Ricoh GR vs. Nikon Coolpix A - quick impressions

Ray Sachs

Legend
Sep 21, 2010
Not too far from Philly
you should be able to figure it out...
And the way these choices' pop up lists function can't be changed. If you pull up the focus or metering sub-menu, once you make a selection, you either lock down your selection by hitting the OK button, or you leave it "active", so you can take a few shots and then change it again without having to call it up again. Which can be convenient. But whenever you leave one of these sub-menus open, ALL of the controls now control THAT function. With most such controls, hitting the OK button is a no brainer for me. But with the exposure comp adjustment it's not. I don't like to hit the OK button every time I change the exposure comp, but if I don't, suddenly I can't change anything else because other controls either now also control exposure comp or are disabled. Again, not a bad thing - this can be very flexible - but it can also cause confusion and inadvertent adjustments. At the very least, it's more to think about.
I just wanted to add that, despite my long ruminations on the ways in which the Ricoh is more complex (and they really DID help me clarify my thinking on these two cameras), the only place this really affects me a LOT in day to day shooting regards exposure compensation, which I tend to use quite a bit while street shooting. And the funny thing here, the irony really, is that the Nikon treats exposure compensation the way Ricoh DID treat the snap focus adjustment up to the GRD3, did NOT on the GRD4, and then after many users (me included) screamed about it, DO yet again on the GR. You press and hold one button while turning the primary adjustment dial to the setting you want, then when you release the button, the level is set. Ricoh users LOVED this method of changing snap distance quickly and howled when the GRD required button presses, followed by scrolling, followed by yet ANOTHER button press to lock in the setting (otherwise, it would stay active and take over the cameras other controls). Ricoh listened, restored the press/hold, adjust, release method on the GR and all is well. Which is how Nikon does exposure comp, ISO and a few other things in their interface, which is much criticized by a number of Ricoh folks.

Ricoh, OTOH, does exposure comp the way they did snap distance on the GRD4 and had the masses upset - you press the + and - rocker switch and its INSTANTLY armed and adjusting the value - this is great. BUT, then it stays active and takes over all other controls until you hit the OK button. Since I use this adjustment a LOT, I either have to get in the habit of pushing the OK button after each change (a small but real pain in the butt) or just leave it active but them remember its active and has taken over all of the camera's other controls, and remember to hit the OK button before I try to adjust something ELSE... In my past Ricohs, I got used to this, never really thought of it as a negative or a handicap, but I did trip on it from time to time. So I'm sure it won't be a make or break factor in deciding between these cameras. But it is something I've become aware I don't particularly like. The funny thing is, so many cameras do it in ways I like MORE. The Fuji cams and RX1, with their dedicated external exposure comp dials are best, followed by the OMD (and it looks like the new Pen model) which has dual adjustment dials, one of which is always fully armed for exposure comp). The old EP1, 2, and 3 essentially did the same thing, with two rotary controls, one of which could always be armed for exposure compensation. The Ricoh gives you instant access to this control, but it makes you think about it a little harder than these others. And the Nikon isn't quite as good either, requiring a button hold while you turn the wheel.

Don't mind me - I'm just thinking out loud about MY PERFECT CAMERA again. And, despite these two wonderful entries in the small 28mm compact segment, my perfect camera STILL doesn't exist! Curses, curses, curses...

-Ray
 
Nov 11, 2011
Milwaukee, WI USA
Luke
I hesitate to say that you're over thinking it Ray, but with how much processing you do and how flexible the files are, isn't exposure compensation a lot less important than it used to be? I know we need to try and still get it right in camera, but now that we can regularly pull details out of pitch back AND blown out skies maybe we needn't worry as much about how easy it is to adjust exposure compensation on the fly.

Or adjust shutter speed and aperture for the same effect.

I know what I'm saying is heretical. And I'm not trying to teach you to suck eggs. It's just that maybe you're so accustomed to working in a very specific way, that you hadn't thought about working in a different way.

Feel free to completely disregard this nonsense post.

Will there ever be a perfect camera?
 

