With the announcement of the GR Digital IV, Ricoh updates its premium compact camera model. A successor to the GR Digital III, the GRD IV retains key elements from its predecessor. A fixed 28mm F1.9 lens sits in front of a 10MP 1/1.7" type CCD sensor, capable only of VGA video output. There's also a built-in pop-up flash and hotshoe. However, dig a little deeper and the changes are considerably more extensive.

Ricoh has taken the opportunity to introduce numerous enhancements to the GRD IV. As you might expect, there's an updated image processor that Ricoh is using to wring more out of the sensor. Beyond this the most notable addition is an image stabilization system that uses sensor-shift to counteract camera shake. Ricoh also adds its 'Hybrid AF' system with which they claim a 2x improvement in AF speed over the GRD III. And, in what has become something of a Ricoh tradition, the GRD IV features a cutting-edge display: Sony's WhiteMagic RGBW LCD screen that promises greater luminance than traditional LCD displays while consuming less power.

The camera's electronic level gauge has also been overhauled, and now detects not only horizontal roll, but also tilt inclination, which is eminently useful when photographing buildings or other vertical structures. In one of the best (and sadly, rare) implementations of multiple exposure shooting, the GDR IV allows you to overlay up to five separate image captures into a single composite, with the option to automatically save the individual image files as well.

The GRD IV maintains the external control layout of its predecessor, providing easy access to shooting and exposure parameters without having to change your grip from the shooting position. This well thought-out, ergonomically sensitive design is enhanced by many useful customization options. The camera's two Fn buttons can be configured in pairs, allowing you to setup and switch between up to four combinations of dual-button function sets. A well-placed 'Adj.' lever provides quick access to a maximum of five shooting parameters. The specific selection and order of these parameters can be customized from an exhaustive list of options.

The external body design of the GRD IV is virtually unchanged from the GRD III. And while the camera's rather box-like, spartan aesthetic may not win any beauty awards in comparison to its more showy competition, it is solidly built, comfortable in hand and offers a sure grip. Owners of the GRD IV can opt for Ricoh's grip customization service with a choice of metal, leather or carbon replacement hand grips.

Ricoh is simultaneously releasing a limited edition (10,000 unit) version of the GRD IV in a white body with a metal lens cap and leather camera strap.

Ricoh GR Digital IV key specifications:

  • 10MP 1/1.7-inch CCD
  • 28mm equivalent/1.9 lens
  • Sensor-shift image stabilization
  • 'Hybrid AF' focus system
  • 3.0 inch RGBW 1.23 million dot LCD
  • GR ENGINE IV image processor
  • 30fps VGA video capture
  • Multiple Exposure mode (up to five overlapping image captures)
  • Electronic level gauge

Compared to the Panasonic DMC-LX5

Ricoh's GR Digital cameras, with their fixed focal-length lenses and compact sensors have no direct peers (the closest equivalents, such as the Panasonic LX5 pictured here, all feature zoom lenses), but have developed a loyal following. What this picture can't convey is the GRD's excellent build quality and superb control system.

Differences between the GRD IV and GRD III

  • Improved AF speed (up to 2x faster) combining external AF sensors with conventional contrast AF
  • RGBW 1.23 million dot VGA LCD screen vs. 920,000 dot RGB
  • New GR ENGINE IV image processing engine
  • Sensor-shift image stabilization
  • Two new Image Setting presets (Positive Film and Bleach Bypass)
  • New Auto-bracketing options for contrast and dynamic range compensation
  • Enhanced level gauge that detects tilt direction in addition to horizontal inclination