ricoh-gr-review

Don Springer and I are creators of Street Presets and Inspired Eye, we found it useful to describe his experiences with the Ricoh GR in a conversational way, like we do in the magazine. Further down I'll invite some other Ricoh GR owners for a discussion: Ray Sachs, Wouter Brandsma, Craig Atkinson

Don, how long have you been a Ricoh user?

Well, I guess since 1969. I was using a Leica m4 and a Nikon F when I was in Nam. The Leica was THE camera for many reasons. The Nikon F was a tank and unfortunately, it weighed like a tank. There was a shooter, camera shooter, from Australia naked Jock. He gave me the Ricoh TLS with a few lenses. It was ½ the weight of the Nikon. Great dependable camera.

Which ones of the GRD Series did you own?

I actually owned them all at one time or another. For me, Ricoh really got it together with the GRD3. That camera was and still is amazing. Then I got the GRD4 and well, words don’t exist to describe how good that camera is.

The Ricoh GR didn’t come yet, what is your frame of mind waiting for it since you have read the other stuff posted online?

I don’t put any stock in anyone’s writing about the camera. Sorry guys. I make my photos the way I want with whatever I want and the camera either works with me or it doesn’t. I know this. Ricoh is smart enough and more importantly……the are a shooter’s company.

The interface of the GRD4 and the GR is very similar. This didn’t happen by accident. You see, Ricoh know what it takes to get a camera in the hands of it’s followers and keep it there. I have nothing to fear and have only 1 concern: I am somewhat concerned that the GR could be too good.

What do you mean by “too good”?

That’s a good question. The GRD4 is 10 MP, a small sensor. Because of this, it has mojo in it. I mean that it has grit in the image that some say is like film. I don’t care about it looking like film but it’s true. That’s MOJO. The GR has an APS-C sensor and is 16 MP. That could make a very clean file and that would mean that it requires a different way of working on the back en…LR etc.

It’s a big step from a small sensor to APSC indeed. What do you think that means for Snap Focus?

Well, that will depend on the shooter. I don’t expect anyone to work like I do but….if we are at f/5.6 on the GRD4, and we use snap at 1 meter, (3.28’) we are at the Hyperfocal distance. That means we get ½ the HD to infinity in acceptable focus. That’s a little over 1 1/2’ to infinity.

If we use f/5.6 on the GR and we focus at 2.98 meters, (9.77’) we get get about 4 1/2’ to infinity. That’s a big difference but still very good on the street.

Are you going to keep your GRD IV?

Now you hit the big question. First off, the GR was given to my by a very close friend. He likes the N word camera better. It will arrive tomorrow evening. I don’t consider it mine even tho he will never ask for it back. For the GRD4, I made a promise to Wouter that if I get the GR and keep it, I’ll send his daughter my White GRD4. I love my GRD4 but a promise is a promise.

I think it’s a mistake to think of the GR as an upgrade to the GRD IV. They are like two brothers, similar, yet different. I actually suggest and foresee people having the two without any one of them overshadowing each other. We will wait for when you get the GR tomorrow and we will ask you for your very first out-of-the-box-impressions.

What’s the worse that could happen. It’s a funny thing tho’. I have been quoted as saying the GRD4 is a camera killer. I do still hold that as truth. Most GRD users will agree with this. We all have other cameras. We use them and then…the bug bites you in the butt and you pick up the GRD again. All the sudden. blood flows freely to the brain…the eyes are seeing at a level that is only very rare.

Images pop all over…..then one thinks that, well…this is ugly……I only need my GRD IV. Truth is this is the truth.

Around my house for years, ebay has had many listings because the GRD’s have killed those poor innocent cameras. In the end….. “Everything Is Illuminated”.

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(Don got his Ricoh GR) Now that the postmaster delivered the package what are your first impressions?

First off, the GR has an impeccable build quality and feel. By the way, The GR is a female. It is a camera that you can be around all day and not tire of it’s presence.

How long was the learning curve?

