Ricoh GR III

the buildings down Trinity Lane in Cambridge

This is what the 28mm equivalent lens gets you on the Ricoh GR III. It’s a shot of the buildings down Trinity Lane in Cambridge, and I am going to do a separate article on Snap Focus, a feature that is special to this camera.

So, the Ricoh GR III – why get it? It’s a long story that could not have happened much quicker than it did. Going back far enough and it was a Nikon D40x with a 35mm f1.8 lens. That was about as small as you could go with a DX sensor and a good lens. Put a strap on the camera and carry it over your shoulder, and you have a carry-around camera.

With hindsight, I would have got the X-E2 when it came out. Fuji were offering it with a kit lens and an extra lens – 23,mm or 27mm, I forget – and I turned it down because the body was so light I couldn’t believe the camera was any good. And what a strange camera – when you looked at the camera from the front, where was the viewfinder? The X-E2 reminded me of the Carl Zeiss Jena Werra cameras from the 1950s and ’60s – somehow blank and blind because they were just a plain sheet of metal at the front with a viewfinder at one end. The X-E2 went one further; looked at from the front it had no viewfinder box at all.

Of course, that was then – and we have got used to a big change with mirrorless cameras. At the time, I was wedded to being able to see a viewfinder box. And I didn’t want to rely on a digital readout in the viewfinder. The Fuji X100s offered a dual viewfinder, optical and digital at the switch of a lever. The fixed 23mm lens (35mm full-frame equivalent) was just right, not too wide and not too tight. After about four years I started to use the digital viewfinder a bit, and eventually all the time. A lovely camera but not pocketable. The holy grail was something like the X100s but in a package that was so small I could walk out as though I didn’t have a camera with me at all.

I thought the Fuji X-E3 with 27mm pancake lens would be small enough, but it isn’t. And all the time in the back of my mind was the Ricoh. So what held me back? Was it reliable enough? Was 28mm really the focal length I wanted?

I’ve got used to 28mm, and in truth it is more versatile than the tight 40mm on the X-E3. And it is pocketable, but I don’t carry it in a pocket. I waited until SRS did a deal with an extra battery and a leather case with a belt loop. Now I could and can walk out of the house, arms swinging, and have a camera with me that can take photos worth keeping. I mean a little Canon point and shoot will take photos, but would the quality be worth having taken the photo in the first place?

The downside to the GR III is no viewfinder. I could put one in the hotshoe, but then the camera wouldn’t be the little package it is. So how to deal with that problem? I disabled the touch screen and set the focus point in the middle of the screen. That way I can hold the camera out and know that the viewpoint isn’t switching on me and only focusing where I want. It works well enough except in bright sunlight when it is all hit and miss. It does’t help that I wear glasses, and I am still trying to figure out the best distance to hold the camera in front of me.

External Viewfinders

I’ve toyed with the idea of getting an external viewfinder. It won’t get over the problem that I can’t see the readout in the LCD of the rear screen, but it might help me to point the camera in the right general direction. The Compact Shooter has a nice page devoted to external viewfinders. If there was a viewfinder that showed a readout of the shutter speed, aperture, exposure compensation, and ISO – that would tip me over the edge to wanting one. Oh, and it would have to be small. As it is, they are a lot of money for a dubious advantage, particularly when there are versions from Chinese sellers at around £25 – on eBay and Amazon.

Image Quality

Is it any good? Well this is a crop of about one quarter of the full frame. It’s sharp and renders colours in an accurate, neutral way. I have had some very nice shots out of the camera, except in bright sunlight. My experience is that it fails in strong sunlight where it introduces some strange effects.

For example, I have a photo of a sunflower head in full sun, and the colours and the general look are a bit odd. That may be down to the lack of a lens hood introducing flare (not that I can see any flare) – but it is strange.

I am not going to stick a lens hood on the lens because the only way to do it is to put a big tube around the lens – google and you will see what I mean – and that really defeats the object of a small camera.

I am kind of thinking of a 16mm f2,8 lens for the X-3…


Useful tips using the GR III

These are tips for features you wouldn’t know about unless you were told or came across by accident. The Ricoh seems to be full of them, and I will add to these tips when I find them.

Hold the macro button and spin the front dial to change your snap distance.

A long press on the OK button and then you can move the focus point around when the touch screen
is turned off.

With the camera off, a long press on the playback button with turn the camera on and you can see the photos in playback.

How to delete photos doesn’t exactly jump out, because there is no Trash button.To delete a photo, press the Function button that’s above the D pad, and that will bring up the option to delete a photo or all the photos. If you choose to delete one photo then the next photo will appear and you can press the right hand section of the D pad to advance through the photos

Shooting At Night

Teemu on his blog has a section on shooting at night. He recommends shooting in shutter priority. Because of the low light the camera will automatically choose the largest aperture (f2.8). He also uses auto ISO with the maximum ISO set to 4000. He’s got some nice night photos and it’s worth taking a look at his shots.