Most people want a big sensor to have less noise at high ISO but to be honest, the difference is not that much between the GRD III and the GXR with the APS module in terms of noise at ISO 1600. The biggest difference is more the dynamic range, at least for me.
Since I posted my The Dragon's Eye picture, I thought of re-taking it with a person. The picture was inspired by the WKW movie 'Ashes of Time' with the excellent cinematography by Christopher Doyle. With the GXR I thought to try it again and see if I get closer to my original intention. This picture is much closer but still not quite there, think something is still missing. I do like the result though.
On my way back to London I had one hour in Amsterdam to spare and decided to go for a walk and take some more pictures. It was a beautiful day, warm and with a clear blue sky. I went to the Nemo museum and took some pictures around there, this I like best but decided to give it a golden tone by using the Shade WB. Unfortunately the APS sensor in the GXR 50mm module means it has a native format of 2:3, since I dislike the 2:3 format since it's neither wide enough nor high enough and when you crop it you lose more information. I still decided to crop this picture to the 1:1 format but wish Ricoh would use 4:3 sensors or APS sensors would start using the more usefull 4:3 format or maybe have a multi aspect ratio sensor in the next GXR module.
Since I travel quite a lot, I thought I have to also mention one of the best airport experiences so far. A while ago I complained about Heathrow airport being pretty horrible to fly from because of the terminal building but also because of the really long security checks. Well, Schipol Airport is the opposite and one of the best airports I have used so far. The reason is simple, after passport control you don't have to go through any horrible and very long 'security' check procedure. No, instead you are straight in the airport and can go about your business, then only at the actual gate will you go through the security check. This is fantastic and not only saves time and hassle but makes the whole experience so much nicer. I never had such a relaxed flight, although arriving at City airport in London also played a part in this. From now on I will try to fly from City to Schipol more often. These two airports are so much more pleasant to fly from that it is worth paying a bit extra if necessary.
The weather has been nicer so I decided to take a walk. I took a few pictures of the local power switch station only to have one guy asking me what I was doing. The paranoia can get a bit too much at times. I prefer this picture though and like the rusty gate and faded paint.
After all the recent snow it was not a white Christmas but rather a grey and rainy Christmas today. I decided to just play around some more with the macro mode of the GXR, afterall this is one of it's main features and the reason for the slow AF. I have used MF yesterday and today for the macro pictures, the great and high resolution LCD makes this easy.
Since some people want to see some processed RAW files, I have used a RAW file today. I have boosted the contrast, added strong vignetting and have also added a light sepia filter over the image.
While using the GXR today, I found an annoying behaviour when using A-mode. The camera tries to keep the ISO as low as possible and lowers the shutter speed a bit too much to 1/48. This is not a problem on a 28mm lens but on a non-stabilized 50mm lens it causes some blurry shots due to the hand shake. I need to keep an eye on this more and make sure I avoid the slow shutter speeds. This could easily be improved with a firmware update where the user could customize the limits or Ricoh could just raise the slow shutter limit.
After the Dutch train company decided that a bit of snow is too much for them to allow for trains to go to Germany, I had to spend most of my day travelling instead of taking pictures with the GXR. I still had time with the camera though and really love the feel and handling. It's a typical Ricoh in that you want to go out and take pictures with it. Yes, the AF is sluggish compared with the direct competition of the GF1 and the LCD freeze kills it for any action use, the 50mm lens is also neither wide enough nor long enough and is with f2.5 not even fast enough. But when you adapt to the limitations and give the AF enough time or more important enough contrast (I refuse to use manual focus with any focus by wire system), it works pretty decent for the kind of shots you would use a 50mm macro lens for. The EVF is simply outstanding and beats the one in the G1 even.
I have to return the camera tomorrow but really liked using it even with all it's flaws. Let's hope Ricoh can iron some of them out in a firmware update.
Ok, I have been a bit harsh on the GXR yesterday but I wanted it to do better and unfortunatelly it just does not look good compered with the GF1. On it's own though it is and excellent camera. I have used it for the whole day today and the AF while slow is comparable with the GRD II and the GX200. The real issue and something which will always be a dealbreaker for me is the LCD freeze. I hope this can be fixed in firmware, even if the AF gets slower in the process.
The image quality is superb though and almost makes one forget the sluggish AF performance. The built in lens hood is genius as are some other small features in the camera.
After using the GXR more today I can say that it's a camera one wants to use and will enjoy using, at the same time I could not help but wish that it would be more like the GF1 in a few areas.
Today, I had the great pleasure to meet Wouter and Björn for a nice talk and photo walk. We had quite a few cameras around as you can see so the topic of our discussion should be easy to figure out. It is always great to meet people you know only from online conversations face to face. We had a great time and I hope to see them again soon when we also have more time for photography.