WAS…that’s a laugh! Is, is proper Olivier. Remember that I have used this for a day and ½ so far. I did a fair amount of work with it and more on the way in the garden this afternoon and the streets tomorrow. I did not read the manual. I never do on a new camera.
Why, glad you asked. If I can go out with a new camera and use it after a setup without reading the manual, then said camera has a high level of intuitiveness and probably will not visit eBay.
If I go out and stumble a lot with a new camera, it belongs to someone else. The commitment to a relationship with a new camera comes after some really good smiles because the camera did what it’s supposed to do without bothering me. At that point, the learning curve begins. I now will read the manual, well briskly read it and discover hidden secrets. So the learning curve is now starting and should be over in about a few years.
When I stop learning with this little lady, either her or I will be fed up with each other, it will be time for her to leave.

You now have two 28mm cameras, a small sensor and a large APS-C sensor, will you see conflict between the two? How would you know what camera to go out with?

Great question and I have the answer for you. Unlike many shooters I have a serious relationship with my cameras. I never think of them as tools. I always name my cameras and treat them as nice as I can. By the way, the GR is named Tanya after my wife. I’ve never named a camera after any of my wives but Tanya is here behind my back always….NO! I mean always…..sheeeesh…..

Oh, the 28mm question. I have the Fuji X 20 and that has a 28-112 and is an amazing camera. His name is Walker after Walker Evans.I have the GRD4 in White and that’s a 28mm until he gets bored, then I have to put the 21mm adapter on him. He likes that. His name is Andre’ after the Father of Street Andre’ Kertesz.

Someday I’ll tell you about the 7 things Andre’ Kertesz taught me. I now have Tanya, the GR also a 28mm. The Sony Nex 6 is arriving this week and the unnamed camera will have a 30mm (45 fov) but may get to the 28mm arena. So I hope you see that it’s an easy take deciding which camera to use for the shoot. No, you don’t get it.

It’s very photo scientific that’s why you don’t see it. I get ready to go out and I look at my camera family and think, Who do I feel like spending some time with today? I’ll have some photos shortly and some presets are in the works.

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Ricoh GR ISO 25600

Ricoh GR ISO 25600

The image above is the Ricoh GR at 25600 straight out of camera

Ricoh GR ISO 6400

Ricoh GR ISO 6400

Image above ISO 6400, straight out of camera

Ricoh GR ISO 6400 processed

Ricoh GR ISO 6400

Above Image is a processed image at ISO 6400. We will be back with Don in a few, now we are turning to Wouter Brandsma for his impressions. Wouter, how long have you had the Ricoh GR?

I have the GR since May 27. Two days prior to that I was told it was shipped from Paris. I could immediately use since I already had a battery charged.

You mainly shot with small sensors, Ricoh GRD III, Ricoh GX, Pentax Q, how was the jump to and APSC sensor?

The camera functions similar to my GRD3 and I have been so familiar to 28mm perspective since 1996 when I got my GR1. I have more time adjusting to different focal lengths than to the change of sensors. My main concern though was how the different output would go with my photography.

Ricoh_GR_Wouter

By different output do you mean the image quality? Do you see a difference in your work because of the larger sensor?

Yes, different output was related to the image quality. I like a certain texture in my images and was worried that it would too clean. After just a couple of days I still think it is too soon to make any conclusions. What I see is a larger dynamic range, even in the jpegs. And there is also a bit more depth feeling. Not immediately 3D, but also not the 2D look of the small sensors.

What are your impressions of the Ricoh GR so far?

Like Don already said, it is solid and reassuring. At high ISO's – 1600 and above – I do see some hot pixels and the GR exposes quite conservative. The RAW images have a nice texture and I think that even the jpegs up to ISO 1600 are very usable and printable. I find the AF fast enough for me, but I have used the snap function most of the time. With the Fn1 button I change between AF and snap focus. And I assigned the snap focus distances to the Fn2 button. I already noticed that I can use without watching and all with my right thumb.

Ricoh_GR_Wouter2

Do you enjoy or resent the fact that there is no AA filter on the sensor?

That is not something I am really thinking about. What I did see was some moiré that seems harder to cope with in RAW. Craig and I talked about that and I give my feedback to Ricoh about the moiré.

