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Ricoh GR Digital IV (GRD 4) Announced - Updated with Image Stabilization, Hybrid AF

Discussion in 'Open Gear Talk' started by Amin Sabet, Sep 15, 2011.

  1. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Jul 3, 2010
    08.
    One of the first questions I posed in these forums is what people were hoping to see in a replacement for the GR Digital III (GRD 3). I asked this, not because it was a camera in need of improvements, but rather because it was a camera which seemed to be the perfection of it's kind. As Wouter Brandsma put it, "At the state of current small sensor cameras I consider the GRD3 to be at the pinnacle. The lens can hardly be better, the UI and customization leaves probably no real room for improvement" (source). Given that there didn't seem much to improve upon, some speculated that there would not be a replacement GRD but that instead we would see a small sensor 28mm equivalent module for the GXR that would take the place of the GRD in Ricoh's lineup.

    To me, the little GR Digital (GRD) is the perfect embodiment of the "serious compact". If there was one camera line that led me to create this site, this is it. When one uses any GRD, it is obvious that it is a camera designed for serious work. As a camera reviewer, each time I use the GRD 3, I wonder why other companies don't implement the same controls that are so successful on this camera. The lens is extraordinary, and the sensor continues to compare well with the best in class. It is no exaggeration to say that the GRD is the measuring stick I have in mind each time I review a compact.

    I was pleased to see today's announcement of the Ricoh GR Digital IV (GRD 4), because I don't think that a GXR can replace the GRD. For one thing, the GXR is both taller and thicker than the GRD. A GRD is pocketable in any pants pocket, and neither the feel nor the heft can be improved upon in my opinion. The second issue is that the GRD is singular in purpose. I realize that, from a functional standpoint, a GRD and fixed focal length unit is similar, but it's a different feeling to commit to a camera which can serve no other purpose than to shoot at a single focal length.

    So how does the GRD 4 improve upon it's predecessor?

    • Sensor-based image stabilization
    • "Hybrid AF" system with claimed 2x improvement in autofocus speed
    • 3-inch high brightness White Magic rear LCD
    • Refined optical filter and improved image processing (GR ENGINE IV)
    • Electronic level now detects tilt in addition to horizontal level
    • Flexible multiple exposure shooting (up to five overlapping shots)
    • Availability of limited-edition white color version

    I can only think of two ways that the current GRD could have offered more: 1) A significant improvement in sensor technology, eg redesigned microlenses for better handling of off-axis light, allowing the use of a larger sensor. 2) Use of software-corrected lens design to offer an even faster lens, eg f/1.4. I would not want either of these changes unless they could be implemented without any change to the overall size and operability, so the fact that the latest GRD offers the same excellent sensor and lens as its predecessor suits me fine.

    The GRD IV is available for pre-order from B&H. Direct links to pre-order:

    The above links contain our affiliate code. Your price is unaffected, and a referral fee (2-4% of your purchase) is paid to us by the retailer. Please note: For us to get credit for the referral, you must click our link prior to placing any items in your "shopping cart". Thanks for supporting SeriousCompacts.com!

    For more information about the GRD IV, see the full coverage at the excellent 1001 Noisy Cameras.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  2. wolfie

    wolfie SC Veteran

    299
    Sep 19, 2010
    Also a preview at Digital Cameras: Digital Photography Review, News, Reviews, Forums, FAQ.

    Overall, I cant remember a time when there have been so many quality serious compacts on the market as now!

    The compact market has dramatically changed since the GRD III - how it will go price-wise up against the likes of the Panny GF3, Sony NEX C3 or the Oly E-PM ?
     
  3. pictor

    pictor SC All-Pro

    Jul 14, 2010
    I believe, that this is a great camera. However, I wonder, why one should buy a compact camera with a tiny sensor and a fixed 28mm equivalent, if there are cameras like the Olympus XZ-1 having a great and equally fast zoom lens.
     
