I’ve been shooting the older Ricohs for years, so here’s my Ricoh GRD III review with image samples and long term perspective.
- Ricoh GR Digital III Introduction
- Ricoh GRD III review
- A quick note about names
- Differences vs the GRD IV
- Made for street photography
- The small sensor look
- Fast & wide lens
- Sample Images
- Black and whites vs color
- Stunning RAW files
- Great even at ISO1600
- It’s a joke for everything else
- Accessories and other functions
- Is the Ricoh GRD III worth it still?
- Where to get one?
Ricoh GR Digital III Introduction
|Reasons to buy||Cons|
|+ Made for street photography|
+ Great ergonomics
+ f1.9 lens
+ Better snap focus
|– Not the fastest AF|
Fun fact before going into the Ricoh GRD III review proper. This camera is the reason why this street photography magazine exists. True story. I hung out in the (now dead) Ricoh forums and it’s there that I met my friend Don, kicked it off and launched the magazine together.
Anyway, let’s get into…
Ricoh GRD III review
I’ve had the Ricoh GRD III for a year or so, loved it, shot with it and then promptly sold it. No because there was anything wrong with it (quite the opposite actually) but because I had Camera Gear Aquisition Syndrome.
And then when I sat down and realised how much I used it and also how many winning shots I had, I had to get it back. By that time the newer Ricoh GRD IV came along so I got that instead.
For all intents and purposes these cameras are so similar they are interchangeable in my mind.
A quick note about names
So before heading further into the Ricoh GRD III review, let’s get something straight. This camera is the Ricoh GRD III, also known as the GRD 3 and the GR Digital III.
This is NOT the Ricoh GR III. Ricoh GRD III ≠ Ricoh GR III.
Even thought the GR III IS a digital camera, it is a much later successor to the GRD III . Make sure you know what you are buying! GRD is small sensor GR is large APSC sensor. Cool beans? Let’s move on.
Differences vs the GRD IV
If you are looking between the Ricoh GRD III vs the Ricoh GRD IV, the differences are there but you won’t be missing much. This struck me when I got the even older Ricoh GRD II, the gap between the II and the III are that wide, not so much the III and IV.
So weather you get the III or the IV will depend on availability. The big main differences are that on the GRD IV you have sensor shift stabilization, twice the amount of ISO and an increased LCD resolution.
Both camera are virtually indistinguishable from another with the only difference being the little window on the top left of the lens that looks like a robot’s eye on the IV, and that is there to help autofocus. So the IV is faster at AF. There’s also one more snap focus distance in the IV.
Like I said, these make the Ricoh GRD IV a better camera, but these are pretty much the same. It is almost like Apple iPhones, there’s the mainline ones that are real upgrades and then there’s the “s” ones that are little refreshes. Onwards our Ricoh GRD III review:
Made for street photography
In case you didn’t know, the Ricoh GR family is aimed at street photographers and for street photography it is nothing short than perfect. There’s first of all the grit. This camera is not for those who like their images clean (although that is possible) but for those who like their gritty black and whites.
Tell you what, I’ve tried for about a decade to replicate that grit on other cameras but everything came out too clean. If you ask me it is probably because of the small CCD sensor. Most newer cameras have CMOS sensors and the look simply isn’t the same. In most situations, both sensor technologies are the same, but under the right conditions, there’s something about the CCDs that you just can’t put your finger on but it’s there.
But besides this the reason why the GRD III is so great for street photography is the snap focus feature, we will get into this a bit later in this review. This really is the best feature a street photographer could ever want.
The small sensor look
Next up our Ricoh GRD III review is the image quality. While everyone wants large sensor cameras, the strength of the Ricoh GRD III comes from it’s small sensor. Yes it cannot Bokeh and all that because it’s small but the opposite is true: Because of the small sensor it has a lot of depth of field.
How much is in focus for any given aperture is a function of (amongst other factors) sensor size. So there will be more in focus at f2.8 on this camera vs an APSC sensor camera. That is why this camera is pretty much unbeatable in the streets.
Wide open apertures give you a lot in focus so you can shoot faster, something that is important in street photography. But like I said above what this gives you, especially if you shoot black and white is GRIT.
If you are reading this Ricoh GRD III review for THE biggest reason to buy it this is it. The contrasty black and whites that this camera shoots make it worth it alone.
Fast & wide lens
This camera is equipped with a 28mm lens, the focal length of choice for reportage / street photography, and it’s quite fast at f1.9 too. This is great because the GRD III can only go up to ISO 1600 so the speed really helps when you need to shoot in low light. I used to shoot the Ricoh GXR with the f2.8 and often I would have to shoot with the GRD instead.
