Ricoh GR: A Pocket Journal (by Chris Leskovsek)

 

The Ricoh GR is slowly and surely gaining photographer's hearts all over the world. Here we have Chris Leskovsek, a Chilean photographer sharing his impressions of the GR and great work done with it.

[This is a reader submitted article, the opinions contained therein might not reflect Inspired Eye's views]

 

I come from a film shooting background, and it wasn't till 2 years ago, while searching for a compact camera to dump my DSLR when I heard about the Ricoh GRD camera line for the first time. When shooting film, the Olympus Trip35, Lomo LCA, Contax T2 and Olympus XA, were my favorite cameras. But back then there was no digital equivalent (I mean, it didn't exist in terms of image quality, as I felt the sensors were too small for my needs).

 

 

After I started searching more info about the Ricoh GRD series on the web, I found there was only little info about it but I managed to find one on a local store in New Zealand to go try it. Funny thing was,  the salesman tried to pull me out of it; saying that Ricoh didn't give any support to its cameras, and that there would be no further development of this series, but to me sounded more like blah, blah, blah in my head while I was handling the Ricoh GRDIII.

 

 

I didn't buy it, because it had a too small sensor for what I wanted. But there was something that made me keep the GRD on the top of my head ever since. Then I heard about Micro Four Thirds. Fast forward a bit, I've been happily shooting Olympus micro four thirds cameras for some years, but always hoping for a really compact camera that would be pocketable (to fit in my jeans), yet with a big sensor. Basically, hoping for someone to come up with a digital version of any of my favorite film compact cameras (in terms of size, and image quality).

I tried everything from the Pen minis to the Fuji x100, x100s, and everything in between, but I just kept coming back to my OMD as the best combination of reliability, stunning IQ, and compact size. Then, Ricoh announced the Ricoh GR with an APSC sensor. It kept the physical compact size of it's previous digital and film versions and also had a fast 28mm prime lens. So it ticked all the boxes and just went for it… Let me say, that I don't believe that there is such a thing as a ‘perfect camera’, but honestly, for me, this has been the closest thing to ‘perfection’ I have found in a compact camera.

 

 

But like every camera on the planet, it has its shortcomings, but still when compared to it's pros, the cons are almost non existent. Its so small, I can carry it every single day with me, no matter where I go or what do, the GR is right there with me, and this has changed the way I shoot and see. I'm currently using two bodies with two primes almost exclusively, a 28mm (Ricoh GR) and an 50mm (Pen EP5 with either the Panasonic 25mm or the Voigtlander 25mm).

When I'm not doing photography I work as an Art Director and Graphic Designer, and the GR is to me like a pen and a notebook… my photo journal. And I love that. One of the things I simply love about this camera, is that there are no bells or whistles, this is a photographic tool for the ‘purist’, straight to the point, no gimmicks. The handling of the camera is one of the best I've tried. It just fits into your hand like a glove and operation is simple.

 

 

There is one big menu divided in 3 sections: camera options, shooting options and playback options. Period. Simple. It is so simple and humble in it's operation, that even the branding on the camera is subtle, with no big badges or shiny logos. The body is Magnesium, no plastic anywhere on the camera, but the buttons and grip are made of rubber. Nothing is, looks or feels cheap on this camera. At this point you are thinking I might be overselling the GR, and you might wonder: does this camera do anything wrong?…well yeah, like every other camera in the planet.

There’s been reports of some users getting dust in their sensors, which means that this camera is obviously not sealed well. As a matter of fact, my first GR came with dust in the sensor, perhaps from the factory? Also there were some firmware glitches, but most have been fixed (as of October, 2013 with Ricoh giving a big firmware update…kudos!). Also being stuck at 28mm (might be a ‘problem’ for some) means you need to ‘learn’ how to make it work in your workflow and how to ‘see’ differently.

 

 

With a 28mm lens you need to get closer if you like that approach, I personally don't mind. I think it just fits my shooting style, therefore I haven't seen much changes in how I approach my subjects on the streets, or while traveling. I'm also a 50mm shooter, and generally when I'm on the streets, I have my 50mm camera in my shoulder while the 28mm Ricoh in my pocket and that combo, fills most of my needs. Also I love being limited to two primes, as it makes me think how to shoot differently and actually ‘work the scene’ a lot better.

