Ricoh GR Digital III
A well-built and pocketable wide-angle digicam with features to attract serious photo enthusiasts.
The GR Digital III is the third model in a successful series of feature-rich digicams for enthusiasts, based on the popular Ricoh GR-series of 35mm film cameras launched in 1996. Acclaimed for their slim, well-designed bodies and functionality, these cameras have been popular with photo enthusiasts and professional photographers as ‘walk-around’ cameras that can be carried in a pocket.
Ricoh has taken an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ approach to the new model and left many features, including the body design, essentially unchanged from the previous GR Digital II model. The sensor resolution is also the same, with an effective 10 megapixels but the new model comes with the latest image processor chip (see Sensor and Image Processing below).
Front view of the GR Digital III. (Source: Ricoh.)
Rear view of the GR Digital III showing the larger LCD monitor and main button controls. (Source: Ricoh.)
Top view of the GR Digital III. (Source: Ricoh.)
Under the bonnet of the GR Digital III is a new GR Engine III image processor, which claims sophisticated noise processing capabilities, along with superior resolution, tonal characteristics and saturation, particularly in low-light situations. Response speeds have also been improved.
The flash, which is popped up manually, is essentially unchanged and covers a range from 20 cm to 3.0 metres. It supports five modes, including slow synch. and red-eye reduction. The shutter also appears to be the same as before, covering a range of eight to 1/2000 seconds, with an expansion up to 180 seconds in Manual exposure mode.
The mode dial on the GR Digital III, showing the new additions. (Source: Ricoh.)
The shooting menu.
Image size options.
The Key Custom Options menu.
The Setup menu.
The Scene sub-menu.
The white balance menu has also been expanded to include a new Multi-pattern Auto mode that adjusts colours to take account of differences in lighting across the subject. Another new setting, White Balance Detail lets users fine-tune colour reproduction on-the-fly via an on-screen bar display that ranges from red to blue (designated by icons representing tungsten light and cloud).
Sensitivity has also been expanded with a return to the ISO 64 minimum setting offered in the original GR Digital model. The top sensitivity setting remains at a sensible ISO 1600. Noise reduction processing is user-selectable in the auto, P, A and M shooting modes and you can select the sensitivity at which it kicks in from five options: All, Over ISO 201, Over ISO 401, Over ISO 801 and ISO 1600. Dark-frame subtraction appears to be the method used.
Photographers gain additional control over hue and saturation through the Image Settings sub-menu, which contains five colour modes: Vivid, Standard, Black & White, a new B&W (TE) mode and two sub-menus where individual adjustments to contrast, sharpness, saturation and colours can be mead, thereby creating custom settings that can be recalled when desired. The B&W (TE) mode provides a range of toning effects that enable users to produce images with sepia, red, green, blue or purple tints. Saturation, sharpness and contrast are individually adjustable for each tone.
Focusing options are expanded with a new ‘full-press snap’ function that shoots at a preset distance without pausing for focus. It’s handy for quick snapshots but not available in macro mode or when focus is set at infinity. You can also set the camera to continuous autofocusing with the Pre-AF mode, which works in the Multi AF and Spot AF modes. Like ‘full press snap’ it doesn’t work in MF and Snap focus modes or when focus is set at infinity and it consumes additional power when engaged.
Digital zoom remains the only zoom the camera supports and it must be selected via the Key Custom Options sub-menu. A rocker on the top right corner of the rear panel controls this function and users can choose from three magnifications: 5.7x, 9.8x and 16x. The default setting is Normal, which interpolates the cropped image to the set image size. Auto Resize Zoom is also available, providing up to 5.7x magnification at VGA resolution with no loss of quality.
Like its predecessor, the GR Digital III 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 up to 16 shots at approximately 7.5 frames/second and stores them in a single 3648 ø— 3648 ø— 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.
Unlike the GRD II, the new camera can record bursts of DNG.RAW files, although they are limited to five shots/burst. It also offers three auto bracketing options, covering exposure, white balance and colour. The latter provides the novel approach of capturing three copies of an image: in colour, B&W and with a tint selected via the B&W (TE) image setting mode.
Sensor and Image Processing
Although effective resolution hasn’t changed since the GR Digital II model, there’s a new sensor chip in the GR Digital III that’s fractionally larger than its predecessors. The difference in photosite sizes between the two models is minuscule, with the DGR II’s photosites measuring just under 2.02 microns and the GRD III’s, a little over 2.08 microns but the larger photosites may produce lower noise at high ISO settings.
