From film to digital, Ricoh’s GR series of cameras has been highly regarded by enthusiast photographers. We find out how the latest 10-million-pixel model and its AF system compares
- 10-million-pixel CMOS sensor
- ISO 80-3200 (equivalent)
- LCD screen
- Hybrid AF system
- expansion mode
- 28mm (equivalent) f/1.9 lens
- Street price around £450
Famed for its high-quality lenses, the Ricoh GR series of 35mm compact cameras has been extremely popular with enthusiast photographers since the release of the GR1 in 1996. The GR’s slim design makes it truly pocketable, but it is the camera’s aperture priority and fixed 28mm f/2.8 AF lens that has made it the compact of choice for many discerning photographers.
There have been various revisions of the original GR1 camera, each introducing a new advanced feature, including EV compensation, manual focus and bracketing. In 2005, Ricoh released the first GR Digital model. This 8.13-million-pixel camera owes much of its design to its film predecessors. Two revisions have followed in the form of the 10.01-million-pixel GR Digital II and 10.4-million-pixel GR Digital III. The latter featured a new f/1.9 lens constructed from eight elements in six groups, and it is this lens that forms the basis of the latest in the series, the GR Digital IV.
The basic design of the GR Digital IV is the same as its predecessor, as is its 10-million-pixel, 1/1.7in (approx 7.6×5.7mm or 43mm2) CCD sensor. There have been some improvements to the image processing, though, with the introduction of the new Ricoh GR Engine IV. The company claims this new system has improved colour noise reduction, particularly at higher sensitivities, which has led to an increase in the maximum sensitivity from ISO 1600 in the GR Digital III to ISO 3200 in the GR Digital IV.
There is a wealth of features in the GR Digital IV, and its menu system hosts what must be one of the most comprehensive range of settings found on any compact camera. Among these are full manual, aperture and shutter priority and program exposure modes, DNG raw capture, EV compensation, multiple exposure mode and dynamic range compensation. However, like all other GR compact cameras, it is the lens that is the GR Digital IV’s most defining feature. The fixed 6mm (28mm equivalent) f/1.9 optic has a lot to live up to, but if it performs anything like its predecessors it should be very sharp.
New features to the GR Digital range are image sensor stabilisation, a dual-axis in-camera level and a highly specified, 1.23-million-dot, VGA LCD screen. There is also a new series of auto-bracketing options, but the most intriguing feature is an external AF sensor that works in collaboration with the more conventional contrast-detection AF. More details to come later in this test.