  4. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    Looks like a decent upgrade, and if I was just looking for one of these today I'd probably buy this one over the 3 (although with the deals likely to be popping up on 3's, maybe not). But the things they upgraded wouldn't improve my experience with the camera, as far as I can tell. I rarely use AF on this cam, and when I do use it, its not in speed sensitive situations. So the AF improvements don't do much for me. I would never use the levels on this camera. The screen on the 3 is already excellent in bright light and I shoot without looking at it an awful lot with this camera. And the processor that promises to wring more out of the same sensor probably has no impact on the raw files. So, unless something more compelling comes out about this upgrade, this is one I'll sit tight on.

    And Pictor, I think there's something about specifically mating a sensor and a fixed lens that lets a camera do just a little bit more than with a zoom or interchangeable lenses. I see it with the X100 and I see it with the GRD3. The XZ1, LX5, S95 are great little cameras (and the Fuji X10 might step it up a notch or two), but there's something about the results that the GRD pulls out, or maybe its something about the way it lets you shoot. And as someone who does some street shooting, its like the developers of this camera were reading my mind. The snap focus function is an absolutely wonderful tool. You can zone focus or use hyperfocal techniques with the other cameras, but it takes a little while to set 'em up, so you'd be inclined to just either be IN that mode, or OUT of it. With the snap focus I can be going along doing general photography with the AF and everything else working, see a street shot developing, and with the touch of a single button, have it in snap focus mode and then catch the shot immediately. I had an LX5. I didn't have a single complaint with it - an amazingly capable little camera. But once I got the GRD3 I never used it. Those are great cameras, but this is too, in a different way.

    -Ray
     
    • Like Like x 2
  5. matthewm

    matthewm SC Regular

    102
    Jun 23, 2011
    Sumter/Charleston, SC
    Matthew Morse
    I'm a GRD3 owner (for the second time). I can't say I'm very excited about this one. As the previous poster stated, when I do use AF, it's not speed-sensitive and I never really had a problem with AF speed to begin with. The IS would be nice to have in some situations, but with the f/1.9 lens and ISO 800 or 1600, I usually get hand-holdable speeds with my subject being that which doesn't hold still (read: at shows or streets at night/dusk). The LCD isn't an issue so that seems a small upgrade and ISO 3200 support might really be pushing the limits of this sensor. It's great and I've used mine at 1600 lots of times, but I don't foresee geting great usable results at 3200 out of the GRD4 unless the new engine is doing something the current engine can't do.

    If I were in the market for a GRD camera today, I'd probably pick up a deal on the 3 rather than spending the extra money on the small upgrades in the 4.

    ==========
    And in response to the question about fixed vs. something like the XZ-1: I think it comes down to quality in the end. Just because the Oly lens is as fast as the Ricoh doesn't mean it's going to be as strong. The GRD series has a lens developed for the sensor and a sensor developed for the lens. They are perfectly matched to maximize sharpness and contrast and minimize CA, blurring, falloff, etc. You'd be hard-pressed to find any zoom P/S that can do that. It's in the same category as the "lensors" Ricoh makes for the GXR camera. The lenses are essentially built around a sensor so you get a perfect match for the finest quality. It's a brilliant, if impractical, approach. That, to me, is why serious GRD users stick with the 28 of the GRD rather than the more "flexible" zooms found in the XZ-1, LX-5, S95, G12, etc. They aren't bad cameras per se, but they aren't a GRD. :)
     
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  6. BBW

    BBW Administrator Emeritus

    Jul 7, 2010
    betwixt and between
    BB
    The GRD has always intrigued me. Since I am sort of a passive camera buyer (yes, this really is true) and have limited funds, it helps stave off GAS...but these cameras are fascinating...and I have to say that the images one can see are often, as well.

    Looking forward to reading and eventually seeing more - thank you Amin!
     
  7. Streetshooter

    Streetshooter Administrator Emeritus

    Jul 12, 2010
    Philly, Pa
    I'm excited about the 4. Any help on a screen is a welcomed issue. Try a Nex5 on regular setting then go to Sunny setting.
    Self explanatory. The IS, yes very nice to have. Sure you can use 1600 and 1.9 to secure an image in low light but now you have options to get a clean image if needed. 400 at 1.9 is way different or even go to 2.8 etc. I welcome the IS. Many people bought the Pen cameras for that very reason. I know, more important with legacy glass but it won't hurt the GRD4.

