This is the second post of the GRD III series. In this post, we will show you images which commonly define Hong Kong. We will carry on the discussion on the significant improvements of the camera, namely, the lens, the image sensor and engine, the ergonomics.
^Wealth disparity is quintessential about Hong Kong. The drunk beggar, with emptied bottles of Chinese spirits around him, is lying barely conscious on the waterfront where troops of tourists are passing by.
This post continues on the observations about the new GR lens, and also the image sensor.
Advantages of F1.9
The faster GR lens affords photographers to use a faster shutter, which is very often needed for street shots as unexpected moments present themselves, well, unexpectedly. A faster lens also means that the ISO can stay lower and the image cleaner under a dimly lit environment.
I have tested the LX3 for its F2.0 lens which gives it an edge over the GX200. Since the GX200 is way superior in ergonomics, the LX3 doesn’t feel good enough just for the lens.
From the shootouts with the III, I must say that it is a dream of combining good ergonomics with a fast lens in a small body comes true.
According to Ricoh, the new lens opened at the widest can still achieve the resolution comparable to at F2.4. Which in human language is that the users can rest assured with the image quality of the lens even at the widest F1.9. In a word, the optical quality of the lens is as excellent at F1.9.
During a meet-up with a fellow photographer using a GRD II from London, I was shown the flare issue of the lens at certain angles. Not anymore with the III as I’m aware of during the testing. Ricoh has coated the new GR lens and better curved it to minimise, successfully so, the small residual reflection spilling over on to the CCD is minimised.
Radial Lens Distortion
The must-do item by the ‘Internetional’ testers is probing into the radial lens distortion, including the barrel- (distortion at edges) and pillow- (distortion at centre) type. You can test a lens for that matter by shooting at some uniformly arranged items like the wall tiles.
^The street nameplate is typical of Hong Kong. First, it is the naming after British colonial big shots. Second, it is the outlook of the plate. Third, it is the mind-boggling numbering disorder left by the British. As for distortion, placing a subject like the man at the corner is a sure-fire way to bring the worse of a 28mm as in any lens. It is the same for using a wide-angle lens to do a close-up as brought up below.
Otherwise if you look at a technical test report done with, say, Imates, the distortion is generally considered low for a lens scoring -2% at the wide angle or -1% to 1% at the long end.
The scores of GRD III are -0.493% (compared to -1.7% for GRD II) and 1% (same for GRD II) at the maximum digital zoom range according to some test. The new GR lens excels in distortion control.
I have read the funny complaint of a big-site tester about the distortion for the mugshots he did with the GRD III. The comment is applicable to such close-distance mugshots done with any 28mm wide lens. He simply used the right tool to test the matter in a completely wrong way.
I have found the lens with least distortion.
^Fact is, unless a wide lens is frequently used to shoot close-ups or specific images, common uses of such will in no way lend a camera to be disliked for the distortion if the score is as good as GRD III's. Straight lines are what I see on this rolling gate with primitive graffiti on it, which is very Hong Kong. The pentagonal markings on the lower right is typical to this place too, which are government people's secret codes about the public utilities. The 100% crop is at left.
High ISO Improvement
Ricoh graces the GRD III with a new CCD but without squeezing in a higher number of pixels, which is on the absolutely right track. The sensitivity of the sensor is therefore higher, enabling the camera to fare much better throughout all ISO levels.
^With 100% crops from ISO 400 to 1600.
My impression is that the details in images up to ISO 400 do not deteriorate in any significant degree.
For higher ISO image processing, the GRD III has seen evident improvement over its predecessors, which I would refer you to the useful comparison shots at ricohforum. Ricoh has undoubtedly made much effort in beefing up the noise control capability of its sensor. Noise floats in ISO 800 images, but mainly in the shadows and limited in the bright areas. Even the grey areas in the images are fine.
^The only mobile ice-cream outlet, Mister Softee, has been in business for several decades. It is a fond common memory of the Hongkongers, not least its theme tone The Blue Danube to announce the van's arrival.
Although I personally have no interest in a cleaner-than-clean argument over the fairly clean digital images of today (I actually prefer grainy high ISO images), the constraint of a small sensor sets in at ISO 1600. The blue channel runs more obviously out of control, with the other channels less so. The good news is that the details are not slaughtered.
Reasonably, the ISO 1600 cannot be compared to those produced by a DSLR. The images of GRD III are clean enough to impress. In this regard, Ricoh can be said doing as well as Canon, arguably the industry leader in noise reduction.
^The old Dennis bus, more commonly known as the Hot Dog, unloads passengers at the Tsim Sha Tsui Bus Terminus, both being absolutely Hong Kong. This bus terminus was the first of its kind in Hong Kong.
Thankfully, the cleaner images of GRD III are not made at the expensive of, to my taste, the more favourable characteristic grainy character of black-and-white images at ISO 1600.
Also, the GRD III allows users to turn down or off in-camera noise reduction, which can also be restricted to specific ISO range.
^The billboard sitting atop the Star House at Tsim Sha Tsui against the colour of the sky is typical of Hong Kong in a special, unexplainable way.
(to be continued)