I landed at Casablanca, Morocco on a photosafari trip with so much anticipation. The first thing I did was to take out my DSLR coupled with the travel lens. Horrors! The zoom ring got stuck at the widest end. This lens was impossible to use. My only choice was then the Ricoh GR III that I have recently bought before this trip from DSC World, the sole distributor of Ricoh cameras in Malaysia. I managed to purchase the first batch of this newly launched camera, thanks to some of my friends at DSC World. This camera was meant to be a back-up but fate has it that I have to relied on it as the main camera.
I used to review new cameras in the past but have stopped doing so for a few years. This is mainly due to the fact that I was busy with organising photosafari trips to various places around the world and I had the tendency of putting the camera to extreme tests that may not be too flattering.
The 12 days of photographing on this photo trip were enough to get intimately acquainted with this pocket size gizmo.
I do not want like to write too many words but here are my observations and summary of what I like and don’t like about this camera.
What I really like about this camera?
- Firstly, Ricoh has redesigned the new 28mm equivalent lens. I find it to be sharper, able to resolve more micro details, have a better colors, and color gradation than the previous model.
- Chromatic abberations are minimal even when shooting tree leaves with the sky as the background
- Lens flare is more controlled.
- This is a rectilinear lens with small amount of barrel distortion
- It spots a 28mm equivalent f2.8 fast lens
- The 24mp sensor is more than enough for exhibition prints and publishing on books and magazines.
- Dynamic range is very good. This is as good as my Pentax K1.
- The SR, shake reduction works very well. I have tried to hand hold up to 1/15 sec with very good results.
- The noise control is good. Photos taken up to ISO6400 are pretty useable.
- Ricoh and Pentax are known to be very photographer friendly. They have placed the most used controls on knobs and buttons rather than embedding it in the menus. This GR III is no exception. The most used functions like ISO, +/- EV, focusing mode, image control, drive mode, macro mode, white balance, and file format, etc are placed on knobs and buttons.
- It even has three user programmable modes on the main knob.
- The knobs and buttons are not cluttered, it is placed very well to allow for one-hand-shooting.
- One of the new features is the touch screen. It works intuitively like a mobile phone.
- I like the touch focusing feature the most. It works wonders.
- This is a pocketable camera. I usually wear a camera vest and cargo pants. The camera was able to fit nicely into the pockets with room to spare.
- I used this camera mostly for environmental portraits, people at work, street scenes and landscapes. My subjects do not feel intimidated when I work with this camera. I managed to capture a lot of people shots in Morocco which is famed for forbidding photographers to photograph them.
- It’s a joy to work with this camera, it is lightweight unlike the DSLRs. I found that I used this camera more often than my DSLRs.
Black and White Photography
- I have seldom seen a camera with three, yes three black and white modes. These modes work in jpeg only but I often shoot in RAW + jpeg. The jpeg files are for transferring the photos to the mobile phone for instant gratifications and social media work.
- Snap focus, zone focus or hyperfocus is the best setting for street photographers. During the film days, I used to set my 35mm Leica lens at hyperfocal distances which is equivalent to zone focusing. The work flow then was to set the aperture, speed and hyperfocus before taking up the camera to the eye. Can you imagine working with a Leica M3 without a light meter?
What I don’t like about this camera?
- Firstly, where is the TAV function? This is the function I used the most on my DSLRs and it was there in the Ricoh GR II. I finally found out that I can still use this TAV function through the “Menu>Camera setting>ISO setting>Minimum speed”. However, this is not exactly like the TAV setting
- Battery life is the most talk about disadvantage of this camera. However, on the field, I was surprised that it did not bother me at all. I could get about 200+ shots on a single battery. Taking a spare battery is a must. The good thing is that the batteries are very small, it’s about the size of a CF card and slightly thicker.
- EVF, Electronic View Finder? I don’t miss this function. The lens are wide enough to shoot from the hip, though I seldom shoot like that.
- Mobile phone apps. At the time I was using this camera, the mobile phone app for transferring photos to the mobile phone was work-in-progress. The app was only ready a couple of weeks ago.
- Auto focusing at night was pain. I ended up using snap mode. However, Ricoh has released a firmware update to resolve this problem. It was better than before but still the focusing mechanism was not locking in conditions less than EV8.
- Movie mode at HD resolution? I have better video cameras like the Sony X3000, DJI Osmo that can shoot 4K. I won’t be using this camera for this purpose.
I have tried earlier versions of the Ricoh GRs but non were compelling enough for me to own it except for this GR III. The ease of use, camera size, stealth, image size and picture quality were compelling enough reasons for me to use it not so much as a back-up camera but as a main camera for street, environmental portraits, people, documentary and occasionally landscapes. This will be my go-to camera for short family trips.
Photos taken with the Ricoh GR III