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. Tom Liles says:

    This is the dying embers now, and I’m sure I’m talking to myself… But I did drop by a camera shop and play about with both a Coolpix A and GR digital IV [because the V isn’t released here in Japan until the 24th May]. I wasn’t looking at IQ—I couldn’t since there wasn’t a V to compare to, and it’s a camera shop so all I have anyway is the rear LCDs; and Ming has done the legwork for us all there, besides. I was looking at haptics and size. My deal maker criterion is this: does it go in a pocket, or not?

    Verdict: the Ricoh all day. Easy.
    [assuming the V will be the same size as the IV]

    With the caveat: totally get what an earlier poster was on about with the cheap feeling dials and knobs on the Ricoh. Well, the IV felt this way, at any rate—yuck. But tolerable.

    You could just — just — get an A in a regular jean pocket, be a squeeze though. A regular pair of slacks with deeper trouser pockets would be the ticket. But, no… the A’s small; but not GR small. It’s pocketable, but not GR pocketable. As I say, for me pocketable size is the deal-maker: I want a camera that is serious, but — and Ming is so on point here — does not get in the way, physically and mentally, i.e., it comfortably goes in a pocket, out of sight and out of mind. I really get what Ming meant when he said that; when he talked about a camera for when you don’t want to have a camera with you—it’s about the others you’re with, as much as anything. They don’t want to be with someone with a camera swinging around his neck, however small, and who’s striking the shot-position or freezing mid-step then back-wheeling every 5 minutes, because that’s what having the camera out makes you do. The GR is the camera for when you [and those with you] don’t want to take a camera.

    Hopefully this time next year, second handers will be plentiful, sitting at about 500~600 USD, etc… then I’ll pounce!
    [translation: itching to get one asap]

    P/S Ming & Todd [on the off chance you’re listening!] I got a bit further toward the bottom of my color profiling problem—if you use Adobe DNG profiler rather than the xrite software, you get quite different results. In a good way. I did a test run today with the D7000 via this new method; not ‘problem solved!,’ but a really good first try—definitely on my way to getting more sensible profiles and, the while point!, pleasing reproduction… Chinese-Korean-Japanese skin tones are the holy grail for me… I mean, getting the skin & lips, true to life is HARD. I don’t know—maybe you don’t have this difficulty at all, Ming, but I feel like I can never get the right balance between magenta and green tint. Literally move the slider 1 point thatta way and it’s not right, one point the other way, and it’s still not right! Unable to nail it, I always settle for a slight magenta bias [having gotten it as close to true as I can] rather than a green one: green tint, even just a teeny tiny bit, isn’t complementary, in my opinion, to those lighter Asian skin tones [Asians of Han Chinese lineage?] the people I encounter the most. I’m sure it’s different again for south-east Asian skin tones. This shot of yours, Ming, is so close to perfect but the faces, just the faces, when I sit and really look feel a tiny bit too magenta-y to my eyes. This is what I’m talking about. Maybe it’s my eyes? But I’d hate to see more green in there, at the same time—everything else is spot on [you don’t need me, or anyone, but especially not me, to tell you]. Anyway, yes, I got into this whole color calibration/profile thing because I wasn’t satisfied with my friends’ lips just coming off too pinky-magenta in my photos and their skin tones feeling, I don’t know, penultimate? Not quite there? Like there was a minor adjustment waiting to be made…

    I’m rambling!

    Viva the GR 🙂

    • That extra few mm of thickness on the A really does make a difference. In any case, I prefer slim belt-holsters: the GR will have a tailored leather one (yay! I’ve used the one from my original 2006 GR, but it won’t seem to fit any of the newer cameras) but the A doesn’t. Small points, but in use they matter…

      As for color: I presume you’ve calibrated your monitor, and you’re using something with a decent gamut. If not, how would you know if you’re on or not? It makes all the difference in the world…I usually remember what’s grey in the scene, eyedropper WB and then tweak to taste – my color is pleasing, not accurate (unless I’m shooting product). This article on chasing perfect color might help.

      • Tom Liles says:

        Thanks Ming. Yes, I use the freebie Apple utility. At work all I have is a Macbook Air [newest model], which is good—but, sorry Apple, for even halfway serious editing this is definitely not the machine [I have the solid state memory and maxed out on everything, like yours Ming, so while the display isn’t up to it, the horsepower is definitely there. Wow]. So yes, for serious color checking, I use my home computer: I have a 2008 iMac with 24″ Cinema display—which is definitely more like it.
        The Apple calibrator utility is plenty good enough, in my opinion; and I’ve seen a product photographer use one of those spider thingies. Not convinced myself [as I’m not a product photographer!]. As an aside, another Apple freebie utility — Colorsync Utility — shows you gamuts and lets you overlay them, for comparison. If you put Adobe RGB, for example, and overlay “LCD Display” [for the Airs] you see how little you’re really working with. Well, this isn’t news to you, Ming; but I was quite taken aback. Even sRGB is WAY bigger! And this is also true, according to Colorsync utility, for the displays on the pre-retina MacBook Pros—I have one of those at home, too. So it makes you wonder about all the ink and bile spilt over “color management” online… If people think they can perceivably cram the color values from ProPhoto, say, into 256^3, I think they are highly mistaken. Never mind inks on a print!

        At any rate, I don’t get too wound up about how tightly calibrated my display is [though I am a bit of a perfectionist and cannot abide doing nothing], since the instant my photos are shown anywhere other than on that—it’s all out of my hands again!

        Thanks once more for the article. Invaluable!

        Cheerio 🙂

        • The display is terrible. The horsepower is surprising – agreed 🙂

          The Apple utility has one weakness: it’s only as good as the eyeballs of the person operating it: and it can make a big difference.

          Interesting though how even when viewed through other random monitors, I don’t get many complaints about color in my images looking off…

          • Tom Liles says:

            No, and quite the opposite is demonstrably the case isn’t it, Ming: you get people actively lauding you for your colors. I certainly recall one commenter, a pro photog, holding you a “King of Color,” accompanied in that estimation by only one other photographer…

            All in all, proof, I think, that monitors are not as out, drifted, useless as the color management industrial complex would like us to believe. There is a delta there, but it’s effectively invisible to even halfway attentive viewers like myself, never mind your average joe…

            And please please please, give us a money shot of the GR holster! 🙂
            The Pentax [I take care to say that and not ‘Ricoh’] merchandising, by the by, is quite aggressive over here: the camera store I dropped by had a dedicated POP (point of purchase) display up, adorned with GR branded bags, straps, what have you. Even a red lens ring!

            Roll on the 24th!

            • It’s usually the colors on the edges of the wheel that cause issues; it’s not so much overall accuracy as fine gradations in tonal subtlety that tend to be the issue, plus casts in the shadows or highlights as the individual pixels don’t increase luminance at a consistent rate. I find my 11″ Air monitor on the cool side, with magenta/cyan shifts to make things worse…

              GR holster isn’t available – but if I do get the GR, I will of course get the holster…

              Are the cameras available? And in an odd way, the red ring sounds kinda cool. If it’s the right red.

              • Tom Liles says:

                They’re taking orders but there’s no merchandise to inspect. The couple of stores I dropped by had POP displays with little mock up cardboard box GRs, with real GRDivs next to them. Quite confusing actually as I spent the first 30 seconds thinking the GRDiv was the GR. Anyway, if you went to have a butchers at the stand, a salesman would roll up on you pretty quickly: that means they’re doing good business, I think. Floor salesmen tend not to chase lost causes and stick to strengthening sure things. Smart cookies.

                Oh yes, Ming, the red lens ring looks great [I don’t know how practical it’d be, but still]… in the pictures, at least.
                For your viewing pleasure
                [you have to scroll down a touch]

                One thing, I think a pro photog living out here quoted you circa 83,000 JPY for the GR and a bit more — about 5,000 JPY wasn’t it? — for the A. Bic Camera, Yodobashi Camera, etc., the big electronics retailers have the A at something more like 100,000 JPY and the GR at 99,000 JPY. These might be big store prices; more conceivably, Tokyo prices. But about 100 USD more than quoted and not as much in the difference.

                As I say, for me, though, the size, not the lowest price, is the deciding factor.

                • Ooh. It’s shallow of me, but I actually like that. Anodized aluminum…it looks good, in a still-stealthy way.

                  I suppose prices differ if you have the club card and know people or have a usual dealer or something?

                  Too many deciding factors for me. I missed the GR when it left, but now I’m using the A quite happily.

              • Tom Liles says:

                It’s usually the colors on the edges of the wheel that cause issues; it’s not so much overall accuracy as fine gradations in tonal subtlety that tend to be the issue, plus casts in the shadows or highlights as the individual pixels don’t increase luminance at a consistent rate.

                Thanks for these diamonds, Ming. I’ve been revisiting your color writing, to help myself better get to grips… I’m not sure if the world is watching, but you had a line in there which feels like it’s really the crux of color:

                Get the subject right. All your efforts into that, and let the chips fall where they may for everything else in the frame.
                [of course they’re not going to be miles out]

                I don’t know if this was just intended as advice for beginners, like me, but I can’t see how this could ever serve you ill—at any point in a photographic life. And the subtlety of the advice is that right doesn’t have to mean true, I suppose. You said “pleasing color” rather than true color, yesterday. The following image won’t be new to you, but it was new to me:

                Color

                Pleasing!

                • Well, it’s relatively simple logic: the photo is all about the subject, and if your light and composition directs you there, you’re not really going to notice any shortfalls in other areas…

        • Much depends on where the images are being viewed. You can have one of the best monitors around (like an EIZO) and get everything to look great on your display, then when you see the image on someone else’s monitor it can be way off. The other issue is printing: if you do in-house inkjets, then even their is variation depending upon age of inks, paper brightness and paper whiteness, and even humidity levels in your studio. Send image files out to a commercial printer, then you have another set of variables to deal with.

          There are also some ways to play it safe (sometimes). You can reduce the output of Magenta prior to it heading to the printers. I’ve seen well over a decade of images that were too heavy magenta. Remember that it is a very strong printing ink, especially compared to Cyan and Yellow. If you are sending a soft-proof, and unsure of the end viewer’s monitor, you can try using ColorMatchRGB instead of other profiles, then just get it close; basically the end result will always look better than ColorMatchRGB. You can also play it safe with a web image by just reducing the Green output on your images.

          When I first learned, we didn’t have calibrated monitors, and there was only one Radius to check an image prior to local output. So before I graduated college in 1998, I learned to use the colour picker in Photoshop and be able to tell the balance from the readings. Bottom line is that there is always variation in colour output, and if you don’t realize that, then you will drive yourself crazy trying to do minute adjustments. Some printing places will give you tight output specifications, and you can do wonders when you adjust up to those limits, but I have found those places to not be as common as they once were.

          • End of the day, I just make sure what I see is what my printer delivers, and what my clients get. One of the reasons I use the same printmaster is consistency…and he’s more particular than I am when it comes to perfection (as unlikely as that seems).

            • I have a few printing companies with whom I prefer working, though clients will at times go with lower cost printing companies. One other problem that crops up is the printing company changing late in a project, after files have been optimized to work with the first printing company. SWOP sheetfed is a compromise, despite that it can provide quite good output. There are definitely times I wish there was only one choice of printing company.

              • Not just that: it might look good now, but cheap printing tends not to look good that long because the inks are compromised and not so pigment-rich…

                • Completely agree. Every year I go to a printing industry trade show to get samples of finally printed items. When I show these to clients and explain the process, quite often some printing perfection can happen that will give them something usable for a while, and something that they can be proud to use. The problem since the downturn in the economy came when so many clients looked for ways to reduce expenses. In the long run poor printing will cost them more, but it’s not always easy to get that point across.

          • Tom Liles says:

            Hi Gordon, I doubt you’ll notice this — and I think, from the level you’re speaking at, you were talking to Ming — but I’d like to thank you for your comments: thanks! 🙂

            So yes, most of that went over my head. I can kind of imagine, but have no practical experience of any of this. Would you believe I haven’t printed even one of my photos yet. I do have a printer at home, a really good one, not new, my wife got it when she had a photography boom about five years ago; it’s an Epson, the Japanese model number is PM-G4500. It’s a six ink job and prints up to A3, full bleed, so this is how I know it’s not a casual printer [that and it doesn’t have a scanner and a fax and a phone and a coffee maker built into it]. But it’s probably all dry and dead inside—hasn’t been used for five years! I might try and revive it when I get a free afternoon, which won’t be soon [we have two young kids and another on the way!].
            There is a reputable photographic print store relatively near where I work, National Photo in Harajuku, Tokyo; considering them. The staff are pretty icy; it’s more a pro shop, I suppose. My other option is my work. I happen to work in advertising and we have a room full of graphic designers who design direct mail, flyers, coupons, posters, etc., etc., who have business relationships with all sorts of printers, all good. I don’t know if they’d let me throw a few of mine in with theirs [a few of the more senior designers sometimes use business printers for personal work]; only one way to find out there. Not to mention all these designers are a pool of printing knowledge waiting to be tapped! Ha. No, but I’m getting to close to having 10+ images that I’m really quite happy with and would like to print and maybe show my friends and colleagues, etc. I don’t know what it’d cost, if it’d cost anything, doing it via the work printers [I do doubt they’d let me though]; but the print shop I mentioned above charges about 8 USD (800 JPY) for a “roku-kiri” size print. Roku-kiri [or “Rokkiri” colloquially] is literally “6 cuts” in Japanese, but anyway, the size is 203 x 254 mm, about 8 by 10 inches in real money.

            8 USD per print, for 10… 80 USD… just feels too expensive to justify, at the moment. Though the longer I leave it, the longer this gaping whole in my experience and knowledge yawns open. One of those: look into the abyss, and it looks back at you type deals.

            Bottom line is that there is always variation in colour output, and if you don’t realize that, then you will drive yourself crazy trying to do minute adjustments

            Totally, totally get this. But I still drive myself crazy over with alarming regularity! 🙂 Yes, when I first took a look at this “color management” stuff it seemed the height of stupidity, to me. Why do all that, and the instant it leaves your hermetically sealed, color managed, environment, it’s all for nought. Same with a print: it’s never going to be viewed in D65 conditions by people with perfect color vision and etc., etc.

            By the same token: all those iconic images—we all look at them, in different light [geographically and temporally] with different eyes, and we all instantly know they are special

            I suppose, like the way the physical universe works, it’s all about constraint and freedom [or better put constraints on freedom]. We want color that’s in the zone, in a given envelope, and that’s as good as it gets?