Coupled with the sensor is the new GR Engine III image processor, which boasts new noise-reduction technology to increase performance in low-light situations. Improved processing algorithms also reduce autofocusing times in dim conditions and give an overall boost to camera response times. Image size and resolution options are essentially unchanged from the GRD II, as shown in the table below.
|Mode||Aspect ratio||File format||Resolution||Fine||Normal|
|Still||4:3 (10M)||DNG.RAW||3648 x 2736||22MB|
|3:2 (9M)||3648 x 2432||17.6MB|
|1:1 (7M)||2736 x 2736||14.67MB|
|4:3||JPEG||3648 x 2736||4MB||2.32MB|
|3648 x 2432||3.52MB||2.04MB|
|2736 x 2736||3.03MB||1.76MB|
|3264 x 2448||1.87MB|
|2592 x 1944||1.22MB|
|2048 x 1536||0.81MB|
|1280 x 960||0.50MB|
|640 x 480||0.12MB|
|Text||JPEG||3648 x 2736||2.32MB|
|2048 x 1536||0.81MB|
Video capabilities are the same as 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 2GB card are shown in the table below.
|Video format||Picture size
|Frame rate||Recording time/2GB card|
|Motion JPEG||640 x 480||30 fps||18 minutes 49 seconds|
|640 x 480||15 fps.||37 minutes 17 seconds|
|320 x 240||30 fps||48 minutes 13 seconds|
|320 x 240||15 fps.||94 minutes 11 seconds|
Playback and Software
Playback options include the usual single, index and slideshow modes plus auto rotation and DPOF tagging for automated printing. A new micro-thumbnail display function presents 81 thumbnail images on a single screen. You can resize images in-camera for emailing or web posting and copy files between the camera’s internal memory and a memory card.
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.
In-camera skew and level correction (for adjusting brightness levels) are also provided in playback mode, using the functions provided for image capture. In each case, the adjusted images are saved as separate files. Post-capture white balance correction is also provided.
The bundled raw conversion software is Irodio Photo & Video Studio, which combines a multimedia browser and viewer with an image and video editor. We’ve already covered this application in our review of the GR Digital II.
Shots taken with the test camera were detailed with natural-looking colours and modest saturation, although Imatest showed some boosting in reds and blues, particularly with JPEG files. Imatest also showed the test camera to be capable of excellent resolution with DNG.RAW files, which we converted with the DCRAW processing engine in Imatest itself. (This processing makes no corrections to any image parameter, unlike other raw file converters.) JPEG files were slightly below expectations and edge and corner softening was evident in many shots, as shown below.
A full-frame JPEG image of a detailed subject.
Centre crop from 100% enlargement of the above image.
Edge crop (left side) from 100% enlargement of the same image.
Edge crop (right side) from 100% enlargement of the same image.
Corner crop from 100% enlargement showing slight colour fringing as well as softening.
The colour accuracy graphs we obtained in our Imatest tests on raw files showed a slightly different pattern of colour shifts to our results from the GRD II but similar overall accuracy. JPEG test results showed more significant colour shifts.
Resolution was significantly higher across the lens aperture range with DNG.RAW files but both raw and JPEG files revealed edge softening across the lens aperture range in the review camera. The graph below shows the results of our tests.
Not unexpectedly, resolution declined as ISO sensitivity was increased, although not as much as we had expected – and less than we’ve found in many competing cameras. It seems the new sensor and image processor are delivering the promised improvements at high ISO settings. The graph below shows the results of our Imatest tests.
Lateral chromatic aberration was generally low and we found only slight evidence of coloured fringing in JPEG test shots. (Note: the difference between the JPEG and DNG files in the graphs below is due to automatic in-camera chromatic aberration correction of JPEG files; no such correction is applied when raw files are processed in DCRAW.) The images below show an example of slight fringing from a DNG.RAW file converted with Adobe Camera Raw.
The original, full-frame image.
Crop from the top left corner of a 100% enlargement of the above image. Fringing can be seen along the vertical edges.
No blotchiness was observed in shots taken at high ISO settings and, although granularity was evident at ISO 1600, it looked more like film grain than electronic noise. Lower sensitivities were comparatively noise-free. Slight colour shifts were observed in long exposures at ISO settings above 400.
Flash exposures were evenly balanced and the flash was capable of illuminating an average-sized room at all ISO settings from ISO 100 on. Flash close-ups were evenly exposed across the camera’s ISO range and only slight softening could be seen at the highest ISO settings, which were also free of colour shifts.
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 typical of many small-sensor digicams. The test camera came close enough to neutral colours with fluorescent lighting to require only minor editing adjustments. However, the inherent warm cast of incandescent lighting was not fully corrected and the pre-sets tended to introduce colour casts under both lighting types. Manual measurement produced a neutral colour balance.
Video performance was typical of most VGA-only digicams. Image quality was acceptable but unspectacular and audio quality matched the visuals. Clips shot at the 15 fps setting were noticeably jerky and would only be useful in low-resolution environments like YouTube.
