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Ricoh GR Digital - Digital Camera Review
Review Date: 22/02/06
Rating: Above Average / Recommended
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Introduction: Announced on the 13th of Septemer 05, the Ricoh GR Digital is a unique 8 megapixel digital camera with a fixed 28mm equivelant wide angle lens - a digital version of the popular and highly regarded Ricoh GR1 35mm film camera - a camera popular because it offered SLR camera quality in a pocket sized camera. The camera features ISO settings from ISO64 up to ISO1600, and allows you to shoot in RAW. The Ricoh GR Digital is available from £399, making this unique digital camera rather expensive - only slightly less expensive than some budget Digital SLRs. The camera is enclosed in a black metal body with a rubber handgrip. The GR Digital records 320x240 movies with sound at 30fps. The camera is quite compact, one of the smallest digital cameras with ulta-wide angle lens, being only 25mm thick, but it isn't as small as ultra-compact digital cameras. The camera takes a proprietry lithium-ion rechargable battery or 2 AAA batteries and measures: 107.0 x 25.0 x 58.0 mm (WxDxH) (without protruding parts), and weighs Approx. 170g (excluding batteries and media).

Ricoh have this to say about the camera:

"The GR Digital is a newly developed professional-grade high-resolution compact digital camera. In addition to a CCD with 8,130,000 effective pixels, the new digital camera boasts superb resolution through a newly developed high-performance lens, image-processing algorithms, and other innovations, as well as low noise and low chromatic aberration.

The new GR Digital inherits the superb image quality that made the award winning GR Series (first launched in 1996) of 35mm compact film cameras so popular, as well as the depictive performance to satisfy professional photographers, distilled into a compact 25-mm thin body. With a high-quality feel and superb expandability, this is the perfect tool for both professional photographers and advanced amateurs."

You can find more information on their website.

The Camera: a visual tour: (Photos of the camera taken with the Olympus SP-500UZ)

Front - Camera off.

Front / left - Camera on, pop-up flash, microphone, rubber lens grip, passive focus, focus assist lamp, optional optical viewfinder, scroll adjust button above rubber grip.

Back - 2.5" screen (210k pixels), adjust press / scroll button, zoom, playback, 4-way controller with central Menu / OK button, self-timer and display button. Rubber hand grip.

Top: Flash-hot shoe with optional optical viewfinder, power button, shutter release, mode dial (with unlock / release button).

Bottom / right - av out, battery / memory card compartment, metal tripod mount.

Wide angle adapter - turns the camera into an ultra wide-angle 21mm camera.

Size Comparison: Compared to a Pentax 35mm film camera - a medium/compact sized 35mm film camera.

Size comparison.

Size comparison.

Specifications / Features:

  • 8 Megapixel Super CCD
  • 2.5" screen, 210,000 pixels
  • 28mm Wide-angle lens - F2.4 - F11
  • 4x Digital Zoom
  • ISO AUTO, 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600
  • Video mode: 320 x 240 pixels, 30 fps with sound
  • 1.5cm Macro mode
  • Pictbridge support
  • RAW mode, Manual controls

Box Contents:

  • Digital Camera
  • Built in memory (26mb)
  • Lithium-Ion Battery (DB-60, same as Panasonic Lumix LX1, Ricoh Caplio R3, etc)
  • Battery Charger
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • Hand strap
  • Owner's manual (200 page)
  • CD-ROMs: GR Digital Software, Adobe Photoshop Elements

Average box contents - you will need to buy a larger memory card, and a case, as with almost all digital cameras. It's nice to see some additional software in the form of Adobe Photoshop Elements.

Accessories: Below you can see the accessories currently available for the Ricoh, these are all optional extras.

From left to right: Optical viewfinder. Wide-angle lens, making this the widest angle compact digital camera, providing a 21mm film equivelant. Camera in the middle. Adapter, allows you to mount the wide angle lens.

Battery usage: When using AAA batteries battery life is poor - giving roughly 22-30 shots - so should only be relied on in an emergency. Alternatively rechargable AAA batteries or Oxyride batteries could be used for longer life. Using the supplied rechargable lithium-ion battery I managed over 200 shots. The battery should last for 250 shots according to Ricoh / CIPA standards. Battery life seemed good, about half that of the excellent 500-shot Fuji F10 for example.

Menu Options / Modes: The camera mode is selected using the top dial - the dial is locked in position until you press the release button.

