White Balance

The GR-D has a comprehensive set of white balance controls. In addition to the default Auto mode there are four presets (daylight, overcast, tungsten and fluorescent), manual (measured) and an unusual 'detail' option. This brings up a sliding white balance 'scale' from tungsten to daylight - turning the ADJ dial moves up and down the scale in small increments, effectively allowing you to choose any white balance / color temperature you want (using the screen to assess the color). There is also a white balance bracketing option.

In normal shooting conditions we found the auto white balance to be fairly reliable, though there is a tendency in daylight conditions to produce images that are just a touch cool, and - as the examples below show - if you want neutral colors under artificial light you're better off switching to manual.

Incandescent - Auto WB
Red 10.1%, Blue -12.1%
Incandescent - Incandescent preset WB
Red -1.0%, Blue 0.5%
Fluorescent - Auto WB
Red 6.8%, Blue -12.8%
Fluorescent - Fluorescent preset WB
Red 3.4%, Blue -4.7%

Flash Performance

With only a 28mm (equiv.) lens, the GR-D is first and foremost a landscape camera, and perhaps not a camera you'll be using with flash that often, though it is excellent for groups and interiors. Either way, the flash is perfectly good, has an adequate 0.2-3.0 m (auto ISO) range, and seems to expose well (though as you're often closer than you would be with a normal camera there is a slight tendency to over expose). You can add an external flashgun - using the built-in hot shoe - if you need more power, meaning it's perfectly feasible to use the GR-D for large room shots.

Skin tone
Excellent color, very slight over exposure
Color chart (cropped)
Very slight warm tone, good exposure

Macro Focus

Ricoh has always offered excellent macro capabilities on its digital compacts, and the GR-D is no exception, allowing you to focus down to 1.5cm, capturing an area just over 3 cm across.

At the closest focus distance the corners are pretty soft, but on the positive side distortion is remarkably low.

Macro - 33 x 24 mm coverage
99 px/mm (2506 px/in)
Distortion: Low
Corner softness: High
Equiv. focal length: 28 mm

Barrel and Pincushion Distortion

One of the claims made for the GR-D's fixed 28mm equiv. lens is that it has very low distortion, and our tests would indicate this is no hollow claim; at just 0.6% barrel distortion is considerably lower than we normally see at the wide end of a zoom lens (and the 28mm focal length is considerably wider).

By comparison the Canon S80 has around 1.2% barrel distortion at the 28mm wide end of the range (although the Leica-lensed Panasonic FX01 is very close, at 0.7%).

Barrel distortion - 0.6 %
Equiv. focal length: 28 mm

Movie Mode

Unusually the GR-D only offers QVGA (320x240 pixel) movie capture, though it is at least at 30 frames per second.

The movies are saved as AVI (motion JPEG) files, and - considering the low resolution - they're actually fairly big (you'll only get around 23 mins on a 1GB card).

The quality is, to be polite, hardly class-leading; in fact it is terrible. The movies are not only a quarter the size of most competitor cameras, but they're full of compression artefacts and look like they were shot using mobile phone. For quick clips suitable for emailing they're better than nothing, but if you want a camera that can capture anything approaching usable movie footage you'd better forget the GR-D

Sample movie: 320 x 240 pixels @ 30 fps
File size: 13,554 KB, 24 secs

Click on the thumbnail to view the movie

Specific Image Quality Issues

My overall impressions of the GR Digital's image quality are, to be honest, slightly mixed. On the one hand they have a natural, unprocessed look that is surprisingly 'film-like'. Color is excellent, and - occasional white balance issues aside - very accurate.

On the other hand the images are soft and lacking in critical detail, yet they are - even at low ISO settings - quite noisy, so don't bear sharpening that well unless you reduce them in size first. The GR-D may well produce slightly more film-like images, but it's still a digital camera with a tiny 8MP chip, and it still suffers from the lack of dynamic range and resultant clipping (usually of highlights) that we see with all such sensors. The problem is compounded by the wide angle lens, which means you're more likely to have extremes of brightness and darkness in a single frame. This means the metering can struggle to decide what to expose for, given that whatever it does is going to end up with either shadows or highlights being clipped. We found there was a very slight tendency to overexpose such scenes, and often ended up using exposure bracketing or AE compensation.

Other minor issues include (very mild) chromatic aberration and some purple fringing / blooming around overexposed areas and occasional flare if you don't use the optional hood.

Purple fringing

Although it's not a huge issue, you will see blooming and purple fringes around any high contrast boundaries where the bright area is overexposed. This typically shows around the edges of foliage shot against a bright sky.

100% crop F2.4, +0.3 EV