Ray Sachs

Legend
Sep 21, 2010
Not too far from Philly
you should be able to figure it out...
No, you're absolutely right Luke, in general. In terms of exposure comp and other things too. For example, one of the GREAT features of the Ricohs, past and present, has been the ability to use the left and right motions on the ADJ lever to adjust ISO on the fly - fully armed and ready at all times, no need to press a button to either bring it up or secure the adjustment. On the GRD3, I used that thing ALL the time as light levels changed and I was trying to keep my aperture and shutter speed where they needed to be. With that small sensor, there were always compromises to be made between the variables. With the GXR-28, I used it a lot less, and with the GR, I haven't even enabled it, because the sensor's range is so good and the auto-ISO implementation is so good that I don't want to accidentally hit it and change the ISO off of auto! So this great feature isn't even a feature I'd use any longer because of the advance in sensor tech.

And exposure comp isn't as important as it used to be either, but I find its still the thing I'm adjusting most on the fly as I'm moving in and out of shadows and my angle to the sun is changing. When I'm in the shad and my subjects are in the shade but the whole background is bright sun, I still need to dial in some positive exposure comp. Or if I'm walking into the sun shooting subjects walking toward me with their faces shaded, the same applies. There are other situations where I used it a lot less than I used to, but its still my single most used adjustment. By a lot actually...

And, yes, of course I'm over thinking it. Its what I DO!

-Ray
 

Isoterica

Hall of Famer
Dec 6, 2011
I did have a similar issue a year + ago when getting the GRD IV and the X10. I liked them both, the GRD even just a little better but neither was quite right for what I wanted. So I got rid of both and regretted letting the GRD go. Now faced with having to choose again I've decided that if I have my DSLR to zoom, then a fixed wide angle should suit me just fine.

There is no perfect camera but Luke is right you really are overthinking it and I do understand where you are coming from, in a way anyway-- I don't have both cameras. Can't give you advice here other than choose what feels right for you and don't worry about the little things. Worse comes to worse if you become unhappy, sell it off and get the other. Even after buying it's not set in stone and you know that.

Truly though I don't think you can go wrong with either.
 

Ray Sachs

Legend
Sep 21, 2010
Not too far from Philly
you should be able to figure it out...
I always over think stuff I'm into. One of the reasons I get to play with so many cameras is because I think about them so much. I'm not really tortured about this decision. I'll make a decision and it will be fine. Neither is perfect, both are great, etc. If one really really GRABS me in the next couple of weeks, that'll be the one. If not, the Ricoh probably wins just because of price. But I'll always think about differences and how they affect the way people use the camera(s) in question...

I used to be pretty well paid for over thinking lots of things. Now I'm mostly just a pain in the ass with it. But its not like I can just turn it OFF! :cool:

-Ray
 

Isoterica

Hall of Famer
Dec 6, 2011
I used to be pretty well paid for over thinking lots of things. Now I'm mostly just a pain in the ass with it. But its not like I can just turn it OFF! :cool:

-Ray
Happy frittering, it's not a bad thing, worse to think about isn't there! :D Ooooh which oneeee..,.
 

Ray Sachs

Legend
Sep 21, 2010
Not too far from Philly
you should be able to figure it out...
Took both out for the sunrise this morning. Mostly pretty similar results. Somewhat different process in the field. In very subtle and sometimes difficult lighting, I had a much better idea of the shot I was getting with the Nikon - I don't think the screen is necessarily better than I thought it was, but I think it gets a more realistic depiction of the final image from the camera somehow. After working with the files, even with the right color profile on the Ricoh, I mostly agree with Ming Thein that the Nikon is still better for color most of the time and the Ricoh may have an advantage for B&W in terms of more subtle gradations. But given my own personal strengths and weaknesses, I can more easily get a B&W shot out of the Nikon that I like than a color shot out of the Ricoh. I just put up a set on Flickr with a bunch of back to back shots (plus some of the street shooting from last week). In some cases, I got color results I liked from the Ricoh, but the process was a lot more difficult for the color challenged shooter that I am than with the Nikon. In other cases, I never got the Ricoh files where I liked them. In a couple of cases, there are no comparable Ricoh shots, because I just couldn't even get close with them. This says a lot less about the quality of the cameras than the quality of the shooter/processor I think, and the taste (or lack thereof) of the same guy. The set, for those interested in some back to back sunrise shots, is here:

Ricoh / Nikon - a set on Flickr

For street shooting, I think the cameras are a wash for me, strengths and weaknesses pretty much equalling out. For scenic stuff, I seem more comfortable with the Nikon at this point.

