Performance is extremely good, with the camera capable of starting up and taking a focused picture in under two seconds. A shot-to-shot time of 1.7 seconds isn’t particularly fast, but it can keep this rate up until the memory card is full, which is pretty cool. The supplied battery is a big 1150mAh Li-ion rechargeable, which lasted for a whole day’s shooting, however uniquely it can also accept two AAA-sized batteries thanks to a clever sprung panel in the battery compartment. Using the accessory viewfinder with the monitor off will also greatly extend battery life.
The GR Digital is loaded with features that will appeal to the enthusiast user, including live exposure histogram, spot metering, an aperture range from F2.4 to F9.0, a shutter range of three minutes to 1/2000th sec, an ISO range of 64-1600, an outstanding 1.5cm macro range and most importantly a RAW file mode. Ricoh claims that the GR Digital will produce image quality of professional standard, and I’d have to say that I agree, but with certain reservations.
Professional digital SLRs use sensors that are physically about nine times bigger than the 1/1.8in format sensor used in this and most other high-end compacts, and consequently have greater dynamic range, inherently lower image noise and produce a generally more detailed image. That being said, I have had photos taken on 1/1.8in sensors accepted by several leading professional photo agencies, and I would say that photos shot on the GR Digital would certainly qualify.
Shooting with just the standard lens the image quality is simply phenomenal, easily among the very best I’ve seen from any non-SLR camera. The GR lens lives up to its boasts and produces pin-sharp high-contrast detail right into the corners of the frame without even a hint of barrel distortion. Focusing is quick and accurate under nearly all lighting conditions thanks to the AF illuminator, and exposure is consistently spot on.
Image noise is non-existent at 64 and 100 ISO, and is very well controlled at higher settings. Colour rendition was simply flawless. Close-up macro results were especially impressive, as you’ll see in the accompanying sample shots. The accessory wide-angle adapter proved to be a little less impressive however, since it produced slight corner blurring and noticeable barrel distortion, but the level of detail and overall quality remained very high.
Ricoh has produced something unique, a compact camera that will satisfy even the most demanding enthusiast. Its combination of compact portability, robust build quality, superb handling, creative control and fantastic picture quality should make it a firm favourite among keen photographers, especially the travel photographers who loved the original GR film camera. An expensive camera, especially for the whole kit, but well worth the money.