The Ricoh GRD II continues flying the GR flag originally hoisted in the mid-nineties. As a replacement to the GR Digital, the replacement offers a higher resolution and larger sensor.
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Ricoh GRD II: Specifications
- Zoom: No
- Resolution: 10.1Mp
- Sensor size: 1/1.75in
- Sensor type: CCD
- Image size: 3648x2736
- File type: JPEG, RAW
- Sensitivity: ISO80-1600
- Storage: 54Mb Internal, SD, SDHC
- Focus types: Multi AF, spot, manual, snap, infinity
- Normal focus: 30cm-infinity
- Macro: 1.5cm-infinity
- Metering types: Multi, centre-weighted, spot
- Exposure compensation: /- 2EV in 1/3 EV steps
- Shutter Speed: 180sec-1/2000sec
- Flash: built in
- Monitor: 2.7in TFT LCD 230,000px
- Interface: USB 2.0
- Power: Li-Ion
- Size: 107x58x25mm
- Weight: 168g
At the £362 price point, the Ricoh GRD II offers a 10Mp CCD, RAW file, slim magnesium body and no zoom. Similar priced models include the Canon IXUS 80 IS at £359 which has a lower 8Mp CCD, JPEG file, 3x optical zoom and doesn't offer the manual features the GRD II has. However this camera is aimed at the amateur market.
In a completely different twist, the Fujifilm FinePix S100fs at £392 offers an 11Mp CCD HR, RAW file and a 14x optical zoom. This camera is an SLR styled prosumer model and is much bigger than the GRD II.
Specification wise, the Sigma DP1 has the 14Mp Foveon X3 sensor, RAW file, similar build but is slightly larger. It also has no zoom but is priced at £499.
Alternatively, the Panasonic LX3 has a similar sized 10Mp CCD, RAW file, 2.5x zoom and a Leica DC Vario-Summicron lens.
Ricoh GRD II: Modes and features
Following on from the understated GR Digital, the GRD II has a higher resolution which it achieves by incorporating the same sensor as the GX100 . This means an ever so slightly smaller sensor but with more noise created than the GR Digital due to the higher pixel count.
Externally, the camera is only marginally different to the original GR Digital. It still has the zoom-less lens with removable bezel for attaching the optional lens adaptors to it. It has the same mechanical pop-up flash and button layout on the top and back.
In fact, the only real difference in appearance is the slightly larger 2.7in LCD screen and shinier buttons.
If you've never seen a Ricoh before, then you're in for a treat. It looks like it's built from kids building blocks, but Ricoh have taken functionality over looks with their pro specification cameras. As well as the flash, the top plate also houses the hotshoe for fitting external flash or the optional optical viewfinder, the power button has a small green dot to remind you not to use it as a shutter release but if you can't see the big white "Power" word in capital letters then you need your eyes testing. If those two fail safe plans don't work, the shutter release is a completely different shape.
A small mode dial sits on the right shoulder with a locking button to stop you scrolling through the options by mistake.
I can see that Ricoh still refuse to put a shutter priority on their cameras and I'm unsure as to why. Manual, aperture priority and program modes are available on the dial. As are an auto mode, two custom "My" options and a laughable scene mode. I say laughable because there's only three options available in the form of video, skew correction and text.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that the modes are worthless, I just don't see the point in putting them in a mode option on the dial. Why not just stick them in the main menu and put a shutter priority on the dial? It all seems a bit higgledy piggledy in that respect.
When in manual mode, the Ricoh GRD II has a wheel for adjusting the shutter speed on the front and an adjustment lever on the back for changing the aperture. The zoom lever in the top right corner is actually used for adjusting the exposure compensation as the GRD II has no zoom.
Going into the menu system will find some cool features to help you produce perfect images. One of these is the image leveller and works in a similar fashion to the Nikon D3 and D700 by showing a diagram which indicates when the camera is level. This then prevents slanted horizons on landscapes. The Panasonic LX3 also has a feature similar to this with the exception that it does it after you've taken the picture and automatically crops it. While this is more convenient, it only serves to reduce the resolution of the image. In this sense, the Ricoh is a better facility.
When you put the camera into manual focus, a small indicator appears on the left of the screen to tell you where the camera is focusing. A green bar appears underneath it and this is a depth of field display, designed to let you know what will be in focus within the frame.
Ricoh are quite proud of their 6x6 style shooting format that the GRD II is fitted with. In the resolution menu, it's the 1:1 aspect ratio option and you can also choose between the standard 4:3 and a cropped 3:2 ratio. On the surface this seems like a great idea, especially as you can shoot this ratio in RAW format. However, when you choose this mode, the camera selects 7Mp as the resolution meaning a lower quality image. It will be interesting to see if it affects noise or if it's simply a cropped image.
Ricoh GRD II: Build and handling
The skeleton of the GRD II is magnesium with a plastic shell. This ensures a more robust camera which certainly feels solid yet light when held. There are other minor touches I appreciate such as the metal tripod bush, firm battery door lock and positive dials.
I feel the flash is a little flimsy and I'm not sure how they get the bezel to lock without one but they do. I wonder if this will wear down over time.
Within the lens, the Ricoh GRD II has seven shutter blades to create a near perfect aperture circle which, Ricoh say, increases blur tones and photographic expression. I think Ricoh are saying that it helps depth of field, but these are the same people that say the GRD II pursues "beautility". A word they seem to have made up.
