Ricoh GR III Camera Review
Interface and Performance
The Ricoh GR III is an advanced compact camera, as such, it offers an enormous number of modes, controls and options. For users coming from a compact camera, the richness of the controls is wonderful... Coming from DSLR, most controls are there but not accessed exactly in the same way, leading to a short learning curve.
The basic layout (which can be simplified via the DISPLAY button) is straightforward. At the bottom is the drive mode, exposure settings, and battery indicator. The electronic level is a subtle rectangle. It shows the lateral tilt, and a second line shows the pitch (front-back tilt). Lining up the two lines and having them turn green means the camera is level.
The top of the screen shows the drive mode, image parameters and more general information. Extra settings are usually displayed on the right.
The layout is effective and discreet. the numerous icons are small and unobtrusive, while still showing useful information.
The menus are organized in a logical way, not too far from those of a Pentax DSLR. They are grouped in five sections, presented in a vertical way (as opposed to Pentax’s horizontal orientation). A series of dots between the sections icons and the menu elements show where the user is in the list. Scrolling in a section is “endless”, meaning the list jumps back to the top after reaching the last element, instead of switching to the next section. Users can scroll via the touchscreen, the four-way controller or the e-dial.
The five sections are still images, movies, playback, camera customization and settings.
The sheer number of menu items can be overwhelming. After a short period, the menu organization becomes more intuitive and natural. Still, having a “shortcut” section for user-defined favorites would be a useful addition.
Most menu entries include useful information when accessed.
Using the ADJ button, in addition to the four-way controller and the programmable buttons, means that using the menus is often not required.
All the usual white balance settings are available, including the Multi-auto white balance inherited from the Pentax K-3 and K-1 DSLRs. This has become a favorite of many users.
Manual white balance can be set in two ways. The simplest is to set the color temperature of the light source in Kelvins. The second requires the user to point the camera at a white surface. Pressing DISP and the camera will freeze the image on the LCD, letting the user adjust the white balance using the four-way controller.
One interesting feature is the ability to fine-tune even the automated white balance modes, such as Tungsten or Fluorescent light sources.
Ricoh recommends using Auto or Multi-auto white balance when using a flash. There is no dedicated flash white balance setting, as is the case with the Pentax K-1.
Program Shift with Front Wheel
The operation of the front and rear e-dials can be customized by the user. In P mode, by default, the front wheel enables program shift. This mode, comparable to Hyper-program on Pentax DSLRs, lets the user quickly change the aperture and shutter speed combination while letting the camera maintain a proper exposure. This shortcut decreases the need to use Av and Tv modes.
The GR III offers several drive modes, accessed by pressing right on the four-way controller. The available modes are
- Single frame
- Exposure bracketing
- Interval shooting
- Interval composite
Continuous burst rate is near 4.5 images per second. Using PJEGs, there is virtually no limit to the number of continuous images (at least, we were not able to reach that limit). Using RAW, the burst rates drops to about 4 images per second and we were able to capture 9 images before the burst rate dropped to about 2 images per second. This value shows high variability, however.
Multi-exposure lets the user select between Average, Additive or Bright options. Interim images can be saved if desired. The mode doesn’t require the user to define the number of exposures beforehand. One simply has to select “Completed” when a sufficient number of frames have been captured.
The Interval mode is straightforward, letting the user define the interval, the total number of shots, as well as the optional delayed start time.
Interval composite is presented by Ricoh as the “Star Trails” mode. It is, in essence, a blend of the Multi-exposure and Interval modes. The camera takes images at the set interval, and merges them to create a single composite image.
The Ricoh GR III includes an actual neutral density filter, which can be used to decrease the amount of light reaching the sensor, allowing the use of longer exposures or smaller apertures. This filter is built inside the camera and cannot be directly manipulated by the user.
Use of the filter can be turned off, forced on, or set to auto mode. In that mode, when the user sets a combination of settings that requires its use, the camera will automatically activate it. The display will show when the ND filter is used.
Auto mode works seamlessly and quite accurately, based on our tests. In most cases, it is simpler to leave the ND setting to auto.
Image atmosphere refers to the JPEG rendering that is selected. This is nothing new per se, however the GR line has a vocal fan base praising the cameras’ ability to create, among other things, pleasing black and white images. This warrant some comments on the available modes The list is as follows:
- Vivid (comparable to Bright on Pentax DSLRs)
- Soft monotone
- Hard monotone
- Hi-contrast B&W (creates a grainy feel, such as that which would be created by ultra-high sensitivity film)
- Positive film (highly saturated image)
- Bleach bypass (low saturation, high contrast)
- Retro (old photo feel)
- HDR tone (“painting” finish)
In addition, two custom settings can be created.
Developing RAW Images
The GR III offers the ability to develop RAW images in-camera. A large number of adjustments are available:
- Aspect ratio
- Color space
- White balance
- Vignetting correction
- Noise reduction
- Shadow correction
Battery life on the GR III is one of the weakest links. The camera is rated as being able to take about 200 pictures on a single charge. That’s often sufficient to get the photographer through a day, but it is far from an impressive figure. Its predecessor offered 320 pictures per charge, half of which were with a flash firing as per CIPA standards, which cannot be the case with the GR III since it lacks a flash. A spare battery will be a good safety net for many users.
Under use, we have found the 200 images rating to be slightly conservative, but mostly accurate. Using wireless connectivity, reviewing images frequently, and increasing the screen brightness will have a negative impact on battery life. In particular, disabling all wireless functions will let the user go beyond the 200 mark.
A decade ago, entry-level compact cameras often came with a tiny amount of built-in memory. Nowadays, this has mostly disappeared. It is thus surprising and refreshing to see the GR III ship with no less than 2 GB of internal memory.
While this might seem a small amount by today's standards, 2 GB still allows the user to save over 60 RAW files and about 200 images in JPEG. This makes the built-in memory more than a last-resort backup.
The way Ricoh intended the interaction with the built-in memory is not fully intuitive, however. When there is no card in the camera, the built-in memory is accessed by default. However, as soon as a memory card is used, the built-in memory all but disappears. The only action available on the camera is to transfer images from the internal memory to the card. Until this is done, the images on the internal memory cannot be seen or accessed via playback or the Image Sync app. Computer access does show both the internal and external memory, at least.
For the most part, the GR III feels like a snappy and responsive camera. For instance, after powering on, the first shot can be captured after a mere 0.7 seconds, an impressive feat considering that the lens must be extended. Switching from record to playback is almost instantaneous, as is deleting an image. This puts many DSLRs to shame.
Taking a picture when coming from the playback menu takes less than half a second. Capturing an image when prefocused is near-instant, and beyond our measuring capabilities.
Scrolling between pictures in playback mode also shows no visible delay, whether when using the touchscreen of the four-way controller.
In short, operating the GR III is a pleasure. The camera never slows down the operator and feels responsive in all cases.
As usual, autofocus speed is discussed in the Focusing page.
The Ricoh GR III is a well-rounded camera. Its interface is laid out in a straightforward way, with most controls organized logically. The sheer number of options makes us wish for a user-defined shortlist in the menus.
There is a large number of image parameters to choose from, several interesting (and sometimes unique) features, such as the built-in ND filter.
In operation, the GR III is speedy and quick. It never slows down the user. Burst rate is faster than what we would expect from a compact camera, and menu navigation is near instant.
The GR III's interface and operation goes beyond expectations.