4 years with the Ricoh GRD IV

The Ricoh GRD IV is now an 8 year old camera. While others have moved on, I still pretty much use my Ricoh GRD IV, and because of that I think I've used it more than anybody I know. So here's my experience with the camera during a period of 4 years.

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How I got into the Ricoh GRDs

There was a time where I believed the Ricoh GXR was the best thing since slice bread. In hindsight I think it COULD have been if they continued with it. I was hyper about a possible hard drive module, a K mount module, etc.

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It's a great could-have-been camera. But I digress. At one point I had 4 Ricoh GXRs for professional work, and then I wanted something I could carry everywhere, that's when I got the Ricoh GRD III.

For some reason that I don't remember, I sold it and felt an emptiness in my heart, I quickly got a Ricoh GRD IV and really worked it.

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The camera killer

It's not obvious at firs, but the Ricoh GRD IV is a camera killer. The co-creator of Inspired Eye Don believes so too. It's subtle but I simply found myself using the Ricoh GRD IV more and more, up to a point where my other cameras were being sold. And ever since I had it, I have never had any other one as my main camera. Every single piece of gear I had from then on were relegated as Professional work camera, but for everything else it was the GRD IV.

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The GRD IV never allowed any other rivals, it didn't matter what work camera I had, the GRD IV is the one who staid constantly. Other cameras came and went, the GRD IV staid in my hands.

 What's so great about it anyway?

But that begs the question, what makes the camera so great? In a sense it's describable on paper: the pocketability, the gritty black and whites, the snap focus. etc. But in another sense it's indescribable, it's the emergence of the whole package that make it work, everything comes together beautifully in the camera.

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Ever seen birds flying over the sky? When it looks like they all act as one? It's the same thing when there is a school of fish, and they all swim as if they are one unit (If you've seen finding nemo, it's in one scene), that's emergence. And that's what I believe is so great with the camera, the emergence of it…the fact that every part of it creates an overall experience that is enjoyable.

I can write a gush fest about every single part of the camera. Like how the ergonomics are probably the best I have ever seen in a camera, how the shortcuts work perfectly. How full press snap is right about the best thing ever for street photographers. But really it's all these elements rolled into one that make the camera so great.

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Not for everyone

But that being said, I understand that the camera is not for everyone. It doesn't have a zoom, it doesn't have anything fancy, the video mode is a joke, etc. I've only met a few that don't understand the camera and simply stated, they hate it. But that's ok, this camera is not for those who want a camera that has everything or who want the cleanest images. It's for street shooters, those who know they will manipulate the images, the wide angle shooters. It's made for street photography, and for that it has no equal. And since I see everything as street photography, I also feel that this camera has no equal, period.

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But, what about the other GRDs?

If my memory serves correctly, the GRD III and GRD IV are pretty much the same and interchangeable to a large extent. So much so that I tend to mix them up and say that I spent 5 years shooting the Ricoh GRD IV while one of those years I shot with the III. I don't have the original GRD but I have had a Ricoh GRD II.

It's really not the same thing. The good part with the II is that there is quite a nice feel to the grain in the JPGs, very organic looking. But that's about it, it doesn't feel like a GRD IV, the 2.5 lens feels slow compared to the IV's 1.9, the AF and frame per second is very slow compared to the IV, and it's biggest sin is the absence of full press snap. That magical option that allows you to half-press to autofocus or full press and focus at 1 meter (or other preset distance).

The Ricoh GX line, while nice is also not the same thing, I believed it was like a GRD with zoom but the handling and operation was different.

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And the Ricoh GR?

Of course, after the GRD IV, I was expecting a GRD V. Actually I was drooling over it. The IV is actually a refresh of the III and the II was a refresh of the I, so I expected a real upgrde! And then it was announced but while I was excited, I noticed something. What was announced was not a new GRD but the Ricoh GR. The “D” was dropped, and I knew that the camera while a spiritual successor is not of the GRD line.
Everyone I know moved on to the Ricoh GR and are more than happy with it. Not me. I highly recommend it to everyone and I always get emails thanking me for opening them to the GR but it's simply not for me.

