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Saturday, April 14, 2018

Ricoh GR Digital IV: Ricoh's Digital GR IV Still Reigns

Ricoh GR Digital IV: Ricoh's Digital GR IV Still Reigns
April 2018, Carl Garrard

Why does this particular GR still matter? Well, it always will in the line up of GR lore because it's smaller, lighter, and has a faster lens than its bigger GR I/II successors. Ricoh's GR Digital IV is definitely a complimentary camera to the large sensor GR's with both types having distinct advantages that can give you awesome results. This camera is the reason the larger sensor GR's are as good as they are today, so remember that. Having met and worked with Ricoh under NDA with it's employees in the past, I can tell you first hand that they are all photographers that look out for our best interests in camera design, and it shows in the final products. The GR Digital IV is no different.

What's the GR Digital IV got that makes it so special?

Well first of all, it's smaller 1 1/7" size sensor has some advantages. It's capable of more depth of field for each aperture setting in a direct comparison, so no need to stop down nearly as much as the other larger GR's for sharp subjects. It's got a great CCD  sensor that performs beautifully seven years after its announcement. It's the most capable of all the smaller sensor GR Digital cameras, and definitely the best of them all.
Small. Light. Functional. Nearly perfect design.

 The original Digital GR with its 8.1mp sensor has a wonderful look to the images that's hard to describe, but mostly likely due to its CCD sensor, and its unique grain pattern and midtones at higher ISO's. Thus images have soul to them, a sort of beautiful imperfection that gives it a distinct look.

ISO 80 f/2.8, 1/10th of a second hand held. Makes great b/w images, the sensor/processor are tuned for this output, no doubt.

The GR Digital IV has a very similar CCD sort of imprint on its images (good grain structure and midtones) too. As a result, I've been a huge fan of this camera since it was announced. The reason I believe it wasn't as popular as the larger GR's is because it was the fourth of its type, and there were only incremental upgrades each step of the way. The GR Digital IV gained image stabilization, fast AF, and the best image quality and build quality of all the small sensor GR's, and it was so well designed that even even 6 1/2 years after its announcement it's hardly feeling tired at all.

Very small and light, very clean design.
And, it also comes in "storm trooper" white, so there.
No need to ramp up the ISO. F 1.9, ISO 80, 1/6th of a second hand held. Image stabilization helps too :)

On top of it being a stellar GR in the lineup, it's also the lightest and smallest full featured pocket camera that retains excellent handling out there, even today. Others may be smaller (Canon G9X), but none of those smaller cameras handle nearly as well or have nearly as many features as the GR IV. Therefore, the greatest part about this camera, is how awesome one handed shooting is: the weight is perfect and light, and you can use two fingers to shoot in very odd angles as graceful as a ballerina, down low or up high, and never fear to drop it.

ISO 800, ACR converted Raw

Its quick to focus, and you hardly ever need to ramp up the ISO past 400, but up to 800 looks fantastic (see above). Most of the time I keep it at base 80 ISO and just shoot a bit slower if needed, and/or meter for highlights and bring the shadows up in raw. There is plenty of dynamic range in the raw files at base ISO, you won't be disappointed especially for a small sensor. So, you needn't worry about the quality of the photographs, its 10mp files are sharp, noise free at base ISO, and look absolutely gorgeous all the way up to 20x30" (uncropped) with proper processing. I have no issues with it when metering for highlights and bringing up shadows in raw files in post. Plenty of dynamic range and great shadow detail retention with little noise introduction.

ISO 80, metered for highlights, shadows brought up in raw in ACR. Purty.

The image stabilization works excellent too, I can routinely get sharp images down to 1/2-1/4th of a second hand held. I cannot shoot with my larger sensor GR/GR II at shutter speeds that low. It's definitely got some advantages over its larger sensor successors in this are, and especially with macro photography. It's a winner macro camera.

Macro, hand held, 2/3rds of a second, ISO 200. It gets way closer than this too.

 I have every GR digital made in my collection and I have published reviews online for every single one at some point. But I keep coming back to this camera because of its fantastic qualities. GR's like the GR IV, will give you life long satisfaction where other digital cameras end up just being sold, collect dust, or end up in the trash bin. They will hold their value well; and this camera especially is, and forever will be a classic for very good reasons.

The most simple layout. Perfect placement of controls, even better than the larger sensor GR's in my opinion.

In my opinion, Ricoh should have not discontinued this camera, but rather should have introduced another version of it later with a small built in optical finder, perhaps with a 2.5" LCD screen which would have given it room to fit. With this configuration, Ricoh easily could have produced a small sensor GR and large sensor GR and sold both as different models and pulled it off nicely. And I still think they should. The older film GR's easily fit a good optical finder in its case, and even with an LCD screen the digital versions should have no issue doing the same.

GR's are some of my favorite cameras of all time for a reason. Now all we need is a GR with a built in optical finder, go for it Ricoh! I'd give up a popup flash any day of the week to have a built in optical finder on these cameras.

Ricoh, take out the flash, I never use it. Put in a small optical finder please!

Search my site for a full review, or other articles on the Ricoh GR IV, or click here if you are interested in an older review from 2011. Ricoh, we need you to stay in the business. GR's are your masterpieces, we await your next move.

Stay focused.

-Carl Garrard


  1. Thank you! :) And I completely agree.

  2. Carl: I own this one, too. One of the best camera purchases I have ever made. My carry-around kit consists of the GR IV, Fuji X-E2, Fuji 18-55 and Fuji 55-200. It all fits comfortably into a Billingham Hadley Small. What's most amazing to me is that I'm getting significantly better IQ with this 5-pound kit than I did with my behemoth Canon 1Ds II, Kodak SLR/C, Nikon D2x and assortment of wonderful but super-heavy lenses. This has all happened within a few years! Amazing progress for a totally new technology. By contrast, it took 75 years for the telephone, after it was introduced, to be owned by only 50% of the population! 75 years! It took 20 years for push-button dialing to become commonplace. Progress in 2018 is exponential. Thanks for reviewing the GR.

    - Steve

  3. Deep thoughts, very interesting and true! It's funny how some designs just work, right? Like its synonymous to us all, like hard wired coding when something is right we all know its right.