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A couple of months ago, one of you dear Readers named Buru Lwyd, wanted to support Streethunters.net with a unique and special way. It all begun from a simple Social Media post where I expressed my desire about trying out a specific camera. He owns one of those cameras, so he thought it would be a good idea if he sent me his, so I could try it, put it through it’s paces and then let him know what I thought about it. That way I would see for myself if I liked it and I would know if I would be willing to buy one. So, he sent it over to the Streethunters.net HQ here in Crete and I got to spend a couple of months with it. The camera that I had the opportunity to borrow was none other than the King of Street Photography itself, the Ricoh GR!
The Ricoh GR for Street Photography
This is going to be a review of the Ricoh GR 16MP compact camera for Street Photography. Before you read on, I would like to mention that I am not a camera expert. This review is from a totally personal point of view, the point of view of a Street Photographer. I will not examine how good it is for landscape photography, sports, etc. Just Street. If you would like me to add anything to the post, please don’t hesitate to make suggestions in the comments below. During this review I will discuss the Ricoh GR’s size, weight, build quality, handling, performance, features, low light performance, image quality and value.
Size & Weight = Portability
The Ricoh GR is a small camera by many standards. It can easily fit into a loose jeans pocket, any jacket pocket or just lightly hang around one’s neck. It is 117 x 61 x 35 mm (4.61 x 2.4 x 1.38″) and weighs 245g. That is really light and small. During the couple of months I had the Ricoh GR, it lived in my jacket pockets. It never and I mean never stayed at home while I was out. This only is one of the reasons why this camera is so freaking awesome! It is so portable you forget you have it with you. I remember flying to Athens, going without a camera bag, just because I had everything I needed in my pocket. That was a great feeling. Nothing can beat the Ricoh GR in convenience, size and weight, so it get’s a good rating!
The little Ricoh GR is build from a Magnesium alloy and plastic. It feels solid in the hand, like it can go through a lot of hardship. Well, it should be tough if it is meant to survive in pockets. The grip is rubber and the buttons and dials are all plastic but feel perfect. In my opinion the camera doesn’t feel cheap or poorly built. The LCD screen is big at 3”, bright and snappy. A great little camera! The lens is of very high quality. Just what one would expect from the Ricoh GR series.
Wow! This is one of the best designed cameras I have ever used! The controls are all where they are suppose to be, the buttons and dials are all super responsive and comfortable and the camera can be operated perfectly well with just one hand! Snap focus is a joy to use and makes the camera super responsive. The Ricoh GR might be a little tricky to set up initially, but once you have got over that, it is a pure joy to use! What really impressed me was the level of customisation the camera allowed me to have. I could even tell it to turn the power switch light off if I liked, so it wouldn’t show in the dark. What a great user experience! Combine that with the unmatched portability and you have one impressively stealthy and practical camera in the palm of your hand.
When it comes to menus they are easy to understand, even if they are many options to choose from. The 3 MY buttons allow you to switch easily and fast between custom setups so you are ready for any situation with the flick of a button. When using a flash, the Ricoh GR is again easy to use. Just flip the flash up, choose one of the many flash options, adjust exposure and there you have it. Set one of your MY buttons for use with a flash and with the turn of a button and the popping up of the flash you are ready for shooting in the streets with the flash at night! The LCD screen has all the needed information laid out perfectly on it. You will not be looking for options, wasting time. Everything is there in front of you as long as you choose so. Remember, this camera is highly customisable.
The Ricoh GR uses a large APS-C sized 16MP image sensor. We will look at the Image Quality later on, but as for the performance of the camera goes with AF, Snap Focus, Manual Focus, etc I will say this. It does what it has to do and it does it well. I used the latest firmware update. Firmware 4.0. In the daylight, Auto Focus was good enough. It wasn’t lightning fast, and sometimes if wasn’t accurate focusing on the backgrounds, but it was good enough for me and the type of Autofocus Street Photography I do. When switching to Snap focus though, the camera transformed into the King of Street Photography. Snap focus for all you that don’t know that term is basically Zone focusing in Ricoh GR lingo. The Ricoh GR offers a menu that gives the user the ability to focus to a certain zone of distance (closest distance and a certain furthest distance). This is graphically represented on the screen and very easy to comprehend and tweak. By using Snap focus the photographer knows what will be in focus. For example I always set the Ricoh to f8.0 chose a focus distance of 2m, that gave me a hyperfocal distance from 1m to infinity. That way I knew that everything I photographed from 1m onwards was in focus. So, all I had to do was worry about my shutter speed and ISO. Luckily the Ricoh GR has the TAV option that lets you set the shutter speed and aperture and automatically changes ISO to meet your requirements. So, combining that with Snap Focus, gives you total freedom in the Streets meaning it performs just great. But I will only rate it with a 7 because it’s Autofocus isn’t the best I have tried. It is good, but that’s it.
Oh, one more thing. I heard from various fellow Street Photographers that the Ricoh GR suffers from “camera shake”. I didn’t notice anything like that. I managed to shoot photos at 1/15th without any issues what so ever. If the camera is handled properly and the shutter speed is equally or above 1/125th of a second, there should be no camera shake even for the most shaky of photographers. If the camera is still when making photos, there is no camera shake. That means that if someone takes a shot and their whole hands shakes or they are swinging their arm in the air or running or something like that, then camera shake should be expected, as it is with any other camera. What I think is that because it is so small, some photographers tend to think they are shooting with their smartphone that has a very small sensor. This baby packs and APS-C sized sensor. The larger the sensor the more steady one has to be when taking a photo. So, I think they should work on their grip before blaming the Ricoh GR.