All of the images in this Ricoh GRD III review have been shot with that camera. Here’s a few more image samples for the road:
Black and whites vs color
Next up in our Ricoh GRD III review is color VS BW. If you like gritty black and whites, this camera is amazing, and the higher the ISO the better the rendering if you ask me. If you shoot color, it is a bit more complicated. What’s great about it is that it gives you non straight colors. One of the biggest issues with digital photography is how “bland” and “straight” colors are. The GRD III shoots really excellent colors that are slightly reminiscent of film, provided that you keep at your base ISOs.
If you go up in the ISOs the color files look pretty much outdated and early digital camera-like if you see what I mean.
Stunning RAW files
The RAw files coming from the Ricoh GRD III are some of the best from 1/1.7″ sensor I’ve seen. Often I’ve blown my exposure out of necessity, only to find quite a bit being recoverable in post processing.
These RAW files can take quite a beating if you ask me so if you like to cook up your images, this camera handles very well.
Great even at ISO1600
Let’s move on our Ricoh GRD III review with a note about low light performance. This being a small sensor, I really like the look at ISO1600. If you look at the same ISO on the Ricoh GRD II, it’s a grainy mess, on this camera however the grain is not that much out of control, look for yourself with this out of camera JPG:
ISO1600 is garbage in color, but once you process the images in BW there’s a nice flair to them. Here’s the image fully processed:
It’s a joke for everything else
Think everything is great so far in this Ricoh GRD III review? Here’s the negatives. A little while ago I pulled up my old family videos to watch. I opened one up and I wondered what kind of phone I recorded this ugly video with… only to find out that it was shot with the GRD III. This can record videos at a whopping 640 x 480 pixels, making it a joke of a video camera.
If you are looking for an automatic riffle, you’ll be disappointed too. It takes a fat second or two to fully shoot (assuming RAW) so it takes patience to learn how to use it. It forces you to think and wait before pressing the shutter release because you won’t be able to shoot for a second or two.
This camera is made for 2 specific uses: Street photography and reportage photography, with a bias torwards black and white. If that is what you are looking for this camera with its small sensor is unbeatable even to this DAY (ditto the IV, I consider them the same family).
For anything else like video, other genres of photography, well it’s a joke: No zoom, it’s not fast, etc.
Accessories and other functions
If you want an even wider focal length, there is an adapter that you can get. It needs the extention tube and you simply screw the conversion lens on, and you have a 21mm lens.
I’ve had this and since it destroyed the pocketable factor, I left it alone. No EVFs are avaible, only optical viewfinders.
Besides reportage and street, the Ricoh GRD III is excellent at one more thing that is often forgotten: Macro. It can shoot as close as 1cm in front of then lens in macro mode and is one of the best compact cameras you can get that shoots that close.
The hallmark of Ricoh cameras is the ergonomics. The GRD line has some of the best ergonomics you will find on a compact camera, period. The grip is nothing short of perfect, and the camera feels so good in your hands that you can twist and turn it to get any wort of odd angles.
There’s also a dial on the front and a jog in the back allowing you to change your settings on the fly. This is crucial for street photography as the light can change drastically, with the GRD III, changes are a twist of the dial away.
The Snap focus feature
If you’ve read trough this Ricoh GRD III review and still wonder why you should get it…this is it. This is a feature that no other cameras have: Snap focus. Basically this mode focuses your camera at a preset distance. So instead of putting it in manual focus and then finding the right distance like 1m, this does this on an instant.
But things really get revolutionary with full press snap, this is a mode that if you turn on gives you two focus modes at your fingertips. Half press your shutter release button and you can focus like normal. Full press and your camera shortcuts to your preset distance.
This is the single, best feature ever for street photographers, that is why most use Ricohs, only they have this.
Is the Ricoh GRD III worth it still?
The GRD III was released in 2009, so it’s a dinosaur in terms of digital cameras, is it still worth it? If you are a street photographer who likes BW gritty images the answer is heck yeah.
Even the newer GRs can’t match that grit because of the large sensor. I’ve been stuck with the older GRD line for about a decade specially for this reason. For anyone else the newer GR line might be more appropriate.
Where to get one?
If you want one, click here to launch price checker. You will not want to delay however as these cameras are hitting cult status and the more time passes the less of them there are to go around. So if you want one, the price you get it at will be the best price as these are sought after and get rarer and rarer.
I hope you enjoyed my long term Ricoh GRD III review. If you are into street photography, the Ricoh GRD III is one o the best cameras you can get (besides the sequel). You will always have a little machine that makes killer black and whites with great controls and legendary handling. It gives a unique look that is hard to replicated even to this day because of the older small CCD sensor. Get yours here.