Since you are a JPG shooter, how do you find the out of camera ones?

I know the RAW images contain more details and are more mangable in post processing, but I am starting to like jpegs. ISO3200 looks like the boundary to me, beyond that there is just too much noise reduction going on. I realize I am still in the learning face of getting to know the GR. I call the camera GR or Ricoh by the way. Albeit it is THE camera, I consider it genderless. The thing is you need to take your time to learn your tool. And I need to except that there are things that will work differently than my GRD3. I am discovering now what these things are.

We are now moving to Craig Atkinson‘s impressions. Afterwards we will have them have them ask questions to each other, and some requests. Did you have any Ricoh GRD camera before? How long have you had the GR for?

I've had Ricohs since the GRD3 was released, so not that long really. I was using a load of old film cameras at the time and the GRD seemed the only camera that could match the quality of a film image, grain wise, and that could shoot as fast, with no lag. The size is important too.

Southport, Marine Drive

What are your first impressions?

Well initially I was a bit disappointed with the GR. I don't know why; I was jumping to conclusions I think. Since I sold my GRD4 for the Fuji X100s and RX100 I think I adapted myself out of the Ricoh mindset. The Fuji is bigger, slower, 35mm, great colours, possibly makes you think a bit more because you can't really work as fast with it, so naturally it slows you down; I'd got used to it. The Sony RX100 has a zoom, is tiny… I'd forgotten about the snap function, the simplicity of use and the excellent interface and ergonomics. Now, however, having shot for a week with it, daily and a lot, I'm back into it. I picked up the X100s yesterday for the first time in a week and it seemed so heavy and big!

London Underground, Northern Line, Old Street

The GR is a great camera. Actually the best camera to my mind, for what I want to do.
One thing I miss from the GRD4 is the auto distance snap function. The GR has snap but no auto snap. Now you select the distance then snap, so it adds one more step. Not a huge problem just something I miss. I guess it's due to the new camera setup.

You have the another popular camera, the Fuji X100s. Which do you prefer and why?

The X100s has gone back to the shop. I've had two now, both faulty. I believe firmware fixes the fault – jams up, but I don't want it anyway now I have the GR. I did get used to 35mm. I think it's more ‘seductive' than 28mm. Things seem more real. 28mm suits me better though I think. The size of the camera too, and ‘snap'. The X100s got too much unwanted attention. Too many comments. The GR I actually prefer the look of, and it gets no comments because it just looks like a small black camera, not a Leica.

Ricoh GR Street Photography

What's your opinion on the lack of AA filter?

I don't care. I was speaking with Wouter today. Options confuse and distract me. The settings I use are, aperture, ISO and sometimes shutter speed. I use ‘snap' a lot. That's it. AA filter or not I don't care. The fact it's gone gives sharper images, so I guess that's ok. It also allows for moiré, which I have been having some issues with. However, after another conversation with Wouter, and his great idea, stopping down to f10+ eliminates the moiré. Now that's sorted I can't really fault the camera apart from the auto distance snap. I have only had it a week though, so there's time yet!

Ricoh GR Street Photography

How do you find post processing the Ricoh GR files?

Fun. Post processing Olympus OMD files I find not much fun. Fuji are ok and RX100 are just standard. Ricoh files have a drawn quality, a film like grain. You set the parameters but something organic always happens with them which I think is great. I always find it harder if there is very strong light in the picture but that's something I need to work on. You can get a lot out of the RAW files. I tend to shoot RAW only. I should give the in camera filters a go really.

Our Final Photographer is Ray Sachs, how long have you had the GR for, Ray?

I got a loaner copy on about May 22 or 23 I think. I've been shooting with it since then. When the Nikon A was released, well before the GR was announced, I got a loaner of THAT and had been shooting with it nearly a month when the GR was announced. I had to return the Nikon but my source was kind enough to send me another copy of the Nikon when the GR came so I could sort of review them side by side. So I've been shooting with both.

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What's your overall opinion so far?

