Ricoh GR comparative review
Body and handling
The GR's interface is a development of the one seen on the company's GR Digital and GXR modes - and one of our favorites on compact cameras. The reason for this is simple - the ability to customize the interface such that you can access your most-used functions without moving your hand from the shooting position.
Pressing the 'ADJ' jog lever with your thumb brings a line of up to five user-selected icons in the top right of the camera screen. Nudging the lever left or right jumps between the icons and rotating the front dial scrolls through the available options. Another press of the ADJ lever (or even just shooting a shot) applies the setting. It's an excellent, fast and engaging way of shooting - we're delighted to see it survive onto this post-Ricoh/Pentax merger camera.
|The ADJ Menu allows you to place your most-used features in a function menu that appears when you press the ADJ lever inwards.
It allows you to navigate and adjust these settings without moving your hand from a shooting grip.
An additional option is to add 'Direct ISO Adjust' to the ADJ lever. Using this option gives you control of ISO by nudging the lever left and right (you still get the ADJ menu if you press it in). The ADJ menu has five positions that can be filled - these are the functions that can be applied to them:
|Parameters that can be assigned to one of the five positions in the ADJ menu|
| • Off
• Picture Size
• Aspect Ratio
• Expo. Metering
• Cont. Mode
| • Focus Mode
• Auto Bracket
• Flash Comp.
• Flash Amount
• Dyn Range Comp
One disappointment here is the absence of white balance from this list. Unlike previous Ricohs, WB now has its own position on the four-way controller, so it is always accessible. However, its removal from the ADJ menu means it can't be quickly changed without taking your hands out of the shooting position. This is, at worst, a minor complaint and whether you even notice it is likely to depend on how often you change the white balance setting.
The Ricoh GR must be a challenger for the title of most customizable compact, despite the determined efforts of the likes of the Olympus XZ-2. In addition to being able to customize the ADJ dial functions - there are also two customizable Fn buttons. There's also a 'Effect' button on the camera's flank that can be re-purposed.
|Parameters that can be assigned to the Fn and Effect buttons|
| • Off
• 35 mm Crop
• ND Filter
• FA/Move Target
• Picture Size
| • Aspect Ratio
• Expo. Metering
• Cont. Mode
• Multi Exposure
• Auto Bracket
• Flash Comp.
• Flash Amount
• Dyn Range Comp
• Self Timer
• Frame Rate
|Two of the four display modes can be fully customized.
You can also decide which of these modes is made available.
The extent of customization doesn't end there, though. You can also create two custom screen modes and define whether these and the image-only display are available when you press the DISP button. And, rather than selecting a fixed level of noise reduction for use at all ISO, you can dictate the thresholds at which the different levels of noise reduction are introduced.
|The GR allows you to decide how much noise reduction is applied at each ISO and at which setting it's increased.|
Real-world Handling (compared to Coolpix A)
We've regularly described Ricoh's control interface as one of the best to be found on a compact and the Ricoh GR really underlines that. The ADJ menu puts all your most-used controls exactly where you can get at them, making it a easier camera to play with the settings of that the Nikon Coolpix A.
As a bit of a white balance geek (the need to get technically sound JPEGs for review galleries means I can't shoot Raw and set it later), I'm frustrated to lose WB from the ADJ menu - it's something I like to tinker with and having to shift my hand out of the shooting position to change it did undermine the otherwise excellent shooting experience.
Repositioning the autofocus point requires you to press left on the four-way controller before it becomes active. You might expect this to make the process slower than the Nikon Coolpix A (on which the controller is always in AF point mode), but this isn't the case. The speed of the cursor's movement, combined with the controller's ability to move the point diagonally (it's actually an eight-way controller), gave the Ricoh the edge in terms of speed. I'd occasionally forget to confirm the focus point position, then hit the Fn2 button only to accidentally find myself in the target settings menu, rather than getting the function I'd assigned to the button.
In addition to it being faster to position the AF point, the Ricoh is also faster to focus than the Coolpix A- an advantage it maintains in low light. In bright light its built-in ND filter allows you to continue to use the Ricoh's full aperture range - something that can be a real advantage.
Finally, the Ricoh is fractionally thinner than the Nikon and, more significantly, its lens doesn't protrude so far from its body, meaning it's easier to slip in and out of pockets. It's a little detail but just adds to the rapidly-building list of benefits the Ricoh offers over the Coolpix A.
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