extreme right side always gets in my way.
The battery life is pretty disappointing. It can only manage about 300 shots in-between charge. Having spare batteries is a must.
This camera shines in street shooting environment. This is a well tried and tested product for street shooting. In fact, it is the only camera that is designed with the Street and Documentary Photography in mind. Ricoh has the advantage of 26 years to perfect this product. This is much longer than anyone can imagine.
The small camera size is stealthy and does not intimidate. The shutter sound can also be switched off.
The camera can handle high ISO sensitivity very well. I find pictures taken at ISO: 6400 very acceptable when converted to B&W. I used TAv mode most of the time, however, I set the limit of the ISO to 6400.
I really like the lens sharpness and file size. I always shoot with the intention of producing exhibition size prints.
Would I buy it? I have been asking myself this question. I have already owned a Ricoh GXR with an A16 lens unit. An A12, 28mm f2.5 lens unit sells slightly more than half the price of the GR. However, the body and lens combo is slightly larger than the Ricoh GR and the lens design is different. The GXR A12, 28mm lens is a f2.5, 9 elements in 6 groups while the GR lens is a f2.8, 7 elements in 5 groups with 2 aspherical elements with a 9 blade aperture ring.
My hands on experience with the Ricoh GR over the few days that I used in Malapascua and Cebu Island photosafari may tip the scale on my decision to get this camera.
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