Ricoh GR Digital II

    leadpic_GR_Digital_II

    Photo Review 8.8
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    Ricoh GR Digital II

      In summary

      A slim and lightweight wide-angle digicam with features and performance to attract serious photo enthusiasts.A successor to the award-winning GR Digital, which was released in October 2005, Ricoh's GR Digital II offers higher resolution and a new GR Engine II image processor but otherwise retains most of the features that made its predecessor popular with photo enthusiasts. Superficially, the diecast magnesium bodies of both cameras are almost identical, but the new model sports a slightly larger LCD. . . [more]

      Full review

      leadpic_GR_Digital_II

      A successor to the award-winning GR Digital, which was released in October 2005, Ricoh's GR Digital II offers higher resolution and a new GR Engine II image processor but otherwise retains most of the features that made its predecessor popular with photo enthusiasts. Superficially, the diecast magnesium bodies of both cameras are almost identical, but the new model sports a slightly larger LCD.

      GR_Digital_II_front

      Front view with optional mini-finder.
      Sensor resolution is increased from 8.1 megapixels to 10.1 megapixels with a small increase in sensor chip area. The internal memory has also been doubled from 26MB in the original model to 54MB in the GR Digital II. Most photographers, however, will ignore the internal memory in favour of removable memory cards and will welcome the addition of support for SHDC cards in the new model.
      The retracting lens has undergone some 'improvements to compensate for various types of aberrations and vignetting on the subject's periphery' but retains the 5.9mm f/2.4-f/11 (28mm equivalent in 35mm format) specifications of the original camera. Constructed from six elements arranged in five groups, it includes three groups with two aspherical elements. According to Ricoh, 'high-precision assembly techniques' are used for sharper images in a more compact size.
      A seven-bladed shutter, which closes to make a circular aperture, ensures attractive bokeh (blurred backgrounds). Aperture settings range from f/2.4 to f/11, with an ND filter activating at stops above f/7.1 in full auto mode. Shutter speeds range from one to 1/2000 seconds, with selectable long exposure times of two, four, eight, 15, 30, 60, 120 and 180 seconds in M mode.
      In the M and A modes, an indicator on the monitor shows the depth of field when the focus mode is set to Snap, Manual or Infinity. This allows users to gauge depth of focus when using selective focusing. Metering modes are the same as in the GR Digital model.
      The 2.7-inch LCD's resolution is also higher to keep pace with its increase in size, with the new model offering a fairly standard 230,000 pixels. Its angle of view is also increased to 160 degrees. And, although the same battery is used in both cameras, power management in the new model is better, allowing it to support up to 370 shots/charge instead of 250 shots. Raw file processing times have also been reduced, thanks to the new GR Engine II processor and a larger buffer memory.

      GR_Digital_II_back

      Rear view showing enlarged LCD screen.
      The manually-activated pop-up flash is also the same as the GR Digital's. Flash compensation of +/- 2.0EV in 0.3EV steps operates independently from the auto exposure system to give a high degree of control over the available light/flash balance. The GR Digital II is manufactured in China and supplied in a box labelled 'Eco-friendly package', which appears to be made from recycled materials. No carrying pouch is provided.
      Accessories available for the GR Digital II include the GW-1 wide conversion lens (21mm equiv.); GV-1 21-28mm compatible viewfinder; GT-1 tele conversion lens (40mm equiv.); GV-2 mini-finder for 28mm and GC-2 soft case, which holds the camera while GV-2 is attached. Filters and flash units are also available. A diagram of the system is shown below.

      Shooting Modes
      The GR Digital II's mode dial differs slightly from its predecessor. Although the auto, P, A, M and Scene modes are retained, the movie mode has been moved into the Scene sub-menu. Two 'My Settings' modes replace it. You can register a set of camera settings in these modes and use the mode dial to return quickly to your pre-determined settings. Adjustments can be made to specific controls in My1 or My2 modes but the camera will default to the original stored settings each time it is switched off.