-Ray
 

Isoterica

Hall of Famer
Dec 6, 2011
Nice images Ray. I can see why you are dancing between the two cameras. Some photos I like the ricoh better, some the nikon.
 

serhan

All-Pro
May 7, 2011
NYC
Very nice images. I saw some fog last 2 days here but I am usually driving, no time for photos. My choices:

First color image: bottom half Ricoh & top Nikon
Second color image: Nikon
Third color image: Ricoh
B&W: Ricoh. I see more contrast in Nikon shots.

Image selections are very close and you can be on the other side by preference. I don't know if anything will change with more harsher light. Tough choice...

 

ReD

Hall of Famer
Mar 27, 2013
My selection

1,4,5,7,9,11,15

I have no idea which camera yet

thanks for posting
 

Ray Sachs

Legend
Sep 21, 2010
Not too far from Philly
you should be able to figure it out...
Very nice images. I saw some fog last 2 days here but I am usually driving, no time for photos. My choices:

First color image: bottom half Ricoh & top Nikon
Second color image: Nikon
Third color image: Ricoh
B&W: Ricoh. I see more contrast in Nikon shots.

Image selections are very close and you can be on the other side by preference. I don't know if anything will change with more harsher light. Tough choice...
Hence the dilema! I've been working with more of the Ricoh stuff in color and I think I'm getting a handle on it. I'll add some to the set later on. There's an awful lot to like about the Ricoh. If I can come to terms with a couple of things. Have to just go shoot with it for a while, without constantly comparing them. I suspect it will be fine then...

-Ray
 

DHart

Regular
Feb 28, 2011
Arizona
What a thread! Ray, you've done a great service to many, I'm sure, with your drawn out user comparison.

It is surprising and unfortunate that neither of these offerings feature an exposure comp wheel.... they are so fast and easy to user and something that I do often like to nudge.

I've recently considered getting of these two cameras and I'm leaning ever so slightly Nikon for the color output, the manual focus adjusted by ring around the lens, and the 'I' menu super control panel feature. I also like quick access to auto exposure bracketing, which I think the Nikon offers.

But I've never held either in person.

One question, a significant one for me, does the Nikon offer Auto ISO adjustment when aperture and shutter are manually selected? That feature (or lack thereof) may well make the decision for me. I'm really hoping Nikon has it!

For my preference, these cameras would be even better with 32-35mm equivalent focal length lenses, but 28 isn't much to complain about. Ricoh understands this with the 35crop feature. Perhaps some day one of these iterations can be had with a 32 to 35mm equiv.
 

Ray Sachs

Legend
Sep 21, 2010
Not too far from Philly
you should be able to figure it out...
What a thread! Ray, you've done a great service to many, I'm sure, with your drawn out user comparison.

I've recently considered getting of these two cameras and I'm leaning ever so slightly Nikon for the color output, the manual focus adjusted by ring around the lens, and the 'I' menu super control panel feature. I also like quick access to auto exposure bracketing, which I think the Nikon offers.

But I've never held either in person.

One question, a significant one for me, does the Nikon offer Auto ISO adjustment when aperture and shutter are manually selected? That feature (or lack thereof) may well make the decision for me. I'm really hoping Nikon has it!

For my preference, these cameras would be even better with 32-35mm equivalent focal length lenses, but 28 isn't much to complain about. Ricoh understands this with the 35crop feature. Perhaps some day one of these iterations can be had with a 32 to 35mm equiv.
Hi, is that you Don? If so, good to see you over here. If not, welcome to whoever the new DHart is....

The short answer to your one question is YES, you can use auto ISO with manual aperture and shutter speed - in M mode on your mode dial. You can on the GR too - it has a special mode for it called TaV. But that's just part of the story.

