Compacts have their work cut out in today’s smartphone era, but premium models like the new Ricoh GR III still have their advantages. Michael Topham reviews the latest member in the GR-series
Ricoh GR III: First look
After announcing the development of a new model in its GR-series of high-end compacts at Photokina 2018, Ricoh has officially released its successor to the Ricoh GR II in the form of the Ricoh GR III. The Ricoh GR III arrives three years after the Ricoh GR II was announced in 2015 and presents more of a significant upgrade than the Ricoh GR II was to the Ricoh GR from 2013.
Like its predecessor, the Ricoh GR III features a fixed lens that’s equivalent to 28mm in the 35mm format with a maximum aperture of f/2.8, however it now has slimmer design and a different optical construction that’s said to deliver the clearest, sharpest images in GR-series history. The optical construction is made up of six elements in four groups, with a nine-blade diaphragm. Directly behind this newly developed lens, the Ricoh GR III is equipped with a 24.2-million-pixel APS-C size CMOS sensor that’s an improvement on the 16-million-pixel sensor found inside the Ricoh GR II.
As well as employing a new lens and sensor, the Ricoh GR III features the company’s newly developed GR ENGINE 6 image engine to improve performance and response. Not only has this helped speed up its start-up time (rated at 0.8secs), it has enabled 14-bit Raw output from the sensor. Keeping on the subject of sensor and processor, the Ricoh GR III provides a top sensitivity of ISO 102,400.
Rather than solely relying on contrast-detect AF, the Ricoh GR III uses a hybrid AF system that combines phase detection and contrast detection. This combination is said to deliver a faster, more responsive autofocus operation in all of its eight different focus modes.
Elsewhere, the Ricoh GR III’s shake reduction (SR) mechanism is refined and its three-axis mechanism is designed to minimise camera shake caused by pitch, yaw and roll by up to four shutter steps. As we’ve seen on Pentax cameras in the past, the Ricoh GR III also inherits an AA filter simulator, which is designed to provide the same level of moiré reduction as an optical AA filter.
The Ricoh GR series of compacts have a good reputation for being small, compact and functional. The Ricoh GR III takes this to the next level, being slightly smaller than its predecessor and almost equal in size to the older GR Digital IV from 2011, which used a smaller 1/1.7-inch image sensor.
The body is constructed from rigid magnesium alloy to give it a strong, solid feel in the hand and it’s the first ever GR-series model to feature touchscreen operation. With no built-in viewfinder (clip-on optical viewfinder is available), the Ricoh GR III’s 3in, 1,037,000-dot screen is heavily relied on for general operation and composition, supporting AF point positioning, navigation of the main menu and review using swipe gestures in playback mode.
The air-gapless construction of the screen, in which special resin is placed between the LCD touch-screen monitor and a protective cover made of reinforced glass, is intended to effectively reduce the reflection and dispersion of light for improved visibility during outdoor shooting in high contrast conditions.
Other features of note include the ability to focus within 6cm of a subject using macro mode, the option to shoot movies in Full HD resolution at up to 60p in the H.264 recording format and connectivity to mobile devices via Wi-fi and Bluetooth. A USB Type C interface is located at the corner of the body, which can be used to top up the battery on the go and it also has 2GB of built-in storage should you accidentally leave home without an SD card and not want to get caught out.
Availability of the new Ricoh GR III is expected in March and the camera will cost £799.99 at launch. A full range of accessories, including a wide-angle conversion lens (GW-4) that expands the angle of view to 21mm will also be made available.