Ricoh GR Digital III compact camera
For those who take their image seriously
Review Sometimes, less is more. Take Ricoh’s GR Digital III. It’s a compact camera costing more than £500, but if you’re looking for masses of megapixels, countless scene modes, HD movie recording or even an optical zoom, then forget it. This is the digital camera equivalent of the fixed-gear bicycle; a product for enthusiasts who basically want a camera that can deliver excellent results without the frills.
The quality compact: Ricoh's GR Digital III
Clearly, the GR Digital III isn’t aimed at the average consumer expecting all the bells and whistles for a couple of hundred quid. Instead, it’s designed for the DSLR user or advanced enthusiast who feels more at ease carrying a quality compact in his or her pocket than ever sallying forth cameraless. So it is worth investing in a fixed-focal length compact that costs more than some entry-level DSLRs? You might be surprised.
The GR Digital III is a successor to the GR Digital II, launched back in November 2007. Both cameras have many similarities, including a sleek, black metal alloy body with a large rubberized grip. Yet the GR Digital III has a number of enhancements including, a new F1.9, 6.0 mm lens which is equivalent to 28 mm on a 35 mm film camera. The new GR Engine III image processor has improved noise reduction, and the camera features a large 3in LCD screen composed of 920,000 dots.
Beneath the skin you’ll find a pop-up flash, plus a 10Mp 1/1.7in CCD with an ISO range of 64-1600. The GR Digital III shutter speeds span 180-1/2000sec and it shoots in JPEG and RAW (Adobe DNG) formats, although there’s no option for simultaneous capture in both formats.
Movies can be shot in VGA or QVGA format, although we suspect very few GR Digital III owners will make use of the video facility, and it partly explains why Ricoh has not bothered with an HD option. The GR Digital III uses SD/SDHC/MMC cards and also has a useful 88MB of internal memory.
No HD recording on this camera, it's designed for purists
According to CIPA standards the supplied lithium battery will provide enough power for 370 shots. In real-world conditions, it’ll be less than this, but we did manage more than 200 frames and still had plenty of battery power left. A nice touch is that you can also use two AAA alkaline or NiMH batteries if you run out of battery power, although don’t expect to get more than 25 shots or so when using this reserve power source.
Not a bad price...
I can see the market for this.
As a DSLR owner, there's times when hauling around a hefty camera + lens is a grind, such as gigs, parties, etc. - also, as DSLR owners will be aware, you get noticed when you've got a large camera around your neck, especially if it's got a large lens on it.
To get the equivalent lens spec, say, on a canon 500d, your looking at about £560 for the body and £300 for a decent 28mm lens, that's £860
A lot of camera enthusiasts own more than one camera - many camera geeks own a few film cameras too.
It's a nice bit of kit, but I'd rather opt for Canon PowerShot G10, cheaper and more flexible.
Re: Wait, what?
AC, you're confusing several classes of camera. This Ricoh, as well as the (excellent) Sigmas are compacts that fit your pocket. The micro 4/3 ones won't. The smaller Leica might, but then you will have to sell your last pair of pants to own it, makes no sense. The M9 is a fascinating exercise. Too bad it comes with a Bayer-sensor. If Sigma had anything like Leica's rep (and not those herds of hating, naysaying fudders) they could kick out the same thing with a full frame Foveon *drool*
The great thing about the GR Digital range is that Ricoh give you a hell of a lot of control over the picture taking process, more than most compact cameras do. Sure, it's a small sensor so you get noise at higher ISOs, and it's a wide angle lens so you need to get closer to your subject, but within its minor limitations it's a fine picture-taking machine for the reasonably serious photographer.
It's compact and pocketable, more pocketable than any micro four thirds camera (I can just about fit an Olympus Pen E-P1 with 17mm pancake lens in my pocket, but it's not comfortable), feels sturdy and well made.
As far as Alan Firminger's remarks, I think most of the delay with compact cameras comes from autofocus. The GRD can be focused manually - also they have a fixed focus modes, where you can set infinity focus or 'snap shot' focus (a few yards away) reducing shutter lag to practically nothing.
The only problem I've ever had with my original GRD is the long time it takes to write RAW files. Ricoh have completely fixed that, it seems. If my old GRD gave up the ghost, I'd seriously upgrade.
Bit like the Sigma DP-1
Which has to be the World's most frustrating camera. That has a magnificent fixed-length lens and the (relatively) big Foveon sensor; but it's hooked up to what has to be the slowest hardware in creation - taking an age to read an image off the sensor before you can do anything again. I've really enjoyed some of my time with a DP-1, but more often than not I've hated its slow start up and read/write time.
These cameras are very much for the serious studied and dare I say it - slow - photographer. The Sigma produces wonderful images, but it is not a camera for snapping away with. I dare say this Ricoh is going to feel much the same.
Certainly they're not impulse purchases.
You compare the price of the camera to the EOS 1000D, yet the DSLR won't perform to its best unless you stick a good lens on it. So the DSLR price point is much higher than just the price of a body and a (very average) kit lens.