DCRP Review: Ricoh GR Digital II
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Ahh, Ricoh, you've been missed. I haven't reviewed a Ricoh camera on this website since the year 2001. The good news is that I'll now be able to review their cameras as often I do those from other manufacturers.
The first Ricoh camera I'm looking at is the GR Digital II ($699). It packs a 10 Megapixel CCD, a fast 28 mm lens, manual controls, support for the RAW image format, and a 2.7" LCD display. Two unique features include a 1:1 ratio mode (which simulates medium format cameras), and a "leveling meter", which helps prevent crooked photos (and boy, do I need that). The GR II is expandable as well, offering conversion lenses, optical viewfinders, and a remote shutter release cable.
The GR series of cameras date back to the mid-1990s, back when people still used that "film" thing. The GR cameras were well-known for their slender bodies and high quality wide-angle lenses. The GR jumped into the digital age with the introduction of the GR Digital in 2005. Ricoh cameras are currently sold in the US by just two resellers: Adorama and PopFlash.
If all this sounds interesting, then keep reading -- our review starts right now!
What's in the Box?
The GR Digital II has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
As is the case with most cameras these days, Ricoh has built memory into the GR II, instead of bundling a memory card. The camera has 54MB of onboard memory, which is more than you'll get on most cameras, but I still strongly recommend buying a larger memory card right away. the GR Digital supports SD, SDHC, and MMC memory cards, and I'd recommend starting out with a 2GB SD or SDHC card. It's probably worth spending the extra bucks for a high speed card.
The GR Digital II uses the DB-60 rechargeable lithium-ion battery for power. This battery has 4.2 Wh of energy, which is about average. Here's how that translates into battery life compared to other wide-angle cameras:
There are a lot of cameras that I wanted on this list that don't have battery life specs posted yet, hence the N/A's. That said, the GR's 370 shot/charge number is well above the average for the cameras that I actually have data for -- only the Sony W170 does better.
It's important to mention that the proprietary battery used by the GR Digital, as well as all the other cameras on the above list, are quite expensive. An extra DB-60 battery will set you back around $40. A common complaint of mine regarding li-ion batteries is how you cannot use off-the-shelf batteries in an emergency. Ricoh was very clever when they designed the GR Digital: it can use two AAA batteries for just those situations. Now, you can only take around 45 shots with AAA alkalines, but that may be all you need.
When it's time to charge the battery, just snap it into the included charger. This is my favorite type of charger: it plugs directly into the wall. It takes about two hours for a full charge.
The GR Digital II has a built-in lens cover, so there's no clunky lens cap to deal with. As you can see, it's a pretty small camera.
Large external viewfinder
Mini external viewfinder
Wide-angle conversion lens
One of the nice things about the GR Digital is the incredible amount of accessories available. Above you can see three of them: two viewfinders, and a wide-angle conversion lens. Here's the full list of available accessories:
Pretty impressive if you ask me. Only downside is the price of those viewfinders -- ouch!
Irodio Photo & Video Studio in Windows Vista
Ricoh includes Irodio's Photo & Video Studio with the GR Digital II. This software is for Windows only, so Mac users will have to use iPhoto or something like that. Photos are actually transferred off the camera by another piece of software known as Ricoh Gate La, but you'll use Irodio for everything after that.
Irodio Photo & Video Studio is a pretty decent application. The main screen has the same thumbnail view and file navigator as every other image browser. On this screen, you can print or e-mail photos, rotate them, or start a slideshow.
Editing JPEGs in Photo & Video Studio
Here's what the edit screen looks like when you're viewing a JPEG. There are plenty of tools available, and you can see them on the left side of the above screenshot. Highlights include a horizon tool (for straightening photos), auto image quality enhancement, and redeye removal. There are also several "artistic effects" available, if you're so inclined.
RAW editing in Irodio Photo & Video Studio
The Irodio software can also edit the RAW (DNG) images produced by the GR. You can adjust white balance, exposure, sharpness, and noise reduction. I did find it to be on the slow side compared to other RAW image editors. For more advanced editing you can use Adobe Photoshop, which supports DNG files (which is, after all, an Adobe standard).
What's the deal with RAW anyway? RAW files contain unprocessed image data straight from the camera's sensor. That means that you can adjust things like white balance, noise reduction, exposure, and more, without reducing the image quality. So, if you used tungsten white balance when you really should've used fluorescent, no problem -- relief is just a mouse click away. The downsides to RAW include larger file sizes, slower write times, and the need to process them on your computer.
Ricoh includes a thick, detailed manual with the GR Digital II. While it has more than its share of fine print, you will get any question you might have answered by flipping through its pages.
Look and Feel
The GR Digital II is a compact, very well built camera. Its stark black design reminds me of the interior of BMW automobiles: strictly business. The camera may look a bit plasticky in the photo, but it's anything but. The GR is constructed almost entirely of a magnesium alloy, with a minimum of plastic. The parts of the camera that you need to hold onto have a nice, "sticky" rubber surface, giving the shooter confidence that the camera isn't going anywhere.
I found it quite easy to take photos with one hand using the GR Digital. The important controls are logically placed, and you can adjust nearly everything without having to adjust your hands. Ricoh didn't go overboard with buttons here, so you don't have to read the manual in order to figure out the camera. I especially liked the dual adjustment dials, which make changing common camera settings easy. The one thing I didn't like was the placement of the flash. It's right where your left hand wants to hold the camera, so I found myself closing the flash by accident on more than one occasion.
Now, let's take a look at how the GR Digital II compares to other cameras in terms of size and weight:
(W x H x D, excluding protrusions)
Canon PowerShot SD870 IS
3.7 x 2.3 x 1.0 in.
8.5 cu in.
155 g Casio Exilim EX-Z200
3.7 x 2.2 x 0.9 in.
7.3 cu in.
119 g Fujifilm FinePix Z100fd
3.6 x 2.2 x 0.8 in.
6.3 cu in.
138 g Nikon Coolpix S600
3.5 x 2.1 x 0.9 in.
6.6 cu in.
130 g Olympus FE-350 Wide
3.8 x 2.2 x 1.0 in.
8.4 cu in.
138 g Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX55
3.7 x 2.3 x 0.9 in.
7.7 cu in.
143 g Ricoh Caplio R7
3.9 x 2.2 x 0.9 in.
7.7 cu in.
135 g Ricoh GR Digital II
4.2 x 2.3 x 1.0 in.
9.7 cu in.
168 g Samsung NV24HD
3.9 x 2.4 x 0.7 in.
6.6 cu in.
146 g Sigma DP1
4.5 x 2.3 x 2.0 in.
20.7 cu in.
250 g Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W170
3.7 x 2.3 x 0.9 in.
7.7 cu in.