|1/350th sec F/2.8 @ ISO 400
I loved my Ricoh GR1. During that honeymoon, I actually put more rolls through that camera than the other 2 SLR's combined. I even started loading it with black and white film and used it for my wedding jobs, and many of those images became the most loved pictures of the entire wedding!
The Ricoh GR family has a short but prolific history, beginning with the GR1, GR10, GR1S, GR1V, GR21, GR Digital, GR D II, GR D III, GR D IV, and finally the current GR (V). What makes the current one so different than the past 4 digital GR's is that it has a much larger APS-C size sensor. Is this a big deal? It's a modern technological accomplishment, as the new Ricoh GR is the smallest APS-C sized compact point and shoot on the market.
|1/500th sec F/2.8 @ ISO 400
How small is small? It's small enough to fit snugly inside your front pocket or inside your suit jacket...but it is snug. Although the Ricoh GR D IV is only slightly smaller, you won't mistake one for the other when it comes to weight or size. I still prefer to carry the GR D IV comfortably in my pocket and keep the GR V in my bag. However, to be able to shoot DSLR quality images from such a compact camera is pretty exciting for us camera nerds.
Other than the sensor, does the new GR have other qualities worthy of our attention as avid photographers? A definite yes. The new GR has improved upon many of the features of the previous GR D IV to make handling and operation even faster and more efficient. I can say this because I have both the GR D IV and the GR V in front of me right now.
Both have great one-handed operation ability, advantageous for street photography, even shooting with an umbrella in one hand if it starts to rain. Improved over the GR D IV, the new GR now has instant access to ISO by using the ADJ toggle (the GR-D IV has this feature now with the most recent firmware update!), and also has a dedicated white balance button on the main control wheel on the back. These two functions are probably the most commonly adjusted parameters, and so should have a permanent home; unlike on the GR D IV, where I had to use up both custom function 1 and 2 for both WB and ISO control. In addition to the custom function 1 and 2 buttons, the new GR also has a side button below the flash pop-up switch as the custom effects button (B&W, Cross Process, Positive Film, etc.), although I decided to change it to SNAP focus distance adjustment. And that's the beauty of the Ricoh GR series digital cameras: it's very customizable, more than most pro DSLR's or ILC's.
|1/500th sec F/4.0 @ ISO 400
Even the three personal settings on the top dial (MY1, MY2, MY3) have more custom parameters than any other camera I've ever used. Everything from ISO, effects mode, focus mode, SNAP focus distance, display layout, exposure compensation, image size and type (RAW.JPEG, both), noise reduction, dynamic range is all stored in your 3 personal settings. Even more obscure parameters such as flash curtain sync, ISO step setting (1/3 or full stops), and custom function button usage are all remembered by MY settings. In fact, you can customize your camera so much that if someone else is handed your specific GR, they would be lost! That's either a good thing or a bad thing, but remember, the GR has a P mode and a full auto mode for newbies.
I don't have time to go over each and every button and feature, and every which way you can customize the GR layout, but it's a dizzying array of choices. Or course, you can always choose to keep it stock as well, which is still very logically laid out and understandable. Even for me, I've probably only customized 70% of my GR D IV, and less than 50% of my test GR V.
How does the new GR handle in real world shooting scenarios? The autofocus in daylight is pretty good. It's not DSLR level fast, but it's adequate for a fixed lens, fixed focal length point and shoot camera with an APS-C sensor. Testing it against the Fuji X-100S in bright daylight, I felt the Ricoh was slightly quicker and more solid when locked onto focus. On both the Fuji and Ricoh, since the camera has a larger sensor, hence a larger lens, you can tell the focus motor have more torque and is working harder than on a typical enthusiast P&S camera with a smaller sensor (Canon S110, Panasonic LX-7, Sony RX100); and yet, the focus motor seems quieter than their smaller peers.
|1/320th sec F/2.8 @ ISO 800
|1/1000th sec F/2.8 @ ISO 400
The most important thing everyone wants to know is about image quality. Is it equal to a DSLR with an APS-C sensor? Well, it depends. There's a wide range of APS-C sensors on the market, and there's entry level DSLR body and lens kits for under $400, while other kits go all the way up to over $2500. In fact, Canon alone has 54 DSLR body and kit combinations available at B&H at this moment.
So in terms of image quality, where does the new GR stand? I would say that it can't keep up with the top APS-C DSLRs on the market (A77, 7D, D300S), in terms of image noise or absolute resolution. However, considering that the GR is smaller and lighter than most of these DSLR's vertical control grip/battery pack, I would say the compromise in image quality versus its size and weight is more than reasonable...it's amazing!!
|1/2000th sec F/2.8 @ ISO 3200 and converted to B&W in Photoshop CS5
|1/1250th sec F/2.8 @ ISO 800
|1/2000th sec F/2.8 @ ISO 100
|1/250th sec F/2.8 @ ISO 400
Thanks to Ricoh Canada for loaning me the camera, and I hope to review more Pentax-Ricoh products in the near future! If you have any questions, please comment below, or email me. Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram as well! Happy shooting!
Check out my full review of the Ricoh GR D IV here!
Check out my YouTube video reviewing the GR family, and a quick review of the new GR!