Ricoh GR III Review
|Full model name:||Ricoh GR III|
(23.5mm x 15.6mm)
|Viewfinder:||No / LCD|
|Native ISO:||100 - 102,400|
|Extended ISO:||100 - 102,400|
|Shutter:||1/4000 - 1200 sec|
4.3 x 2.4 x 1.3 in.
(109 x 62 x 33 mm)
|Full specs:||Ricoh GR III specifications|
Ricoh GR III Review -- Now Shooting!
by Mike Tomkins
Preview posted: 09/25/2018
It's been almost four years now since the cult-favorite Ricoh GR compact camera series received a new model. In the spring of 2019, though, the company has some news which is going to delight Ricoh GR fans and Pentaxians alike. The Ricoh GR III is finally here, sporting an overhauled imaging pipeline, plus more than a few goodies inherited from the Pentax brand.
A new, more compact body that still looks very familiar
Available from March 2019 at a list price of US$900 or thereabouts, the 24-megapixel, APS-C sensor-based GR III is noticeably more compact than its predecessor, being about a third of an inch less wide, but around the same height and depth. It is, however, just fractionally heavier at 9.1 ounces, loaded and ready to shoot.
A better-performing 28mm f/2.8 prime lens than before
The lens is still a 28mm-equivalent prime with a bright f/2.8 maximum aperture, but it's a new optical formula with one less element / group than before, which is said to offer improved image quality. Specifically, Ricoh is promising "the clearest, sharpest images in GR-series history" -- big words indeed! A built-in 2EV ND filter is included, and there's also a nine-bladed aperture diaphragm.
It also focuses a bit closer than did the lens of its predecessor, regardless of whether or not macro mode is active. Even with macro mode disabled, you can focus to 3.9 inches (10cm) from the front of the lens, matching the GR II's Macro mode. Enable macro on the GR III, though, and that minimum focusing distance falls even further to just 2.4 inches (6cm).
A much higher-res APS-C sensor and a wider sensitivity range, too
The lens sits in front of a brand-new APS-C sized image sensor which provides a significant step upwards in resolution, and its output is fed to a new-generation GR Engine 6 image processor. The new sensor has an effective pixel count of 24.24 megapixels, up from 16.2 megapixels in the GR II. It also introduces an unspecified number of on-chip phase-detection autofocus pixels. Base sensitivity is ISO 100 equivalent, and the maximum is ISO 102,400-equivalent (just as we predicted when we posted this preview almost six months past), a healthy step up from the ISO 25,600 limit of the GR II.
Does that sound familiar, perchance? It did to us: The Pentax K-70 DSLR has the same sensor size and resolution, and it also has an unspecified number of on-chip phase-detect pixels. We wouldn't be surprised in the least if the GR III is using the same sensor as the K-70, or a closely-related design.
Three-axis, four-stop shake reduction and no low-pass filter
And nor are those the only similarities to the K-70. The Ricoh GR III also sports an in-body three-axis Shake Reduction system with a four-stop corrective strength. And it uses the same sensor shift assembly not just for SR, but also for an AA Filter Simulator function. This can be used to reduce the risk of moiré and false color effects by moving the sensor just fractionally during exposure, simulating the effect of a physical optical low-pass filter. (And its inclusion suggests that, also like the K-70, the GR III lacks an OLPF in front of its sensor.)
Piezoelectric dust removal
One way in which the GR III bests the K-70 is in the dust reduction department, however. Where the Pentax DSLR has to rely on using its sensor-shift mechanism to try and shake dust off the sensor, the Ricoh GR III instead uses a piezoelectric element to provide ultrasonic vibration that, in our experience, typically does a much better job of getting rid of dust. (And that's good news, because one of the few complaints we heard leveled at the previous GR II by its users was that of dust on the sensor.)
A better rear-panel LCD monitor
On its rear deck, the Ricoh GR III sports a newly-upgraded LCD monitor. It still has a 3.0-inch diagonal, but now has a wider 3:2 aspect ratio and a capacitive touch-screen overlay on the tempered cover glass which allows it to double as an input device. The total dot count has fallen a little to 1,037k-dots from 1,230 k-dots for the GR II, but since the screen's aspect ratio now matches that of the sensor, the remaining dots can be more fully-used in full-screen viewing.
Slightly better video and loads of built-in storage, but no 4K capture
Ricoh has also boosted the GR III's video-capture capabilities a little, adding a 60 frames-per-second capture rate in Full HD, although there's still no 4K capture capability here. The company has also upgraded the paltry 54MB of internal memory provided in the GR II to a rather roomier two gigabytes, which could be enough to save the day (especially if you're a JPEG shooter) when you run out of card space or leave the card at home. There's also a new highlight-weighted metering option, and a wider exposure compensation range of +/-5 EV.
The Ricoh GR III has only the typical PASM exposure modes found on most cameras, and forgoes the more Pentax-specific modes like TAv, which allows you to dial in both shutter speed and aperture, then have the camera balance the exposure using the sensitivity. But in other respects, the GR III looks to have inherited a lot more Pentax DNA than its predecessor.
More Pentax DNA has made it into the GR III
For one thing, you can now select from an array of familiar image controls found on Pentax cameras. You'll also find highlight and shadow correction functions which, like their Pentax equivalents, help you avoid blown highlights and blocked-up shadows. The noise reduction options and new, brightness-boosting outdoor view function for the LCD are also features we've seen in recent Pentax cameras.
Uprated wired and wireless connectivity
One thing we definitely haven't seen before is the Ricoh GR III's wired connectivity setup. the GR III replaces its predecessor's separate USB and HDMI connectors with a single USB-C port. This not only provides for data connectivity, but can also drive an external display via a DisplayPort video connection which can, with third-party products, be adapted to HDMI. A P-TTL compatible hot shoe is still present, which is even more important since a built-in flash is no longer provided.
Wi-Fi functionality is unchanged (802.11b/g/n only), but it's now supplemented with an always-on Bluetooth 4.2 Low Energy radio that can be used to quickly and easily bring up a faster Wi-Fi connection as needed, but which can sip power only very slowly the rest of the time. Sadly, in adding Bluetooth, Ricoh also decided to remove the NFC tag which made for quick-and-easy pairing with Android devices.
An unfortunately-steep reduction in battery life
One last change of note is a switch from DB-65 battery packs in the previous model to a new DB-110 lithium-ion rechargeable in the new one. Battery life is rated at around 200 shots on a charge, a huge reduction from the 320-shot battery life of the GR II. Playback time has fallen too, but only by around 10 minutes to a claimed life of 180 minutes on a charge.
Ricoh GR III pricing and availability
Available from March 2019, the Ricoh GR III is priced at around US$900. A GW-4 Wide Conversion Lens accessory will expand the field of view to a 21mm-equivalent wide-angle for around US$250, and this accessory is compatible with the camera's Shake Reduction system.