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Ricoh GR vs. Nikon Coolpix A - quick impressions

Discussion in 'Open Gear Talk' started by Ray Sachs, May 23, 2013.

  1. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    I posted a thread a while back on a few of the key differences between the Nikon Coolpix A and what I knew of other Ricoh's with the standard Ricoh interface. That can be seen HERE.

    This morning I received a review copy of the Ricoh GR and another copy of the Nikon. I've set up the Ricoh to my liking and done a bit of "test" shooting with both. I'm gonna need to go do some real shooting with both back to back before I form any final impressions, but I was left with some pretty strong initial impressions. So, here they are:

    Ricoh - the whole AF to Snap thing is simply better and quicker for switching between AF and Zone focus than anything you can do on the Nikon. Not a contest. The Nikon is workable and more than fast enough for me, but if you switch around a lot, the Ricoh just kicks it ass here.

    Ricoh - easier, if not quicker access to exposure comp. Requires simply using the + and - rocker, but then you need to hit the OK button if you want to lock it it. But you can shoot without locking it in and it's armed all the time. The Nikon requires pushing a button while you turn the dial - you can either do this with two hands or one (if you assign the fn1 button to exposure comp). Both are instant, but the Nikon requires half a second of thought/memory. And the Ricoh SHOWS the current EV comp value in the display (if its not set to zero) all the time. The Nikon only shows the value when you push the button - THIS is a big advantage to the Ricoh in my mind. On the Nikon you have to push the button to even check where you've left things.

    Ricoh - customizability in general is just much more extensive. If you like to get to a LOT of features quickly and can keep track of all of your settings, the Ricoh just gives you way more options than the Nikon. BUT, the Nikon makes the most used functions plenty easy to configure to get to them quickly. I personally ran out of things to put on all of the Ricoh's buttons and "slots" and so a lot of the Ricoh's customizability is lost on me. I need to be able to do a handful of things quickly and I can do that on either.

    Ricoh - The Nikon is very nice in the hand and the pocket, but the Ricoh is simply more comfortable in both. That shape has been refined over the years and simply WORKS. The Ricoh is a bit longer, but its a bit lighter and slimmer and it slips into a pocket a bit more easily and rides lighter there. The Nikon has a nice tacky finish but the Ricoh's is much tackier and makes the Nikon feel almost slippery in comparison. Clear win for the Ricoh here, although the Nikon is also quite good.

    Nikon - slightly quicker to power on, although both are more than quick enough. I can't imagine either causing you to miss a shot, but the Nikon is a bit quicker.

    AF - I agree with Ming Thein in general tone here - the Ricoh is slightly faster in good light, but slightly slower in lower light. But I don't find the differences all that notable in either direction. Both are fine in both good light and lower light. Only in really low light do things just get unpredictable. Sometimes the Nikon just won't lock, but it'll tell you that pretty quickly. The Ricoh will keep looking and usually eventually will lock on, but it can definitely take a while. I don't see an advantage here either way, but that's mostly down to how I use AF, which tends to be for static subjects. For those who really measure these differences, the Ricoh is probably better for action shots in good light - waaaaaay better than the GXR and GRD3 I've mostly used before. Slightly better than the Nikon here.

    High ISO - I can't really see a difference. Neither seems to add any NR to their raw files. Both have notably noisy files at 6400, but both are fairly tight grain with pretty good detail Both can take NR in Lightroom pretty well and clean up enough without too much detail loss. Ricoh has a lot more customizability in NR settings for jpegs, which could be an issue for some. But if you're the type to adjust the NR that finely, my guess is you're the type who's usually shooting raw in the first place. Here are two 100% crops shot at ISO 6400, untouched beyond importing into Lightroom - no NR applied. The biggest difference you can see here is based on the metering and color discussed below:

    Ricoh:

    Ricoh ISO test-4 by ramboorider1, on Flickr

    Nikon:

    Nikon ISO test-4 by ramboorider1, on Flickr

    Metering - Advantage Nikon here. The Nikon exposed a bit brighter in low light and a bit less bright in good light. The Ricoh runs dark in low light and bright in good light, clipping highlights more easily. Probably a good thing the Ricoh has better access to exposure comp - I'd need to use it more with this camera. I guess the Nikon is known for its fine metering, but its definitely making a believer of me.