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The feel is not the same, and the images are too nice for me. Here's this image I made in Haiti:

fisherman

Just look at the sky, the guy's face……I have not found any other camera that can balance so much stretching of the RAW files while still giving the grit of the image. I just feel that the small sensor has a certain punch to it I haven't found anywhere else.

Nothing comes close

The problem with other cameras is that they are not the GRD IV. I've tried finding other alternatives, but I've tried enough ones to know that the GRD IV is unbeatable for me. The ad for the Ricoh GR said “Only a Ricoh GR can replace a Ricoh GR” and following that logic…only a Ricoh GRD can replace a GRD and the GRD line is dead. No use to expect a small sensor camera when the new baseline seems to be 1 inch sensors.

The one combo that made me feel the joy of the Ricoh GRD IV, but still of course gave me too clean images is the Fuji XE1 with the Voightlander 15mm. This combo was a joy to use. But it's really no comparison because the XE1 is a large sensor and not pocketable by any stretch of the imagination.

 

The truth about my GRD IV

The truth is, I've never found any other camera so freeing than the Ricoh GRD IV, when mine broke…. I was too. And then an awesome fan of mine (Merci encore!) sent me one as a gift, I was back on track. I've tried to move away from the camera many times but I instinctively gravitate towards the GRD IV, it's pull is simply too strong.

Ricoh-GRD-IV-12

I made most of my work on the GRD IV, and my best work is on the GRD IV. I credit this camera for teaching me for real that one don't need much in terms of gear. I say teach me for real because it's fashionable nowadays to tell photographers that they don't need much gear to make great images. And while that is true, it's usually a hypocritical statement, for many of those who say so have some really fancy gear.

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I on the other hand actually used the GRD IV as a main camera enough to say not only you don't need much for great images, but also this: If I wasn't a professional photographer, the only camera I would ever need is the Ricoh GRD IV.

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Conclusion

There you have it, my feelings about the Ricoh GRD IV, what I consider MY best camera ever. I say MY because THE best camera doesn't exist, only the best camera for YOU. I hope you find the camera that speaks to your best as I have mine, that I named Gene after Eugene Smith. Ricoh outdid themselves with this one and I can only dream of a true Ricoh GRD V. Make it happen Ricoh, make it happen!

Be yourself, stay focused and keep on shooting. Also check out my street photography course and magazine. All the images were processed with these street photography presets.

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About The Author

58 thoughts on “4 years with the Ricoh GRD IV”

      1. I think there is. While the GR gave awesome B&Ws, the color was so-so. The GR II, imho, gives better color, but they are too crisp for me. And the B&W don’t have that little magic in them that I loved in the GR. Call me crazy, but I don’t think they render similarly. If sensor is the same as most people say, may be the ACR conversion is not the same, as suggested by Ming Thein when I asked him. So basically, I prefer the GR, first iteration

        1. Ok. I´ve been thinking of using the GR for color, but I´m not completetly convinced I like the rendering, allthough it´s far better than on the GRD4. The b&w high contrast jpgs are great on especially the GRD4. For color, I don´t hesitate to use my Samsung cell. Thanks, Talia and Mike.

        2. Ricoh changed the color matrix in the DNG with firmware 2.0 (see the release notes) so the early production models (that Ming Thein had and anyone who didn’t update the firmware has) do have slightly different color from the GR2.

          But if you have 2.0 or later firmware for the GR1 then the GR1 and GR2 have the same color matrix and the same (Sony) sensor. They have the same color. I don’t even think they changed the metering.

          The two big changes between the GRD3 and GRD4 were: metering and the PDAF AF. The change in metering was to give extra headroom in the 4 (and so “bumping” the ISO up a stop — with cries of “cheating” — there was no cheating you get to define ISO in many ways). These two cameras had the same Sony CCD sensor just used slightly differently. You’re less likely to blow the highlights on the GRD4.

          I think we might expect a 24Mpx GR3 at Photokina later this year using the latest Sony sensor but the small sensor GRD are different from the later cameras. That’s why people hold onto them. It’s a shame they break though.

  1. I adore the grd series.
    I started with the grd and now use the grd iii
    With the first it was my only camera for years till it died
    I put all my others away recently and am concentrating on the grd iii now, so your article is quite timely!

