Ricoh GR II: Solid upgrade for pro's favourite 28mm pocket compact
Ricoh has announced the Mark II version of its popular and understated GR. It is a solid update which adds improved processing, a tweaked 28mm f/2.8 lens, faster autofocus and new wifi options. It is also rather underwhelming since the latest version looks exactly like the first generation.
Clearly, this is a case of leaving well alone. Ricoh does not often fiddle with the iconic design, much like Porsche or Leica, the family resemblance endures. The old GR, which I reviewed last month, is a superb, very compact professional shooter capable of outstanding results. Lacking an AA filter, the 16.2MP APS-C sensor is capable of high resolution and, as I found, excels when it comes to monochrome conversions. The old camera was already a good performer and the new tweaks, which also include faster start up and speedier shutter release and a higher dynamic range, can only add icing to the cake. I suspect, however, that existing owners will not feel a burning compulsion to upgrade.
One of my favourite features from the Mark I, the stepped digital zoom with settings for 35mm and 47mm, is oddly missing from the specification of the GR II. I cannot find it mentioned anywhere in the announcement material. There is even an ominous blank on the spec sheet under Digital Zoom. I am left wondering if this useful little function has been pensioned off. If so, which I can hardly believe, it will be a great pity and another reason to hold on to the old camera. Significantly, a new competitor in the 28mm world, the Leica Q, places great store by its version of Ricoh's stepped digital zoom. While internal digital cropping is far more effective on the Q's full-frame sensor, I also found it very usable on the GR.
Apart from the focused simplicity and strong performance of the GR, the camera's big selling point is its compact format and rugged, all-metal build. It is the smallest APS-C camera you can buy and it can truly be said to be pocketable. It still lacks a viewfinder, which the pro-sumer brigade now say is essential, but the Ricoh is one camera where I enjoy composing on the screen. It remains the ultimate stealth camera for street photography, making you look like a harmless goofy tourist while packing a professional-standard shooter.
Two optical viewfinders are available and there is also an expensive and bulky 21mm converter lens which, to a large extent, defeats the object of the GR. The new camera will be available later this month at £599 including VAT. The old GR is now available from several retailers for £399 which is remarkable value for money.