When we first clapped our eyes on the Ricoh GR Digital two years ago, we purred like a cat that had not only found the cream, but had dived whiskers-first into a bottomless pit of the stuff and then been handed the deeds of the cream making factory.
We’d been looking for a digital equivalent of our favourite ever film compact, the Olympus XA for an eternity, and the GR camera came satisfyingly close.
Winning a heap of camera awards, the 25mm thin GR quickly carved a niche for itself amongst pro/enthusiast photographers looking for a no-nonsense camera that offered SLR-like controls and a high quality lens.
Reflecting the camera’s pro/enthusiast aspirations, Ricoh revealed that a hefty 77% of GR users also own a SLR camera, with 41% of them always carrying their GR around with them.
Bucking the super zoom trend with a fast, 28mm fixed lens (if you want to zoom in, get off your arse and get your legs moving!), the 8 megapixel GR proved a great carry-everywhere compact, so Digital-Lifestyles didn’t need a second invite to the launch of its successor in London last week.
The new GR Digital II retains the same well-received f2.4 28mm equivalent lens, adding a 10 megapixel sensor and a new GR Engine II image processing system which Ricoh claims achieves a “dramatic reduction” in noise.
Although the camera looks identical to its predecessor (and that means the same delightfully logo-free, ultra-discrete black lines), there has been a substantial amount of tweaking and updating going on underneath the hood.
Leveling the land
A nice touch is the new electronic leveling system to help horizon- challenged photographers keep buildings vertical and seaside scenes flat which uses an onscreen display with an optional bleep – handy if you’re using the optical optical viewfinder.
Talking of which, the new GV-2 viewfinder – which slots on to the camera hotshoe – has been redesigned with a much smaller profile, making it more practical to keep it permanently attached. We tried it at the launch and preferred it to the heftier original although we would really love it if Ricoh could find way of adding basic exposure info to the display..
The GRII also introduces a RAW mode compatible 1:1 aspect ratio (vertical/ horizontal ratio) image size for that old-school square format look, with a range of black-and-white settings letting creative types do their thing.
Colour, colour depth, contrast, and sharpness of an image can also be adjusted in +/- five steps so compulsive tweakers can enter parameter heaven.
Other photographer-focussed tweaks include one-push mode switching, two custom settings, depth of field display in the focus bar and a useful ‘information display mode’ showing user selected details when the LCD monitor is turned off – handy when using the external viewfinder.
Crucially the GRII comes with a vastly increased RAW writing time (down to approx. 3.8 sec) with the ability to immediately take another shot thanks to the boosted buffer memory.
This is a big improvement on the original GR which took a pedestrian 11 seconds to write a RAW file with the camera locked up during that time.
The LCD screen has also been increased to a generous 2.7-inches, with the 230,000-pixel display offering a high 160º viewing angle and – huzzah – there’s a new manual pop-up flash, with flash exposure compensation function +2.0 EV to -2.0 EV.
Battery life has been boosted to around 370 from 250 shots, but the size remains the same at a highly pocketable 107.0 × 59.0 × 25.0 (W x H x D) and weighing 168 g.
The Ricoh GR Digital II will cost £399.99 and should be snuggling up against the winter chill in UK shops in December.
Ricoh GR Digital II specs
1/1.75″ Type CCD, 10.01 million effective pixels
Image sizes 3648 x 2736, 3648 x 2432, 2736 x 2736, 3264 x 2448, 2592 x 1944, 2048 x 1536, 1280 x 960, 640 x 480
Movie clips 640 x 480 @ 15/30 fps, 320 x 240 @ 15/30 fps
File formats JPEG (Exif v2.21, DPOF), RAW (DNG), AVI (Open DML Motion JPEG)
Lens 28mm (35mm equiv)
F2.4 – F11, 6 elements in 5 groups (2 aspherical elements)
Conversion lenses Yes
Digital zoom up to 4x (up to 5.7x at 640 x 480)
Focus Auto focus, Manual focus, Snap, Infinity
AF area modes Multi-point AF, Spot AF
AF lock Yes
AF assist lamp Yes
Closest focus distance Standard AF: 30 cm, Macro: 1.5 cm
Metering 256-point multi-segment, Centre-weighted average, Spot
ISO sensitivity Auto, High ISO Auto, ISO 80, ISO 100, ISO 200, ISO 400, ISO 800, ISO 1600
AE lock Yes
Exposure compensation +/- 2EV in 1/3 stop increments
Exposure Bracketing +/- 1/3, 1/5 EV
Shutter speed 1-1/2000 sec
Modes Auto, Program AE (with exposure shift), Aperture Priority AE, Manual
Scene modes Skew correct, Text, Movie, My Settings
White balance Auto, Outdoors, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Manual
WB bracketing Yes
Self timer 2 or 10sec
Flash Auto, Flash On, Flash Off, Slow Sync, Red-eye reduction
+/- 2EV in 1/3 stop increments
Range (Internal, Auto ISO): 20cm – 3.0m
Hotshoe for external flash unit
Viewfinder Optional hotshoe-mounted viewfinder, LCD monitor, 2.7-inch transparent amorphous silicon TFT LCD, 230,000 pixels
Connectivity USB 2.0 Hi-Speed, AV out (PAL / NTSC switchable)
Storage SD, SDHC, MMC compatible, 54 MB internal storage
Power Li-Ion battery pack DB60, Optional AC adapter AC-4c
Weight (no batt) 168g (5.9 oz)
Dimensions 107 x 58 x 25 mm (4.2 x 2.3 x 1.0 in)