Ricoh GR comparative review
JPEG Tone curves / Dynamic range
Our Dynamic Range measurement system involves shooting a calibrated Stouffer Step Wedge (13 stops total range) which is backlit using a daylight balanced lamp (98 CRI). A single shot of this produces a gray scale wedge from the camera's clipped white point down to black (example below). Each step of the scale is equivalent to 1/3 EV (a third of a stop), we select one step as 'middle gray' (defined as 50% luminance) and measure outwards to define the dynamic range. Hence there are 'two sides' to our results, the amount of shadow range (below middle gray) and the amount of highlight range (above middle gray).
To most people highlight range is the first thing they think about when talking about dynamic range, that is the amount of highlight detail above middle gray the camera can capture before it clips to white. Shadow range is more complicated; in our test the line on the graph stops as soon as the luminance value drops below our defined 'black point' (about 2% luminance) or the signal-to-noise ratio drops below a predefined value (where shadow detail would be swamped by noise), whichever comes first.
Note: this page features our new interactive dynamic range comparison widget. The wedges below the graph are created by our measurement system from the values read from the step wedge, the red lines indicate approximate shadow and highlight range (the dotted line indicating middle gray).
The GR has a slightly different JPEG tone curve, compared to the Nikon Coolpix A, meaning it conveys similar dynamic range slightly differently. The Ricoh clips to white around 1/3EV earlier than the Nikon (Though, at any given shutter speed, aperture and ISO, its JPEGs will be 1/3EV darker, so will actually capture the same brightest tone). The Ricoh's shadow response is slightly less contrasty than the Nikon's - again meaning that the shadow regions will be fairly similar to the Coolpix if set to the same exposure values. The main difference will be a darker mid-tones - which is why it measures as 1/3rd less sensitive than the Nikon, despite very similar highlight and shadow results from the same exposure.
Viewed in isolation, though, it's a sensible enough tone curve and, as we'll see further down the page, the Ricoh offers the option to capture and convey more dynamic range if you need it.
Dynamic Range Compensation
The Ricoh provides a Dynamic Range Compensation mode that combines lower exposures with different tone curves to capture and convey a wider tonal range. While this combination of exposing for the highlights and pulling up the mid-tones and shadows is now pretty common (it's an approach many cameras offer), the Ricoh is unusual in then pulling the shadows up brighter than they would be, were the feature disengaged.
Compare, for instance, to the Fujifilm X100S' DR100%, 200% and 400% modes, which extend highlight capture but give the same shadow response (by pulling the shadows up to match the DR100% image). Instead the Ricoh brightens the shadows further - giving JPEGs with greatly increased dynamic range, but much lower overall contrast (as shown in our real-world demonstration).
As usual, all of the extra highlight information in the JPEGs will also be recorded in the RAW file.
The GR only has two color modes, by default - Standard and Vivid. In addition there are two custom settings that allow you to specify vividness, contrast, sharpness and how much vignetting you wish to add. We didn't test to find out which vividness or contrast settings would give the same response as the higher contrast Vivid preset.
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