As with the Nikon Coolpix A, when you first pick up the Ricoh GR you have to remind yourself that it has an APS-C format sensor like many DSLRs and compact system cameras. It is delightfully small and neat for a camera with such a large sensor, and is only a little bigger than the Ricoh GRD IV (aka GR Digital IV) which, like many compact cameras, has a 1/1.7-inch sensor.
The camera also has plenty to attract enthusiast photographers, including the usual array of advanced exposure modes such as shutter priority, aperture priority and manual, along with Aperture and Time priority as well Program. There isn't a host of scene modes.
Crucially for many serious photographers, the Ricoh GR enables you to record images in raw format as well as JPEG format, and its write times make shooting both formats simultaneously a practical solution.
There's a collection of Effects modes that can be applied to JPEG images to produce, for example, high-contrast black and white images straight from the camera, and helpfully these Effects can be used when shooting raw and JPEG files so you have one image with the effect and the raw file without.
Some may consider a fixed focal length lens limiting, but in some ways it is also liberating because instead of wasting time zooming in and out you walk towards and around the subject, discovering new angles and better shots. And with a battery life that extends beyond 500 captures (raw and JPEG) there's no reason to limit yourself.
A focal length equivalent to 28mm is great for street, documentary and landscape photography, which makes the GR an ideal 'walk-around' camera. It's also small enough to be slipped into a jacket pocket or handbag.
The large maximum aperture (f/2.8) ensures that there's plenty of control over depth of field, and shutter speeds can be kept high as light levels fall.
Ricoh has given the GR the features that a serious photographer wants without going over the top with extras, so the camera is quick and easy to use. The control arrangement doesn't take long to get used to and there's plenty of opportunity to customise the camera to your preferences.
The best part, however, is that the camera produces very high quality images that are full with sharp detail at the lower sensitivity settings and have manageable, fine-textured noise at the higher settings.
One of the few issues we have with the GR is the need to activate the Macro focusing facility on a regular basis. It would be nice if this could be done automatically.
The LCD screen provides a pretty clear view in many situations, but it would be nice to have a viewfinder in very bright light. Ricoh Pentax has addressed this by making an optical viewfinder available (GV-1) as an optional extra.
This slots into the hotshoe and will naturally suffer from some degree of parallax error because it can't see exactly the same view as the camera sensor. It retails for around £199/$219 and has bright lines indicating the 21mm frame (for when using the wide-angle adaptor) and the 28mm frame.
Although it has a wide viewing angle as it's a fixed screen, the Ricoh GR's LCD display can be hard to see when shooting at very high or low angles.
A touch-sensitive screen would make it quicker and easier to set the AF point.
Ricoh has created a superb pocketable alternative to a DSLR. It has all the control over exposure that you need and it is responsive, with fast write times.
The Ricoh GR produces very high quality images, that are generally well exposed, have natural colours and a very impressive level of detail. Noise is well controlled - especially in raw files, which at high sensitivity settings have a fine texture with no banding or clumping.
Ricoh isn't a widely recognised camera brand in the way that Nikon, Canon, Pentax and Olympus are, but its compact cameras have found favour with enthusiasts and professionals in the past. The new Ricoh GR is an excellent addition to the Ricoh Pentax camera lineup, and given its considerably lower price than the Nikon Coolpix A and Fuji X100S, we think it could be a hit - it deserves to be.