Saturday, 19 September 2009

Meeting Girl Friend No. 1

We take a breather from the hefty serving of Nevin's GRD III review.  A job well done it is for sure.
I am rather amused by the newfound nickname of Pany's new camera, the Girl Friend No.1.  It is more sexy than the official short form, and can actually lure more business because probably of its overtone.  This Girl Friend finally made an appearance in Hong Kong on the official launch two days ago.  The dealer is receiving pre-orders whereby the buyers will receive one of the two Pany camera case for free.  The case is priced at HK$ 1,180, or US$160 or UK£100.  Pricey stuff.
Pre-ordering is found in other official Panasonic websites too.
The following information is borrowed from Panansonic USA.  The photos are from the Hong Kong, er, Girl Friend No. 1 launch

Versatile Functions and Superb Images. Uncompromising Performance in the World's Smallest, Lightest System Camera*


The GF1 adopts the Micro Four Thirds System standard, which was developed as an extended version of the Four Thirds System standard for digital camera systems. By using this standard and developing a camera body that eliminates the mirror box and optical viewfinder unit, LUMIX® was able to achieve a dramatic reduction in both size and weight compared with conventional digital SLR cameras, to create a new-generation system camera that features Full-time Live View, high-speed, high-precision Contrast AF, HD movie recording, and more. The GF1 is small enough to take anywhere yet sophisticated enough to take you as far into photography and movies as you want to go.
*For a system camera with a built-in flash as of September 2, 2009 


12.1-Megapixel Live MOS Sensor: Higher Image Quality, Lower Power Consumption

The 4/3-type 12.1-megapixel Live MOS sensor featured in the GF1 offers the best of both worlds the superior image quality of a CCD sensor, and the lower power consumption of a CMOS sensor. This sensor is also advantageous for photo and movie recording with its high S/N, thanks to a new circuit structure that is unaffected by the noise generated in each of the circuits. It results in clear images even when taken at high ISO sensitivity.


Ultra-Portable Pancake Lens: LUMIX  G 20mm/F1.7 ASPH.

This bright F1.7/20mm (35mm camera equivalent: 40mm) fixed focus lens makes it easier to take bright photos with soft focus in dimly lit conditions without a flash. Its compact, easy-to-carry size is also ideal for capturing everyday scenes and snapshots. *This lens uses a lens drive system to enable a compact and bright F1.7. As a result of this, operating sounds are recorded when auto-focusing during motion picture recording.


Extended HD Movie Recording with SLR Quality

The hybrid GF1 lets you take both high-quality photos and HD movies. You can shoot breathtaking HD (1280 720) movies in AVCHD Lite format (MPEG-4/H.264) backed by the high sound quality of Dolby Digital Creator. And you can record for a longer time without running out of memory because AVCHD Lite stores data more efficiently than Motion JPEG while maintaining stunning image clarity and detail. A dedicated "movie record" button on the top lets you instantly start recording movies while shooting photos, so you don't miss a second of the action.
•"AVCHD Lite" and "AVCHD Lite" logos are trademarks of Panasonic Corporation and Sony Corporation. •Dolby and the double-D symbol are trademarks of Dolby Laboratories.


A Built-In Flash in a Stylish Body

Some compact size cameras reduce weight by not including a built-in flash. With the GF1, the built-in flash is concealed inside the body and out of sight. A single touch pops the flash up for easy shooting anytime you want. You can also adjust the light intensity in the range of 2 EV at 1/3 EV steps to match your subject.


My Colour Mode Puts You in Control of Your Colours

Naturally you want your photos to be unique. My Colour mode on the GF1 lets you control each and every photo with eight unique preset modes in all, including a colourful Expressive mode, a soft and moody Pure mode, and a Custom mode that lets you adjust the colour, brightness, and saturation just the way you want them. You can dramatically change the images of even familiar subjects to express your own creativity. 


