Steve's Conclusion

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Steve's SnapShot
    Thumbnail image for rioch_GR_digital_IV.jpg
  • 10-megapixel,1/1.7-inch CCD 
  • Fixed 28mm equivalent lens
  • f/1.9 - f/9 max aperture range
  • Hybrid Auto Focus System
  • 3.0-inch 1.2-Million dot LCD screen
  • AF Continuous Shooting
  • Snap Auto Focus
  • Blur Correction
  • Movies at 640x480 or 320x240 with audio, with a frame rate of 30fps or 15fps
  • RAW or JPEG still image capture modes 
  • Dynamic Range Bracketing
  • Powerful Li-ion battery pack
  • SD/SDHC/SDXC/MMC memory card slot
  • HDMI output
 
Pros
  • Solid metal Build
  • Overall outstanding image quality
  • Awesome f/1.9 - f/9, fixed lens
  • Blazing Auto Focus
  • A slew of bracketing modes
  • Full manual for outstanding control from a compact camera
  • Capable Auto mode
  • Top-notch 3.0-inch LCD screen
  • Plenty of available optional accessories
  • Outstanding high ISO performance for a camera of this size (up to ISO 1600)
  • In-Camera Dynamic Range Features
  • Excellent overall camera performance
  • Excellent Battery Life, Over 300 shots per charge
Cons
  • Fixed Lens lacks framing versatility
  • Weaker flash
  • $600 price tag is not appealing to many
Timing Test Results
  • Power up to first image captured = 2.3 seconds
  • Shutter lag when prefocused  = less than 1/10 of a second
  • Shutter lag with autofocus = approx. 1/10 - 3/10 of a second
  • Shot to shot delay wo/flash = 0.92 seconds
  • Shot to shot delay w/flash = 2.22 seconds
  • Normal burst =  1.85fps
  • GUI navigation = responsive
  • RAW shooting does slow the camera in all modes as it takes the camera longer to save each image
  • All tests were taken using a SanDisk 4GB SDHC card, Program mode, Flash off and all other settings at the factory defaults unless noted otherwise.
Bottom Line
Designed for a specific audience, the Ricoh GR Digital IV is a powerful compact digicam with excellent image quality and performance. 
Pick This Up If...
You are looking for a camera with this specific feature set. A wide lens, low-light performance and macro capabilities are what this camera really brings to the table.
Major improvements have been made while updating the GR Digital III to the GR Digital IV. A new in-house developed external AF sensor is used in combination with the camera's internal contrast detection AF  to focus twice as fast as the previous model. An updated 3.0-inch LCD screen, AF Continuous shooting, extended ISO range, enhanced auto bracketing features and several new and improved scene modes and settings, top off a huge list of other things that Ricoh has added/improved on an already great camera. With these new features added to the already powerful and useful features of the previous model, including its ability to focus as close as 1cm, a f/1.9 max. aperture lens and complete control over the camera; Ricoh's GR line just became far more powerful than ever before.

Physically the camera has not changed much. Ricoh kept the same shape and solid build that is very comfortable to handle and operate. Controls on the IV haven't changed either, but there have been numerous additions to the menu system, making it a little overwhelming if you are not used to the advanced menus of a dSLR. The compact body is easy to carry, as are the optional accessories that can be added instead of being built in. It still accepts the same additional options like the optical viewfinders and 22mm conversion lens, making it an easy upgrade if you already have an investment in the GR system. The one big new feature that Ricoh added to the body is the new LCD screen. With higher resolution (1.2-Million dots) and increased brightness, it offers an even more pleasurable experience; even outside in the sunlight.

Bracketing is a huge feature on this camera, allowing the photographer to get several variations of an image quickly. With just one push of a button, you can choose between AE Bracketing (multiple modes), WB Bracketing, Dynamic Range Bracketing, Contrast Bracketing, or Image Style Bracketing. Most of these settings also have controllable settings, so you know exactly what to expect when you use these wonderful features.