  2. To Elaborate on my last comment.
    For several years I used on the GRD , it was a glorious time and I loved the results and learned a lot.
    Then it died and I went to DSLR’s and finally Mirrorless.
    But, I rather lost the Fun of Photography.
    A few years ago I got the GRD III on Amazon and loved shooting with it.
    Then, I was seduced by buying new toys; lens and bodies.
    Lately I picked up the GRD III again, and it was as if my hand were complete.

  3. bought a GRD IV about a year ago, greatly influenced by your opinions. It is a superb camera. I use a Pentax K-5 for work, but the little Ricoh for everything else. Love that I can set it to B/W, see the image in B/W… and then, shooting RAW, go to color if I want later. It fits in my shirt pocket and is always ready!
    And I don’t seem to need a larger sensor… Lightroom goes a long way towards helping with shadows… and, when not at work, I’m not looking so much for a technically perfect image as for a compelling one.
    Didn’t know it had a movie mode, never had a reason to use it. But was at a concert tonight, took a few pix of the performers, then thought I’d take a video but couldn’t find a movie button… so ended up using a smartphone for that.
    Oliver, thanks again for interesting me in the GRD IV. Love it!

  4. I fluctuate between my GRD 4 and my GXR. Both are my black and white cameras, I use Fuji X100t for colour now. For use ability you can’t beat the Ricoh cameras. I still have a Ricoh 500G which I bought second hand in 1975 and it probably still works. Thanks for your post and website. I enjoy it a lot.
    Regards Jeff

  5. I’ve owned GRDs 1, 3 and now 4. I loved using them, but stupidly sold the 1 and 3 to a shop. It’s your enthusiasm that inspired me to get a 4…and for that I thank you.

  6. Dear Olivier. Do you remember me? You made 2 articles to your magazine some time ago. One of them referred to my analysis on the Canon G15. As a curiosity, before buying this camera, I wanted to purchase the Ricoh GRD IV. I noticed they don’t sell this camera in Brazil, which was a disappointment to me. But now reading your article, again the willingness to work with this camera and I still can’t get one. If you ever want to dispose of your old “friend” and make a donation to a friend, I’m applying for. A big hug.

    Helio Tomita

  7. After many years of reading about the Ricoh and articles here, I finally bought a GRDIV in great condition with a hood, which I am not using but good to have. I started with a K1000 years ago and I focused on composition and always enjoyed the grain of black and white. I grew up in the 70s and 80s and for me the grain of black and white has meaning and is an element of the composition. In 1999 I got a little olympus point and shoot digital for more money than I could afford back then but I loved it. It was a companion that I could take photos with up close or on the street. It had shutter lag and that was annoying but I loved the way the color images looked and even still, the photos I took remain some of my favorites. It took a tumble down some hardwood steps and never focused again so that one went were old cameras go.

    After that and with some extra money, I bought into a Canon 20D and enjoyed it very much although it was large and lent itself to more purposeful photos. The 20D taught me about portraits since I was shooting a 50 1.4 on a crop body. One day at a flea market I found a Praktica with a 58mm biotar attached. I bought it for nothing and enjoyed shooting that old lens on the 20D. That led me to the NEX, A7r and adapting old lenses which is a rabbit hole I wish I never entered. I am convinced that fixed lenses (or single prime) and shooting close to squares allow for the most freedom and creative expression when composing documentary or reportage style. 3:2 is a bit to tall in portrait. 4:3, 6:7, 6:6 are what I like to start with. GRDIV, again satisfies.

    On the film front, the K1000 sat in a box and I proceeded to invest in many cameras from Leica and lenses to Mamiya 7II and TLRs. As my collection increased, my satisfaction with my portfolio decreased. the time between awesome photos expanded to months because I was shooting less. I got a Iphone 4s and for 2 years, it seemed all my photos were coming from it. I enjoyed making photos again because they were impulsive, and composition skills grew quickly with the Iphone. Handling and file flexibility was the disappointment with the Iphone. In the end I realized that all I needed was a better Olympus PS that I had in 1999. So now I have the GRDIV and it is great.

