Premium compacts have the potential to offer you the best aspects from all camera systems. DSLR-style modes and high-spec features open the door to creative imagery, but the small build gives the portability of a point-and-shoot. As the name suggests, the GR II is the replacement for Ricoh’s GR compact, which was launched in early 2013. After almost three years on the market and facing competition from rivals such as the Fuji X100T and Nikon Coolpix A, Ricoh has updated the GR with a raft of new features. Are these updates enough to convince current Ricoh users to trade up or will they attract new users looking to swap bigger cameras for a more portable option? Let’s find out...
Features & Build
While Ricoh has added some new features, there’s also a fair amount of spec that hasn’t changed from the original GR. It sports the same 16.2Mp APS-C CMOS sensor and the original GR V image processor. The 18.3mm f/2.8 fixed-focal-length lens remains, as does the ISO range of 100 to 25,600. The big new addition to the GR II is Wi-Fi, which allows you to quickly transfer images to a smart device and then share them on the internet, all while you are still out in the field. The addition of NFC (Near Field Communication) technology means the camera can be triggered and the settings changed remotely via the Image Sync app. This can be downloaded free from iOS and Android app stores. Also new with the GR II is the bigger RAW buffer. While the original GR could handle four RAW files while shooting in its burst mode, the GRII increases that figure to 10 – good news for those capturing action sequences.
The styling of the camera is modern and functional, with none of the retro chic of its main rival, Fuji’s X100T. Build quality is good – the casing is magnesium alloy and has a pleasing textured finish. Where the design really comes into its own is in the compact dimensions, though. Measuring just 63x117x34mm and weighing 251g (with battery), the GR II is shorter than an iPhone. As with the original, the GR II includes a built-in flash with a modest Guide Number of 5 (m, ISO 100). This is perfectly good for low-light shots of subjects close to the camera. For extended lighting options, there’s also a hotshoe flash mount. While an external flashgun may prove too top-heavy for the GR II, a trigger to use off-camera flash would sit comfortably and bring creative lighting opportunities.
For different picture styles, there are 17 Picture Effect modes, ranging from Retro, which gives a vintage film effect with muted colours, to Miniaturise that helps the image look like it was taken with a Tilt/Shift lens. Of particular note is the HDR effect that offers the kind of processing look you’d get with bespoke HDR software. Although it would have compromised the GR II’s tiny dimensions, some users will bemoan the absence of a built-in Electronic Viewfinder (EVF). However, if you don’t enjoy composing from the vibrant 3in LCD, an external EVF accessory – the GV-1 EVF – is available for around £130 and slots into the hotshoe mount.
The Ricoh slips in and out of your pocket with ease and its small size means you really can take it anywhere. The 1.7secs startup time of the original GR has been slashed to just 1sec on the GR II. By pressing the well-placed On/Off button as the camera is pulled from a pocket, it’s ready to shoot when raised up to the eye. In the field, the effective focal length of 28mm is perfect for capturing wide views, but if you need more reach, the GR II has a 35mm and 47mm crop mode. The downside is this does reduce resolution and image quality. Those seeking a wider focal length can purchase a 21mm wide conversion lens accessory for around £150.
With a main dial featuring PASM exposure modes and a big shutter button, capturing images with the GR II is a breeze. More advanced settings are a little harder to locate and change, however. The Menu navigation takes a while to get used to and can’t be described as intuitive as you have to scroll a fair way to find all the feature options.
Switching between Single-shot and Continuous AF is easy thanks to the lever switch on the rear of the camera, and within this switch is a large button that acts as an AF-On function. This allows you to set focus with your thumb before shooting. Exposure Compensation is also simple to change thanks to a +/- button on the rear. The ergonomic layout helps speed up your photography, ensuring you don’t miss a shot, and this, paired with the discreet design of the camera, will appeal to street photographers.
Adjusting settings such as ISO, focus and metering is fast, thanks to a dual-action command wheel on the rear. The wheel can be flicked left and right, but also pressed in like a regular button. This means you don’t have to take your finger from the shutter.
For such a small camera, the APS-C format sensor size is large, but files still record to the memory card at a decent rate. Our tests timed single RAW files at 1.8secs, while Large JPEGs took just 0.7sec to write to the card.
Value for money
With a price-tag of £599, the GR II is around £240 cheaper than its closest rival, the Fuji X100T. Both cameras offer 16Mp sensors, but the GR II has a wider focal length (28mm vs 35mm). But then the X100T hits back with a faster maximum aperture of f/2 compared to the Ricoh’s f/2.8.
The magnesium alloy build, fast aperture and great image quality help to justify the cost of what adds up to be a very desirable compact, so value for money is reasonable. The Nikon Coolpix A (also a 16Mp compact with a 28mm fixed lens) is more affordable at around £349, but it lacks a number of the GR II’s tricks – Wi-Fi, integrated ND filter and long shutter speed (300secs vs 30secs) to name but three. The lack of an EVF is a niggle, but the GR II is still a great investment for those seeking good image quality and creative controls in a compact form.
Combining high-spec features and great image quality into a tiny body makes the GR II a tantalising proposition. For those after a highly portable, take-anywhere camera that’s no more intrusive than a smartphone, it can slip into a pocket but offers cutting-edge features like RAW capture, a full suite of creative controls and a fast aperture of f/2.8. There are shortcomings though. Navigating the Menu system isn’t as intuitive as it could be, and unless you crave Wi-Fi connectivity, there’s not enough to tempt existing GR users into upgrading. However, those new to premium compacts will fall in love with this petite camera that works brilliantly in the field. More feature-packed than Nikon’s Coolpix A, and more affordable than Fuji’s X100T, if you’re on the hunt for a creative compact, the GR II is hard to beat.
- Price: £599
- Resolution: 16.2Mp (4928x3264px)
- Sensor: APS-C CMOS (35.9x24mm)
- Autofocus: system TTL detection system
- Focusing modes: Multi, Single Shot AF, Continuous AF, Manual Focus, Face detect
- Metering: Multi-segment, Centre-weighted or Spot
- Burst rate: 4fps Flash Yes
- ISO range: 100-25,600
- Shutter range: 300secs -1/4000sec & Bulb
- Monitor: 3in, 1230k dot TFT LCD
- Video: Full HD (1920p) @ 30, 25, 24p
- Write speeds: 1.8sec (RAW), 0.7sec (Large Fine JPEG)
- Storage: SD, SDHC, SDXC
- Weight: 251g (body-only)
- Dimensions: (WxHxD) 117x63x35.7mm
- Visit: www.ricoh-imaging.co.uk
This review was first published in the January 2016 issue of Digital Photo - download back issues here.