Aug 142014
 

My 26 day road trip thru Australia with a Ricoh GR

By Gabriel Lima

Hello everybody!

I’m Gabriel from Brazil and the moment I write this article I’m in the city of Ubud, central Bali, Indonesia. I’m here to talk about my user experience for travel, landscape and long exposure photography using the RICOH GR and filter adapter with B&W ND filters.

First a bit of my background. I’m a 27 year old guy from Curitiba, South of Brazil. After I graduated in a 4 years Business degree in the Uni I realised that it was to boring for me and decided to pursuit 2 old dreams: Travel the world and be a photographer. So, my first steep last year was move to Australia learn english and photography.

My first problem was: Which camera should I buy? Oh god, its hard, there are heaps of models, sizes, sensors, lenses, brands, DSLR, mirrorless and all that history I sure you guys now about. What did I? I immerse myself in review sites and forums searching for specs, image samples and user reports. After long hours and days here in Steve website and searching for samples on flickr I got stuck in 3 cameras: Olympus EM1, Sony A7 and Ricoh GR.

My weapon of choice was the Ricoh GR because it`s small form factor, height, IQ and easy of use. I have to confess that I had to eliminate the Sony A7 cause its price got over my budget and the EM1 because its problem with noisy long exposures in the dark.

After 6 months of practicing with and testing the camera, on 6 of June I left the City of Gold Coast for a 4 weeks road trip sleeping in the back of a small 97 Daewoo hatch from eastern to western Australia, till the city of Perth, a 8000 Km trip always driving the coast and photographing some great Australian spots like the Sydney Opera House, The Great Ocean Road and the Bunda Cliffs. Now I`m in the start of a 2 months backpacking trip thru Bali, Philippines and Thailand.

So, How is the camera doing? How am I feeling about my decision? Even though I still want a Sony A7 (anyone interest in help me? just kidding LOL… Ok, maybe not…) I couldn’t be happier and i’ll tell you why in topics!!!

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SIZE:

Sleeping in a hatch and backpacking with a very small budget means I often have to carry my life on my back city and island hopping, hiking in the forests to a desert beach and even driving a scooter in Asia. The camera is so small that it packs anywhere. My entire kit with a Macbook Air, a MeFoto Backpacker tripod, B&W polariser and ND filters and a Mophie battery pack packs in a small backpacker and height less than 5 kg.

As most of my work is about landscapes i use the camera most at F8 and set to snap focus in the infinite what means i need i tripod most of the time and i found myself walking around Sydney or a forest in Bali with the MeFoto Backpacker with legs extended and the camera attached without any problem (ok, I often get some weird locks from the crowds, LOL).

EASY OF USE

The possibility of having 3 personal camera modes on the top dial is amazing and you can configure just everything there I have MY1 set to auto bracketing AE where i can set the exposure I want in each photo and even the order that the camera take/store the shots for my landscapes, MY2 set to F2.8 shallow exposures for temples, confined spaces or portraits and MY3 with my settings for long exposures. That means i don’t have to go thru the painful long menus of the camera, one of the disadvantages of the high user configuration that the RICOH GR allow, what would make me lost lots of shot opportunities. The camera even allows me to configure 3 other buttons for some functions, I use the effect button for shooter timer(use this a lot to eliminate the need of a non available shutter cable to avoid camera shake, just set for 2sec and everything will be ok), FN buttons for ND filter, snap focus distance or autofocus point and I have every thing I need easy to find.

AUTOFOCUS

The ability of move the focus point with the back dial makes me happy every time I have to compose and not worry about choose the correct focus point in a predetermined matrix during a shot in a confined temple.

SNAP FOCUS MODE

That`s one of the main reasons for me to choose the RICOH GR, just so easy to configure the distance I need and click. So easy, no shooter lag at all, perfect for street photography when you can`t miss the moment.

IQ

I`m very happy with the IQ i get from the RAW files in the Lightroom 5 but I wont talk about that as lots of people already did. The only think is that I felt that I need to expose to the right to get best results and avoid noise.