    I looked at the GRII and it is a fine camera but I don’t think it is even the same kind of tool as the GRDIV. I see the GRDIV as a companion. A sketchbook with potential. The potential to create perfection within bounds or enjoy the imperfection of the sketch. For me, It satisfies.

    So now, In spite of all the gear I own and will likely sell off slowly, I take the GRD!V in my pocket every day and if I have a bag, I will bring a DP2s for film like color. No one ever pays me for my photos and I wouldn’t want them to. The joy of capture is satisfied with simple tools. Thanks, Merci and Cam On, Olivier for reminding me of the joy of small sensors at their pinnacle. The GRDIV is likely the end of an era to which we will not likely return.

    Instagram @namredlawt

  8. I’m super excited to find another fan. I love my GRD IV. It just broke so I was doing a bunch of research about the GR. After reading your article and another’s, I’m sticking with the GRD IV. I feel like I still haven’t got the most out of yet and I’ve had it for YEARS. It is a perfect street camera. I just got the holster for it and it is beautiful. Quick draw, silent, one handed street photography.

    I’m looking for another camera but not due to any lacking with the GRD IV. I want to play with a different shooting experience, like with an articulated viewfinder.

  9. What a great article – I really identified with you passion. But I have to admit being a heretic and a solid Ricoh GR owner. Like you I am passionate about its capabilities and have got into trouble in some camera forums by stating that every photographer should own a GR. The GR is definitely the best camera I have ever owned. I own ‘better’ cameras (a Leica Q, for example) and I have owned optically superior cameras (a Hasselblad SWC, for example). But a camera is also about usability and dependability. My GR is by the most usable and dependable camera I have owned and I sense you feel the same about the GRD. I don’t just use it for street, I use it for pretty much anything largely because the 16mp sensor without AA filter is just astounding. Anyway, I do identify with your love for your GRD and recognise the same symptoms that I also suffer from with respect to my GR. I am so inspired by your article I think I’ll put up an article at my website about my passion for the GR. Thanks again.

  10. Wow it is great to see so much love for this camera. I own one too and love mine so much but i get distracted at times. I get pulled into the marketing hype and consumer crap that is such a part of photography these days. I have been under stress lately and with that comes some retail therapy and the chance to buy the next best thing. This time around I’m putting off getting a GH4 and deciding whether I should drop the idea of a 6D altogether.

    I know the camera is only a tool and in the right hands the camera itself is negligible. The most important part of the camera is the 6 inches behind it! Your post inspired me to take out the Ricoh and smile because it is all i need. It was in the bottom of my bag, wrapped in a little Travelblue wallet covered with apples and bananas and all sorts of junk. I turned it on and although i have not used it in weeks the battery is still full and ready to shoot.

    This is my second GRDIV, it has a screw missing bottom left side and top right side but it doesn’t need material things like screws! It’s held together with some strange sort of magic.

  11. I loved my GRD iv too. I had it from new in 2013 until Sept 2015. Unfortunately dust appeared on the sensor ruining shots. Really expensive to fix (over £250) so therefore not viable and atrocious after sales service from Ricoh UK. I was bitterly disappointed because as I said I loved this camera. Its size and IQ were perfect for my needs, the functionality and ergonomics are superb.Over a year later I still miss it and nothing new on the market comes close. I’ve toyed with the idea of replacing it with a GRii but don’t trust Ricoh any more and the extra size really bugs me. The Fuji X70 also keeps attracting my attention but the grip is pants and again the size is just too big.
    I used to use mine as a walk around camera. I found it great for night shots on a tripod and would carry it instead of a wide angle lens when taking a dslr out. Every year I produce a callender for family Xmas presents and a large number of pictures from the GRD iv would appear on it! I eventually settled on a Pentax Q as a replacement with the 8.5mm prime lens, and I’ve come to love this one too, but you can’t fit it into your trouser pocket. I still miss the Ricoh!

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  13. I, too, am a huge GRD IV fan, having used one as my primary daily walkaround camera since August 2013, when I bought one new in Japan. It was right at the time that the new GR was causing the price of the GRD IV to plummet, so I lucked out.

