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Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Ricoh GR First Impressions


Ricoh have announced their new GR model, a compact camera with an APS-C sized sensor and a fixed 28mm equivalent f/2.8 lens. Perhaps best known for their office equipment, Ricoh have been making cameras since 1937, and their pioneering GR series of film cameras began in 1996 with the GR-1. The camera and its successors quickly found favour with enthusiasts who liked its compact size and bright, fixed focal length prime lenses.


Ricoh is clearly reviving that spirit with the GR, launching into a segment that is being targeted by a growing number of manufacturers, notably with the Nikon COOLPIX A and the Fujifilm X100s. We've yet to get our hands on the GR, so build and image quality remain unknown, buts it’s significantly smaller and lighter than both its rivals, and at £599, it’s almost half the price of them too, so we expect Nikon and Fuji to be taking a very close look at how it is received by the market.

Rear View
Small Yet Perfectly Formed
The GR is a neat compact model, and despite the fact that its sensor is around 9 times larger than Ricoh’s GRD, it’s only a fraction larger. The design appears well thought out, with a large, high resolution (7.5cm, 1.23m dot) LCD screen, a lockable mode dial on the top of the camera, and two well placed dials that give control over the many shooting parameters. In addition, the GR looks to be one of the most customisable cameras around. There’s 2 buttons that can be assigned to one of 25 other functions, which, together with the controls on the right hand side of the camera, mean you can change most of the settings without having to take your hand off the grip. The information shown on the display in each mode setting can also be adjusted to your taste, so the screen doesn't become overly cluttered.

Powerful Sensor and Lens Combination
The GR uses an APS-C sized 16.2 megapixel CMOS sensor. In common with several recent models it also foregoes the anti-aliasing filter to help extract the maximum sharpness and detail from the sensor. This might be at the expense of moiré patterns in particular shooting situations, time will tell.

The lens is an 18.3mm optic, which gives an effective focal length of 28mm. An optional FW-3 0.75x wide angle conversion lens can transform this to a 21mm wide angle, and an optional GH-3 lens hood and adapter is required to mount the converter. Ricoh also include a 35mm crop mode in the camera, giving you instant access to a very popular focal length.
GR Lens and Aperture Blades

The f/2.8 lens is fast, and its nine bladed aperture will provide precise control over depth of field. What’s more, the compact size mean it only extends a small amount, so the camera will easily fit into a pocket. An ISO range of 100-25,600 should ensure great shots even in the most gloomy conditions.
Options include Optical Viewfinder
and Wide Conversion Lens
There’s no room for a viewfinder, but two optical viewfinders that fit onto the hotshoe are available as options. 

The GV-1 has framing guidelines for both 21mm and 28mm, meaning you'll be able to see your subject through the finder well before it enters the frame, and you'll have guidelines to match the optional GW-3 wide angle conversion lens. 

The GV-2 will give less leeway, with only a 28mm guideline, but it has a higher 0.5x magnification, versus 0.42x for the GV-1. It's also significantly smaller and lighter. The lens also has a built in ND filter, handy when shooting in bright light with the lens fully open.

Extensive Shooting Modes
The lockable mode dial includes Pentax's TAv mode
Ricoh acquired Pentax in July 2011 and this camera is the first model to show some Pentax influence, with the addition of Pentax’s TAv mode alongside the usual PASM mode dial options. TAv allows control of both aperture and shutter speed, with the camera determining an appropriate ISO setting. 

It’s a nice touch, and in combination with the manual exposure compensation, provides full control over the camera, something that’s not always the case, even with other cameras’ so-called manual modes. 

The mode dial also has a locking feature too; you need to hold down a small button before it will rotate, which will ensure you don’t accidentally bump it round to movie mode whilst it's in your pocket, for example.

The camera can shoot both RAW and JPEG to SD cards, there’s an array of filter effects that can be applied and these can also be applied post shooting using the built-in RAW image processor. In-camera RAW processing is not new, but Ricoh’s implementation is particularly versatile, using a live preview image of your shot that updates in real-time, to show the effect of any changes you make.

Conclusion
Whilst we await the chance to get our hands on the new GR, its compact size and incredible price-point will ensure it makes waves in the market.

With its stylish, compact design, plethora of customisable functions and system expansion options like the wide angle adapter and optical viewfinder, it adds to the already impressive choice available to the enthusiast looking for a stylish, compact camera with a large sensor and fixed lens.

We’re looking forward to getting our hands on the GR shortly, stock is expected in May, so why not keep an eye on parkcameras.com to find out when the first units arrive, so you can pop into our showroom to try it for yourself.

Park Verdict
A brilliant compact camera that combines a high performance sensor, high quality lens and extensive customisation to produce outstanding images.

We Love
   Large sensor captures incredible detail and offers great results in low light
   Extensive customisation options give you total control
   RAW recording with in-camera processing offers the ultimate image quality

Jon Penney
Park Cameras

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