Camera love from Ricoh GR to Leica Q: confessions of a philanderer By Denis Sauve

Camera love from Ricoh GR to Leica Q: confessions of a philanderer

By Denis Sauve


This is the confession of a 28mm aficionado who loves cameras, mostly pocketable ones, and who has been cheating on his Ricoh GR since 2006.

Like many of us, I suffer from GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome). I’ve had more than 25 digital cameras, including gems like the Nikon D700, D800 and DF, a (so primitive) Leica Monochrom, and in my favorite style of compact, no less than 6 Ricoh digital GR cameras. In my relationship with the GR series, I have been like an unfaithful married man, cheating over and over again on his beloved wife.

The GR was my soul mate and true partner. She was the most ergonomic camera I had above all others, including professional DSLRs. I had the GRD1, the GRD2, the GRD3 and the GRD4. Since the Ricoh team succeeded in inserting a APS-C sensor in such a small body with the rebranded 5th “GR”, I bought two of them — love abuse killed the first one.

The GR is not an electronic device that happens to make pictures, like most modern digital cameras, but a real photographic tool, visibly made by photo lovers for photo lovers. Even the Nikon D800 has inferior ergonomics and handling. The extraordinary level of customization, and the prodigious level of fast adjustment we can make with the GR without even entering the menu system, all with one hand, is absolutely insane. I took thousands and thousands of pictures, travelled many times only with one GR, for over 10 years.


In the long Canadian winter (which lasts 25 months per year!), this camera is always comfortable in any coat pocket. It is a fantastic B&W shooter, either in JPEG out of camera or from raw files. The raws are in the standard DNG format, not like all the proprietary raw format out there. The GR family is a legend in Japan. Look in Flickr, and you will find Japanese GR street shooters who’ve been making B&W pictures since the GRD1, and I suspect this unrecognized camera (in the Western world) had been very important in the digital B&W trend, and in street photography popularity, since 2005.

But I was tempted and strayed! Forgive me, dear GR.

I cheated on her with the Panasonic LX3, the Sigma DP1, the Nikon J1, the Sony-RX100-III, and others. I had one of the extremely rare early Fujifilm X100 units made before the Japan earthquake. Later, I succumbed to the sexy Sony RX1…before the APS-C Ricoh GR was announced: then I returned to the beloved GR!

Later, I had the Leica Monochrom disease, which is an other kind of GAS syndrome, another level of madness, soooo hard on the bank account!

Like a sex addict, I had to try them all. The desire was stronger than my willpower. Yet over and over again, I came back to my GR.

This was before the Leica Q.

When this model was announced, within a few hours, I knew once again I could not resist. I knew I would try it, have fun, lose a ton of money, and come crawling back to my faithful GR after a few months. It was my destiny.

But this time the story changed: the Q became my new wife. The level of shooting pleasure I have with it, and the proportion of “keepers” I found among the pictures taken with this device, are unequaled in my whole life. I lost my Q (really: I LOST IT !!) three months ago, and even as I wait for my second Q, the GR sits on the shelf. Sorry, GR, my heart has gone away. I decided to sell all my equipment, including a collection of professional Nikon lenses, to be able to afford another Q. It is such a marvel.

gr-3838872427_99c07385ec_b copie


I hope some of my pictures show the magic “glow” of the Q Summilux lens and the pleasure I have taking them.

Notes about the Leica Q vs Sony RX1 debate

About focusing
The Q is for real 28mm shooters, for real wide angle composition. The 35mm point of view offered by the Sony RX1 (and now the RX1R mark II) is kind of midway between wide angle and standard. I consider genuine wide angle shooters see the world in 28mm or below.

If your subject is almost in the center of the image, the RX1 may be great as well. But if your composition includes often plural subjects, or a subject in a context, like in a lot of successful wide angle pictures, it is another story. If you want the focus to be on a element in a corner or somewhere else in the rule of thirds, the RX1 is very frustrating. You cannot focus and recompose in order to change the framing, since the field curvature is too important. For instance, the element focused in the center becomes out of focus if you move it a little bit on the left. For this purpose, the use of the tracking function is too slow. Off-centered composition is a pain with the RX1 especially when using open aperture. I don’t see how this may have changed with the mark II.

In this department, the touch screen focus feature of the Q is so a marvelous function. I compose the frame, touch the focus point desired, et voilà: I have my perfect shot with a perfect focus, even wide open. I don’t have problems with focus and recompose either, since the curvature field of the Q lens seems to be less a concern than with the RX1.


