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Ricoh's GR Digital. Courtesy of Ricoh, with modifications by Michael R. Tomkins. Ricoh announces GR Digital
(Tuesday, September 13, 2005 - 09:28 EDT)

A press release today from the Tokyo, Japan head office of consumer electronics and office automation company Ricoh Co. Ltd. announces the company's first GR-series digital camera.

Long anticipated by fans of the company's GR-series of film cameras, the GR Digital has been hyped by Ricoh for a couple of weeks now, with the company even creating a blog-style teaser for the product. Rumors flew fast and thick, with many predicting that the camera would be the first compact fixed-lens model to feature an APS-C sized sensor. Alas, the hype may backfire for Ricoh, because with the announcement now here, the Ricoh GR Digital looks to be a somewhat modified Ricoh Caplio GX8, with a new magnesium alloy chassis, revised control layout, and fixed focal-length lens.

Far from offering a large APS-C sensor, the GR Digital actually uses the exact same size 1/1.8"-type sensor as the GX8, with similar resolution. (It should be noted that it isn't an identical sensor - where the GX8, which shipped last May, offered 8.24 effective megapixels, the GR Digital will carry an 8.13 effective megapixel rating). Other similar features between the two cameras include the selection of available resolutions (although the GR does add a cropped 3:2 aspect ratio mode), the ISO sensitivity range of 64 - 1600, the selection of exposure and metering modes, the movie modes, and the choice of SD / MMC card storage coupled with 26MB of built-in memory, along with USB 2.0 and NTSC/PAL video connectivity.

So where do the cameras differ? Obviously there's the new body, which is rather more compact - the GR Digital is about six millimeters narrower, and four millimeters less thick than the GX8 was, as well as being some 60 grams lighter. The control layout has also been revised, most notably with the addition of a second control wheel on the camera's rear, allowing shutter speed and aperture to be quickly adjusted with separate wheels in manual mode (claimed to be the first such system in a compact digital camera). There's also what Ricoh says is a "newly developed high-perfomance lens" - although surprisingly where the Caplio GX8's 28 - 85mm-equivalent zoom lens managed a maximum aperture of f/2.5 at the wide position, the GR Digital's fixed focal-length 28mm-equivalent lens is neither wider, nor at f/2.4 is it much brighter. The lens is particularly unusual for the fact that it telescopes outward when the camera is turned on - something commonly seen on zoom lenses - even though it has a fixed focal length; apparently Ricoh decided that by using a telescoping design, it could shave a little off the thickness of the camera. It will be interesting to see how the quality of the lens in other areas, such as sharpness, abberations, etc. compares to the GX8's zoom lens.

Other differences in the GR Digital as compared to the GX8 include the removal of the optical viewfinder (a shoe-mounted external viewfinder is available as an optional extra), a larger and higher-resolution 2.5", 210k pixel LCD display, a much longer maximum exposure time of two minutes, a pop-up flash that is rated at 0.2 - 3 meters range, a nine-point autofocus system, and a new RAW file mode (as well as the ability to simultaneously record RAW and JPEG files). Interestingly, Ricoh has adopted Adobe's DNG RAW file format for use in the camera. The company also notes that the GR Digital uses its new "GR Engine" image processor, which is said to offer improved image quality. Finally (and presumably to help decrease the camera's size and weight), the GR Digital now accepts a DB-60 Lithium Ion rechargeable battery (included), or two AAA disposables - although with the latter being rated at a life of just 30 shots for alkalines, you wouldn't want to use them unless you were in a pinch.

One other note: we're not currently clear on the GR Digital's external flash connectivity. Ricoh's documents list a number of accessories, including the external shoe-mount optical viewfinder, a 21mm wide-angle conversion lens, lens hood, filters, external flash strobe, and cable release. However, there's no mention of whether the flash strobe mounts in the same shoe as the optical viewfinder (hence precluding the use of external flash and viewfinder at the same time), or whether the camera has a sync connector or other means of firing the flash.

The Ricoh Caplio GR Digital will go on sale in Japan from October 21st, and will be on sale by the end of October in Europe. Pricing hasn't been stated in Japan, but in the United Kingdom is being quoted as £399.99 - roughly equivalent to US$729 / CAD$861 / €594 / ¥81,000, ignoring exchange rate fluctuations, taxes and duties. The Japanese PC Watch website has posted a gallery including nine GR Digital sample photos, all of them shot at either ISO 64, or in Auto ISO mode (which has selected ISO 154 in each case). With noise clearly visible at ISO 154, it will be interesting to see how the camera fares at its ISO 1600 setting (!)

