Ricoh claim their goal with this model, the GR digital, was to recreate the functionality and style of the popular GR-1 film camera, in a compact, digital form and they have done a decent job of it. The GR Digital takes above average shots, and has a retro design that will appeal to those who have a penchant for nostalgia, but it has a few problems that make it difficult for us to recommend.
- Classic style, Pretty good pictures
- No optical zoom, High chromatic aberration, Flash poorly placed
If you can live without optical zoom and want a classically designed camera to remind you of the good old days, then the GR Digital might be for you. It is, however, extremely expensive.
Price$ 999.00 (AUD)
Performance and Functionality
The biggest of these problems is the lack of any sort of optical zoom. It took us a while to notice this. We spent at least five minutes trying to work out exactly how to optical zoom before a little research indicated this was a fixed lens and thus we could not. The camera does have 4x digital zoom and a rich array of other features, however the lack of optical zoom is a big omission in our eyes for any digital camera.
That said, the lens is of an extremely high quality. It is the equivalent to a 28mm lens on a regular film camera which gives it a really wide angle. Furthermore this can be enhanced to 24mm with an adapter kit that can be purchased separately. The ability to add accessories to what is essentially a fully featured point and shoot is one of the big advantages this model presents, and something that will surely appeal to budding photographers.
The lens is also very fast with an aperture of 2.4 - 9 which stretchs beyond the ratings normally presented by cameras in this category. Most have a range of 2.8 - 8 and whilst the difference looks small it has a big impact.
The camera also has a robust list of features to accompany these apertures, including shutter speeds from 1/2000 to 30 seconds, ISO levels all the way up to 1600 and a fairly speedy continuous shot mode. With manual focus, custom white balance, multiple focus modes and an excellent macro mode, there are enough features on here to please all but the most demanding photographer.
We found it to be a suitably quick camera as well. With a shutter operation time of .09 of a second it won't miss too many targets and the 1.3 second shot to shot time on our Ultra II SD card ensures no long waits between snaps. It did take a little longer than usual to fire up with a start time of just over two seconds.
One of the big selling points of this model according to Ricoh is the high quality lens. While our test shots were above average, they weren't as impressive as some of those taken with other recent models such as the Canon PowerShot A700.
Imatest revealed high levels of chromatic aberration, with a score of .159%; which is quite a bit higher what most cameras score. The impact of this can be seen in our outdoors shots where the leaves in certain areas lack the clarity of the rest of the photograph.
Fortunately the other elements of our shots were much better. With an Imatest sharpness rating of 1366, the GR Digital's eight megapixel sensor produced some fantastic shots. At this level of clarity the shots are suitable for anything from 4x6 prints all the way up to A4. We found the edges in our shots were crisp and smooth, even areas of high detail were rendered very well. The level of chromatic aberration dd have a noticeable impact in certain areas, but for the most part our shots came out extremely sharp.
This was complemented by very good colour balance. Although some recent Canon models have scored incredibly in this test (one getting as low as 6.2) the GR Digital's result of 9.8 is nothing to sneeze at. Our test shots revealed rich, vibrant colours that looked great while maintaining a suitable level of accuracy. The camera struggled the most with greens, which had a noticeable yellow tinge but reds and to a lesser extent blues were pretty close to spot on. The grey scale spectrum was equally as good with thick blacks and balanced greys.
In our image noise test however it was slightly less impressive. With a score of .75% it is just above average. Many cameras we have tested have achieved results of .4% or .5%, and the GR digital isn't quite up to this standard. Our pictures exhibited very faint signs of noise which appears as a fuzzy speckling, but unless you blow the images right up it won't be visible.
This camera did however scale very well with ISO levels. Many jump up to 1.7% or even greater than 2% on our noise test when increased to ISO 800, but the GR digital managed to stay relatively low even at ISO 1600 with a score of 1.5%. This makes it a good choice for those who shoot in fast moving or low light situations and need to regularly be operating at a higher ISO.
This is one area where the GR digital really stands out. If you find some pictures of the original GR-1 you'll quickly realise these two cameras were separated at birth (or is that 'at manufacture'?). Ricoh has really gone out of their way to create a retro feel with the GR digital.
We think it looks decent but a little too archaic for our liking. The rubberised black chassis feels incredibly solid, and will definitely be able to handle a few knocks, but people may be turned off by the 'black block' style Ricoh are going for here. It is quite a slim camera, with a narrow, elongated form that will fit comfortably into a pocket or small bag. The controls are well laid out for the most part, but we dislike the old system of having to hold down a button to shift the function wheel. It just makes things more complicated than they have to be.
There is a hotshoe above the lens which can take both a flash or an external viewfinder. There was however one design element that irritated us over and over: the built-in flash. It is extremely poorly positioned. Resting on the top left hand side, it pops up right where the average person sits their first finger. To use it properly with the flash we had to completely change how we held the camera and we found it uncomfortable to say the least.
The menu system is fairly intuitive, but not the best we've seen. We like it when cameras have certain key features mapped to specific keys, or at least a separate menu with all the basic image functions which Ricoh has not done. Instead they have used a single menu split in half for camera settings and image settings. Even so, regardless of your level of experience you should have no trouble manipulating the controls.
Our other complaint with this model is the price tag. Ricoh are asking a massive $999 for the GR Digital. It does have an 8.1 megapixel sensor, but we find it hard to justify spending that much on something with no optical zoom. If you want the wider lens and better aperture settings then it might be worth it to you, but for that price we would expect optical zoom.
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