Looking at our outdoor sample images, you can see crisp, clear images with great exposures throughout our samples. Even in our difficult museum shot, made even more difficult with the snowy conditions, the camera handled exposure with ease. It was able to avoid overexposure of the sky, prevent aberrations in the high contrast areas, and still retain details in the shadows. The other images show its ability on bright days to reproduce bright, vivid colors while handling the shadows as well. It is very easy to see how the lack of a zoom lens can cut into the versatility of the camera, when comparing our sample images to the samples from other cameras. It is not always possible to get close enough to properly frame images the way you want, but this is a fantastic piece of glass for vast landscapes and macro photography. 

Indoors we saw very similar results to the outdoor images. A crisp, well exposed image with very accurate colors were seen throughout. The camera does rely on its low-light abilities a little too much, as in auto mode, it shot at ISO 400 without the flash; instead of lowering the ISO and firing the flash to help keep image noise to a minimum. We also see a slightly different color tone to this image compared to our other photos, which were also taken with auto white balance. At ISO 400, you can start to see image noise and disappearance of some of the fine details within the image. Smaller prints can be made from images with ISO settings up to 1600. The new ISO 3200 setting is not worth even looking at. Assisting with your low-light images is small pop-up flash unit. With a range of approx. 10ft. at ISO auto, this unit isn't very helpful unless you are capturing images from a very short distance.  On the other hand, the hot shoe and optional external flash units give you possibility of a huge flash range.

One of our favorite shooting modes with any Ricoh camera is macro mode, and the GR Digital IV is no exception. Our sample image shows the camera's ability to capture up close. Taken within 2cm of the subject, our sample image is incredibly sharp, and the camera focuses unbelievably fast in macro mode. In fact, Ricoh claims that the IV focuses almost as fast in macro mode as the GR III did normally.  The exposure and amount of detail that the camera is able to capture is amazing, making this a perfect camera to keep on hand if you are into macro or floral photography.

Portraits with the GR Digital IV also turned out great, producing excellent skin tones and no redness in the eyes. Although the camera doesn't have face detection, recognition or even a portrait mode, it handles these situations well.  Manual focus or manually setting the focus points, along with subject tracking allow you keep up with and capture your favorite subjects.

Movie mode on the GR Digital IV has been kept as a secondary feature, as it is probably one of the only cameras currently on the market without a HD video capture mode. Its components are all capable, but Ricoh has decided to keep the maximum resolution at 640x840. While the videos capture and play incredibly smooth, they will always look small or stretched and pixelated when viewed full screen on a wide LCD monitor or a HDTV; depending on the aspect the videos are viewed in or course. Also the internal mic is very sensitive and will pick up any sounds that are around the camera, including background noises that you might not even notice at the time of shooting. 

Powering the GR Digital IV is a powerful 3.6V, 1250mAh rechargeable Li-Ion battery. During our tests, we were able to capture over 200 images and several short videos on a single charge without the worry of the battery dying. With cameras consuming more power lately, this is a breath of fresh air. While most camera's are lucky to capture 200 images on a charge, this camera will just keep on shooting. Also included with the camera is a portable, compact quick charging unit that allows you to keep your battery and a spare charged and on hand at all times. Ricoh has also given the camera the ability to operate with two AA-style batteries, in case your Li-ion battery pack should run out at a bad time. Only a few images (30) can be captured on two standard alkaline cells, but they can be purchased anywhere and are cheap insurance if you are in a bind. 

Bottom Line - Ricoh's new GR Digital IV is a powerful update to their GR line. With great improvements to the Autofocus system alone, this powerful camera is great for anyone that travels and loves macro photography. Its fixed 28mm wide lens lacks the versatility for most people, especially if it is your only camera. This is best as a compact secondary camera, and supplies the image quality that will satisfy the most serious photographers. With a MSRP of approx. US $600.00, this camera is very expensive and not meant for the majority of consumers. If the price tag doesn't scare you off instantly, you are getting a reasonable amount of quality and control for a camera of this size. However, if it was our money, we'd be looking at some of the EVIL cameras offered from Olympus, Panasonic, and Sony.


Visitors of Steves can visit the stores below for real-time pricing and availability. You can also find hot, soon to expire online offers on a variety of cameras and accessories at our very own Camera Deals page.

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