GW3 HOOD AND FILTER ADPTER + B&W FILTERS (LONG EXPOSURES)

I love for long exposures, specially in rock beaches and i got really frustrated during my road trip in Australia where i missed many opportunities cause the built-in ND filter wasn’t enough to produce good results during the day and I didn’t have the time to wait for the blue and golden hours on every location I stopped. So I got myself a GW3 adapter that fits around the lens and allow me to use 49mm filters in the camera and that changed my life, with the B&W ND 3,0 now I`m able to shoot long exposures and get cool effects from the water almost any time of the day and use a B&W XS-PRO MRC nano circular polarizer that have been helping me to increase the contrast of my photos and eliminate water reflections.

What could be better?

-The camera takes lots of time to process long exposures, almost the same time of the exposure itself, so when I take a 5 minutes exposure it takes more almost 5 minutes to process and show the photo;
-The button that hold the top dial in position got stuck after I felt climbing a dune and the camera got some sand;
-The display drains too much battery and I learnt it loosing an amazing sunset cause I composed the shot and kept the camera on waiting for the sun to set and the last bar of the battery was gone in less than 5 minutes.

That’s  it guys, I hope you like the reading and to help anyone interested in the RICOH GR for travel, landscape and long exposure photography.

You guys can follow my adventures in:

www.facebook.com/gabriellimaphotography

instagram.com/travel_gave – my iphone dairy

plus.google.com/+GabrielLima87/

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Jul 242014
 

Il Cuore Siciliano

By Colin Steel – His website is here

(From Steve: Here we are again with another superb set of photographs from Colin Steel, one of my favorite photographers ever. His work is always quite special and I am happy that he chooses to share much of it here. Thanks Colin!)

I recently returned from my second visit to the amazing Easter celebrations in Sicily and I wanted to share some thoughts that have been forming in my head around photographing and making sense of the rituals and place itself. Firstly, Sicily is a very unique island and its cultural development is complex having been subject to a number of different and varied influences over the centuries. For this reason I think it’s extremely challenging for an outsider like me to get to grips with and to really understand the depth of what is going on. As a result of this most photographers, particularly first timers, get caught up in the cliches and more obvious shots that are more superficial in nature. I have done this myself, not only in Sicily but I well remember my first trips to places like Bali and Bagan in Myanmar where I thought I was taking the most incredible and vibrant images only to discover on reflection that, although well composed etc. they were very obvious and had been done many times before , and indeed, had been done much better by more accomplished photographers who knew the locations better. The reason I am saying this is that I now believe that you have to keep visiting places and themes that interest you again and again to get really deep into yourself and your emotional reaction to what you see and feel. Only then can you begin to sensibly translate your view and vision.

As I said, this is only my second visit so I consider myself to be at the very beginning of a long and hopefully fruitful relationship with Sicily and its people. I had a very difficult time this year with editing and sequencing my work as I believe my thinking and photography has changed and matured a great deal in the space of a year since my last visit but I have combined last year and this years work and with my friend Jay Komuda come up with a pretty tight edit that is I believe moving in the right direction.

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Jul 222014
 

My $3 wonder, the classic Ricoh FF-90 Review

By Brandon Huff

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Hey everyone, hope you are all having a great day today! I recently acquired a new to me Ricoh FF-90 film camera. Gotta love the local Goodwill! After buying it I wanted to put it to use so away I went.

I took the Ricoh FF-90 to the river hoping to get some great shots of people and the group I was with, I got a few but noticed some small issues with this camera. This could easily be that it was a Goodwill camera and had some issues from the owner misusing it or just due to age, who knows. However when this camera does focus right and focus well, the camera has pretty well photo quality even though I am using not very good film for this test (just some cheap CVS Kodak film) I may put some Porta 160 in this camera to see how much better it is then update this review with better photos. To me, the lens looks good so far.

My favorite part of this camera over the Contax T2 that I have been using is it is way quicker, though more cheaply made it still feels great in the hand, when I took this on the river I had to keep it in a small waterproof box attached to my belt loop which wasn’t the most comfortable thing ever but good enough to be able to get some good photos. I could easily and quickly grab it out and take a picture then hurry and put it in before the rapids came. When you place film inside this little camera it automatically winds it and tells you the ISO by itself. It’s practically a fully automatic analog camera which is nice for a point in shoot sometimes. So yea, this is indeed a Point and Shoot. Nothing fancy, nothing exotic..just a good old-fashioned P&S film camera.