Ricoh GR Digital
Ricoh's GR Digital. Courtesy of Ricoh, with modifications by Michael R. Tomkins. Click for a bigger picture!
Camera Type Compact
Manufacturer Ricoh
Model Number GR
Dimensions 4.2 x 2.3 x 1.0"
107.0 x 58.0 x 25.0mm
Weight 200.0 g
7.0 oz
Planned Availability Jan 2005
Image Capture
Sensor Type 1/1.8" CCD
8.30 megapixels (total)
8.13 megapixels (effective)
Filter Type RGBG
Aspect Ratio 4:3, 3:2
Image Dimensions 3264 x 2448 (8.0 megapixels)
3264 x 2176 (7.1 megapixels)
2592 x 1944 (5.0 megapixels)
2048 x 1536 (3.1 megapixels)
1280 x 960 (1.2 megapixels)
640 x 480 (0.3 megapixels)
Capture Speed Continuous: 0.6 frames per second
Image Quality 3 levels
Image Preview / Review
Viewfinder Yes, Optional GV-1 external viewfinder
LCD 2.5", 210,000 pixels
100% field of view
Lens Type GR Lens
Body threads w/ adapter, thread size unknown
Image Stabilization No
Focal Length 5.9mm (actual)
28mm (35mm equivalent)
Aperture Range f/2.4 - f/11
Focusing System 9-point with AF assist lamp
Manual Focus possible (0) steps
Focusing Range Normal: 12" - infinity (30 cm - infinity)
Macro: 0.6" - infinity (1.5 cm - infinity)
ISO Sensitivity Auto, 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600* (JPEG mode only)
Shutter Speed 180 - 1/2000 second
Exposure Modes Aperture, Manual
Metering Modes 256-segment Multi, Center-weighted, Spot
Exposure Compensation +/- 2.0EV in 1/3EV increments
White Balance Image Sensor - Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Tungsten Light, Fluorescent Light, Manual, Advanced, Manual
Internal Flash Modes: Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced, Slow-Synchro, Off
Range: 0.2 - 3 meters
Digital Zoom 4.0x
Self Timer Yes, 2 or 10 seconds
Time Lapse Yes
Movie Format AVI (Open DML Motion JPEG) with audio
320x240 and 160x120
Max. frame-rate: 30 frames per second
Recording Medium SD/MMC, Built-in
File System Complies with Design Rule for Camera File System (DCF)
File Format CCD-RAW, RAW (DNG), TIFF (MMR format /, JPEG (EXIF 2.21)
Video Yes, NTSC / PAL switchable
Computer USB 2.0 High Speed
Other DC In
Battery Type Lithium Ion rechargeable or Alkaline disposable
Battery Form Factor Proprietary DB-60 or 2 x AAA
Product Bundle
Software GR Digital Software CD-ROM, Adobe PhotoShop Elements Tryout Version CD-ROM
Battery / Charger Proprietary DB-60 Lithium Ion rechargeable battery and charger
Flash Memory 26.0MB built-in memory
Digital Print Order Format (DPOF) compliant Yes
Internal Microphone Yes
Operating System Compatibility Windows, MacOS
More Photos
Ricoh's GR Digital. Courtesy of Ricoh, with modifications by Michael R. Tomkins. Click for a bigger picture!

Original Source Press Release:

Ricoh announces the GR Digital

Professional Grade High Resolution Compact Digital Camera

Tokyo, Japan - September 13 - Ricoh Co., Ltd. (president and CEO: Masamitsu Sakurai) announced today the October 21 launch of the GR Digital, a newly developed professional-grade high-resolution compact digital camera. In addition to a CCD with 8,130,000 effective pixels, the new digital camera boasts superb resolution through a newly developed high-performance lens, image-processing algorithms, and other innovations, as well as low noise and low chromatic aberration.

Product Name GR DIGITAL
Suggested Retail Price Open
Launch date October 21, 2005

Note: Supplied accessories include rechargeable battery, battery charger, AV cable, USB cable, CD-ROM (software), and strap.

The new GR Digital inherits the superb image quality that made the award winning GR Series (first launched in 1996) of 35mm compact film cameras so popular, as well as the depictive performance to satisfy professional photographers, distilled into a compact 25mm thin body. With a high-quality feel and superb expandability, this is the perfect tool for professional photographers and advanced amateurs.

When planning the GR Digital, Ricoh’s engineers began by identifying the elements that provide the high picture quality demanded by discerning photographers. After much study, Ricoh placed special emphasis on resolution, noise level, color aberration correction, color reproduction, tone, and distortion characteristics. In order to achieve extremely high levels in each of these areas, Ricoh gave the GR Digital a CCD with 8,130,000 effective pixels, and also developed two key components: (1) a F2.4 fixed focal length GR lens with f = 5.9 mm (28 mm converted to 35 mm format camera) having high resolution and depictive power; and (2) a new GR Engine image-processing system featuring natural composition and rich, fine gradations while further lowering noise in all images.

These key components in turn translate into a high Modulation Transfer Function (MTF) rating for the central area of the image as well as the edges. MTF is a measure of contrast and resolution, and one of the most widely used standards for evaluating image quality. The GR Digital has the descriptive power to show each hair on a person's head, with superb reproductive capability all the way into the corners of the picture. The GR Digital’s images also reduce noise, giving greater continuity in dark areas, reproduces natural tones and gradations, and reduces blurring and distortion.