            I saw a really good line on a blogger’s page the other day. It wasn’t a photography site, and I was researching something for work; but this guy had a post about photos. Having gotten into it now, I wanted to go and have a look. Most of his opinions were niether here nor there [like mine], but he had this one gem:

            interesting beats sharp

            So I’d steal and modify, and say:

            interesting beats perfect color

            Sorry, it was me who started the whole “how to get perfect color?” thread wasn’t it! 😀

            • Tom Liles says: We want color that’s in the zone, in a given envelope, and that’s as good as it gets?

              No, not really. What it takes is the entire chain of people involved in a project pushing for the best output. Unfortunately that does not always happen, due to budget or time issues, or simply due to a lack of ambition. When everything does mesh together, and all involved are working towards the best output, then magic can happen in the print.

              I’m formally trained as an oil painter, went into illustration work after graduating with a BFA in 1998, then got quickly into graphic design and pre-press. I was doing CMYK prior to RGB, and tried to work in Pantones and touchplates when possible. I originally just did photography for my illustration work, to use as samples. Some musician friends and a few design clients convinced me to move just towards doing photography. I would expect you have some talented people in your office, so they may be able to guide you towards great prints.

              You can ask your local lab if they use a colour profile, or have one that you can load into Photoshop. They would be your first source to getting the printed output you want. Hopefully they can do a text print or two first, and help you get set-up. If you have a colour target, try to take a photo with that in it, and use that as your initial working model.

              You did start this line of questions, and it is an important issue. I hope Ming doesn’t mind the in-depth discussion, since I definitely have enjoyed it.

              • Not at all – keep the ball rolling. I’m far from an expert and very much enjoying learning from this too.

              • Tom Liles says:

                Hello again Gordon,

                Thanks for the tips! Yes, I’m really lucky: I do have a color chart, a product photographer we use at work gave it to me for nothing! A nice interlude to say: one thing I’ve found since picking up photos, is that, generally, people are very happy to share, both knowledge and equipment. This guy also gave me a loaner of a DX 10.5mm ED fisheye [which is VERY expensive, on my terms, so I treat it like the Crown Jewels; I’m almost too afraid to use it! But still, he just said: hey, I almost never use this, try it and see what you get. I haven’t got much with it so far; everything I get looks a bit cliche. I haven’t done any point blank puppies yet, so don’t despair too much!].

                I was doing CMYK prior to RGB

                OK, we’re talking about reductive and additive color models there, aren’t we? That’s about as much as I understand, I confess. Does this mean because you were a painter, illustrator, you were never worried about screen display so you just started in the target colorspace? I hope you have 5 min to explain as I’m really interested to hear more about your background, Gordon.
                [A quick note: I always thought people who could draw had a supreme talent. Them and musicians. You can can practice and practice and practice, but with these two, I’m convinced that to get anywhere you need something, God given, to start with. Always been envious of people who could just look at something and recreate it by hand, on paper; or people who could walk into a room with a piano in it, sit and just casually reel off some music. Amazing.]

                I had a play with the soft-proofing toggles in PS and note there were general CMYK preset ones; next I want to try and download a lab’s canned profile and try a soft-proof with it in PS. Just as you kindly recommend, Gordon. I’ve allocated 32 USD for just having a go at the print shop, when pay day rolls around, this month.
                For any beginners out there like me, and for any people who can’t drop a thousand splonks on PS, like me [I got an old CS3 from a guy at work; not for free, but it certainly didn’t cost a grand!], I found you don’t need an expensive software like PS to have a go at soft proofing. If you’re an Apple user, you can use Preview. Open up an image, command+i to bring the “inspector” up: if there’s anything in the EXIF, it’ll all come up in the inspector—including whatever ICC profile, the color model, is embedded in the image. Now, with the inspector visible, set to “general” so you can see the color model of the image, go to “soft proof with profile” under view. You should see a ton of profiles with which to proof, there. And you can, of course, add downloaded profiles to this list. The first time I did this, the on screen change was as good as imperceptible, to me. That’s why I recommend having the inspector up, to confirm to yourself you have actually changed the color model [for soft-proofing]. Finally, Preview won’t let you convert a colorspace but it will let you assign one. Again, this terminology [and the difference] at first made zilcho sense to me, so for anyone reading, this is a mildly condensed version:
                [which is probably largely wrong, so take with a pinch of salt if there are no corrections from Gordon or Ming, below]

                1) computer screens make displayed colors from the three primaries: Red, Green, Blue. These are the three color “channels.”
                2) Each channel can have a value from 0-255, for 256 discrete values in total. A full color description is three entries in a matrix: [R,G,B]. RGB is an additive system, i.e., value 0 is “off” or dead black; we’re just adding light, of different hues, to that. [255,255,255] would be brilliant white.
                3) Secondary colors, and so on, are mixes of the three primaries; combos of numbers in the matrix, e.g., [255,255,0] is fully saturated yellow. HTML uses the same RGB system, but numbered in double digit hexadecimal [base 16; digits go from 0 to F, i.e., 0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,A,B,C,D,E,F], the fully saturated yellow above would be #FFFF00.
                4) So the numbers of discrete colors your computer can deal with [I think this is different than “your display could make”] — the number of combinations of these numbers — is 256^3 [256 cubed]: that’s 16,777,216 colors. Called “true color.”
                5) Do you think you could discern 16M different hues? I’m supremely confident that I couldn’t…
                6) I’m actually VERY skeptical that computer displays can produce 16M different hues, either…
                7) But, at any rate, how many colors can humans pick out?
                8) Answer varies, but safe to say, for any practical application, it’s not as many as 16M. The color “gamut” [color sensory extent] of our vision was researched a good while ago, actually, like beginning of the 20th century long ago. The result was the CIE xyz colorspace—google that and you see the horseshoe shaped colorspace that crops up every time people start banging on about color…
                8) Printing and display gamuts [reproductory extent] are usually overlayed on the CIE gamut. Again, if you’re an Apple user, check out “Colorsync Utility” which will let you perform this exact action. You see that they are all smaller than CIE [save one corner of ProPhotoRGB; though how anyone has verified that is beyond me!].
                9) Now, the 16M values come back into play…
                10) That “true color” figure is an absolute. It doesn’t change. What changes is how we shoehorn different gamuts into that metric, as I understand the process. I think of it as being like graduations on a ruler. I could have 1cm or 10mm; the ten millimeter notches would be just visible to my eyes. I could also graduate the same cm in microns [millionths of a meter] but there’s no way my eyes see those individual notches. In fact, I’d probably only be able to see every thousandth micron, i.e., back to the millimeters again. So, the finer the graduations, the less my ability to see them, past a point where I can’t see them, and the changes seem to be continuous. This is continuous tone.
                11) Once you’re at that point, there’s no sense in graduating even finer notches. The difference is truly and completely lost on you. This is the example of HUGE colorspace wedged into a True Color metric.
                12) This doesn’t mean there’s no point in manipulating files in a space that’s bigger than perception or hardware capability. The reason everyone says edit RAW in ProPhotoRGB is to have the maximum of data to start with, as we are effectively sculpting down what we start with [though it did sound a bit like snake-oil to me, when I first read the advice that we were to edit imperceptible data.] For Michael-Angelo to make David, he needed a lump of stone [his data] bigger than the intended final product.
                13) To get back on track, different gamuts fit into the 16M metric differently.
                14) When you do that, each color is assigned its RGB value; and so this value is gamut specific
                15) If you have an image in Adobe RGB, say, and you want it to appear, as you see it now, but in a different color space then you need to CONVERT the file’s colorspace… what happens there is the gamut specific color values are translated into gamut specific color values in another space. Spaces may be different sizes, so some creative interpretation is often necessary—this is the genesis of those “perceptual,” “relative colormetric,” etc., options in PS—you’re telling the computer how to translate a color that doesn’t have an analog the target space. Like trying to translate a word in German that doesn’t have an equivalent in English [plenty of those, as any German speaker will tell you!].
                16) When you ASSIGN a colorspace, all you are doing is leaving the color values AS THEY ARE, but changing the gamut they are interpreted under. Using the German analogy, it’s like dropping a native German speaker, who doesn’t speak a lick of English, into a dinner party in London, and having him strike up a conversation [in German]. All you’d get it quizzical looks. Just like you get when you upload a picture you made in Adobe RGB to Facebook, or something. Your file only speaks Adobe RGB, Facebook only speaks sRGB.

                The Preview utility on macs, will let you ASSIGN profiles; but I’ve found that pretty useless. Only useful for repairing, not preparing. What you really want is something that will let you CONVERT profiles. I guess that’s pretty much PS. A bit poor from Apple, though, I thought. They could save less serious users, who certainly want to do this sort of operation, some money. Hey ho…

                This was just what I [think I] know about RGB. I know nothing about CMYK! But the obvious difficulty is going to be going from additive to reductive models. From transmitted light, to reflected. It seems — I’ve never done it, so I’m just imaging what it’d be like — like getting the luminance [the L in Lab spaces] of the printed colors right would be hard [if you’re starting from something transmitted out of a backlit screen!]. Is that the case, Gordon?

                What’s the main variable to look out for when making prints? Is there one?

                Hope you see this!

                Tom 🙂

                • Just caught up on all this! Thanks Tom!

                  • Tom Liles says:

                    Thanks Todd!

                    That was a really flagelant post though… and I feel like I’ve over done it in recent days — especially the CC:Orphan article — so maybe it’s better that this conversation about color dies down. I’m sure I’ve become a but of a nuisance around here. But if I’m honest I don’t want it this thread to die off as I find this conversation [and all the others!] interesting, helpful and nicely sociable all in one!

                    But yes, I had a result with that coloring problem you were helping me with the other day: profile with Adobe’s DNG profiler instead of the xrite software => Bob’s your uncle 🙂

                • Hi Tom. Just checking this thread again and noticed your questions. Hopefully it helps others consider colour issues in their own workflows too.

                  My illustration work usually began in black and white, often pencil or pen on paper. Any colour work was added through Adobe Illustrator after cleaning up lines using a WACOM Tablet. Colour choices happened by number, either Pantone when the client budgeted for those sorts of prints, or CMYK mixes when four colour output was to be used. My monitor choices were not very good, and colour metering of the screen was still a rough process that didn’t help much. Instead I had swatch books of Pantone samples. The intention was printing, so what was on the screen was only a representation. The numbers were the true indicator, and I still use that approach today with photographic images. I think having come through this method, and not very good monitors, that I have become very comfortable with this process. The intention is to have the printed output appear like the scene, and not try to make the printed output look like the monitor.

                  One big issue with RGB is that printed black (K) is a component of RGB values. Often it can be better to adjust the K Channel to improve the printed output. I know some designers and some photographers just do the convert to cmyk as a last step with no adjustments, but I think it really misses some further improvements that can be made prior to printing. Red becomes 100% magenta and 100% yellow, but yellow is a weak printing ink. Sometimes altering that a little, or adding up to 10% cyan to red appearing areas, can make for brighter printed reds. Anyway, that’s just an example, and individual image adjustments mean that each approach can have subtle differences. Best thing I can suggest is to photograph your colour target, then try some different CMYK approaches, have them printed, then see where you want to make adjustments. I have been doing this more than a decade, so I may be oversimplifying the explanation.

  2. Thomas says:

    Thanks for an excellent comparison! I was mildly interested when I first heard about the A, but having owned a GRDIII, immediately preordered a GR. However, having read this, I’m not so sure anymore… Metering accuracy is a big deal for me as I typically shoot in manual mode (landscapes, city scenes) and meter first, then line up the shot. I hate having to constantly remember that a camera is prone to over- or underexpose.

    Which means the A is all of a sudden a much more compelling camera (especially given Nikon’s expertise in rich, vivid and contrasty color). However, I played around with one for a couple of minutes in store, and it didn’t actually give exposure preview on the LCD which seems incredibly strange to me. If you have an LCD, surely it should at least be an option to see see how exposure adjustments will affect the image…? Is this something you can set up on the A?

    • If you’re shooting static objects, I’d suggest spot metering as the way to go. Matrix matters for reportage run-and-gun where you might not have time to lock focus and lock exposure.

      Half press the shutter on the A and it’ll preview EV comp. The GR has the other problem: it previews, but won’t show the exact exposure until you half press the shutter…

  3. Jeremy Reuben says:

    Thanks Min for your great photos and wonderful work…KL is a great place to work out your camera gear.
    What are your thoughts of using the Nikon Coolpix A instead of the 12/2 on the OMD to achieve the 24/28 fov? Which one and why?

    • Depends on whether you need long exposures or not: the OM-D will be better because of the stabilizer. Otherwise, probably either the A or GR for pocketability.

  4. Great review as always Ming… I really “enjoy” visiting your site every day…What would you think of the Nikon P7700 now that it has been discounted ?? I’m really looking for a “good” pocket camera when I don’t want to luv around my D800E…I have been doing all my research and being a Nikon shooter,,the new “A” seems to be my best needs..(for what I need it for).. I think you did a review of the P7700 back when it came out..I will check archives..But my main reason is spending almost 1,200 for the “A”…or 380 for a P7700..?? I use my Dslr’s for work and a pocket camera for my “personnel” needs.. Maybe the “raw” files are decent on the p7700..??

    • Nope, I never did – Amazon didn’t ship it to me. Controls are a bit silly – three dials, duplicate functionality. Kinda big for the sensor size though. I’d probably give it a miss and wait for an LX7 on the $299 special.

  5. This was an amazing comparison! I love your website, Ming, you are my main source of photo knowledge. I’d like to ask, though: what’s the flash sync speed on those cams? What’s it like to work with flashes with them?

  6. Hi Ming…great info here, thanks for taking the time out to test and compare.

    I bought the Sony RX100 and I’m very happy with it. I made the “mistake” of handling a Coolpix A at a local store…it’s a very nice camera (slow to focus as compared to the RX100).

    Is there really a reason to upgrade to a Nikon A or Ricoh GR? I get default 28mm field of view, fast autofocus, and 10fps shooting (not to mention I can shoot equivalent 35mm or 50mm at full resolution and image compression as opposed to cropping a 28mm image tighter). I think I know the answer, but I’m looking for your opinion…is the RX100 that much worse overall as a compact shooter?

    • Image quality on the A and GR is a significant step up. But if you’re happy with the RX100…then stick with it, because the more specialised a tool, the more restrictions it will have, too.

  7. Rex Gigout says:

    Thanks for this comparison! I have no regrets buying an A, with its fairly familiar menu and ability to use our existing Speedlights. My wife loves it, and her employer requires Nikon JPEGs, straight from the camera, so an A can serve as her back-up camera at work. As expected, to preserve domestic tranquility, I will need to acquire a second compact camera!