The Soft Focus of Peripheral Defocus Mode Lets You Achieve Professional Results

The GF1 automatically adjusts the focus to match the AF area you positioned while gently defocusing the foreground and background to emphasize the subject. You don't have to change the aperture yourself to take photos with the highly attractive soft focus effect of an SLR camera.

iA Mode Helps Prevent Shooting Mistakes in a Variety of Situations

Select iA mode, and the GF1 automatically activates a host of advanced functions and technologies described below that make it easy to capture beautiful, clear shots.

  Face Recognition
This function recognizes the faces of subjects that have been registered in the camera and displays the names of up to three people. The GF1 then optimizes the focus and brightness of the registered faces. *Turn Face Recognition item ON and register the person with a full-face portrait on the shooting menu in advance.
  AF Tracking
Once you've focused on a subject, AF Tracking keeps the subject in focus even if it moves until you press the shutter release.
  Intelligent Exposure
The camera can correct the brightness in parts of the image that are too dark due to insufficient lighting, backlighting or use of the flash.
  Intelligent Scene Selector
The camera automatically selects whichever of five Scene modes – Portrait, Night Portrait, Scenery, Night Scenery, and Macro best suits the situation.
  Face Detection AF/AE
The camera detects when there are faces in the frame and adjusts the focus and exposure to capture them properly. This allows you to shoot beautiful portraits without any hassle.
  Intelligent ISO Control
If the subject moves as you snap the shot, the camera automatically adjusts the ISO sensitivity and shutter speed to help prevent subject blur.
  MEGA O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilizer)
Gyrosensors built into the lens detect hand-shake and an O.I.S. shifts to compensate. Assisting you in getting those clear, beautiful, blur-free photos.

*Some functions in iA mode will not be available depending on the lens that is mounted.


Produce Original HD Movies

Unlike most other cameras, the GF1 allows the use of My Colour mode and Scene mode to record HD movies. And Motion Picture P mode lets you change the aperture for more creative HD movie recording.

iA Mode: Beautiful HD Movies with Point-and-Shoot Ease

Select iA mode, and the GF1 automatically activates a host of advanced functions and technologies listed below that make it easy to capture beautiful HD movies.


Full-time Live View: See How the Image Will Turn Out Before You Shoot

The GF1's Full-time Live View lets you see in the LCD how adjusting the exposure, white balance, aperture and even the shutter speed will affect the shot. This makes it easier to capture a special shot or particular kind of image without shooting again and again.


Let the Exposure Meter Guide You

The on-screen meter display indicates the degree of aperture and shutter speed that can be changed within a suitable exposure range. The range in which appropriate exposure is not possible is shown in red, so you can intuitively grasp the corresponding aperture and shutter speed combinations.


Take Advantage of Leica and Four Thirds Lenses

More than 20 available Leica M/R lenses or 30 Four Thirds lenses can be used with the Micro Four Thirds System standard GF1, simply by mounting a separately purchased lens adaptor.


An Optional Live View Finder Mounts to the Hot Shoe

You can equip the GF1 with an optional 202,000-dot equivalent Live View Finder (LVF) featuring a magnification of approximately 1.04x (0.52x*) and 100% field of view. Because it displays the same information as the LCD, it is effectively used in situations where the LCD is difficult to see, such as under bright sunlight. The LVF is also handy for low-angle shots because it can be tilted vertically from 0 to 90 degrees. *35 mm camera equivalent.


The High-Speed, High-Performance Venus Engine HD

The Venus Engine HD incorporates two CPUs. This not only boosts image processing speed, it also helps achieve an exceptional noise-reduction performance. Also, the two CPUs of the Venus Engine HD allow long-time movie recording in AVCHD Lite format while maintaining low power consumption. And the Venus Engine HD features HDMI output too.

Dust Reduction System Protects the Image Sensor

If dust or other foreign matter gets inside the camera when you're changing lenses, it could cling to the image sensor and show up as a spot in photos. The GF1 helps eliminate this possibility by placing a Supersonic Wave Filter in front of the Live MOS sensor. Vibrating around 50,000 times per second, the filter repels dust and other particles. This keeps the image sensor clean at all times and eliminates the need for cumbersome maintenance procedures.

