Ricoh GR $800 compact targets $1,100-plus competitors (hands-on)

April 16, 2013 10:00 PM PDT / Updated: April 17, 2013 1:01 AM PDT
Sarah Tew/CNET

With as-good -- if not better -- specs than the Nikon Coolpix A at a significantly lower price of about $800, the Ricoh GR APS-C compact has the potential to be a really attractive buy for advanced photographers. At the very least, I think it could redefine what we expect from an enthusiast compact; those sub-1-inch sensors just aren't cutting it anymore competitively for the pixel-peeping crowd.

Relative sensor sizes for enthusiast compacts

Ricoh's betting on that, discontinuing all its smaller-sensored GR Digital models and consolidating them into a single GR model on a two-year product cycle. As is typical for the company, the camera will support feature updates via firmware patches.

No, the GR isn't quite cheap, but in addition to the APS-C sensor you get a 28mm f2.8 lens with a nine-bladed aperture (and if Ricoh's MTF charts are to be believed, a very nice lens at that); the same excellent LCD that Sony uses on the RX100; and performance that Ricoh claims is equal to or better than the Coolpix A. Additionally, Ricoh eschews the optical low-pass filter (OLPF) on the sensor, a move that usually improves sharpness by trading off other artifacts, like moiré. Overall, it's quite an intriguing package.

While the camera doesn't feel as heavy or substantial as the Coolpix A, despite its magnesium alloy construction, it's got a better grip. The company designed it for streamlined single-handed operation. I like the wealth of physical controls, including three custom settings slots on the mode dial, and the fact that you can map a multitude of the buttons. Unlike the Nikon, it includes a built-in neutral-density filter. It inherits the TAv semimanual mode from its Pentax stepsiblings, a really useful mode for a camera like this; it allows you to set shutter speed and aperture, then automatically changes ISO sensitivity for proper exposure. Like the Coolpix A, the GR has an intervalometer.

Here's an overview of some competitive cameras:

