Battle of the 28mm compacts: Ricoh GR vs Nikon Coolpix A

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Following on from yesterday’s review of the Ricoh GR (Digital V) can only be one thing: the comparison shootout between the GR and its natural rival, the Nikon Coolpix A (full review here). Or is it the other way around, since the A came first? Doesn’t matter a single bit, it’s all about the images. Fight!

I’ll continuously upload images from both cameras to respective sets on my Flickr stream – the Coolpix A is here, and the Ricoh GR is here.

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Coolpix A, shot by the GR. THe 501C looks on in the background.

On paper, they pretty much share a spec sheet: 16MP, APS-C, excellent (according to MTF charts at least) 28/2.8-equivalent lenses, no IS, no PDAF, no AA filter, premium build, and a raft of manual/ physical controls. Both are large-pocketable and pretty much as small as it gets when it comes to APS-C compacts. They even have roughly the same battery life. What separates them is $300. Simple, right? Surely it’s a lost cause for the Nikon? In practice, it’s not quite so clear cut. I approach this comparison with no biases: I don’t own either camera (yet), but I do plan to cut a cheque for one of them eventually. I want a 28mm, large-sensor compact to serve as a second body, something pocketable, and fill the wide-angle niche when I travel. (I’m increasingly shooting with two bodies both for redundancy and so I don’t miss shots while changing lenses; the wide body should be something fast and responsive, and preferably usable with one hand.) It replaces the function of the 12/2 on my OM-D, or the 28/2 ASPH on a Leica M body.

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GR, shot by the Coolpix A. 501C has reloaded, dumped its detritus, and gone off to make pictures whilst these two navigate their menus.

Let’s see how the list stacks up (important items in bold):

In favour of the GR:

  • Better ergonomics and higher levels of configurability, one handed operation
  • Faster focusing in daylight
  • $300 price advantage
  • Better B&W conversions; tonal palette seems to be biased towards this
  • The lens has slightly better corner resolution at distance – though nowhere near as much as existing comparisons online tend to make out, as you’ll see later. Resolution is identical otherwise.
  • Very well implemented manual and zone focusing, snap modes etc.
  • In-camera RAW development
  • 21mm converter available
  • Built in level Edit: it appears the A has this too, but it’s buried deep in the menus under a non-intuitive setting. I stand corrected.
  • 1/4000s shutter speed at f5.6 and above
  • Built in ND filter
  • 35mm  and square crop options

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Bar, GR

In favour of the Coolpix A:

  • AF in low light (indoors and darker) is considerably faster and more accurate, overall AF speed consistent regardless of brightness – easier to anticipate shot timing
  • Better AWB and colour accuracy, especially in the reds
  • Images just seem to have slightly more pop
  • More accurate matrix metering, doesn’t blow highlights as often
  • LCD shows focus better
  • Lens has better close range performance, less CA at all distances and better flare/ coma control. It also feels like there’s slightly more overall contrast, giving better ‘bite’ to images out of camera – it’s a combination of both macro and microcontrast
  • Dedicated manual focus ring
  • Compatible with GPS and wifi accessories
  • Made in Japan (though this has little impact on immediate build quality, it may or may not speak for longevity)
  • Slightly faster to power on
  • ‘My Menu’ with the ability to add any other menu item
  • Easy to decouple AF and spot meter – AF on via Fn1 focuses, shutter half press locks metering
  • Very easy to move the focus point – just use the D-pad directly

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Bar, Coolpix A. Not a lot of difference at this size, is there? Just keeping things in context.

Working against the GR

  • Low light focusing is very slow and not very accurate
  • In RAW, reds shift to pink without a profile to correct them . Oddly JPEG colors are fine – identical to the A
  • Exposure meter settings are only shown after half pressing the shutter – not permanently live. In manual focus mode, the spot metering box isn’t shown, nor is the central AF target (you can use the AE/AFL button to focus with MF selected)
  • Exposures tend to be a bit hot; highlights clip
  • Very odd program mode operation – seems to stick within a narrow range of apertures (f4-f8) regardless of light; won’t open up brighter than f4 in low light. If you use this with Auto ISO and shift the program, it will increase shutter speed rather than decrease ISO even if you’re already above the selected minimum threshold
  • Multiple button presses required to move focus point
  • LCD is rather dim in bright light, making judging exposure and focus difficult unless you want to clutter the screen with magnification boxes and histograms – this affects composition
  • Can’t easily decouple focus and spot meter without a lot of button gymnastics
  • Noticeable vignetting, flare and coma around bright point sources
  • NR settings appear to affect RAW files too
  • Need to shoot RAW+JPEG to get over 3.4x playback magnification; 8x is roughly 1:1. No choice of embedded JPEG; wastes card space
  • MF implementation is not as direct or fast as the A

Working against the A

  • $300
  • AF isn’t that fast
  • Ergonomics and odd button/ menu behaviour – e.g. auto ISO switching, self-cancelling timer
  • Menus have different options in different places and aren’t very intuitive, resulting in slow practical operation if you have to change a setting
  • No DOF scales in any focusing mode
  • No LCD off mode for use with external finders

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First test scene, with the A. Shot on a tripod with AUTO-ISO for both cameras, wide open, and matrix metering; representative of your average night scene, minus the variable introduced by hand shake.

GR V vs Coolpix A 4 center
Center. The GR is resolving a tiny hair more (see trees) and there’s slightly less noise, but notice the default metering is also significantly hotter. Other peripheral parts of the frame are blown. Both cameras were set to matrix metering. Click here for 100%.