    The GRD's are as good as it gets. It took 2 years to find and implement the few changes over the 3. If Ricoh deemed it necessary to do this, there's a good reason. Also, it's a testament to how good the 3 really is.

    The new processing engine. Well, I'm confident it will exceed expectations. The GRD's are for serious shooters. They don't care about zoom lenses, evf's etc. They care about the responsiveness of a camera. Once set up, the GRD never intrudes, it's just ready to work the way you like.
    The new 4, I'm sure will add to that experience.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  8. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Nic
    Someone needs to get a white one
     
  9. Streetshooter

    Streetshooter Administrator Emeritus

    Jul 12, 2010
    Philly, Pa
    Someone like you Nic.... Oooops, sorry, you ordered pink.
     
  10. Michael Penn

    Michael Penn SC Veteran

    291
    Sep 14, 2010
    Philadelphia
    That's exactly right. It seems that all the people that "wonder" or "don't understand" that this camera is different than cameras like the Olympus XZ-1, Panasonic LX-5 obviously never used one. They produce an image that's uniquely so not digital.
     
  11. Streetshooter

    Streetshooter Administrator Emeritus

    Jul 12, 2010
    Philly, Pa
    Michael, I believe that the understanding of this camera is a Philly thing. Between you, Ray & I..... The Philly connection is rather strong on the GRD. Maybe Ricoh will send us 3 for testing.....
    Don
     
  12. Michael Penn

    Michael Penn SC Veteran

    291
    Sep 14, 2010
    Philadelphia
    I hope, Ricoh said they would keep me in mind. I know at least 5 photographers in NYC that use them too. Funny, out of the 50 or so street photographers I know the only camera none have mentioned getting rid of is the GRD.
     
  13. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    Mine doesn't seem to work as well in Philly - it seems to like Atlantic City and West Chester (street fairs) better than just about anyplace else. Philly seems to respond better to other cameras for some reason. As did Seattle - I shot a bunch wit the GRD3, the X100, and the EP3 and I only got a few keepers with the GRD3. Go figure. Maybe it knows you guys have already taken all of the best GRD3 shots Philly has to offer. But my Pen, X100, Nex (when I had it), never had these issues. Or maybe the GRD3 really just works best when its the only camera you have with you - if you're carrying anything else, perhaps its feelings are hurt? :cool: Or maybe it just has a gambler's mentality and wants to live in AC...

    -Ray
     
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  14. Streetshooter

    Streetshooter Administrator Emeritus

    Jul 12, 2010
    Philly, Pa
    Ray, it's obvious that your creating the monogamy camera issue. It's true, for me.... I only carry 1 at a time. I use 2 if it's a money shoot but for my personal stuff... I'm courting just one.
     
  15. Streetshooter

    Streetshooter Administrator Emeritus

    Jul 12, 2010
    Philly, Pa
    Thanks Mike.... Lenscap?!!! That's not nice.
     
  16. Michael Penn

    Michael Penn SC Veteran

    291
    Sep 14, 2010
    Philadelphia
    It's optional.

    So the color, dynamic range and high iso noise has all been improved too.
     
  17. Streetshooter

    Streetshooter Administrator Emeritus

    Jul 12, 2010
    Philly, Pa
    The GRD3 is the only camera that I actually like the jpegs from. I wish that they could make it record in raw only but I'm told that's impossible. The new processing engine sounds exciting and should make a great camera go to the stellar level.

    The lenscap issue is now resolved. Thank you kind sir. That's an option I'll pass on.
     
  18. Andrewteee

    Andrewteee SC All-Pro

    Jul 8, 2010
    I pre-ordered the white one :eek:

    The GRD line is the one camera I'll always upgrade regardless, sort of like there are certain musicians I'll buy every album from, good or bad.

    I've been using my GRD3 a lot lately and having a blast.
     
  19. Michael Penn

    Michael Penn SC Veteran

    291
    Sep 14, 2010
    Philadelphia
    Most likely the iso 3200, image stabilization and the new GRD 4 Engine will be enough to buy this camera. Not to replace the GRD 3, I might actually sell the X100 and buy the GRD 4 and X10.