The Ricoh's TaV mode automatically puts you into manual mode with auto ISO turned on. It also ignores/invalidates any of your auto-ISO settings that would have worked in other modes, such as maximum ISO or minimum shutter speed. Which makes a certain amount of sense because the ISO is the only free floating variable available to compensate for any strange combinations of aperture and shutter speed we might choose, so it'll just go straight up to the camera's max of ISO 25600 if it has to to avoid under-exposure. When it runs out of ISO, it just runs out of ISO and you underexpose - there's no automatic reduction in shutter speed or something to compensate. Also, it was designed to allow exposure compensation to still work as it would in any other mode, so you can dial in positive or negative exposure in this mode. This mode works exactly as designed. I personally would have liked some sort of imposable governor on it that wouldn't let it go beyond some high setting and if it hit that, it would start ramping down shutter speed to maintain a usable exposure, but it doesn't. I was relying on this mode for my sunny weather street shooting, with an aperture of f6.3 and shutter speed of 1/500. This was working well, with enough light to keep the camera down in the 100-400 range in the sun, but I turned the camera into a heavily shaded outdoor area for a few shots and was very surprised to see ISO values on those shots of up to 9000. My bad - the camera was just doing what it was supposed to do, but I'd have loved a user designated high setting with some sort of shutter speed adjustment to prevent situations like that. I could have lived with 1/350 or 1/400 for a few shots it if would have stopped the ISO at 6400.

The Nikon is different. Arguably, its equivalent of TaV mode is less well thought out (or even intentional), but the good news is the auto-ISO is configurable to an extent that its made this mode completely un-necessary for me. This is actually one of the primary factors that has tipped me over to decide to buy the Nikon rather than the Ricoh. First the strange part about how this mode works. The mode dial is set to M so you're in manual mode as you would be without auto-ISO. If auto ISO is turned on, it's working in M mode and it will adjust exposure. BUT, if you have a maximum ISO set in your auto-ISO settings, it will stop at that point. If your set-limit is 6400, it will go no higher than 6400. It won't compensate for needing more exposure by ramping back the shutter speed or aperture when you hit that max, though - the screen just starts going darker as you're underexposing the shot. So, there's nothing automatic other than ISO but your ISO limits will be respected, regardless of consequence. There's also a minimum shutter speed setting in the auto-ISO settings that that's totally over-ridden in manual mode by the shutter speed you select yourself, as it should be. The one part of this mode that I think was "unintentional" on the Nikon is the ability to use exposure compensation. The camera has a default exposure compensation button on the upper left side of the back. Its a dedicated exposure comp button and it can't be programmed to do anything else. It works by holding the button down and turning the adjustment dial to raise or lower exposure comp. But in manual mode, it merely switches the variable (aperture or shutter speed) that the main dial was set up to control. If its set to control aperture and you hold down the exposure comp button and turn the dial, it will adjust shutter speed instead. And vice versa. It does not dial in any exposure compensation. So one is to believe Nikon does not want you to be able to adjust exposure compensation in manual mode, which would put it at a distinct dis-advantage to the Ricoh in my mind.

BUT, here's where it gets interesting and a little strange. I don't like the location of the exposure comp button because that's a variable I work with a lot while I'm street shooting and moving in and out of shadows, shooting toward and away from the sun, etc. So I like one-handed operation of this key adjustment and with the default exposure comp button, it requires two hands. But the camera has an fn1 button on the front of the camera, to the right of the lens, that can easily be worked with your right ring finger or pinky. So I also assigned exposure compensation to that fn button so I can just hold that button down briefly with my ring finger while I turn the dial with my thumb and now exposure compensation is an instant, one-handed operation. But the weird part is that in M mode with auto-ISO turned on, THIS button still controls exposure compensation. Where the designated/default exposure compensation button does not do this (it merely changes which other variable the dial controls), this secondary programmable exposure compensation button allows you to dial in exposure compensation, effectively creating a TaV mode equivalent in this camera. This is a really good thing and something I thought was key to liking the camera at first.