Kyle, mid day AZ sunshine on the river – Ricoh FF-90

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The colors are actually quite nice even with very cheap film about 8 dollars for 3 rolls, if I was to put Porta 160 in here and the camera focused correctly I bet it would be quite superb..I love Portra!

Sarah Ricoh FF-90

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Group Photo Ricoh FF-90 – others that were on the river that day..

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Group of tubes Ricoh FF-90

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This camera has made many of my photos unusable as it did not focus correctly on many occasions.  It either focused really close or behind the subject which is quite…. odd, but when it works well the images do come out nice and I enjoy the images this camera gives! I must say for 3 dollars from Goodwill this camera is terrific even if it is a little sketchy but hey,  you can’t beat that price! I will be keeping this camera as a backup or carry while hiking kind of camera! Id say if you can find one for under 8 dollars go for it! It’s a great cheap alternatives to the higher rated point and shoots and isn’t that bad of quality!

Thank you everyone for reading!

Brandon

http://brandonhuffphotography.com

Jun 102014
 

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Yogyakarta Black Valentine with Ricoh GR

by William Christiansen

I’ve been using Ricoh GR for almost a year and the camera has always been in my bag. There’s no reason to not bringing the camera because it’s so small yet very capable. I use it alternately with the Leica M9 especially when the condition is so dark which requires me to bump up the ISO or use the flash.

On 14th of February 2014, which was supposed to be Valentine Day, Mount Kelud erupted. The mountain sent its ash and grit to nearby cities including Yogyakarta, my hometown. Coincidentally, it’s also the last day of Chinese New Year celebration which supposedly to be the biggest event as it’s the closing ceremony. It’s really a special day of the year.

Usually I will bring Leica M9 with 35mm Summicron ASPH with me when I go to the street or travelling, but this time I felt that the camera was not suitable for the current condition, so I brought my Ricoh GR to the street.

Ergonomically, the camera is so right on my hand and with the condition, dusty and gritty, because I need to hold the camera by using only one hand while the other hand mostly covering my eye to prevent the grit coming to my eyes.

I set the three customisable user slots to these settings:

Setting1 – For taking picture during the bright light – Aperture priority, F/8, ISO1600, Auto-focus.
Setting2 – For taking picture indoor or relatively dark condition – Aperture priority, F/2.8 ISO3200, Auto-focus.
Setting3 – For taking picture using flash or when the there’s almost no light – F11 , 1/10, ISO1600, Zone focusing set to around 1.5 meter.

For me, these three settings have already covered all possible lighting condition I might encounter. In the morning until afternoon, I will use Setting1, and then afternoon and night-time, I will use either Setting2 or Setting3. The auto-focus of the Ricoh GR is quite good especially when taking photo in the bright light but when the light is lacking, sometimes it will focus on the background rather than the object. It is the reason why I use the Setting3, to take photo quickly in the dark condition without relying on its auto-focus at all. I will surely miss the photo opportunity of the hungry cat if I had been using the Setting2 because there’s almost no light when I took the photo.

I always shoot in raw and process later in Lightroom. I am quite surprised seeing the files from this little camera because it’s really sharp. I converted all the images to black and white in Lightroom and even added some grain to bring more emotion to the images because at ISO3200 the file is relatively clean.

In conclusion, the Ricoh GR is a great camera if you are used to stick to the 28mm focal length. The flash metering is really great, the ISO capability is more than enough and it tooks a really sharp image. It is a really great secondary camera considering it is so small and quite light (you have no reason to not bringing it) and even as a primary camera (highly printable, sharp and great manual settings).

If you want to see more photos from my travelling and street photography, you can visit my website at http://www.touristwith.camera

Thanks, Steve!

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Jun 012014
 

Mallorca in January with the Ricoh GR

By Thorsten Richter

Dear Steve,

Mallorca, main island of the Balearic Islands, is a typical and popular dream destination for Europeans searching for relaxation in the Mediterranean. In the summer months this island is bursting with tourists – mainly Germans, British but also Spaniards from the mainland populate beaches, hotels and resorts. In Winter this hot spot becomes a lot calmer, especially in the weeks following Christmas and New Year. The ones crowded beaches are definitely empty, many hotels are closed and the island is mainly back again in the hands of the residents.

