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Ricoh GR Digital III - Ricoh GR Digital III

By Cliff Smith



Our Score:


One thing that hasn't improved much however is the price. The GR Digital III is currently on sale for an eye-watering £530, making it by far the most expensive pocket compact on the market, and one of the most expensive non-SLR cameras of any type. By comparison the Panasonic LX3 will cost you about £340, and you can get a Canon G10 for around £400. You can pre-order the new Canon S90 for about £450, and needless to say there are plenty of digital SLRs that cost less than the GR Digital III. That price will probably fall over time, but maybe not by as much as you'd hope. The GR Digital II is still available and costs about £300.

This is pretty much the GR Digital III's only real problem. There's no question that it's a very good camera and offers a lot of creative control for experienced photographers in a highly portable pocket-sized form, but it's no longer the only camera that does so. The Panasonic LX3 offers much the same, but with an even larger sensor and a high quality zoom lens with an even wider wide-angle setting, while the new Canon S90 has an f/2.0 lens equivalent to 28-105mm. Both cameras are a lot cheaper than the Ricoh, and it has to be said that they're a lot prettier to look at as well. There are now also several other compact alternatives to the bulky traditional SLR, such as the new Micro Four Thirds cameras from Olympus and Panasonic. Given Ricoh's traditionally low-key approach to marketing its range of digital cameras, one wonders if the GR Digital III can survive against such competition.

It'll be a pity if it can't, because it really is a superb little camera. The build quality is exemplary, and the unassuming plain black body, with its scratch-resistant high-friction coating and comfortable rubberised grip, is slim, light and easy to hold. The control layout is simple but effective, and provides quick but versatile access to the camera's many options. The main mode dial has a locking button to prevent it being turned accidentally, something which many other manufacturers would do well to imitate. Like an SLR the GR Digital has two adjustment controls, a rotating wheel on the front of the grip for adjusting exposure values, and a control on the back for quick menu selections. The controls, including all the buttons around the D-pad, can all be customised, so you can set the camera up just the way you like it. Particular set-ups can be saved for quick access via the three custom settings on the mode dial.

The degree of control is excellent for a compact camera. Apertures from f/1.9 to f/9, shutter speeds from three minutes to 1/2000th of a second and sensitivity settings from 64 ISO to 1600 ISO are available at the touch of a button. The pop-up flash is surprisingly powerful, its output can be adjusted, and both first and second-curtain sync are available.

Other features are similarly capable. Exposure metering is excellent, and the multi-point AF system is extremely fast and accurate. Macro focusing range is an impressive 1cm, and the well-implemented manual focus option, as well as the ability to connect to an external lighting system via the hot-shoe, makes the GR Digital III and excellent camera for close-up photography. The white balance system is also much improved, with an advanced pixel-by-pixel multi-pattern WB system that seems to be exceptionally accurate.

Dark of Day

September 15, 2009, 11:22 pm

Nice looking camera, but yes, way to expensive.

On which note; any likelihood of Leica sending you an M9 to play with and tell us about?


September 16, 2009, 12:23 am

It's the daddy ;)

My GRDigital is back from being repaired soon. Cost £120. It's my first camera. I broke it after using it about 3 times. I've now spent the money (including buying it) that I could of afforded the LX3 yet I'm still happy I went with it. Cliff is right, the lack of zoom I think improves your photography (Although I never get a photo showed on the comp each month lol).


September 16, 2009, 2:08 am

Wonderful camera.

Been a fan of the GR series since film days and continue to be so with the GR Digital. They've always had a fantastic lens and a combination of quality & features with its simplicity works fantastically.

The fixed lens does discipline you into thinking more about your composures and the improvement in results offsets the loss of some photo oportunities due to the lack of zoom.

Brilliant little camera (if a little expensive compared to it's peers).

Get over the price and you'll fall in love with it (irrationally? given the existence of the LX3 and promise of the G11 and S90.)

Note for ed - Page 2 and Page 3 of the review are identical.


September 16, 2009, 3:38 am

I don't understand how this gets 10/10 for image quality, 1600 looks terrible, the corners aren't sharp. Can you explain please Cliff? And 2.4 seconds per RAW shot is terrible.

Cliff Smith

September 16, 2009, 7:00 am

jopey - This is going to sound odd, but 10/10 does not in fact mean perfect; within a scale of only 1-10 it only means its better overall than 90 percent of comparable cameras, in this case high-end compacts. As always I urge you not to get hung up on scores, and to read the text of the review instead.

