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Preview: Ricoh GR-D IV versus Ricoh GR

iPhone 5S picture. 1/40th f/2.2 @ ISO 40.

Sensor size and megapixels, the two biggest specs that lead most consumers to believe which is the ‘best’ digital camera. These features are definitely important, but is it the only consideration? Are there other features or specs that are as important, or more important? Yes. To use the vehicle analogy, imagine if engine size, type and horsepower were the only specs you were considering. A vehicle with a 5.7l V8 with 350hp can end up being a minivan or a 2 seat convertible sports car. Same as a digital camera. Just because you say APS-C and 16MP sensor, you can end up with a wide range of cameras, from DLSRs, point and shoots, ILC mirrorless, compact non-ILC zoom, rangefinder styled fixed lens, etc. 

Can a professional shoot with a non-full frame camera? Yes. Is it absurd for a serious amateur to shoot full frame? No. If the pro shoots primarily for news media, then a M43 would be good enough (I know a few who use M43 as official photographers for news media events). If an amateur shoots landscapes and enjoys printing images over 20″ x 30″ sizes, then a full frame sensor makes sense. A pro Instagram photographer (yes, they do exist) can easily get away with shooting with his or her iPhone. Different cameras for different purposes.

Why am I going on about this? Because I often get asked about which camera is ‘better’, and usually its between two cameras with different sensor sizes and megapixel counts. Because I own both the Ricoh GR-D IV and the new GR, I usually get asked which one is ‘better’. The new GR has a larger sensor and higher megapixel count, so you will definitely get higher resolution images with more detail. However, the older GR-D IV has a faster lens, insane depth of field, superior autofocus in low light, and has more custom functions. 

I will be posting my full re-review of the Ricoh GR Limited Edition kit (my full review of the standard GR is posted here); but I thought I would share identical images I shot with both cameras as a comparison. Both were shot at their lowest ISO settings (GR-D IV at ISO 80, GR at ISO 100), at the same aperture (f/2.8), and both RAW files. I converted them both in CS5 and used the same settings and same auto adjust settings. Here are the results, reduced to 1080 lines of vertical resolution.

Can you tell which is which? If you click on each image and look, you can tell by the resolution, but viewing it normally, it’s not as clear. Also, looking at it from my end before reducing the image size to 1080 lines of vertical resolution, it’s not that easy to see the difference. Unless you’re doing a lot of cropping, there isn’t a ‘huge’ difference between shooting with the GR-D IV with a much smaller 1/1.7″ sensor, versus the GR’s APS-C size sensor in daylight and low ISO and posting in low resolution. If you’re really curious about how the full resolution images looks like, please email me and I will send you full rez pics. However, by ISO 200 on the GR-D IV, there is a dramatic image quality drop (high grain) and it becomes much easier to tell the difference between the two cameras and sensors. By ISO 400, you don’t need to look too closely to know that the GR-D IV’s much smaller sensor can’t keep up with the GR’s much larger sensor.

I will go into detail why I still enjoy shooting with my GR-D IV along side my Ricoh GR on my full review, but I’ll give two quick reasons why I still like the older model. The smaller sensor on the older IV has the advantage of much greater depth of field and macro ability, perfect for taking product shots. Also, because of the deep DOF, this camera is great for scale focusing and street photography, allowing for a wider range of in-focus area (at f/2.8, I have more than 2 meters of in-focus area from 2-5 meters).

There’s an obvious advantage of having a larger sensor with more megapixels in general, but there is also advantages to smaller sensors and less megapixels (think of your smart phone camera). The Ricoh GR is a great camera, but there’s nothing wrong with the older GR-D IV. Try finding one used and see what it’s selling for. It’s still pretty expensive. Look at how many GR’s are on sale now. It seems the older GR-D IV has become a rarer find, and also holding its value pretty good for a discontinued camera. Ricoh even released 2 firmware updates even after they stopped selling it! That’s pretty impressive, and it shows the popularity of this model.

Stay tuned for more images and comparisons. Happy shooting.

Full review of the Ricoh GR here

Full review of the Ricoh GR-D IV here