Ricoh GR III Camera Review
Construction and Handling
This section presents a complete physical description of the Ricoh GR III.
The GR III will be familiar to anyone who has handled previous generations of the GR line, but will be surprising to newcomers expecting a compact camera to look and feel like a toy.
The camera’s appearance cannot be said to be minimalist, considering the large number of external controls available. Rather, we call it understated, with a uniform black coloring. The pale gray lettering gives a more subdued and elegant feel, without compromising visibility.
The front of the camera is dominated by the lens, which retracts when not in use. A large grip (relative to the total size) takes up about a third of the total area. The AF assist light and stereo microphones are also visible.
There are no less than three strap eyelets, letting the user decide where to attach the provided hand strap, or even use a larger neck strap if desired.
The bottom of course holds the tripod attachment point, which is sadly not lined up with the lens. A door hides the battery and SD card slots. Using even a tiny tripod plate will cover the battery door. Luckily, using a USB-C cable lets the user transfer images without removing the memory card.
The ring around the lens can be easily removed with a short rotation. Some users have reported that the ring call fall off easily, however this is not something that we observed during our test. Removing the ring allows the attachment of the optional wide converter.
Size and Heft
The GR III is deceptively small. Its length and height are smaller than a standard smartphone, with a height slightly over that of a credit card. It is impressive that such a small body can contain an APS-C sensor.
The weight of the camera appears substantial. At 257g, the GR III is in fact quite light, but given its small size it appears heavier than it actually is. This weight gives a (subjective) impression of quality.
The grip at the front has the exact thickness of the retracted lens. For the most part, controls are grouped to the right, facilitating one-handed operation.
Buttons and Dials
Considering its small size, the camera has a surprising number of external controls.
The top right section bears the ON/OFF button, which lights up green when activated. The larger, pill-shaped shutter release is positioned closer to the front. The front e-dial is placed vertically, in front of the shutter release.
The mode dial is to the far right. It offers P, Av, Tv and M, as well as three user modes. These will come in handy since the menus can become a bit overwhelming. To the side of the mode dial a lock button which needs to be pressed to rotate the dial. We applaud the presence of this lock, but would prefer to see it located in the center of the dial, where it would be easier to use.
Just below the mode dial, on the back, is the ADJ shortcut lever. This nifty tool serves many purposes. By default, moving the lever to the left or the right changes the EV compensation (except in M mode, where it changes the shutter speed). However, pressing the lever brings up a shortcut to several operation controls. Five settings can be stored here, the default being: Image (Standard, Vivid, B&W, etc), focus, metering, file format and outdoor view. A total of 14 controls are available for each of the 5 settings.
Cycling between the controls is done by moving the lever from left to right, but selecting an option requires the use of the four-way controller’s vertical arrows, its rotating e-dial, or the touchscreen. Pressing the ADJ lever brings the camera back to regular operation.
To the far right, near the top, is the playback button. Below is a curved and textured area perfect to rest the thumb.
The programmable Fn/Delete button is located just above the four-way controller. This controller includes shortcuts for ISO, white balance, drive mode, as well as a quick toggle between macro and regular shooting modes. Around the four-way controller is the second e-dial.
Below are the two remaining buttons: Menu and Display.
On the left side of the camera, easy to miss but also easy to reach, is the only button not directly accessible with the right hand. This button is programmable, its default mode toggling between stills and movies with a short press, and activating Wi-Fi with a long press.
The camera offers an impressive level of customization. In addition to the previously mentioned ADJ, Fn and Video buttons whose operation can be customized, the default mode of the four-way controller can be selected (priority to controls or to AF point selection).
The 3 inches LCD takes up most of the area on the back of the camera. It is crisp and sharp. Pentax DSLR users will be happy to know that the familiar color adjustment menu is also available on the GR III. Users can adjust brightness, saturation, as well as color-balance on three scales. The camera also offers the daylight brightness boost found on the Pentax K-1.
Text is easy to read and Ricoh selected a pleasing, utilitarian font. Menus are clear and easy to read, with good contrast.