Stewart - Yes, I spotted that. Not sure what happened, it's never happened before. I'll get it fixed tomorrow.


September 16, 2009, 7:30 am

I have to agree with the odd 10/10 for image quality, particularly in respect of noise. ISO800 is not good and ISO1600 is crap. I have had issues with the point rating system before and I think a far more objective method of assessment is required or the point scores should be dropped all together. Such insonsistent scores makes comparative assessments impossible. Based on recent reviews, this camera is at best an 8/10 on IQ.


September 16, 2009, 12:46 pm

@PeterB666: As well as Cliff's points, it's also important to consider how this camera will be used. Yes, the ISO 800/1600 results are poor but with an f1.9 lens the need for such high ISO settings is going to be minimal. I seldom shoot above ISO 400 on either my compact or SLR and neither has lenses anywhere near as fast.


September 16, 2009, 1:15 pm

Both landscapes that can be opened in original size suffer terrible focus problems with only the closest few cabins or pebbles being sharp. Other areas lose on sharpness and detail with distance a great deal and are really blotchy and two-dimensional, tho there isn't any visible sensor noise. Is this due to poor metering, any other camera problems, or were those two shots taken so intentionally? I'm really interested in this cam (would mainly find its use in portrait photography in poor lighting conditions where such fast fixed lens should prove its worth) and would appreciate your reply. Thanks!


September 16, 2009, 2:38 pm

I find it funny how people think that ISO performance is the ultimate factor in judging image quality (it's not), particularly as I'm in the same boat as Ed in not using anything above ISO 400 (though it's hard to say whether I would if the ISO performance was better, most D90 users will tell you that's the case).

If you're solely comparing cameras using the scores on this site then you're doing them an injustice and aren't likely to make the right decision (i.e. an informed one). Read the review and look at the test shots yourself to compare, then make a decision. I always take the x/10 ratings with a pinch of salt and use it as a general guide as to whether the product in question was any good or not, compared to what else is available.


September 16, 2009, 5:14 pm

wise words smc8788 - I always ignore the iso performance on sites like this when assessing a camera. It's like not buying a 50" plasma TV because when you stand 2" it looks pixelated and fuzzy.

This camera will give you great photos if it's anything like it's predecessor, and as joose suggested - it may well make you a better photographer.


September 16, 2009, 5:20 pm

@purephase: Not wishing to contradict myself but ISO performance tests are still very significant and shouldn't be dismissed its just that they're one part of the assessment and should only ever be taken as such.

Also, no camera will make you a better photographer (per se), but this one may open your eyes to more ways to shoot creatively.


September 16, 2009, 7:14 pm

@miha: The blurriness is probably a function of focus distance. Had Landscape mode or infinity focus been chosen (and maybe stopping down further to f/8 or smaller), the picture would be much sharper.

Having said that, I am very impressed with the dynamic range of the GRDIII in the first beach shot. To preserve detail in the sky without clipping highlights as well as shadow detail is pretty impressive, and way beyond the average compact camera. I know that my Ricoh GX100 would have failed in that scenario.

It's a shame that the GRDIII came out at this time, what with Micro 4/3 cameras like the Olympus EP-1 and Panasonic GF-1 around. Although they're still bulkier than the GRDIII, they provide features and quality that the GRDIII can't match. And for those wanting a smaller camera than the EP-1 and GF-1, the Lumix LX3 occupies a much nicer price/performance ratio than the GRDIII. I know that my next camera purchase is probably going to be a GF-1...(waiting for next body/firmware revision).


September 16, 2009, 8:47 pm

Sorry to be picky, it is after all a compact and all that, , , but in some shots the colour of the pebbles seems a bit off, a pinkish hue or very very slight tint seems present, I don't think it's my monitor.

Another good review Cliff, well explained, succint etc, also enjoyed reading all the comments, good exchanges of info,thanks TR and all who sail in her.


September 16, 2009, 9:09 pm

And another thing while I remember ;

Since I always bitch/complain/deride/point out/bring to the attention of. No Viewfinder on most compacts these days, even expensive ones, the additional accessory is at least available for this camera, budget £97:00 though.


September 16, 2009, 9:50 pm

I see what you're saying Ed - I just think that when potential buyers look at pages like yours where the ISO is tested to failing point, they may draw the conclusion that there is some deficiency in the camera (as above), where as in fact it is a pretty much par for the course.

I'd certainly say that using a fixed focus camera, or even an old manual style SLR forces you to really think about what you are capturing and how you are going to do it, which sets good habits which you can then transfer to more complicated equipment.

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