Ricoh GR DIGITAL IV review

Ricoh goes for fast hybrid AF, for its full-featured compact
Photo of Ricoh GR DIGITAL IV
£439.99

Camera owners tend to fall into one of three categories. The ‘happy snapper’ who just wants something to point and click with; the ‘dedicated amateur’ who wants far more manual control and variety, but can’t afford the expensive DSLRs – and the ‘serious pro’ who would only consider a compact camera as a possible back-up, when hauling all their hefty kit around may not be an option.

Ricoh’s GR DIGITAL range has therefore managed quite a feat by having features that could well appeal to all three categories, while principally targeting the dedicated amateurs. Happy snappers will almost certainly be put off by the formidable price tag, but they could achieve some excellent results by just using the Auto setting and the pop-up flash. The serious pros, on the other hand, will be delighted with the extensive manual and preset options – together with the opportunity to shoot RAW images.

Higher res display

Two years have gone by since Ricoh released the GR DIGITAL III, where admirers might be surprised to learn that outwardly virtually nothing has changed with version IV. The dimensions of 108.6 x 59.8 x 32.5 mm and weight of 190g are virtually identical, and you’ll notice that the control lay-out is also unaltered. The main mode dial still offers 3 preset configurations together with Auto, PASM and Scene.Text however, has been dropped, in favour of Interval Composite that lets you capture star movement.

The two Fn buttons are also retained, in addition to the extremely useful Adjust dial which opens the Quick Menu, for speedy resetting of white balance, ISO, image size, AF and art effects – including the new Positive Film and Bleach Bypass. There is one handy improvement on the back and that is the resolution of the 3.00″ LCD, which has now been boosted to an amazingly detailed 1,230,000 dots. An HDMI port has been added, too, yet the movie options remain limited to 640 x 480 and 320 x 240. Full HD lovers will have to look elsewhere. While SD and SDHC cards are your principal recording media, internal memory has been halved from 88 to 40MB.

Hybrid AF

The headline novelty in the GR DIGITAL IV is undoubtedly the hybrid autofocus system that uses an external autofocus sensor, with a conventional contrast autofocus system. Without doubt, focusing time is extremely nippy, even in macro mode, although naturally darker areas will struggle more. This is particularly impressive when you use the Snap mode that lets you preset focus distances. Other new additions to this range are AF continuous shooting, shift-type image stabilisation, more bracketing options, multiple exposure shooting and subject tracking. The ISO arc now stretches from 80 to 3200, but you will start to notice noise creep after about 800.

Thanks to the new image processing engine, colours are richer, more balanced and more accurate than before. A new Dynamic Range Compensation setting carries out contrast correction on each area of the frame, thus combating over and underexposure issues. It’s just a shame that the asking price for this camera may be prohibitive for too many keen photographers.

ricoh gr digital iv 2

ricoh gr digital iv 3

ricoh gr digital iv 4

ricoh gr digital iv 5

Company: Ricoh

Website: http://www.alphadigitalservices.co.uk/

Contact: 01189 337000

Positives
  • The new, faster hybrid AF system.
Negative
  • Low-res video and high price.

Verdict

Ricoh has wisely decided to keep all the best features from the last model, while adding an improved engine, faster AF, continuous shooting and better low-light imagery. Perhaps Full HD and a lower price tag next time?