Real-world comparisons

These shots were taken moments apart, to show how the cameras behave outside the studio. The shots were both taken and F3.2 and Auto ISO, with exposure compensation applied on the Nikon to more closely match the Ricoh's exposure. The Nikon image has been re-processed in-camera from a Raw file with noise reduction turned off, to match the Ricoh's setting.

Nikon Coolpix A - F3.2, ISO 1400 100% Crop
Ricoh GR - F3.2, ISO 1600 100% Crop

Daylight samples

Shot in daylight, we found no clear winner between the Nikon and the Ricoh - in general the Nikon will meter less conservatively than the Ricoh, so is more likely to produce brighter, punchier images. We also thought the color response of the Nikon was a touch more pleasant, though much of that is down to personal taste - the Ricoh's JPEGs are arguably more natural (which doesn't necessarily mean better, in photography).

At the same exposure, the Nikon's images tend to be around one third of a stop brighter than the Ricoh's (suggesting the Ricoh's ISO sensitivity is a fraction over-stated).

Nikon Coolpix A - F5, ISO 100, 1/1250th sec 100% Crop
Ricoh GR - F5, ISO 100, 1/1250th sec 100% Crop

There's no appreciable difference in image sharpness between the two cameras' JPEGs, though the Ricoh is exhibiting a touch more false color (pink and green tinged wooden frames in this image). The GR has an option to reduce color moiré if you re-process a Raw file in the camera. We'll look more at this feature in our review of the Ricoh.

Nikon Coolpix A - F8, ISO 100 100% Crop
Ricoh GR - F8, ISO 100 100% Crop

12-bit vs 14-bit RAW and shadow detail

The Nikon outputs 14bit Raw files, rather than the 12bit ones produced by the Ricoh. The real-world difference this makes is minimal - the Nikon files appear to have a fraction more latitude if you push them hard (a tiny bit more information in the deepest shadows). We've tried to create images with substantially brightened shadows and the only realistic difference is a slight loss of contrast in the deepest shadows. Overall, then, the Nikon offers a theoretical benefit, but you'll rarely see the results of it.

The shots below have been processed in Adobe Camera Raw 7.4, with Blacks set to +34 and Shadows brightened to +89, to reveal detail in the shadows without degenerating into heavy-HDR creepiness. The Ricoh's green and yellow response have also been slightly adjusted to overcome the profile embedded in its DNG files, to more closely match the standard Adobe profile used for the Nikon.

The result is a pair of images with shadows that have been lifted by up to 2.5EV in places but both cameras are still showing plenty of detail in the darker areas, with no sign of noise intruding.

Nikon Coolpix A - F8, ISO 100 - Original JPEG Ricoh GR - F8, ISO 100 - Original JPEG
Nikon Coolpix A - Adjusted Raw Ricoh GR - Adjusted Raw
100% Crop 100% Crop

There's essentially nothing to choose between the two files - there's slightly more contrast (and possibly a fraction more color data) in the shadows of the Nikon file but, without being able to exactly match the tone and color response on both cameras, we can't be certain this difference really exists.

The difference that certainly does exist is that Nikon's 14-bit Raw files are significantly larger than the Ricoh's. The Coolpix A's Raw files are typically around 17MB per file, rather than the GR's 13.5MB (Which would allow you to fit over 100 more Ricoh images onto an 8GB SD card, if you were shooting Raw only).