  Fujifilm X100S Leica X2 Nikon Coolpix A Ricoh GR Sony Cyber- shot DSC- RX1 Sony Cyber- shot DSC- RX100
Sensor (effective resolution) 16.3MP X-Trans CMOS II 16.2MP CCD 16.2MP CMOS 16.2MP CMOS 24.3MP Exmor CMOS 20.2MP Exmor CMOS
23.6 x 15.8mm 23.6 x 15.8mm 23.6 x 15.7mm 23.7 x 15.7mm
35.8 x 23.9mm 1-inch
(13.2 x 8.8mm)
Sensitivity range ISO 100 (exp)/200 - ISO 6400/ 25600 (exp) ISO 100 - ISO 12500 ISO 100 - ISO 3200/ 25600 (exp) ISO 100 - ISO 25600 ISO 50 (exp) / ISO 100 - ISO 51200 / ISO 102400 (exp, via multishot NR) ISO 100 - ISO 25600
Lens
(35mm-equivalent focal-length multiplier)
35mm
f2
1.5x
24mm
f2.8
1x
28mm
f2.8
28mm
f2.8
35mm
f2
1x
28 - 100mm
f1.8-4.9
3.6x
Closest focus (inches) 3.9 11.8 4 3.9 7.9 1.9
Continuous shooting 6fps
31 JPEG/ n/a raw
(burst only available with focus and exposure fixed at first frame)
5fps
8 frames
(raw + JPEG)
4fps
n/a
4fps
4 raw/ unlimited JPEG
2.5fps
(5 fps with fixed exposure)
n/a
2.5fps
(10fps with fixed exposure)
n/a
Viewfinder Hybrid
Reverse Galilean
90 percent coverage
EVF
0.48-inch/ 2,360,000 dots
100 percent coverage
Optional
EVF
Tilting LCD
n/a
($449.00 est)
Optional
Reverse Galilean
($449.96)
Optional
Reverse Galilean
(est $250)
Optional
Reverse Galilean
Zeiss
n/a
($599.99)
EVF
Tilting OLED
0.5-inch/ 2,359,000 dots
100 percent coverage
($404.99)
None
Autofocus n/a
Contrast AF
11-area
Contrast AF
n/a
Contrast AF
190-point hybrid AF 25-area contrast AF 25-area contrast AF
Metering 256 zones n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a
Shutter 20 - 1/4,000 sec; bulb to 60 minutes 30 - 1/2000 sec 30 - 1/2000 sec; bulb 300 - 1/4000 sec; bulb; time 30-1/2000 sec; bulb 30-1/2000 sec; bulb
Flash Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Hot shoe Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No
LCD 2.8-inch fixed
460,000 dots
2.7-inch
230,000 dots
3-inch fixed
921,600 dots
3-inch fixed
921,600 dots
(plus another set of white dots for brightness)
3-inch fixed
921,600 dots
(plus another set of white dots for brightness)
3-inch fixed
921,600 dots
Image stabilization None None None None Electronic (movie only) Optical
Video
(best quality)
1080/60p/ 30p
H.264 QuickTime MOV
Stereo
None 1080/30p/ 25p/24p (max 18Mbps)
H.264 QuickTime MOV
Stereo
1080/30p/ 25p/24p Motion JPEG AVI AVCHD: 1080/60p/ 50p @ 28Mbps; 1080/60i/ 50i @ 24, 17Mbps; 1080/24p/ 25p @ 24, 17Mbps
stereo
AVCHD:
1080/60p/ 50p
stereo
Manual iris and shutter in video Iris only n/a Yes Yes Yes Yes
Optical zoom while recording n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a Yes
External mic support No n/a Optional
(with WU-1a Wireless Mobile Adapter)
No Yes No
Battery life (CIPA rating) 330 shots 450 shots 230 shots 290 shots 270 shots 330 shots
Dimensions (WHD, inches) 5.0 x 2.9 x 2.1 4.9 x 2.7 x 2.0 4.4 x 2.6 x 1.6 4.6 x 2.4 x 1.4 4.5 x 2.6 x 2.8 4.0 x 2.4 x 1.4
Weight (ounces) 15.5 12.2 (est) 10.6 8.6 (est) 17.6 8.5 (est)
Mfr. Price $1,299.95 $1,995 (est) $1,099.95 $799.95 $2,799 $649.99
Availability March 2013 August 2012 March 2013 May 2013 November 2012 July 2012

As far as I can tell, there are only a couple of weaknesses that jump out at me. Though the battery life is rated longer than that of both the Coolpix A and the RX100, 290 shots is still pretty disappointing for such an expensive camera. Also, the lack of an OLPF usually results in too many artifacts for video; that plus the fact that the GR uses Motion JPEG instead of a real video codec doesn't bode well for video quality.

It will be interesting to see if Ricoh has enough market clout for the GR to force some downward pressure on prices for models like the Coolpix A and the X100S; the RX100 has been out long enough that I think its price will start to fall a bit as we head into the summer.

I also suspect there'll be some confusion over the name when it comes to searching, with many folks confusing "GR Digital" results with those for "GR". After all, it's got "digital" in the name, so it should be more recent than a name without, right? Images of the older cameras and the GR look sufficiently similar that you can't quickly tell which model you're looking at either. Bringing it out under the Pentax brand might have helped, as well as garnered a bit more mindshare here in the U.S.

With its aggressive price and reasonable specifications and features for the money, if Ricoh can deliver on the performance and image quality this has the the potential to be a great camera option. I'm really looking forward to testing this one.

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  • Optical Sensor Type CMOS
  • Sensor Resolution 16.2 Megapixel
About The Author

Lori Grunin is a senior editor for CNET Reviews, covering cameras, camcorders, and related accessories. She's been writing about and reviewing consumer technology and software since 1988.