HD Photos and HD Movies with VIERA Link Networking

The GF1 is equipped with an HDMI output terminal for direct transmission of digital image and sound signals. Just connect the camera to an HDTV using a single HDMI mini cable (optional). It's also easy to enjoy slideshows in which both photos and movies are played according to the recorded timeline. If you have a VIERA TV, you can control the camera's playback functions with VIERA's remote control unit.
•HDMI, the HDMI logo and High-Definition Multimedia Interface are trademarks or registered trademarks of HDMI Licensing LLC.


Easy HD Image Viewing with the SD Card Slot

Simply take the SDHC/SD Memory Card from the GF1 and slip it into the card slot of a Panasonic VIERA or Blu-ray Disc™ player, and you're ready to view HD images. For even greater impact and entertainment fun, you can add background music and image effects to your image slideshows. *To play movies recorded in the Motion JPEG format, you need the included AV cable.

PHOTOfunSTUDIO 4.0 HD Edition Makes Photo and Movie Editing Easy

AVCHD Lite movies can be transferred to a PC from an SDHC/SD Memory Card or via the USB cable to view or edit them. You can also make a DVD disc from AVCHD Lite files by converting them to MPEG-2. The software makes it easy and fun to edit or organize a collection of photos. It features a Face Recognition function that recognizes the faces in the photos stored in your PC and lets you sort them by face. Also, photos shot with My Colour mode can be categorized and viewed by style. The sophisticated interface allows you to enjoy emotion-packed slideshows with a variety of effects and music. And motion images can be directly uploaded to YouTube. •YouTube is a trademark of Google Inc

SILKYPIX® Developer Studio 3.0 SE Adjusts RAW Images Any Way You Want Them

The GF1 records original image data in RAW file format, which allows images to be developed according to your intention. A number of highly advanced functions can be applied to these RAW images by using the SILKYPIX® Developer Studio 3.0 SE software utility, with its unique combination of high resolution and extraordinary colour separation.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Further Improving Ergonomics in GRD III

This is the fifth post of the GRD III review series.  Today we will finish up the remaining discussion about the major improvements I see in the GRD III.  The photos featured in this post are folk playthings on a traditional Chinese festival.

R1149401 (Medium)^Besides the solstice and the Chinese New Year, the Mid-Autumn Festival is an important celebration for the Chinese during which families get together for a meal with the special festival food.  The moon cakes are must-haves.  It is a tradition to buy kids lanterns to play with.  This is one of the shops selling lanterns made of paper and plastic alike in all sorts of shapes and characters.

The following improvements and additions to further boost the GRD III in terms of ergonomics are good surprises to me.

- Shutter Priority Mode

One very important addition to the camera is the shutter priority mode.  The point that this addition is essential to photography should not be required making.  When I got the GX200, I was first appalled to find the lack of a S mode.  It should be there long ago.  Better late than never.

R1149392 (Large)
^Lanterns in the shape of carambolas are the all-time favourite.  These lanterns are made of paper and bamboo sticks.  Light a tiny candles, place in the teeny metal coaster at the bottom of the lantern and it is ready to go.  Kids carry the lanterns around in the street or a park.

The good thing is that the GRD III allows users to customise the front dial and the ADJ rocker for either the shutter and aperture adjustments.  That's a very subtle consideration indeed.  As a street photographer, I mind the shutter speed much more than the aperture in making the exposure combo.  So I assign the front wheel for changing the shutter.  After all, the dial is smoother than the rocker.  The index finger is nimbler than the thumb too.

The possibility to alter the default controls and assign the front dial to tweaking shutter is a nice move here.

R1149393 (Medium)^The rabbit is in the lantern design because a folklore has it that a disgraced fairy was punished by living on the Moon forever, with a rabbit.  Her mortal lover was also sent to live there, but on the other side of the Moon.

