The Ricoh GR series of cameras has been a cult classic with street photographers since the release of the GR1 in 1996, thanks in part to their understated styling, quality glass and durable build. However, in recent years digital versions of the GR have suffered the curse of relatively small format sensors and their image quality has been surpassed by rival shooters. Now Ricoh is fighting back by re-launching the GR with a large DSLR-like APS-C sensor.
The headline news about the new GR (Ricoh is dropping the numbers like the Leica M) is undoubtedly that it packs a 16-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor (23.7 x 15.7 mm) into a similar-sized body as the Ricoh GR IV. Impressive when you consider its sensor is around nine times the size of its predecessor's 1/1.7-inch (7.6 x 5.7 mm) sensor. This should ensure a huge increase in image quality, and Ricoh has also opted to ditch the anti-aliasing filter on the sensor in a bid to improve resolving ability.
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Featuring a fixed 18.3-mm F2.8 lens, the new Ricoh GR also keeps the same 28-mm 35-mm-format focal length equivalent as previous generations. And if this is all sounding a bit familiar, that'll be because the key specs are the same as the recently released Nikon COOLPIX A. It also has a 16-megapixel APS-C sensor, no AA filter and a 28-mm equivalent lens … well, they do say great minds (and apparently camera manufacturers) think alike. In fact, the big difference between the two cameras seems to be the price, as the GR is priced US$300 less than the Nikon.
Using a newly developed GR ENGINE V imaging engine, the Ricoh GR has an ISO range of 100-25600 and is capable of shooting 4 fps (frames per second) with continuous autofocus keeping the fast-moving action sharp. The camera is no slouch when it comes to focusing either, as it's stated that it can acquire focus in 0.2 seconds, or 0.4 seconds in macro mode. It has a reasonable 1-second start-up time.
For photographers who find the fixed 28-mm (35-mm-format equivalent) lens a bit wide, there's a crop mode which gives an instant 35-mm angle of view in the 35-mm-format. Those who find it a little too restrictive have the option of adding the GW-3 Wide Conversion Lens which gives a 21-mm ultra-wide-angle (35-mm-format equivalent). Either way, the 9-blade diaphragm should produce a pleasing Bokeh effect at larger apertures.
Full HD (1080p) video recording is available at 30/25/24 fps, and stills can be shot in JPEG or 12 bit RAW. In-body RAW-data development also means files can be adjusted in the camera and output as ready-to-use JPEG-format files. Other notable features include a manually-adjustable ND (neutral density) filter, Eye-Fi compatibility and the PENTAX-original Shutter-speed/Aperture-Priority (TAv) exposure mode, which automatically sets the optimum ISO sensitivity based on the shutter speed and aperture selected. This feature had only been available on PENTAX DSLRs prior to the firm being purchased by Ricoh.
Featuring a casing made of a magnesium alloy, the Ricoh GR is only marginally larger than its predecessors, despite housing that much larger sensor. It measures 117 x 61 x 34.7 mm (4.6 x 2.4 x 1.4 inches) compared to the 109 x 60 x 33 mm (4.2 x 2.4 x 1.3 inches) of the GR IV, and weighs 245 grams (8.6 oz) compared to 219 grams (7.7 oz). Designed for easy single-handed operation, all of the core shooting buttons on the camera are based on one side and within reach, including newly-added AF and aperture preview buttons.
There's also a pop-up flash included, and while there apparently wasn't enough space for an optical viewfinder, there's always the option of adding one which can be mounted on the hot-shoe. If you don't mind composing your shots on a screen, the 3-inch LCD on the rear has a respectable 1,230k dots.
The Ricoh GR is set to go on sale in May for US$800. The GW-3 Wide Conversion Lens will sell separately for $220.
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