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Ricoh GR comparative review

June 2013 | By Richard Butler
Buy on GearShop


Review based on a production Ricoh GR running firmware v1.1

With the launch of the Nikon Coolpix A we marvelled at how, in the space of a year, the idea of a large sensor compact with a fixed, prime lens, has gone from being an obscure niche (as it was when Sigma launched the original DP1) to a burgeoning and competitive area of the market. Now, with the Ricoh GR, Pentax Ricoh has added to this trend by introducing an APS-C compact with a fixed 28mm equivalent F2.8 lens.

The Nikon is an obvious reference point for this camera, since they share the same field-of-view, the same maximum aperture and, quite plausibly, the same sensor. For that reason, this review (like our recently published review of the Coolpix A) is structured around many direct comparisons between the two models. But it's important to give credit to Ricoh as the only manufacturer to have a continued history of building compact cameras with prime lenses. The GR is not just the immediate successor to a line of enthusiast compacts with bright, fixed-focal-length lenses, it's the continuation of a range that dates back into the film era.

Ricoh GR key specifications

  • 16.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor with no low-pass filter
  • 18.5mm (28mm equivalent) F2.8 lens
  • ISO 100-25,600
  • 3.0" 1.2m dot LCD
  • Up to 4fps continuous shooting
  • 1080p movies at 24, 25 or 30fps
  • 12-bit Raw in DNG format
  • 10MP 35mm equivalent crop mode
  • Built-in 2-stop ND filter

However, while much of the Ricoh's core specification looks similar to the Coolpix A, there is at least one significant difference - the price. Whereas Nikon decided it could ask $1,100 for the Coolpix A, Pentax Ricoh has been much more aggressive - asking just $800 for the GR.

Interestingly for a camera with such deep Ricoh roots, the GR is the first camera to show signs of the company's purchase of Pentax. The camera gains the Pentax TAv (Time and Aperture priority) mode, allowing the photographer to specify both shutter speed and aperture, with the camera selecting the appropriate ISO. Having this option as a dedicated mode, rather than letting Auto ISO operate in Manual exposure mode as some recent cameras have, has the benefit that it's been properly thought out, so you still have access to exposure compensation. It also avoids the logical inconsistency of having the camera make decisions for you in a supposedly manual mode.

Beyond this, the GR uses an interface that's consistent with previous Ricoh models - and that's something we're happy to see. We've often referred to the Ricoh interface (as used in the GRD and GXR models) as arguably the best enthusiast-focused interface on a compact camera, so we're delighted to see it retained.

Existing Ricoh users will be pleased to hear that the GR is still capable of interval shooting and has retained the much-loved Snap Focus and Full Press Snap focus modes that push focus to a pre-determined distance to make it easy to get grab shots. The GR also perpetuates something of a history shared by Ricoh and Pentax - the ability to shoot Raw files conforming to Adobe's DNG open standard.

28mm equivalent GR lens

The Ricoh uses a 28mm equivalent F2.8 lens - an apparent step down from the F1.9 lens offered on the GRD IV but, as a result of the much larger sensor, actually effectively two stops more capable in terms of depth-of-field control and light-gathering capability.

The design features seven elements (two of which are aspheric) in five groups and there's a 9-blade diaphragm nestling inside. As with many cameras with a shutter in the lens, the maximum shutter speed is limited by the selected aperture.

Aperture Maximum available shutter speed
F2.8 - F3.2 1/2000th sec
F3.5 - F4 1/2500th sec
F4.5 - F5 1/3200th sec
F5.6 - F16 1/4000th sec

The front of the GR's lens, when set to close-focus. The outer tube of the lens doesn't change length on focusing - instead the lens assembly can be seen shunting back and forth within it.

As you may be able to see from this image, the lens itself is remarkably small - the front element is only around 12mm across.

The lens itself is set within an extending tube, whose length doesn't change as you focus. Instead you can see the front element of the lens shunt back and forth within the tube. Internal-focus lenses are usually fastest to focus, since you have less mass to accelerate and decelerate each time you focus, but although the Ricoh doesn't take this approach its speed is perfectly acceptable.

Movie shooting

The Ricoh GR can capture 1080p movies at 24, 25 or 30 frames per second and save them in the MOV format with H.264 compression. It doesn't include a socket for an external mic, limiting audio quality by having to rely on built-in stereo microphones.

