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Ricoh GR Announced

"This article was being prepared for publishing when an astonishing email arrived this morning.  Read on and it will make sense....."

Background

There has been a seismic shift in the public perception of someone carrying a camera:  I think there are lots of contributing factors:  The internet as a publishing platform, the ease and quality of digital imaging,  peoples demands for, and expectations of privacy, security sensitivity, terrorism (or rather the fear of terrorism), child protection, the death of Princess Dianna pursued by a pack of photographers, questionable invasion of privacy versus the cult of celebrity.  Post Leveson, and post 9-11 or 7-7 the world has changed for photographers:  Lots of unrelated factors have contributed to the camera becoming an object of deep suspicion and even outright hostility:  The bigger the camera, the more suspicious people get.

It's not just here in the UK, or the US: During the recent fall of the Lybian leadership, one leading photo-journalist left his Nikon D4 in his hotel room, and instead shot moving, memorable images with his iPhone.  - like everyone else was doing... he blended in and had permission - The D4 was not only a hinderance - it could well have resulted in his death - at the hands of an angry, nervous mob, frightened that their actions might be caught on camera after decades of brutal secret police crackdowns. 

Combine these various fear or 'push factors' with the convenience 'pull factors' of light weight, good battery life, low cost, accessibility and astonishing image quality: it is not at all surprising the small, inconspicuous, discrete cameras with extremely high quality sensors from DSLR's are in such demand. 

Ricoh GRDI/II/III/IV - The Grand-Daddy

Now this might sound a bit like a confession of  a guilty secret... but I love the Ricoh GRD line. It's hard to convey how much the tiny little camera means to me. For many of the reasons above, it just works for me.... the old truism:  the best camera in the world is the one you have with you.

Small enough to fit in my pocket - always. Clever enough to surprise me, small enough not to provoke a reaction from anyone:  it was my introduction to digital photography and continues my affection for high quality tiny cameras that started with a Contax T2 (Titanium body, Saphire shutter release button, Zeiss Lens)

Tragedy.... 

But.... there is tragedy.  ( I know it sounds faintly ridiculous to talk of tragedy in the context of a camera) but the lack of genuine progress in the GRD sensor a genuine tragedy, if a missed opportunity and squandered talent can be such.. especially given the demand for exactly what the GRD started. But it has left the door ajar for the rest: Sigma, Samsung, Canon, Fuji, and now Nikon have all released high quality, metal bodied, fixed lens, fixed focal length compact cameras.

Sensor-tive Issue

Sigma have placed the awesome Foveon sensor in the DP1/2/3 Merrill bodies.  Epic images in a relatively compact 'form factor'. In my experience - nothing I've used comes close to the images that the Merrills are capable of producing.    Nikon have produced the Coolpix A, Sony the RX1, even Samsung as a relative newcomer to the camera market have significant cameras in the market,

I wonder what life would be like if the perfect ergonomics, size, quality of the GRD's ever merged with the the astonishing IQ of the Merrill.  If this ever happened - truth be told: I'm not sure I'd ever buy another camera!!

The tiny sensor at the heart of the GRD has definitely passed it's primetime.  I've resigned myself along with everyone else to wait to Ricoh to 'see the light' and grace the wonderful tool with the sensor it so richly deserves.   

Fed up, I sold my little GRD (II, III & IV) and stuck to larger format cameras.  But I've kept going back to the compact form - desperate for the IQ compromise to be better than it is. I have bought 4 or 5 GRD's - revisiting the sensor in the hope that it was my technique, the light, something I was doing wrong.  In truth though, it is the relative progress of the rest of the market that has left the GRD struggling.   

In my quest for a small high quality camera, I bought a Fuji X10.... and then sold it - I disliked the lack of information in the viewfinder and the lack of the AF focus point visible in the finder and the sensor which in my opinion is worse, 

In some respects, than an external 'finder.   Then I bought the XF-1.... but - oh dear... the IQ does leave a lot to be desired Sensor/Lens combination - certainly no better then the GRDIII and physically, the XF-1 is not quite as small as the Ricoh.... so I thought - how much worse is the IQ of the old GRD III? time for a subjective post I thought...... 

Conclusion

So we are left with the GRD still being a truly wonderful photographers camera - small, robust, with brilliantly thought out controls... I could go on for ages about all of the detailed and uniquely useful aspects of the GRD which has been steadily refined though several Film and 4 digital versions... resulting in the most photographer friendly small sensor on the planet....    

Bloody frustrating.  

I would give almost everything for the GRD ergonomics, form factors, weight, materials, software fused with even the old DP2S/X chip.  Priceless. Certainly worth between £800-£1200 based on the current market for DP1/2/3's, RX1, Nikon 'A' etc.

OK.  So the Foveon sensor is an acquired taste and might not be available - so take the sensor from 2 or 3 of the new crop of APS-C compacts or SLR's (Pentax have one or two?),  or even a Micro 4/3rds Cameras and you would have an undisputed world beater.  (Go on Ricoh... Pentax .... go on - please?)  

