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Review by John McCormack, 1997
The GR1 is a $400 shirt-pocket-sized point-and-shoot camera with a fast fixed28mm lens. It offers significantly more control than a standard P&S camera atsubstantially less price and weight than "snob P&S" cameras.
Great Things About This Camera
- All the mode and flash setting except T (Bulb) and self-timer remain engagedafter power off.
- The shutter is release priority, not focus priority; it will fire regardlessof the focus or aperture settings.
- If you want the control, you get aperture-priority autoexposure mode with +/-2 f-stops of exposure compensation.
- SNAP Mode, which locks the focus at the hyperfocal distance. Great for streetphotography.
- Fixed Focus Mode, which locks the focus at a user-selected distance.
The GR1 has the usual wimpy P&S flash. Its guide number is only 7 (withISO 100 film) due to the necessity of covering the field of view of the 28mmlens. There is an unusual flash out of distance warning system that workswell.
In aperture priority with the flash ON, the flash goes into a slow synch.setting, sort of like a night flash mode on other cameras. If the camera is setfor AUTO flash in aperture priority mode it maintains a shutter speed floor of1/30 of a second or so.
Ive gotten good results using a slave flash sold by Ritz Camera in the US forabout $20. Its about the size of a pack of cigarettes and comes with aremovable, ratcheting foot and velcro strap, so you can mount it almost anywhereand in any position or just hand hold it. Powered by two AAA batteries, it fireswhen the cameras flash goes off. I dont recall the Guide Number, probably about6 or 7, but enough for the purpose intended. I usually place it on a bookshelfabout 6 to 6 1/2 up and angled at 45 degrees to knock down shadows on groupshots and boost the on-camera flash. Mounting on a tripod leg also works. Pentaxhas also recently (1/98) introduced a similar mini slave flash called theExtraFlash with a GN of 10 with ISO 100 film.
Ergonomics are just about perfect. I carried the GR1 around Arizona onhorseback and on day hikes in a shirt pocket or a belt pack with no problem.Shooting (pictures) one-handed from horseback was a good test. Im still amazedat the small size of the GR1. I carry it everywhere.
Aperture settings and the Program Mode are selected with a dial on top of thecamera. Settings can be made quickly with your thumb in half stops from f/2.8 tof/22. The layout is clear, settings are click stopped, and they dont move offtheir mark.
Exposure compensation can be set in half stops from +2 to -2 EV. Its simpleto use by turning a dial on top of the camera. The settings are visible all thetime and dont change when the camera is off. This is the only way to overridethe DXd ISO of the film. I usually expose print film at +1 EV as this gives thepictures a bit more contrast and detail in the shadows. Also, labs can correctfor overexposed print film much easier, especially shots taken in fluorescentlighting.
It is difficult to see the shutter speed readout in the viewfinder in brightsunlight. However, since AF and exposure are locked when the shutter is presseddown halfway, you can also turn the camera toward the shade or the ground to seethe readouts, then recompose and take the shot if the exposure is suitable, ortake another reading or set exposure compensation accordingly. You can also placeyour left forefinger over the left edge of the viewfinder while continuing tolook through the it. This will shade the side and the shutter speed readout willbecome clearly visible.
The passive autofocus system has difficulty with subjects that lack distinctvertical lines. Heres a tip to get around this problem: if the AF fails to findand lock on a vertical line, tilt the camera left or right at an angle (30-45degrees). The AF will then lock onto a horizontal line, which the camera AFsystems perceives as vertical. Just make sure the AF locks onto the distance youwant. Works every time. Passive AF is still the best method for focusing ondistant objects.
Turning on the "red-eye reduction" mode requires pushing two button at once,which is a bit inconvenient, but I rarely use this feature. The red-eye reductionworks as well as can be expected.
The On/Off switch is a little too easy to engage. The camera came on oncewhile packed inside a soft case inside a daypack, apparently when the pack wasmoved. This hasnt happened since I bought a durable Tamrac belt case. The camerawill automatically power off after five minutes.
Here is an error in the GR1 user manual on page 19. The manual indicates thatthe focus symbols flash when the camera is unable to focus. This is incorrect.The focus marks or brackets ([ ]) blink, not the symbols. Check the PopularPhotography test and youll see confirmation of a spot meter option. Try a pointlight source in a dark environment and youll see the dramatic drop off insensitivity in the spot AF mode. I think the manual/brochure lost something inthe translation from Japanese. If you look at the diagram in the brochure (call1-800-225-1899 if you dont have one) where the sensitivity is depicted in adiagram, youll also see that it has a spot option while they verbally saycenter-weighted. I also find the instruction manual short on its description ofhow the flash operates in aperture priority mode as compared to the flash inprogram mode.
