The GR-D is, externally, refreshingly austere, and couldn't be farther away from the brash shiny designs shared by the majority of modern compact cameras. The styling is unashamedly serious, and the matt black finish, rubberized grip and lack of frills give the impression of an uncompromising photographic tool. And the GR-D doesn't just look like a piece of military equipment; it's built like a tank too; under the skin is a die-cast magnesium body. I've seen many 'retro' styled digital cameras in my time, but the GR-D is one of the few to actually succeed in capturing some of the essence of a high quality film camera, and - physically at least - is a worthwhile successor to the famous GR-1 (Ricoh's highly regarded 35mm compact and the GR-D's inspiration).
In your hand
At 200g (7.1oz) fully loaded the GR-D is lighter than it looks, but it does feel reassuringly solid and fairly stable. Despite the none-slip grip I would have preferred a slightly bigger grip (or something a little more substantial on the rear) as the body is so slim that it doesn't feel particularly safe carried and used in one hand. The wrist strap helps here, but if you attach the optional 21mm lens and/or viewfinder it feels a lot safer, and steadier, if you support the camera with both hands. Operationally the GR-D is - for the experienced photographer - simply superb, with twin control dials giving fast, fluid control over exposures.
The GR-D ships with a rechargeable D-60 battery that's good enough for about 250 shots (CIPA standard) using the LCD, though you'll get a lot more out of a charge if you use the optional optical viewfinder (see below). You can also use three AAA batteries, though we struggled to get more than 25 shots out of a set, so for emergencies only. The battery doesn't have a retaining clip, so be careful when changing cards.
The GR-D's SD card slot sits directly below the battery compartment. The camera also has 26MB of internal memory - enough for 8 best quality 8MP JPEGs (or a single raw shot).
The main mode dial sits on the top plate, just to the left of the shutter release. There are six positions (movie, aperture priority, shutter priority, manual and 'scene'). The small button above the mode dial is a lock to avoid accidentally moving it.
Rather strangely there is only one 'scene mode' - a very high contrast black and white mode for shooting text.
The GR-D's screen is superb; pin-sharp, fast and bright enough to see in all conditions bar direct sunlight. At 210,000 pixels it's not the highest resolution 2.5-inch screen we've ever seen, but it's damn close, and is considerably better than the majority of its competitors (where resolutions as low as 115,000 pixels are fairly common).
The built-in pop-up flash has a range of around 0.2 to 3.0m (using auto ISO). Unusually for a camera of this type there is a hot-shoe attachment for an external flash. If you use the right flashgun (basically a Sigma EF-500 DG or EF-500 DG-ST) you get full TTL flash control, which is a real rarity on a none SLR camera.
The fixed 28mm F2.4 lens is also a rarity, and is the part of the GR-D that Ricoh promotes heavily. The lens extends by around an inch when the camera is powered up, and is full of low dispersion glass and aspherical elements designed to ensure it has edge-to-edge sharpness and low distortion. The ring around the base of the lens can be removed to allow the attachment of the optional accessory lens.
Wide lenses are more prone to flare problems, and Ricoh offers a large lens hood (so large it blocks the flash) as an option, though to be honest we didn't use it often and didn't experience any significant problems with flare.
A rather flimsy plastic door covers the AV out and USB ports. There is no AC power socket (the optional mains adaptor is a 'dummy battery' type). As an aside we found the rubber was starting to lift away from the body in the corner visible here; a few more weeks and I think it's going to need a spot of glue.
Ricoh offers an optional wide converter lens that takes the focal length down to 21mm equivalent; very wide indeed. It's not cheap, but it is a high quality optic, and it does come with a natty rubber push-on hood. You cannot attach the lens directly to the camera (you need to purchase the optional lens hood and bayonet adaptor).
The other accessory (which costs about the same as the converter lens - about £130 in the UK) is a high quality external viewfinder (which slots into the flash hot shoe and has markings for the 21mm and 28mm lenses). It's a lot better than the tiny holes you get for a viewfinder on most compacts, and is a nice nostalgia trip for old rangefinder users, but it's a lot of money. Better value is the 'creative kit', which ships with all the accessories for about £200 / $380 more than the camera.