Photo mode/menu: The menu button brings up the menu screen as shown on the right below:

Photo mode Photo Menu

Screen / LCD display in photo mode: (shown on the left) The screen resolution with 210,000 pixels is good, and features a live histogram. The screen is clear and the text and menus are easy to read. Optical Viewfinder: The optional optical viewfinder is very good - the best I've ever seen on a compact digital camera.

Photo menu options: Picture quality / size, Focus (multi, spot, manual, snap, infinite), Photometry (multi, centre, spot), Continuous mode, Image Set (Hard, Normal, Soft, Black and White, Setting 1/2 - custom contrast, sharpness, colour depth), Auto bracket (off, on, white-balance bracket), Interval, Image with sound, Date imprint, Exposure compensation, White balance, ISO setting, Restore Defaults.

Photo adjust button menus Setup menu

Scenes: Text Mode (Tiff black and white images), Sound recording.

Photo adjust button gives you quick access to: Exposure compensation, White Balance, as default options, with a further two options customisable, for example the further two options could be set to ISO and Focusing mode.

Setup menu options: Format card, Format internal memory, LCD brightness, Adjust button setting 1, setting 2, Auto power off, Beep sound, Volume, LCD confirm, Sequential number, Date settings, Language, Video out mode, Shooting Settings Change Warning, USB connection, Enlarge Photo icon, Colour space set (AdobeRGB, or SRGB), AF Aux Light, Digital zoom, Zoom button set (allows the zoom button to be customised when digital zoom is off and can be set to change exposure compensation or white balance), Reg. My Settings, Start settings (on/off).

Playback (Review) mode/menu: The menu button brings up the menu screen as shown on the right, below:

Playback mode (infra-red beam of laptop) Playback Menu

Playback mode: Scrolling through the photos is fairly quick, although initial display can seem a bit sluggish. The zoom is quick, and allows you to zoom up to 8x.

Playback menu options: Slide show, Protect, DPOF, Resize, Copy to Card (from internal memory).

Picture Size / Quality: The camera takes the following size pictures, and the following number of images will fit on the 26mb memory built into the camera:

Image Size: Number of Photos Stored / Quality
8mp 3264 x 2176
8mp 3264 x 2448
5mp 2592 x 1944
3mp 2048 x 1536
1mp 1280 x 960
0.3mp 640 x 480

As shown in the table above, you can fit a very small number of images on the 26mb memory - a large memory card is definitely recommended, unless you want to use the lower image sizes / higher compression options in order to fit more pictures in memory. There is a good choice of image sizes and aspect ratios, and a good choice regarding image compression.

A large memory card is relatively cheap, and highly recommended, I would recommend at a bare minimum a 256mb memory card, and preferably a 512mb memory card, or larger, especially considering the relatively low prices - the larger the memory card, the more photos you will be able to take. If you are likely to go on holiday then the largest memory card you can afford would definitely be worth investing in, as you don't always know when you will next be at a computer. Listed below are links to memory cards that will work with the Ricoh GR Digital:

Find the latest prices for SD memory cards at Amazon.co.uk: 128mb: £9.99, 256mb: £8.84, 512mb: £15.99, 1gb (1000mb): £29.99, 2gb (2000mb): £59.08.
Need more help deciding what memory card to buy? Have a look at our guide to digital camera memory cards or our article what size memory card should I buy?

Speed: The camera is fairly quick to switch on and take photos, being ready in just under two seconds, the lens extending seems to slow the camera down. Focusing seemed quick even in low-light thanks to the bright focus-assist lamp, although focusing did occassionally struggle when in macro mode in low-light. The playback mode is also fairly quick. The camera shutter response seemed very quick (under 0.1 seconds) when pre-focused - and shot to shot time was quick, with a delay of just over 1 second between shots without flash. The flash recharge time was quite quick. The cameras menu's seemed quick. Continuous shooting is very quick, at roughly 3fps for upto 4 shots at the highest resolution (without flash).

Ease of use: The camera is very easy to use, especially in AUTO mode, even though the camera has a lot of options. The controls on the back of the camera are quite straight forward - the menus are responsive and easy to read and navigate. The menus are also easy to use, and the options are big enough and easy enough to see clearly. The modes are easy to access, quick and simple, mainly thanks to the right number of dials and buttons on the camera - the back and front adjust controls give quick access to most commonly used options such as White Balance, Exposure Compensation, and ISO setting - these can be customised as well. Most functions can be worked out without having to refer to the manual.