Make sure that a 28mm lens is right for you
A 28mm lens is the classic wide angle focal length. It is about as wide as youcan get without obvious distortion. This makes it good for capturing a whole roomfrom one corner, for showing an item in an landscape plus the background, forstreet photography, and for environmental portraits (subject + environment). Itis not a good focal length for head-and-shoulders portraiture.
Heres how Popular Photography rated the lens:
|2.8||Very Good||Very Good|
|5.6||Outstanding||Very Good - Plus|
|16||Very Good - Plus||Very Good|
|22||Good - Plus||Good|
Using a Closeup Lens
I experimented with using closeup lenses (diopters) with the GR1. The GR1doesnt have filter threads, but it is possible to use diopters by locking the AFin Macro mode by holding down the shutter release half way and holding a largediopter (I use a 58mm because thats what I have) in front of the lens beforereleasing the shutter, preferably with the self-timer engaged and using a tripod.You must focus first or the AF will be fooled by the extra lens. The resultsusing Hoya single element diopters were acceptable, but when I tried using aCanon 250D double element lens the results were disastrous - all the images wereout of focus. I suspect the greater thickness of the Canon glass caused the lensto focus at the default range of 6.5 feet.
Rather than buy the Ricoh carrying case for the GR1, I got a Tamrac belt case("Mini Traveler") for about $10. I settled on the Tamrac because it seemed toallow quick access to the camera with fairly good protection and a velcro closurerather than a zipper; zippers are harder to open, especially in cold weather ifyoure wearing gloves. The outside measurements are 5 1/4" x 3 1/2" by 1 3/4".The case fits on your belt with the camera in a vertical position. The case isslightly larger than the camera so I glued a 3/4" by 1/2" x 5" piece of open cellfoam down the inside to add a bit more cushioning. Works great. Tamrac also makesa small neoprene case under the NEOs label. They are very nice and a good choiceif you want neoprene rather than a hard nylon case. Lowe makes a case identicalto the Tamrac, except that it has an extra inside watertight pocket with astring tie on top. Okay for really bad conditions, but overkill for me.
Yashica T4 Super vs. GR1
I own a Yashica T4 Super (weatherproof) and still use it in situations where Iwouldnt take the GR1, such as canoeing. The T4 lens is very sharp and maybe -maybe - as good as the GR1 for snap shooting.
|Specification||T4 Super (aka T5)||GR1|
Zeiss *T* f/3.5
Ricoh GR f/2.8
|Lens Material||Glass -?||Glass|
|Lens Elements||4, 3 groups||7, 4 groups|
|Shutter Speeds - in Program||1s-1/700||2s-1/500|
|Weight Without Battery||7.5 oz||6.1 oz|
|Shirt Pocket Test||Barely fits||Room to spare|
|Exposure Compensation||No||Yes (+/-2 EV)|
Shutter Speeds - in
from f/2.8-f/8 2-1/250
|Spot Meter||No||Yes (exact coverage area unknown)|
|Hyperfocal Mode||No||Yes (in SNAP at f/13)|
|Slow Synch Flash||Yes||Yes|
One CR123A 3V
One CR2 3V
|Battery Life Claim (50 % flash use)||480 shots||300 shots|
|Auto Power Off||No||
Yes - after
|Body||Plastic||Metal (die-cast magnesium alloy)|
|General Size and Feel||Very Good||Excellent|
|Film Loading||Winds to first frame||Prewinds to last frame|
|Manual DX Setting||No||No|
|Flash Guide Number (ISO 100)||9||7|
|Flash Range (ISO 100)||.35m - 3m (1.1 - 9.5ft.)||.35m - 2.5m (1.1 - 8.2 ft.)|
Flash Out of Range
|Red Eye Reduction||Yes||Yes|
|Wide Beam Focus||Yes||Yes|
|Low Light Focus Assist Beam||No||Yes|
|Low Light Viewfinder Illumination||No||Yes|
|Unable to Focus Warning||Yes||Yes|
|Auto Parallax Correction||No||Yes (two sets)|
|2nd Viewfinder||Yes (waist level type)||No|
|Viewfinder LCD||Good||Poor in bright light|
|Good in dim light|
- comparisons betweenthe Hexar, Leica Minilux and GR1 by James Rosenzweig
An extensive review of the GR1 can be found in the January, 1997, issue ofPopular Photography magazine (page 20). Other reviews are availablein Amateur Photographer, 30 November 1996: 3 page review;Amateur Photographer, February 8, 1997: Compact Camera of the Year;Buying Cameras, short review.
Article created 1997