All digital cameras have a dedicated processor and the GRD II is fitted with the second generation GR Engine. This isn't the newest processor as the GX200 has the third generation engine fitted. Ricoh could've been on the cusp of developing the new processor when they released the GRD II and if that's the case, I'm surprised they didn't wait for the new one to be released first.
Ricoh GRD II: Performance
Start up is a noisy 2.5sec and shutter lag is a standard 0.08sec. The Ricoh, like the the GX200 has two continuous shooting modes. The standard continuous mode shoots 20 frames in ten seconds which works out logically at 2fps (frames per second).
However, the problem is that after four images have been taken, the buffer is full and the camera has to download. This takes a further 15 seconds to perform meaning that in fact only four images are taken in ten seconds. This suggests a problem with the processor simply not being fast enough.
The other modes have always baffled me. They take a series of images and present them in one image. Other than to print them off and make a zoetrope, I can't work out the reasoning.
On the colour test chart, the blues are really pushed forward with the warmer colours hanging back slightly. The skin tone square is nicely balanced and the mono tones are reproduced well. The earthy colours have been boosted as well such as brown and the more pastel greens.
The colours are well balanced and I like the skin tone as well. The mono tones have also been faithfully reproduced.
A dull day presented problems looking for fringing. The whole image is a bit under exposed.
Portrait mode gives a good skin rendition but has heavy shadows because of the heavy sun.
A horrible day to be taking landscape pictures with little contrast in the sky and rain pelting at my umbrella. As the GRD II doesn't have a landscape mode, I selected manual and used f/9 which was the narrowest aperture I could to get the shot with at ISO100. Despite the camera saying the image was balanced, I feel it's a bit underexposed.
The Ricoh has flash compensation so I wanted to see what the flash would do without it and what it would do with adjustment. The standard portrait shot with no flash has given a good skin tone but has heavy shadows because of the sun that suddenly broke out.
Using flash eliminates shadows but has given too much exposure.
Flash compensation drops the power but retains the useful elements such as catchlights and shadow fill.
Using the flash without adjustment has all but eliminated shadows but at the expense of exposure as I feel it's too overexposed. Dropping the flash compensation shows that the extreme end of the setting hardly changes the exposure from the image without flash. However, shadows have been gently filled in and there are nice catchlights in the eyes.
The macro image is slightly out. Is it the focusing performance or the fact that the camera moves when the shutter is pressed?
Similar to the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3, the Ricoh GRD II has a close focusing of 1.5cm which gets in eye wateringly close. I shot these flowers in the studio with one light from the left. For the shot I used a Manfrotto 055 ProB tripod and the 804 RC2 head. I also used the camera on a self timer to ensure no shake.
So why is the shot ever so mildly out of focus? It could be the focusing mechanism, but I think it's down to the shutter release button being quite stiff. You have to press down with a force that's enough to move the camera down slightly. With close focusing, just a millimetre difference can send a shot out.
Ricoh GRD II: Focus and metering
The Ricoh GRD II has five focusing modes in the main menu. They are multi, spot, manual, snap (hyperfocal) and infinity. The snap focus mode will set the focus point to around 8ft and aperture priority needs to be used to set the correct aperture of around f/16 to get the correct depth of field. This is an odd way of calculating the depth of field. Usually, you'd work out the distance to focus on from the focal length of the lens and the aperture used but with the Ricoh presetting the focus, it's not possible.
My other problem with the focus is that it's too slow. It has to scroll through its full range before finding the lock which can take a couple of seconds. It also has to do this when coming out of macro mode and this only served to annoy me.
The standard three multi, spot and centre-weighted metering modes are available on the GRD II. They can be accessed by going into the menu system and selecting the third option on the camera tab.
Ricoh GRD II: Noise test
In a bid to reduce noise, the Ricoh GRD II magnesium body has antimagnetic shielding which suppresses electromagnetism and in turn this reduces noise.
The review of the GX100 shows decent noise results and the GRD II is fitted with the same sensor. However, the GRD II has a newer processor on it.
The low ISO images are a victim of their own design. They aren't smooth because of the processor sharpening them which creates jagged edging on any uneven surface. However, there's good detail in the petals and I'm generally pleased with the images until ISO400 where distinctive purple blobs start to appear on the grey card.
All detail quickly disintegrates in the flower from ISO800 and the whole image is softening up because of noise. I think I can confidently say that the noise control on the GRD II is worse than on the GX100 which is a great shame.
The ISO80 test.
The ISO100 test.
The ISO200 test.
The ISO400 test.
The ISO800 test.
The ISO1600 test.
Ricoh GRD II: Verdict
This camera has been developed as an heir to the GR brand that's been so successful for over a decade now.
My gripe with it is that it lacks basic features such as shutter-priority, a zoom and fast focus. The lens is noisy and I find these drawbacks a real shame because I still really like the camera. I just know that I wouldn't be able to live with the noise and slow performance.
If you take your time with photography and don't need those functions it lacks then you'll see the picture quality is actually very good which means it'd do you no harm to look at it. And the Ricoh has been created to make nice pictures. Not to offer you everything under the sun.
What Ricoh really need to do now to get extra brownie points is to start fitting worthwhile functions into the camera. Not scene modes or HDTV, but useable modes and better motors for focusing with. Get that right Ricoh and you've cracked it.
Ricoh GRD II: Plus points
Excellent picture quality
Handy little features such as image leveler
Good macro performance
Good low ISO results
Ricoh GRD II: Minus points
Bad high ISO results
Lack of basic functions
The Ricoh GRD II costs just over £360 and is available from Warehouse Express here.