But what I've also discovered is that I use the TaV mode on the Ricoh because I have to in order to get the shutter speed and aperture combinations I need for street shooting in bright light. This is because the highest minimum shutter speed you can set in the auto-ISO controls on the Ricoh is 1/250 of a second. When I'm street shooting, I mostly would rather have a higher shutter speed and would rather the camera allow for say 1/500 at ISO 400 rather than forcing the ISO all the way down to 200 before it would raise the shutter speed from the minimum of 1/250. So using auto-ISO in aperture priority mode does not work for me in bright light on the Ricoh because of this relatively low minimum shutter speed. So I have a couple of custom settings for street shooting, one for bright light, one for low light, and they use totally different modes and different logic. In low light I set it up in aperture priority with a max ISO of 6400 and the minimum shutter speed of 1/250. And when it hits 6400, it starts dropping the shutter speed below 1/250 as it needs to in order to maintain a reasonable exposure. This works in low light because you're never going to be able to use a shutter speed much above 1/250 anyway, so I let the camera do the thinking for me here. But in bright light, I want a higher shutter speed and there's plenty of light to allow that, so I have to set it manually and just keep an eye on where the ISO is going and manually adjust the shutter speed so the ISO doesn't go too high in low light or need something lower than the base ISO in bright light. This is basically just a mirror version of what I used to do with my GRD3 which didn't have the ISO latitude that this camera does, but instead of constantly monitoring where the camera was setting ISO and adjusting shutter speed accordingly, I'd have it in aperture priority and manually control the ISO to make sure I was getting the best tradeoffs between aperture and shutter speed. So shutter speed would float but I'd keep an eye on it and keep it in check by adjusting ISO. Ricoh makes this incredibly easy by allowing you to set up the ADJ lever to directly control ISO with a right or left flick of the lever - no button pushing to arm the adjustment - its always live. I'd actually rather monitor shutter speed and adjust ISO to keep it in a reasonable range than monitor ISO and adjust shutter speed to keep ISO in a reasonable range. But its really six of one, half a dozen of the other - either way you're flicking the AJD lever to the right or left to immediately control either shutter speed or ISO to keep the other variable in a range that makes sense to you.

Where the Nikon makes all of this monitoring and adjusting un-necessary for the way I shoot because of one simple difference - its auto-ISO setup allows you to set a minimum shutter speed of up to 1/1000 of a second, rather than the 1/250 on the Ricoh. With this setup, I can set auto ISO with a maximum of 6400 and a minimum shutter speed of 1/500 and the camera will do the rest of the thinking for me. If its bright enough to maintain 1/500 at my chosen aperture below 6400, it'll be well below 6400 most of the time in decent light outdoors. If the light gets low enough that it can't maintain a shutter speed of 1/500j even at 6400, it'll keep the ISO at 6400 (which I pretty much always find acceptable for street shooting with these cameras) and drop the shutter speed as needed. It employs the same logic I would if I was using manual mode with auto-ISO and just keeping an eye on ISO and adjusting shutter speed to make sure the ISO didn't go too high or low. It just saves me having to think about it. With this simple difference in the auto-ISO settings, the Nikon allows me to have two different custom setups in the two custom slots on the mode dial. In both I'm in aperture priority. On one of them set for street shooting, I just have the max ISO set for 6400 and the maximum shutter speed for 1/500 as described above, which works perfectly for my street work in good light or low light. My other custom setting is for more sedentary shooting where maintaining enough DOF and fast enough shutter speeds for street shooting is NOT the priority and I'll set a max ISO of 3200 and a minimum shutter speed of something like 1/60 or 1/80. And I'll manually adjust the aperture depending on whether I want more depth of field or less. But with a max ISO of 3200, this mode places more emphasis on image quality (because either of these cameras, like most modern sensor cameras, is really very very good up to 3200) than on stopping action and maintaining deep DOF. And then if I want to do something like slip into shutter priority mode to do some panning with a lower shutter speed, I just slip out of the two custom modes and set it up manually. But these two custom modes really account for the vast, overwhelming majority of my shooting.