There's no exposure control when shooting movies (not even exposure compensation), so videographers shouldn't get too excited by the idea of the GR. You can apply many of the camera's film-related 'Effects' processing modes to the footage, but in terms of control that's about it.

Optional accessories

A series of accessories is being launched alongside the GR, including an adapter (that allows use of 49mm filters) and lens hood combination (GH-3), and a wide-angle lens (the GW-3) that mounts onto the adapter. Optical viewfinders, both for the camera's native 28mm equivalent coverage and the wide-angle adapter's 21mm equivalent field-of-view will be available, as will a dedicated flash.

A lens hood and adapter are available. The adapter then allows the use of other accessories, such as the 21mm equivalent wide-angle adapter.

There's no accessory port on the back so, unlike the GXR module, you can't fit an electronic viewfinder.


If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / Recommendation / Ratings are based on the opinion of the reviewer, you should read the ENTIRE review before coming to your own conclusions.

Images which can be viewed at a larger size have a small magnifying glass icon in the bottom right corner of the image, clicking on the image will display a larger (typically VGA) image in a new window.

To navigate the review simply use the next / previous page buttons, to jump to a particular section either pick the section from the drop down or select it from the navigation bar at the top.

DPReview calibrate their monitors using Color Vision OptiCal at the (fairly well accepted) PC normal gamma 2.2, this means that on our monitors we can make out the difference between all of the (computer generated) grayscale blocks below. We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X,Y and Z and ideally A,B and C.

This article is Copyright 2013 and may NOT in part or in whole be reproduced in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the author.

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Comments

Total comments: 37
white shadow
By white shadow (3 weeks ago)

If you want to walk the temples of Kyoto in Japan all day for a few days you would need to carry a Ricoh GR instead of a DSLR. It would be ideal to pair it with the Lumix GM1 with its kit lens and the Lumix 45-150 f/4-5.6 lens.

Anything more would be a burden. The performance of this combo would not let you down.

0 upvotes
Fotogeneticist
By Fotogeneticist (1 month ago)

Here's the advantage most people don't notice:
Flash sync speed: 1/2000 sec!!! This means you can use fill flash in bright daylight without a neutral density filter! You can capture things no other camera can. This is better than every professional D-SLR on the market. And with the standard hotshoe (unlike my Nikon V1), you can do some off-camera flash using a wireless transmitter like a Pocket Wizard. This is a professional's tool. Perhaps once my Nikon V1 dies, I'll get one of these.

0 upvotes
nand0
By nand0 (1 month ago)

I really felt in love with this camera only by reading this post, and watching reviews on youtube..

I'm really curious how pictures look with the wide-angle lens (the GW-3)
Does anyone know where I can find some example pictures with and without the lens?

I found one site with examples: http://www.openphotographyforums.com/forums/showthread.php?t=17653

But it would be nice if there is a site with more examples.. maybe on flickr? can somebody help me out?

Many thanks in advance!

Nando

0 upvotes
aatom
By aatom (2 months ago)

Does the GR have Neck Strap Lugs?

0 upvotes
Scottelly
By Scottelly (3 months ago)

For this price it should have GPS, wi-fi, a fold-out screen, and weather seals. Yes, I know there are cameras in the price range that don't have such features . . . but I wouldn't buy one of those either.

0 upvotes
David Smith - Photographer

My thoughts exactly, until I tried the GR V myself. Excellent little camera that not only delivers outstanding image quality, but is a joy to use also. Never leave home without it.

0 upvotes
Wira Nurmansyah
By Wira Nurmansyah (5 months ago)

I write my personal review on Ricoh GR when traveling to Raja Ampat, Indonesia. You can see them here http://www.wiranurmansyah.com/ricoh-gr-all-the-camera-i-need

6 upvotes
john Clinch
By john Clinch (3 months ago)

Thanks I really enjoyed your review and photos

0 upvotes
vessy
By vessy (2 months ago)

Thank you Wira for your great Ricoh GR review!
Clear and helpful.
And very nice pictures too :)

0 upvotes
nand0
By nand0 (1 month ago)

Love your blog, full of joy and beautiful pictures, one day I will travel just like you because it looks awesome!