  8. So serious master compares cameras in so strange manner….
    GR V vs Coolpix A 4 center
    GR V vs Coolpix A 4 corner


    and he knows nothing about exposure adjustment

    The exposure is ABSOLUTELY different. In favor of Coolpix A… I have only one question after such comparision – is there any sense in it?

    • Yes there is, and there’s sound logic behind it. I’ve explained why in the text and comments if you’d bothered reading them: you want to know how each camera’s meter behaves, so you can figure out how it’s going to expose in a given situation. The point of this portion of the comparison is not to do a bench test (which was done already with the ISO series) but replicate real-world usage. You’re not always going to have time or opportunity to take a second shot after adjusting exposure, so you have to learn how the camera behaves before and compensate accordingly.

      I think I know how to use exposure compensation, all of my REAL images – not bench tests – demonstrate that clearly.

      • I shoot in RAW and don’t care about such things at all…If you want to compare the results of cameras, you should “follow the rules of the game” – the exposure should be the same for comparison. If the difference is too high, you can’t conclude.

        • No, it depends what the objective of your comparison is. The results count. How you get there doesn’t matter. This is a website about photography not equipment masturbation and pixel peeping.

  9. Hi Ming,
    I was wondering what you might think since you own a GRD 3..
    At the moment the GRD 4 can be had for just 299 Canada dollars. Do you think this is still a worthwhile buy or does the difference in IQ alone with the new compacts such as the A and the GR justifies to leave the GRD 4 in the shop to gather dust?
    The thing is, the GRD 4 might still make a great sketch camera with great and proven handeling.

    Best,
    Ricky

    • At that price, it’s a bargain…you get better IQ with the V, but you also pay significantly more. Depends if low light performance is high up your priority list or not, I suppose.

  10. Steve Pritchard. says:

    I greatly appreciate and enjoy visiting this site. There’s always something interesting and original to see here. As someone who is interested in a large sensor compact, I found part 1 of the GR review most helpful. I confess though to certain misgivings at the direct comparison between a final production camera and a pre-production one. How confident are you that the final version of the GR will not be significantly improved, for example in relation to red tones in RAW, or low light AF performance?
    Thanks in advance for your reply.
    Steve.

    • Thanks Steve. Short answer: no idea. Given that Henrik has had some success with the reds in RPP, color may well be an ACR issue. As for AF, that would be a hardware thing. Given that there are now cameras for sale in various parts of the world – Australia and Japan – it’s doubtful that there will be any FW changes for some time.

  11. I cant help but think the issue her is that adobe has not created color profiles for the GR yet. Since it is a dng camera we can use it with its built in profile. but one would assume adobe will add profiles eventually

  12. Thanks for the great review. I am looking forward how this plays out in the near future when the final production model of the GR is available and hopefully some shortcomings have been ironed out with a software update.
    As it stands for now; my vote goes out to the Nikon A.

  13. Thanks MT for the great review. I am convinced … GR is probably I will try it out. (now to find a shop that sell GR in Penang).

  14. folsgold says:

    Hello Ming!
    Does GR can shoot without LCD working, I mean it there any switch to power off the LCD for view find?

  15. Love my Ricoh GR III to the point that I have bought (and sold) both a Sony NEX 5N and Nikon D7000 in order to achieve better dynamic range and resolution that goes along with a larger sensor. However, nothing beats the Ricoh GR when it comes to built quality (for size of camera), firmware updates, menu layout, and physical controls.

    This new Ricoh GR is going to be fantastic. Any problems with color or autofocus will be fixed in due time with firmware updates.

    I can’t give up the Ricoh GR III, so I guess I’ll have two of them (leave the III in the glovebox?). There is something about these cameras that really gives you a personal connection to them…as if the camera itself is an extension of yourself – such as it is with other great products designed by passionate people.

  16. You know you posted more samples from the Ricoh than the Nikon …that could be a good indication of which one to keep 🙂

    • True, but that’s partially because I’d already done a long review on the Nikon, have a lot of samples on my flickr stream in the relevant folder already, and have limited time with the camera.

  17. Leonard Hobbs says:

    Ming – a big thank you for the huge amount of time you obviously spent on both these reviews. I was anxiously awaiting your review as I know how much time, effort and knowledge you bring to the table. Alas, I still cannot make up my mind! I think I have lost a fair amount of money obsessing over the A or the GR in lost work and sleep. My solution – buy both and after a month of shooting sell one or the other. May cost me a few hundred bucks but oh how much billable time – and sleep – I will have saved due to endlessly re-reading your reviews, comparing images, waiting for more comments, waiting for firmware updates…..on and on.

    • Atta boy! Do it! 🙂

    • Haha, I think I may land up doing the same, actually.

      • Ciao Pui says:

        Ahem, you guys are really not good influence with these suggestions 🙂 seriously tempting me to get both and test them out for some time. Actually, I guess it could be worse, I might end up liking and keeping both?! Some wise author did say, “when you can’t decide one over another, why not have both?” But then I think he was referring to his girlfriends, not cameras… sigh.. back to agonizing.

  18. Basically the GR’s color issues are software/firmware, something Ricoh has been excellent with and which will depend almost exclusively on the RAW profile at home base. If the JPEG’s are fine…

    There’s a reason major test sites use JPEG’s to clarify. Hint, hint. Perhaps you should go back over some of those bolds in the Pros/Cons.

    But $300 is a major difference. In fact, it is THE difference. Is the Nikon worth that much more? That tells me a lot about how Nikon treats their customer base.

    • I’d never use JPEGs in practice because of limited tonal latitude, so it’s meaningless to assess this – it’s like reviewing a car based on how it handles in the mud when you’ll never off-road.

      Whether the $300 is the deciding factor or not depends on your personal requirements. You could also buy an M-E and 28/2.8 for a lot more and get a lot less…

  19. Tom Liles says:

    Sorry if this is above the line in the review somewhere, but did we ever get to the bottom of the bit-depth of the Ricoh RAW files?

    14 or 12 bit?

    • Nope, still haven’t been able to find out. If it makes any difference, the DNGs/ NEFs are about the same size out of both cameras.

  20. I was more curious than serious when reading your reviews of these cameras. It’s always good to have a back-up camera, especially one that can fit into a jacket pocket. I currently have a Nikon V1 and found the changes Nikon did to the V2 to be disappointing. I find the V1 to be a great daylight camera, and fairly good with flash at night. I’m curious whether the build quality is better on the Coolpix A?

    Considering that a small night camera may work well for me, and that the Coolpix A works with many Nikon Speedlights, that appears to be a better choice for me. The rare times I shoot B/W I tend to use film cameras. If recent Nikon history is any example, we should see a price drop soon on the Coolpix A, and we may find that a successor body may lose some of the quality. There is still too much tendency to cram in more pixels on the sensor on product refreshes, which would make a Coolpix B (or whatever they call it) more diffraction limited. How do you feel the stopped down performance compares on both these cameras?

    • Too close to call – by f5.6 they’re about the same, and above f11 you can see the diffraction starting to kick in. I definitely wouldn’t want a 24MP version…

  21. Henrik says:

    PS
    I think you should have cross compared the GR files with another RAW converter. It took me five minutes to conclude that the GR files look every bit as good as the Coolpix A when it comes to color accuracy.

    • Absolutely agree that this was a MAJOR FLAW of this report. As a shooter of both Nikon D800 and Leica M9, I am always amazed on the difference between RAW converters (ACR, Aperture, Capture NX2) when rendering files, both NEF and DNG. I usually check all of them when processing files and the differences are really incredible. Any review that misses this point needlessly puts into question the accuracy of what is being reported on.

      • Firstly, Henrik didn’t say it was a major flaw.

        Secondly, workflow matters, especially when your aim is consistency for professional work. Being proficient in a dozen raw converters just isn’t practical. If you’re not proficient, it’s MORE misleading because you may not know how to get the best out of the software. I can say with confidence that if I can’t make it work in ACR, then it’s either a camera or software limitation. If I can’t make it work in RPP, it might well be me because I haven’t processed half a million images with it.

        Thirdly, I’ve amended the review with a coda to reflect this, and I will do further investigation myself once I get another review camera.

        Fourthly, be careful because your comments are treading the line between being objective and being rude and insulting.

        • My comments were not meant as an insult, so I’ sorry if they came out that way. The point was that just as photographers pride themselves in pointing out that they own multiple cameras so that they can use the best equipment for the job, the same applies to the use of RAW converters. Unless all the alogarithms used by these companies to process RAW files are exactly the same, different results will be produced when the digital files are processed. Same with the rendering of web pages by different web browsers. That was the point, and it is OK if you don’t see it the same way.

  22. Henrik says:

    Hello Ming!
    I have now cross compared the DPReview test chart DNG files from the GR by running it in ACR as well as RPP. I can tell you there is NOTHING wrong with the reds from the GR. ACR must be the culprit. When I ran the DNG in RPP the file turned out great even in default mode with zero tweaking. In ACR the reds turn out pinkish and comparing the two after conversion shows a very distinct difference in the rendering of the reds with RPP being spot on. Since I use RPP anyway for DNG conversion I am happy with what the GR produces and I would not blame the camera for lack of profiling by ACR. There is simply put, nothing wrong with the files from the camera. I was pleasantly surprised and I really look forward to the GR.

    • Tom Liles says:

      Hi Henrik,

      That is MASSIVE. Thanks for this check.

      Ricoh owe you a big thank you too; imagine how many people you’ve just convinced in favor of the GR! 😀

    • That’s good news – thanks for sharing. It’s a bugger to the workflow, but it does mean that fundamentally the file should be okay…now we wait for Adobe.

  23. In the second picture, what is that rectangular thing attached to the Hasselblad Prism’s accessory shoe?

  24. x100s.

    maybe decide after you have a chance with the fuji and compare to these 2. not as pocketable and slightly longer focal length.

  25. I used to be a ricoh fanboy (having owned RX100, GRD I, II, III and IV). I was initially excited about the GR, but the more I read, the more I think about its weaknesses. Few things that kept me from jumping into the GR, most of which you’ve mentioned:
    – the dials on Ricoh’s feel cheap. While the body is mag. alloy, dials seem to come from Canon Rebel parts bin, plasticky and harsh.
    – Dynamic range issue is still not addressed. Pentax has issues with DR on some of their DSLR’s, particularly on highlights. GR is continuing that tradation.
    – The LCD has enough resolution, and yet it’s not sharp. Whereas the Nikon LCD is top notch, despite 920K.
    – Still not a quick way to select AF point. Multiple button press is required.
    In addition, I think it’s really silly for Ricoh to incorporate AF-C control on the back of the camera. Continuous contrast detect focus at 28mm? REALLY?
    Your review confirmed that nothing was really improved other than sensor size. Because of this, I think i’ll go with the A.

    • – Only the mode dial feels a little looser than ideal, because of the loose spring detent. Not a big deal.
      – DR matches the Nikon. What you see here are bad metering choices on the camera’s part. If you dialled in identical exposure, they’d be the same. Both have auto-DR options, too.
      – I think the LCD issue is because the Ricoh doesn’t show all of the JPEG processing settings (like sharpening, for instance) to speed up display refresh. The Nikon does.
      – Agree on the AF point.
      – I used the switch to be AF-ON instead, for which it actually works well. Continuous CDAF…is pointless.

      • Thanks for the great reviews. One thing you haven’t covered in great detail is the way the AF-C/AFL control switch/button can be configured. You mentioned you used it for AF-ON. What are the options for this switch/button? Can the AF-C mode be reconfigured to work as AF-ON so you could easily switch from having the shutter release control both AE/AF to using the AF-C button for AF and the shutter release for AE?

        • I honestly can’t remember, and the camera has gone back. You can pick what the button does in the AE-AFL position, and it’s always AF-ON in the AF-C position.

  26. Carlo Santin says:

    1:1 and film-like black and white? That’s enough for me to empty my wallet. I’ll have to think long and hard about this one, but it is extremely tempting.

    • Guenter Rohde says:

      Carlo, I am jumping on that train…no need to empty your wallet, though. Just think loud enough, but not so long…
      Good luck!

    • See for yourself. 🙂

      I think my current Hasselblad-obsession is also tipping me in this direction.

  27. Ming,

    Fantastic blog you’ve got here. Nice work.

    I’m curious to hear your thoughts on why Nikon and Ricoh have settled on 28mm f/2.8 lenses, whereas Fuji and Sony have opted for 35/2 equivalent. Do you think there’s a larger market for wider angle prime shooters or do you believe it was a design/engineering choice?

    • I think it’s neither – it’s probably historical. Ricoh has the entire GR line of film cameras that were also 28mm; Nikon had the 28ti and 35ti. Fuji I’m not sure – it was probably the best choice in keeping with the retro-Leica styling – and Sony were never a camera maker historically.

    • I agree with Ming’s comment. That said, when the original GR1 was launched, I read the interview with a Ricoh designer saying GR1 was designed for a travel camera and 28mm is good to record meals in airplanes for example. Sony has two currents of history I think 1) Minolta 2) Contax through Carl Zeiss Lens. RX1 reminds me of Contax T series which have 35mm lens as Minolta’s TC-1 had 28mm lens. Nikon launched 35Ti first, but if I remember correctly, 28Ti had better sales record.

      • The bigger question is, why on earth would people want to record meals in airplanes? I guess he must have been flying first class…

  28. Well, call me nuts, but personally I reckon that the GRD IV is a better bet. At least as a highly flexible, pocketable, rapid reaction camera.

    • I think it still makes sense for some uses, but having seen the image quality from these two, I don’t think I can go back.

    • Tom Liles says:

      Hi David,

      I hope you don’t mind me interjecting — I doubt you’ll see this as we’re in different time zones and the thread has died down — but I dropped by Snowhenge, and liked this post. I’m going to bookmark your page and look forward to seeing some GR pics whenever they come [after it comes to you, of course!].

      Anyone who knows and [unaffectedly] uses ‘recalcitrant’ is worth paying attention to, in my book 🙂

  29. Jorge Balarin says:

    I would prefer to buy the Nikon, because it has better colors. Color accuracy is important for me.

  30. tekapa says:

    I will definitely go for the Ricoh.

    Why? Nearly everything you complained about is Software (Firmware). (As an avid MF user Autofocus is not an issue for me) And as a long time user of Ricohs I’m absolutely sure that they will provide lots of Firmware Updates till everything is solved and nearly perfect.

