Ricoh GR Digital
Like the Kodak V570, Ricoh’s 8-megapixel GR Digital is aimed at those who prefer to stand apart from the crowd. By consistently focusing on useful features – such as the ability to shoot at wide-angle and in low light (up to ISO 1600 here) – rather than stylish body design, Ricoh has nurtured a following among serious photo enthusiasts. The GR Digital – a version of the popular film compact, renowned for great optics and stunningly detailed images – is looking to play on this existing goodwill. It boasts a wide-angle 28mm lens and a pocket-friendly body just 25mm thin.
Those not aware of its 35mm heritage may be put off by the fact that the camera features a fixed, non-zoom lens, but, as with an SLR, there are a number of lens attachments available to extend the GR’s creativity. In fact, those used to the interchangeable lenses of an SLR, but who are looking for a less bulky back up with similarly excellent optics, are its main target audience. The camera feels more ruggedly substantial than many compacts in this price bracket, suggesting it would survive been knocked around.
The GR Digital powers up in about a second. Shutter delay is noticeable yet slight, and there’s a delay of a couple of seconds when writing JPEGs of the highest resolution to memory, which is pretty standard stuff. The user is reliant on the bright 2.5in LCD screen in the absence of an optical viewfinder. Unusually, those missing the latter can attach one as an optional extra via a hot shoe above the lens, which further causes the unit to resemble an SLR that’s been shrunk.
However, picture quality is what the camera is all about, and for those who want to spend ages tweaking exposure and colour in Photoshop – a trial copy of Elements is bundled with the camera – unadulterated Raw files can be captured alongside humble JPEGs, affording hands-on control over colour, tonal range and exposure. To allow you to get this spot-on in the first place, a live histogram display – a graph detailing the areas of brightness across the image – can be called up in capture mode. Ricoh has been making claims that the optics are so good they’ll pick up every hair on your head; that’s a maybe, and colours are certainly naturalistic, but the GR Digital still suffers camera shake if there’s not plenty of light around.
The camera comes with 26MB of internal memory allowing a dozen or so ‘normal’ quality JPEGs to be captured, but power users will want to invest in a supplementary removable SD or MMC media pretty sharp-ish. Battery life, courtesy of a rechargeable lithium-ion pack, is reasonably adequate.
Sure to gain ‘must-have’ status as the secondary camera of choice for D-SLR users, the GR Digital is a snapshot for grown-ups that produces images that wouldn’t disgrace the professionals (photographers that is, not Messrs Bodie and Doyle).