    Colors - The Nikon colors, shooting raw, just seem much more spot on to me. The Ricoh isn't terrible in this regard, but there's a greenish tint to it that I can only partially seem to fix. The Nikons just look right out of the camera. Anything I do to the Nikon files makes them look worse. I need to work with the Ricohs to make them look better but I never seem to quite get there. The discrepancy is greater in low light than in good light. More skilled color processing folks than me could probably make this go away, but I can't quite get there. That said, if I didn't have the Nikon to compare it to, I don't think I'd be complaining about the Ricoh - in a vacuum it would look good enough as a starting point. At least in good light. In low light the difference is pretty hard to ignore. Here are two quick shots - the pinks and particularly purples actually look much more like the Nikon shot:

    Ricoh:

    Ricoh Color test-1 by ramboorider1, on Flickr

    Nikon:
    [​IMG]
    Nikon Color test-1 by ramboorider1, on Flickr

    B&W - Ming Thein made a big deal about how great the Ricoh files were for B&W and how relatively poor the Nikons were. Well, maybe I'm just not going for as subtle a result as he is, but I'm not seeing it. I took nearly identical files from both and applied exactly the same settings to both and couldn't see any advantage for one over the other. I processed these shots identically, processing the Ricoh first with minimal adjustments in Silver Efex Pro - no control points. And then I saved those adjustments as a preset and applied it to the Nikon. I'm not seeing a difference worthy of note.

    Ricoh:

    Ricoh Color test-1-Edit by ramboorider1, on Flickr

    Nikon:
    [​IMG]
    Nikon B&W test-1-Edit by ramboorider1, on Flickr

    Initial bottom line - the Ricoh has notably better controls in a few key areas and waaaaay more customizable options. The Nikon has plenty of them for a lot of us, but if you like having instant access to a LOT of features, the Ricoh is probably you're beast. But the Nikon has seeming better image quality to my limited eye. The colors are just more accurate looking to me in both good and poor light, with a much bigger difference in low light. Both are about equally good at high ISO. But the Nikon's metering seems better in all lighting conditions.

    For now, I'm leaning slightly Nikon because the shooting experience is great in any respect other than in comparison to the Ricoh, but my guess is its going to be easier for me to get better looking images out of it, at least in color. But I haven't really gone out and SHOT with both of them back to back yet. From past experience, I know I like them both. I've used the Nikon and I've owned two Ricohs with almost identical shooting characteristics to the GR. So shooting some of the same stuff with them back to back is the next challenge. Both for street shooting and more general shooting. More to come in the next several days or maybe the next week or two...

    -Ray
     
  2. serhan

    serhan SC All-Pro

    May 7, 2011
    NYC
    Thanks for the quick update and the samples.
     
  3. john m flores

    john m flores SC All-Pro

    Aug 13, 2012
    Thanks for taking the time to write these up Ray. I am resisting both for now...
     
  4. aleksanderpolo

    aleksanderpolo SC Regular

    112
    Apr 18, 2013
    Polo
    Thank you Ray. This is very helpful. Looks to me the GR is more biased towards red? I am wondering if the latest update on ACR would change the color profile...
     
  5. Isoterica

    Isoterica SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 6, 2011
    Thanks Ray. How was your white balance on each camera? The Ricoh seems overall warmer in tone which would affect the color of course.
     
  6. Andrewteee

    Andrewteee SC All-Pro

    Jul 8, 2010
    Thanks Ray. I plan to stick with the GR simply because I'm used to Ricohs and I like the way they handle. Took some test shots last night and came to the conclusion that they are both great cameras. The GR was acting slightly buggy telling me that the SD card was not formatted when in fact it was.

    I tend to shoot primarily B&W and when I put in my critical eyes I prefer the GR output, both JPG and RAW. Whereas I've never liked Ricoh JPGs I like the GR JPGs. But I would entirely agree that the Nikon handles color better and it's metering is spot on and seemingly very adaptive (i.e. it almost seems to know when it should spot meter even if I don't have it set to that).

    Keep us posted Ray.
     
  7. Biro

    Biro SC All-Pro

    Aug 7, 2011
    Jersey Shore
    Steve
    Great information, Ray... very helpful even at this point. I canceled my GR order for financial reasons but may still own it later in the year. It seems the two cameras are very competitive and a lot of it may come down to personal perferences.
     
  8. trisberg

    trisberg SC Veteran

    251
    Jul 5, 2011
    New Hampshire
    Thanks for the comparisons Ray, they both look good.

    Just curious - what did you use to process the RAW files?

    -Thomas
     
  9. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    Actually, the Ricoh was choosing a notably warmer WB for the low light indoor shots (my small crop doesn't really show the difference adequately - I was just going for a mix of light and dark in those), but even trying to balance the WB didn't help. I'm sure there's something in the color channels that could be adjusted to bring them closer together. For some people that would probably be quick and easy work. I personally am terrible at that kind of stuff. I can find my way around B&W processing really easily and intuitively, but I'm out of my element with color, so I tend to like the cameras that just produce colors I like on their own. Its one reason I always preferred Olympus to Panasonic in the m43 world. Lots of people got great colors out of the Panasonic raw files - I always felt like I was fighting with them and never really liked the results. Whereas the Olympus raw files just looked right to me from the moment I'd open them. For me, this pushes me somewhat toward Nikon, but OTOH I always really loved the color files I got from the GXR-28, so if I just shoot the Ricoh for a while without the Nikon to constantly compare it to, I'd probably come to terms with it and like it a lot. But the comparison definitely favors Nikon in my eyes.