The scene is set then.  How good is the Nikon A relative to the Merrills?  Compared to the Ricoh GRD III / IV   

I have a Nikon Coolpix A and an X100s on my desk and will be testing alongside the Sigmas.  I've got lot's of images from my years of shooting GR's. Having seen some impressive images from the Nikon, and knowing what to expect from the X100s (I've owned an X-Pro and 35mm lens) - it might be that my GRD replacement has come from the most unexpected source.  I'll be back soon with a comparison.

THAT'S WHAT I'D WRITTEN Setting the scene for a review of the Nikon Coolpix A ....   BUT WAIT.... I've written this piece and look what landed in my inbox.    

"A GR-series digital camera, featuring an APS-C-size image sensor for superb image quality, and a compact body for outstanding portability and operability. Everything is big, except the size."

Blimey.   Could there be Triumph from Tragedy?  I'll share more when it arrives.  

First shot of the GR

First shot of the GR

The GR will apparently be available from May 2013 at an RRP of £599.99 (body only).  With an option of Body + viewfinder (RRP tba).

 

 

 

PENTAX RICOH IMAGING COMPANY, LTD. is pleased to announce the launch of the GR. This new RICOH-branded expert digital compact camera not only offers the top image quality available in the renowned RICOH GR series, but features a pocket-sized body that enhances the camera’s operability and portability in everyday snapshot use.
Developed as a successor to the GR DIGITAL IV (released in October 2011), the new GR inherits the product concept of the GR DIGITAL series while upgrading the basic specifications and functions of its predecessor. It features a newly designed lens to assure sharp, clear image resolution, even at image edges. Thanks to the combination of a newly developed APS-C-size CMOS image sensor (with approximately 16.2 effective megapixels), the high-performance GR ENGINE V imaging engine and an Anti-aliasing filter-less design, the camera assures high image resolution, gradation-rich colour reproduction and improved image quality, especially at high-sensitivity shooting. In addition to improvements in quick shooting capability, an AF button and an aperture preview button — both easily accessible with the thumb — have been newly added to upgrade the camera’s operability during everyday shooting. It also offers a range of user-assisting features, including in-body RAW-data development and focus assist to facilitate manual focusing. The new GR is a pure joy to own and use, as it offers a wider selection of functions and much-improved performance, while retaining a pocket-size body and the refined design shared by all GR-series models.

Major Features

1. Exceptional image description, assured by the new GR LENS 18.3mm F2.8

•        The GR comes equipped with a newly designed GR Lens with the angle of view equivalent to 28mm in the 35mm format. Designed to be compact while providing high performance, this lens delivers high-resolution images with edge-to-edge sharpness and rich contrast, while minimizing distortion and chromatic aberration by incorporating two high-precision aspherical lens elements and a highly refractive low-dispersion glass element in its optics. It also offers a few extra benefits unique to a unifocal lens, such as sharp, crisp image resolution even at the open aperture of F2.8, and superb image definition with backlit subjects.

•        Thanks to its nine-blade diaphragm, the GR produces a natural Bokeh effect at larger apertures, while creating beautiful light beams at smaller apertures.

•        Thanks to its manually adjustable ND (neutral density) filter, the GR lets the user open the aperture up even in bright sunshine for a wider range of creative expression.

2. Improved image quality, supported by the large image sensor, GR ENGINE V and Anti-aliasing filter-less design

The GR comes equipped with a new APS-C-size CMOS image sensor, providing an image-sensitive area as wide as that of a PENTAX DSLR image sensor. Thanks to this large image sensor, the GR offers approximately 16.2 effective megapixels to produce beautiful, high-resolution images.

•        By coupling the large image sensor with the newly developed GR ENGINE V imaging engine, the GR offers high-sensitivity shooting at ISO 25600 with minimal high-sensitivity noise to produce high-resolution, rich-gradation images with a natural sense of depth and a beautiful Bokeh effect.

•        The image sensor is optimized for the GR 18.3mm F2.8 Lens.  To give top priority to image resolution, an Anti-aliasing filter-less design has been adopted to bring out optimum lens performance and assure exceptional image quality over the entire image field.

•        3. Quick response to shutter opportunities

•        The GR provides a high-speed autofocus system that can focus on the subject in a mere 0.2 seconds,* thanks to the newly developed lens driving mechanism and optimized AF algorithm, as well as the ever-faster data readout speed from the image sensor. With its start-up time of approximately one second, the GR responds quickly and flawlessly even to fleeting shutter opportunities.

•        The GR’s AF Continuous Shooting function captures a series of photos at a maximum speed of approximately four images per second, allowing the photographer to capture a fast-moving subjects, such as athletes and wildlife, in sharp focus.

4. Pocket size for superb operability

•        Despite the incorporation of the large image sensor, the GR has a compact and portable design. Its casing is made of a magnesium alloy that is both light and highly rigid, while its exterior design retains the flair and style typical of the GR series.