I strongly recommend to try to shoot with only one or two focal lenses almost exclusively for a long period. It will help you a lot! I should also point, that I’m a RAW shooter, and don’t even bother with JPEGS, so both of my cameras, are set to RAW all the time. The image quality I'm getting from this little camera, is certainly one of the best out there, files are amazingly clean, and super malleable in post production to any further tweak you might want do to them.

 

 

But I gotta say, I’m really enjoying the ‘wifi’ capabilities of this cameras to share on instagram without a computer in the process, specially when I'm travelling. Wait, did I just said wifi? in a Ricoh GR review? Well, yes, when I got my GR and went on reading the instruction manual (as I always do with all my cameras) Ricoh, recommended Eye Fi Xpro cards to go with the GR in order to get wifi in camera. And so I went ahead and bought the wifi card.

My experience at first was to say at least, frustrating. This combination did not work. I got in touch with the people of Eye Fi to go through this, up to the point they offered me, to send a new card, plus asked if my case could be used for further improvement and development of the card (great customer service by the way). I agreed. and a couple a weeks after, i got my new card, and Eye Fi released a new update (which means I was not the only one having problems) and now the combination works like a charm and its the only memory card i use in my GR.

 

This camera is certainly known as a black and white tool, and it certainly is, the black and white this camera gives, are something of its own, and ones that I'm loving everyday. But, its color files are simply stunning to me. While also shooting Olympus, which is known for its colors, the GR has a different output. Im not sure i can say I prefer one or the other, but the GR’s color files are what some would say ‘cinematic’ which some love and some don't.

 

 

I personally like them a lot. Specially when shooting landscapes. AF speed is great, it is as good as my Pen EP5 with the Panasonic 25 in good light, but it certainly decreases when light fades, to a point that the AF speed ends up being simply non functional in low light. BUT, dont let this put you down, as this camera has something no other digital compact camera has (which is i think its core function). The Snap Focus (or Zone focus) mode, which basically is; hyperfocal shooting.

 

 

I believe this is the main secret and option when street shooting with it. So every time im in low light i just use this Snap focus option and theres no other quick way to focus in low light in any other camera on the market. Unless of course you are manually focusing with real manual focus lenses, like Leicas, and old lenses that would also cost not just 2x more, but probably 3 or 4 times more. In conclusion, this is a camera that came as a surprise to me, and one that I’m loving every bit of it. This is a camera that just ‘clicked’ to me, and has pushed me on to shoot and ‘see’ differently. Like i said before, this camera is my own visual journal, and i love that. Is completely unobtrusive, absolutely silent, quick and sharp. what else could you ask for.

 

 

Yes, it does not have a viewfinder, but because is a wide angle camera, I see myself crouching or stepping up and trying different angles a lot, were a viewfinder is not needed anyway. Plus the LCD is simply beautiful. This was made with a photographer in mind, there’s no gimmicky filters, beeps, sounds, touch screens, tilt this or that, nor video. Is a simple photo camera, like in the old days. You know, the ones that take only pictures, but amazing quality ones!.

 

With almost no comparison on the market. I would personally love to see Ricoh going forward with this series of cameras, and perhaps come up with something in the 40/50mm range to use side by side with the GR, would be amazing. I really like the ‘straight forward’ approach Ricoh has on the GR series and one that many manufacturers should take serious notes. But in a world of ‘bigger is better’, ‘best bang for buck’, and ‘do it all’ devices, its hard to find excellent simple tools, such as this one. Probably, my current favorite digital camera.

 

 

One thing I noticed too, is that this camera is so highly customizable and so sturdy that it looks like it was not made with ‘obsolescence’ in mind, meaning that this camera will still be an amazing camera 3 years from now and why not, it could probably last a lifetime. That is something no other manufacturer would even think in this day and age, were new cameras are announced almost monthly (creating more and more rubbish).

And this goes not only for the outside and built quality of the camera, but for the inside as well. Instead of going with its own proprietary RAW file extension like almost every other camera manufacturer, Ricoh decided to go with the Adobe standard DNG, which means, you won't need any special updates, programs, or proprietary converters to work on your files. why can't all camera manufacturers do something like this?

