Ricoh GR at a glance:

  • 16.2-million-pixel, APS-C-sized CMOS sensor
  • 18.3mm (28mm equivalent) f/2.8 lens
  • GR Engine V processing system
  • 1sec start-up time
  • 3in, 1.23-million-dot LCD screen
  • ISO 100-25,600
  • Built-in -2EV ND filter
  • Street price around £599
  • See Ricoh GR product shots

Ricoh GR review – Introduction

One of my favourite compact cameras of all time is the Ricoh GR1 35mm film camera. It had a slim but understated design and an excellent 28mm f/2.8 lens – the chief reason why it was loved by enthusiast photographers around the world. The GR1 was so successful that four further GR models appeared, along with a budget version, the R1.

With the advent of digital photography, Ricoh then introduced the GR Digital, with a full complement of manual and automatic exposure modes, as well as a fixed 24mm equivalent lens, that once again made the GR series extremely popular among enthusiast photographers. However, the GR Digital compacts only use small, compact-camera-sized sensors, and although the cameras produced excellent image quality, they cannot compare with the larger APS-C or full-frame sensors of a DSLR.

Given that manufacturers made compact cameras with lenses that could cover a 35mm film frame, I often used to wonder why they failed to produce more compact-sized digital cameras that used larger imaging sensors. The main reason for this has always been cost, but in the last year or so the situation has started to change.

The Fujifilm FinePix X100 compact camera marked something of a turning point for the industry. Although previously the Sigma DP1, Leica X1 and X2 had offered large, APS-C-sized sensors, the X100, with its vintage rangefinder style, really captured the public’s imagination. This camera then paved the way for Sony’s impressive Cyber-shot DSC-RX1, the first digital compact to feature a full-frame sensor. Since then, we have also seen the launch of the Fujifilm X100S and, even more recently, the Nikon Coolpix A, both of which feature APS-C sensors and fixed lenses. Where once only one or two compact featured a large sensor, there is now a choice of almost half a dozen.

Ricoh’s latest model in its GR series joins this group of premium compact cameras. While it retains the style of its predecessors, it uses a larger 16-million-pixel, APS-C-sized sensor that is not fitted with an anti-aliasing filter, which should mean that fine details produced by the fixed 18.3mm f/2.8 lens will be extremely sharp.

And in addition to all the exciting features and promise of the new Ricoh GR is – perhaps of even more interesting to enthusiast photographers – its price. With a recommended retail price of just £599, the Ricoh GR is the cheapest camera in this market to date.

Ricoh GR review – Features

Image: Anyone who has photographed fields of oilseed rape will know it is difficult for a camera to really capture detail among the mass of yellow flowers, but the Ricoh GR does this very well

The main feature of the Ricoh GR is its 16.2-million-pixel, APS-C-sized CMOS sensor. As has been the trend among many other recent cameras, the GR’s sensor does not have an anti-aliasing filter, which means the camera should produce slightly sharper images than if such a filter was present.

The sensor is paired with an 18.3mm f/2.8 lens, offering the equivalent focal length of a 28mm lens on a full-frame camera. What is interesting here is that the GR’s lens and sensor are virtually identical in specification to those of Nikon’s Coolpix A. Given that there is almost a £400 price difference between the Nikon and Ricoh cameras, there will be many enthusiast photographers who will be eager to find out whether the Ricoh GR camera can match, or even outperform, the more expensive Nikon model.

Personally, I find the 28mm focal length to be a little restricted for general use; it is, in my opinion, too wide for portraits, street photography and many landscape images. Thankfully, the Ricoh GR has a built-in crop mode that uses only a portion of the overall image to produce the same field of view as a 35mm lens on a full-frame camera. Due to the 35mm mode effectively cropping the full-resolution images from the camera, any shots captured in this mode are at a reduced resolution of 10 million pixels.

One thing I have always liked about Ricoh digital cameras is the huge range of options within the menu system. The new Ricoh GR is no exception. As well as the 35mm crop mode and native 3:2 aspect ratio, there is also the option to use either a 4:3 or 1:1 aspect ratio. Of course, each of these modes will again reduce the resolution of the images.

Raw shooting is possible, and these images can be captured simultaneously with JPEGs. That the Ricoh GR saves its raw images as DNG files should prove a huge benefit to many photographers. This means that the raw files can be opened in virtually any raw-conversion software, and it should ensure both forward and backwards compatibility with any future software.

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