GR V vs Coolpix A 4 corner
Lower left corner. The GR is definitely resolving high contrast structures a little bit more than the A, but notice the increase in lateral CA, too. Click here for 100%.

GR V vs Coolpix A 4 border
Bottom border. Again, almost too close to call. Click here for 100%.

Though both cameras have a built in flash, neither one will work as a TTL speedlight commander (shame on you, Nikon – even if you mount a compatible hotshoe flash, you still can’t get TTL commander modes). Similarly, neither camera remembers the chosen manual focus distance when the power is cycled, though the GR has the snap mode function which can be set to several possible distances. The A lacks this and requires you to either always set it after powering it on, or leave the camera on and draining power. You’ll also get moire on both cameras due to the lack of an antialiasing filter.

I’m sure you can see the problem here, right? Though the GR is cheaper, it has some critical issues – in bold – that are a big deal in practical use. The gap in image quality is significant enough that it should give you pause: if you’re primarily a B&W shooter, then the GR is your camera because it simply delivers richer midtones; given the base sensors are similar if not identical, it’s probably the in-camera processing making the difference. By comparison, the A’s default B&W output is rather flat and not particularly rich; you do need to do quite a lot of work in PS to make it sing. If you’re a color shooter, then the GR’s odd reds are probably going to drive you mad. The Coolpix A should be your choice; its colors are natural, accurate, and have a level of subtle clarity that’s quite addictive. I felt there was a ‘pop’ present in the A’s raw files that I simply didn’t get out of the GR (unless I desaturated with the intention of converting to B&W); it might well be because this was a preproduction unit with non-final color calibration.

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Second test scene, from the Coolpix A. Shot at base ISO and auto-ISO, both with matrix metering, again on a tripod, again wide open. Selected focus point for both cameras was the crease in the front portion of the hat.

GR V vs Coolpix A 3
Corner. I really don’t see any difference in resolution here – if anything, the Coolpix may be a hair better. Where are these soft corners everybody seems to be producing? Click here for 100%.

GR V vs Coolpix A 2
Dynamic range test, top right corner. Once again, the GR has metered hot and overexposed portions of the lamp. These weren’t recoverable in ACR. Click here for 100%.

As far as dynamic range and noise goes, there doesn’t appear to be much in it: however, it’s worth noting that the GR’s NR settings seem to affect its raw files, too. That said, even with NR switched off,  the GR appears to be slightly cleaner at ISo 6400 and up – perhaps half a stop or less – with significantly less blue channel noise at the two highest settings of 12k and 25k. (That said, I wouldn’t use either of these in anything other than a dire emergency; dynamic range of both is severely compromised.)

GR V vs Coolpix A low ISO
Low ISO. Near as enough makes no difference to either noise or resolution. Click here for 100% crops.

GR V vs Coolpix A high ISO
High ISO. The A certainly has stronger blue channel noise than the GR; at ISO 6400 and above, I’d give an increasing advantage to the GR. That said, I wouldn’t exceed 6400 on either of these cameras. Click here for 100% crops.

Much ado has been made about the GR’s lens supposedly being better than the A’s; I openly question the testing method used, because I’ll be damned if I can see much of a difference between the two cameras wide open – you can see as much in the 100% crops presented here. There’s no difference in resolution at close range – if anything, I think I find the Nikon performs a bit better with less coma; at longer distances, the Ricoh has slightly better resolution, but also considerably more lateral CA. In the center zone, they’re about the same. Sample variation and focusing accuracy is going to matter much more than the design spec of the lens.

Ricoh GR vs Coolpix A color
The problem with color, in a nutshell. Both cameras were shot in daylight at the same target within seconds of each other with a manual WB reading off the grey card to avoid any potential issues with post-capture WB. No corrections were required anyway as both gray cards came out with RGB values of 180,180,180 in post. Exposure and ACR settings were the same for both cameras. The JPEGs look nearly identical in colour. However, the raw files diverge considerably: note how the reds are pinkish and washed out/ flat; cyans shift to blue and yellows shift a bit to green. The real scene looks almost identical to the Nikon; the Ricoh looks off, period. (The red book in the center – ‘Survivor’ – is fire-engine red, not burnt orange.) Here’s the real problem, though: the Nikon makes it 5150K, +24 tint. The Ricoh makes it 4000K and +34 tint. In practical terms, it means that you might run out of WB shift adjustment in very warm light for the Ricoh, but it makes for a great B&W conversion. Click here for a 100% version.

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Final test scene, shot in the same manner as the hat and lamp.

GR V vs Coolpix A 1
Note the difference in default AWB between the two cameras – once again, the Coolpix A (left) renders the reds far more accurately. Under incandescent light, the difference becomes far more pronounced. Once again, there’s almost no difference in resolution. Click here for 100% crops.

On the topic of focusing, I can’t clearly say one is better than the other, either: the GR is notably faster in daylight – subjectively, I think it’s comparable to the OM-D and a fast lens like the 12/2 – but it slows down dramatically by as much as an order of magnitude when the light or contrast level falls. Both the ‘hunting’ process slows down and sometimes it still fails to find focus in situations where the Coolpix has no problem. By comparison, the A is consistent: it doesn’t focus any slower in low light, but occasionally it fails to lock. If this happens, you can always try again in; even with the second attempt, you’ll still be faster than the GR. If I had to put this in a numerical scale, the GR in good light takes say 20 units, the A will be about 30. The GR in low light can be as slow as 100-150; the A might drop to 50, but always stays in this range. (We’re talking about normal focusing distances here; macro is significantly slower as the lens has to move through a greater distance.)