As we planned to do a lot of hiking in the mountains I decided to travel really light concerning my camera gear. My normal travel set-up – a Leica M-series with two lenses – is not strictly what should be called hefty but this time the only picture-taking device that I carried around was a compact Ricoh GR.

I never regretted this decision: The GR is a camera capable of taking pictures with astonishing quality. The files this little gem pumps out are of pristine sharpness and give you much leeway for recovering blocked shadows or bringing back some information to washed out highlights – the latter one as a matter of course in much smaller amount as the first. The options offered by the menus are overwhelming and in the first weeks of using this camera I saw me reprogramming and adjusting the three custom user slots that are offered nearly daily. The lack of an optical viewfinder only bothered me for a short time – after exclusively using it for a few days it felt quite natural. In particular the included level gauge is very comfortable and something I definitely miss today as feature in some of my other cameras.

Using just a small camera with wide-angle lens for one week was a refreshing experience. As a photographer normally using only 35mm or 50mm lenses the new view angle required some mental adjustments; however, if used for enough time I think 28mm has the potential to be as universal as focal length as the classical pair mentioned before.

Below you find six shots taken during travelling through the island by car and walking through olive groves and fruit plantains. The last foto shows the Cathedral in the island’s capital Palma de Mallorca.

As the sun in January strikes in a quite flat angle, playing around with *contre jour* situations was possible nearly the whole day. These situations were handled very well by the small lens and I really liked the results you can e.g. see in shot #5. The flare is nicely washing out some areas of the picture but in no way obtrusive or biting.

You can also find some of my work on the website below:
http://www.chromelightphoto.com

Best regards from Cologne in Germany,

Thorsten

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Apr 152014
 

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Oh Pentax… I tried, I really did.

The Pentax K3 and the Crazy-Acting Mirror Sickness

by Amy Medina

What a frustrating few months it has been. I am going to preface this article by stating this: Pentax really did bend over backwards to try to make me happy, and in the end they did do the right thing for me individually, even if it doesn’t solve the issue (yet) for the many others who may come across it

So it all began back in July. Yes, July. I started having issues with my original K5 and took it to a local retailer for service, being under the silly impression they might be able to fix it there. Their salesman did not tell me otherwise, despite the fact I told him I needed the camera back in a week. Well, Mr. Salesman gave it to Mr. Repairman, not relaying my urgent need for the camera back, and off it went to Pentax without my knowledge.

To keep this long story as short as I can, I’ll spare you all the phone calls and back and forth trying to figure out what was going on with my camera and how much it was going to cost to fix, and who messed up by sending it in the first place (because I could have done that myself)… etc. etc. and fast forward to OCTOBER when I finally got the camera back, not fixed. It was then they finally agreed to fix it for free after all my trouble, and the local Pentax Rep got involved and gave me a K5-II loaner to use. My K5 went back to Pentax.

Then the K3 came out, so I decided to jump in. I was getting a lot more professional work and, though I was frustrated with my recent experience, gave Pentax and my local retailer another chance. The retailer knocked some money off the price of the camera for all my trouble, so I set out to shoot lots of timelapse for my client with my new K3 and my loaner K5-II.

And little did I know, the drama had barely begun.

Almost right away I started having issues with the K3 locking up. In Pentax-Land, we call this “runaway mirror syndrome” or as I like to call it, “Crazy-Acting (or Crazy-Ass) Mirror Sickness” (CAMS). What happens is this: You’re going about your business taking photos or shooting timelapse or whatever, and suddenly, without warning, the mirror goes nuts, starting to slap away rapidly, like a machine gun. The camera goes completely unresponsive when this happens and all you can typically do is pop out the battery to get it to stop. It takes no photos while it’s going nuts either, so whatever shot you were trying to take, well that moment is lost forever. Whatever timelapse you were trying to capture is now lost and interrupted until you stop the camera and get it set back up again to start reshooting.

At first, I obviously thought it was a fluke. Or then maybe it was caused by the weather (it was very cold here). But as time went on, with almost every timelapse shoot I went to, the camera would lock up and go mirror-crazy. I’ve been doing anywhere from one to three of these timelapse shoots per week, so me and the crazy flapping mirror became good friends. And there have been other “silent” lockups too, where the camera just stops shooting and responding.