Mixed, but mostly good. If I'd never heard of the Nikon, I'd have probably bought the GR, loved it unconditionally, and said only the nicest possible things about it. I doubt I'd have tried the Nikon if the sequence had been reversed and I'd had a month with the GR before I got the Nikon, because my roots with Ricoh go back a few years with the GRD3 and the GXR-28mm module. I know the interface real well, like it mostly, and I'm very comfortable with it. But the Nikon snuck in there and its fighting for my heart now, with some strengths of its own.

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The Ricoh is a great street machine, as they all have been, and its a great B&W machine, as they all have been. The tradeoff seems to be, as the other's have alluded to, that the files are VERY clean and if you've gotta have grit, its tougher to get it organically in anything but really low light. In really low light I can shoot at 3200 and even 6400 and its got a pretty nice noise/grain pattern that I like a lot and can pass for the GRD 3 at 800 and maybe the GXR-28 at 1600. But at 1600 and below, the GR files are CLEAN. I'm OK with that – my signature isn't nearly as well defined as Don's and Wouter's and Craig's so I sort of take it as it comes, take what it gives me, hit it where they ain't, etc (sorry for the baseball reference!).

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I heard you sold all of your Fuji gear for the Ricoh GR, is that true? Why?

No, that's not really what happened. I recently acquired a Sony RX1, which is a remarkable camera in its own right. And I knew/know I'd be buying one of these two 28mm pocket rockets, which I will be soon. I did sell most of my Fuji gear – an X-Pro and the 35mm f1.4 lens and the 18mm f2.0 lens – because I didn't see when I'd be using it with those lenses when I'd have the RX1 and the 28mm camera available. AND to help pay for these cameras, but the primary expense was the RX1, not the Ricoh or Nikon! I still have the Fuji 14mm lens, but it doesn't work well with the Fuji OVF, so there was no point in holding on to the X-Pro for that. So I'm either going to sell that too or pick up a used XE1 (with just an EVF) to shoot with that and maybe the planned 10-24 when it comes along…

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Any issues with the Ricoh GR?

The only thing I've had SOME issues with is the metering in really challenging light, and the colors that result from that under-exposure. In bright daylight, I'm fine and the colors are great. In really low light, I'm fine and the colors are fine. But I did some shooting on an early morning sunrise walk about a week ago and shot almost identical shots back to back with the Ricoh and Nikon and the Nikon results were much better to my eyes. The more I looked into it (with the help of a number of folks on Serious Compacts and DPR – (where I was also nearly drawn and quartered – such a funny place!), the more I'm convinced it was more of a metering issue than a color issue.

The colors are a bit different than the Nikon and I qualitatively preferred the Nikon's slightly, but the Ricoh was mostly underexposing by quite a bit (with a few odd occurrences of over-exposure that I haven't figured out at all yet). I think from talking to Don and seeing Wouter's blog, it may be that the Ricoh has a tendency to blow highlights and perhaps the metering is calibrated to underexpose to avoid that??? I was also using matrix metering rather than center weighted, so that might have been part of the problem, but in that particular situation, I don't think it would have mattered. I suspect that after getting better acquainted with the metering, I'd be fine with using the camera in any lighting situation. Probably just growing pains…

Don has also alluded to some issues with the Adobe color profile for the camera. Adobe DOES have a beta version of the color profile available with ACR beta release 8.1. For those using Photoshop or Photoshop and Lightroom together, installing that beta update will get you the right “Adobe Standard” profile working in both applications. BUT, if you just have Lightroom without PS, ACR won't install and if you find the color profile file and put it where you'd THINK it should go, the program won't find it and you'd still be using the “embedded” DNG profile, which really messes up the reds and yellows and purples.

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It IS possible to install it such that Lightroom will find it and use it, but it requires finding the file deep in the bowels of the failed ACR installation (it will still send you all of the data you need), “un-hiding” some folders on your Mac or PC, and copying the file to the right place, which is a very very long way from the obvious place. Once you install that and can use the “Adobe Standard” profile, that problem is cleared up completely. This is not a problem with the camera at all – its just a matter of Adobe releasing the final version of that color profile and making it available to Lightroom users in addition to Photoshop users. For now, Lightroom-only users have to be willing to do a bit of surgery to make it work with the right color profile.

