By Elias Plastiras PC World Australia | on August 17, 2009
Pros: Great build quality and style, prime lens, excellent macro performance, vibrant and sharp picture quality.
Cons: Slightly noisy images, high cost, no built-in optical viewfinder.
While it may not be a digital SLR, the small and light Ricoh GR Digital III compact digital camera packs a couple of SLR-like features. It has dedicated dials for changing its aperture and shutter settings, and the ISO, white balance and exposure compensation can be changed via shortcut buttons.
The GR Digital III also has a very useful manual focus mode. These features alone make the Ricoh a nifty tool for any enthusiast's or professional's camera bag, but they're not the camera's only desirable feature: it also has a prime lens.
When you point this camera at your subject, what you see on its three-inch LCD screen is what you get; there is no way to bring your subject closer, nor widen the angle, unless you take a walk.
Its lens is fixed at 28mm (in 35mm speak), but it does have a moveable group of elements that help you get nice and close to your subject when you manually focus in macro mode. You can take the focus from infinity all the way down to 1cm — in fact, you can almost put the lens directly on your subject when you take a close up.
The result is a very narrow depth of field that can give some very interesting results. General macro shots will have a brilliant bokeh in the background, and shots as close as 1cm can give you just a sliver of sharpness in the centre of your image and bokeh all around it. When using manual focus, you can zoom in on the LCD screen, which gives you a closer look at your subject and allows you to ensure that the photo you are taking is as sharp as possible.
You can see the sliver of focus in the centre of this image, while the rest is rendered with a dreamy softness.
Pictures are captured with a 10-megapixel sensor, which has a native 4:3 ratio, but it can also shoot at 3:2 and even 1:1. It can capture images in JPEG or RAW mode (but not both simultaneously) on an SD card, and it has a swift start-up time of less than a second, as well as quick shot-to-shot performance. Its continuous shot speed is approximately 1.8 frames per second, which is not too shabby for a compact camera.
Images look stunning, albeit slightly grainy. The camera captures sharp photos and produces vibrant colours and rich blacks. It sometimes overexposes highlights, but does a great overall job of capturing images in difficult lighting conditions.
The crane and the bottom of the rainbow are blown out, but the camera captured the mood of the afternoon as intended. This was shot using aperture priority at f/3.2, with a shutter of 1/42 and an ISO of 100.
You can choose to shoot in manual mode, or make use of the aperture priority and shutter priority modes. There is an auto mode, but since the camera lets you take control of its features it would be a waste to just let it decide all the settings for itself. Scene modes are also present, but are limited to Dynamic Range, Text, Skew Correct Mode and Movie mode. Dynamic Range mode takes two shots of the same scene at different exposures and blends them together in order to give dark areas more exposure without blowing out the highlights. As with bracketing mode, it's best to use a tripod with this mode in order to avoid blur.