    The only question I’m asking myself : Will the V be really much better than my III when still being processed in PSE with only 8 Bit.

    • You can work around it for now, and hope they’ll provide firmware. Agree on the Nikon.

      The V gains at least three stops of high ISO and some semblance of DOF control at near distances over the III. Pixel level quality and resolution blow it away. I owned a III for a couple of years and loved the results, but the it’s not even remotely close to the V.

  31. What if Ricoh had gone even more niche and made it a black & white only sensor? That would have been interesting. I’ve pre-ordered one as a wide complement to my OM-D+20+45 kit (the 9-18 was a good lens, I just didn’t enjoy using it as much as I do the other two).

  32. stone bat says:

    Ming, great article. I like it and appreciate your sharing.

    One question though. DNG is supposedly open standard, but it leaves some room for vendor specific features. Apps like ACR must support Ricoh GR’s DNG officially to see the full potential and the final color out of raw file. Shouldn’t we wait for the official support before jumping to the conclusion that Ricoh GR’s raw file turns red/orange into pink?

    • Firstly, we’re not jumping to conclusions: I’m noting empirical observations and caveating that things might change a) for the final product, though unlikely and b) after profiling of any kind.

      Previous cameras have not really shown much improvement even ‘after support’ – look at the M 240. That and the fact that the Ricoh makes significantly better B&W conversions than the Nikon makes me think the tonal choices were deliberate.

  33. Excellent review as always. By the way, the link for Amazon Ricoh GR page actually leads to Ricoh GR IV page(the B&H link works fine). As far as I know, Amazon is not taking preorder for Ricoh GR, but I hope they will do so soon.

  34. Thank you for this great comparison, how do say any of this cameras compare to an E-PM2/EPL-5 with a Panasonic 14/2.5 ?

    • The optics of the Panasonic are significantly worse, the IS of those particular bodies is useless, and raw sensor quality loses a stop or soto the Nikon or Ricoh. BUT…they focus much faster and are cheaper, so it depends on your priorities.

  35. Thanks for the great and useful review.

    I am a casual and inexperienced shooter and I intend to buy the GR.
    My personal response to the issues you raise is:

    1) Ricoh has poor reds in RAW << I shoot JPEG
    2) Low light auto focus is poor << I will use snap focus
    3) Aperture won't go below F4 in auto mode << I will use aperture priority

    If these answers make sense then my one remaining concern is that the GR overexposes. I take it that this will apply to JPEG just as much as RAW files? Can it be moderated by setting exposure compensation, say EV -1 ?

    Thanks again,
    Felix

    P.S. In your list of benefits of the GR you didn't mention the interval shooting or the eye-fi compatibility.

    • The exposure issue is more critical with JPEG because you have less latitude in the files. Add a #4 – use the spot meter.

      Both cameras have interval shooting and eye-fi, so it’s not really an advantage to either one.

  36. Keep in mind that Ricoh had an awesome track record (IMHO compared to any digital camera maker) of providing continous improvements over firmware updates! I remember that a lot of previous issues on the GR Digital version had beeb fixed and improved.
    In addition they cared a lt about these cameras, even when the next version/ successor was available!
    I am not so confident that Nikon will provide this as well.
    Of course because of the Pentax-Ricoh merge there might be changes/ resource constraints as well…
    But I would vote for the Ricoh.

    • It’s definitely worth something, but it would be a mistake to think history predicts future (especially after major corporate overhauls).

  37. Charlie Z says:

    Like the idea, but I’ll wait. Too many edges. (This operational stuff is what Leica does better…)

    Thanks for your insights.

    .

    • I agree on the edges, I don’t think Leica does operational stuff better. Just look at the M240’s color recall, or it’s detaching strap lugs, or its silly EVF behaviour, or the M9’s SD-card eating problem, or the S2’s failure to write to cards after changing ISO on the fly…etc. They make the most temperamental cameras I’ve ever used: on a good day they’re incredible, on a bad day, they’re an absolute disaster. Failure has cost me enough jobs that I’m no longer comfortable with using their cameras professionally.

  38. Hakan K says:

    Why go thru the trouble of making these two nice compact cameras with APS-C sensors and then waste their capability by putting slow 28mm equivalent wide angle lenses (that won’t give bokeh) with distortion, vigneting, and MTF curves looking like bell curves? 18 Months after Sony puts a 24Mp APS-C in a NEX body these two are selling you a 16Mp sensor still.

    Then Fuji puts a nice small lens, 35mm equivalent and faster f/2.0 in X100s but does that on a big body so its no longer compact and still insists on 16Mp.

    Sigma puts a big brick out there with DP Merills and makes you suffer all its quirks at f/2.8 so you don’t get a speeding ticket.

    Leica is in its own slow world with X2, nice to look at it but whats so compact and special about it at that price level?

    Sony offers a RX1 or RX100 but what about one in between with APS-C so it doesn’t cost silly.

    How hard is it to figure out that a lens like the one from X100s on a something like Ricoh GR body with 24Mp APS-C sensor around $1000 is the one that will hit the right tone? All of the technology required is been out there for 18 months now but none in one camera. Not very lucky are we? Hope this changes in 2014.

    • I guess these compacts are aimed at people who *like* shooting 28mm (as opposed to 35mm). I would not say f/2.8 is particularly “slow”. I have owned various 28mm primes for SLR cameras which have been mainly f/2.8 and one of my favourite lenses is the Nikkor f/3.5 AI.

    • Bokeh isn’t the ultimate purpose of photography, and the MTF curves look more like straight lines than bells. They’re both smaller than the Sony, INCLUDING lens. The X100s’ lens is not very good wide open; even on the lower resolution 12MP sensor. Needs at least f4 which negates having f2 if it’s soft. Yes, the Sigmas are slow and suffer at high ISO – but you do get 40 and 85mm flavors.

      Nobody gets it right – either they can’t figure it out because either none of them are photographers, or they just want to sell us more intermediate units – probably the latter, seeing as people are buying anyway.

      • Hakan K says:

        Yes of course bokeh isn’t ultimate purpose of photography nor is 28mm f/2.8 🙂
        Of these two cameras which one has flatter MTF curves at f/8? That’s important to me as correcting the barrel distortion will reduce the micro contrast at the edges and corners. Thanks Ming.

  39. I carry my D800 with 50/1.4 to work every day. Is it heavy? yep. Is it bulky? yep. Have I ever regretted having it with me? nope. Sometimes I bring the 28-300 and that hurts a little, but I never regret it when I do. At the end of the day when I sit in front of my computer at home I’m always happy with the results, and when I’m not, it has everything to do with me (and my choice of lens that day), and not my equipment.

    One day technology will catch up with our ‘wants’… and we will all be happy. And I still won’t shoot video. But that’s an argument for another day. 🙂

  40. Michael Matthews says:

    Amazing amount of detail. Even more amazing amount of time and work needed to produce it! Here’s hoping you’ll find the Olympus E-P5 and the VF-4 viewfinder even half as interesting. In particular the VF-4 and whether it enhances one’s ability to easily see and comprehend settings changes as reflected in the final image.

    • Well, the OM-D’s EVF has a setting that lets you enable or disable exposure previews – I don’t see why this would be missing from the rumoured E-P5. All of the current add-on EVFs have the same display options as the LCD – they’re just displays.

  41. Sam Fairleigh says:

    Ming:

    Im curious which camera you feel MIGHT have an upper hand in nature/landscape shooting, in what could be very harsh light(high alltitude sunny). Accurate color is very appealing, but alpine zones in b/w are awsome( and maybe a good way to deal with harsh light?). Also, i cover ALOT of miles in a day and strange as it may seem an oz or two is sigificant to me( +1 GR ). That said, i think the Nikons more DSLR like controls, might be important to my progression as a photographer( a very novice one) and made in Japan is significant to me( +1 nikon).

    • I’m inclined to say the Nikon due to color advantages. In harsh light, most cameras can do decent B&W because there’s enough contrast. Both have about the same level of resolution and DR as far as I can see.

  42. I owned a few digital Ricoh, GX200, CX1 and GXR; the B&W straight output (even with jpg) is amazing! If you shot B&W go with Ricoh for sure, now I am itch to get this new beast 🙂 It will be interesting to see the comparison of MM with 28/f2 or f2.8!

    • Unless somebody is going to lend me one (highly unlikely it’ll be Leica) then I’m afraid that won’t happen anytime soon…

  43. simon lee says:

    Hi Ming,
    Thanks for your timely review. After reading it, I no longer ‘long’ for this camera any more 😀 It probably needs another iteration to be more ‘perfect’. Yes, firmware can alter the F4-8 and color ‘issues’ etc., but I would like to see Phase Detect and a slightly brighter lens incorporated before I plunk my $. One iteration later (or 2 years? later), the market will be flooded with compact APSCs and the game will change again. I wonder if Ricoh might have ‘missed’ the boat this time round. For manual focus, I have my ZEs and when I reach for a compact, I would already have been too tired to Snap focus any more. So I want my pocketable camera to be fast and accurate in AF, especially in doors. I previously owned the GRD3, then GXR, and loved them. Meanwhile I will ‘survive’ with a recently acquired grd4 at price slashed S$400, new! 😛
    best regards

    • Well, the GRDIV has the same P mode issues (as do all of the others, if I recall correctly), but at least it focuses faster 🙂

  44. Great comparison, thank you for producing these interesting and informative articles in such a timely manner.

    I’m a bit surprised as I thought this one would be a no-brainer for the GR. This year I intend to get a high-IQ companion camera for days when I want to travel light (replacing my aging Canon G10). It is a very tough decision but I will probably get the GR due to the smallest form factor, price and snap focus. I’m not enthused to hear about the multiple presses to choose a focus point. Is it easy on either camera to lock focus/exposure and then recompose?

    • It’s actually easiest to run both cameras decoupling focusing from shutter – either AF-ON on a separate button, manual, or zone.

  45. Thanks for a great comparison, Ming! But now you have brought me in even more doubt because of these amazing black and white photos …

    I had a Ricoh GR1v which I loved, but it broke … And then I had a Leica M6 with a 35mm lens that I sold to buy an OM-D E-M5 … And it is the best choice I have ever done. I love the Olympus. For the Olympus I bought the 25mm 1.4 and a 45mm 1.8 and I photograph mainly street in b/w and most often in the evening / night. And of course I am missing a wide angle ……..
    Has been saving for the 12mm 2.0, but now I’m not sure! Should I buy a 12mm 2.0 or should I buy Ricoh GR? I can not afford both!
     
    Olympus OM-D with 12mm 2.0 vs Ricoh GR for b/w lowlight street shots – the question keeps me sleepless at night … What do you think about that choice?

    • The OM-D/12 will focus faster, but the Ricoh will have better optics and IQ, and one stop high ISO advantage. That said, the OM-D/12 will also gain shooting envelope over the GR because of the OM-D’s IS and one stop more aperture on the 12, so for your uses, I’d probably go with that.

  46. In viewing the 100% view of the hat, specifically in the shadow region, to my eyes (eyes of a rank amateur) the A appears to out perform the GR to a significant degree. Would this difference be as stark in BW?

  47. – I’d argue that it may be easier to convert the Coolpix A from color to a satisfying BW picture (consistently with a profile), rather than processing the GR to a color picture that would correctly for the reds. Color, to me, seems quite tricky to correct.

    – If this is the case, my own preference would probably be to go Coolpix A. Perhaps in a nutshell it is preference of BW vs. Color?

    – If you can wait for the Coolpix A price to drop, it would probably be an easier choice?

    • – Probably true.
      – Exactly what I’ve been saying.
      – Not really, because the Ricoh’s ergonomics are really excellent (as with all of their cameras).

  48. Gerard Hilinski says:

    Thanks Ming for the very well thought out review. I too am still torn as to which would be “best” for my purposes. But I’m confident that whichever camera I ultimately acquire, I’m going to be pleased with the images I’m able to produce! 🙂

    • I think there’s no question of that – if you’re not getting what you want or really close to it, it’s probably user limitations.

      • Guenter Rohde says:

        …and which is so true and good to be pointed out sometimes.
        Your unbiased serious reviews with lots of information are helping to make one’s decision much easier because of the transparency offered – Thanks for the effort and timely publication.
        I myself would eventually go for both – even if Ricoh finally would come up with better colour rendering on the GR. But the B+W output described and haptic as well as handling ease has me in the sack already for this jewel, so everything else would be additional candy.
        Guenter

  49. I enjoyed reading this honest and perceptive review, and the photos were stellar as usual (it doesn’t do them justice to call them test photos!). I have to admit I’m probably not in the market for either of these, although I was an early adopter with the first large-sensor compact ever (the original Sigma DP1, also with a 28mm equivalent lens, but painfully slow at f/4, and don’t get me started on the AF and other ergonomics).

    Considering all the compromises on both cameras at these prices, I think I’d personally rather go with the cheaper Olympus E-PM2 and Panasonic 14/2.5 pancake as a pocketable 28mm-equivalent backup/second camera…

    • Ah well, there are plenty who seem to think I ramble and my photos are crap, so what do I know? 🙂

      I had a long term DP1 before I bothered with an internet presence; I was editor of a photo magazine at the time. I found that it made great images under the right circumstances, but wasn’t really a universal tool. The M4/3 cameras are good (and the OM-D is ergonomically superior) but the overall image quality is better from the APS-C compacts and dedicated lenses.

      • Hi Ming,
        Although there are plenty who think your reviews and photos are crap I don’t think they relate in amounts to those who love your work. Any project developer can tell you that out of every project a steady 5% of buyers complane endlessly about details all the others are perfectely happy with. The time and money spend, fixing what is already good and on lawyers for senseless lawsuits is paid by the regular buyers.
        So, if you get your share of crap thrown at you remember that you don’t have to fix anything or battle in court.

  50. Hi Ming, I’m curious about one you keep you kept repeating, that the GR gives you the richest B&W conversion you’ve ever seen from a digital camera. How is that possible? Do you know mean this camera captures more tones than others?

    • B&W tonality is rather subjective and difficult to describe. I personally find it the most pleasing: rich blacks and quarter tones, luminous midtones, and highlights that don’t clip. All I do is desaturate the DNG and run a curve, some light dodging and burning: total process time, 30 seconds. I don’t get the same results out of anything else that doesn’t use film.

  51. Paul Stokes says:

    Oh no, its the Leica M vs the Monocrom argument all over again. Seriously though, I think I am in the same state of mind as you Ming, confused. It would probably be better to go with the GR as Ricoh is most likely to provide firmware updates for the identified problems, but … I think I will patiently wait and see what happens over the next few months. I do like the b&w though. Patience.