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Half an arch. Ricoh GR

In practical terms, this means the GR can be used effectively for daylight street photography in AF mode; the Coolpix is a bit hit and miss. However, the GR can always be used in Snap mode, or zone focus, especially at night. You’ll probably find yourself with the camera struggling to focus once it gets any darker than your average indoors scene – EV7 or so. If you use the A with AF on the shutter half press, you’re going to be frustrated by the number of shots you miss due to slow response. That fraction of a second extra the A takes to focus – perhaps 40-50%, or maybe about 100ms in real terms – is enough to dramatically reduce your keeper rate.  Rather, the A is best set to Fn1 as AF-ON, and the desired distance dialled in – shutter response is then instant. Effectively, both cameras can be made as responsive as is desired. For this kind of run and gun work, the one caveat is metering: the GR’s matrix meter is not as accurate as the A, and tends to expose a bit hot – clipping highlights in the process.

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Stormy night (one curve). Ricoh GR

Given that exposure is read directly off the sensor, it’s unclear to me why it’s so difficult to program the camera to just clip the top end of the highlights rather than losing significant amounts completely; under identical circumstances, the Nikon is consistent to the point of not really needing to use the spot meter. To make things more confusing, the A has a sensible program mode that uses all of the available apertures (you don’t really get a huge amount of depth of field control with a real 18/2.8 anyway); the GR requires you to switch to aperture priority or continually shift the program when indoors to use anything larger than f4. At the same time, you don’t want to leave shade for sun and find yourself at f2.8 for a landscape. This switching gets annoying, and it’s too easy to find yourself at a higher ISO than you desired – defeating the point of a fast-response rapid-draw camera.

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Over London – Coolpix A (with a LOT of tonal work).

This brings us to perhaps the most important factor: how they feel in use. The GR is a camera thoroughly conceived in the compact mould: you can use it one-handed, and everything is controlled by the shooting hand through various toggles, dials and joysticks. The A is set up like a mini-DSLR; you need two hands because there’s a row of buttons down the left side that are hold-down-and-turn in the style Nikon’s larger cameras with which it shares the same direct-access info panel and menu system. Unfortunately, it also shares some of the larger cameras’ idiocies – no one-button zoom in playback (you push the ADJ toggle in on the Ricoh to zoom to your desired zoom setting); not having AUTO-ISO as a choice on the ISO menu; U1 and U2 settings that don’t quite save everything. That said, the A remembers your playback info screen choice and uses it all the time, even for instant review (mine is the blinking highlight warning); the GR does sometimes, and doesn’t at others. You think your exposure was okay because the screen is relatively dim, but combined with the overly hot matrix meter, you might well have blown some things.

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Momentary illumination. Ricoh GR

Truth be told, I have no idea which camera I’m going to keep. I can see uses for both and frustrations with both. (This was not the conclusion I was expecting; I honestly thought the GR would deliver image quality on par with the A, run away with focusing speed, and be $300 cheaper in the bargain. I’m now quite confused.) In real life, there’s very little to choose between their lenses or sensors (barring color, which is fixable by a custom profile). What you choose will come down to your tonal preferences: as it stands, the Ricoh GR (with FW 1.11) makes some of the richest B&W conversions I’ve ever seen from a digital camera, whereas the Nikon Coolpix A has beautifully transparent, accurate color. Actually, the GR’s output in square format reminds me a lot of my Hasselblad and CFE 50/4 Distagon; it’s very, very filmic, and this isn’t a term I use lightly. I enjoy it as much as I enjoy the Nikon’s color reproduction.

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Geometry. Ricoh GR

What you probably don’t expect me to say at this point is that I believe both cameras represent excellent value for money: yes, they’re expensive, but if you stop to think about what other options you have that deliver the same level of image quality – an APS-C DSLR and a prime, or a Leica M – then it puts things in perspective. Both deliver resolution and optics comparable or slightly better than an M9+28/2 ASPH, with better dynamic range and noise. In fact, at higher ISOs, things are comparable to the M 240 and the same 28/2; that’s a system costing an order of magnitude more. I think the problem is that I prefer the AF behaviour (though it’s not excellent either) and color output of the A, but the B&W tones, ergonomics and hand-feel of the GR. Neither is perfect, but both are excellent in their own right. I’m going to bounce it back to the readers for discussion in the comments: given my observations and the photographic evidence, which would you buy, and why? MT

Update (8 May): One of my readers – Henrik – has commented below that he ran the DNGs through RPP and found there isn’t a color issue with reds as via ACR; this is plausible given that the camera’s JPEGs look just fine. So it’s quite possible the issue isn’t with the GR, but with ACR – this is good news because it means that a) it’s fixable, and b) profile away without any worry of losing certain channels. I’ll do a bit more experimentation on this, but without a camera at the moment, it’s difficult to test…

The Nikon Coolpix A is available here from B&H or Amazon in black and silver, and the Ricoh GR V can be preordered here from B&H and Amazon.

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Comments

  1. Hi Ming,

    Recently just sold my OMD in order to buy something that would fit in the pocket. Here in NZ the Nikon A is actually $300 cheaper than the Ricoh GR. With more than a year gone by since this review what would your recommendation be? Thanks in advance.