      GR_Digital_II_top

      Top view showing the new mode dial functions.

      The Scene mode contains a new Skew Correct mode, which is used to straighten shots of rectangular subjects like message boards or business cards. Only two image sizes are supported in this mode: N1280 (1M) and N640 (VGA). The Text mode is essentially unchanged, although higher resolution is supported. Sound recording appears to have been dropped.
      The new camera also supports a marginally narrower sensitivity range, which starts at ISO 80 instead of ISO 64). Top sensitivity is unchanged at ISO 1600. However, a new Auto Hi setting in the setup menu allows users to restrict the top sensitivity of the auto ISO mode. Four options are provided: ISO 200, 400, 800 and 1600. Noise reduction processing is user-selectable in the auto, P, A and M shooting modes. Dark-frame subtraction appears to be the method used.
      Digital zoom remains the only zoom the camera supports. Two options are provided: Normal and Auto Resize Zoom. Up to 5.7x zoom magnification is available with the Normal setting at VGA resolution. To use Auto Resize Zoom mode, the camera must be set at 10M resolution. It then saves the cropped image at the original resolution, with no loss of quality.
      Like its predecessor, the GR Digital II has three continuous shooting modes but only one of them allows images to be captured at full resolution. The S-Continuous and M-Continuous modes capture 16 shots in quick succession but store them in a single 3648 × 3648 × 2736 pixel frame. In the M (memory reversal) continuous mode, the camera memorises the scene when you half-press the shutter button. When the shutter button is released the previous two seconds of shots are recorded.
      Continuous shooting is not supported for raw files. Interval recording (time lapse) is essentially the same as in the GR Digital model. Otherwise, the camera's menus are very similar to those of its predecessor.

      GR_Digital_2_menu1
      GR_Digital_2_menu2

      A typical menu page (top), which opens to sub-menus for selecting individual settings (below).
      TIFF file capture is no longer available but a new 1:1 aspect ratio has been added for both DNG.RAW and JPEG capture. In this mode, the sides of the frame are cropped to produce a square picture at 2736 × 2736 pixel resolution. Typical file sizes for the various resolution and quality settings offered are shown in the table below.

      Image Size

      Fine

      Normal

      RAW 4:3 (10M)

      3648 × 2736

      18.2MB

      RAW 3:2 (9M)

      3648 × 2432

      16.2MB

      RAW 1:1 (7M

      2736 × 2736

      13.7MB

      10M

      3648 × 2736

      3.62MB

      2.08MB

      9M

      3648 × 2432

      3.22MB

      1.85MB

      7M

      2736 × 2736

      2.72MB

      1.57MB

      8M

      3264 x 2448

      n.a.

      1.67MB

      5M

      2592 x 1944

      n.a.

      1.07MB

      3M

      2048 x 1536

      n.a.

      0.68MB

      1M

      1280 x 960

      n.a.

      0.36MB

      VGA

      640 x 480

      n.a.

      0.01MB

      Video capabilities are improved in the GR Digital II, which supports both VGA and QVGA recordings at frame rates of 30 and 15 fps. Movie clips are recorded as AVI files - with sound. The maximum recording time is 90 minutes - or up to 4GB. Typical recording times for a 1GB card are shown in the table below.

      Resolution

      Frame Rate

      Recording Time

      640 x 480 pixels (VGA)

      30 fps

      11 min. 59 sec

      640 x 480 pixels (VGA)

      15 fps

      23 min. 42 sec

      320 x 240 pixels (QVGA)

      30 fps

      23 min. 42 sec

      320 x 240 pixels (QVGA)

