Ricoh GR Review
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Ricoh GR Image Quality
Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Muted saturation levels, but very good overall hue accuracy at low to moderate ISOs.
|In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located toward the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center. Mouse over the links to compare ISOs.|
Skin tones. The Ricoh GR's Caucasian skin tones look realistic when using manual white balance in simulated daylight, with a subtle pink cast. Auto white balance is a bit warmer, but still very good. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc.
Hue. The Ricoh GR does shift cyan toward blue, red toward orange, orange toward yellow, and yellow toward green, but shifts are relatively minor. (The cyan to blue shift is very common among the digital cameras we test; we think it's a deliberate choice by camera engineers to produce better-looking sky colors.) With an average "delta-C" color error at base ISO of 3.81 after correction for saturation, overall hue accuracy is actually better than average when using Manual white balance, and remains very good to ISO 3200, but hue error increases significantly at higher ISOs. Hue is "what color" the
The Ricoh GR has a total of nine saturation levels available, four above and four below the default saturation. This covers a pretty wide range of saturation levels, about as wide a range as you're likely to find photographically relevant, apart from special effects that are arguably better achieved in software. The fine steps between settings mean it's easy to program the camera to just the level of saturation you prefer. The GR's saturation setting impacts contrast a bit, but not as much as we've seen on some cameras.
|Saturation Adjustment Examples|
The table above shows results with several saturation settings, see the Thumbnails index page for more (look for the files named GROUTBSATx.JPG). Click on any thumbnail above to see the full-sized image.
| See full set of test images
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images
Exposure and White Balance
Indoors, incandescent lighting
Good color with the Manual white balance setting, but warm results with Auto and Incandescent. About average positive exposure compensation required.
|Auto White Balance
|Incandescent White Balance
|Manual White Balance
Indoors, under normal incandescent lighting, color balance is too warm and reddish-orange with the Auto white balance setting. The Incandescent setting did better, but was still a bit too warm, this time with a yellowish cast. The Manual setting produced the most accurate results, but with a slightly green cast. The Ricoh GR required an average amount of positive exposure compensation here, at +0.3 EV. Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.
Muted colors, high contrast, with mixed exposure accuracy.
|Auto White Balance,
|Auto White Balance,
The Ricoh GR struggled a bit with our "Sunlit" Portrait shot, overexposing it quite a bit at default exposure using multi-segment metering. Most cameras need about +0.7 EV for this shot, however the GR needed -0.7 EV. (-0.5 EV would have probably been ideal as -0.7 EV is a touch dim while -0.3 EV has too many blown highlights.) Colors are a little muted and contrast somewhat high, but skintones are pretty good even with Auto white balance. Our far-field shot fared much better at default exposure with very few highlights clipped, but shadows are deep though they're pretty clean. Color outdoors is a touch on the cool side.
Very high resolution, ~2,200 lines of strong detail from JPEGs, about 2,300 lines from ACR processed RAW files.
|Strong detail to
~2,200 lines horizontal
|Strong detail to
~2,200 lines vertical
|Strong detail to
~2,300 lines horizontal
ACR processed RAW
|Strong detail to
~2,300 lines vertical
ACR processed RAW
Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 2,200 lines per picture height in the horizontal direction, and to about 2,200 lines in the vertical direction. Complete extinction of the pattern occurred at about 3,000 lines in both directions. We were able to do a little better with DNG files processed through Adobe Camera Raw, with the horizontal and vertical directions resolving slightly higher at about 2,300 lines per pixel height. As usual, color moiré is more evident in the converted RAW files, though camera JPEGs show some significant color moiré as well, which is no surprise given the lack of an OLPF. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail.
Sharpness & Detail
Very good sharpness, though fine detail is flattened by noise reduction.
Sharpness. The Ricoh GR produces JPEG images with very good sharpness, though fine detail is flattened somewhat as can be seen in the slightly mushy pine needles in the crop above left. Sharpening artifacts can be seen such as the halos around the branches and pine cones in the crop, though they're fairly minor. Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.
Detail. The crop above right shows some detail loss due to noise suppression in areas of lower contrast. Individual strands are still distinguishable in the lighter shadows and when they have high contrast, though they begin to merge as shadows deepen, and in places where the tone and color of adjacent strands is very close. Still, pretty good results here, especially considering the small form-factor of the GR. Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears.
