Ricoh GR comparative review
Conclusion - Pros
- Excellent image quality in Raw, very good in JPEG
- Sharp lens with consistency at wide apertures and close working distances
- Large sensor in genuinely small body
- Highly customizable and responsive user interface
- Excellent build quality
- Extensive feature set (built-in ND filter, Snap Focus, time lapse and 35mm crop mode)
- Good live view magnification allows precise manual focus
- USB charging can be convenient
Conclusion - Cons
- Occasional tendency to under-exposure
- Unflattering color profile embedded in DNG files
- Extremely limited movie capabilities
- Lack of external charger makes keeping a second battery charged awkward
- Limited buffer for continuous Raw shooting
The Ricoh GR is the latest in a long-running and much-loved series of enthusiast compacts. The move to an APS-C sensor means the image quality of the GR finally lives up to the standards of the user interface and build that the series has always offered.
Having that history to build on had helped Ricoh present a really well thought-out camera and one that's a pleasure to use. It's likely to most suit the dedicated photographer, willing to shoot Raw and take the time to set the camera up to suit their shooting style, but it's a very usable camera straight out of the box.
When it comes down to it, the Ricoh has more features (such as interval shooting, interval composite and multi-exposure shooting) than it makes sense for us to test. But even sticking to the core, single-shot, traditional photography options, the GR is a highly capable camera, thanks to inclusions such as a built-in ND filter and Snap Focus mode.
The Ricoh's image quality is very good - with detail well conveyed in the JPEGs. The color response is a touch more muted than the Nikon Coolpix A's very consumer-friendly results, but it's still pretty good. The color profile embedded in the DNG is somewhere disagreeable, however - particularly in its rendition of reds. Anyone looking to convert from Raw should make sure they're using a different profile.
The only real fly in the ointment is the camera's metering, which can occasionally be far too conservative. This isn't a problem if you're shooting in Raw mode - there's plenty of dynamic range in the Raw files to allow exposure to be 'pulled' a bit, without having to worry about shadow noise. You can even re-process Raw files in camera to be brighter, if the original was under-exposed.
This is no substitute for more reliable metering, of course. And, while you can apply exposure compensation, the on-screen histogram is (like on most cameras) a little too small and coarse to precisely judge exposure.
Handling and Operation
The Ricoh inherits arguably the best enthusiast compact camera interface on the market (though the Olympus XZ-2's combination of touch-screen and dual-mode lens ring gives it fiercer competition than it's had before). The GR is small, well built and, with a bit of customization, puts all the controls you might want directly at your fingertips.
Some aspects of the interface (engaging and configuring the magnified live view, for instance) are involved enough that you have to spend a little time with the camera to get into the rhythm of controlling it quickly. But, once you've got into that habit, the GR is a quick-to-use camera that encourages you to make the most of its features.
As someone who likes to fiddle with white balance, I was disappointed but Ricoh's decision to move white balance away from the ADJ menu and onto a button that requires a shift of the hands out of the shooting position. However, when that's the most pressing concern you have about a camera's handling, then it suggests it's doing quite a lot of things right.
The final word
The Ricoh GR is a camera for a fairly specific niche - dedicated photographers wanting a fixed 28mm equivalent pocketable camera - but it satisfies the needs of that niche very well. So, while its JPEGs aren't quite as punchy as those from the Coolpix A, we think its potential buyers will be just as interested in its Raw capabilities, which are every bit a match for the Nikon's.
The Ricoh's heritage plays strongly in its favor - the GR series had long ago overcome most operational quirks - resulting in an enjoyable, engaging camera with excellent image quality. So, with Raw performance that's essentially indistinguishable from the Nikon's, the Ricoh's ND filter, longer battery life, faster focusing, lens quality and better rear screen give it the edge. The lower price seals the deal - earning the Ricoh our highest rating.
Category: Enthusiast Large Sensor Compact Camera
Ergonomics & handling
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Movie / video mode
DSLR image quality finally comes to Ricoh's well-respected enthusiast compact. The GR retains its predecessor's excellent and customizable user interface, making it a pleasure to use as a pocketable wide-angle photographers' camera. The JPEGs are occasionally a little muted but the raw files, feature set, and lens quality mean it's capable of outstanding results.
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