Another great thing was that I finally got the chance to see and handle the GXR camera, with the 50mm A12 module and EVF, but also the highly regarded Panasonic GF1 with 40mm lens. First the good things about the GXR, the camera is smaller than it looks on pictures and fits in a jacket pocket with the EVF removed, the EVF is fantastic and of very high quality, the build and handling are as usual with Ricoh excellent, the shutter is very quiet, the image quality of the A12 module is really good ands the built in lens hood is pretty cool. Now on to the bad things, the AF is really painfully slow and unreliable, the focus-by-wire system simply is annoying to use and I dislike it, the highest ISO is 3200 which is not up to date with some equally high priced dSLRs, you get the rolling shutter effect when panning and I am not a fan of the new shutter button or power button either and prefer the way they are done on the GRDs or GX200. Lastly to the ugly, the image quality is only good till ISO 1600, over this there is visible banding (unacceptable for a APS camera) and while I could just about excuse a slow and unreliable AF system on a macro lens, the most serious issue for me is the LCD-freeze whe you halfpress the shutter button. This simply ruins the module for me at the moment.
Having said that, I am still looking forward to try it out longer tomorrow and see if I can make it work somehow as I did on the GRD II and the GX200 (both of which have the same AF problems).
Now what really impressed me today was not the GXR but the really fantastic GF1. Panasonic seems th have done everything right with this camera. The AF is extremely fast and accurate, the camera is small enough with the 40mm pancake lens and the image quality is very good. Sure, the handling is not up there with the Ricoh and it has a fairly loud shutter but it is responsive and works great for street photography.
More impressions of the GXR will follow tomorrow and I don't want to sound too negative on it but I might have expected too much from it. It looks like the best performing camera from Ricoh is at the moment still the CX1, which is also the cheapest and their consumer camera.
I posted 5 pictures today taken with 4 different cameras, the GF1, the GRD I, the GXR and the LC1 (not in that order).
Tomorrow, I will have the chance to meet Wouter and Björn, two excellent photographers from Holand. I will also get a GXR sample with the 50mm A12 module to try for a few days. For today's picture I have used the still excellent Panasonic LC1 and wanted to show the snow which did not feature enough in yesterday's picture.
We had the first snowfall in London today. After posting the 6th part of my GRD III review I decided to go out and take some pictures and chose to take the GRD I. The reason was easy, I wanted some b&w pictures with nice contrast and did not want to edit RAW files.
While walking past this church I had an idea for a picture. I saw this cross backlit in b&w with a lot of noise, almost like the scene of an old horror movie. Well, aside from the proper backlighting I got the picture as I wanted by adding lots of noise in Photoshop and changing the contrast.
When the GRD I came out most people only ever used it in b&w mode and still a lot of people are using the GRDs mostly for b&w. Thus it's important to look at how the different cameras perform in b&w mode.
This part will look at the low ISO b&w mode and compare the cameras at ISO 64/80 and 200.
Went to a strange Christmas party in East London with friends today. It was all 70s style, music and the decoration. This made for a nice and interesting change. Although I had the GRD III with me, I did not take that many pictures.
For this picture I had an idea and wated to make it look like an old newspaper photograph. For this I went and did the opposite of what I usually do, I lowered the contrast and brightened the picture up.
My last pictures were all a bit dark and without much happening in them, or a bit boring in other words. Today, I decided to take a walk through Greenwich on my way to the cinema. I saw the smoke of a fire in the indutstrial area and decided to take a picture. I tried to give it a slightly warm tone by using the cloudy WB setting in camera.
While the low ISO comparisons revealed some interesting things about the GRDs, the image quality differences were only minor between them.
In this part I will look at how the image quality compares at ISO 400, 800 and 1600. This should be more demanding for the cameras and especially the JPG engines which have to deal with more noise. Therefore we should see bigger differences between the cameras.
It was again a slow day for photography. Took some pictures on my way home and liked this best.
This picture although it's shot at ISO 800, does not show much banding. If you underexpose the high ISO pictures (EV -1) and raise the blacks, it works quite well.
Went today to see the 'Press Photographer of the Year' exhibition at the Southbank Center. It was very interesting and I noticed one thing while looking at the prints. Nobody cares if a picture has noise or is slightly blurry as long as you capture the right moment and the essential part to tell a story. Sometimes people in foums get too caught up with technicalities of cameras and not enogh with the main 'technicalities' of taking pictures.
After some delay due to various reasons and some travels in between I have finished my GRD III review.
With the GXR announcement a lot of emphasis is put on the new camera system but the GRD III is still an appealing choice for some and will remain Ricoh's flagship camera.
My review aims to give an overview of the GRD III and will also compare it with the predecessors and even briefly with the Epson RD1s equiped with the famous GR L-mount lens.
After much delay, I have finally published the first two parts of my Ricoh GRD III review and will try to answer the question if the Ricoh GRD III is the perfect Christmas gift for the serious photographer?
You can read my review here, the other parts will be published tomorrow.
If you have any questions or want to see anything else included let me know and I will try to add more to the review.
I have to say that from all the Ricoh cameras I have used so far the GRD I and GX100 still have the best image quality. Both are a great example that more MP and further sensor development have not really brought any significant advantages, quite the opposite actually when considering that the GX200 has almost the worst high ISO quality of any Ricoh camera.