 

Thank you Chris for these nice impressions on the Ricoh GR and more importantly these very nice images. Please look forward to an interview with Chris in an upcoming issue of Inspired Eye Magazine.

– Have a GR? Why not grab the free mini companion ebook?
– Want one? Get it now on Amazon

 

About the author

[userpro template=card user=chrisl]

 

 

 

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28 thoughts on “Ricoh GR: A Pocket Journal (by Chris Leskovsek)”

  1. Thanks Chris (and Olivier) for sharing your impressions of the Ricoh GR. After getting tired of lugging around a Canon 7D with big glass, I’m now in the process of evaluating the Ricoh GR as well as the Fuji X100s and some others (both of which I’ve rented and liked). Glad to hear confirmation that it’s a great camera for many photography styles.

    Cheers,
    Adam

  2. Great article and images! I’ve just received a review unit of this camera and am loving it so far and will likely buy one. It is so comfortable to use and hold, and so discreet. I’m loving it for street photography with the snap focus feature and with manual focus and the hyper focal guides. With the new firmware, you can even shoot it 35 and 50 cropped views and still have plenty of resolution. I rented the tiny optical view finder as well, and LOVE shooting with it. It saves battery, and I like shooting with a viewfinder. I echo your sentiment about wanting a tiny Ricoh in other focal lengths. The much maligned Sigma DPM Foveon line would be the perfect range: a 28 (GR) a 50 and a 75 or 85, all moderately fast, fixed, leaf shutter lenses.

  3. Hi Chris great photos. I agree with Douglas, Ricoh would do well to come up with a sister 50mm equivalent to the GR, as 28mm simply is too wide in some circumstances. I love that focal, but when I decided to jump into the pool I ended up with the Fuji X100S, —one— because I simply can’t give up on the OVF (which in this case doubles up as a pretty good EVF which I’m learning to love, especially as I set it to BW…), but —two— also because with its 35mm equivalent focal it is a perfect ‘do it all’ when I travel with that camera only. Still, it’s a bit bulky, won’t surely fit my jeans and therefore is not often enough with me! So, again, come on Ricoh get your engineers out of the closet aapnd work on that 50mm version. I have two front pockets, in my jeans!

  4. Bernd Hartenberger

    My Ricoh GR became a central part of my everyday live. I always have it with me. The most I like is the TAv-mode which allows you to set the time AND the aperture and the camera choose the right ISO. Just perfect in combination with the three available MY-modes. Great camera!

  5. As for your decision Adam, it just depends on wether you like 28mm or the 35mm FOV. I can do 28 as i use a 50mm as a second body when out on the streets and that combo works like a charm. Also, dont forget that the GR has a 35mm crop that ends up roughly as a 11.2 megapixels which is roughly the same as the classic X100 !

  6. I know what you mean about the OVF/EVF in the X100s, but have you tried the optical VF for the GR is also really good. I personally tried both of the X100, and i prefered the files of the original X100 to the Xtrans sensor. But i completely agree with you, and hopefully Ricoh will give us a fast 50mm compact!

  7. Hey Oliver: are you still a GR fan? Heard you guys talking Sony on the podcast and sounded like you moved over. If so, curious as to why you left the GR. I do still want a tiny interchangeable lens camera. Am eager to try the new Panasonic GM1, although ergonomics don’t seem quite right.

    1. If it makes sense, the GR is too good. It just doesn’t play nice with other cameras. If Don or I started to use the GR we would not use anything else for months 🙂

      The new panasonic is nice, if you don’t like it maybe the Pentax Q? But it’s a much smaller sensor tough 😉

      1. Thanks for the quick reply! Yes, I do love the Pentax Q7! And as tiny as it is, it really handles nicely and ergonomics are quite good thanks to the rubberized grip. I used it for what is probably my very first attempt at street photography, and doing so, fell madly in love with street shooting. I was reviewing the camera for a website and liked it so much that I did a quick video too: http://youtu.be/M_DC-NmfFTA

        The end has a Slideshow of my first NYC street shots. I have a lot to learn. But that passion led me to your podcast, eBooks and site. And now the GR. I even got a copy of Barthes’ book after your podcast!Been hitting the Strand bookstore regularly in search of inspiration from Gilden, Meyerowitz, Moriyama and of course, HCB. I’m a very hungry noob!

