Ricoh GR III Camera Review
General Image Quality
On the following pages we will look in detail at every measurable performance parameter, but for the moment we will consider those subjective elements that can make or break an image.
Field of View
At 28mm effective (18.3mm actual), the GR III offers a comfortable and versatile fixed focal length. Often called a “street” focal length, the 28mm equivalent field of view is useful for full body portraits, candids, casual shooting, landscapes and cityscapes. It will be too tight for some applications but, coupled with the 24 MP sensor in the camera, the images can be cropped to bring them closer to a “normal” focal length if needed. Note that the camera also offers built-in cropping tools to produce fields of view equivalent to 35mm and 50mm (with a reduced resolution, of course).
28mm appears like a wise choice for a fixed focal length camera, as it is generally better to crop than to be unable to include everything in the frame.
Color and Contrast
The GR III produces images fully in line with expectations. Out of the box, the camera is set to the Standard “atmosphere”. Users of the Bright setting on Pentax DSLRs will feel more at home using the Vivid atmosphere which strikes a good balance between saturated colors and preservation of details, while Standard lends itself to post-processing more easily.
The images produced by the camera rarely benefit from strong adjustments in post-processing. In line with expectations for a camera which looks like a point-and-shoot, the JPEG engine works well and delivers pleasing images.
Black and White
We do not generally comment at length on built-in filters. However, the GR line has long been known for its ability to create beautiful and recognizable black and white images. Sub-groups of users even go as far as to operate their cameras in B&W exclusively. Because of this, we dedicate a short section to the B&W capabilities of the GR III.
As presented in the Interface and performances section, the GR III boasts no less than four monochrome “atmospheres”. Each tunes contrast differently, in addition to enhancing different color channels prior to conversion.
The atmosphere for which the GR are known is called Hi-contrast B&W, which also creates a grainy feel such as what would be obtained by using high-sensitivity film.
This atmosphere indeed creates pleasing and quite recognizable images. As can be seen from the images below, it can turn a mundane scene into an interesting composition by using finely-tuned image adjustments. These results are of course not exclusive to the GR III, as they can be obtained via post-processing. It is still nice to have access to a built-in tool which delivers consistent results. In some cases, the contrast was over the top, leading to loss of detail or less than pleasing images, but for the most part the results are worthwhile.
Metering and Exposure
We did not experience any significant exposure errors with the lens, even in challenging conditions, for instance with bright light sources in the frame.
Starbursts creation is one area where the lens is underwhelming. Wide open, they are mostly absent, and even closing the aperture down does not produce impressive results. This is a bit sad, since the camera works so well as a cityscape walkaround, and its APS-C sensor means it it likely to be used in low light.
The GR III's lens is not, strictly speaking, a macro lens. However, the designers used a neat trick. By moving the whole lens assembly forward, they obtained the same effect that one gets when using an extension tube. This lets the user get quite close to the subject (between 6 and 12 cm when in macro mode). This offers nice possibilities with larger than usual magnification. These close focusing capabilities contribute to making toe GR III a versatile tool.
At first sight, the Ricoh GR III can appear as a camera which makes little sense. After all, in 2019, most adults carry a phone capable of producing good images, and phone manufacturers would have us believe that their newest products are the best thing since the invention of the Pentaprism. In this environment, how can one justify spending a fair amount of money on what appears to be no more than a compact camera?
It doesn’t take a long time with the GR III in hand to reverse this perception.
In hand, and despite its small size, the camera is comfortable and easy to hold. The grip's texture and size facilitate one-handed handling. apart from using the touchscreen, which is better done with the left hand, almost all operations are easy to accomplish with the right hand alone.
The controls layout takes some time getting used to. It is in fact very intuitive and logical, with about as many shortcuts as can be reasonably crammed on such a small body. However, it does take some time getting used to. The three e-dials (front, back around the four-way controller, and the ADJ button) can be confusing at first. For instance, when in Manual exposure mode, the ADJ button controls shutter speed instead of EV compensation by default, while the front wheel controls aperture instead of program shift.
These observations are not flaws but rather characteristics of the GR III. Just like each DSLR brand has its own logic and ways of controlling parameters, so do the GR cameras. Once that logic is mastered, the GR III offers fluid operation and easy access to most controls.
The camera feels extremely responsive, more so at times than a DSLR. Navigating menus, entering playback mode, deleting images are almost instantaneous actions. Taking pictures is as fast as can be expected, with no mirror to move. The touchscreen suffers no lag and is accurate.
One way to look at the GR III is to wonder how much a dependable 28mm effective (18mm actual) F2.8 lens would cost, and how large would it need to be to work on a DSLR. Looking at the current market, the answer is that such a lens would probably cost about the price of the GR III, and would quite possibly be larger and heavier, even without considering the camera it is attached to.
In the next sections we will look at the optical performances of the Ricoh GR III and see whether or not its lens and sensor meet our expectations.