Quick comparison of GRD3 and GRD4

Discussion in 'Ricoh' started by Ray Sachs, Dec 20, 2011.

  1. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    After a brief thought of going for a GXR 28 and then immersing myself in some actual DOF tables, I decided I was staying with the GRD and would either keep the 3 or try the 4. I kept reading that the 4 was a stop better in low light and that's a pretty key stop, so I was intrigued. I was a bit put off by reports of the new "auto" snap focus setting and the end of the "on the fly" snap focus distance setting, which the GRD3 has and the GRD4 does not have.

    But I had to check it out and so I just finished spending a couple of days with the GRD4.

    First, the clear pros - the GRD4 has notably faster AF than the 3. For people who use AF with these cameras, this might be enough reason to upgrade. And the image stabilization in the 4 is very effective, while the 3 does not have any sort of IS. Another clear win for the 4 for folks who like to do a lot of static low light shooting. Neither of these features are of any real importance to me, for the way I use the camera, but for many, these are very good reasons to move from the 3 to the 4.

    Next, the clear con - the "auto snap focus" didn't sound like a good idea to me. And, while it mostly worked well enough, it fails just often enough for me to greatly prefer the GRD3's ability to change snap focus distance on the fly, without going into the menu. I just have a whole lot more confidence in my own ability to know what I want to shoot with than the camera's best guess as to which part of the scene to pre-focus on... I tried the workaround of putting different snap focus distances in the My1, My2, and My3 custom slots on the mode dial and its not a bad workaround. BUT, you also have to assign the ISO and aperture (assuming aperture priority) into those settings, so every time you change snap distance that way, it also changes all of the other parameters, which you then have to re-adjust every time you switch. No thanks. For the way I use snap focus (nearly always), I greatly prefer the GRD3.

    So, it was gonna come down to how much better the GRD4 actually was in low light. And my conclusion is that its not. Yes, you can shoot comfortably at ISO 1600 with 3200 possible as a last resort, whereas with the GRD3 you can shoot comfortably at ISO 800 with 1600 possible as a last resort. Which I guess is what all of the talk was about in terms of the GRD4 being better in low light. BUT, BUT, BUT, there is essentially no difference between ISO 800 on the GRD3 and ISO 1600 on the GRD4. Or 1600 on the GRD3 and 3200 on the GRD4. I did a bunch of back to back to back shots with both cameras in various low light settings at all of the upper ISOs and the ultimate results were the same. Keeping the same aperture, no exposure compensation, and the exact same scene, ISO 800 on the GRD3 always picked the exact same shutter speed as the GRD4 picked at ISO 1600. And the 3 always picked the same shutter speed at 1600 that the 4 did at 3200. AND, the 800 shots on the 3 were very slightly cleaner than the 1600 shots on the 4. And the 1600 shots on the 3 were very slightly cleaner than the 3200 shots on the 4. So there is no real difference in low light sensitivity - if anything there's a VERY slight advantage to the 3 (not enough to worry about though). Same sensor, same basic sensitivity - I don't know why I was surprised.

    The jpegs may be better on the GRD4 - I didn't play around with them much. I did a couple of high ISO jpegs and the NR on both cameras was pretty bad, so I wouldn't use that mode to begin with. The bleach bypass filter is pretty nice, but I can get there with a simple preset in Color Efex Pro, so another non-issue for me.

    In short, I came away from this comparison with absolutely no reason to upgrade from the three to the four and one pretty strong reason not to. I wouldn't begrudge anyone coming to the opposite conclusion about which worked better for them. But for me, its a no brainer - I'm keeping the 3...

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  2. BBW

    BBW Administrator Emeritus

    Jul 7, 2010
    betwixt and between
    Ray, thanks for your hands on reporting comparing these two. There's nothing like checking things out for oneself!
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  3. Landshark

    Landshark PhotoDog

    Jul 15, 2010
    thanks for the comparison review, but there is one other upgrade on the IV, the higher resolution screen, but for me the main reason was the better and faster auto focus, I see. your point about the snap but I tend to use af more or not change my snap distance that much. I am still keeping my My III anyway, if I change my mind.
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  4. Lightmancer

    Lightmancer Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Aug 13, 2011
    Sunny Frimley
    Bill Palmer
    Good report Ray, my thanks to you. I bought the III the other day and am very happy with it. I cannot see a compelling reason to regret not going for the IV and I shall probably skip and go for a V at some time in the future.

    There is no right or wrong to this - it just comes down to how you work and what is important to you. For me it is more important that my GRD and GXR behave similarly than to have a marginal "improvement" in some elements of the GRD.
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  5. Thanks, Ray. I was considering the upgrade, I do like to do low light but it seems that it makes little difference. The IS would be the only reason for me to go for the IV and since I already have the III, it is probably a waste of money for me. I love the III, don't use the snap focus very much (not a street shooter) but overall, I find the camera just lovely to use. I wouldnt mind if it had a little bit of zoom, but the 28mm is a good focal length so ... meh..

    No IV for me! I'll be interested to see what happens if there is a V in the future.
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  6. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    Right, forgot about the screen. I didn't notice the difference probably because I never really had it out in bright sunlight which is where the screen can really make a difference. And, yeah, the AF is notably faster, so if that's how you shoot, that would be reason enough for me... I use AF almost exclusively on my m43 gear and my X100, but the GRD3 I almost exclusively use zone focus (with the snap assist) and on the X10 I use zone focus a lot also when I'm shooting street.

    Oh, and one other detail I forgot. The DOF scale is just as horribly wrong on the 4 as on the 3 - utterly useless! I'm kind of amazed by this, but I've already learned to ignor it and I have a handfull of different snap / aperture combinations in mind, depending on the light conditions and what I'm shooting.

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