  2. Have you used optical viewfinders with these cameras?

    BTW Sorry about your recent picture episode with Ricoh. That kind of mistake should not happen to a company serving photographers…

  3. Hey Ming, you said that AF performance of the GR in low light was generally slow. Curious if you were using the AF assist lamp? Have a look at this, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2JlIAdjjE5o

  4. Hello Ming. Great reviews of the Coolpix A and Ricoh GR. Beautiful photos, as usual. I am currently considering these two cameras, as a replacement for the Fuji X100s which I could never get on with (sensor made faces look plasticky, battery life was a joke, viewfinder fiddly due to parralax). I do enjoy B&W but laterly have been favouring colour more. My current main camera is a Nikon D700. Anyway, I was interested in this, from your article:

    >Exposure meter settings are only shown after half pressing the shutter – not permanently live.

    This always annoys me when I use my Lumix LX3: why do I have to half press to find out what the exposure settings are? Is this still the case on the Ricoh today, or has it been addressed by a Firmware update?

    I’m also interested in how your purchased GR compares to the test model you had, in terms of (colour) image quality. Frankly I prefer the colour images you took with the Nikon. But maybe updated standard Lightroom profiles etc. will have narrowed the gap between the look/feel of colour shots taken with the two cameras? is there still more ‘bite’ or ‘pop’ to the Nikon shots, do you think?

    Many thanks
    John

    • The purchased GR is better because there have been ACR updates with profiles for it since release – color improves hugely. It isn’t quite as good as the Nikon, but it’s close.

      • johncarvill says:

        Thanks. What about the need to half press to find out what the exposure settings are?

        • Not an issue in practice.

          • johncarvill says:

            Thanks, Ming. Your photos are inspiring, by the way. I bought the GR. Once I actually handled both cameras, there was no doubt left: the GR is ergonomically much better. Oddly enough, at the time I was buying, Amazon in the UK actually had the Nikon A listed at less than the GR: £475 for the Nikon, £500 for the GR! Anyway I love the GR’s feel in the hand. I’m undecided re. image quality, need to try it in decent light. Cheers, John.

  5. Hello Ming. Great reviews as always. Would you share your Ricoh GR raw files of the teddy bear in red cushions, as well as books on the shelf. I’d curious to develop them with the Huelight Photoshop & Lightroom Camera Profile for the Ricoh GR and see if it actually correct that pinkish/magenta-ish hue on the reds (www.colorfidelity.com). Thanks!

  6. Fernando says:

    Dear Ming Thein … in march 2014 ricoh is a contender for camera of the year ? or do you prefer the new Olympus OM 10 ? Need your advice for a sub 800 $ camera ( the Sony a6000 AF impress me also) … best regards . Dont forget a Lisbon masterclass in the near future ( Lisbon has the best light in the world … you can be sure )

    • 1. It’s March. There are still 9 months more cameras to go.
      2. I haven’t used the OM10.
      3. Buy whatever you feel comfortable with, we’ve long passed the point of sufficiency.

  7. John Lockwood says:

    For those that are in the fence, I’d like to offer the following regarding B&W with the Coolpix A. Under the Monochrome setting, is an option for virtual filters. Users may choose traditional color filters O, Y, R, G, etc. While actual B&W filters on your lens don’t work well with Bayer sensors, these software settings do. Also highly recommend processing Nikon raw NEF files with free Nikon View NX to get the best results.

    • This is one thing I didn’t get a chance to try – it might well have solved the monochrome conversion problem. However, it does leave you without a colour raw file, presumably? Or do the filters only affect the jpegs – in which case you’d be compromising image quality in other ways like DR, resolution etc?

      • John Lockwood says:

        The setting is under the Shooting Menu>Set Picture Control>Monochrome>Filter Effects. The filter choice applies to the NEF, but can be undone by choosing a different value under Picture Control in post. Look for this setting on your D800 and try shooting some virtually filtered B&W.

        Nikon View NX2 allows nondestructive edits to NEF files. NX2 his highly underutilized by Nikon shooters. Nikon has never given its proprietary file structure to Adobe or anyone else. By using View NX2 and Capture NX 2, I maintain a closed-loop process, only outputting JPEGs if needed.

        If you download View NX2, there’s an option to Launce the Picture Control Utility, which has the aforementioned Filter Effects available for editing.

        • Wasn’t aware that the D800 had the same option – I’ll give it a shot later, thanks.

          As for NX2 – the workflow is an absolute disaster. I can do the same filtration either in ACR or PS; I’m sure NX2 has slightly better image quality, but that isn’t worth the inconvenience and workflow disruption.

          • John Lockwood says:

            My use of View NX2 and Capture NX2 (with embedded NIK Color Efex Pro) allows all images to stay NEF throughout processing. I only capture raw, not raw+jpg. View NX2 provides viewing, sorting and basic editing, while Capture NX2 is reserved for more intense editing. I’ve used this process since the original D1 in Y2K and processed over 500 weddings this way. Don’t know of another process that allows me to preserve my digital negatives unmolested. Not sure why your experience was “an absolute disaster”.

      • John Lockwood says:

        Just uploaded a couple of jpegs for you to hopefully clarify. Note that my blue jeans look much darker in the second b&w. This is due to shooting it with the red filter. DSC_0054 was shot in Monochrome w/o a filter effect. The color version was changed to Standard Picture Control (color) in View NX2, then converted to a 1920px wide jpg. ANY changes made to a NEF in View NX2 may be reset to “as shot”, or altered. Since only the side-car file is edited, not the pixels, it always remains reversible. You can not do this using Adobe ACR or LR to my knowledge.

        http://flic.kr/s/aHsjSuZRMX

        • The first two are pretty clear examples, and they appear to work the same way as PS/ACR. If you have the colour RAW, you can use the HSL tab in ACR, click on ‘convert to B&W’ or similar, then adjust the channel mix – it works in approximately the same way; dial in or dial out the channels you want to increase/decrease luminance of. I think it’s more fiddly but also gives you potentially more fine control.

