The Ricoh GR Digital IV's new autofocus system really does improve the camera's responsiveness. Focusing is swift, only hunting for a lock-on in the typically testing conditions of low contrast subjects in weak light. Even in macro mode it proved generally assured and reliable.
The GRD IV can also be set to focus continually, without the shutter release being pressed, thereby potentially reducing reaction time when you need to grab a shot. We used this feature fairly frequently during the test, although it does reduce battery life.
Ricoh's Snap Focus feature continues to perform well, too. By fully pressing the shutter release button, the camera takes a picture with the lens focused at a predetermined distance, even if autofocus hasn't been achieved.
This is one of the features that makes the Ricoh GR Digital IV a good choice for street photography. By setting the Snap distance to 1 or 2 metres, and positioning yourself within the focus zone, you can take pictures without being concerned by lag time as the camera tries to catch up.
One of the benefits of the small sensor is that it gives plenty of depth, too, so even if you're a little out with the focus sweet spot, the image will still contain enough apparent sharpness to be useable.
The lens is capable of resolving a high level of detail across the frame - it's just a shame that detail is masked by clumps of colour noise and smearing at high ISOs.
Pictures taken at ISO 80 to 400 are pleasing, and it's not until ISO 800 that noise becomes obvious. We wouldn't push the camera to 1600 or 3200 unless there really was no other option.
As with seemingly most of the Ricoh GR Digital IV's functions, there are plenty of intricate automatic settings for controlling noise. There are four settings for noise reduction, and you can choose to have it only kick in above a certain ISO threshold.
Macro performance with the Ricoh GRD IV is excellent, with the camera able to focus as close as 1cm. Lighting becomes an issue at this distance, though, and careful choice of positioning is required to avoid the camera's shadow appearing in the frame.