    • Not quite as bad: here you can still make color or B&W with both, it’s just that one is more suitable than the other for a given output.

  52. Tom Liles says:

    I’ll be in the market for one of these, but not for a good while yet—so I can wait to see the fall out and opinion way after the fact. In other words, wait for the real story.
    [If anyone’s wondering what I’m talking about, Leica reviews provide a good example: read a review of the M8, say, then the M8.2, M9, M9-P, then M-240, written by the same person, and written at the time these cameras came out. Not talking about Ming here, by the by. But you can read Ming’s articles on three of those. Anyway, if you go back to what reviewers said, at the time, and then what they said about the same camera once a successor came along, you’ll see that when once something was new, people just can’t help themselves; excitement with the new toy — and why not! we’re only human — gets the better of us and we forgive more than we should (if we even mention shortcomings). When a successor comes along, the real frustrations and a more frank view of the preceding model come to the fore. Leica reviews, generally speaking, are the clearest cut examples of this I can find. And I fear there might be a tadge of this sunshine effect with the Ricoh and the Nikon. More so the Ricoh. I’ve never used either, so it goes with a pinch of salt, but I agree with what Mgauss7 said earlier. I wouldn’t wish to spin that in a negative way—Ricoh’s cult following is fine by me. And as it happens I always go for cult cameras myself. Why not. But the hot metering, the weird color and the AF delta… that’s not a trivial difference.]

    Honestly I didn’t really get the need for these type of cameras a few months ago. Even as I got more into photography, I still didn’t get it.

    Then I had to go out with my wife and kids, and attempted to take a D7000 in addition to all the bumpf you need with a family outing involving a three year old and a one year old…

    NOW I GET IT

    I’m camera’d up to the hilt and don’t have any appetite for more at the moment. But I know, with 100% certainty, I’ll want something that really will go in the pocket — no games with semantics, or compromises, I mean really pocket size — for family outings; so I’ll want either one of these. Just off Ming’s review and guidance/advice here and my raw gut feeling:

    1) The A is what I should get
    2) So I’ll probably end up with the Ricoh

    • Tom Liles says:

      I think, I hope, all married men everywhere will sympathize, but:

      I had to go out with my wife and kids

      the had to there is a… a what? A Freudian slip? A peek into the mind of a man? A moment of unguarded honesty?

    • “1) The A is what I should get
      2) So I’ll probably end up with the Ricoh”

      That sums up the love for Ricoh. Bottom line Ricoh messed it up. If the Nikon was offering wrong reds, too long low light AF, and wrong metering it would be put out to dry. And reds by the way are key to good skin tones, which the A does perfectly.

      • Tom Liles says:

        Hey there mgauss7,

        Yep. I agree. If any proof that retail preferences have more in common with religious ones, and that they have little to do with any kind of high minded objectivity, if it were needed, it’s right here [even more glaringly apparent with Leica, as mentioned].

        I guess in my case, I dispute that there’s any such thing as “objectivity” to begin with. I mean in panoptic terms; even scientific ones. And I’m a trained scientist, too. The Cartesian divider [mind-body dualism] has done massive philosophical damage to us here, and it remains almost completely pervasive today. Especially entrenched in science [the scientific method, if you look up its five easy steps, is unable by design to approach anything subjective or irreproducible].
        If you were interested, take a look at the work and writing of John Archibald Wheeler on this. He isn’t some self-help guru; J.A. Wheeler was Einstein’s understudy. He came to the conclusion that mind and matter probably require each other and work in a kind of feedback loop—the results of Quantum Physics provide a quick example [though don’t get too carried away with the human interaction there, it could be any observer, just a measuring instrument will suffice].

        So with the mind-matter divider blown away, there’s no more stand-alone “objectivity.” And hence, I think every thing is some amalgam of subjectivity-objectivity… So Ricoh or Nikon, or both—it’s unmeasurable and so all equally valid [or invalid! depending on your view]. This highlights the subtlety of Ming’s advice, actually. There is no better; just what you want to achieve, what you like, and therefore what works for you. Ultimately, you just have to take a punt and try…

        It’s pretty heavily GR weighted below the line here, so you’ve done an admirable job, mgauss7, flying the flag for Nikon!

        P/S Henrik seems to have shown that the color issue, the reds, is just ACR not having an Adobe profile for the GR yet. Pretty big finding that, if it pans out.

        Cheers mgauss7—I’m going to try an A in the camera shop on my way home tonight 🙂
        [not even close to buying, but I’m very interested now!]

        • Ah yes. Everything we interact with and experience becomes a co-creation. There is no pure objectivity. Loved your comments.

          • Tom Liles says:

            Thanks Roger! I’ve found a sympathizer, a friend! 🙂

            Seriously though, your way of phrasing it — as a co-creation — is great. I like that. I’m in danger of becoming boring, now, but I enjoy the writing of Hegel on this. Hegel became interested in single words being able to encapsulate two precisely opposite meanings at the same time; and he thought there was something much much more to this than pure coincidence or plain idiosyncrasy. His view ended up leading him down a kind of monist or pantheist, I suppose, philosophical road where everything is interconnected [has to be in order to exist]. I think I agree with him [not to place myself anywhere near the great man’s intellect].

            It’s interesting, though, that we live in the information age and even science is beginning to recognize that there’s a lot more useful mileage to be gotten from considering information rather than matter. Information is, of course, digital in nature. I was blown away by the work of Claude Shannon who came up with something called information entropy—used in our cameras, for instance, when they compress 12bit data into 8; or anytime you zip and unzip computer files. The rules of information entropy mirror, exactly, those of physical entropy; a property encountered in Thermodynamics, which I spent a few horrendous years studying at Uni. Ming will be a bona-fide whiz at it. Information also cropped up in the study of blackholes; it settled an argument between Stephen Hawking and one of my heroes, Leonard Susskind, and played a role in something called the Holographic Principle—one of my favorite hits from the wonderful world of Physics… It’s not all fleshed out yet, but I think there is something big here, waiting to be found and formalized.

            The backbone of an informational view of the World is digital—1 or 0; yes or no; to be or not to be! 🙂 That doesn’t fit very well with the grey [simultaneously black and white, and dynamic] view of things Hegel introduced and that anyone who’s lived life in the real world is familiar with. I think the epiphany will be when we can connect the on/off binary root level with the nuanced, grey world we encounter everyday. And in a topsy-turvy way, the stochastic nature of quantum physics, that we know to work [but we don’t know why], operating at the base of everything; and the definite tangible world we live in where all the wave functions have collapsed and something either is or isn’t.

            You may note all the contradictions above there. So you can see why I like Hegel—I embrace all the contradictions, as is, no desire to resolve [as I think this is actually unresolving]. And accept that this may be the answer and as good as it gets!

            I wonder if fellow photogs have conversations like this over at DPReview!? 😀

            • Heady stuff, Tom. You should be a philosophy teacher! Although information entropy we simply used to call “telephone.” We should let them get back to cameras now! Pleasure having you in the group.

              • Tom Liles says:

                Well I’ve enjoyed this! Thanks for making me welcome Roger.

                No, I couldn’t hold a candle to an A-level philosophy student, never mind be a teacher. And I don’t know about you Roger, but I was always a bit of a rebel at school—treated my poor old teachers with a lot of suspicion and disrespect. I used to go home and check what the chemistry teacher had told us in my Grandfather’s and father’s old books, make some notes then go back in the next day and call the teacher out; preferably in front of the whole class. I ended up with egg on my face much more than they did! 😀

                But in the main, I’ve always liked the adage:

                Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach

            • Oh no, I was terrible at physics. Which is how I landed up in corporate and photography – only the very best, very craziest and most dedicated (preferably all three) survive in the rarefied atmosphere of academia.

              Photography is definitely like quantum mechanics. I know I keep saying I’ll write an article on this…but I wonder, will anybody read it?

              DPR forums are way ahead of us. Instead of discussing the psychology of photography, mania and irrational behaviour, they’re all practicing it! 🙂

              • You’re practicing it, Ming. In the best of ways. You never lose it and you always maintain a sense of humor, in addition to marching to the beat of your own inner authority. That’s the practice!

              • Tom Liles says:

                I can’t believe that for a minute, Ming 🙂
                [and while we’re on a philosophy bent, let’s not forget what Socrates said 🙂 I don’t actually like Socrates that much, but never the less: knowing you know nothing, is knowing something indeed! You’ve probably forgotten more about this stuff than any of us here will ever know let alone understand, Ming. I’ll take your ‘terrible’ any day of the week!]

                And, oh yeah, I’ll read your article—that’s one for you. 😀

      • I think it factors in ergonomic and handling biases, which are frankly just as important as image quality…

        Agree on the reds though. If the Nikon had all of the disadvantages – and a higher price – then it wouldn’t be competitive at all.

  53. Rami G. says:

    Hi Ming, thank you for your great balanced review and great photos. I am about to get one of the cameras next month (along with a DP2 Merrill). I am involved in a few projects in Africa and I travel sometimes in areas I don’t want to take my M8.2 and Leica lenses with me but I also am unhappy to leave behind the quality. Your review made me change my mind. I was planning on getting the Ricoh, but I really like the pop of the Nikon images. I think for me, as I am used to a CCD (vs. Cmos) this pop, natural colors and crispy look is a more natural move than the Richo, which I find a bit cloudy in its look (as I find the Fujis). I wish the price of the Nikon will go down a bit, but I really find it the camera I am looking for. I think it will give me better results than my M8+21Elmarit asph (which is similar in its field of view). The depth of field disadvantage is rather small (19mm vs. 21mm at f/2.8).

    • Both A and GR use the same base CMOS sensor, so any differences in tonal response are down to their processing engines. Both cameras will be better than an M8+21 combination (I shot the M8+Zeiss 21 and 21 Summilux extensively) but only the Ricoh will match and exceed it for monochrome tonality.

      • Rami G. says:

        Thanks Ming I do realiza that. I meant it seems easier to get a look I am used to without an effort from the A. With my M8 I do little but print the files, with minimal adjustments if any. That is why I brlieve the A would serve me better.

  54. mr datsun says:

    A good insight into the cameras, thank-you. I’d like to see another when the GR’s RAW profile has been accommodated into the processing to see if those red issues clear up.

    Can I be a little critical here and ask when are we going to find another way of comparing cameras that leaves out the ‘vs’ and ‘battle’ metaphors? I think that general approach has seen its day, is not very constructive and leads to real online spats between camera owners.

  55. Looks like we old wolves may have lost some fur but not our habits… Give us an equipment review and the site goes on fire!
    So, commercially speaking, your equipment posts are right on the mark. Still, perhaps a proper review should wait for final firmware (seems like you put a lot of caveats on the Ricoh) before people jump to conclusions… In any event, I doubt most of us would notice the difference in image quality here. In my mind, handling and operation are a much more significant choice factor, since you have to live and shoot with the damn thing before you get to pixel peep in postprocessing…

    • Very true. I’m waiting for a final version, but I was told that this is pretty close to being done – minor changes only, if any.

  56. Ming, thanks for an insightful comparison ! Going through it and through the 100% crops for 3rd time, i cannot stop but favour the Nikon more for color photography .. It is so very evident in the DVDs crops where (the shift to magenta reds aside) the Ricoh looses not color tint, but color fidelity / saturation even luminosity (?) as of iso 800 – 1600 – if not even earlier .. On top of this, this surely will introduce certain chalenges in later B&W conversion, especially in higher ISOs – there’s “no red left” to work with .. What are your thoughts ?

    If, however, we get a fantastic OOC B&W output, film-grainy at higher ISOs with contrast boost / underexposure controls – producing Moriyama type shots, then it’s a no brainer for me – i’d go for the Ricoh, as a dedicated B&W camera (pushed HP5+ or HPS 800 or whatever look) in a heartbeat .. Perfect, true to the moment color and me do not gel very well together anymore – i dream of the “imperfect” Kodachrome 64 and the 70s look often, and often get very close by shooting films like Ferrania Solaris 200 and Fuji 400X, and my iPhone of course .. but i’m digressing already ..

    • Same conclusion I came to – the Nikon just wins for color. But the tables turn for B&W; the Ricoh’s files are absolutely beautiful with luminous midtones and rich shadows; the Nikon just looks flat. The B&W JPEGS are good but the RAW files are even better…forget HP5+ on small formats, set it to 1:1 and it’s more like Acros + Hasselblad. Perhaps that’s why I like it so much for monochrome work…

  57. I do see what you mean (about the differences in native color output)! And you weren’t kidding when you said the GR’s reds tend towards pink…

  58. how would you compare the BW quality of the GR to the Leica Monochrom ?

  59. Anders says:

    I really enjoyed this review, thanks a lot. Great B/W images from the Ricoh. I bought the A before even hearing about the GR, but would have chosen the A anyway because I use Capture NX2 for post processing, but I can see that the GR is really strong regarding B/W and I’m almost tempted just for that reason, but my bank account definitely says no.

  60. Hi Ming,

    Thanks for the comparison. I will still go for the GR, purely because of Ricoh’s history of listening to customers and releasing numerous firmware updates. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are working on the first update already! I’m fairly confident they will address the colour issue and hopefully be able to tweak the auto focus. The second reason is for the great B/W conversion. My GX200 was amazing at that too, as is the grd III.

    Good luck with your decision. I can imagine having used both it’s much harder to decide! 😦

    All the best,

    James

  61. Well, that does make things difficult. I consider myself more of a B&W shooter than color, which could lead me to the GR based on your assessment. OTOH, because I have a much better feel for processing B&W than color, your findings may actually lead me in the other direction. Because I trust myself to get pleasing B&W images out of the A – I had one for several weeks and when I now look back, I clearly left more shots in color than I’m normally inclined to, possibly due to the ease of processing the Nikon raw files in color… But I came up with a quite a number of B&W shots that I was very happy with too. I can take a somewhat difficult B&W starting point and still produce something I’ll be happy with, but starting with a difficult color file, I may never find the right combination of controls to nail the color output I’d like. I know my way around a B&W tone curve pretty well but color manipulation has always been my weakness. So this actually makes me more inclined toward the Nikon, where I’m more likely to overcome the weakness than I would be with the Ricoh, even if the Ricoh strengths are more consistent with my own strengths….

    Out of curiosity, did you find similar characteristics with the GXR-28? I have one of those and have been very happy with both the color and B&W results I’ve gotten from that. Actually, given how little I’m likely to be able to sell that camera for now, perhaps my best course is to go with the Nikon and hold on to the GXR-28 for some shooting situations where the emphasis would clearly be on B&W…

    Thanks for the great comparison, as always. Just enough tech information to make the artistic implications clear. Which is the bottom line ultimately.