      15 fps

      46 min. 19 sec

      Playback options include the usual single, index and slideshow modes plus auto rotation. You can jump forward or backwards 10 frames by pressing the vertical buttons on the arrow pad. When playing back images, the screen can also display three sequential frames, the largest in the middle. Playback zoom of up to 16x is also supported. Images can be deleted individually or you can specify a range of shots to delete.
      Pressing the DISP. button changes the playback display. The Normal display overlays the shot with basic shooting information plus the battery status indicator. You can also overlay a small histogram, cause over-exposed highlights to blink or opt for no information overlays.
      New Functions
      One of the more interesting additions to the new model is an electronic leveller that makes it easier to keep horizontal features in a subject straight. When Level Setting is engaged via the setup menu or by holding the DISP. Button down a level indicator bar is displayed on the monitor screen. If the camera is level, the indicator bar is outlined in green. When the camera is tilted, a vertical orange stripe appears on the upper side of the bar. The more the camera is tilted, the closer this stripe moves to the end of the bar. At about 40 degrees the end of the bar is outlined in red.

      GR_Digital_2_level1

      The camera is level when the indicator bar is outlined in green.

      GR_Digital_2_level2

      An orange line appears when the camera is tilted, showing the direction of tilt.

      GR_Digital_2_level3

      The upper end of the indicator bar is outlined in red with dramatic tilting.

      Four Level Setting options are provided: Display, Display + Sound, Sound and Off. If you select either of the options involving sound, the camera beeps when it is level. When the Sound setting is selected, the indicator bar is not displayed. When the rule-of-third grid overlay is displayed or the picture display is off and the external viewfinder is used, the system defaults to sound only.
      The levelling function is not available if the camera is held upside down, when recording movies and during interval shooting. However, it works equally well for horizontal and vertical shots. Response times slow down and accuracy suffers when the camera is used on a moving platform (such as in a car).
      Replacing the Quick Review button on the arrow pad is a new Fn. button to which a specific camera control can be assigned. This button can be used for quickly switching between auto and manual focus, engaging Snap mode, locking exposure, switching between JPEG and DNG.RAW, switching from colour to B&W recording and changing a range of shooting menu functions (including ISO, white balance, continuous shooting, flash compensation and bracketing).

      Software
      The bundled raw conversion software is Irodio Photo & Video Studio, which combines a multimedia browser and viewer with an image and video editor. The application has an easily understood interface and the image and video editors contain an adequate set of functions for performing most tasks users of the GR Digital II will engage in. The illustrations below show some of the application's features.

      GR_Digital_2_software1

      The browser window for Irodio Photo & Video Studio.

      GR_Digital_2_software2

      The main editing page.

      GR_Digital_2_software3

      Exposure adjustments.

      GR_Digital_2_software4

      Colour ring-arounds are provided for making subtle hue adjustments.

      Performance
      Shots taken with the test camera were richly detailed with natural-looking colours and atypically restrained saturation for a digicam. Skin tones were particularly well rendered. Imatest confirmed the lower saturation levels and showed the test camera to be capable of both excellent resolution and very good colour accuracy, regardless of whether shots were captured as raw files or JPEGs. However, not unexpectedly, resolution deteriorated at ISO 800 and declined further at ISO 1600.
      Lateral chromatic aberration was generally low and we found no evidence of coloured fringing in test shots. No blotchiness was observed in shots taken at high ISO settings, although granularity was evident at ISO 1600. However, it looked more like film grain than electronic noise. Lower sensitivities were comparatively noise-free.
      Flash exposures were evenly balanced and the flash was capable of illuminating an average-sized room at all ISO settings. Long exposures at night were free of stuck pixels, although some colour noise was observed at ISO settings above 400. Close-up performance was excellent but digital zoom shots were slightly soft with the Normal setting (which uses interpolation). Shots taken with Auto Resize Zoom were somewhat sharper.
      Auto white balance performance was very good for a digicam. The test camera came close enough to neutral colours with both incandescent and fluorescent lighting to require only minor editing adjustments. However, the pre-sets tended to introduce colour casts, although manual measurement produced a neutral colour balance.
      Overall response times were above average for a digicam. The test camera powered up in about a second and shot-to-shot times averaged 1.2 seconds without flash. Use of the flash slowed capture rates to one shot every 3.5 seconds. We measured an average capture lag of 0.5 seconds, which reduced to less than 0.1 seconds with pre-focusing. The continuous shooting mode recorded high-resolution JPEGs at 0.4 second intervals. It took approximately four seconds to process and store a burst of 10 shots.