About the Leica “glow”
The RX1 lens is great. I understand some people may prefer it to the Q’s 28mm Summilux. I remember one or two pictures I really love from the RX1’s Zeiss. But when I see pictures from the Q, its “glow” is so strong! But it can have an undesirable side effect: even bad composition and bad subjects make almost good pictures. This “glow”, with the pure pleasure of taking pictures with the Q, makes me shoot uninteresting things like walls or hydrants, and like the result, which is a bad thing somehow. I have to prevent myself becoming a bad photographer because of this too great camera.


About pocketability
The Ricoh GR is a real pocket camera. It can even fit in a jeans front or rear pocket. I tried to carry the RX1, like the Fujifilm X100 before, in one of my big canadian parka made for minus 100 degrees, and I always felt like I was carrying a dictionary inside my coat. You cannot be comfortable and look normal with such a big camera in your pocket. Same thing with the Leica Q.

q-23869207259_7fbb91405f_k gr-17883708996_a3ed65c4a5_h gr-14255439446_fcb19677d4_b

For more than 10 years, I’ve been hoping for a real pocketable (read GR) full frame camera. In the film era, we had the Contaxt T, the Nikon 35 Ti, the Ricoh GR, the Leica Minilux, the Rollei 35, the Yashika T4, the Minox 35 and so on. In digital era, now, the RG is the only one of this kind with a APS-C sensor. I even wrote to Ricoh about my dream of a full frame GR, but I don’t think it will happen, since modern lenses are so big

About pleasure
This is more of a personal preference: I prefer 28mm to 35mm, I enjoy wide angle composition and I love the Q more than great 35mm lenses cameras like the X100 or the RX1.




When I read that the Sony RX1 is “better” than the Leica Q, it’s like an insult to my wife. No, I reply, no way: my wife is the best woman on earth. She is so marvelous, I even stopped playing around with other cameras! The RX1 is another big electronic gadget which makes photos; the Leica Q is a delight, helping me to see the light and the magic of this world.

But don’t buy the Leica Q. She is all mine. I want to keep her for myself!



Buy a Q: Ken Hansen (Email him: [email protected]),, B&H Photo or Amazon 

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  1. I’m also in an adulterous affair with my M9M (the one I show off) and GR (the one I love).

    If it wasn’t for the death defying $loss I’m gonna suffer if I sell my M9M, I would have made the GR my one and only a long time ago.

    Agree with the Leica glow, I’ve printed 2 pictures and the glow smacks me in the face.

  2. WOW. Wonderful images. Absolutely beautiful. Also nice article that was fun to read.

    There is just one major disagreement: As gorgeous your photography might be, I can’t detect any “Q glow”. Your pictures are the result of your (pretty obvious) talent, but they would look the same when taken with the GR. Or, in other words, they would have the same “glow”.

    I own the Elmarit-M 28/2.8 ASPH and albeit this lens is wonderful, it is not better than the GR lens. I even have the impression the GR lens has slightly more pop and a little less field curvature, but that may be an illusion.

    So I don’t know the Q lens, but can’t see any “Leica glow” (which is nonsense IMHO) in your photos.

    If there is “glow”, then it’s from the light or the subject!

    Again, I absolutely love your photography!

  3. Could you please post photos of the same subject, lighting, pov, and so on, taken with the GR and then taken with the Leica, and then point out where in the Leica photos we see glow that is not showing the GR photo.
    Best regards.

  4. Agreed 99 %. 1 % is off because the Q is too precious to take to dangerous places like coffe shops…or certain criminal prone cities.

  5. I agree heartly about the Ricoh GR cameras.

    (With an lovely Leica Q, I would have been mugged many times over, what with all the dangerous places in the world I’ve ridden my fold-up bike! Although I must admit it is the first digital camera I’ve really fancied! Great EVF.)

    I’ve had Hasselblads (+SWA even), Linhoffs, Pentax 645, Olympus, Nikon, Mamiya 7II and yet my favorite of all-time camera is the GR-21 > (The rare GR full frame model with a 21mm super wide lens!).

    Yes! Yes. Being an ‘old timer’, and stuberly knowing just what I want, I have yet to get an digital camera. They were all film cameras. I’m still foolishly waiting for the digital model full-frame 21 Ricoh GR to be made! It would be another absolute master piece.

    P.S. Please, please Ricoh, make it soon. I’m pretty old already! > (with built-in EVF, full-frame sensor, 21mm focal length small lens put the money into a great EVF.)

    Thanks for listening, Ricoh. Want a deposit?

    • David, Ricoh doesn`t have to make FF 21. APS-C 21 would be wonderful enough. As to Ricoh listening it`s touch luck. I`ve been active on Ricoh Forum for years and alas, bittersweet silence on their behalf.

  6. Denis, amazing writeup! I thoroughly enjoyed it. Your passion for photography, your gear, humor, and maybe even your writing shines bright in this inspiring article. As one commenter above said, you should write a book for young people starting out with their photography passion. Thanks for making my morning.