The only other issue I've had isn't an issue at all. Its just that I've got the Nikon to try out too and, as much as I like the Ricoh in many ways, I actually prefer the Nikon in some ways and its making for a bit of an internal debate. But that's my problem. For someone who's an established Ricoh user and is inclined toward the GR, just buy it and enjoy it – don't torture yourself like I have been!

Now we are letting the photographers interact with each other about the Ricoh GR

Streetshooter (Don):

First off…I am doing raw only and still get a B&W screen. Great.
I notice that the files are super clean and there's an over exposure in many bright scenes.

Wouter:

Yeah, metering carefully really makes sense. My immediate adjustment when I got to preset my camera to -0.3 EV. Something I always needed to do with my compact cameras. After a couple of days I stopped underexposing since I noticed the metering felt very conservative. I haven't used it in harsh light though (spring feels like autumn here).

Regarding the super clean files it is one of the reason why I starting to like the GR jpegs. With a notch of added sharpness in post I see the texture comes alive. And one other nice thing is that I can almost always keep it comfortably at ISO 400 knowing that when the light becomes too bright with the preset aperture, the ND filter will be automatically started. Or at least that is how I've set up my GR.

Craig:

Don – RAW only with a BW screen, I totally forgot about that. This is a good example of Ricoh listening to people. To be able to ‘preview' while shooting RAW is good I think, although sometimes it acts like a ‘this is what you could have had if you shot JPEG'!

I think under 1600 the files are pretty clean. Not Fuji clean, but much cleaner than the GRD. However, it doesn't take much to get the grain back. I've not noticed too much over exposure. I have ND set to auto. I have never used ND before on any camera, because it's always been a menu dive to turn it on / off. Seems to work well though, and in post you can do pretty much anything with it anyway.

My method of shooting isn't ‘pure'. I think if you press the button, regardless of any setting, you'll get something to work with. There are times you really want the shot and compose and set the camera up etc. There are times you hit the button and run, and usually for me, those are the best times. It's good for me to set parameters to work within, but whatever happens within is anyones guess!

I'm always scared of getting dust in the Ricoh lenses – no room for a filter. There seem to be a lot more moving parts in the GR lens.

Streetshooter:

Wouter, what are you processing your files in. It seems that the new profile for the GR has not been released yet. Anything will read a DNG and that's why I'm having issues. I talked with Ray Sachs again this evening for 3 hours and he advised me that the profiles are wrong.
I have also done some conversions in PS CS5 and then into SEP2. I used my GRD profiles and they worked fine for B&W…..
I am using RAW so the dynamic range stuff doesn't matter. I am at -1/3 EV because I have summer light. More later after I sneak away from da wifey…..

Wouter:

I can certainly relate to the fear of dust in the lens, Craig. My GX100 was quite notorious and it happened three times in less than a year. It even happened to my GRD3. With the GR it is not the lens I am too worried about, but that flimsy door….

Ricoh GR Street Photography

Next I want to dive some what deeper in the effect bracketing option. I also liked such a similar feature on the Pentax Q where the camera saved both a processed jpeg and the default jpeg.

I had a change to try the effect bracketing which basically means that it processes the RAW image three times in-camera. It saves a default jpeg, and effect processed versions. The strange though is that for every processed version the camera makes a copy of the RAW image. That sure is one very rapid method to fill up your SD card.

Ricoh GR Street Photography

I know you guys prefer to shoot RAW, while I kept using jpegs. Last year at Photokina Pentax made two very large prints of my images. Those were at least 1.5 meters wide and people were astounded that those were in-camera jpegs that I post processed. Now, it sounds stupid. Here in the Netherlands we have a whole lot of stone bricked houses and the image processor seems to have a hard time coping with the moiré. There is even less detail visible than in a Jan Vermeer painting. I decided to start using RAW only with the GR.

Ricoh GR Street Photography

I notice that I am still the slave of the camera. The camera works nimble, just like my GRD3. That is all familiar and I don't think nor worry about that. I realize though that I am still working hard to get a feeling for the output.