        • FYI: Editing RAW files in ACR is always nondestructive. You can go back to “as shoot” at any time.

  8. Recent rumor about price drop on Coolpix A grabbed my attention, a SHORT update or follow up would be nice, especially your valuable opinion on longer term usage (and how all those issues were taken rid of via fw update, if that’s the case, especially because Nikon did not bother with any updates, as far as my search for any has showed) from a Ricohs GR user’s standpoint. Thank you in advance.

    • Since there are no updates, it works exactly the same way as it did when it was released. There’s no point writing an update, certainly not since it’d require me to buy an A just for the purpose of an article. That’s a waste of money.

      • Excuse me, I did mean your thoughts on Ricoh GR (there were substantial fw updates, or am I mistaken?) since you got one (or haven’t you?).

        • Oops, my apologies – it came across as though you wanted an update on long term usage of the Coolpix A (presumably in light of the price drop) – that doesn’t make sense, and I don’t have one.

          But the Ricoh post-FW update, yes, that does, and it’s actually in the works already. Sorry for the confusion!

          • Excellent. I just meant, that the price drop turned my attention to “the battle of compacts” once again.
            Pity there’s no updates for Coolipx A, but looking forward to your insights on GR. ;)

  9. Hi- thanks for the all the superb blogging and great reviews from last year. I shoot colour and b&w equally; and am looking for a compact to couple with my a7r with the 55mm. I planned to trade my x100 (35mm is too close; like you I prefer 28mm and miss my old gx1 with 14mm penny combo) for the gr but here in Korea, the gr is going for 900usd and I can pick up a
    Coolpix a for around 680usd new (heavily discounted)… Does this make the Nikon a no-brainer or would you still consider the gr?
    Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
    Philip

  10. Coolpix A prices seem have dropped so that in best offers it costs practically the same as Ricoh GR, about 670e. I was already very close to buy a Ricoh, but being a Nikon user, I think Coolpix A will be my choise.

    A pity there is no separate grip handle for Coolpix A. Or is there?

  11. Joel Venable says:

    Thanks for the excellent comparison Ming. I bought the GR based on your review, and also have the OM-D in my stable (I wish I knew that the 17 wasn’t the greatest before I bought it with the camera). I also had a brief foray into a secondhand x100 until I found it had the SAB flu and promptly returned it. Love the GR so far! Any updates regarding the RAW color using LR5 (which officially supports the GR)?

    You mention that they compare to APS cameras with a prime, but I was just remembering that CaNikons don’t even HAVE purpose-built wide angle primes for crop body. Canon has a 20 in the EF mount which would equal a 32, but I’ve heard it’s quite soft. Add in the compactness and there’s no comparison!

  12. fantastic GR – 28mm+35mm+47mm…….

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/regardlese/

  13. Extremely fine and thorough testing.

    But can the bad colors in Rocoh GR be changed in PP (White Balance) – for example, the image of the teddy bear, the fur is not white but dull gray or slightly brown?

    But the Coolpix A is fine here.

    I chosed the COOLPIX A, but I deliver it back tomorrow due to 2 errors, so for me there is now only Ricoh GR V back, as I consider these 2 cameras the only truly pocket friendly (breast-shirt pocket) while quality cameras – ok perhaps Sony RX 100 also but I do not like when a lens change f stop, so there are these two for me, …..but as mentioned:

    Can you change the dull color in PP (WB) in RAW in Rocoh GR ……=(example the white in the Teddy Bear, so white is white= You normally overexpose in example snow, but this is not the case here)

  14. Dear Ming,

    Thank you so much for the great reviews. I reached here after flowing between A and GR for weeks. Even played with 2 hours with both cameras in a real shop still couldn’t decide. I must tell you that your reviews were the best in the web world! (only read English and Japanese though) But still not giving me the conclusion yet…as I love my D7000, takes color images in the most then I think I should go with A. However I feel like GR may bring me a new experience for B&W, your photos beating my heart. And love the solid, heavy duty like design of GR then much prefer the controlling of A (hate the control of GR, not able to change AF point quickly) … OK. I should stop writing too much of unorganized list in my head.

    I am now wondering which camera you got eventually? and Why?
    I now know both camera aren’t perfect but fortunately good ones, decision is only depend on your priority which is difficult more than knowing camera’s ability sometime and I don’t have budget for 2. (Would be appreciated a reply but understand that I probably too late for this topics.)

    Best Wishes, Kumi

  15. I’ve been shooting with the GR lately but finding the delay/black-out of the LCD screen really distracting after each shot. If “LCD confirmation” is set to anything other than “Off”, the return to Live View takes even longer. I’m already using the fastest SD card available which is a Sandisk 95MB/s Extreme Pro.

    On my OMD and PL5, I can easily return to Live View without framing interruption if I maintain the half-pressing after taking a shot, but GR always has a bit of hesitation, which is not crucial but in several situations where several subjects were shifting in the frame, I could have tweaked the framing tighter after the initial shot but I couldn’t because GR didn’t return to Live View fast enough. Just wondering if the same delay occurs on the “A” and if this is something that could be corrected by future firmwares.

