The GR Digital III is seriously expensive for a compact camera, but this is no ordinary compact. Its magnesium-alloy body, dual command dials and 3in 920kpixel screen are features we’re more used to seeing on professional SLRs.
Its most unusual feature is its lens, which has a fixed 28mm focal length and an unusually bright f/1.9 aperture. Digital SLR owners will be comfortable with the idea of a fixed focal length in exchange for a wide aperture, but it’s more restrictive here since there’s no option to swap lenses.
The assortment of dials and buttons keep the key photographic options close to hand and it’s responsive too, with fast, reliable autofocus and a respectable 1.7fps continuous mode. Don’t expect it to keep up with similarly priced SLRs, however.
Inside, there’s a 1/1.7in, 10-megapixel sensor. These specifications are similar to the Panasonic LX3 and Canon’s G11 and S90, and strike an excellent balance between sharp detail and low noise. The GR Digital III surpassed them all for noise, with high ISO performance that’s the closest we’ve seen to SLR levels from a conventional compact sensor camera.
It loses some of its advantage in low light by omitting optical stabilisation, and the automatic mode needed some intervention in tricky conditions to achieve best results, but otherwise image quality is superb.
The GR Digital III is impressive, but it will appeal only to a small niche. Those who are put off by the high price will be better served by the Canon S90 or Panasonic LX3, both of which have f/2 lenses and don’t sacrifice optical zoom. Still, if the GR Digital III appeals in principle, the reality won’t disappoint.