Something about rangefinders always interested me. My first camera was some sort of Canon point-and-shoot more than a decade ago, from there I learned to use my mom’s film SLR. From there I purchased my first film rangefinder and I’ve had several rangefinders since then. Being a millennial, l I find using film a little inconvenient and needed something more instantaneous instead.
While the GR is no rangefinder its slim form and wide frame mimic much of what film rangefinders had to offer. It’s just plain easy to use and has a subdued, sleek look it that other cameras don’t have.
The Ricoh GR fit perfectly into the style of photography I’ve enjoyed the most. During college, I photographed nearly every fraternity party, drunken escapade, late night bad-decisions, cheese-fry escapade and travel adventure I experienced. I’ve tried to document my most fun moments, up-close and personal moments, moments that would have otherwise been forgotten in a stupor. The GR is small and compact, simple and intuitive, and capable of taking vibrant or gritty photos.
Build & Ergonomics & Durability
The Ricoh GR is small, one of the few cameras that can actually fit comfortably in your pocket. Compared to my iPhone 7+, the GR is about 2/3 the size in length and 2/3 as wide, obviously the GR is thicker. But it’s still awfully thin for a modern compact-camera, the 28mm lens is able to fully retract within the camera due to the APS-C compact sensor.
The black body is milled from a magnesium alloy that’s impressively light coming in at 8.07 ounces. There’s a burgeon on the front right of the camera that fits perfectly in the hand. This ‘hump’ is wrapped in a black rubbery material that has great hold and isn’t slippery even when wet.
When holding the camera my finger naturally floats to the oblong capture button and the mode selection dial is protected from accidental mode changes by a button that when pressed down, the mode can be changed. On the front of the camera, the aperture can be changed by rotating a vertical dial.
On the back, the screen is good but not the brightest screen I’ve ever seen, on days with full sun it can be difficult to make out the display. Another dial on the back is used to pull up the menu that is easy to navigate that’s packed with loads of features. A different lever can set the camera to three different auto-focus modes. Exposure can be changed on the right side.
To pop up the flash there’s a small slide on the left side that brings it up. Below this is a button that can activate the different effect modes.
Durability is probably what I can speak to the most. I haven’t treated this camera very well at all. I’ve dropped it a dozen times, my friends have dropped it a dozen times, girls have dropped it a dozen times, girlfriends have dropped it a dozen times, the list goes on and on. It’s been dropped it in the ocean, it’s been dropped in bar-tar and stepped on, and it’s been rolled around in the beach. But it always works.
And guess what, it still works just as good as it did the day I got it. The only problem with it is a small piece broke off underneath the flash but it’s not necessary to the performance of the camera. It’s covered in scratches, nicks and it has to have saltwater eating away at it somewhere but for the past 4 years it has worked without skipping a beat. It has taken a fall out of my pocket once when I was biking down the street. Not going to lie, I’ve been beyond rough on the Ricoh and every time I turn it on it works without a hitch.
Shooting with the GR
There’s no good in having a camera that you can’t take with you, with its slim body and retractable lens, the GR can easily slide in and out of my pocket and I don’t feel like I have to lug it around with me.
After pressing the power button it is booted up within 2 seconds and instantly ready to shoot. I leave it in P-Mode, 1200 ISO and with Center Auto Focus and I hardly ever fiddle with the settings, its so versatile in this very basic setup.
The GR uses a 28mm-equivalent 2.8 aperture lens, combined with a large sensor has great control over depth-of-field and low-light functionality. Since it is a rangefinder, you can’t zoom in mechanically so if you want a close-up shot, well, you’re just gonna have to get closer. This works great for wide-angle shots too though.
There are a few different auto-focus capabilities. You can manually choose the focus area but this takes time, something you don’t always have shooting street photography. Most people have found using Snap Focus feature most versatile. This setting allows you to pick a pre-set distance of 1m, 1.5m, 2m, 2.5m, 5m or infinity so the camera is always ready to focus at that pre-defined point. No waiting on the lens to focus, just snap the picture. Typically I use the Center focus which naturally has some lag as it has to find and focus on the centermost object.
The camera offers continuous shooting that allows you to snap up to 4 photographs a second and can shoot 1080p video but the sound quality is definitely lacking and it doesn’t have the ability to add on an external mic.
It’s very easy to take countless photos every day with the GR. If I’m feeling really trigger happy I can snap 1,500, 2,000 photos a day and I would take more but that’s normally about when the battery decides to give out. The battery will last months if you’re not shooting with it as well, so you can pick it up without a recent charging and not worry about whether or not the battery is going to last.
Overview of specifications
- 16.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor with no low-pass filter
- 18.5mm (28mm equivalent) F2.8 lens
- ISO 100-25,600
- 3.0″ 1.2m dot LCD
- Up to 4fps continuous shooting
- 1080p movies at 24, 25 or 30fps
- 12-bit Raw in DNG format
- 10MP 35mm equivalent crop mode
- Built-in 2-stop ND filter
There’s now a more updated version of the Ricoh GR, the Ricoh GR II. The GR II adds wi-fi connectivity, slightly faster burst mode and a few new filters, but it is virtually the same camera.