Ricoh GR vs Fujifilm X100S vs Nikon Coolpix A – Comparison

April 17, 2013

If you are after a large-sensor compact camera with a fixed lens, now you have another option to choose from, the Ricoh GR camera. It’s a 16.2MP APS-C compact camera that joins the GR family (e.g. GR Digital II, GR Digital III, GR Digital IV).  The Ricoh GR has stiff competition from other fix-lens compacts, like the Fujifilm FinePix X100/X100S (12MP APS-C sensor, 23mm f2 lens) and Nikon Coolpix A (16.2MP DX sensor, 28mm f2.8 lens).

There are two types of fix-lens compact, one with zoom lenses and other with prime lenses.  Those with the prime lens are aimed for the enthusiast/professional market and are also more expensive. They are optimized for image quality and that’s one reason why they use a prime lens rather than a zoom lens.  The Ricoh GR belongs to that category and comes with a large APS-C sensor and a fixed 28mm (equivalent) f/2.8 lens. In this article we’ll take a close look at the Ricoh GR and compare it to the Fujifilm X100S and Nikon Coolpix A.

Ricoh GR

The Ricoh GR comes with a large APS-C-sized CMOS sensor with no low-pass filter, An APS-C sensor size is roughly the same as you can found on the Nikon D7000, Canon EOS 60D, Sony NEX-6 and other DSLR and CSC cameras. A large sensor means better low-light sensitivity due to more light photons that can be captured by the sensor photo diodes — this leads to better color accuracy, higher dynamic range, better details and overall better IQ.  Futhermore, the Ricoh GR is the World’s smallest camera with an APS-C size imaging sensor (as of April 1, 2013).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88LiM3RSVVo

Ricoh has decided to ditch the low-pass filter to allow the sensor to extract as much details as possible but with the cost of moiré and false colors, which be much more evident in certain type of shots. The low-pass/anti aliasing filter was design to combat those artifacts. The Low pass filter only let low frequencies pass without hindrance.  There are other cameras that come without a low pass filter: Nikon D800E and Nikon D7100 for example. The result is a more detailed image. If you are after the highest resolution possible, buying a camera without a low-pass filter can give you just that. This is ideal for landscape and cityscape photographers.

The Ricoh GR comes with a newly developed 18.3mm (28mm equivalent) F2.8 lens with 7 elements in 5 groups with multi-coating on all surfaces  Like other cameras of this kind, the lens was optimized for that particular sensor to provide edge-to-edge sharpness and keeping optical distortions and chromatic aberration to the minimum possible. The lens also has 9-blade iris aperture that gives buttery smooth Bokeh effect with no falloff.

The Ricoh GR utilizes the new GR Engine V imaging processor, allowing the camera to shot up to ISO 25,600 and has advanced algorithms to improve the camera’s performance for both image rendering (JPEG) and Autofocus accuracy and speed (Ricoh claims 0.2 second focus speed, 0.4 sec for Macro).

The idea being all that is to allow photographers to carry a compact camera, but one that can perform as a high-end DSLR camera — at least when it comes to image quality. the GR can record 1080p Full HD H.264 videos with continuous autofocus.  the GR was designed to be as responsive as a DSLR with 1 second star up time and 4 fps burst.

At the back you find a 3-inch 1.23 million dot high resolution screen, which is important for a camera that doesn’t come with a built-in electronic viewfinder (optical viewfinder available as an optional accessory). The Ricoh ND has internal ND filter, dedicated effect mode button and Multiple exposure shot.

The Ricoh looks like a really impressive camera, but how it compare to the Fujifilm X100S and Nikon Coolpix A? — Let’s find out.

Ricoh GR vs Fujifilm X100S vs Nikon Coolpix A

Let’s take a look at a side by side comparison table which compares the key features of the three cameras.

Ricoh GR, Nikon Coolpix A and Fujifilm X100S size comparison

Ricoh GR, Nikon Coolpix A and Fujifilm X100S size comparison (via camerasize.com)

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The X100S has the best build quality, but it’s much bigger than the GR and Coolpix A. The X100S utilizes Fujifilms unique colors array X-Trans sensor which according to Fujifilm, it results in higher image quality compare to conventional color array filters. The X100S has a 35mm equivalent lens, which is narrower than the 28mm that the other two cameras offer. The lens is faster (F2.0) too. The X100 is the only one to utilize a viewfinder, the other two don’t come with a built-in viewfinder (available as an option accessory) and you need to compose your shots via the back LCD. This is the area where the X100S lacks, it has a relatively small and low-res display compare to the competition — but the viewfinder compensate for that so I personally don’t see this as a big issue. The X100S also has the fastest burst and the best battery life.

The Fujifilm X100S does cost more but you are getting a camera that feels like a professional tool in your hand, very durable, slick, an excellent F2.0 Fujinon lens an the highly praised Hybrid viewfinder.  The X100S is indeed much larger than the other two but I think that you will find it very comfortable to hold. The X100S get a retro style design compare to the more modern design of the Nikon Coolpix A and Ricoh GR — The X100S is probably the most impressive and most advanced camera in this group, and probably the most impressive cameras of this type on the market right now.

The Ricoh GR is certainly a great addition to the GR camera’s lineup. It’s the cheapest in the group but not a cheap camera at all. What I like about the Ricoh GR compare to the competition is its very compact size, high-resolution display (best in the group), no low-pass filter, very good build quality and 1080p video recording.  This camera should perform not less impressive compare to other DSLR cameras out there, even squeeze out more information from the scene due to the lack of the anti aliasing filter — A great pocket size camera that can take DSLR-like quality photos.

The Nikon Coolpix A is a great addition to the Coolpix lineup. I personally didn’t expect Nikon to release a fix-lens large-sensor camera with a prime lens.  What I like about the Coolpix A is its high-quality F2.8 Nikkor prime lens, high-res LCD, lots of scene modes and in-camera image editing options, very good build quality and overall compact size. It did lack 1080p (shoots at 1080i interlaced) and it has the least impressive battery life in the group.

Worth mentioning that all cameras have a hot-shoe connector.

Off-site editorial impressions:

mikekobal.com – X100S autofocus is much better than the Coolpix A. X100S better ergonomics and handling. The Coolpix A LCD is very good, but can’t compare to the shooting experience of a viewfinder. He preferred the X-Trans sensor on the X100S but game a better score for Nikon A for sharpness (“Scary Sharp”).

(Nikon A sample image Via Flickr)
nikon_a_f4

Nikon A vs Fujifilm X100 S AF performance test (by Mike Joval)

So Nikon A might have a miss here with its AF performance, but scores big time in image quality with its tack-sharp images, even wide open.

Another look at some sample images posted on whatdigitalcamera.com leads to the same conclusion about the Nikon A sharpness when compared to the X100S, it’s just look sharper and at 100% scale images you can really notice the diffrence.

In order to get a better and more qualified conclusion about image quality, we’ll need to wait for some more sample images for the Ricoh GR. Pentax/Ricoh has released some sample images on pentax.jp. The sample images look very encouraging. I am looking forward to the Ricoh GR. It will be a more direct competitor to the Nikon Coolpix A rather than the X100S, but who I am to complain — more options is always good for the customer.

* This comparison will be updated when lab test reviews updates their image database with Ricoh GR images, so we can get a better understanding how good the Ricoh GR image quality is compare to the competition.

Buy Fujifilm X100S: B&H Photo, Adorama, Amazon

Buy Nikon Coolpix A: B&H Photo, Adorama, Amazon

Buy Ricoh GR: B&H Photo, Adorama



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