    I should also say that I am in general a Ricoh fan, with a GXR (w/ all modules except the A12-28 and A12-M) and GX200 in the collection. But I totally agree that there is a certain magic about the GRD IV, and have been impressed with it from day one.

    Attached is a shot from day one.

  14. Hi Oliver 🙂

    I stumbled into this excellently written review while taking a peek at some used deals on KEH. Curious, I wanted to see if anyone else was using the GRD IV like myself. I like you, feel the IV is a serious classic and has a “soul” unlike many cameras. Having used SO many, and reviewed SO many, the IV is still one of my all time favorites (top 5 in fact). This was a pleasant read, so thank you! (Sorry I’m a year late). I did a piece on it myself back in 2015, and even before that on website I used to run that I ended up shutting down. Cheers to you!

    Here is the last piece, if interested:
    http://photographic-central.blogspot.com/2015/11/ricoh-gr-digital-iv-revisiting-classic.html

  15. Great article, Oliver. After reading it, now I wanted to own one. Since GRD IV is no longer in the market, what is your opinion about the current GR II?

  16. Hello,

    Thanks for this lyric camera-epos.
    I am a ex-pro photographer, still doing my “thing”.
    Use now for almost a decade a Ricoh, first a GX100, then/now a GX200.
    Was looking for buying the new GR II, but by a misunderstanding
    in a shop in Italy, they proposed my a ‘nos’ GRD IV, coming from a old shelf anywhere in the corner of the shop.
    Price was so low (160€/new-in-the-box, zero clicks) that I couldnt resist this offer.

    Back home I am realising that this is the camera I always wanted, and after reading your review, 100% sure that I will keep this jewel, and skip the new GR II for at least 10 years or so…

    So, thanks again,
    You’ve been very inspirational to me!

    Grtz,
    Johnny

    Bree, Belgium.

  17. I share the same sentiment as you regarding the GRD series. I had the III for 5 years and it’s finally on it’s way out and I’m devastated. My only gripe is that I wish that there was better sealing on them. It collects dust and other grime like crazy.

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  20. I bought a GRD 4…
    …because of you 😀 (I mean really, you inspired me into buying this camera).
    I found a brand new one, boxed.. for 150€.
    Thousands of shots later, I’m in love with this piece of gear. It’s just a fantastic camera.
    I have APS-C mirroless systems with prime lenses, I had Canon xxD Eos etc but this little Ricoh is by *far* my favorite.
    I just…. like… pictures I get from it.
    So : thank you very much!!!!

  21. My apologies for continuing this four year old thread, but I think I got my GRD IV in the same period, for a bit less than 300 euro. At the same time I owned a Fuji X100 (currently my only camera). The usage was very different because I never use the X100’s display. At first the display and the lack of exposure and aperture controls annoyed me. After experimenting with the snap focus feature I started using this camera more, with the display turned off.

    The possibility of adding standard batteries is a great design choice in case that you run out of battery life in a city.
    I pushed it off the table half a year ago, and it would no longer turn on. Unfortunately the repair center in Europe (Ireland and Germany) confirmed that certain parts are no longer available.

    Perhaps I’ll find the same model for a cheaper price, but it did surprise me that such a fall would damage the device.

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  29. Thanks, Olivier, for reuniting me with a camera I’d loved, let-go of, and now – love again, after eight years. Not all nostalgia is rose-tinted, it seems. Some of it is actually as real as now. Great post and superb frames.

  30. I’ve used a GR and GR II. The GR was better in my judgment but it fell out of my pocket and got run over by a car. Thinking of buying GR IV in white. Can it deliver in color? Why do many shooters prefer this model over the larger-sensor GR? What about GRIII?

  31. 1919 and I’ve just read your enthusiastic article after reading Jean Perenet on macfilos.com. You and he say basically the same thing, and it seems this might be a camera worth hunting down antique – not least for the really atmospheric b&w images!

  32. Just got my GRD4 am ecstatic, couple months back bought the gr2, also hv 4 Leica X ‘s but they been inactive since GR2, I intend to buy another GRD4 end of month or beginning of next. Just so much fun, was thinking of 111 but think I pass, even tho it is closer in size to 4 than is to the 2. Can’t figure out why 111 doesn’t have flash.

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