Ergonomics and Buttons: (Feel, placement, labels, etc) The buttons are easy to use, and they are in a good position. There seem to be the right amount of buttons and dials allowing easy access to the most commonly used functions and features. The buttons feel good. The shutter release is quite decent. The buttons are labelled fairly well. I thought the camera felt very good ergonomically, with a good size handgrip, the rubberised cover will appeal to many. The camera feels like a solid, robust and well built camera, the size of the camera makes it easy to take everywhere.

Image Quality: Here are some sample photos taken in various settings, such as Inside, Noise, Outside, Zoom (when a feature of the camera), Macro, to demonstrate the quality of pictures taken and also show different features of the camera. Larger versions of these photos, plus more photos are available in the Ricoh GR Digital Sample Photo Gallery!


Heather and Flower (ISO125) Group photo (Auto ISO154)

Inside: The camera has good colour - It took a good "Heather and Flower" photo - although a wide-angle lens isn't the most flattering - there is no red-eye in the photo. It has a decent flash, and copes well with group photos. On AUTO ISO, the ISO setting is often increased although it never seemed to go over ISO154. The camera did a good job at focusing even in low-light.

Noise: Noise is generally a bad thing - it removes detail, and gives a grainy effect over the image. With digital cameras noise can be a real problem as digital camera noise is often made out of blue, red or green dots. As the ISO setting increases, pictures tend to have more noise. Noise is most noticeable in dark areas of photos. The camera has an Automatic mode for ISO levels, and manual ISO settings (ISO: 64, 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1600) - below you'll find the noise test image, plus actual pixel crops from the image taken at different ISO settings.

ISO Noise Test Photo - Flash off unless otherwise stated

ISO64 - Actual Pixels ISO100 - Actual Pixels
ISO200 - Actual Pixels ISO400 - Actual Pixels
ISO800 - Actual Pixels ISO1600 - Actual Pixels

Slight noise is visible in photos taken at ISO64 and ISO100, especially in darker areas. Noise increases, and becomes more coarse, as the ISO setting increases, and the noise levels of this camera are high when compared to other cameras - however the camera does seem to maintain detail / edge sharpness fairly well even at the higher ISO settings, whereas a lot of other cameras have much less detail at the higher ISO settings due to high noise reduction. The best results are acheived by sticking with the lowest ISO settings, such as ISO64 and ISO100.

Noise is high, however I've printed ISO1600 photos at 6x4" and been impressed by the results - at these small print sizes noise isn't as much of an issue. If you were going to use your images resized on the internet, noise is less likely to be an issue. I decided to try Noise Ninja (free trial) to see how much noise could be removed, and I was very impressed with the results. Examples are shown below and in the gallery:

ISO1600 Candle Light Shot ISO1600 Actual Pixels ISO1600 after Noise Ninja

With further work with Noise Ninja I expect even better results should be possible, through using a Noise Ninja noise profile specifically for this camera. Noise Ninja has a clever feature whereby you can make your own camera profile in order to get the best results. I simply tried a few settings until I got rid of as much noise as possible without destroying detail.


Shops Wedding Confetti

Outside, the camera had very good colour, with good contrast and saturation. There was good detail although images did seem slightly soft. There seemed to be good dynamic range, with a slight tendancy to overexpose - although this can easily be corrected by using exposure compensation. Noise seemed quite low, especially on sunny days. I didn't notice jpeg artefacts in the images. There was very little purple fringing in photos.

Zoom: The camera has no optical zoom lens, and a 4x digital zoom - I've included examples below to show the standard 28mm view, and the view with the option 21mm extra wide angle adapter. Using the digital zoom degrades image quality and is best avoided, I've included an example simply to show the results.

Wide-angle (21mm adapter) Wide-angle (28mm) Digital Zoom (with 28mm lens)

Exposure / Metering on the photos of the clock tower seems very good, with the dark areas of the photo not too dark, and the bright areas of the photo still visible. There is very low purple fringing. As an example of the cameras quick shutter response, I was able to capture the birds flying, in the 4x digital zoom picture, before they left the frame.

Lens noise: The lens is quite loud when switching the camera on or off, and quite loud when focusing. The shutter is quiet.

Other Image Quality issues: Purple fringing was very low.

Macro: You can use the flash in macro mode, although if the subject is too close, then there will be a shadow cast over some of the image due to the position of the flash and the lens. The camera can be roughly as close as 1 - 2cm away from the subject from the front of the lens in wide setting, when set to macro mode.

Macro Timex Watch Actual Pixels (ISO200)
Macro Candle Wick Actual Pixels (ISO200)

The macro mode is excellent - colour and detail is good, and there apears to be fairly low noise at ISO200 or below. The camera allows you to get VERY close to the subject - manual focus can also help. Images did seem a bit soft - and may benefit from sharpening. You'll need to be careful when / if using the flash, to ensure the picture is correctly exposed, and to ensure that the lens doesn't cause a shadow over the subject.