Raw vs In-Camera JPEGs
As noted above, the Ricoh GR delivers JPEGs with great sharpness right out of the box, though fine details are a touch soft. Improved detail and sharpness can often be obtained from carefully processing RAW files, without additional sharpening artifacts. Take a look below, to see what we mean:
In the table above, mousing over a link at the bottom will load the corresponding crop in the area above. Crops compare an in-camera JPEG to the same RAW file processed with Adobe Camera Raw 8.1, then sharpened in Photoshop. Because the GR has a sharp lens and the sensor has no optical low-pass filter, fairly light sharpening of 150% unsharp mask with a radius of 0.3 pixels really made details pop in the Ricoh GR's 12-bit DNG files.
As you can see, Adobe Camera Raw was able to produce a crisper image with finer detail and better color, but as expected it also shows slightly higher noise levels as well as some chromatic aberration that the camera automatically suppresses in its JPEGs. Bottom line, though: As is usually the case, for maximum image quality and flexibility, you can't beat shooting RAW and converting with a good converter.
ISO & Noise Performance
Great high ISO performance, with pretty good detail versus noise up to ISO 3,200.
|High ISO Noise Reduction = Auto (Default)|
|ISO 100||ISO 200||ISO 400|
|ISO 800||ISO 1,600||ISO 3,200|
|ISO 6,400||ISO 12,800||ISO 25,600|
Noise performance is very good at ISO 100 through 400, with only a tiny drop in detail as ISO rises. At ISO 800, we start to see stronger luma noise, though it's very fine-grained and leaves most detail intact, while chroma noise is well-controlled. ISO 1,600 is similar, with just slightly higher luma noise and stronger noise reduction, but fine detail is still quite good. At ISO 3,200, luma noise is coarser, but chroma noise is still well under control, and detail is pretty good. Image quality drops of rapidly from here, though. ISO 6,400 shows a larger drop in quality with much stronger blurring and some chroma blotching in the shadows, but it's actually not bad for such a high ISO. ISO 12,800 is quite noisy with a peppered effect, leaving little fine detail. Chroma noise is also stronger, as you'd expect. ISO 25,600 shows a lot of luma noise for a stronger peppered effect, as well as cloudy chroma noise in the form of purple and green blotches, and there's a noticeable green cast as well. Still, amazing high ISO performance for a camera its size.
Of course, the impact of noise and detail loss are highly dependent on the size the photos are printed at, and pixel-peeping on-screen has surprisingly little relationship to how the images look when printed: See the Print Quality section below for recommended maximum print sizes at each ISO.
To insure that the hair detail we use for making critical judgements about camera noise processing and detail rendering is in sharp focus at the relatively wide aperture we're shooting at, the focus target at the center of the scene is on a movable stand. This lets us compensate for front- or back-focus by different camera bodies, even those that lack micro-focus adjustments. This does mean, though, that the focus target itself may appear soft or slightly out of focus for bodies that front- or back-focused with the reference lens. We know this; if you click to view the full-size image for one of these shots and notice that the focus target is fuzzy, you don't need to email and tell us. :-) The focus target position will have been adjusted to insure that the rest of the scene is focused properly.
Extremes: Sunlit, dynamic range, and low light tests
Very good resolution, but with high contrast and limited dynamic range. Excellent low-light performance, capable of capturing bright images in near darkness.
|-0.7 EV||-0.3 EV||0 EV|
As mentioned previously, the Ricoh GR struggled with the deliberately harsh lighting in the above test. Default contrast is quite high and dynamic range is limited in JPEGs, making it difficult to capture the tonal range of this scene. As you can see, the default exposure (0 EV) overexposed this shot. -0.3 EV is not bad, but there are still quite a few blown highlights in the mannequin's shirt and flowers. Overall, we think the -0.7 EV exposure did the best job here. (-0.5 EV would have probably been ideal, as the eyes are a bit dim at -0.7 EV.) At -0.7 EV, only a few highlights were blown, though shadows are quite dark. Very deep shadows are posterized, but otherwise have good detail and are fairly clean. Be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown above; it's better to shoot in the shade when possible.
Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here.)