•        The body is designed for maximum holding comfort and operational ease. All control buttons are laid out for easy access with the right hand. A preview button has been added to the camera’s side panel for quick confirmation of the depth of field before shooting, making it easier for the photographer to visualize the level of the Bokeh effect in the resulting image.

•        The focus-assist function comes in handy during manual-focus operation. This, coupled with the image magnification and target shift functions, simplifies manual-focus shooting.

•        An AF function button/lever has been newly added to the camera’s back panel. When the lever is set to the Continuous AF (C-AF) mode, the user can capture a series of images of a moving subject — all in sharp focus — by pushing the shutter release button while depressing the AF button. The user can also choose an optional setting, in which the continuous shooting mode is automatically activated while the C-AF button is pressed.

•        The GR features the PENTAX-original Shutter-speed/Aperture-Priority (TAv) exposure mode, featured only in PENTAX-branded digital SLR cameras. This innovative mode automatically sets the optimum ISO sensitivity based on the shutter speed and aperture selected by the photographer.

•        Aperture and shutter speed indicators have been added to the monitor screen. The layout of on-screen indicators has also been optimized to the 3:2 aspect ratio, with redesigned grid guide and electronic level. All these combine in the GR’s greatly upgraded usability.

•        Although it incorporates a large-aperture lens, the GR features a built-in lens barrier mechanism that automatically opens and closes the barrier as the power is switched on and off. This allows the user to react swiftly to all photographic opportunities.

5. An array of shooting functions

•        The Image Effect modes allow the user to add a variety of visual effects to create distinctive expressions without the need for a PC. For greater creativity, three new modes have been added for the GR: Retro for a nostalgic ambience with subdued saturation; High Key for a bright, lively result while retaining subtle gradation in highlights; and Miniaturize for a diorama-like appearance, popular in the CX-series models. Selection of the nine Image Effect modes is pushbutton-easy, with the direct-access Effect button positioned on the camera’s side panel.

•        The precision of the Multi-pattern AWB (auto white balance) function has been upgraded to automatically achieve more faithful colour reproduction by more clearly defining white balance to fit the light source of each segregated area of the image when there are mixed light sources.

•        The Dynamic Range Compensation function, which minimizes completely washed-out highlights and pitch-black shadows, now offers pixel-level compensation to almost eliminate borders along the luminance threshold areas and achieve the smoother transition of gradation.

•        Even when the user fails to set the macro shooting mode, the GR’s Auto Macro function will set it automatically by monitoring the distance to the subject. The Face Detection AF & AE function automatically captures the subject’s face in sharp focus and with perfect exposure. (These functions are available only in the Auto shooting mode.)

•        The Interval Composite mode captures a series of images of the night sky at a fixed interval, then selects and combines only the high-luminance pixel data from each of those images to produce a single composite image. This mode comes in handy when the user wishes to combine the trails of the moon and the stars with a landscape.

•        GR offers a variety of PC-free image processing functions, including in-body RAW-data development to output JPEG-format files.

6. High-quality Full HD recording of extended movie clips

Taking advantage of the H.264 video format, the GR’s Full HD movie recording function captures high-quality, extended movie clips (1920 x 1080 pixels, 16:9 aspect ratio) at a frame rate of 30 frames per second. Image Effects such as Retro and Bleach Bypass are available during movie recording. During recording, its AF system remains active and the camera continuously focuses subjects in the centre of its angle of view. With this AF mechanism, the user is always assured of sharp focus, along with the high image quality delivered by the combination of the GR Lens and the large image sensor.

7. Eye-Fi card compatibility for easy image transmission to smartphones

With Eye-Fi wireless LAN SD memory cards, the user can automatically transmit recorded images to a smartphone,** and even select favorite images and resize them before transmission. In the playback mode, the user can also recall the transmitted images on the monitor using the Effect button on the side panel.

** The automatic transmission mode must be selected in advance on the settings menu.

8. Function expansion via firmware upgrade 

Function-enhancing firmware upgrades, which have been popular with all GR-series models — from the GR DIGITAL to the GR DIGITAL IV — are scheduled to become available along the way for the new GR as well. By upgrading the camera’s firmware, the user can always take advantage of the latest, most advanced functions to optimize the camera’s performance.

9. Other features

I.                     Dual-axis electronic level for high-precision horizontal and vertical alignment

II.              Non-directional stereo microphone

III.             Crop mode*** for instant setting of a 35mm angle of view in the 35mm       format

IV.                Chromatic moiré compensation function to minimize wavy moiré patterns inthe image

V.                  Optional GW-3 Wide Conversion Lens (with 0.75X magnification and optics optimized for the GR) for 21mm ultra-wide-angle shooting

VI.                Compatibility with UHS-1 high-speed memory cards

VII.             SILKYPIX Developer Studio 3.0 LE for PENTAX RICOH IMAGING RAW-data processing software (developed by Ichikawa Soft Laboratory) included; in-body RAW-data development also available