    • Interesting way of approaching it – I’m equally familiar with processing for both, but I’d still bias my decision in the direction I’d be most likely to shoot in: why start with a compromise and achieve an okay result, as opposed to starting out with excellent raw material?

      I never used the GXR-28 actually – price and size put me off…

      No problem. It seems that a lot of people out there forget that these things are actually for making pictures with.

      • I think I’d easily agree with you if I was overwhelmingly more of a B&W shooter than color. But with a pocketable 28mm, I’d use this camera for a lot more than street, although it would clearly get a lot of street use. So I’d want to shoot a good bit of color in addition to B&W. I guess I’d just rather have the color files easier to work with because otherwise, I’d be left with more of a muddle. With B&W, I’ll still get results I’d be very happy with. When I was shooting with the Nikon with nothing to compare it to, I did note how much I liked it for color, but I never felt any sort of B&W deficiency. So I know I’d be happy with the Nikon for both.

        OTOH, once I have both in my hands and do some back to back shooting, if I find the same kind of sublime B&W shots emerging from the Ricoh as you’re getting, I could easily change my mind. One workaround might be to flip the Ricoh into raw+jpeg mode for those shots I knew I’d be likely to go with color on. In decent light, I’m quite sure I’d be happy with the Ricoh jpegs. And rely more on the DNG’s for B&W work.

        Anyway, plenty to think about before both cameras arrive sometime in the next couple of weeks. Thanks again!

  62. Hi Ming, as you do I have the GRD 3 and 99% percent of my shooting style consits of using Snap at it’s various distances up and down the scale. I never really got used to Full Press Snap because my engage shutter release pressure was never consistent so just Snap works for me. Question – since you own a GRD 3 accessing your distance is simply a press and hold of the up arrow button/scroll the front wheel for your distance / see JUST that distance in the upper right hand corner of the LCD and release the up button DONE. Even with the LCD in blackout mode those numbers will show up just long enough to confirm where you are and blackout you go again. Perfect. With the GRD 4 they make you assign a FN button / press that button a menu box pops up you then scroll that box for your distance AND then must confirm / Menu OK for that dialogue box to get out of your way which in turn takes your eye away from the process of actively “street shooting” that one second of fumbling can be the difference in getting the shot or not. Anyway – my question since Ricoh did not revert to the practical method – at least for me – in the 5 do you find that to be distracting with the 5 vs the 3 when using snap? I personally could care less about AF speed as Snap is a blink of the eye once you’ve got your distance gauge down. The color coming out of the Nikon looks more appealing and I honestly never liked the Ricoh color palette. If I want to do color I prefer to use the GR1V and Portra film. I’m glad they retained the awesome “film like” B/W ‘S! Thanks for the review I appreciate all the time you put into it. I Wish Ricoh’s colors were better and I’ve had many orange and red problems in the past with the 3 and GXR . The highlight blowout was also an issue on both and I regularly needed to underexpose, shame they didn’t fix that either. Either way I’ll still probably end up getting the Ricoh for the B/W’s thanks again…

    • You’ve got to assign a FN button to change snap mode, too. I put it on one of the ADJ lever positions as it isn’t something I use that often – no big deal, personally.

  63. For me it’s definitely the GR: snap mode which I use a lot on my GRD4, better B&W, display easily switched off, 21mm converter, and slightly more pocketable perhaps than the A.

    Now I’m wondering if I should sell my Monochrom + M9 + my Leica wide-angle lenses, and carry two GRs instead…one with the 21mm converter permanently fitted ^^

    • 21mm square format would definitely assuage my lust for an SWC on an image-making level, but perhaps not for the gearhead in me…

  64. Lawrence says:

    I would go with A. I always shoot in color and never muck around with WB. And the colors in A seem to pop out much more than GR. I know it can be fixed with revised firmware as you mentioned. Also the ease of changing focus point. I hardly shoot with focus point in dead center so the being able to move the focus point easily is a must…

    But… I’ve always wanted to get my hands on MF and love the square format. Of course I can always crop any pictures to square format after but having it built in is much more convenient. So for that reason alone I would still be glancing at GR…

    As for made in Japan or just quality… I had coolpix s630 few years back and took it to India. We visited northern India during January. My fingers were freezing and I dropped s630 twice… oopppss… first drop it dented the bottom corner and the camera worked fine. On second drop the bottom of the camera split opened by about quarter of an inch and the screen went blank. So I pressed the two halves back into place and turned the power back on. And to my amazement everything came up fine and continued working as if nothing had happened. And that model was made in Vietnam. And base on that quality built and of course some other factors I decided to get D300s and now D800… I am sure there are similar stories for Ricoh but I am pretty much sold on Nikon quality… And no, my D800 didn’t have left focusing problem… 🙂

    • I’m starting to think QC is actually more a matter of luck than anything else – I’ve never had issues from the dozens of small point and shoots I’ve had, but the big cameras that are supposedly made in Germany or Japan or wherever else tend to be the ones that develop serious issues…

      • Lawrence says:

        maybe because the big cameras have lots more features both from hardware and firmware that they need to QC on… but it shouldn’t be the excuse though…

        • Conversely, small cameras require might tighter tolerances…

          • Lawrence says:

            comment on GR vs. A… i think all these comments are very interesting and helpful. and for quick glance it would be nice to have a poll result: a) GR; b) A; c) neither; d) both (for people with too much $$$)…

  65. Sascha says:

    Thanks a lot for another fantastic review, Ming!
    After a decade of digital photography I learned one thing: NEVER miss a shot, no matter if you sacrifice quality. So, to me, ergonomics are everything, literally. My GRD III NEVER let me down like all the others did: Nikon, Pentax, Canon DSLRs, Sony, Olympus mirrorless systems, even rangefinders, all those compacts. But it wasn’t the cameras fault most of the time, it was my fault, because it took me a decade to know which purpose means most to me. Image quality? Versatility? Nope. It’s the moment to catch.
    So I would chose the GR even if it would cost the double, or IQ was clearly behind the A’s. The GR’s one hand operation with a bigger sensor made my photographic dreams come true.

    Best wishes from Germany!

  66. Imkerhonig says:

    I am also struggeling a lot with my decision, not between Nikon A and GR but wether to buy the GR, X100S or maybe go flexible and purchase the OMD or maybe later this year the new EP5. Just don´t know.
    So far I´m a big fan of manual controls and small size but good image quality.

    I used several month a Fuji X-E1 with 35/f1.4 and it was a pleasure but had also some quirks (AF hunting, slow focusing at all). I would like to see a comparison between OMD and Fuji X100s 🙂

    But at all, a wonderful but stoll confusing comperison and I´m waiting for you decision 😀

  67. Hakan K says:

    How do these two compare in relation to distortion? Leica M 28/2.0 and 28/2.8 has very different distortion characteristics even though they are both wide angle lenses of same focal distance. This is important for Architectural applications.

  68. djoko susanto says:

    awesome battle, Ming.
    it’s easy for me to choose ricoh gr coz i like wild horse.
    And nikon is too perfect and booring.

  69. I’m guessing your heart says GR, Ming.

    • You’re probably right. Heart says GR, mind says Nikon. The problem with being a scientist and an artist is that left and right brain can never agree.

      • Henrik says:

        I really enjoyed the reading and I think both cameras seem to be great choices in this narrow segment. I am thoroughly impressed with both and the Coolpix A has actually gained more respect from me over time. I choose the GR for familiarity and I am not a bit worried about color issues – a proper initial set up and it is done. I am not relying on a future software update but I do think that you have an issue with the camera with them reds from the DNG’s. I would consider trying something other than ACR for conversion and check in camera settings. It would surprise me if Ricoh was all that bad and. I think that if Ricoh somehow made an error with them DNG/RAW files it should be pointed out to them. If so, I am sure they can easily fix it in an update. Since I have a few batteries already and a spare charger I am sticking with the GR. When prices drop enough I might pick up a Coolpix A further on should I ever find myself in doubt with the GR. 🙂

        • If I were to go with the GR, I’d do my own profile (as with all of my cameras). However, it appears that the usual amount of fiddling isn’t sufficient to produce something accurate – this is going to require a lot more testing under many different ambient WB temperatures. Unlike my other cameras, there doesn’t appear to be a one-size-fits all.

      • Stephen Scharf says:

        Ming,
        As a professional molecular biologist as well as an experienced photographer (I have a decade of experience as a pro motorsports photojournalist), I often run into the same head versus heart, scientist vs artist, right brain/left brain conflicts! And being left-handed, things can get even more out of whack! I’m presently in a similar quandary, trying to decide whether or not to keep the Fuji X 20. My left brain is saying, because of the image quality issues, “send it back”, but my right brain wants to keep it, with it’s beautiful, sexy, silver body and exquisite build quality. And, I need to decide today!

        Regarding your decision about the Nikon Coolpix A or the Ricoh, that’s a tough one. I guess, seeing that lot of what you do is black-and-white, I would opt for the Ricoh.

        • I battled with the same issue on the X20, but ultimately sent it back because the image quality gulf was simply too great. But it was an incredibly fun camera to use and handle. I suppose in that context, it’s a lot easier to decide in favor of the Ricoh simply because image quality is a strength rather than a weakness…

          Actually, I do more color than B&W – so logic would dictate Nikon, except I’ve got a huge number of cameras that do color accurately (D800E, D600) and pleasingly (OM-D) already. Then again, I also have a lot of cameras that excel at B&W…two Hasselblads, a GR1v, an F2 Titan, an F3/T…

    • No. Ming is a perfectionist. Look at those LeCoultre pictures, I bet he sees minute imperfections in even those watches.

      • You have no idea how much retouching is required for commercial watch photography…and yes, I’m a perfectionist. So I may also be making a big deal out of something that won’t be an issue to somebody else – then again, I can also live with a lot of things (e.g. no meter in my Hasselblad, or even a split-prism finder for that matter).

  70. Vincent says:

    Ming,

    Any chance you can make the GR DNG file, which shows the funky color, available for download ?

    • Sorry, I don’t release full size or raw files.

      • Regarding the overexposure potential of the GR, can’t one simply set a small exposure compensation to always remain in effect?

        • It’s also inconsistency: sometimes it underexposes, too. Compound that with dialled in -EV comp and you’re going to land up with unusable blackness. I’d suggest using the spot meter instead.

  71. Such an honest, no b.s. review, Ming! Thoroughly enjoyable and confounding. For me, it’s almost always what makes me want to pick it up and go. In a rich man’s world, I see a role for both. But for me, I’ll probably pick up the Ricoh and hope that future firmware corrects / improves the color rendering and potential blow-outs. The black and white, ease of use and price advantage seem significant. Plus, I like the one-handed ability, the pre-set focus and the slightly out of the mainstream, cultic traits. Keep us apprised of any changes in the future and any further experience you find helpful.

  72. My general experience with Ricoh’s image processing is mostly off the Ricoh GXR where I found some interesting peculiarities. One is that the camera’s raw files tend to have similar color casts that one could find in Leica M9 files which makes me wonder if the camera has a very weak UV/IR filter. They tend to show up when there are very strong purple lights. I am not sure how that works out for the reds however. If one wanted a saturated output, there’s always the high saturation image setting that gives very slide film like output.

    As for the metering, Ricoh tends to really expose such that the histogram is very even and really exposes for shadows. You could dial it down a few EV down but sometimes I wondered if the gain is more digital than analog because the raws always felt underexposed. Did you get that experience?

    But I agree, Ricoh’s B&W jpegs are probably the best out there.

    • Your point about weak UVIR is one I hadn’t considered, and would make sense – cameras with weak UVIRs tend to make excellent B&W conversions, too. Seems unlikely, however, given that my black fabrics still look black, I think this is probably unlikely.

      Sounds like you have the same metering inconsistencies I have: sometimes it’s too hot, other times underexposed. The Nikon doesn’t do this at all.

      As for B&Ws – if you think the JPEGs are good, you should really work with a raw file. All of the images in both parts of the review are converted from DNG, not JPEGs.

  73. Great review Ming. Enjoyed reading it and thoroughly appreciated the photos and comparison photos. Unfortunately, I am now in the same conodrum of not being quite sure which way to go. I have the GR on pre order, and had to resist the urge of immediate gratification for a month already by simply buying the A. Now I’m wondering if I should have pulled the trigger on the A all along! Argh … the wonders (and pains) of having choices! Keep up the good work and thanks for the review.

    • Thanks. I’ll simplify it: are you a color or a B&W person? A for the former, GR for the latter.

      • B&W person? All reviews in dpreview, and most reviews worldwide are all in color!!! I have not seen a single B&W picture in any review except for Ming’s reviews. B&W is a small niche.

        I think there is a lot of underdog love for the Ricoh. If the Ricoh were labeled Nikon, they would blast it for the slow AF in low light and the color innacuracies. But since it is a Ricoh, there is this romanticism it gets away with. OK I am a Nikon fanboy, I admit. I’ve never seen a Ricoh product that is not a copier. Never seen a Ricoh camera. I was looking forward to Ricoh’s 2 ounce difference.

        I would love a 50mm tele kit for these cameras. 28mm is wide enough I am still getting used to it.

        • Actually, I think you’ll find a lot of GRD reviewers/ buyers shoot B&W specifically because it’s a known strength of the camera.

          A 28/50 combination would be fantastic (and how I shoot my ‘Blads and Leicas).

  74. Brilliant, well considered review as always, Ming. I’m barracking for the Nikon.

  75. Phukhanh Vu says:

    Hi Ming,

    Thank you for your great comparison between these two cameras. I own a Nikon Coolpix A but never own any GR camera. To me, i would pick the Coolpix A because of its crisp image quality, accuracy in colors and low light. Thus, I liked your top three bullet points In favour of the Coolpix A. I don’t really care about other stuff.

    Keep up the excellent work.

    • Makes sense! And better you stop reading now in case you develop doubts 🙂

    • Of course the A. At this price the things that matter are: Sharpness, IQ, color accuracy, low light performance. How Nikon treats ISO in all their DSLRs is the same as the A.

      • Even on this basis, the Ricoh is equal on the first two, fixable on the third/ much better for B&W than the A, and slightly better on the last point except for AF.

  76. I’m always amazed by the details and precision of your reviews, Ming. That said, it makes very difficult to weigh which one would be my favorite, but as B&W shooter as I am, I’d go for the Ricoh, waiting a few weeks to see the first firmware update. That could make a serious difference if addressed properly. Thanks!