As for features, wow this camera comes packed with tons of them! One of it’s best features is that you can customise it so much that you can be sure nobody else in the world can have the same set up. Don’t let that scare you. It might be a camera for geeks but it is also very easy to use. I only had to skim the manual to understand how it works and the only reason I did that was because I knew I would have it for a limited amount of time. It is worth to note that you have nearly every feature you can find in a high end DSLR jam packed into your pocket. How cool is that!? Stuff like Silent mode (dead silent), built in ND filters, 2 crop modes (35mm and 47mm equivalent), various auto focusing and exposure options, 3 custom modes, 2 custom function buttons, the fantastic Snap Focus feature and more. You can check out a complete set of features in any official camera review, such as Dpreview.com’s Ricoh GR review.
The bottom line is that If you are a slightly experienced Street Photographer, you will find that this camera performs superbly and that is has all the features that you will ever need in the Street.
All the features but one! There is something that I missed dearly in the Ricoh GR, something that drove me crazy. It doesn’t have a viewfinder. Some of you might not use a viewfinder and might think that this isn’t even worth mentioning, but personally I have been shooting with cameras with built in viewfinders for ever and suddenly using one without one, made me feel exposed and uncomfortable. The LCD screen is great, I can’t complain about that, but I found it very annoying when I was trying to be stealthy at night and I had it shining on my face. I could turn it off, but then I wouldn’t be able to compose. To work around this issue, Ricoh offers two external Optical ViewFinders (OVF) that can be purchased separately but they are just pieces of glass, with no helpful information for focusing, metering and exposing. Not only that, they cost quite a bit, bringing the overall cost of the camera up to non competitive levels. So, this is a huge no no for me and something that made me think twice before getting one of these babies for myself. That 3” screen could have been made smaller to accommodate an EVF. I would have enjoyed the camera more. For this reason it will have to make do with a 7 for features.
Low light performance
The Ricoh GR has a big sensor. That helps it perform very well in low light situations. At high ISOs the Ricoh has no issues. I managed to shoot easily at 3200, 6400 and even at 8000 ISO. I mostly kept my images in colour up to 3200 and at higher ISOs I converted to Black & White. The results at 6400 Black & White where very satisfying. At 3200 near perfect for a camera that fits into my pocket. This is a very good low light performer given that it comes with one fixed f2.8 lens which isn’t the fastest lens one could hope for. I shot it many times at night and indoors and I have nothing but good experiences from those situations and some pretty technically impressive shots to show.
I remind you all that this is a compact camera with a fixed lens. So, keeping that in mind if I had to say what I think about the image quality of the Ricoh GR, I would reply with one word only. Great! The image quality is simply great! When I handled the camera properly, meaning that I had a good shutter speed and was focusing on taking a good looking photograph, I got a good photograph with excellent image quality. No doubt about it, the Ricoh GR delivers the goods and can be compared to other great compacts such as the Fujifilm X100 series, the Sony RX100 series, the Panasonic Lumix LX100 and more. This great image quality is the combined result of super sharp glass and a great image sensor that has been stuffed magically into such a small body. Great work there by Ricoh.
Currently the Ricoh GR is selling at a very, very impressive price. You can purchase it on Amazon.com new for as low as $596.90 and on Amazon.co.uk new for as low as £439.00. In the rest of Europe it is sold for €599 new. The cost of the camera compared to what it has to offer is very, very good! So, I can’t really say much about this other than it is well worth it’s money! It is more than reasonably priced for what it offers. If you have had doubts getting this camera, don’t. Just go get one now.
The Ricoh GR is a great camera for Street Photography! It is small, light, silent and when used properly very responsive and accurate. It is one of those cameras that gets better and better with practice. In other words, the better you get, the better the Ricoh GR performs. I sent it back to Buru a week ago and I miss it already. The fact that I could just carry with me such a handy camera at all times was a luxury. Would I use the Ricoh GR as my main camera? Hmmm, even though it is awesome, I would not use it as my main camera. There are things that I miss, such as interchangeable lenses, an EVF or at least an OVF with overlaid information. I understand that this is a compact, so I will not act all crazy and compare it to a system camera, but I still feel that owning only the Ricoh GR and nothing else would make me feel that something is missing from my arsenal.
As for a backup camera? Definitely yes! The Ricoh GR is going to be purchased one day or another and added to my list of cameras. I feel that my pockets are empty now. Having such a good camera with me at all times was a blessing. I got a few shots I would have never managed to get with any other camera. Comparing it to my compact film cameras, the Ricoh GR is better. It might be slightly bigger than my Olympus mju II but it is quieter. There is no mechanical sound. The Oly does deliver great photos, but it lacks in features and there are no manual controls.
Before I wrote this post, when I was using the Ricoh GR on a daily basis, many friends asked me how it compared to the Sony NEX-6 I used to own. Well, the image quality is very close, but I think the Sony has better IQ. The Autofocus is nothing compared to the NEX-6 AF, and feature wise it is not as good. The Sony has the flipping LCD and the awesome EVF. However the portability of the Ricoh GR combined with the big sensor and great IQ makes up for everything that might be missing from it. Of course I am now comparing two different types of cameras, but hey, you asked me so I had to reply.
If you want to know more about the Ricoh GR, just ask me in the comments. If you would like me to share with you my personal settings, I will gladly do so in another post. All you have to do is ask and I will deliver.
Do you want to buy the Ricoh GR?
As you know we are affiliated with Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk, so if you would like to buy the Ricoh GR from one of these e-shops, please support us by using the links provided below:
- Buy the Ricoh GR 16.2 MP Digital Camera with 3.0-Inch LED Backlit (Black) on Amazon.com.
- Buy the Ricoh GR Expert Compact Digital Camera – Black (16MP) 3 inch LCD Screen on Amazon.co.uk.
Stay Sharp & Keep Shooting!