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November 10, 2013

Pentax Richo GR review

This summer RICOH IMAGING UK gave me a Ricoh GR to play with, and and it’s been accompanying me along several coastal trips recently.

Having grown up on a diet of DSLRs, with their rugged bodies, full creative control, powerful lenses and über megapixel counts, I’ll admit to previously not having an interest in digital compacts, they never had anythng to offer me as a landscape photographer, but the Ricoh GR's promise of RAW and manual support piqued my interest.

Form Factor

The Ricoh is incredibly compact – even for a comapact - especially one that aims to deliver several 'pro' features, there are few others promising an APS-CMOS sensor alongside such a slim body. It’s lightweight but with a nice sense of robustness and having been used to heavy duty DLSRs the Ricoh GR has a welcome sense of confidence for such a small camera, and has a nice 'feel' in the hands despite its slim line and lightweight body. It certainly doesn't suffer from an overly plastic of flimsy feel like many in its class.

Full Creative Control

First impressions; I loved the fully manual option.

It gave me all the freedom to control any scene as I wished, wihich combined with RAW support,  adds up to a tempting package of end to end control from image capture and darkroom development. This is something which has been lacking in other compacts and as such has steered me away from the compact category in the past.

Going Wide

The viewing angle of the Ricoh is very impressive, and the wide angle adaptor, which isn't a cheap piece of kit at one-quarter the cost of the Ricoh's body, though it certainly opens up the potential for almost fish-eye like viewing angles, something ideal for large vistas and which I'm used to on my full-frame Canon.

Another nice touch for any landscape photographer, is a the viewfinder horseshoe add on.

It does suffers from some mild edge softness, but overall the viewfinder makes framing landscapes simpler for those like me who prefer composing through the lens and not via live-view. It does seem Pentax have very consciously included elements that the serious photographer would instinctively miss or look for in a compact.

Richo GR with wide angle adaptor

Handling

In the field, the size is a real benefit. Often, it went straight in my jacket pocket, making it an ideal 'field camera' to test exposures and composition. 

The locking feature on the mode selector is a great ergonomic feature, making for more confident handling (especially with gloves on) and ensuring less accidental mode changes. The aperture and shutter speed flick-switches are quick, responsive and intuitive, and benefit from not being hidden behind cumbersome menu options.

This is all adds up to making the Ricoh GR pleasantly responsive in rapidly changing lighting conditions. 

Image capture

The rear LCD is crisp beyond belief, rendering detail from the lens exquisitely.

And once back in the digital darkroom, I was equally impressed with the RAWs this camera churns out. Ricoh's literature claims a wide dynamic range, and the results were impressive with very low noise, good colour space and an impressive level of detail. Even inside by side comparisons, the Ricoh showed only relatively more grain at ISO 100 and 200 than my 5D.

Perhaps, most refreshing is the fixed focal lens. An odd choice for a compact audience perhaps, but that added camera craft of framing with your feet only adds to the GR’s appeal for me, which forces to to think about framing your shot, something that might alienate some, though does force you to be more creative and is a key piece of fieldcraft.

In closing

In short, I’m converted.

The Ricoh GR is now a permanent kit-bag fixture, being able to deliver quality high end images it makes an ideal fall back camera to my DLSR, and it's small body makes it ideally suited as my field camera of choice for testing exposures.

Learn more about the Ricoh GR

See more of the Pentax Ricoh Ambassadors work here

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