It seems large-sensor compacts are the latest trend and Ricoh Pentax has got in on the action with the announcement of the Pentax GR. Based around the Ricoh GR-series - the same company which acquired all Pentax Imaging Corp shares back in 2011 - this 16-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor based compact has got a whole lot going for it.
Ricoh has always said that it wouldn't release a DSLR camera, and while the company hasn't, it has plonked a DSLR-sized sensor into a GRD-esque compact camera body and stripped out the low-pass filter - much like the Nikon Coolpix A - for heightened sharpness. But unlike the near-£1000 Nikon, the GR will retail for a far more affordable £599. Nice work Pentax.
The GR pairs the large sensor up with an 18.3mm f/2.8 lens - the equivalent of 27.5mm - for a single, wide-angle view onto the world. There's no zoom so the focus is on premier optical quality instead and while this may sound limiting to some first-time snappers, it's just what the doctor ordered for street photography and the like. A build-in ND (neutral density) filter will also mean the wide aperture is available for use in bright conditions, while a crop mode - which uses a smaller portion of the sensor - can equate to a 35mm equivalent output if preferred. Or go the other way by adding the optional 0.75x magnification GW-3 wide conversion lens for a 21mm equivalent ultra-wide shooting experience.
The GR's sensor can capture images from ISO 100-25,600 thanks to the latest GR Engine V processor, while in-body raw data development gives full control wherever you happen to be. With no low-pass filter we'd anticipate that images ought to be even higher quality than the likes of the Pentax K-5 II DSLR which, given the price point, is quite an achievement. However we're yet to use the GR so we'll have to wait with baited breath as to how well it performs in reality.
Capable of shooting at up to four frames per second (4fps), and acquiring subject focus in just 0.2-seconds the GR sounds pretty nippy - though its 1-second start-up time doesn't sound as immediate as it could be.
The GR holds onto the long-standing benefits of the Ricoh GRD series, such as the magnesium alloy frame, but has been redesigned to include an AF and aperture preview button to make for easier everyday shooting.
There's also a hotshoe and an optional electronic viewfinder can be added for £223. Add that to the £599 camera price and it looks like Pentax has just produced a £822 prime compact camera that should rival the best of them. We're rather excited to see more of what this bad boy can do. It's enough to make you want to go 'grrr'.