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Ricoh GR Digital III review

Ben Pitt
18 Nov 2009
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
450
inc VAT

A true enthusiast's camera that prioritises image quality and ergonomics over fancy features. Stiff competition is its only stumbling block.

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Specifications

1/1.7in 10.0-megapixel sensor, 1.0x zoom (28mm equivalent), 188g

A year ago, the compact digital camera market was stuck in a rut, with most manufacturers offering unnecessarily high resolutions that did little to improve actual photos.

Things are markedly different now, and manufacturers are finding more imaginative - and vastly more effective - ways to boost image quality.

Ricoh's GR Digital III certainly scores points for originality. Its lens has a fixed 28mm focal length, which means there's no zoom function at all. However, its f/1.9 aperture helps it capture over twice as much light as a typical f/2.8 lens. Omitting a zoom helps to produce a brighter lens, but it also makes it easier to capture sharper images with less distortion. Sure enough, its pictures were remarkably crisp right into the corners of the frame. The sensor is less unusual at 10 megapixels and with a 1?1.7in diameter, but these specifications strike a sensible balance between detail and sensitivity.

Other features demonstrate that this is a serious photographic tool. The cosmetic design is uncompromisingly stark, and even Ricoh's logo is missing from the front of the camera. It has a comfortable rubber handgrip, though. The rest of the body is made from magnesium alloy, so it's very tough and light.

At the back, there's a 3in screen with a whopping 920,000-pixel resolution, which should go some way to help SLR owners overlook the lack of a viewfinder. There are lots of controls for quick access to key settings, including dual dials for shutter speed and aperture control. The menu has comprehensive colour and noise-reduction options plus RAW capture - features usually reserved for SLRs. Face detection is notably absent, and the basic video mode is hidden among the scene presets, but these issues probably won't bother keen photographers. The lack of an HDMI output is more disappointing on a camera at this price, as is the lack of image stabilisation, which cancels the advantage of the bright lens when shooting static subjects.

A year ago we would have recommended the GR Digital III without reservation, but today it has to compete with Panasonic's LX3. Both cameras have bright lenses, are extremely responsive and excel for image quality. The LX3 has a slight edge for sharpness and its automatic exposures are more reliable, but the GR's colours look more natural. It's hard to choose between them at high sensitivities, but the GR edged ahead at times. Their features are quite different, though. The LX3 captures HD video and has a 2.5x zoom and optical image stabilisation. The Ricoh's higher-resolution screen and lower weight aren't enough to justify the fact that it costs around £150 more.

The GR Digital III is also likely to suffer in comparison with Panasonic's GF1 and Sigma's DP2, both of which house an SLR-sized sensor in a compact body - look out for our imminent reviews of these models. Even so, it's impossible to remain downbeat about what is undeniably a well-conceived, expertly executed camera.

Basic Specifications

Rating***
CCD effective megapixels10.0 megapixels
CCD size1/1.7in
Viewfindernone
LCD screen size3.0in
LCD screen resolution920,000 pixels
Optical zoom1.0x
Zoom 35mm equivalent28mm
Image stabilisationnone
Maximum image resolution3,648x2,736
Maximum movie resolution640x480
Movie frame rate at max quality30fps
File formatsJPEG, RAW; AVI (M-JPEG)

Physical

Memory slotSDHC
Mermory supplied88MB internal
Battery type3.6V 1,250mAh Li-ion or 2x AAA
Battery Life (tested)370 shots
ConnectivityUSB, AV
AccessoriesUSB and AV cables
Weight188g
Size60x109x26mm

Buying Information

Price£450
Supplierhttp://www.simplyelectronics.net
Detailswww.ricoh.co.uk

Camera Controls

Exposure modesprogram, shutter priority, aperture priority, manual
Shutter speed180 to 1/2,000 seconds
Aperture rangef/1.9 to f/9
ISO range (at full resolution)64 to 1600
Exposure compensation+/-2 EV
White balanceauto, 4 presets, manual
Additional image controlscontrast, saturation, sharpness, noise reduction
Manual focusYes
Closest macro focus1cm
Auto-focus modesmulti, spot
Metering modesmulti, centre, spot
Flashauto, forced, suppressed, slow synchro, rear curtain, red-eye reduction
Drive modessingle, continuous, self-timer, AE bracket, WB bracket, interval