Streetshooter:

Today was a breakthru day. I just went to center city Philly and walked and made photos. Luckily I had a wide variety of conditions and light. If you go to my blog and Flickr site, you'll get an idea of what we went thru. Tanya loves harsh backlighting. I asked her to watch for flare but she just clicked away and let me just see. She handled everything I put her thru.

I used that TVa thing and -1/3 EV. Tanya chose ISO and never missed a beat. The meter is very accurate finding its balance very natural.
I read Craig's response about dynamic range in auto and I did that also. I'm not sure that applied to raw files.

The raw files in LR are boring and flat. After speaking, the analog voice thing, with Ray Sachs yesterday, I found out that the cameras profile is not in LR yet.

I'm making presets and so far, they and the GR are excellent.

Wouter:

Always exciting times when you notice that breakthrough. Last evening I went to the nearby country side. Probably my favorite location to photograph and most certainly very different from most of the work you see taken with the Ricoh GR. Sure the camera is good for street photography, especially B&W street photography, but it can do so much more. Last evening´s work was all in color and I had a blast.

Ricoh_GR_Wouter4

Ricoh_GR_Wouter3

Streetshooter:

What I notice is that the images have a very nice tonal range, good contrast and very clean. My issue is that I've no success yet in getting GRIT that I can live with. There no doubt will be 2 versions of any presets anyone makes. A raw and a jpeg.
Has anyone gotten close to the hidden grit? I could live with the clean look but I'm in the middle of a retrospective and don't want to alter the course of fluidity to the prints. Today I'm in the garden again as I await the arrival of Roger's Nex 6. Here's a few from the streets I took:

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Olivier's note: Check out the smooth gradation from the sun! And there's detail in the shadows! Impressive!


Wouter:

With my color photographs I find the Lightroom grain good enough, but with my B&W photographs I actually prefer Alien Skin Exposure (currently version 4) since I can adjust the amount of grain in the shadows, the mid tones and the highlights. It is something I really miss in Lightroom and Silver Efex Pro. I haven't found the hidden grit though. And why do you want to have a Nex 6 when you have such a fine camera already in your hand?

Streetshooter:

Wouter, the GR is a fine camera and I'll no doubt keep it.

The Nex 6 images are very organic. I don't like using that term but here's a brief analogy.
The GR makes a great digital representation of what I want on my screen.
The GRD4, Nex and a few others make what I want to see on the screen.

It's not a representation, it's it!

Wouter:

I understand you. For me, I just know for me that all the choices are just counterproductive. I want limited choices and just love to use one camera.

I get it Wouter.
If I walk with my wife, she paces with me cause I'm slower.
If I walk with my 19 yo Grandson…. It's a brisk walk.
If I walk with my Grandaughter, it's magical and speed is of no concern.
If I walk with a few vets in wheelchairs… It's an easy pace with conversations.
If I walk with my camera, any camera I end up keeping….
It's the best walk.
It's all good to walk and I show no favoritism but by myself is what I strive for.
It's the same with cameras… They all make photos it's just how the two of you talk and walk together.

Me, I like friends and the choices a few cameras offers me. They all make photos but the conversation is interesting and different with each.

Wouter:

I switch the conversation to the MY settings. Are you guys using these and if so how have you set it up?

My main setup is RAW only in 3:2. I prefer spot AF and have the press snap on. I have set the default snap focus distance to 2 meters. The Fn1 button is assigned to switch rapidly between AF and snap, while U use the Fn2 button to change the snap focus distance. I like the Multi-P auto white balance and I use that as default. I briefly tried the TAv mode, but I decided to stick to Av so I keep grip on the ISO. The aperture is for me standard on f/4.5 which I change with the front lever.
ISO is set to 400 and I set the ISO control with the adjustment lever on. A notch to left or right with the adjustment lever is just enough to change the ISO. I really like that feature. Although I use RAW only now you can still set the image effect which is a cool feature. So the only differences between the MY1 and MY2 setting is the effect. MY1 is color and MY2 is B&W. I even gave both registred settings a name (unlike my camera). Of course ‘Color' and ‘Black & White'.

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