- New Implementation of the AEL

The Auto Exposure Lock works in a better way too.  Users can dictate the set-up that at the press of the lock, which I assigned to Fn 1, whether the correction is to be made to the shutter only, the aperture only or both.    It is by way of activating the function called "One Press M Mode" which is a misleading name, to say the least.  I have found this new implementation of the AEL very user-friendly and especially fitting for photographers who are encountered with a wider variety of photography occasions.

R1149396 (Medium)^Fish is a auspicious sign for the Chinese because the character of fish sounds the same as the character meaning "surplus". 

By the way, the AEL correction will lock the exposure combo at the "right" value in the S and A mode.  When in M mode, you can make further changes to the shutter and aperture after the AEL correction fixes (without locking it) the right combo.

R1149397 (Medium) ^I chatted with the shopkeeper while taking the photos and learned from him that these handmade lanterns were all imported from the Mainland Chinese cities.  He said that the Bank of China ordered from him some lanterns as large as a table big enough for 14 persons.

- Store Menu Cursor Position

When I found this feature, I was like why they hadn't thought about this before.  If this feature is turned on, the last accessed item will be highlighted when the menus are displayed.  This is very handy feature because the last accessed item is probably the next item a user needs to make changes to, especially when the menus are divided into three taps.  Fact is, the menus are in need of a tidying up.

In operation, it is much like an extra quick access to the menu in addition to the ADJ rocker.  The Ricoh designers are to be admired and praised.

R1149399 (Medium)^This swan lantern is made of silky cloth.  Hong Kong used to have craftsmen doing these handmade lanterns.

- One Press Snap Mode and Focusing

This is a smart move.  And I'm sure you have learned about it: if the function is turned on, a half press of the shutter release will activate the auto focusing as normal with the image taken when a full press follows whereas a direct full press of the shutter release will take a picture at the Snap focus distance.

R1149400 (Medium)^I like the parrot lantern a lot.  It is delicately patterned and stitched.  A masterpiece. 

You may wonder what is a Snap focus.  Well, Ricoh is smart enough to let users tune the Snap focus distance at 1m, 2.5m, 5m or infinity.  That's much smarter than the fixed Snap focus distance in my GX200.  During the testing, I have found myself using the Snap focus distance mostly at 5m as I have shot mostly in the street.

R1149402 (Medium)^A fighter lantern.  And the silly me missed the tank lantern!  I found it out only when I got home. 

Another point about focusing is that when using the manual focus, there is a green marking covering the focus distance selected in the focus bar.  The green marking actually shows the depth of field at the selected focus distance.  It is not especially useful to me during the testing.  But you need to know the DOF exactly, this is the trick:

Assign the manual-to-auto focusing to one of the Fn slot.  Focus the subject using auto-focusing.  Then press the Fn to toggle to manual focusing.  Now the focus bar will show the distance of focus and the green marking.  Of course, if it is at a macro focus distance, the green marking does not show because of the shallow DOF.

R1149398 (Medium)
^The carp lantern.  An interesting one.

  (to be continued)

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Go aRounD 3ongkok

We have already discussed some of the major strengths of the GRD III, namely, the fast lens and its image sensor.  This forth post of the review series continues the  discussion on the image sensor and the ergonomics of GRD III.  Photos of Mongkok are featured in this post.  Mongkok is a place bustling with all sorts of activities with some interesting place nestled in the side streets to be discovered.

Let's check out what to look for in the GRD III and Mongkok.

 R1149499 (Large)
^Mongkok is actually an old area where, away from the busiest streets, there are clusters of rundown tenement buildings.  A visit to these residential neighbourhoods will open you up to some old ways of life here.  On the back of the aged woman is a traditional baby carrier in which sits the little chap.

Previously we stopped at the ISO performance of the image sensor.

Image Processing

Some users has complained in the past about Ricoh cameras producing less vibrant colours and so on and so forth. Fact is, some were probably related to the environmental or technical settings under which the shots were taken, which translates into the users’ photographic skills. An old post talked about the issue can be found here.