  7. Nice write up. As Ricoh user I love reading about the merits of GR. Of course Q beats it quality wise by some lenghts but… I would readily give up f:1.7 for 2.8 if the lens barrel was half the lenght. With a shade on it`s no longer a M6 with ELMARIT-M 1:2,8 28mm f/2.8 ASPH, it`s just to big. Its present size would be perfect if it housed summicron 2/50. That`s why I love GR, the only camera that fits inner pocket of my dinner jacket. Another thing is GR wide converter, not longer pockeable combo but as just in case addition, it`s great. Just immagine similar chunk of glass for Q! Finally if there`s a thing I miss in both cameras is tiltable LCD, maybe in the next editions. Serious waterproofing wouldn`t be bad either.

    • Tiltable LCD and waterproofing don’t go well together. Even if some cameras with tilt screens are weathersealed, it will remain a very weak spot. And as I use my cameras longer than 3 years, I like weathersealing that lasts a couple of years.

      In its current form, there is not much to improve on a GR. With an EVF it would be so big, it wouldn’t ba a GR anymore. Maybe a tiny little OVF like in the film GR’s. But even then it would be bigger.

      I would love weathersealing, better AF and better highe ISO. Same size. Same price. That’s it.

  8. Very nice article. I have to admit I am in love with my GR. Absolutely brilliant camera that goes with me everywhere. As nice as the Q is, it could not replace my GR because of the size difference. If Leica made a 35 lux Q, then I would think about it, even though the size would be pretty big.

  9. The Q costs 10x the GR (i got my GR for $415 used). The GR is totally pocketable. The GR files are seriously good – maybe 90% as good as the Q’s. The GR’s design is ALMOST flawless (i’m looking at YOU exposure compensation rocker button). The GR renders me invisible, while the Q makes me self conscious and nervous about being ‘THAT guy’. Despite all this, I now grab the Q every time and the GR sits forlornly forgotten. It’s the evf, the macro ring, the magical manual focus implementation and that extra 10% of goodness in the files that makes the money and size sacrifice totally worthwhile. So sorry, GR. It was great while it lasted. Q, I want to grow old with you.

  10. Great post with humor and talent…fantastic compositions! I secretly have to admit that I too have the same “wife” and I’m deeply in love! A DREAM camera that makes me want to constantly pick up and shoot!

  11. I have the RX1Rii and use is in continuous AF with ‘expand lock on AF – selectable small medium or large centre focus points / square’ this allows me to use the focus, recompose technique and allows for the field curvature so the focuses point / subject doesn’t go out of focus when recomposing.
    I prefer 35 to 28 but both lovely cameras that many would love to own.

  12. Denis, you have an outstanding vision of this life and outstanding writing skills… one day you have to write a book for young people who just started with their photography passion… seriously. Huge thanks to you for your such a delightful story, you’ve made my day. All your pics are really having some soul in them.. we all just feel that

  13. I have the two cameras first the GX and then the Q, and use both depend the place I go, because the publicity of the Leica every body now knows wow much cost a Leica, and when you do street photography that’s a problem of security, Ohh. you have a Leica Q…. in Granada- Sevilla, Spain, Miami,USA, etc…

    • That is what I asked myself for weeks! I just fogotted it in a coffee shop like a lunatic. When I went back, running, the case was empty. So it was lost… and stolen.

  14. Fantastic photos and great write-up! Really lovely compositions — especially the kids. The girl eating the apple is perfect. Were all of these taken with the Q or GR? Combination? Keep it up!

  15. I never had the 35 because i married the 28 from the start and she is the best. I do stray from time to time with a 50. Dont have the Q though.

  16. Super write-up, very funny – and very instructive about the 28mm focal length and what can be done with it – especially the pictures. I allowed GAS to get the better of me and bought a X100S, couldn’t get the hang of 35, thought I would sove the problem by going to 50, found it rather clumsy and ended up selling it. Can’t afford a Q and don’t want the size, so perhaps I’ll get round to taking your previous girl-friend out!

  17. A very interesting article, with some nice images! I think that it simply illustrates that the choice of a camera system is indeed quite personal and subjective, as everyone has an opinion about even supposedly “objective” image qualities such as sharpness or detail rendering. When the author speaks of the “glow” he experiences with the Leica Q, I call that same thing “clarity”, which I see in FujiFilm X-system files. I’m sure many see this “glow” in their Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Olympus, or other systems. Bottom line is that one should simply enjoy whatever system he/she is using at the time.

  18. Heh heh; infuriatingly interesting; sometimes nice, sometimes beautiful, sometimes… a flower.

    Thanks for sharing!



    • The flowers picture is a perfect example of an insignificant and boring composition than comes out with a special ‘glow’ from the Q. This magic touch is a very exciting and dangerous quality. Thanks!

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