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Ricoh GR II review: Grab the GR II when you only care about the picture and the price

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The Good The lightweight, compact Ricoh GR II is well designed, and its APS-C sensor allows for shallower depth-of-field than do the smaller sensors in competitors. And while it lacks breadth in its features, it does provide depth when it comes to still photos.

The Bad Slow autofocus focus in dim light, poor video quality with zero controls, and a relatively complicated menu system given its features dim its allure.

The Bottom Line For inconspicuous and quick street shooting or as a travel camera for landscape fans, the Ricoh GR II hits the mark. But If you want video or the shooting-angle flexibility that a movable LCD or viewfinder provides, this may not be the camera for you.

7.3 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 6
  • Performance 7
  • Image quality 8

The original Ricoh GR made a splash when it was announced three years ago . At the time, it was the only compact with an APS-C sensor for less than $1,000 (£640, AU$1,355), when its competitors were the high priced Nikon Coolpix A , Fujifilm X100S and Leica X Vario . Of the lot, only Fujifilm updates the line on a regular basis, and there still aren't any new APS-C compacts. Instead, we're seeing a boom in the 1-inch sensor models like the Sony RX100 series, Canon's 1.5-inch G1 X models, and one Four Thirds-based camera (the Panasonic LX100 ).

Ricoh finally got around to updating the GR, but the changes are pretty minimal. Although there have been tweaks, the main enhancement is the addition of Wi-Fi for remote shooting and file transfer with phones and tablets . And while the camera does feel a little dated, with slow autofocus in low light and mediocre video and options, it still remains a standout if all you want is great photos for less than $800/£630 -- as long as you're willing to work a little for them. (Thus far, I haven't been able to find it for sale in Australia.)

Relative sensor sizes. Lori Grunin/CNET

As a reminder, larger sensor sizes not only tend to have lower noise than smaller ones, but they allow for more control over depth of field, which allows them to produce better looking out-of-focus areas when combined with a large-aperture lens. The GR II pairs the 16-megapixel sensor with a relatively large aperture 28mm f2.8 lens (35mm equivalent).

Image quality

While the camera produces high-quality images, if you're looking for a camera that delivers the best straight-from-the-camera JPEGs, this may not be it. They're not bad, it's just that frequently high-contrast shots tend to look a little washed out, as if they're intended to be post-processed. Its raw files (it uses DNG format), though, are more neutral and have a decent amount of dynamic range for bringing out detail in shadows and highlights.

It does some image processing, but doesn't seem to produce optimal results when it comes to highlight and shadow areas, and its default noise-reduction (NR) settings blur too much at ISO 6400 and above. You can fiddle with them -- the camera lets you customize the ISO sensitivity ranges at which it applies weak, medium, or strong NR, which is a really nice feature -- but I found the defaults still deliver the best results. Also, the automatic white balance, as with many of these compacts, also skews a little blue/purple in our tests.

The fixed 28mm lens is pretty good. There's a little fringing on especially high-contrast edges, but it's otherwise sharp with no obvious vignetting (darkening around the edges) or sharpness falloff at its widest or narrowest apertures.

Its age shows when it comes to video, however. Although it shoots 1080/30p, the results are pretty soft; you can see a lot of color jitter even in good light, and there's no image stabilization. The camera lacks any manual movie controls, so it's not really for anyone interested in shooting more than a casual clip every now and then, anyway.

Analysis samples

JPEGs look pretty clean up through ISO 1600. Lori Grunin/CNET
By ISO 3200, JPEGs are a bit soft but still OK; you lose a lot of detail by ISO 6400. Lori Grunin/CNET

You can recover a lot more blown-out highlight detail in the GR II's photos than with advanced compacts. Lori Grunin/CNET
Photos taken in good light have quite a bit of latitude. I brought this underexposed photo up three stops without introducing any noise. Lori Grunin/CNET
The GR II reproduces colors pretty accurately, and while it boosts saturation a little, doesn't shift hues. Lori Grunin/CNET
Ricoh doesn't do a lot of tonal processing on the JPEGs, and shadow areas tend to be muddy and low contrast, as if they were intended to be post-processed. You can get much better results, even at ISO 100, by processing the DNG raw file. Lori Grunin/CNET
Out-of-focus areas look nice and smooth with round highlights. Lori Grunin/CNET

Performance

The GR II is sufficiently speedy, though I wouldn't paint a racing stripe on it. At 1.2 seconds, it starts up quickly compared to competitors thanks to the fixed focal-length lens that doesn't need to extend. And its 0.2 second to focus and shoot in good light is right up there with the best of them. However, in dim light it's really slow at 0.7 second. Time for two sequential shots takes about 0.4 to 0.5 second, depending upon whether it's JPEG or raw, which isn't as fast as the fastest models, but it's competitive. And it rises to a slow 2.1 seconds when you enable flash.

Shooting speed

Sony RX100 IV
0.2
0.3
0.2
0.2
2.1
Panasonic Lumix LX100
0.2
0.2
0.4
0.5
2.5
Ricoh GR II
0.2
0.7
0.4
0.5
1.2

Legend:

Shutter lag (typical)
Shutter lag (dim)
Typical shot-to-shot time
Raw shot-to-shot time
Time to first shot

Note:

Seconds (smaller is better)

Typical continuous-shooting speed

Sony RX100 IV
5.7
Panasonic Lumix LX100
4.1
Ricoh GR II
4.1

Note:

Frames per second (larger is better)

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