Ricoh GR III review
What's new and how it compares
Compared to the GR II, the Ricoh GR III offers slightly tweaked ergonomics, a smaller (but very slightly heavier) body and a new - and now stabilized - sensor. With the new sensor comes more pixels, hybrid autofocus and ultrasonic cleaning. The GR III's video specs have been slightly boosted, but just like its predecessor, it shouldn't be your first choice for shooting movies. Meanwhile, the CIPA battery rating has dropped, and Ricoh couldn't make room for a built-in flash.
- New 24MP sensor offers significant resolution boost over GR/II
- New lens is very sharp and offers excellent close-focus capabilities
- Hybrid autofocus system offers improved AF responsiveness in all conditions, but it's still not quick, especially in poor lighting
- 3-axis sensor stabilization allows hand-holding reliably down to around 1/10 sec
- CIPA rated battery life of 200 shots (38% reduction compared to GR II) means a spare battery is essential
- Touchscreen makes autofocus point positioning (and image review) easy
New sensor and lens
The GR III features a 24MP APS-C sensor, which provides a major increase in resolution and imaging performance compared to the 16MP sensor in the GR and GR II, which was looking very dated. The 18.3mm (28mm equivalent) lens is also new, and features six elements - two of which are aspherical - in four groups.
At first glance this might appear to be a simplification of the seven element, 5 group lens in the GR / II, but image quality from the GR III's sensor/lens combination is excellent, featuring outstanding sharpness.
The new sensor also expands the GR III's capabilities in difficult and low light, offering superior dynamic range in Raw mode and better mid/high-ISO image quality. The GR III's ISO range has been significantly expanded, from 100-25,600 to 100-102,400. The sensor is not fitted with a physical anti-aliasing filter, but cleverly, the SR (Shake Reduction) system can be employed to simulate the effect of one in situations where moiré might become a problem.
New adapter and hood
Like the GR and GR II, the GR III is compatible with an optional hood and/or wide-angle lens attachment, the GW-4 Wide Conversion Lens which increases the field of view to 21mm equivalent. We don't have either of these two accessories available to review at the time of writing, but our experience with the previous-generation wide-angle lens sold for the GR II has been very positive (except for the bulk that it adds to the camera). The GR III will not be pocketable with the GW-4 attached - far from it - and the total package isn't cheap, either. The GW-4 lens and GW-1 adapter cost $249 and $49 respectively.
On-sensor phase detect autofocus
The GR III gains on-sensor phase detection elements, which allows it to use a hybrid of phase and contrast detection information to give faster focus. However, the new lens design still uses a unit focus approach, meaning the entire lens moves to achieve focus. This approach can give better image quality, especially at closer focus distances, but means it's more difficult to drive the lens quickly.
Remarkably, despite reducing its size compared to the GR II, Ricoh has managed to find room for an in-camera stabilization system. The sensor is stabilized on 3 axes, and in normal shooting we've found that the system is reliably effective by at least two stops. This enables handheld shooting down to ~1/10 sec with a decent degree of confidence.
The 'Auto Shake Reduction Off' feature
could use a re-think
By default, the SR system is turned on. Also activated by default is an 'Auto SR off' feature which automatically disables SR when it isn't required. In practice, this option could use a re-think. It appears to be based solely on shake detection. When the GR III is positioned on a firm base, like a tabletop or tripod, it will deactivate SR. But regardless of exposure settings, SR will activate on a half-press of the shutter if any camera movement is detected.
This effectively means that when the camera is in your hand and the shutter button is half-pressed, SR is turned on, regardless of whether you actually need it.
|The GR III's in-body stabilization system is very effective, and we've found that handheld shooting down to at least 1/10sec in normal use is perfectly possible.
Out-of-camera JPEG | ISO 800 | 1/10 sec | F2.8
Photo by Barney Britton
Meanwhile, if you attempt to stabilize the GR III by resting it on a wall or fence to get a long exposure shot, there's a chance that if you're too successful, SR will deactivate, potentially robbing you of its benefit. As such, in critical situations, it's safer to manually activate/deactivate SR in the menu system. The movie/Wi-Fi button can be customized to act as an SR toggle if you find yourself needing to do this frequently.
If Ricoh's engineers are listening, a more useful implementation of 'SR auto off' would be to follow Leica's example on the Q2 and consider an exposure length threshold for automatic SR activation. In most situations, shutter durations of 1/125 or shorter should be adequate to avoid blur from camera shake without the help of SR.
But in addition to reducing the effects of hand shake, the SR system can vibrate at a high frequency to help remove dust that may have landed on the sensor. With fixed-lens cameras, this can sometimes become a problem, and we're happy to see this feature making its way into the GR III.
In the table below we're comparing the Ricoh GR III against its predecessor, and also its most obvious current competitor, the Fujifilm XF10 - another pocketable compact camera with a 28mm F2.8 equivalent lens and a 24MP APS-C sensor. We also included the considerably more expensive Leica Q2, just in case your love of 28mm equiv shooting is more important to you than money or pocketability.
|Ricoh GR III||Ricoh GR II||Fujifilm XF10||Leica Q2|
|Sensor||24MP Bayer||16MP Bayer||24MP Bayer||47MP Bayer (full-frame)|
|Lens||28mm equiv. F2.8||28mm equiv. F2.8||28mm equiv. F2.8||28mm F1.7|
|Image stab.||3-axis in-body||None||None||In-lens|
|Rear screen||1.04M-dot (touchscreen)||1.23M-dot||1.04M-dot (touchscreen)||1.04M-dot (touchscreen)|
|Continuous drive||4 fps||4 fps||6 fps||20 fps|
|Wireless connectivity||Wi-Fi + Bluetooth LE||Wi-Fi||Wi-Fi + Bluetooth LE||Wi-Fi + Bluetooth LE|
|Battery life (CIPA)||200 shots||320 shots||330 shots||370 shots|
|Weight (incl. card & batt)||257 g (9 oz)||251 g (8.9 oz)||279 g (9.8 oz)||718 g (1.58 lb)|
Glancing at the key specs, it doesn't look like there's much to separate the GR III from its predecessor or main competitor, the Fujifilm XF10. But look a little more closely and the loss of a built-in flash, the lower CIPA battery figure and the addition of in-body stabilization differentiate the GR III in a quite bad, very bad and very good way, in that order.
The XF10's MSRP of $499 makes it look like a real bargain in this category (you can buy ten of them for the price of one Leica Q2, after all), but the spec table doesn't tell the whole story here. The XF10 is a less satisfying camera than the GR III overall, in terms of build quality, responsiveness and general shooting experience. But as we'll see later on in the review in terms of image quality, JPEG shooters may prefer the Fujifilm's output.
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