So, the short answer is, YEAH, the Nikon allows auto ISO in manual mode and even allows use of the exposure compensation control IF you program the fn1 button to control exposure compensation. So it has the equivalent of the Ricoh TaV mode available if you want it. BUT, with a minimum shutter speed that can be set as high as 1/1000 in auto ISO, you might never NEED to use this manual mode with auto ISO. Obviously your shooting and your reason for wanting this particular mode might be completely different than mine and all of this discussion has been un-necessary for you. But it actually played a huge role in which camera I ended up choosing because of its functionality for the way I generally shoot. So I figured it was worth laying out there in case its relevant to anyone other than me...

-Ray
 

DHart

Regular
Feb 28, 2011
Arizona
Ray, yes, it's me... same Don from m4/3. Great to see you here... I've missed your contributions over there. To me you are THE street photographer extraordinaire. Your images of people on the street are head and shoulders above anything else I've seen. When you talk about cameras for street photography, I am ALL ears!

Thanks again for taking the time to so fully and clearly describe the features on these two cameras. I had pretty much decided on the Nikon after reading your earlier comparisons and it sounds like you've made the same conclusion.

Are you still shooting your E-M5 or E-PL5 on the street or do you find the Nikon A to be superior for that?

I have an E-P5 bundle with the 17/1.8 and VF4 on order at B&H and was planning to use it as a street cam. That was before finding this thread of yours! I still think the flip out LCD is a very significant feature for doing street shooting, in a somewhat less obvious manner, and do so wish that the Nikon A had a flip out screen. Between the E-P5 with 17/1.8 and the Nikon A, it would seem the former would be the better street camera... what are your thoughts on that? Smaller size and less obtrusive are advantages of the Nikon, however. But would it be more difficult to shoot the Nikon A from waist level?
 

Ray Sachs

Legend
Sep 21, 2010
Not too far from Philly
you should be able to figure it out...
Don, as I noted privately, it depends on how you like to frame. If you like to hold the camera up, you don't need the flip up screen. If you like to shoot from waist level and you want to more carefully compose your shots, its a wonderful aid. As I mentioned, when I was relatively new to shooting on the street, I used a flip up screen pretty much all the time. But over time, as I got more experience, I found I was framing on instinct more and more and using the screen less and less and was as please or more pleased with my results. All things being equal, I'd still love to have one, but all things are never equal. Between the size and silence of the Nikon / Ricoh and the incredible sensors in both (maybe the same one - at least very close), those are just sort of my ultimate street camera to date. Either one really, but I've settled on the Nikon partly for the reason explained above. The Ricoh's got a more convenient zone focussing system which I love, but I don't have any trouble dealing with the Nikon on that, so the Nikon works better for me. But the Ricoh is probably at least as good and maybe better for a lot of other people. There are only great choices available among those two. But if you want to shoot from the waist and don't have the instinct for blind framing yet, the Olympus is a great way to go. Particularly with one of the lenses with that manual focus clutch ring - I actually prefer that to Ricoh's snap focus system or to anything else. I'd personally do it more with the 12mm than the 17mm - I just prefer the greater width and greater DOF, but I shot some with the 17mm and its a good street lens too if you like the focal length.

Good luck, have fun, etc....

-Ray
 

Ray Sachs

Legend
Sep 21, 2010
Not too far from Philly
you should be able to figure it out...
Ray... many thanks. Much to consider. You give so generously with your thoughts and time.
You're welcome Don. Since these two cameras were/are so totally in my wheelhouse and so close to exactly what I've been waiting for, I delved into each/both much more deeply than I ordinarily would with a camera or two I'm checking out. These two were personal, so I put in a lot of time and energy and feel like I have a pretty good handle on both. And I'm happy to share what I've found with them. I'm glad a few people find it helpful.

-Ray
 

Paul Giguere

www.paulgiguere.com
May 4, 2011
Wayland, MA USA
So Ray, which camera did you eventually decide on (or are you still on the fence)? I got the Ricoh GR (mostly because I love Ricoh cameras in general and the GRD in particular). The Nikon looks nice as well but not $300 nicer than the Ricoh. Frankly, even if they were the same price, I would have still gotten the GR because it just works best for me and how I photograph.

Paul


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