    • It works great right now if you only intend to B&W with it. Better yet if you just zone focus and shoot aperture priority too…

  77. Mikael Jenei says:

    RICOH due the B&W file and square format Hasselbald filmic look, just great can,t wait a week more!

  78. Like you I’m confused too. If I have to choose one only I’m leaning on the GR due to BW conversions and the hopes that Ricoh will fix the colour problem in the final firmware release.

    • I think hoping something will be fixed in future is a dangerous assumption to make. There are no guarantees…one has to be able to live with a product now, to be safe. Or risk being forever disappointed.

  79. Bernard says:

    1 thing that I am pretty sure is Ricoh’s going to stick by GR, and they’ll “fix” the GR with iterations of new firmwares. I am not so sure about A and if Nikon will provide that kind of support. Most likely they’ll just come with A version 2.

    • I’m inclined to agree, frankly. But there aren’t really any critical flaws with the A that need fixing in the same way the GR needs a color profile update and a program mode behaviour update…

  80. Very informative, thank you Ming.

    BTW The Coolpix A is actually cheaper than Ricoh GR here in Japan, also being a Nikon shooter I find the ability to use my Nikon flashes on Coolpix A a big plus.

    An interesting side-note, many Japanese don’t consider Ricoh to be a serious camera company, the overall Ricoh image here is a photocopier/printer products for businesses.

    • That’s interesting. What are the prices, if you don’t mind me asking?

      Odd they don’t think the same of Canon…

      • Coolpix A is about 83.000Yen, Ricoh GR 85.000Yen

        “Odd they don’t think the same of Canon…” : )
        I guess it has to do with the fact that Ricoh camera offering is rather limited compering to Canon, also Canon copiers and printers are mostly directed at households while Ricoh’s at businesses.

        • Ouch. Even with the relatively weak Yen, that’s still significantly more than the US. Are they available yet though?

          Somehow I don’t see Canon making as focused and niche a photographic tool as any of the GRs. And even if they are a business copier company, most of the serious Japanese photographic royalty use GRs of one description or another…that should say a lot, I think.

          • “Somehow I don’t see Canon making as focused and niche a photographic tool as any of the GRs. And even if they are a business copier company, most of the serious Japanese photographic royalty use GRs of one description or another…that should say a lot, I think.”
            No argument there. Saying that, I saw a documentary where Moriyama, these days, shoots Nikon digital compacts not GRD : )

            “…that’s still significantly more than the US”
            Well, somebody (we), the rest of the world have to pay more so US customers can get their deals…

            The GR will be here on sale May 24th

            • Interesting – I suppose the only ones he’d consider are the P7700, the P330, and the A. My bet is it’s the A these days…

              Don’t worry, we in Malaysia pay more than the US, too.

    • Tom Liles says:

      If I could humbly submit Fujifilm too.

      And Astalift isn’t a minor project. They advertise it in primetime television slots and spent a hell of a lot on the commercial, too. I know: an acquaintance was involved in the airtime buy.

  81. photoperzon says:

    This is how I got the A for $899 at Best Buy in April: Ask the camera salesperson for the manager to match their Best Buy Feb 19 sale for $899. They did it for me. If necessary, buy a 1 yr extra coverage.

    • I think a price difference of just $100 would definitely throw a spanner into the works. But it doesn’t change things for me, because I’m looking at the ultimate purpose of the cameras more than the price: up til now, we had no choices. So I’m quite happy to pick the one that suits the way I shoot best – a couple of hundred dollars is a decent chunk of change, but not so much that you’d be glad you saved it if your selected camera didn’t agree with you in the long run.

  82. Gary Morris says:

    Very well presented review. Thanks. The B&W images are stellar. I find good b&w conversions more difficult to get than accurate color. Your b&w nailed it. The “A” color is very compelling. However, I’ll pass on either of these… my M9 and 28 ‘Cron are paid for (and work just fine).

    • What surprised me was how little work the GR’s B&Ws needed compared to any digital…

      • Scott W says:

        Do you think it would affect the B&W performance of the camera if the white balance, hot exposure, and red color issues get sorted?

        • I honestly have no idea – I suspect it might, which is why I was thinking it was a conscious choice on Ricoh’s part.

      • Gary Morris says:

        Here’s a thought… a camera such as the GR or Nikon A or even a Leica X2 but with the color overlay on the sensor removed… a pocketable M Monochrom. A niche but killer product. Sign me up! Take my money!

  83. Thank you for an insightful review. At present it seems the choice between the Ricoh and the Nikon A is a very very close to call. A thought experiment — if you flipped a coin and your strategy was to choose the Ricoh if it landed heads up, do you feel indifference or pain if it comes up tails? That pang might be a hidden preference for the Ricoh…. Thank you again for your time and effort in getting your review out when you are so busy….

    • Short answer: somewhat. Ideally, I’d live with both for a month and see which one I picked up most of the time. Or check my keeper rate and see which produced the highest number of pleasing images.

      • thelps says:

        I think this is the best way, and while we think these cameras are expensive they are cheap compared to the high grade film cameras we had in the 1990’s. Consider the Contax T2/T3 and the Nikon Ti series were about twice the price of either of these. Get both and run with them till one becomes a standout.

  84. bertram eiche says:

    I’ll buy the GR because:
    a. it’s cheaper
    b. i own already the grd3 and the sigma dp2. both use the same battery as the GR
    c.i also own the 28/21 viewfinder for the grd3
    Most important, i never felt a camera was so perfect to handle than the grd3.
    I guess the handling of the GR is the same.

  85. Hi Ming,

    Great comparison. Looking forward to hearing your ultimate decision.

    How do the optics compare to the sony rx100 at the same focal length? I have the rx100 and love it … so I’m trying to gauge what the difference in optical quality might be. Obviously, there are other huge differences such as single focal length vs. zoom.

    Just curious as to your thoughts on the above. Not sure if you have had, or will have, a chance to include an rx100 in a future comparison.

    Cheers,

    David

    • The Sony is not even close. At the 28mm end, it’s got extremely poor corners until f4, and close up is critically sharp nowhere until f5.6 or thereabouts – after that point, it’s diffraction limited. It’s not really a fair comparison, which makes it rather meaningless.

      • Thanks, good to know. I may have to seriously consider one of these cameras. I do like the rx100 as my take everywhere camera though. Decisions decisions…

        • I used one for the last nine months, too. But frankly, I guess I got bored of it, and it has a narrower shooting envelope than you think because of the slow lens and so-so optics (the 28mm end really needs stopping down to perform well).

  86. Another plus for the Ricoh is they have a history with earlier GR Digital models for releasing regular firmware updates with both bug fixes and additional features over the models lifetime. As an example here are 5 function enhancing FWs that were released for the GRD III http://www.ricoh.com/r_dc/gr/gr_digital3/firmware.html

  87. Thanks for the great comparison review — it’s very helpful to have the differences detailed like this. I really like the GR’s version of the bar. Judging on my monitor on the reduced resolution pictures on Flickr, it seems that the GR is darker relative to the A (and the exposure info seems to indicate relative underexposure, too), and a bit warmer in color. How would you characterize the differences between the two pictures, having access to the full-resolution pictures? Aesthetically, I feel the darker GR version works more to emphasize the abstract nature of the composition, and it helps that the human is in shadow, too, because the shape of his head echoes the lamps.

    • That shot wasn’t meant to be a direct comparison per se – I just shot the two cameras as normal, and processed both files to the best of my ability. Couldn’t get the framing exact, which affected exposure…long story, I only had one card on me (was shooting film with the A as backup) and another friend associated with Ricoh/Pentax happened to be carrying the GR.

  88. Vincent says:

    Ming, thanks for your review. You mentioned that the A was made in Japan. I thought the GR is made in Japan as well. If not, where is it made ? Regarding the colors of the GR, does Adobe ACR support the GR yet ? Could there be some compatibility issues ?

    • GR is made in China and shoots DNG like every other Ricoh, so there’s no compatibility issue.

      • There may be hope: the Adobe Standard profile for the Leica M (also DNG) that came out with Camera Raw 7.4 (I believe) seemed to improve colour a bit (it was /compatible/ before that, but defaulted to an embedded profile). A good advertisement for making one’s own profiles though…

        • Scott W says:

          I was thinking the same thing. Adobe still needs to create a Camera Profile for the GR, right? Isn’t this needed even though the camera produces dng’s?

          • Unclear. Possibly, possibly not. Having to have the latest version rather defeats the point of DNG, doesn’t it?

            • A camera profile is not /needed/ with DNG, but having one does affect the outcome; prior to being officially supported, one can open the photo in ACR with full functionality, but they default to an embedded profile for colours/tones. Think of official support as someone at Adobe creating a custom profile for you. The difference between that and, say, NEF and other proprietary raw formats is that the latter can’t be opened in ACR prior to being officially supported.

              • That would make sense – thanks for the explanation.

              • Scott W says:

                That makes sense, and what I was getting at but just didn’t know how to say it as well as you. It does seem to explain why the Ricoh jpegs aren’t having any problems with the reds. Ricoh is handling the reds properly with their in-camera profile, so ACR needs to be programmed to handle them properly.

                • Indeed. Although “properly” is of course subjective, and usually I find Adobe’s profiles–which aim for a standardised look–to be /different/ rather than /better/. It is daft that DNG needs profiling at all; rather defeats the point, as Ming said.

            • Scott W says:

              I agree, it does seem to defeat the point of the DNG. Maybe there is some history with other dng camera files that we can draw some conclusions from as to whether or not they required updates to Camera Raw. Who knows, just thinking out loud and trying to figure out how/if Ricoh got those reds so wrong. You may be right, maybe to bias the camera for B&W?

              • It’s the only logical conclusion I can come to seeing as the base sensor architecture is the same as the Coolpix A in the first place, and the results are so dramatically different. On the flipside, I can say the A isn’t good at B&W without a lot of work – which is true – because it’s probably biased for color accuracy and pleasing tones.

        • Not different enough to fix things – I still landed up using my own profile. Perhaps I should start selling them…but then everybody’s images would look the same.

          • May I open the bidding at £10? 😉 It will need to include some sort of algorhythm preventing weak compositions, bad lighting, lack of critical focus etc…

          • Tom Liles says:

            It’d be nice to have an article — or, yes, even a video, why not? — on color profiles Ming. I don’t know about the other beginners, but I’m puzzled by them [the results]. And I am using a calibrated display [done with the Apple freebie utility].
            A product photographer we often use at work gave me, just out of pure kindness, an xrite color checker passport and the software. I first tried it with my wife’s D60 for a test run: mangled colors. Then tried it with the DMC-L1: mangled colors. Then tried it with the precious, sorry, the D7000: mangled colors.

            I’m as thick as two planks of wood, but I did alright running arcane gamma spectrometers and even more arcane software, for example, when I worked on a nuclear power plant… I’ve written the odd bit of assembly code… I can usually solve the Sunday Times Prize Crossword, etc… so I don’t think any facet of using the color checker is escaping me…

            Anyway, at the moment I just use Adobe profiles. When they don’t quite give verisimilitude, I manually adjust hues [ever so slightly is usually all that’s ever needed]. But it’d be interesting to have an article, or even bit of paid content, from a voice we can trust.

            So the old [new] xrite is just being used as an 18% grey card now—which is really useful, actually.

            • Not sure how long you’ve been reading this site, Tom (and apologies for interjecting, Ming), but this article is an excellent primer and taught me a lot: https://blog.mingthein.com/2012/05/21/chasing-perfect-color-and-common-myths-about-white-balance/

              P.S. Hope you’re not too thick if you worked on a nuclear power plant! 😉

              • Tom Liles says:

                Thanks Todd! Yeah, I’d read that a bit back… but scanning again, there, I definitely need to revisit it.

                I tend to keep an eye on the histogram in ACR / PS when I’m fiddling — and it’s been a good habit to keep as I can, sometimes now, diagnose what I want to do with an image, when I open one up, just by glancing at the histogram — and when I do I notice that changing color temp and Green-Magenta tint is just shifting the RGB histograms along the axis of the histogram. Curves then fixes how linear/non-linear I want those RGB input-outputs to be… but hue doesn’t seem to come into it here [WB, tint, curves]. That’s for the camera calibration / color profile?

                So it seemed like this colorchecker passport would be mana from heaven; but using it just gave me off skin tones, shifted greens, etc., etc. Real head scratcher.

                No, it’s an interesting mix of people in nuclear. I worked with Phd’s, and people who maybe had GCSEs… all in the same department! 😀

                Thanks for the tip Todd. Cheers!

                • Haha!

                  Could be that either the lighting source for the test shots–or the photos you later used the profile on–weren’t perfectly daylight-balanced. You need to create a different profile for every substantially different temperature/source (or create a dual-illuminant profile, which interpolates between two).

                  • Tom Liles says:

                    Yeah, that’s the way I was doing it: arrive at a scene, take a few frames, last frame is the colorchecker—taken as instructed in the doco… Do the business on the PC [I’ve tried a few routes to creating a profile: directly through their software, with their plugin for Lightroom, and via a free script for ACR (I’m on a begged and borrowed and stolen PS CS3, and that was released when you still had to do stuff like “run scripts” 🙂 it’s all slick and 2.0 now, I’m sure!]

                    And the colors always come out truer with bog standard Adobe profiling. Whatever works, I suppose, but it must be me doing something wrong… the chap who gave me the checker gets AMAZING color rendition; similar camera (Nikon), same checker, viewed on my screen, etc—he does it => perfecto! I do it => the computer says naoo

                    Anyway, you’ve energized me: I’m going to attempt again tomorrow lunchtime. So thanks Todd; and especially because at the very very least, I know a bit more for having talked with you! 🙂

                • That second to last line is positively scary. I’m somewhat glad I don’t live in the UK anymore…

                  • Tom Liles says:

                    Nothing is safe, of course. I’ve spent a lot of time on chemical plants too, and they — the plants and the staff — were scarier than nuclear, far and away. I can say with some pride, though, that no-one is more vigilant as regards protocol and practice than nuclear workers themselves—from the maybe he/she graduated high-school, maybe he/she didn’t people through to the Phds and all the MScs and BEngs in between. It’s quite simple really: there’s ALWAYS a protocol—you follow the tech-spec, the yellow sheet [that’s a task “how to” step by step for the technicians, not because they don’t know, to make them stop and purposefully carry out each operation deliberately and slowly], the radiological work permit, what have you; you do that, do it the right way, or you get fired. One strike and you’re out.