It is, however, true that previous GRD and GX cameras produce images with thinner colour at the standard image setting. Of course there is the matter of taste about the image character too. While some users complain, some find that the images emit a more lasting favour in their own right.

R1149468 (Medium)^The open-air Mongkok wet market is a century old, definitely worthy of a visit.   The mini roadside kiosks with the awnings stretching out are unmistakeably  a part of Hong Kong culture.

For the GRD III, Ricoh has seemingly biased the image processing to a wee bit more vibrant. The "standard" setting results in images more like the "hard" (i.e. vivid) setting of my GX200. The auto white balance feels biased to the warmer hues as well.

But still, the images taken with the GRD III are not as vibrant as those of, say, the Canon cameras at their normal/ standard setting.  My impressions from using the GX200 and CX1 is that the images produced by GRD III are more vivid than GX200 does but softer than CX1.

R1149351 (Medium)^The busy streets in Mongkok can give quite an experience  to visitors from quieter towns, especially on any day in the sultry summer.

Whether this is because the CX1 uses a CMOS or the CX1 is targeted predominately at the general users is for a guess.  If vivid colour is your cup of tea, you should adjust the image setting, which brings us to the next topic.

As for RAW images, a link was given in the last post for downloading the DNG and JPEG files to make your own conclusion.

R1149354 (Medium)
^As in many busier areas in Hong Kong, begging has become a standard feature since the handover of the city to China.  It is a known fact that many of the beggars are controlled by some masterminds from certain Mainland Chinese cities.

Flexible Controls

Ricoh cameras are known for its excellent ergonomics not for nothing. If you haven't tried one of the class, you will probably feel that the likes of the G10 (or G11 for that matter good enough. But it will only be until you have played with a GRD or GX or even a CX that you see what truly great ergonomics means.

Originally I think my GX200 excels in ergonomics.  It is.  After all, it surpasses my probably king of ergonomics in SLR, the Minolta Dynax/Maxxum 7.

But I am totally thrilled by the manual controls given to the GRD III.  That the users given full play to customise the camera is an important aspect here.

R1149356 (Medium)^A must-go destination is the shopping stripes extending from the Lady's Market to the neighbouring roads.  This Hollywood Shopping Centre is of note for surviving the test of time for around 30 years.  It is sort of an old shopping centre now and could have gone ghosty long ago if located in other areas.  Business is still thriving in it.

- Image Character

This is related to where is written above on adjusting the image setting.  There are two customisable settings in the GRD III for photographers to dictate their own image character preferences. The settings are so sophisticated that the users can tweak not only vividness, contrast and sharpness but also the colours in Hue and Vividness from orange, greens, blues, reds to magenta.

This, working in conjunction with the White Balance Correction function (which in reality works like tinted filter to the lens), is quite extensive and exceptional for a compact camera in its class so far. I think this single tweaking will enough take the photographers quite some time to outgrow it. What a great news for control freaks like me!

R1149359 (Medium)^The de facto red light district occupies some side streets from Mongkok to the neighbouring district, Yaumatei.   These signboards of suspicious nightclubs and hostels are commonly known as the "yellow boards" because the Chinese character "yellow" is an euphemistic way of mentioning any related to porn.  Incidentally, most illegal brothels use yellow empty signboards or fluorescent tubes to allure patrons in dire need of a release.

- Fn Slots

The Fn button is a customisable quick access to a preferred function. You’ve probably know that Ricoh adds an extra Fn slot in the GRD III, making a total of two instead of one as in the II. However, what you are not aware is that the extra Fn slot sits on the self-timer button. Fact is, the self-timer is forsaken once both Fn slots are customised otherwise. And I am not aware of the possibility to resurrect the self-timer from the menus other than make it a setting in one of the MY slots. This is somewhat troublesome if photographers like me use the 2-second timer a lot for longer exposures, not to mention that there is the new DR function which requires a tripod and the 2-second timer.

In the GX200, there are two Fn slots without interfering with the self-timer button. The inadequacy with the GRD III has something to do with the position of its flash, on which sits a Fn slot in the case of GX200. This could be just a speck in the eye of many.

