The new GRD III announced - features and preview

I'm extremely excited about the announcement of the new GRD III. I've been waiting for Ricoh to upgrade the GRD line of camera's for a while and it looks like they have delivered!!

See the below write-up from!!

(taken from )


This is an introduction to GRDIII key features and improvements. I'm waiting for a test sample, but I already got a chance to see and discuss the GRDIII features. So here you can find a detailed explanation of most GRDIII key features and improvements.

Let's start with short description of what's new:
- Brighter GR lens 28mm F1.9
- New design of lens group in Macro mode (decreased barrel distortion, even shorter Macro distance)
- High-sensitivity CCD 10MP 1/1.72
- 3" LCD with 920.000 pixels
- GR Engine III with new Noise Reduction circuit and processing (more precise and selective color noise suppression based of color saturation)
- Added Shutter speed priority
- Added Dynamic Range Double Shot (CX1-like)
- New Full Press Snap AF mode
- New Multi-pattern WB for scenes with mixed light (like fluorescent and sun light)
- New FN button at a position of self-timer (self timer is default function for this new FN button, but you can change it)
- New My3 position on mode dial
- New GH-2 hood and adapter and GW-2 (21mm) conversion lens (sadly, there is no info about GT1 update)
- New GF-1 Ricoh dedicated TTL flash (available in October)
- New DB-65 battery (DB-60 and AAA accus are still usable)

What's improved?
- Significantly faster AF with new Full press Snap mode and Pre-AF mode (usable even in bad lightning conditions)
- Selectable Snap Focus distance
- Improved base dynamic range (+ new CX-like dual shot DR mode)
- Improved RAW writing speed (2.6secs per RAW or even faster – depends of card)
- Up to 5 RAW + JPEG images in continuous mode
- Improved AWB accuracy
- Even more customization options (there is no other compact camera with such level of customization)
- Added new HUE/Saturation controls for individual image colors (in 5 levels)
- Digital/analog chip redesigned for better performance and less color noise (GRDIII ISO200 should be at the same or better level than GRDII ISO100)
- It's now again possible to use ANY aperture with ANY shutter speed! (e.g. F1.9 with 1/2000)
- Front wheel/Adj. lever functionality can be swapped in Manual and playback mode (It's now possible to assign Aperture value change to Adj. lever and Shutter speed change to front wheel. It's much faster to scroll over 42 shutter speeds with wheel than with lever. So this one is really great workflow saver.)
- GRDIII buttons are now again matte! (GRDIII now looks like a high class professional tool and not like a shiny toy camera;))
- Many other small improvements

And here is detailed explanation of some key GRDIII features.

GRDIII bring us what a lot of us called for - even brighter lens starting at f1.9. Although some of us may be disappointed by the lack of "larger" sensor, the good news is that GRDIII pixel count remained at 10MP and the size of sensor is tiny bit larger (1.72 instead of 1/1.75). Surprisingly, the sensor used in GRDIII is not CMOS (as I predicted after CX1 release)m but traditional CCD. But Ricoh is mentioning that the dynamic range and ISO performance should be visibly better with this new sensor. We will have to wait for some real-world tests, but if you remember the difference between GRDI and GRDII ISO performance (about one stop improvement in terms of noise), I guess we may expect some very good news.

According of Ricoh, GRDIII should be faster in all key areas. This includes camera start, RAW writing speed and speed of autofocus. GRDIII adopted some of the CX1 AF technologies so the speed of AF should be at least as fast as CX1 (if not faster). And this is very good news for all GRDI passive AF lovers, because CX1 is fast like a hell (in compact camera class and even some entry level DSLRs). See this AF test I did with CX1, GRDI, GRDII and GX200. I'm planing to repeat this test also with GRDIII.

But aside the CX1-like AF routines, there are implemented some new AF tricks to make the shutter response faster than ever. The major new AF mode is Full Press Snap mode. This mode is designed for all candid and action photographers. Even though the GRDIII AF speed is probably the fastest AF you can see in any compact camera (or even some DSLRs), there may be situations when you need instant shutter response without the half press or manual switching of AF to Snap/Manual mode. This is where this new Full Press Snap mode comes handy.

Available options:
On (Auto- Hi ISO)

If enabled, and you full press the shutter without the half-press stage, the camera takes photo with predefined Snap mode distance (see the below described Snap Focus Distance). The camera will focus normally (with Spot or Mutli AF) if you do the half press and then full press. The last option On (Auto- Hi ISO) is like ON except that the ISO sensitivity is set to Auto-Hi. This can be useful in cases of difficult lightning conditions and while photographing in a move.

I would probably use this last option. Usually, I will probably use the half-press stage with normal focusing. But in cases of fast actions/candid photos i want instant response and long enough shutter speed to be able to capture an evanescent moment. So On (Auto- Hi ISO) looks like perfect solution of both problems.

As mentioned above, with GRDIII you can now define the Snap Focus Distance. Just select the distance at which the camera focuses when Snap is selected (both "normal" Snap or Full Press Snap).

Available distances:
1 m (3.3 ft.)
2.5 m (8.2 ft.)
5 m (16.4 ft.)
∞ (infinity).