    -Ray
     
  10. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    It might, but I'm not sure I don't have it in the latest version of Lightroom??? I mean the reds in these files don't look horribly off like some of those first examples that started floating around that were pretty clearly related to ACR. The Ricoh and the Nikon are seeing the colors differently and I'm liking the Nikon output more, but I wouldn't say the Ricoh is way off, just somewhat different. And less to my liking when I see them back to back. But I'd probably be fine with them if I wasn't comparing them back to back with the Nikon.

    But, hey, I'm open to all possibilities. I love the Ricoh handling so much I want to like the output at least as much.

    -Ray
     
  11. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    Just Lightroom and although I played around with the files to try to get them more to my liking, these are basically just opened up with the default processing - no adjustments on my part. Except for the B&W versions, which I did in Silver Efex Pro. Those are adjusted, with identical settings, which came from my attempt to get the Ricoh file right and then just applying the identical settings to the Nikon shot.

    -Ray
     
  12. Isoterica

    Isoterica SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 6, 2011
    That is a good question, what version of Lightroom are you using? I have 3...

    And color out of camera is important.. altering wb or using color channel sliders should be for tweaking or correcting a shot that you had to take fast and erred on. These were raw files you shot or jpg?
     
  13. Cobus

    Cobus New to SC

    1
    Oct 18, 2012
    Paris
    Interesting comparison. Here in Paris the Coolpix A sells for 949€ and although the GR is not available yet, the pre-order price seems to be 749€. From your comparison I don't think the Nikon is worth 200€ more than the Ricoh. Nikon might drop the price a bit though as soon as the GR starts to become a serious rival.
     
  14. trisberg

    trisberg SC Veteran

    251
    Jul 5, 2011
    New Hampshire
  15. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    Version 4.4, all raw files. With raw, WB is often adjusted after the fact, with jpeg not so much!

    -Ray
     
  16. kyteflyer

    kyteflyer ~@¿@~

    Jan 31, 2011
    Newcastle, Australia
    Sue
    Thanks for the comparisons, Ray... In the end, for me, its going to come down to economics.. In Australia, the Nikon is going to retail somewhere around $1300, and the GR around $850... I must admit its also the UI that drags me toward the GR, in any case.
     
  17. Archiver

    Archiver SC Top Veteran

    618
    Jul 11, 2010
    Melbourne, Australia
    Three things stopped me from buying a Nikon A: the price in Australia is, as Sue mentioned, $1300; you can't turn off the LCD on the back; and Ricoh was coming out with a new and at the time unknown GRD model. I'm so glad I waited, because the GR is AUD$450 less than the Nikon A and has all the sweet Ricoh functionality that I love.

    Mine arrives next Wednesday, all things going according to plan! I'm looking forward to putting it through its paces with the GRD III and GXR 28. My expectation is that it will handily replace both as it looks like it combines what I love in those cameras: the GRD's small size and stealth factor and the GXR's image quality, and more.
     
  18. TCSJordan

    TCSJordan SC Regular

    92
    Oct 22, 2011
    Here's a TCSTV video about exactly this topic:
    [video=youtube;ykbDLN15uxA]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ykbDLN15uxA[/video]
     
  19. Livnius

    Livnius SC Veteran

    475
    Jun 3, 2012
    Melbourne. Australia
    Joe
    Thanks Ray.


    Really looking forward to reading more about how they compare on the street.
    So far with the X100s I've generally pre-set focus via MF to about 3m....problem is as you know, switch to AF-S and shoot other stuff and the pre-focus point is gone.
    REALLY liking the look of the 'snap' feature of the Ricoh....its a sticky setting and sticky is good, sounds like I can go about my business walking around and shooting as per usual knowing that if and when I need it, it's there with a quick full press.
     
  20. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    Oops, just posted this in a different thread, thinking it was this one:

    Y'all should officially disregard anything I say about the Ricoh colors. I spent the morning shooting in Philly with both cameras and took some shots at a vegetable stand that makes me absolutely sure I just don't have the proper color profile for this camera yet. Bright oranges are dull pink, for example. There was a lot of this going around when the first samples showed up and folks quickly figured it out. I thought I'd added a new color profile for it, but evidently not the right one... I'm sure this is fixable somehow, some way, some day... I'm gonna try a few of those DNG files in Aperture and see what happens.

    -Ray