R1149363 (Medium)
^The old Chinese name for Mongkok was literally the Looking Cape as the dock was not far away.  This is why a large number of metalsmiths are still operating workshops in the area, interesting but unknown to 99.9% of the visitors.

- MY slots

As in the GX200, the GRD III is fitted with three MY slots. These slots are where the users can put together all the favourite settings to be recalled by turning the Mode Dial.

To give users more elbowroom to customise, Ricoh extends the slots to six boxes. Each of these boxes is for saving a set of settings to be recalled to any of the three MY slots.

This is not an extreme measure at all if it sounds like one to you. For the GX200 with three MY slots, I have found myself making repeated turns and tweaks to customise the right settings for the slots.

R1149391 (Medium)
^Shops selling traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) are galore in Mongkok.  The TCM items are eye-opening.  These are kind of kiwi fruits which are said to cure coughing caused by the heat evil in TCM practice.

- ADJ. Rocker

The ADJ. quick access to four customisable functions and the pre-set AE/AF/AE plus AF function, which allows users to move the AE/AF crosses across the screen, is a heirloom of Ricoh digital cameras. I have discussed this feature in the CX1 review, and the same positive verdict is applicable here.

R1149455 (Medium)^The two figures are made of paper.  Fact is, they are the effigies reminiscent of lady servants to be offered as burnt offerings to the dead.  A visit to the paper effigy stores is highly recommended.  You need some tips from a local to find one, and there are some in Mongkok.

(to be continued)

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Get Raw Dng h3re

Hong Kong was hit by a tropical cyclone (called a typhoon here) on Monday and Tuesday, which interrupted normal lives and my review schedule. So, this is a post to fringe the proper review with RAW images of the GRD III for those who are interested.

The shots were taken right after the typhoon stepped its other foot out of the way. But there were still occasional downpours and fierce gales. I had to live without a dramatic scene.

The RAW images, as always, are in DNG format. In case you don't know, this common format is preferred to the proprietary ones. For the GRD III, I am not aware of the implementation problem with the DNG format in GX200, leading to a data-less black strip on the edge when the image is opened in certain PP software.

Full resolution files in Jpeg and RAW-DNG formats of the following images can be downloaded here for comparison.

R1149520 (Medium) R1149515 (Medium) R1149517 (Medium) R1149519 (Medium)

The GRD III review is to be continued tomorrow.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Quintessentially Hong Kong + GRD3 = ?

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.

 R1149299 (Medium)
^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.

R1149298 (Medium)R1149294 (Medium)

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.

R1149273 (Medium) ^The small brick house now turned into part of the 1881 Hotel was once a clinic for patients infected with sexual diseases in the old Hong Kong.

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.

R1149370 (Medium)^The windows to the mechanical parts of an old-time weighting R1149371 (Medium)machine commonly  found in the 1970s.  The lens, pointing to the bulbs, doesn't seem to show any sign of ghosting.

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.

R1149264 (Medium)^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.

R1149261 (Medium)
^The prestigious older-than-grandpa Peninsular Hotel, aka the Pen in the old days, is an icon of Hong Kong.  So is the perennial works along busy roads for one reason or another.

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.

R1149262 (Medium)
^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 thisR1149262 crop 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.

R1149493 (Medium) <Chris Patten, the last Governor from UK, is quintessentially a part of HK. 400colour 400man 400watch




800colour 800man 800watch



 1600colour 1600man 1600watch




^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.

R1149291 (Medium)^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.

R1149287 (Medium)
^The Clock Tower which survives the pull-down of the historical railway terminus of which the same architecture can be found in, well, India.

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.

R1149289 (Medium)^The intriguing curves of the Cultural Centre, nicknamed the Big Toilet for its colour and tiles reminiscent of one.  It is a typical failed government-led architectural design resulting from redtape. 

R1149301 (Medium)
^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.

R1149295 (Medium)

^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)