    Other than that, GR is a great camera when it doesn’t freezes on me (LCD on, no buttons would respond, even power button doesn’t work). It just doesn’t seem to like my quick draw, constant power on-off cycles, and lots of snap focus shooting methods, in my typical OMD machine gun way. The only way to “un-freeze” is to remove and reinsert the battery again. So I started to treat it more “delicately” but when it froze after taking a single shot straight from power-on then I know it’s not me.

    I have contacted Ricoh about this, still “under investigation.”

    • Hmm…it hasn’t happened to me yet, nor have I noted the LCD blackout (the OM-D’s switching time to turn the EVF back on is worse, in my opinion) – but then again I haven’t had a chance to shoot it properly yet, either. Will let you know if I find the same…which firmware are you running?

      • OMD has a nice LCD blackout implementation whereby return to LiveView is instant if the shutter button is only returned to half-pressed position after it’s fully engaged. The Image Review on OMD (of last image taken, whether it’s a single shot or a series), if turned on (as low as 0.3s on OMD, whereas GR only goes down to 0.5), will occur only after the shutter button is fully released. Since GR doesn’t have this override, I can’t decide whether to leave “LCD confirmation” on or off. For moving subjects, LCD Confirmation delays the return to LiveView (even at 0.5s) but for static subjects it’s nice to have a quick framing confirmation. FW1.11.

        • It’s not that – the moment you take your eye away from the OM-D’s finder, the thing takes a second or so to cycle back again between the LCDs. I notice the E-P5 is a lot faster in this respect.

          I’m starting to suspect the reason I haven’t noticed it with the GR is because I shoot quite differently than with the OM-D – single shot only, review between…

          • I agree with the slow switching between LCD and EVF on the OMD. Glad to know EP5 doesn’t have this delay. I’ve sort of adapted by just shooting with LCD for shots I know would be gone by the time I hold EVF to my eye. It’s kinda annoying.

            Not as annoying as the ultra sensitive (or the precision lacking) eye sensor that constantly switches from LCD to EVF when doing “chest-level shooting” with LCD. I was so frustrated after the NYC workshop, I managed to hack a solution using a tiny piece of black electrical tape covering the bottom half of the second eye sensor, which finally stopped this ridiculous switching. Not sure why this wouldn’t work on the top half or the 1st eye sensor.

            As for GR, I guess it’s a matter of my adaptation over time. Not sure if the black-out was by design, neglected by its engineers or a result of chipset/processor limitation. Hopefully the RX100 M2 that’s shipping to me next week won’t have this almost imperceptible issue :P

            • The VF4 solves the chest-switching problem, too. It drove me mad as well. There’s apparently a setting that Gian found which allows you to disable the eye sensor…I will have to look for it again.

              No RX100M2 for me unless they’ve drastically improved the lens…

              • GR is my perfect wide now, that’s why I’m hoping M2 would fill the tele void in the other pocket. But it seems they’ve kept the same crappy Zeiss lens on the tele end, so I might not be happy and have to return it after testing. Did you let the RX100 go because of not meeting stock requirement?

                • Try it with the GW3 for 21mm…

                  As for the RX100 – it was actually the wide end that let things down; tele was much better on my sample. I tried a few and none of them were good into the corners til f4 at the wide end. No issues with stock requirements.

                  • That’s great news. Maybe M2 would be a good companion for the GR, always set to tele range. GW3 is sweet but it seems only available in Asia for now. B&H doesn’t even list it yet.

                    • There’s always the Japanese ebay sellers – you can’t get them locally in Malaysia either.

                      I wonder if the EVF for the RX100M2 would be useful…bulky, though. I’m always slightly afraid of breaking off those clip ons.

  16. Hello – I’m wondering if you will be reviewing the new Sony rx 100 m2 and the fujifilm x mi-1, and perhaps comparing them with the ricoh gr. thanks for your insights. John Palen

  17. I am considering the RX100, the A or the GR as complement to my OM-D.

    How does the Sony RX100 compare to these? At the wide end it f1.8 so at least in low light it should be able to compensate for its smaller sensor.

    • Not so simple. You gain a stop on the lens, but lose a stop or more on the sensor, and the optics are not even close to the GR or the A. I went with the GR…

  18. Yee Meen Chai says:

    Hello Ming, I really value your camera evaluations that come from a photographer. I bought your Photoshop tutorials (beginner and for the Monochrome and learned a lot from them).

    I’m very interested in your thoughts regarding these cameras in comparison to the Leica X2. I’m looking for a compact camera that I can use at the beach with my children which is a street shooting style with quickly changing scenes but in bright daylight so low light performance is not an issue.

    I’ve tried my Leica MM and M9-P at the beach but would like a lighter/smaller camera with quick auto focus and a camera that won’t fill it’s buffer quickly as these M cameras. I also got the M240 and it does have a larger buffer but not significantly so. Do any of these P&S have as much buffer as, say the Nikon D800?

    Also, in terms of picture quality which I would place the most importance, which of the 3 smaller compacts would be the most similar to the full frame digital Leicas with modern ASPH M glass? If you also have any experience with the Sony RX-1, that is another I’m considering.

    • Thank you. The X2 and A aren’t fast enough for AF; the GR might be depending on how bright it is, but you could easily use all three in manual focus or zone focus modes. None have as much buffer as the D800, obviously; they’re smaller and cheaper. I think the image quality on both GR and A is a bit higher than the X2, and actually very comparable to the M 240 with 28/2.8. Short answer – none of the options is perfect, just buy whichever you enjoy using.

