Ricoh GR: Some gems come in small packages
A photographer's experience with the new Ricoh GR
I have been dabbling in photography for over 35 years. I've used my share of different cameras, film, digital, point and shoot, medium format and many in between. Currently I use a Canon 1D for sports, Canon 5D for portraits and landscape, a Fuji x100s for travel and street photography and now a Ricoh GR. The Ricoh has been a constant companion for the last month. Like many photographers, once a new camera or gadget shows up at the door, it becomes the mistress du jour. But boy that Ricoh is so much fun to use. And it yields crisp and sharp files.
I have been looking for a small camera that is easy to use and that would yield high quality files. When I first read about the GR, it peaked my curiosity, I downloaded the manual and started reading it, that’s when I realized that the camera has so many functions that are on my wish list for other cameras. For example, using the TAV mode allows you to over or underexpose with a push of a button, unlike the Canon in manual settings. If I want to bracket for effect, ie if I want a BW, Vivid and default jpg from the same scene while shooting RAW, I can do that on the fly, no problem; the x100s can’t. If I want to snap focus, done. If I want to personalise the settings of half the buttons, no problem. If I want to shoot with an uneven exposure bracket, still no problem. I am sure that the engineers at Pentax and Ricoh are photographers at heart, there is no way one can design such a camera and not be passionate about photography.
It’s a fast camera, quick to boot, quick to focus (in good light), quick to handle and quick to shoot. You will not miss a shot because of the camera, that’s guaranteed. I thought I would miss the hybrid viewfinder from the x100s. I did at the beginning, but soon came to appreciate the ease with which the camera responds, it’s a truly point and shoot camera. In good light the AF is very responsive, you raise the camera to a scene and push the release. Since the camera is so light and small, it never felt awkward to be handled single handedly. With the street shots, the camera did not separate me from the scene I was photographing, I could actually keep eye contact without raising the camera to my face. The camera is so light you do not need your face to stabilize. The camera becomes un-obtrusive.
I thought I might miss the 35mm field of view. Jay Maisel says you are responsible for everything in your frame. I agree, but I crop, I am an unabashed cropper. Having 16 excellent megapixels means you can afford to crop. So the 28mm field of view became welcome in street style photography, I didn’t have to frame with precision. I can point and shoot with the knowledge I can still crop later. Suddenly 28mm provided me with a larger canvas, albeit with some added distortion.
Customization, this is another area where the Ricoh excels. I’m a sucker for black and white vignetted pictures. I like to dial up the contrast a little and I like to shoot in aperture mode. No problem, all your settings can be saved into a “my settings” setting on the main dial. All that while you keep a RAW file backup. Did I mention that the GR saves its RAWs in DNG format? Thanks Ricoh.
I am not writing this to put down the x100s, or any other camera. I happen to think my Fuji is a fantastic tool. However, it’s more like a slow food. I picked up the Fuji after 3 weeks of straight shooting with the GR, and I was getting frustrated with the menu, and the awkwardness of the settings. The x100s is not to be used single handedly. You need both hands and your face. You need the camera on a strap around your neck, and you need to take your time. Nothing wrong with that, just not as peppy as the GR. I would venture to say that the quality of files from the Fuji is superior to the GR. If you pixel peep, the Fuji files appear of a higher resolution (IMHO), Fuji controls the noise better at higher ISO, and the x100s colors seem to be more pleasing, if the GR’s are not more faithful.
My wishlist for the GR?
Panorama mode would be nice. Dedicated video button makes it easier to shoot videos. Manual controls during videos would be helpful. Better low light focusing would make that camera hard to beat.
Well, there you have it. We are enjoying very exciting times in photography, so go out and shoot something, will ya? Here are some more photos that I took over the course of the past three weeks with the GR.