        Keep those podcasts coming! Love what you’re doing! Really inspiring work on the site too!

        1. That’s a very nice video, very professional. Very impressive for a first try at street! There’s some nice images there too.
          Thanks for the compliments! You already have some nice books 😉

    1. Hi Chris: Thanks very much for the kind words, AWESOME article, and pointer to Gianni Berengo Gardin. He was not yet on my radar, but very much IS now, thanks to you! Wonderful photos! Best, D

  8. Thanks Chris. The challenge for me is that I’m a wildlife photographer so I’m usually behind 200-400mm glass. The whole idea of favoring 28, 35, or 50mm is completely foreign to me. I want a camera that’s small and light enough that I’ll actually carry it with me when I’m out hiking (landscapes, flowers, waterfalls, etc.) as well as wondering around town (street, architecture, etc.).

    I liked the pocketability of the GR and didn’t have too much issue with FOV ( I do worry about getting dust on the sensor though). Loved feeling like I was “making” a photograph with the X100s. And of course the detail of the photos taken with the Sigma DP2M I rented was amazing. Didn’t like the Nikon A at all. Oh, for an unlimited budget…

  9. Ive seen your work and you have some amazing images!. I love hiking and i personally love wildlife photography and i understand that you might live behind telephotos on a daily basis. Im not sure, but have you considered micro four thirds cameras for your telephoto and hiking purposes? I swapped my FF gear 1.5 years ago after i jumped on a OMD plus lenses. size and weight was heavily decreased and image quality still up there in the big leagues. Perhaps you are aware of that system?.

    I sometimes think of the GR as my camera phone but one that is just so good that i can get any-size prints if i need to. About the dust, you can use a stick on UV filter as i did and dont worry about the dust anymore.
    I have never used a DP camera though ive read and seen some files but their mediocre reviews have put me away from them, plus were i live, no one carries one to try it out first 🙁

    1. Hi Chris,
      I am thinking of purchasing a Ricoh GR but want to be sure I am addressing the dust issue.
      Can you please tell me what you used for your “stick on UV filter”? ” “About the dust, you can use a stick on UV filter as i did and dont worry about the dust anymore.”
      I have not idea where to find one and can’t seem to spot anything on Amazon, etc.
      Thanks,
      Robert

      1. Hum normally the dust goes between the lens extensions. I’ll ask him to reply to you. If you ever get any, the trick is to use a (clean) vacuum tube and stick the lens in it while gently tapping the camera….

  10. Thanks for the kind words, Chris. I’m glad to hear you have had a good experience after swapping from FF to the OMD. I’ve read a lot of positive reviews about the OMD and the new EM1. Given it’s dust-proof, shock-proof, freeze-proof, and can take a serious splash, it has a lot of appeal as an outdoors person. When the EM1 is available for rent I might take it for a spin. The one turnoff for me is the thought of buying all new glass, though I guess I could focus more on the wide angle to normal range glass and leave the 7D for long range work. What glass do you (and others feel free to chime in) like for the OMD?

  11. Yes Adam, ive personally tested and shot under the rain with the OMD and weather-sealed lenses from Panasonic. no problem. I live in NZ were dust, rain and humidity is everyday stuff and I can happily say that my m43 gear is been definitely up to the task. Obviously the wide range of glass selection is probably the main strength of the system, the primes are its best. But panasonic (and just recently olympus) have some nice ‘pro’ zoom lens in the 24/70mm category and only panasonic in the 70/200mm both f2.8 and weathersealed. Also Panasonic has a 200-600 f4-5,6 telephoto which i personally own and use and its brilliant and not bigger than a large can of beer!. you should probably try it out! and slip that GR in your front pockets!

  12. The Olympus rep was recently at my local photography store so I got a chance to handle the new EM1. Build quality seemed top notch, but the ergonomics just didn’t work for me. I don’t have huge hands, but it felt too small and uncomfortable to grip.

    I ended up picking up a Sigma DP2 Merrill off of the Fred Miranda forum for a great price, so I thought I’d start there. Haven’t had a chance to use it much, but the resolution is amazing. I don’t mind the quirkiness as I have the Canon 7D for other work. Still wouldn’t mind a small, dim-light camera like the GR or X100S. The wife would kill me if I bought another so I’ll have to wait a while :o)

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