0 upvotes
white shadow
By white shadow (2 weeks ago)

You have highlighted some of the best features and capabilities of the GR in your blog. It is indeed a travel photographer's camera. Few cameras this small can out-perform it for image quality, ease of use and stealthiness. The positive film mode with your settings has even made the camera more outstanding. The B&W mode is also a joy to use.

Like I am, you are really enjoying this little gem.

0 upvotes
Chimayred
By Chimayred (7 months ago)

hey can anyone explain how the GR and the RX100 both earned 79% in the enthusiast large sensor compact camera class but the GR is a gold award and teh sony is a silver?

0 upvotes
Almeida
By Almeida (7 months ago)

The gold and silver award are not related to the score of the camera.

1 upvote
eng13
By eng13 (9 months ago)

Can someone give some pros and cons of the Canon S110?
Thank you

0 upvotes
CarVac
By CarVac (8 months ago)

I have experience with the S90, not the S110, but here's my impressions:

The S series is a good deal smaller, and it has the lens ring. It's very easy to learn how to use. It's cheaper. It has image stabilization, and oh yeah, it zooms.

The GR mops the floor with the Powershot S cameras in sharpness and low light image quality, and it has customizable buttons for insta-access.

However, it takes a while to learn all the tricks of the GR. I'm going on a week with a rented GR and I just figured out a new hidden way to access manual focus. Now I don't have to deal with modes anymore: flip the switch to continuous and I can track with the backbutton; flip to af-lock and it locks AF and enables MF when I hit up, and in the normal mode I can autofocus normally and snap-focus. Everything I want from the focusing system without menu diving.

And then there's dynamic range. I am ecstatic with the shadow recovery ability of this camera.

1 upvote
esketores
By esketores (9 months ago)

I've been using a GR III since they came out. Worth it to update? I've been looking the Fuji X100S but fail to find it worth the extra $$$. The sensor sizes are similar. Etc.
However the GR beats the snot out of the Fuji when it comes to macro. Anyone done side by side comparisons?

Comment edited 5 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
esketores
By esketores (9 months ago)

The macro statement is inaccurate. My GRIII beats the snot out of both the GR and the X100S.

0 upvotes
CarVac
By CarVac (9 months ago)

The more I read about this camera, the more I want it.

And so I have a rental one coming tomorrow for evaluation purposes.

2 upvotes
LichtFan
By LichtFan (9 months ago)

I think it is too narrow to always call the Ricohs "street shooter". Although it is true and valid, the Ricohs are much more...

Really nice configurable cameras that are good for any job within its limits. I use the GRD 4 and really enjoy it. And I rarely shoot street photos.

2 upvotes
pitaw
By pitaw (10 months ago)

Looks like a nice small street camera...but I called around Orange County CA and no dealers have it, I like to see how it feels in my hands.

0 upvotes
regardlese
By regardlese (10 months ago)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/regardlese/tags/ricoh/

1 upvote
regardlese
By regardlese (10 months ago)

fantastic RICOH GR!
28mm-35mm-47mm

0 upvotes
marco1974
By marco1974 (10 months ago)

Ugh!
UGLY Moiré!
M.

1 upvote
povetron
By povetron (11 months ago)

Great litlle camera, would like to have one.
But it would be nice if there could be also a version with eq of 35mm lens.

4 upvotes
bill434
By bill434 (10 months ago)

I've just bought this camera, love it. I work in a camera store so I've had time to make my decision.
I'm not sure if you know this but this camera does have a built in crop feature that allows you to select a 35mm equivalent. Basically when you select this feature the camera crops a 35mm equivalent off of the APS sensor blowing the image up to fill the LCD screen. When in this mode, the camera becomes a 10MP camera.

6 upvotes
Michael_6
By Michael_6 (11 months ago)

Could anyone tell me about the pros and cons of this camera vs a Fuji X camera and vs a Sony RX100 II for street and indoor photography? Especially in low light.

