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Compared to the Nikon Coolpix A

It's a little unusual for two models to appear at the same time that address a niche in such a similar manner. The arrival of the GR, shortly after the Coolpix A's announcement cast the Nikon is a slightly different light. A prime-lens, enthusiast-focused camera marked a departure for Nikon but the GR is a more obvious continuation of a long-running and well-loved product line from Ricoh.

The similarities are so great that it would be perverse to review one without the other so, in these pages and throughout the rest of the review, we'll look at how the cameras compare.

Camera size

The two cameras are fairly similar in size, with the Ricoh being a touch wider but also a touch less tall.
The difference is more apparent from the top - the Ricoh's body is a fraction slimmer than the Nikon's. However, the big difference comes in the lenses - the Ricoh is 5mm (12% slimmer) when both cameras are switched off. With the lenses extended, the Ricoh is between 4 and 8mm thinner.
It may not be immediately apparent from the backs of the two cameras how different their operating philosophies are.

The two cameras have similar numbers of buttons (both have a customizable button out-of-sight in this view), but the approaches are rather different - the Nikon makes the primary exposure parameters and focus point selection immediately available, while on the Ricoh AF point positioning requires an extra button press, but you can gain quick access to many more functions.

Basic specifications

Although the headline specifications are the same (28mm equivalent, F2.8 lenses, 16MP APS-C sensors without anti-aliasing filters), there are a reasonable number of differences between the GR and Nikon's Coolpix A.

  Ricoh GR Nikon Coolpix A
MSRP $799/£599 $1099/£999
Sensor 16MP APS-C CMOS
w/out OLPF
16MP APS-C CMOS
w/out OLPF
Lens 18.3mm F2.8 18.5mm F2.8
Lens design 7 elements, 5 groups
2 aspherical elements
7 elements, 5 groups
1 aspherical element
Aperture blades 9 7
Raw bit-depth 12-bit 14-bit
Minimum focus distance 10cm / 3.9" 10cm / 3.9"
Maximum shutter speed (sec) 1/4000th
(aperture limited)
1/2000th
Rear LCD resolution 1.2m dots (VGA, RGBW) 910k dots (VGA, RGB)
Battery life (CIPA) 290 shots 230 shots
Weight (with battery and card) 245g / 8.6oz 299g / 10.5oz
Movie options 1080/30p,25p,24p 1080/30p,25p,24p
Movie exposure set before shooting? No Yes
Exposure control during movie shooting None Exposure Comp.
Flash GN (m/ISO 100) 5.4 6
Built-in ND filter? Yes No
In-camera Raw processing? Yes Yes

The biggest difference, though, is their interfaces. The Coolpix clusters most of its features in a single interactive control panel, requiring a lot of button pressing to navigate. The Ricoh, by contrast, lets you choose the five features you're most likely to want to change and puts them in an easily accessible place. Of course, if you regularly use more functions than you can assign to these positions (and the Ricoh's three customizable buttons), the Nikon might prove faster to use, overall.

With the exception of the (customizable) Effects button on its left flank, the Ricoh can be operated one-handed. In fact, for most functions, it can be operated without having to shift your hand out of its shooting position. It's an interface that benefits from some time spent configuring it when you first use the camera, but the speed and sense that you're shooting with an interface you've tailored to your own needs is rather satisfying. The Nikon's two customizable buttons and entry-level DSLR interface can't really compete if you're the kind of photographer that regularly wants to change more than the basic exposure settings.

Sigma's DP1 Merrill also deserves a mention at this point - it also has a 28mm equivalent, F2.8 lens in front of an APS-C sensor. However, instead of using a conventional Bayer design, it has one of the company's Foveon sensors that works in a completely different way. The Foveon uses a three-layer design that attempts to collect all its color information at each of its pixels, rather than only capturing Red, Green or Blue at each pixel, then attempting to calculate what the other colors would have been.

The advantage of such a design is that it shouldn't suffer from the color moiré that we might expect to see from the Nikon and Ricoh. The disadvantage is that the sensor only works well in relatively bright light, as you'll see in our studio comparison images.

Image quality comparisons

Here we've shot our forthcoming test scene, which shows more useful information about corner performance than our current studio scene. We've shot the Nikon Coolpix A and Ricoh GR alongside each other. The directly comparable Sigma DP1 Merrill will be covered in its own article.

ACR-converted Raws, F2.8

The images below have been processed from Raw in Adobe Camera Raw 7.4, white balanced and brightness matched and both noise reduction and sharpening have been minimized. Our standard unsharp mask sharpening (Amount 100%, radius 0.6, threshold 0) has then been applied in Photoshop and the results saved as quality 11 JPEGs for download.

Ricoh GR - F2.8 100% Crop - Top left corner
Nikon Coolpix A - F2.8 100% Crop - Top left corner

The only noticeable difference between the two cameras, in terms of lens performance, is in the extreme corners, where the Nikon shows a little softness at F2.8 (probably as a result of slight curvature of field - a non-flat plane of focus at close focusing distances). This disappears on stopping down though, and as the lens test data on the next page shows, there's no significant performance difference overall.

By comparison, the Ricoh's unit focus design (where multiple lens elements move together as a group to focus), is impressively consistent, even in the fairly unusual situation of shooting flat subjects at close distances.

Moiré

These crops were taken from the center of the image and show just how sharp both lenses are. As you can see, both cameras are exhibiting extensive moiré as a result of their sharp lenses and lack of anti-aliasing filters.

Ricoh GR - F2.8, 100% center crop
Nikon Coolpix A - F2.8, 100% center crop

Out of camera JPEGs, F5.0

By F5.0 both lenses are more consistent across the frame. These shots show how the camera's JPEG engines cope with moiré. Both the Ricoh and Nikon have been re-processed from Raw in-camera to fine-tune white balance.

Ricoh GR - F5.0 - JPEG 100% Crop - center
Nikon Coolpix A - F5.0 - JPEG 100% Crop - center

As you can see, the moiré is much less pronounced than it was in Raw. Comparing with the Raw files also shot at F5, you can see the difference is a result of the camera's attempts to suppress it, rather than the effect of changing apertures:

Ricoh GR - F5.0 - JPEG Ricoh GR - F5.0 - Raw
Nikon Coolpix A - F5.0 - JPEG Nikon Coolpix A - F5.0 - Raw

Click here to download the Raw samples of both apertures:

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Comments

Total comments: 37
white shadow

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

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

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

Does the GR have Neck Strap Lugs?

0 upvotes
Scottelly

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

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

7 upvotes
john Clinch

Thanks I really enjoyed your review and photos

0 upvotes
vessy

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

0 upvotes
nand0

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

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

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

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

1 upvote
eng13

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

0 upvotes
CarVac

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

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

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

0 upvotes
CarVac

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

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.

3 upvotes
pitaw

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

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

1 upvote
regardlese

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

0 upvotes
marco1974

Ugh!
UGLY Moiré!
M.

1 upvote
povetron

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

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.

7 upvotes
Michael_6

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

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

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

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

8 upvotes
Old Baldy

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

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.

8 upvotes
antwstldn

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

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

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.

8 upvotes
Timmbits

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

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

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.

2 upvotes
Total comments: 37