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 0.2 seconds, which reduced to less than 0.1 seconds with pre-focusing. The continuous shooting mode recorded 10 high-resolution JPEGs in 4.8 seconds. It took approximately three seconds to process and store this burst.
Lag times were the same when shooting raw files, but processing took approximately one second for each individual raw file. A burst of five raw files was recorded in 2.4 seconds and took 16.7 seconds to process.
Buy this camera if:
– You’re looking for a well-built, pocketable camera with P, A, S and M shooting modes that is inconspicuous to use and ideal for street and candid photography.
– You require the ability to shoot raw files.
– You’re happy to use the monitor for shot composition and shoot with a prime lens.
– You’d enjoy shooting monochrome pictures and would appreciate some of the in-camera filter effects.
Don’t buy this camera if:
– You only need a point-and-press camera.
– You require zoom functionality and an optical viewfinder.
– You want to shoot widescreen high-definition video clips.
DNG.RAW files converted in Imatest
Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.
Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.
Close-up: 6mm focal length, ISO 64, 1/250 second at f/3.5.
6mm focal length, ISO 64, 1/500 second at f/5.6.
Centre crop100% enlargement of the above image.
Edge crop from 100% enlargement of the same image.
6mm focal length, ISO 64, 1/320 second at f/4.4.
Digital zoom from the same position as the above shot: 6mm focal length, ISO 64, 1/320 second at f/4.
Long exposure at night: ISO 64, 8 seconds at f/1.9.
Long exposure at night: ISO1600, 8 seconds at f/7.1.
Flash exposure: ISO 100, 1/30 second at f/1.9.
Flash exposure: ISO 1600,1/50 second at f/3.5.
Strong backlighting: 6mm focal length, ISO 64, 1/250 second at f/8.
Moderate backlighting: 6mm focal length, ISO 64, 1/250 second at f/5.6.
B&W mode: 6mm focal length, ISO 64, 1/320 second at f/5.6.
Standard image setting: 6mm focal length, ISO 64, 1/250 second at f/7.1.
Vivid image setting: 6mm focal length, ISO 64, 1/250 second at f/7.1.
Wide dynamic range with DR compensation: 6mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/125 second at f/7.1.
Wide dynamic range without DR compensation: 6mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/250 second at f/6.3.
6mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/200 second at f/6.3.
Image sensor: 7.6 x 5.7 mm CCD with 10.4 million photosites (10 megapixels effective)
Lens: 6.0mm f/1.9 prime lens (28mm equivalent in 35mm format)
Zoom ratio: 1x optical, up to 4x digital (Auto Resize Zoom [VGA images] approx. 5.7x)
Image formats: Stills – JPEG (Exif 2.21). DNG.RAW; Video – AVI (Open DML Motion JPEG compliant)
Image Sizes: Stills – 4:3 aspect: 3648 x 2732, 3264 x 2448, 2592 x 1944, 2048 x 1536, 1280 x 960, 640 x 480; 3:2 aspect: 3648 x 2432; 1:1 aspect: 2736 x 2736; Movies – VGA, QVGA at 30 or 15 frames/second
Shutter speed range: 1-1/2000 sec plus 1.3, 1.6, 2.0, 2.5, 3.2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 13, 15, 30, 60, 120 and 180 second exposures
Self-timer: 2 or 10 second delay
Image Stabilisation: n.a.
Exposure Compensation: +/- 2EV in 1/3EV steps
Focus system/range: CCD method Multi/Spot AF with Manual, Snap and Infinity modes; Normal range 30 cm to infinity; macro to 1 cm
Exposure metering/control: 256-segment multi, centre-weighted and spot metering (TTL-CCD method)
Shooting modes: Auto, Program AE, A, S and M modes plus Movie, Text, Skew Correction and Dynamic Range Double-Shot
ISO range: Auto, Auto Hi; ISO 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600
White balance: Auto, Multi-pattern Auto, Outdoors, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Manual, Detail, White Balance bracket function
Flash modes/range (ISO auto): Auto, Red-eye reduction, Flash On, Slow Synchro, Manual Flash, Flash Off; range approx. 20 cm to 3.0 metres (ISO Auto); +/- 2EV flash compensation in 1/3EV steps
Storage Media: Approx. 88MB internal memory plus SD/SDHC expansion slot
Viewfinder: Clip-on external finder
LCD monitor: 3-inch Transparent LCD with approx. 920,000 dots
Power supply: DB-65 rechargeable lithium-ion battery (CIPA rated for approx. 370 shots); can accept 2x AAA alkaline or NiMH batteries
Dimensions (wxhxd): 108.6 x 59.8 x 25.5 mm
Weight: Approx. 188 grams (without batteries and card)
Rating (out of 10):
- Build: 9.0
- Ease of use: 8.8
- Image quality: 8.5