Ricoh GR vs Nikon Coolpix A: which should you buy?
17th Apr 2013 | 10:30
APS-C compacts go head to head
The ultra-premium compact camera market is starting to get crowded. Just a few short weeks after the launch of the Nikon Coolpix A, Pentax Ricoh has launched its own large sensored compact camera. The Ricoh GR also features a 16.2 million-pixel APS-C sized sensor, but how else does it compare with the A... and which one should you fork out your hard earned cash for?
Take a look with our head-to-head comparison.
Ricoh GR vs Nikon Coolpix A: sensor
Both the Ricoh and the Nikon feature the same resolution (16.2 million pixel) APS-C format CMOS sensors, so in this respect there's very little to differentiate between the two. Both have also had the anti-aliasing filter removed, which should help them produce sharper shots.
The Nikon sensor is not a new sensor however, as its previously been used in the D7000, which is over two years old. Alternatively, Pentax says that the Ricoh GR's sensor is a new design, which is almost nine times larger than the sensor found on the Ricoh GR IV.The lens and sensor have also been deigned to work together.
Ricoh GR vs Nikon Coolpix A: processor
Just as the Coolpix A uses the same sensor as the D7000, it also uses the same Expeed 2 processor. This facilitates high ISO shooting as well as full HD video recording. Again, Pentax says that the GR Engine V on board the GR has been newly developed. This promises to deliver reduced noise at high sensitivity and has apparently been optimised for the low-pass filterless design.
As the Nikon Coolpix A is a little older, we've already had the opportunity to put it through our labs tests and seen that it puts in a solid signal to noise ratio performance when compared with other cameras with large sensors, such as the Fuji X100S. It will be interesting to see how the GR compares when a full sample comes in for testing.
Ricoh GR vs Nikon Coolpix A: lens
Nikon and Ricoh have gone for incredibly similar optics on their premium compact cameras. Both are fixed, 18.5mm f/2.8 lenses, which offer an equivalent of roughly 28mm in 35mm terms. Both also feature seven elements in give groups for attractive out of focus areas.
The Ricoh GR features an inbuilt ND filter, which should help when shooting at wide apertures in bright light, while the camera also has the ability to shoot in a 35mm "crop" mode - this could prove useful to street photographers looking to get a little closer to the subject.
One of the major concerns we had about the Coolpix A was its noticeable vignetting, even at mid-range apertures such as f/8 and even f/16. We'll be keen to see if the Ricoh also suffers from this problem, given it has the same sensor size and focal length.
Ricoh GR vs Nikon Coolpix A: autofocusing
One of the claims that Ricoh is making about the GR is that it can focus in as little as 0.2 seconds. So far, we've only been able to use a pre-production sample of the camera but it seems as if this claim might well be true.
Conversely, we were a little disappointed by the Coolpix A's speed, which even in bright sunlight displayed a bit of to-ing and fro-ing, taking around half a second to get the subject sharp. The A is also a little tardy in its shot-to-shot times, which doesn't help matters.
Both the Coolpix A and the GR offer macro focusing from around 10cm. While this is reasonably helpful for getting closer to subjects, any users of the Ricoh GR IV may miss its capability to get in as tight as 1cm.
Ricoh GR vs Nikon Coolpix A: screen
Both the GR and the Coolpix A have impressively high-resolution 3-inch screens. The GR just about pips the Coolpix A with its 1,230k dot transparent LCD compared to the A's 921k dot TFT LCD.
Unfortunately, neither are touchscreens, which is a shame as this can really speed up setting the autofocus point, or for swiping through playback images.
Ricoh GR vs Nikon Coolpix A: creativity
Nikon has kept it pretty simple when it comes to the ability to change settings on the A. While you can change the Picture Styles to shoot in monochrome (or sepia, cyanotype etc), other "creative" type effects are not available.
Meanwhile, Ricoh has added quite a few fun filters to its offering, making it more akin to the Fuji X100S. Available here, amongst others, are black and white, cross process, bleach bypass and positive film. The Ricoh allows you to shoot in both raw format and JPEG while using these filters, which is good news if you want a clean image to work with down the line.
Ricoh GR vs Nikon Coolpix A: battery life
It may seem like a trivial point - and we're yet to fully test this - but the GR claims around 60 more shots per battery charge than the Coolpix A.
We were reasonably impressed by the Coolpix A's battery life in our real-world tests, and we'll be keen to see how the GR compares. We've been disappointed by the large sensored (full frame) Sony RX1 battery life before, especially as the camera's ability to last a decent length of time is very important for the street/every-day photographer.
Handily for any GR-IV users, the GR uses the same battery.
Ricoh GR vs Nikon Coolpix A: dimensions and weight
Ricoh is billing the GR as the world's smallest and lightest compact camera with an APS-C sized sensor - not that there are too many of those around for it to compete with.
The published measurements indicate that the GR is slightly smaller than the A, measuring in at 117 x 61 x 34.7mm, compared with 111 x 64.3 x 40.3mm. It's also around 50g lighter than the Coolpix A.
Any users of the GR IV will no doubt be impressed by the relative lack in increasing size, despite the massive increase in sensor size.
Ricoh GR vs Nikon Coolpix A: price
One of the key selling points of the Ricoh GR is that it's significantly cheaper than the Coolpix A. While that's true for recommended retail price (£999 vs £599), in the few weeks since the A's launch, its street price has already dropped to around £800. Whether it will drop further remains to be seen, but with new competition on the market it would seem likely.
Ricoh GR vs Nikon Coolpix A: conclusion
While on paper there seems relatively little to distinguish the Nikon Coolpix A and the Ricoh GR, it seems at this stage that the Ricoh outshines the Nikon in several respects.
Although it's difficult to draw strong conclusions until we've had a GR for a full review, it seems that the added bonus of an inbuilt ND filter, higher resolution screen, creative filters, smaller size and weight and of course lower price, make it the better buy.
However, it all rests on how the GR performs both in our labs tests and in real world conditions - we'll be particularly keen to measure the GR's writing times and see how it handles vignetting. Watch this space for a full review soon.