  19. Jim Seekers says:

    I have a Fuji x100s and a Ricoh GR and I can say without doubt that the Ricoh Lens is sharper and its Produces Far Sharper and More Detailed Images.
    This is Amazing as I Thought My Fuji x1oos was the Best but now its the Ricoh GR and The Colours are so Acurate and I am Thinking of selling my Fuji as the GR is my new Baby .. as sharp as Sweeny Todds Razor.

  20. Hello Ming

    Thank you for your extensive and neutral side by side testings of these two gems.

    Please notice that the Coolpix À has also in Camera RAW processing.
    With this function you can change : resulting JPEG type, WB, RAW expose, Picture Control choose, ISO noise reduction and D-Lighting level.

    The Coolpix A has also double exposure in Camera processing that works on JPEG and RAW.
    double exposure can be repeated with already in camera double exposed Files, and so we can also generate NEF or JPEG multi exposures.

    All other in Camera processings with the Coolpix A only work on JPEG.

    regards

    Jean-Claude

  21. Chris Cheng says:

    I guess the image quality is not an issue for both, but neither quite meets my demands in terms of AF and handling. In that aspect, I do like OMD a lot, which makes it hard to get used to cameras with slower focus. I guess I’ll just stick with my m43 for the time being.

  22. Good work. I have yet to go digital. I’ve been taking photos for 65 years. (Gee! I’m still alive!) I’ve had all the great and the obscure film cameras made over that time period. My favorite travel camera of all time is the Ricoh GR 21. It’s a real jewel! I’ve never liked the 28mm focal length either in the 35 mm film or medium formate and I have given them fair trial over the years. Just not how I view things. Certainly I would not consider using an add-on attachment lens to achieve 21mm focal length. Defeats the whole purpose of a compact camera besides degrading the image quality. So I’ve been waiting for this evolution with Ricoh Please bring me my beloved 21 mm focal length film camera into the digital age. Looks like it may eventually happen, if they follow the same route of development that they did with thier film cameras. Are you listening Ricoh? (You, by the way do a great job of using the 28 mm piont of view)

    • Thanks – they do have an adaptor for the GR to give you 21mm, but I suspect that making a retractable compact lens of that focal length that works well with digital might have some challenges…especially at the edges of the frame.

  23. Thanks very much for your excellent review of both cameras, as well as the comparison of the two – it helped me to choose between the 2. It helps that, according to my usual shops in Singapore, there is near as makes no difference in price. Coming from a D600, I figured it’d just be easier to work with the NEF files I’ve grown used to!

    I completely agree that pictures from the (unfortunately named) Coolpix A have incredible pop, and are sharp from corner to corner. It’d be a perfect camera if someone could stuff that lovely 5-axis IS from the OM-D into it…

    I should add that I’ve had both the X100 and X100S on loan for a fairly extended period. Notwithstanding all the hullabaloo about the X100S, I found it hard to love – I didn’t like the output from that X-Trans sensor, and I found that it still missed focus far too often for my taste. That, and it was still far too soft wide open.

    • The lack of price difference is very surprising. So I’m guessing you got the A in the end?

      • Indeed I did – the GR won’t be launched here until the end of June.

        I suspect Nikon worked some magic in this market with price; it’s available almost universally here for around S$1,200.

  24. I pick the ricoh. Better ergonomics and fixable issues with color and metering and perhaps even focus. In addition, 35mm crop mode and 21mm adapter. Nothing to recommend the coolpix.

  25. An exccellent review! I will buy Ricoh in few days….the B&W pics are stunning, great job Ricoh!

  26. French site loves the grip and handling of the GR.

    They found out that the GR’s lense is much sharper than the Nikons one.

    http://www.lesnumeriques.com/pentax-ricoh-gr-premiere-prise-en-main-n29470.html

    • Can’t argue on the handling. But I think if you look at the crops, you’ll agree that there’s very little in it in terms of resolution between the two cameras.

      • I think the difference in the sharpness of the lens will be more apparent when using wide angle converter, but unfortunately Nikon do not have this adapter. At this point it looks Ricoh the winner. Looks Nikon won on social media accessories (wifi, GPS etc).

    • RussellD says:

      I thought this comment was significant in the French review:

      “Using the GR after extensively getting the hang of the Coolpix A is very cruel to the latter: As in, the newcomer reveals the shortcomings of compact ergonomic expert / professional Nikon. First point is that pleasure: dial modes is lockable. Second point which is nice: the same wheel has a “Video” mode, which saves tedious submenus explorations (as is the case in the Nikon).”

      Thanks for your review work, Ming. It is very useful to have fresh, perceptive, and grounded impressions which seem largely immune to the popular opinion or hysteria of the moment. You successfully made me re-think my urgent need to pursue a Fuji X100, for example–I had been willing myself to overlook the fact that it really is not pocket-able, except in a coat pocket. The Ricoh GR is so much more suitable to my needs from that perspective.

      • I believe that was one of the issues I mentioned with the A – video mode is a drive mode setting off the ‘i’ key. The mode dial is stiff enough that it never moved accidentally, though. I take it you landed up with the Ricoh?

      • agreed. ricoh GR 200grs less than the fuji fx100 and much smaller. A pocket camera with a great APS-C sensor!!!!!

  27. Thank you, thank you… for another great review and take on photography and equipment Ming, your time and efforts. As always love your example photos (yes, now that I’ve got my new computer almost ready its time for your DVD :-) and eloquent explanation of your user experience.

    Wish either could be the ‘perfect camera’ – did I just say that? – but maybe close enough for now.