                    This said, the technicians used to drive me crazy: we engineers were required to train our guys and in my case that meant having to teach a bunch of rough necks who, as I say, maybe have GCSEs, what radiation is, how our measuring instruments work, specifically, and the kinds of radiation we expect from the kind of reactor we run. It wasn’t fun. And they broke all my instruments all the time, without fail. At the same time, I always considered them to be a brilliant bunch of guys. 🙂

                    At any rate, it might surprise you to learn that the biggest nuclear danger, in my humble opinion, to public safety is the indecisiveness of the public themselves. And regulators.

                    Regulators are typically grey beards from the 70s who don’t trust anything that isn’t analog: so they want, they insist on, mechanical means to shut reactors down [as a building block of the safety case], rather than the “fly by wire” safety systems the aviation industry uses and nuclear has wanted to use for ages now [aviation is very comparable business model: a 747 and a nuclear reactor have about the same operational life-span, both business have very high fixed costs, and are extremely safety oriented, one mistake and that’s the ball game, etc]. This is a killer.
                    And the general public is afraid to admit it’s afraid of nuclear power and its fear comes from completely irrational and unscientific motivations. It doesn’t understand nuclear, and you always fear what you don’t understand. Fair enough. That philosophy is probably what has ensured the survival of the species! But it needs to be honest with itself and say either “yes” or “no.” Because the current fleet of stations are crumbling, but no-one will say “yes” to updates. By the same token, they won’t just wrap up nuclear programs, either. The worst of both worlds, rather than the best.

                    Anyway, APOLOGIES for an unsolicited rant on nuclear. But I’d hate anyone to get the wrong impression: because I know impressions are all that matters when it comes to this. If you looked into technical arguments, serious ones I mean, re: nuclear and the safety of nuclear, it’s unquestionably the right choice for baseload.

                    Try explaining this to bright young things sitting in Starbucks with their Macbook pros and iPhones and degrees in media studies though…

                    • I don’t disagree with you. The problem is a) convincing the public it’s safe and b) making sure it really IS safe; reducing the number of human intervention points seems like a good idea, actually. I thought those sealed, maintenance-free ‘nuclear batteries’ they were developing in Japan – miniature pebble bed reactors, I think – made a lot of sense.

                    • Great post, Tom!

                    • Tom Liles says:

                      (brushing fingernails on shirt; flicks hair back)

                      Thank you!

              • I forgot about that, thanks Todd! (This is what happens when you have literally 600+ articles. You just can’t remember everything you’ve written).

            • I use the Apple utility and an eyeball too. It’s not really something that’s simple to explain in a how-to, and I’d probably be better off selling my profiles…except I’d rather not 🙂 We have to retain some secrets, right?

              • Happy to be of assistance, though now I’m thinking I should probably get out more… 😉

                My take on keeping secrets: whatever your outlet, creativity is an intensely personal thing; at this level, it’s nothing less than an obsession, an all-consuming passion where every small step forward, every piece of knowledge learned and wisdom aquired, is the sum total of many years learning, experimenting and refining. It’s a long and sometimes lonely journey; I’m thinking of all the nights out that I haven’t been on because my head’s been in a book… or my eye through a viewfinder. We covet the enlightenment attained in the pursuit of creative perfection; that which we have, we cherish. Then some snotty, impolite kid comes along demanding to see our EXIF data! Everyone wants there to be a set of magic settings, a camera, a profile… a Holy Grail. But there are no shortcuts, and there is no substitute for blood, sweat and tears.

                That said… £10 for that profile, Ming… ;D

                • Tom Liles says:

                  Just to return an interjection [that’s the pleasure of these below the line things, for me]

                  You nearly had me spit coffee out on the screen there, Todd. Not the first time!

                  OK, I’ll excuse myself, here 🙂

                • Hah! Can’t fault you for trying, I suppose.

                  You could always just buy my prints.

                  • Ha! If I were a dpreview forum member I’d make my signature “STFU and buy a print”.

                    • That’s not a bad idea, but first I’d have to start selling prints…

                    • I’d like to think they’d sell… I die a bit inside every time one of my friends decorates a room with an off-the-shelf department store print.

  89. Bamboojled says:

    Ming, thank you for your thorough and unbiased assessment of both cameras, showing the good, bad and ugly for each camera.
    I did notice in your crop images that the Nikon consistently gave a much faster exposure.
    This was especially obvious in the crop of the cars in the parking lot with the Nikon A giving a 1.6 second exposure vs. a 4 second exposure on the GR.
    You didn’t mention this in your review, and wonder if this could/would add to the slightly higher noise you mentioned on the Nikon as it seems that the GR needed significant longer exposures to achieve comparable results.
    Could this be a case of inflating the ISO rating on the Ricoh?
    Not trying to start a war here, just truly curious what your thoughts are regarding the exposure discrepancy.

    • Actually, I did: the GR tends to meter hot, sometimes overexposing things. I deliberately left settings as I’d shoot them in practical situations.

      • stanis riccadonna zolczynski says:

        Ming, it`s true that Ricoh overexposes. Something to do with overrating sensor. On my GXR m-unit when using sunny 16 exposure in manual mode I discovered that I`m safe closing at least one stop down not to overblow the highlights. Pity that one cannot dial in menu a permanent exposure correction for autoexposure like in old times changing ISO setting. And of course your review is the best of it`s kind and I happily join the applauding crowd.

        • Spot meter is the way to go if you’re not shooting from the hip or running and gunning – I find setting up MY1 with spot meter, aperture priority and normal AF works well, and MY2 with run and gun settings (P, AUTO-ISO HI, snap focus at 2.5m) is probably the best of both worlds. Same with the A, actually – U1 holds AF-ON Fn1, spot meter and Av; U2 holds MF, matrix and P.

  90. could i have the dng for the book spines from the ricoh. I made a GR color profile from the dng imaging resource posted that actually contained a macbeth cards. seems to help alot. like to see what the books look like with the color profile

    • It’s a little meaningless as you don’t have the live scene to compare for accuracy. I’ve been working on some profiles with the books in front of me (and next to the calibrated monitor) plus a color checker card, and I don’t think it’s possible to have a one-size fits all – different WB temps will need different profiles. I’m not sure how finely gradated this has to be, and whether it’s worth doing…

      • Scott W says:

        >It’s a little meaningless as you don’t have the live scene to compare for accuracy.

        Except he can compare to the Nikon A image, which you said is accurate.

        • No digital reproduction is perfect. And I just don’t release raw files or full size images as a matter of principle; sorry. I’ve explained why many times in other articles.

          • Scott W says:

            Fair enough. I missed those explanations in the past, or I have forgotten (most likely). Sorry about that!

  91. I think the GR will fare better due to the one handed operation. Plus, the color correction profile can be worked. I’ll be getting mine soon and I’ll be doing a user based review with an emphasis on street photography which might complimentary to yours, I hope. Pentax Ricoh selected some of my work to display on the official GR advertising banner in the US so I hope to contribute a new perspective. As usual, you’re on point. Cheers

    Jorge

  92. i am gonna stay with the GR. My hope is calibrating the dng of a macbeth card xrite lightroom plugin should do the job. I am also hoping i can tolerate the AF. I just like the GR smaller design better. I also am sorta finnicky about bokeh and i really like the results i have scene from the ricoh

    • I’ve already done several rounds of that, but it looks as though I may need several profiles depending on the ambient WB – this is a bit of a pain.

  93. joeoflakeland says:

    After reading your review I come away being much more informed as to the capabilities and compromises of these two cameras. I also know that, for my purposes, I can live with might be quite troublesome to a more technically discerning camera user. Don’t misunderstand me, great image quality potential is important to me, but I don’t take it to the same level of requirement that you (and others may). That said, either could work for me but the edge goes to the GR as my inclination is mostly black and white conversions. And a filmic look is very appealing to me. Then again, so are crisp images that the A appears to be capable of. But the price and strengths of the GR trump whatever advantage there is to shooting with the A.
    Thanks for sharing your effort (and great pictures!).
    Joe

  94. William Jusuf says:

    you observte that the GR getting slower at night …

    How if you use it 24/7 as a scale focus camera (snap mode in 100 % use) …
    its not gonna be slowing down at night, right ?

    BTW. can we still go super stealth (no shutter sound, no aff assist light) with GR ?

    William

  95. William Jusuf says:

    Ming .. this is gonna make a turmoil in the “review ” world 🙂

    Great battle !!

    WIlliam Jusuf

    • I say pick up whichever one feels better to you and just go shoot with it. Impossible to make an armchair decision. I *want* both for different reasons, but the bank balance will allow only one. And I still can’t decide which!

  96. Christian Hass says:

    You list a built in level as an advantage for the GR, but the Coolpix A has this as well.
    See at the bottom of the features page here http://imaging.nikon.com/lineup/coolpix/a/a/features04.htm

    • I’ve been through every option in my camera’s menu, and can’t find it anywhere.

      • Try Setup Menu/Photo Info/Virtual Horizon, that seems to be what the Nikon picture refers to (I don’t own the camera – yet). Pg 17 and 184 of the online manual show it listed just below the Framing Grid. Those are the only two references; blink and you’ll miss it.

      • From the review on Nikonrumors.com, it does look like the A has a virtual level as well 🙂

        • I would have thought so, but I must be doing something extremely stupid – can’t find the option anywhere!

          EDIT: it’s buried under ‘photo info’ and ‘virtual horizon’. So yes, the A does have a virtual level. I stand corrected, review amended!

          • Don’t worry: a month into owning one, I /still/ can’t ever find the level without hunting, despite having activated and deactivated it several times…

            • I have to be honest, I hardly ever use the feature on any camera that has it, not just the A…

              • Ha. On the subject of rooting through the A’s menus, what’s with the inability to set custom file names? I can’t see why on earth they’d omit this simple feature.

                • Just like the ability to use the D-pad center button to instant zoom to check focus, it’s missing from the low end cameras. Though how they can classify a $1100 compact as ‘low end’ boggles the mind…even the Ricoh has the push-to-zoom feature on the ADJ lever.

                  • Exactly, it’s expensive and there’s nothing to upgrade to (not in the compact line, anyway). I understand that some features can’t be implemented for cost or practical reasons, but the menu/configurability system was established; all they had to do was leave it alone! The latest example of lessons unlearned from one generation to the next.

  97. wow reading this, i’d really love to hear what you have to say about fuji x100s

    i would choose the gr, cause as a back up body, it need not be perfect for me, just something that it does really well is enough.
    if i want flexibility, total image control, i’d rather spend the time and pull out my d800

    • Doubt I’ll be reviewing one at this point. No interest in 35mm FOVs and nobody wants to lend me one, plus I’m up to my eyeballs in client work.

  98. Great comparison like always!

  99. Tooppy says:

    Well it seems that all the cons of this GR can be fixed with a firmware update and Ricoh is good at that.
    The Nikon’s cons are more to do with conception so you would have to live with it.

    So Ricoh, do you hear me ? read carefully Ming’s review and correct every single things he mentioned, and don’t forget the LR batteries adapter. Then let us know if you plan a tele adapter, actually it’s a must !

  100. Hi Ming Thein,
    Why do you cover the brandname on the Nikon and later also on the GR you blacked out the white letters. I can imagine a quality black shirt looks a lot more sophisticated without the brandname showing rather dominantly. But a camera (or shirt) with tape on it or blacked out text does not help esthetics either.

    Please keep writing you great stories on cameras and photography.
    Francois

  101. Nothing to correct. It’s Ming’s private opinion and nothing else. One man prefers apples, other – oranges.

  102. I didn’t black out anything on the GR. the Nikon I covered because I had issues with reflections on something I was photographing; it’s easier not to have to retouch out text. Plus I don’t see why I should give any brand free advertising!

  103. The photo you took with the Nikon of the GR it looks like the GR text is altered to lessen the white paint. Maybe its just reflection.

  104. Oh, that’s because it’s actually gray in person…if it were my camera I’d probably tape it over.

  105. Francois Verhoeven says:

    Hi Ming Thein,
    Battle of the compacts is a good title. These battles do actually exist in the mind of many buyers. The compacts in this quality range are usually considered to be take-alongs for those who also have the real gear in the back of their car. Compacts for pro-photographers. But for many these compacts are actually the only camera they can afford hence the seriousness of the battle.

    I had to sell my DSLR (5D +35-1.4 and my TS lenses) due to the crisis. So I know what good files look like. I have high hopes to buy a camera again in the near future, the GR, Coolpix A or maybe a Fuji100s or the Sony x100. So there is my battle.

    So, looking at it from this perspective the compact is no longer a compact just for its size.
    Most high-end compacts don’t have autofocus good enough for family, sports, the kids, the the holidays, quick shots of unexpected moments and so on to keep up with the high Mp file potential. I really wonder if the coolpix A or the GR would actually be a good choice for those who think this could be their only (compact) camera to shoot art or architecture and your family for fun and memories.

    I know, art and family-photography do not seem to share the same need for great file quality. But for me they do.
    Based on your article here I am thinking I should not buy the GR or the Coolpix A. I may have to look at the Fuji100s. The 100s is foolproof and “can see in the dark” as reviewers tell me on their sites.
    What do you think if you put yourself in my position in combination with your needs for images that “pop”.
    Francois
    PS, I could get a 5D with a 50 1.4 secondhand for the price of the GR. But I am done with the size and hassle of a DSLR. I rent gear for some small jobs I get as an architectural photographer.

  106. I think if you know what you’re doing, they’re very powerful cameras – for instance, knowing when to switch to zone focus or MF or pre-metering. Architecture and things that don’t move – not a problem.

    I disagree with art/ family not requiring file quality: I think everything deserves to be shot properly if it’s to be shot at all.

    I don’t personally like the 35mm FL, or the X100 (haven’t used the X100s properly yet) – so I doubt I’d recommend that. I’d still say look at a DSLR or M4/3 camera if you need flexibility.

  107. Francois Verhoeven says:

    You misread, I also agree with you that family work requires the same file quality as the rest. Thats why I feel I rather get something good or just use my iphone.
    I read your review on the The Olympus E-PM1 and maybe thats the way to go along with the 12 2.0.
    I was not a fan of 35mm FL for most of my life and then went to the Philipines with a 5D and the 35 1.4 ….

  108. Sorry, wasn’t clear – I agree with you and disagree generally, if that makes sense…

    I tried to use 35 for a while: for about three months, a Leica 35/1.4 FLE plus M9P was what I shot for my personal work. It just didn’t take.

Trackbacks

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

  2. […] 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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