One of the best features of the Ricoh cameras if the snap focus feature. If you are wondering what it is and how to use it, you are in the right place. Here’s the definitive tutorial to this revolutionary mode.
Hi, my name is Olivier and I’ve been shooting Ricohs for about a decade and one reason why I cannot move away from them is primarily because of the snap focus feature! So before going into how to use it, let’s first figure out…
What is snap focus?
Snap Focus is a feature in the Ricoh GR line of cameras that pre-focuses your camera at a certain distance. So for example, if I set my camera to Snap focus 1m, instead of autofocusing it will focus at the distance of 1m instead.
Isn’t that like manual focusing? yes and no. If you take any other camera, in order to do what snap focus does, you would need to put your camera in manual, twist the lens and put it at 1m and make sure you stay there. Most cameras unless they have a large lens do not have distance markers, so the only way you would know if you were focused at 1m is to eyeball it or use a distance measuring app.
Snap focus shortcuts all of that and you have a camera that focuses at a certain distance. The GRD line has snap focus but the first two forced 2.5m snap focus while you could select your distance when it came to the subsequent cameras.
Why would you want that?
If you think this mode is overrated, hold on, we are about to get to the best part. But now I think I should explain WHY you would want to use a mode like this. Well the GR line is geared torwards street photographers and since everything happens really fast in the streets, the fastest focus is no focus.
Lots of street photographers lock in their focus and simply make sure that their subject is inside their “force field” and then shoot. This is useful because often if you have like 5 people coming down towards you, the AF doesn’t know what you want it to focus on and will lock on the closest subject.
So with snap focus all you need to pay attention to is having your subject at about half of the distance that you set (like 0.5 meters if you set it at 1m) and then shoot.
This is where there’s a difference between the GRD line and the GR line. The GRD line is a bunch of small sensor cameras while the GR line is large sensor. The smaller the sensor the more you have in focus for any given aperture.
So focusing at 1m on a GRD and GR at f2.8, the GRD will have more in focus then the GR because the GR has a bigger sensor. So if you keep missing your snap focus on the GR it is probably because the depth of field is too thin at apertures like 2.8. So try f5.6.
The real magic: Full press snap
Wow, big deal you can shortcut manual focus, right? Well the real magic here is not so much snap focus as it is full press snap. Now we are in revolutionary territory.
So you have two options. Either put your camera’s general focus mode in snap focus mode. Or you can leave it as autofocus and then turn on full press snap. What that does is essentially gives you two modes of focus right at your fingertips, literally.
Half press the shutter release button: And it focuses as normal, or whatever you set your camera to.
Full press the shutter release button: And instead of autofocusing (or whatever you set your camera to) and it will focus your camera at your preset focus distance.
It does take getting used to and I use autofocus + full press snap for my photography. So if I am walking down the streets and see a reflection and I know I will haven plenty of time to shoot, I half press the shutter release button, wait for it to focus and then press down once more.
If I walk down and see a scene but because I am moving and everybody else is, I know focusing will be really hard so I wait for my subjects to be close enough and fully squeeze the shutter release button without half pressing and I have everything in focus provided I gave enough aperture.
If your focus is off it is usually because you hesitated or your misjudged your distance or didn’t give it enough aperture. This takes some time to get used to. Because everyone is pretty much used to first half pressing and then pressing down.
So you will probably miss more than you shoot snap focus because you will probably hesitate when you reach that half way point when squeezing.
Or another reason is, you misjudge your distance. You think someone is at around 3 meters while they are closer. Or lastly you are at too high apertures, and this is especially true for the Ricoh GR cameras that have larger sensors.
When you shoot try at f5.6 and see how it goes. Remember if something is amiss it is either because you hesitated and fired up autofocus rather than snap focus, or you misjudge your distances or it is because there’s only a razer thin depth of field.
Snap focus: conclusion
Snap focus while not particularly revolutionary when you take it on its own, is absolutely game changing when you leave your camera in autofocus and turn on full press snap. With full press snap you have access to two different modes of focusing at your fingertips. If you half press like normal you can shoot the normal mode like autofocus, but if you full press your camera will immediately focus at the preset snap focus mode.
Once again, only Ricoh cameras have this and that is why they are highly regarded when it comes to street photography. No other camera lets you change settigns like this on the fly, especially with just the shutter release button.
Be yourself, stay focused and keep on shooting.