    I’ve got a pre-order in on the Ricoh, Amazon in Japan has a delivery date on my order for May 25th-27th. Wondering if I’m going to put a wait on it till things settle. Being an early adapter on a new camera does have its drawbacks or a bit like gambling. On the Ricoh website they put enough emphasis on firmware updates that its a ‘feature’ of the camera. So if Ricoh can address the focus speed in low light with a firmware update, what else would be an issue that should address?

    A 28mm that does what either the Nikon or Ricoh intends is just about all I need for a compact take everywhere camera, but a wide doesn’t do everything.

    What companion camera would work with this I’m wondering? The Ricoh and its B&W quality has taken some of the desire for the Leica MM, and I still have my M9 which I would have had to sell to get. Another compact? My D-LUX 4 has been fine for what it does, is it worth upgrading to the D-LUX 6?

    Hay, I’m in this for fun not to make money :-).

  28. Thank you again Ming,
    after playing with the DNG files a bit more I am really looking forward to the GR. I agree that RPP is a slow mobile for transporting files but batching is quite fast. Normally I would work files one by one though. It can’t be too long before the GR is profiled for ACR.

    Some of your GR shots did look “hot” as you wrote yourself. Did you not use live histogram or confirm shots when you compared? I am a little sceptic towards matrix metering of the Ricoh and generally use center weighted. (As I did with Nikon film cameras.) Nikons Matrix metering has been very good though I would not use it in some instances. I find that normally Ricoh does well with the metering but that is perhaps since I am familiar with it by now and compensate on the fly without having to think about it.

    Regarding AF I do think that the GR will have it’s limitations. Other reports have indicated the AF to be quite good indoors too so I do believe it to be possible to improve it in firm ware. This was done with the GXR and A12/50 module – which wasn’t fast – but did improve a whole lot after firmware update as well as bettering the macro range shooting options.
    As with all cameras, knowing the AF is crucial. I find that even with the “crude and old” GXR with the A12 modules I can positively lock on target with practically no hunting even in very low light. It takes some time with the camera to figure out what it can and can’t do but I am quite sure the GR AF will be very good in normal light and OK in poor light. Multi AF I don’t normally use.

    As a comparison my Fuji X10 is a much worse camera when it comes to AF accuracy and failing to acquire focus – sometimes even in good light. Like the camera, don’t trust the AF. My Sigma DP1M is much like the olden day cameras in low light: slooooow but mostly accurate if you know where to point it.

    I had some of the first digital AF slr cameras that came out (Nikon F501, back in 1986) and they worked fine too, once you got to know them. Even moving targets. I have pictures of glaciers in flight to prove that. ;)

    • I wanted to test the camera under run and gun conditions – representative of normal use – so matrix was used a lot of the time. In practice I found myself going manual or spot, which slowed things down considerably (and somewhat defeats the point of the camera).

      I can only hope the production version is a bit better…

Trackbacks

  1. […] pointed out issues with the reds coming from its Adobe standard DNG files (Ming Thein mentioned this in his comparison against the Nikon A). As of the latest firmware, I didn’t see a problem at all, possibly due to 3 apparently […]

  2. […] Image quality is superb on these APS-C-sensored 28mm equivalents. Some of you may remember my dilemma: I bought the Ricoh in the […]

  3. […] mir die Brennweite nicht ganz zu. Der Rest der Performance scheint – was man so liest – zu stimmen: Battle of the 28mm compacts: Ricoh GR vs Nikon Coolpix A – Ming Thein | Photographer Und richtig kompakt ist vor allem die Ricoh: Compare camera dimensions side by side Leica hat aus […]

  4. […] Battle of the 28mm compacts: Ricoh GR vs Nikon Coolpix A – Ming Thein | Photographer […]

  5. […] same goes with cameras: many of you will recall the Nikon Coolpix A vs Ricoh GR battle from a couple of months ago; both are fantastic cameras and very focused pieces of equipment […]

  6. […] compelling features of the Ricoh GR  (Digital V, reviewed here and compared against the Coolpix A, here) was its ability to output native squares and files that had excellent tonality for monochrome […]

  7. […] APS-C sized sensor. The closest rival is the Coolpix A (I have never used it, but you can see this nice rival review on Ming Thein’s blog). Also it is definitely a lot more affordable than the Sony RX-1 (which […]

  8. […] Added on 5/7/2013: http://blog.mingthein.com/2013/05/07/battle-of-the-28mm-compacts-ricoh-gr-vs-nikon-coolpix-a/ […]

  9. […] of you will recall the 28mm shootout between the Ricoh GR and Nikon Coolpix A, and the not-so-simple decision process that ensued. What’s happened in the last two weeks is […]

  10. […] Following on from yesterday's review of the Ricoh GR (Digital V) can only be one thing: the comparison shootout between the GR and its natural rival, the Nikon Coolpix A (full review here). Or is it the other way around, since …  […]

  11. [...] Part two – Battle of the 28mm compacts: Ricoh GR vs Nikon Coolpix A – continues here. [...]

  12. [...] Source: http://blog.mingthein.com/2013/05/07/battle-of-the-28mm-compacts-ricoh-gr-vs-nikon-coolpix-a/ [...]

  13. [...] Following on from yesterday’s review of the Ricoh GR (Digital V) can only be one thing: the comparison shootout between the GR and its natural rival, the Nikon Coolpix A (full review here). Or is it the other way around, since the A came first? Doesn’t matter a single bit, it’s all about the images. Fight!  [...]

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