Testing out the sublimely capable, surprisingly minimal compact camera
Few cameras command the sort of cult attention that follows the Ricoh GR. With four digital versions to date, the fifth—announced today and simply named the GR—looks only to enshrine this status. The advanced compact category is full of point-and-shoots that come in around the $900 mark, with nearly every major manufacturer hoping to find a holy grail model that will marry portability and performance. The new GR comes as close as any we've seen.
To start, the body is structurally stunning. Even more discreet than the minimalist style of the Nikon Coolpix A, the GR seems to be hoping to beat competitors at their own game. A slightly pebbled finish on the metal body adds grip, which is helpful given that the GR is lighter than it looks—there's nothing worse than accidentally flinging your camera when you go to frame a shot.
The second thing you notice is the speed—lightning-fast autofocus hones in on subjects in two-tenths of a second. Add to that one-second startup time and you've got a point-and-shoot that lives up to its name. Three manual presets save settings for later use, and the camera comes as expected with aperture and shutter priority settings. Also quite useful is the TAv mode which lets you set shutter and aperture manually, then compensates for your settings by automating the ISO.
Then there's the 16 MP APS-C CMOS image sensor, a fairly large format that does wonders for depth of field and low light performance. This is a critical element for photographers looking for a standby camera, especially one that has an ISO range of up to 25600. While this addition adds a bit of girth to the camera, Ricoh has smartly decided to put performance first. Also helping with noise is the GR Engine V that optimizes images on the high end as well as improving color quality and accuracy.
We were lucky enough to test out the GR prior to the release and decided to share a few experimental shots taken with the camera at Madison Square Park and the CH HQ. Please note that these are unprocessed and the result of a first-time trial with the camera. See them all in the slideshow.
The new GR will be available in the US and online in May 2013 starting at $800—not bad for a category-defining model.
Images by James Thorne