Camera Review: Ricoh GR Digital IV

December 22, 2011

By Dan Havlik

One of the most fun compact cameras I’ve shot with in recent months is the 10-megapixel Ricoh GR Digital IV. Never heard of it? You’re probably not alone. You see, it follows in the footsteps of the GR Digital III, another compact that was released way back in 2009 but didn’t make much of a splash in the United States.

I’m told Ricoh’s cameras are much better known in Japan but here the company is mainly associated with photocopiers. That is slowly changing since Ricoh purchased Pentax last year and began making a bigger push into the U.S. Pentax and Ricoh shared space at the PhotoPlus Expo show in New York City last fall but, as of this writing, there was no word on what their next move would be together. I’m optimistic it will bring good things.

As I’ve said, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the GR IV, an efficient and unpretentious little camera that looks almost exactly like its predecessor but includes a bunch of tweaks under its hood that make it sing.

The GR IV has the same 10-megapixel sensor and non-zooming 28mm f/1.9 lens as the GR III, but adds a brand new “hybrid” autofocus system that positively cooks. Not sure if this is the same hybrid system used on the Nikon J1—reviewed last month—but its ability to switch from slower contrast detection autofocus to speedy phase detection, thanks to a dedicated external autofocus sensor, is a nifty trick I’d love to see turn up on more compact cameras. On the GR IV, I achieved autofocus lock in a split second and there was almost no lag between shots. (I shot with the GR IV in conjunction with the slower Nikon P7100—also reviewed this month—and the difference between the two was striking.)

The GR IV’s processor has a new algorithm to speed up autofocus when capturing close-up Macro shots. I really enjoyed pressing the one-touch Macro button on the GR IV and watching the AF snap to attention to focus on flowers, bees and the like. No, this is not the camera you’re necessarily going to reach for to do your professional work but it is a great supplementary snapshooter either for candids or street photography.

The all-black and comfy GR IV is slim enough to fit in your pocket and includes a crisp, 3-inch 1.23-million-dot VGA LCD that works great even in bright sunlight. There are also some useful outdoor features included in the GR IV’s bright and easy-to-read menus. My favorite while working with this camera on a sunny, high-contrast day was Dynamic Range Compensation, which opened up shadows and toned down highlights for a more even exposure.

In general, the camera’s 10-megapixel, 1/1.17-inch CCD sensor and f/2.8 lens produced images as sharp and full of detail as its better-known competitors from Canon, Nikon and others. In fact, the only drawback I could see to the GR IV, which might keep it from being my go-to pocket shooter, is the fixed focal length of its lens. Add a little zooming ability to this pocket rocket and Ricoh could eventually make a serious name for itself outside the world of photocopiers.

The Bottom Line

You may not associate the name Ricoh with quality cameras but the new 10-megapixel GR IV should change your mind. This camera is fast, fun and capable of taking glorious candid images on the fly. Can’t wait to see how the merger with Pentax will bear fruit.

Pros: A fun, fast, high-quality compact from a name you might not associate with the camera world.

Cons: No optical zoom.


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