0 upvotes
bill434
By bill434 (10 months ago)

Hi Michael,
Fuji X cameras (X100, X100S and XPro 1) all are fantastic cameras - but for a street shooter they are more obtrusive than the GR. The GR doesn't look like a serious camera, so you look like someone taking snap shots. All four of these cameras are fantastic in low light. I don't know if you know this but on this site you can go to the review of one camera (in the GR review it would be page 15) and look at a low light comparison. The photo has a cursor so you can move to anywhere on the page - select cameras to compare in raw or jpg,
The RX100 II is a great camera but I would have to say that it's unfair to compare it to the others mentioned here, as the sensor is about one quarter the size of the others. This means, that while the RX100II has high resolution, its pixels are much smaller in size, so they don't perform as well in low light. You can use that comparison page to check this.
BTW, I work in a camera store, and I've just bought the GR for street shooting.

Comment edited 7 minutes after posting
5 upvotes
Plastek
By Plastek (10 months ago)

Street photo with 18mm lens.... Somehow I'm not tempted.
I would buy this camera right off if it'd come with 50, 35 or heck: even 24mm lens. But 18? I can't imagine myself shooting wide angle all the time.

0 upvotes
likeafoxow
By likeafoxow (10 months ago)

the 18.5mm lens is on an apsc sized sensor, making the lens a 28mm full frame equivalent.

8 upvotes
Old Baldy
By Old Baldy (8 months ago)

Check the image quality compared to the other cameras on Page 16 of the Review "Image Quality Compared (Raw)." The GR trounces the others, including the aclaimed X100S at every ISO level. It really is a great little camera!

0 upvotes
bill434
By bill434 (Aug 29, 2013)

I work in a camera store, and I've had plenty of time to play with this camera. Over time I had lost the excitement I associated with photography. After all, I get to play with these things 8 hours a day.

I've carried big equipment, shooting everything and enjoying it less.

This camera has reawakened me to completely new possibilities. It looks like a cheesy point and shoot camera - totally unobtrusive on the street - but it shoots amazing images. This is the ultimate street shooters camera - no one will ever know.

I'm impressed with the low light characteristics of the camera and it's easily held in one hand - it has preset distances to minimize auto focus speed, ie., if most of your shots are at 15 feet, you can preset the camera giving you instantaneous AF around 15 ft.

If I were to be super critical I would rather have image stabilization in camera - but it's a small price to pay, and I'll be shooting most everything at higher IS0s (around 800)

This one I have to have.

7 upvotes
antwstldn
By antwstldn (Aug 18, 2013)

Dear Ricoh enthusiast,

I really want to buy the GR Expert. I had the GR film version and though it was a stunning camera. On the strength of it I bought the first GRD and was hugely disappointed by it's poor light handling capabilities. I've waited years for Ricoh to improve it and judging by the reviews it's getting they have finally done it. And then I look at the sample images in this review and it just reminds of what I remembered about my first GRD ... flat images, poor contrast, no real sense of depth. Does anyone agree or am I missing something?

1 upvote
JEROME NOLAS
By JEROME NOLAS (Aug 21, 2013)

Oh man!!! If you like "a cheap whore"colours then buy Nikon, Sony, Canon compacts, etc. This is not a toy for fanboys!!! Také a pics from your window, donload it and check the reality and comp. screen. Whoa!! Is it real or what!

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
1 upvote
Artistico
By Artistico (11 months ago)

When an image from a camera is flat and has poor contrast straight from camera, it is often because the camera hasn't added any processing of its own, leaving that to you, the photographer. It's a good thing, leaving you more room to make adjustments in post-processing.

6 upvotes
Timmbits
By Timmbits (Aug 14, 2013)

I like this camera after seeing the IQ compared to the Fuji-X100s and the Nikon-A. but size for size, I think I'd rather carry a Samsung NX300 with one of their several pancake lenses on it, in my pocket. Not much size difference, and you have more versatility than these cameras. Just saying.

(I have an NX20 and am only eyeing these types of cameras because I'd like something smaller to slip into my pocket to have on me at all times)

the interface is definitely a huge deciding factor between these two very similar models. I'll go for direct controls over menus any day.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 11 minutes after posting
2 upvotes
JEROME NOLAS
By JEROME NOLAS (Aug 21, 2013)

I also have NX10 and some time ago I bought 30/2 lens and it's still "big....." I cary my Ricoh all the time!!!

4 upvotes
Plastek
By Plastek (10 months ago)

Yea, only NX doen't fit your jeans pocket and never will - this one meanwhile does. And that's an enormous difference in the long run.

1 upvote
Total comments: 37