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One of the first questions I posed in these forums is what people were hoping to see in a replacement for the GR Digital III (GRD 3). I asked this, not because it was a camera in need of improvements, but rather because it was a camera which seemed to be the perfection of it's kind. As Wouter Brandsma put it, "At the state of current small sensor cameras I consider the GRD3 to be at the pinnacle. The lens can hardly be better, the UI and customization leaves probably no real room for improvement" (source). Given that there didn't seem much to improve upon, some speculated that there would not be a replacement GRD but that instead we would see a small sensor 28mm equivalent module for the GXR that would take the place of the GRD in Ricoh's lineup.
To me, the little GR Digital (GRD) is the perfect embodiment of the "serious compact". If there was one camera line that led me to create this site, this is it. When one uses any GRD, it is obvious that it is a camera designed for serious work. As a camera reviewer, each time I use the GRD 3, I wonder why other companies don't implement the same controls that are so successful on this camera. The lens is extraordinary, and the sensor continues to compare well with the best in class. It is no exaggeration to say that the GRD is the measuring stick I have in mind each time I review a compact.
I was pleased to see today's announcement of the Ricoh GR Digital IV (GRD 4), because I don't think that a GXR can replace the GRD. For one thing, the GXR is both taller and thicker than the GRD. A GRD is pocketable in any pants pocket, and neither the feel nor the heft can be improved upon in my opinion. The second issue is that the GRD is singular in purpose. I realize that, from a functional standpoint, a GRD and fixed focal length unit is similar, but it's a different feeling to commit to a camera which can serve no other purpose than to shoot at a single focal length.
So how does the GRD 4 improve upon it's predecessor?
- Sensor-based image stabilization
- "Hybrid AF" system with claimed 2x improvement in autofocus speed
- 3-inch high brightness White Magic rear LCD
- Refined optical filter and improved image processing (GR ENGINE IV)
- Electronic level now detects tilt in addition to horizontal level
- Flexible multiple exposure shooting (up to five overlapping shots)
- Availability of limited-edition white color version
I can only think of two ways that the current GRD could have offered more: 1) A significant improvement in sensor technology, eg redesigned microlenses for better handling of off-axis light, allowing the use of a larger sensor. 2) Use of software-corrected lens design to offer an even faster lens, eg f/1.4. I would not want either of these changes unless they could be implemented without any change to the overall size and operability, so the fact that the latest GRD offers the same excellent sensor and lens as its predecessor suits me fine.
The GRD IV is available for pre-order from B&H. Direct links to pre-order:
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For more information about the GRD IV, see the full coverage at the excellent 1001 Noisy Cameras.