But that's not all in AF department! There is also new Pre-AF mode!
If On (for Multi AF or Spot AF), the camera will continue to focus even when the shutter release button is not half pressed. The focus range is a bit narrower and it drains the battery, but shutter response may be improved. It's good option if you don't wish to use Full Press Snap mode or if you consider the normal half-press AF to be a bit slow.

As you probably understood, there is no way back for passive AF. But if the GRDIII is really as fast as CX1 and with all these new AF modes, there is no need of it.

Shutter Priority mode
This is another long awaited and frequently asked feature. It's now possible to fix the Shutter Speed and leave the camera to choose the best aperture for actual lightning conditions and shutter speed. I guess that thanks to this feature we can now again use any available shutter speed with any available aperture. Something that was impossible with GRDII and GX200!

Now let's speak about Noise Reduction ;)
This option enables/disables GRDIII Noise Reduction algorithms. You can now select from three available levels:

The above settings indicate that it's now possible to turn the NR completely OFF. I'm sorry to disappoint you, but no, it's not possible to disable the NR completely. I was told that there is still done certain amount of NR during the JPEG conversion process. Ricoh is apparently afraid to give the casual JPEG shooters an option to "break" the image with noise. It's yet to be seen how much or bad is the base GRDIII NR. It's too soon to cry about it without seeing some real world samples (other than these official low ISO samples at Ricoh site). Just hold you breath and wait few more days for arrival of my test sample. This will be tested as one of the first things!

Color Settings
Infrequently used Hard/Soft color settings were removed from the menu and Normal mode is now called Standard. There is a new option called Vivid (vivid colors with height contrast and sharpness).
In Settings1/2 you can set photo Vividness (before Saturation), Contrast and Sharpness and newly also HUE/Vividness for individual colors (Orange, Greens, Blues, Reds, Magenta)
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The same as CX1, GRDIII now have a new Multi-P AUTO WB mode. The camera adjusts white balance to account for differences in lighting in separate areas of the frame (in continuous mode, this option is equivalent to Auto).

I'm personally blown away by the level of customization of GRDIII. There are tons of new functions in the camera menu and none of them is useless. When I meet the Ricoh folks at Photokina, I personally complained about the lever and how painful is to use it if one needs to chance the shutter speed and how great would be an option to swap the front wheel/rear lever functionality. Now we got this option!

Playback Mode Dial Options/M Mode Dial Options
It’s now possible to customize/swap the functionality of ADJ lever/front wheel in playback and M photo mode. Especially the M mode wheel/lever customization is very highly useful. After replacing rear wheel with lever (in GRDII), it was a real pain to scroll over the 42 shutter speeds with lever. So this handy option allows swap the ADJ/front wheel functionality. It’s definitely easier to change 42 shutter speeds with "wheel" than with "lever" ;) Scrolling over 11 apertures with lever is no that big pain, especially if usable range of GRD Apertures is between f1.9-f6.3.
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Here are the options you can select for lever/wheel:
Playback Mode
Settings1 (default)
ADJ lever: Next/previous frame
Front Wheel: Zoom in/out

ADJ lever: Scroll left/right
Front Wheel: Scroll up/down

M Mode
Settings1 (default)
ADJ lever: Shutter speed
Front Wheel: Aperture

ADJ lever: Aperture
Front Wheel: Shutter speed

My Settings customization
It's now possible to save, name and load up to 6 My Settings positions.
They can be recalled with Mode dial (using My1, 2 or 3). What I miss there is an option to save the My Settings to SD card and backup them on a PC. One can lose these custom settings, for example due to camera repair or reset. So it would be great to have an option to backup them or for example swap favorite settings with other GRD users!

There is also a number of small but handy functionality improvements...

My Settings for Fn Settings and WB Comp.
Once enabled, Fn Settings and WB Compensation is included in My Settings. If disabled, Fn layout and WB compensation remains unchanged after loading My Settings.

Fn Button Display
Enables displaying the options currently assigned to the Fn button (when shooting mode is selected).
Fn1: AF/MF
Fn2: Self-timer

Show My Setting Name
Enables displaying the name of My Settings assigned to actual My1,2 or 3 dial position. It just show the name (description) of setting on display.

Shooting Info. Display Frame
Enables displaying shooting settings (shutter speed, aperture, mode, WB, etc.) in a black frame sorrounding the record view. If turned OFF, all shooting details obscure the record view. So they can make the framing harder. Status info in black frame make the record view a bit smaller, but definitely easier to frame the scene.

Store Menu Cursor Position
If enabled, the last accessed menu item will be highighted when you return back to Menu.

One Press Zoom Ratio
Select the magnification at which pictures are displayed when zoomed in using the Menu/OK button or ADJ. lever. Choose from 5.7 ×, 9.8 ×, and 16 ×.

Grid Guide Display Options
It's now possible to select form three types of guide grids.
Default “Rules of thirds” grid (general type of grid)
Four-by-four grid with diagonal lines (good for architectural photography)
and two-by-two grid with empty center (good for tracking subjects in motion)
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Now some (few) negatives:
- Still no true NR OFF in JPEG (!)
- BKT exposure range is still useless +/- 0.5EV (+/- 1EV is pretty common in today's compact cameras and high-end compacts like G10 can do even +/-2 EV)
- Interval mode with shorter interval (2secs) would be highly appreciated by all timelapse freaks
- No update for GT-1 in a near future (if ever)


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