Ricoh GR fixed lens compact camera sports large sensor

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The trend in cameras today is small, lightweight, and powerful, and that is the intent of the Ricoh GR, Pentax Ricoh's new compact, fixed-lens digital camera, targeted to photography enthusiasts. Chief among its attributes is a 16.2-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor paired with a f/2.8 maximum aperture lens and newly designed auto focus system. Together, these promise improved low-light performance, shallow depth of field, and wide dynamic range without sacrificing the advantages of a petite, lightweight shooter.

Tucked into a 4.6 by 2.4 by 1.4-inch magnesium alloy body, the camera weighs just 8.6 ounces loaded and ready and is specifically designed with control buttons that enable one-handed operation. This is accompanied by a 3-inch, 1.23-million-dot LCD screen and pop-up flash.

The Ricoh GR has a new 18.3mm f/2.8 lens (with a 28mm field of view in 35mm parlance) for high-resolution, wide-angle images with minimal chromatic aberration and distortion, Pentax Ricoh says.

If this all sounds somewhat familiar, it's no surprise. Nikon's new Coolpix A, priced at $1100, has similar specifications. However, unlike the Coolpix A and some previous Pentax Ricoh models, there's no way to attach an electronic viewfinder.

The camera's GR Engine V image processor optimizes shooting from ISO 100 up to ISO 25600, and a new lens driving mechanism and auto focus algorithm let the camera focus on a subject in two-tenths of a second. Start-up time is approximately one second. Its two-stop neutral density filter allows photographers to open up the aperture even under bright shooting conditions.

This new model offers a number of advanced DSLR-like features such as in-body Raw-data development and a depth of field preview button on the side panel for accurate framing and focus check before shooting. A focus-assist function helps with manual focus. A new AF function lever on the camera’s back panel, when set to Continuous AF mode, lets you capture a series of images of a moving subject by pushing the shutter release button while pressing the AF button. An optional setting allows the continuous shooting mode to be automatically activated while that button is pressed. Continuous shooting mode is four frames per second.

The Ricoh GR offers Pentax's signature Shutter-speed/Aperture-Priority (TAv) exposure mode, which automatically sets the optimum ISO sensitivity based on the photographer's selected shutter speed and aperture. Aperture and shutter speed indicators have been added to the monitor screen.

For more creative options, Ricoh is offering an optional wide-angle conversion lens that extends coverage to 21mm.

This new Pentax-Ricoh model aids the point, shoot, and share set via compatibility with the GR’s Eye-Fi SD card. Built-in menus allow shooters to enable automatic transmission of images and video to a smartphone for sharing. Plus, users can select and resize images before transmission.

The Ricoh GR offers full 1080p HD video recording with continual auto focus, saving in MOV format with H.264 compression. The movie recording function captures extended movie clips (1920 by 1080 pixels at 16:9 aspect ratio) at a frame rate of 24, 25, or 30 frames per second. Image Effects such as Retro and Bleach Bypass are available during movie recording. The AF system remains active as the camera continuously focuses on subjects in the center of its angle of view. There's no socket for an external mic however, so audio quality is centered on the camera's stereo microphones.

Three new modes have been added to the GR: Retro for a nostalgic look and subdued saturation; High Key for a bright-looking finish with subtle gradation in highlights; and Miniaturize for a diorama-like appearance.

The Ricoh GR advanced digital compact camera will be available in May for $800.

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