The touchscreen is without a doubt the major differentiating element of this screen. It works intuitively and can be used for many tasks:
- Scroll in menus
- Select items
- Pinch to zoom
- Move around on a zoomed image
- Touch focus
The latter will certainly be a novelty for many users. It will be discussed in more detail in the Focusing section.
We are happy to report that the LCD is particularly resistant to grease and smudges. It remains clean and easy to use even after extensive touchscreen usage.
In general, the touchscreen works just as expected. It is just as responsive as the one on a smartphone, the touch response is accurate, and menus are structured so that the interaction with either the buttons or the touchscreen work just as well.
Ports and Doors
The GR III holds a limited number of ports.
To the bottom of the right side, a still rubber cover hides the USB Type-C port, which can be used to charge the battery or transfer files from the camera. Both the 2 GB built-in memory and the external SD card can be accessed this way.
To the bottom is the memory card and battery compartment. The hinged door is locked in place with a lever which surprisingly is not spring-loaded: it must be pushed back in place to lock. Given the small size, the door is located close to the tripod screw hold. Larger tripod plates will probably block the door. Luckily, several companies now make tripod plates with small footprints, and users can always elect to use the USB port and never remove the card or battery.
In a departure from its predecessor, the GR III does not feature a built-in flash. While this choice is sure to annoy some users, it can be justified to some extent. First, the improved high ISO performances mitigate the lack of a flash. Second, this choice helps make the camera smaller. Third, the camera offers a flash hotshoe, supporting most of the PTTL functionalities.
Despite its small size, the GR III handles well. The weight is nicely balanced. The grip is slim when compared to even the smallest DSLR, but its rubberized texture makes it easy to hold. The thumb rest uses the same material as the grip. Buttons positioning means one-handed use is actually possible, even easy, in most cases.
The logic behind the positioning of the various controls takes a while to get used to. Many things, like the four-way controller, are immediately obvious. Others, like the location of the playback button or the operation of the ADJ lever, take more time. Still, after a few days, things become more natural, and the layout becomes logical and enjoyable. A lot of thought went into how the camera operates, and it shows. Some ideas would be useful if they ever made their way on Pentax DSLRs.
There are usually several ways to achieve a desired result. For instance, scrolling in menus can be done via the touchscreen, by using the up/down arrows, or by rotating the rear e-dial. Each photographer can pick a preferred method and use it without any second thoughts.
In summary, despite a short learning curve, handling the GR III is a rewarding experience.
The GR III is certainly not a copycat in the camera market. In fact, it has a few features and elements that set it apart from the rest. While these might not all be unique in the pure sense of the term (in fact, several of these are also present on Pentax DSLRs), they are stand-out elements worthy of mention:
- 24 MP, APS-C sensor in a compact camera body
- Built-in shake reduction
- Dynamic anti-aliasing system, can be turned on or off
- Dust removal system on sensor (common on ILCs, rare on compacts)
- Bluetooth and Wi-Fi
- Hotshoe with full PTTL capabilities
- Built-in ND filter with auto activation
- RAW files, with built-in development
- 2 GB of built-in memory
In particular, the APS-C, stabilized sensor in such a small body is unique on the market, and a compelling offering.
The Ricoh GR III is a camera that’s easy to love. Its appearance gives the impression that it is a serious camera, the opposite of a toy. Even though it lacks weather resistance, it feels rugged and sturdy in the hand, an observation helped by its heft.
Its biggest wow factor does not come from its appearance or handling, however. Rather, it comes from the images it produces. Compact cameras have, historically, been associated with tiny sensors with limited capabilities. Having access to an APS-C sensor in such a small package is a refreshing experience.
In use, the camera is responsive. Menus are snappy, switching from taking pictures to playback is instantaneous, as is deleting an image or scrolling through the gallery. There is no lag when using the touchscreen or pressing buttons. Start-up time is under a second. In short, this is a camera that will never hinder the workflow of the photographer.
The Ricoh GR III is a camera which oozes quality. Its construction is excellent, its ergonomics effective and its controls scheme, while it takes some time getting used to, is logical and works well. The number of customization possibilities is surprising for such a small body.
The lack of a flash and of weather resistance are, quite simply, the only two design choices which could be perceived as flaws.