Operation and controls

One of the things that really sets the GR-D apart from most of its nearest competitors (aside from the non-zoom lens) is that its designers have put a lot of thought into the control and operation of the manual settings. The key to what makes the GR-D such an intuitive photographic tool is the use of dual control dials (one front, one rear). By default these control shutter speed and aperture, but can also be customized to allow fast access to - and control of - pretty much any shooting parameter (including, crucially, ISO and white balance). This is one of the only compact cameras I've ever used where the manual exposure mode (with it's 'under / over' meter needle) is usable in the real world (where you don't want to press four buttons or enter a menu system to change your shutter speed).

Rear of camera

Adjustment dial aside, the rear of the GR-D is pretty much the same as every other compact digital camera; a set of directional buttons are used to navigate menus (as well as giving direct access to flash and macro modes). The 'zoom buttons' (top right) can be configured to activate the digital zoom or - more usefully - white balance or AE compensation.

Top of camera

The GR-D is fairly slim (25mm), though when powered up (as here) the lens extends by as much again. The grip is slim a little too slim for my liking, though understandably the designers wanted to keep the camera pocket-friendly. The top is home to the power button, mode dial, shutter release and accessory shoe (for the flash or viewfinder). Set into the top of the grip is the second of the two adjustment control dials.

Display and menus

As I mentioned above the GR Digital is far more usable in manual modes by virtue of including two control dials (as you'd find on a digital SLR), something surprisingly rare on compact cameras. The dual dial system, combined with a highly customizable interface, means that if you are the type that likes to change apertures, shutter speeds, ISO and white balance regularly whilst out shooting, the GR-D is perfect.

As you'd expect there are several options available for the amount of information displayed on-screen - from a totally uncluttered 'live preview only' to full shooting information. This is the grid option. Half-press the shutter release and the camera will calculate exposure (AE) and focus (AF) indicating the AF area(s) used and the aperture/shutter speed chosen. You'll also get a warning if camera shake is a danger.
Once you start to use the various manual overrides the screen can get a little cluttered. Here we're in manual exposure mode, where the front dial changes apertures and the rear dial changes shutter speeds. A simple 'needle' lets you know how far you are from the metered exposure. Note that you can use this mode without all the other screen clutter. There is a manual focus option, with a magnified preview if you want it. To be honest with a lens this wide the need for manual focus is questionable (there is a 'snap' focus setting - hyperfocal distance - and an infinity option, should you be worried about the autofocus).
The rear control dial is also a button; press it and you get a customizable set of quick menus for anything from AE compensation to white balance, ISO and metering. You can define up to four of these mini menus (using the setup menu), and the settings are selected using the command dials. It's fast and intuitive (make sure you've got the latest firmware, as this addresses some minor issues with the operation of the controls). The white balance menu, shown here has the usual presets and manual setting, plus a nifty 'color temperature' slider for choosing white balance visually using the screen. I finally gave up trying to work out what 'SHTG STGS' means, and resorted to the manual ('shooting settings' - of course!). Here you'll find three pages of options covering everything from file size / quality to metering, ISO and white balance. There's also an interval timer and image parameters (contrast, sharpness, saturation). Many of the functions here can also be accessed using the control dials or zoom buttons if you set the camera up that way.
In playback mode you can choose the level of information displayed, from none to full shooting information and histogram (as here). There is a nice option to scroll through images 'filmstrip' style.
Pressing the down button on the 'zoom' rocker lets you view a grid of 4x3 thumbnails.... ...and the up button lets you magnify saved images for a closer look.
The Playback Settings menu pretty basic; just a single page for options for slide shows, resizing, printing and copying. The 5 page setup menu is home to the usual camera options (screen brightness, date and time etc), camera customization and even color space (sRGB or AdobeRGB).