What’s makes the Ricoh GRD IV so special?

The Ricoh GRD IV is a camera that has achieved the mythical cult status that every camera hopes to be. Cameras come and go, but a select few stay and are used actively. Some cult cameras include the Contax G2, Epson RD1, Contax T, etc. But you don't become a cult camera for nothing, so what makes the GRD IV so special?

I had the Ricoh GXR for a while and wanted to buy it's leeeetle bwother to take away with me. In my head my main camera would be the GXR and the GRD a point and shoot. Not in my wildest dream I would have believed that I would consider the GRD as my main camera, but that is what happened. I had 4 GXRs with different modules at some point. The GRD killed them all just like the GXR killed my Pentax. The GRD is the big brother, not the other way around.

When I first got my GRD, I picked it up and I felt the difference. The ergonomics are nothing short of breathtaking and Ricoh's GRD handling became my benchmark for which to judge other cameras. The impression I have, being a Ricoh shooter for 3 years, is that the camera gets out of the way. It's the kind of camera that gets away from you and your Vision.  From the thumb rest, to the perfectly balanced weight, that camera is some serious craftsmanship. I would love to tell you I'm overhyping it, but more than one user state that they didn't believe the reviews until they held one.

GR Lens
Most camera manufacturers have lenses, but also Lenses, with capital L. They have a regular line of lenses, but another breed that is ultra sharp and of the highest quality. Sony's got the Zeiss, Canon the L series, Pentax the limited series and Ricoh has the GR series. It's sharp, deadly sharp….And it's uber fast at 1.9, good for low light.

Look at this urbanscape shot for sharpness (Check out the right side):


Look at how it is sharp and defined even tough the building is so far. The lens of this camera is of the highest quality, it's the GR legacy. The focal lenght is 28mm and it's perfect for street and less limiting that you might think. The macro mode is also more than an addition, I found myself using it more than once. When shooting with a regular camera, I always forget that not every camera can do macro! It's sharp and you can get very close with the GRDs macro.

Maleable files
The Ricoh GRD can output drop dead amazing DNG files. Why don't all manufacturers adopt DNG and be done with it? Anyway,  the JPGs are very good straight out of the camera (especially if you customize to taste) and many are content to upload directly to Flickr or other sites. But my personal policy is to bunk the JPGs, and let me tell you, these RAW files can take some stretching. What can be recovered and the amount of Dynamic range is just great. Some camera files cannot handle such stretching, but the GRD can handle multiple exposure blending very well. Here's one of my best examples of this:

Snap focus
In short (See the detailed article for in depth info) snap focus allows the camera to have a preset distance to focus, like 1m, 1.5m, etc. But it also allows you to have two focusing mode at your fingertips: One full press will focus at preset distance, half press will autofocus.

The GRDs are highly customizable, both the image and the interface. I only shoot black and whites, but most BW modes on cameras are simply content to desaturate the image, the Ricoh allows for custom image settings like Contrast and Sharpness so that you can make the on-screen image close to your Vision. With the camera customization, you can change almost every single setting on the camera and save it in one of the 3 “MY” settings in the dial. You can put even more settings in storage and recall them afterwards. This is extremely useful and saves you a lot of time changing settings. You might want a BW a certain way and your color a certain way, your focus, your aspect ratio, you can customize a lot of options and recall them by turning the dial. Normally you adapt to the camera but this camera adapts to you. You can get my Ricoh GRD IV Settings here.

Trust is very important when it comes to cameras, you are relying on it to do something for you. Some cameras are awkward and are unintuitive, but the Ricoh GRD is simply trustworthy. It never failed me once. It's quiet, great and always there. That last part is important, photographs won't wait for you, you need to have a camera in your pocket always.

The Ricoh GRD IV is the camera I personally trust the most, I would have no problem only having this and nothing else without any problems. I had an M mount GXR, a 50mm, 28mm, P module, all got dethroned by the GRD. I made the mistake of selling a GRD once (GRD III, didn't realize how much I used it) but before I got the GRD IV I tried the S module and the Ricoh GX, I can tell you right now that they do not compare to the GRD, it's a camera with no alternatives.

I've only encountered a few people who didn't like the camera, but after a small cross examination, they never really took the time to develop a feel for it. Camera bonding takes time, but once you master it, it melts in your hands. Mine for some reason has a light black blob on it, and I'm still never going to sell it. In the future the grand-kids will fight over it but they ain't getting it.

If you are interested in the GRD IV, you probably are interested in street photography, because it's THE street photography camera. If so, check out my street photography course, magazine and book.

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