Movie: The movie mode on this camera is average with videos recorded at 320x240 at 30fps, with sound. The camera did well even in low light. Videos are recorded as .AVI files.


Image Quality: Image quality is very good to excellent. Images have very good natural colour, with good saturation, contrast, detail, and low purple fringing. Images were slightly soft (although sharpness can be increased in-camera), and images were noisy when higher ISO settings were used. The camera did a good job focusing even in low light thanks to the focus-assist lamp - however macro focusing in low light was occassionally unsuccessful. I did not notice vignetting in photos, and there was very low barrel distortion considering the wide angle lens. There is a good range of image sizes, and a good choice of compression options. The macro mode is excellent, and provides good detail and colour. Auto white balance and metering seemed to be good the majority of the time. Red-eye was not a huge problem. The movie mode is average, providing 320x240 and 30 frames per second with sound. (8/10)

Everything else (the camera as a whole): The camera scores highly on egonomics and build quality, with an excellent rubber grip and stylish and sturdy black metal body. The camera is fairly easy to use and offers a lot of features such as ISO, White Balance, Manual Focus, Manual Shutter and Aperture controls that are easily accessible through external controls (rather than in menus). However, with the unique wide-angle lens, and no optical zoom, the camera's lack of zoom may be too limiting for some.The camera will fit in trouser pockets, however the moment you add the extra wide-angle lens or optical viewfinder the camera because much less pocketable. The camera speed is good, with a good switch on time (although I had hoped it would be quicker), quick focusing time, very quick shutter response, good flash recharge time, quick playback mode, quick menus, and very quick continuous shooting. Using the camera outside on a sunny day, the camera is very responsive and enjoyable to use. (8/10)

Value for Money: The Ricoh GR Digital, at around £392, offers low value for money considering the lack of optical zoom, however the Ricoh GR Digital is in a strange but very unique position of currently being the only compact high-end / professional wide angle lens digital camera with no optical zoom - the nearest competing wide-angle compact digital camera near this price range seems to be the Panasonic Lumix LX1 (with 4x optical zoom lens) at around £335. Other wide angle digital cameras, such as the Kodak V570, (Ultra Compact 23mm equivalent), and Panasonic Lumix FX01, 28mm, (Ultra Compact with Leica lens), offer much better value for money. See more digital camera reviews sorted by megapixels here. (6/10)

Summary: The Ricoh GR Digital is a unique digital camera, offering excellent image quality for people who want a wide angle, or ultra-wide-angle lens with a compact body. The easy to use camera offers speedy performance, good battery life, and a good camera body with very good controls. The high ISO settings may come in handy on occasion, at the cost of image quality. This camera is difficult to recommend due to poor value for money and it's lack of optical zoom. However, if image quality is a priority and you've been looking for a rugged wide-angle compact digital camera, with the option of a very high quality optical viewfinder, and optional ultra-wide angle convertor, then this could be the camera for you! Ricoh are once again to be commended for daring to offer a unique digital camera in a crowded market.

Ricoh GR Digital Rating: Above Average (7.5/10)
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What I like:

  • Excellent Image Quality
  • Excellent Macro Mode
  • Excellent (optional) optical viewfinder - probably the best available for/in a compact digital camera
  • Ultra-wide angle adapter (optional) - widest available in a compact (equivelent to 21mm in a compact digital camera)
  • Very comfortable and easy to hold thanks to the rubber grip
  • Allows the use of AAA batteries - handy in an emergency
  • Speedy performance, especially shutter response, and continuous shooting
  • Very low purple fringing

What I don't like:

  • Slow RAW mode
  • Expensive optional extras, such as the excellent optical viewfinder
  • Some over-exposure / blown highlights outdoors (see wedding photo for example)
  • Battery not clipped in - can/will fall out when you are changing the memory card
  • No longer the smallest wide-angle compact digital camera - see Kodak V570, Ultra Compact 23mm equivalent, and Panasonic Lumix FX01, 28mm, Ultra Compact with Leica lens.
  • High noise - Some noise visible at lowest ISO settings

Remember to have a look at the test photos in the Ricoh GR Digital Sample Photo Gallery.
Feedback, comments or questions? Please leave any you have using this link.
Tested with Firmware 1.08 - Ricoh GR Digital Firmware Downloads: Windows | Mac

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