Dynamic Range Analysis
A key parameter in a digital camera is its Dynamic Range, the range of brightness that can be faithfully recorded. At the upper end of the tonal scale, dynamic range is dictated by the point at which the RGB data "saturates" at values of 255, 255, 255. At the lower end of the tonal scale, dynamic range is determined by the point at which there ceases to be any useful difference between adjacent tonal steps. Note the use of the qualifier "useful" in there: While it's tempting to evaluate dynamic range as the maximum number of tonal steps that can be discerned at all, that measure of dynamic range has very little relevance to real-world photography. What we care about as photographers is how much detail we can pull out of the shadows before image noise becomes too objectionable. This, of course, is a very subjective matter, and will vary with the application and even the subject matter in question. (Noise will be much more visible in subjects with large areas of flat tints and subtle shading than it would in subjects with strong, highly contrasting surface texture.)
What makes most sense then, is to specify useful dynamic range in terms of the point at which image noise reaches some agreed-upon threshold. To this end, Imatest computes a number of different dynamic range measurements, based on a variety of image noise thresholds. The noise thresholds are specified in terms of f-stops of equivalent luminance variation in the final image file, and dynamic range is computed for noise thresholds of 1.0 (low image quality), 0.5 (medium image quality), 0.25 (medium-high image quality) and 0.1 (high image quality). For most photographers and most applications, the noise thresholds of 0.5 and 0.25 f-stops are probably the most relevant to the production of acceptable-quality finished images, but many noise-sensitive shooters will insist on the 0.1 f-stop limit for their most critical work.
JPEG. The graph at right (click for a larger version) was generated using Imatest's dynamic range analysis for an in-camera Ricoh GR JPEG file with a nominally-exposed density step target (Stouffer 4110). At the base ISO of 100 (the optimal ISO), with the default Contrast setting, the graph shows 10.6 f-stops of total dynamic range, with 7.19 f-stops at the "High" Quality level. The curve at highlight end rolls-off gradually, however the shadow end is disjointed and quite steep, which can lead to some posterization in very deep shadows (as we noted in our "Sunlit" Portrait analysis). The GR's score at the highest quality level is well below average for an APS-C camera. For example, the very similar Nikon Coolpix A scored 9.61 f-stops, though total dynamic range was similar at 10.9 f-stops. Note though that this measurement has a margin of error of about 1/3 f-stop, so differences of less than 0.33 can be ignored.
RAW. The graph at right is from the same Stouffer 4110 stepchart image captured as a raw (.DNG) file, processed with Adobe Camera Raw using the Auto setting and tweaking from there. As can be seen, the score at the highest quality level increased dramatically from a mediocre 7.19 f-stops to a stellar 10.5 f-stops, an improvement of almost 3-1/3 f-stops. Total dynamic range also increased substantially from 10.6 to 13.1 f-stops. These results are pretty much in line with what we saw from the Nikon Coolpix A's RAW files, and among the best results we've seen from an APS-C sensor. It's worth noting here is that ACR's default noise reduction settings reduced overall noise somewhat (see the plot in the lower left-hand corner) relative to the levels in the in-camera JPEG, which would tend to boost the dynamic range numbers for the higher quality thresholds.
Just as with its saturation adjustment, the Ricoh GR's contrast setting offers nine levels. Unfortunately, the GR's contrast adjustment does impact saturation to some degree, leaving lower settings with a somewhat washed-out colors.
|Contrast Adjustment Examples|
The series of shots above shows results with several different contrast adjustment settings, showing the default, as well as both extremes. While you can see the extremes, it's hard to really evaluate contrast on small thumbnails like these, click on any thumbnail to go to the full-size image.
Dynamic Range Correction
The Ricoh GR's Dynamic Range Correction feature attempts to preserve detail in both highlights and shadows in high-contrast situations. The series of shots below show the effect of the various Dynamic Range Correction settings available on the Ricoh GR on our high-contrast "Sunlit" Portrait scene. Note that it affects only JPEG images though; Ricoh very properly doesn't apply tonal adjustments like this to RAW file data.
Dynamic Range Correction
Mouse over the links to see how the various levels of Dynamic Range Correction affects our "Sunlit" Portrait shot at -0.3 EV exposure. Click on a link to get to the full-res image. Note that minimum ISO is 200 (with 1 EV ISO step setting) when using DRC, part of how it works.