      IMATEST GRAPHS

      R0010057_colorerror
      R0010057_colors
      R0010057_YBL71_ca


      R0010057_YAR42_cpp

      Resolution at low ISO settings.

      R0010063_YBL71_cpp

      Loss of resolution at high ISO settings.
      SAMPLE IMAGES

      GR_Digital_2_awb_tung

      Auto white balance with incandescent light.

      GR_Digital_2_awb_fluoro

      Auto white blaance with fluorescent light.

      GR_Digital_2_close

      Close-up.

      GR_Digital_2_digital_zoom

      Digital zoom.

      GR_Digital_2_ISO_1600_night

      Long exposure at ISO 1600.

      GR_Digital_2_close2

      Bright colours were rendered without over-saturation.

      GR_Digital_2_pastels

      Pastels like this pale blue which is difficult for digital systems to reproduce, were accurately rendered.

      R0010009

      Subtle hues were also handled well.

      R0010146

      Skin tones were accurately recorded.

      R0010141

       

      Specifications

      leadpic_GR_Digital_II

      Image sensor: 7.38 x 5.54mm CCD with 10.3 million photosites (10.01 megapixels effective)
      Lens: 5.9mm f/2.4-f/11 lens (28mm equivalent in 35mm format)
      Zoom ratio: 1x optical, up to 4x digital; Approx. 5.7x auto-resize zoom (VGA images)
      Image formats: Stills – JPEG (Exif 2.21); DNG.RAW; Movies - AVI
      Image Sizes: Stills – 3648 x 2736, 3648 x 2432, 2736 x 2736, 3264 x 2448, 2592 x 1944,2048 x 1536, 1280 x 960, 640 x 480; Movies – VGA/QVGA; Text - 3648 x 2736, 2048 x 1536
      Shutter speed range: 180, 120, 60, 30, 15, 8, 4, 2, 1 to 1/2000 sec. (Max. and min. Shutter speeds change according to shooting mode and flash mode); Movies - 1/30 to 1/2000 sec.
      Image Stabilisation: n.a.
      Exposure Compensation: +2.0 to -2.0 EV in 1/3 EV steps
      Focus system/range: CCD method Multi AF with Spot AF, manual, snap and infinity settings; range 30 cm to infinity; macro to 1.5 cm
      Exposure metering/control: Multi Light Metering (256 segments), Centre-weighted, Spot Metering (TTL-CCD Metering Method, AE lock available); Auto, P, A, S and M shooting modes plus Movie, Skew Correct and Text Scene modes.
      ISO range: Auto, ISO 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600
      White balance: Auto, Outdoors, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Manual, Detail, White balance bracket function
      Flash modes/range (ISO auto): Auto, red-eye reduction, flash on, slow synchro, flash off; range 0.2 to 3.0 metres; flash exposure compensation +/- 2.0EV in 1/3 EV steps
      Sequence shooting: Continuous: S-Cont. – 16 frames in approx. 2 seconds; M-Cont – memory reversal 16 frames in 2 seconds.
      Storage Media: Approx. 54MB internal memory plus SD/SDHC expansion slot
      Viewfinder: optional accessory
      LCD monitor: 2.7-inch Transparent Amorphous Silicon TFT LCD, approx. 230,000 pixels
      Power supply: DB60 rechargeable lithium-ion battery (can also use 2x AAA batteries)
      Dimensions (wxhxd): 107.0 x 58.0 x 25.0 mm (excluding protruding parts)
      Weight: Approx. 168 g (excluding battery/SD memory card/strap)

       

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      Rating

       

      RRP: $999

      Rating (out of 10):

      • Build: 9
      • Ease of use: 8.5
      • Image quality: 9
      • OVERALL: 8.8

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