Ten years have passed since Ricoh launched the Ricoh DC-1, the first Ricoh digital camera, in 1995. The Ricoh DC-1 was the world's first digital camera to support video. During that time Ricoh have remained at the forefront of digital camera technology. Ricoh’s leading edge technologies have seen many breakthroughs with such outstanding features as: 1cm macro, wide-angle high quality optical zoom lenses, ultra fast response times (start-up and shutter release lag) and unique linking of communications and GPS support functions.

Main Features of the GR Digital

  1. Newly Developed GR Lens Provides High Resolution and resolving power
    • A retro-focus lens using a concave lens toward the subject and a convex lens toward the CCD, widely used in wide-angle SLRs and the like, is used. In addition to this two glass-molded aspheric lenses and one special low dispersion lens are used. These are optimally laid out in a configuration that fully corrects and reduces distortion, frame aberration, color aberration, using fewer lens element. It also improves the light transmissivity of the lens, producing clear images.
    • A retracting lens system is employed, allowing part of the lens groupings (rear group) to be stowed inside the camera body. This shortens the distance between the second and third lenses when stowed. This not only helps to improve the image quality it also helps to reduce the camera size.
    • A dedicated system can adjust the optical axis of the outer lens group and CCD-side lens group at the micron level. This enables uniform image quality from edge to edge.
    • Equipped with a generous seven- blade aperture and neutral density (ND) filter.
    • These features enable high resolution, high image quality from edge to edge, low noise in dark areas, natural tone and gradations, and good background blurring upon aperture release. The ND filter uniformly absorbs each base color: R, G, and B, allowing larger apertures to be utilized.
    • Boasting 8,130,000 effective pixels, the camera delivers the high image quality that professionals demand.
  2. Image Processing via GR Engine Maximizes Lens Performance
    • Supplemental processing on adjacent pixels creates smooth, natural curves.
    • Noise is reduced even further by including top-of-the-line components with superb characteristics in the analog circuit. During long-term exposures, heat and light sources – which can cause noise – are kept down to a minimum, enabling long 3minute exposure times for great pictures of the night sky and similar subjects.
    • Through image-pattern analysis, variations in auto exposure (AE) and auto white balance (AWB) are suppressed. As a result, Whites look White and Blacks look Black.
    • Improved AF precision in macro mode.
    • Images are simultaneously stored in uncompressed RAW and JPEG formats.
  3. Thin, Compact Design
    • The thin, compact design – 107.0 x 25.0 x 58.0 mm (WxDxH) achieves both portability and ease of use as a photographic tool. Now you can enjoy the high-quality photography of the GR Digital any time, anywhere.
  4. Functionally Aesthetic Design Delivers High Quality and Easy Operability
    • The lens is placed near the center of the camera, in a design that provides the photographer maximum balance for greater stability.
    • The camera uses a magnesium-alloy case combining a stylish design with durability for maximum strength.
    • Offers the first twin dial in a compact digital camera. You adjust the aperture in the front, and the shutter in the back. This allows a high degree of operability and flexibility when shooting in manual mode.
    • The built-in strobe uses a pop-up system, preventing vignetting (gradual fading of the image at the edges)
  5. The Camera Itself is Simple, And Highly Expandable to Meet a Wide Range of Needs.
    • We (Ricoh) intentionally did not make an optical viewfinder standard, offering a high-performance externally attached optional viewfinder instead. It fits on a hot shoe almost directly above the lens to help achieve more accurate framing.
    • The wide converter optional lens features an ultra wide-angle 21 mm (when converted to 35 mm format camera).
    • An optional external strobe, cable release, hood and filters are also available.
  6. Short Photo Interval of 1.7 Seconds
    • Even with 8,130,000 effective pixels, the shooting interval is just 1.7 seconds. When shooting continuously, you can shoot at this interval until the memory is full.
  7. Built-in Large, High Resolution LCD with 100% View
    • The camera is equipped with a bright, high-definition, large 2.5-inch/210,000 pixel LCD. The field of view is 100%, enabling accurate framing.
  8. Images can be captured in various combinations of resolution and compression. RAW compression and RAW with JPEG can be selected for ultimate quality.
  9. An aspect ratio of 3:2 can be selected, the same aspect ratio as 35mm and most digital SLR’s that allows images to be printed in standard sizes without cropping.
  10. Manual, Program, Program shift AE and Aperture Priority modes allow for greater flexibility and freedom of expression.
  11. Three metering modes are available: 256 multipoint, spot metering and centre weighted average metering giving the photographer the freedom to compose shots as they please under various lighting conditions.
  12. A sophisticated 9-point AF system assures fast and accurate focus from just 30cm and 1.5cm in Macro.

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