As you can see from the thumbnails and histograms, the Weak setting boosted shadows and midtones, but didn't reduce the number of clipped highlights. The Medium and Strong settings however did a pretty good job, preserving highlights while simultaneously boosting shadows compared to the Off setting, while the Auto setting worked mainly on reducing highlights. Because of the boost in ISO, noise is more visible in the shadows, but remains low enough not to be much of a concern.
|Full Auto mode
Here, we can see the effect of the GR's full Auto mode which Ricoh says can recognise faces. Auto reduced contrast and selected f/4, ISO 320 and 1/200s versus our standard Aperture-priority shot at f/8, ISO 100 and 1/20s, though it still overexposed the image somewhat.
Low Light. The Ricoh GR performed well in low lighting, capturing bright exposures at our lowest light level at all ISOs. Noise is well-controlled up to ISO 3,200 though ISO 6,400 is pretty good, too. We did however spot a few bright or hot pixels here and there at various ISOs, which we saw hints of in some other lab shots as well.
White balance was fairly neutral using the Auto setting, just slightly cool at most ISOs, though darker tones took on a greenish tint at lower light levels and higher ISOs. We did not detect any significant banding (pattern noise) or heat blooming issues.
The camera's AF system was able to autofocus (albeit slowly) on our subject down to almost the 1/16 foot-candle light level unassisted, which is excellent for a camera using contrast-detect AF (thanks in part to its relatively fast f/2.8 lens), and was able to focus in total darkness with the aid of its focus assist lamp.
How bright is this? The one foot-candle light level that this test begins at roughly corresponds to the brightness of typical city street-lighting at night. Cameras performing well at that level should be able to snap good-looking photos of street-lit scenes.
NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) Thanks to their phase-detect AF systems, digital SLRs tend to do much better than point & shoots, but you still shouldn't expect a quick autofocus lock with moving subjects. The Ricoh GR uses contrast-detect autofocus, as is found in most point & shoot cameras, so its low-light focusing ability is less than that of most SLRs with phase-detect systems. That said, though, the larger, more sensitive pixels of the GR's sensor do better under dim lighting than do the tiny pixels of most point & shoots, (A useful trick is to just prop the camera on a convenient surface, and use its self-timer to release the shutter. This avoids any jiggling from your finger pressing the shutter button, and can work quite well when you don't have a tripod handy.)
Very good 24 x 36 inch prints at ISO 100/200; ISO 1600 capable of a good 13 x 19; ISO 12,800 prints a nice 4 x 6.
ISO 100/200 images are excellent at 24 x 36 inches, with good color rendition and rich detail. The only exception is a general loss of contrast in our rather tricky target red swatch. Wall display prints look great all the way up to 30 x 40 inches.
ISO 400 prints look quite good at 20 x 30 inches, crisp and clean, with wall display prints possible up to 24 x 36 inches.
ISO 800 yields a nice 16 x 20 inch print. All detail is lost in our target red swatch but the print is otherwise very good, even in shadowy areas prone to noise as ISO rises.
ISO 1,600 is capable of a good 13 x 19 inch print. There is minor noise apparent in some shadowy areas, but a good print overall for this ISO.
ISO 3,200 prints are good at 8 x 10 inches. 11 x 14s here are OK for less critical applications but have some blotchy areas from noise reduction in some spots.
ISO 6,400 produces a nice 5 x 7. The 8 x 10s here are just a bit on the noisy side to merit our "good" ranking.
ISO 12,800 prints a reasonable 4 x 6. Colors are a bit on the muted side, but still a good performance for such a high ISO.
ISO 25,600 does not print a usable 4 x 6 and is best avoided.
The Ricoh GR lives up to its APS-C sensor in the print quality department, producing very nice prints at large sizes up to ISO 1600, and right on par with its rival the Nikon Coolpix A. From ISO 3200 and higher the stakes change a little, with the GR losing one print size at each successive ISO as compared to the Coolpix A. But given that it is priced a good bit lower, and still matches step with the Coolpix A up to ISO 1600, it certainly makes for a compelling battle between these two stellar competitors in the "small-body-big-sensor" game.
Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell just so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we now routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon Pro9000 Mark II studio printer, and on the Canon Pixma MP610 here in the office. (See the Canon Pixma Pro9000 Mark II review for details on that model.)
The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Ricoh GR Photo Gallery.
Recommended Software: Rescue your Photos!
Just as important as an extra memory card is a tool to rescue your images when one of your cards fails at some point in the future. We get a lot of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. Memory card corruption can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. A lot of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digital camera reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...
Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Ricoh GR with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!
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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.