Having had the contact with the Pentax Rep and Pentax Repair directly now (because of those original K5 problems), I used those contacts to report this problem. And for a long while, I was happy to do testing for them (and for me) to see if we could narrow the problem down. Here’s what I found out.

Crazy-Acting Mirror Sickness (CAMS) of the K3 – A Summary

  • It happens in any temperature, from 10º (F) to 50º (F). So it’s not just in cold weather.
  • It happens in humid (even drippy foggy) weather, as well as dry. Not likely static.
  • It happens indoors and outdoors. So that eliminates most environmental causes.
  • It happens with a multitude of SD cards… different brands and sizes.
  • It happens with a multitude of batteries, from old original K5 batteries to brand spanking new K3 batteries.
  • Pentax even sent me a shiny new NEW battery to try, and it happened with that too.
  • All batteries I’ve used and tried are genuine Pentax ones.
  • I’ve never used third-party batteries, but I’ve heard of others with the issue who have.
  • It happens whether the battery is fully charged, or much more depleted. Doesn’t matter.
  • It happens with all my lenses, not just one.
  • It happens whether you use live-view or not.
  • It happens with one SD card in the camera, or with two.
  • It happens with Shake Reduction on, or with it off.
  • It happens in M (Manual) mode, Av (Aperture Priority Mode) and User Mode.
  • It happened to me shooting timelapse, but reports indicate it happens in all drive modes, including single-shot and continuous shooting.

Another Pentaxian I met online set out to recreate the issue himself, and it happened to him the first day he tried to recreate it. He had the issue crop up with the battery grip. I have never used the battery grip. So it happens with and without.

One user had it happen with the AC Adaptor.

It has happened with all firmware versions, including the latest 1.03.

First part of the video shows a silent lockup. Second half shows the CAMS issue…

 

And worst of all… it happened to me across two K3 bodies.

After all this testing and writing to Pentax Repair about it, they finally told me to exchange the body for a new one. That happened in February. I went to my retailer and he gave me a new K3. That was a Saturday. The following Monday I went to a time-lapse shoot, got half way through the day without a problem (and was feeling optimistic)… and then, just after lunch, this out-of-the-box, new K3 body fell into Crazy-Ass Mirror Sickness.

You can imagine, I wasn’t happy.

Where does that leave me now? Well, very frustrated and disappointed.

Through all of this I’d been communicating with Pentax Repair, who liked to tell me they couldn’t reproduce the issue, which honestly, leaves me asking if they are trying hard enough. It happens to me at nearly every shoot. I know the tech is trying to be helpful when he asks me a lot of questions, but when they are the same questions over and over I get a little irritated. When I send him video of the problem and he tells me “it doesn’t show me anything but your settings” until I tell him to turn up his volume, well you can imagine more than frustration.

And now, my time with the K3 is over. It has been returned in favor of two K5-IIs bodies. So far, with 25,000 shutter actuations on one and 15,000 on the other, I haven’t had any issues. I’ve also bought the Fuji XT1, and since that is time lapse capable, I’ll be testing that out while researching and exploring other options out there as well.

And I will repeat, I am disappointed. Mostly, because I liked the K3 in every other way!

  • Image quality: Outstanding
  • Performance (other than CAMS and random silent lockups): Great
  • High ISO performance: Excellent
  • Autofocus: Much better (more accurate) than original K5
  • Feature-Set: Impressive
  • Size & Weight: Perfect for DSLR
  • Battery Life: Nothing short of amazing
  • Value vs. price: Excellent

but…

  • Service: Very slow.

and…

  • Reliability: Very poor.

… and the end bit, well that’s actually most important when you’re shooting stuff for a paying client.

 

In the end, Pentax is taking care of me. They have let me exchange the K3 out for something else. They fixed that original K5 for me for free because of the retailer’s debacle. They have tried to make me happy. They’ve heard my complaints for months (and to my own credit, have had the benefit of my patient testing for all that time too).

But it makes me sad they haven’t come to a conclusion as to what causes this problem on their flagship DSLR. If they don’t figure it out, it’s possible future bodies will suffer the same problem. If they won’t take the time to reproduce it so they can see what’s happening, it won’t be solved for the other people who run into the issue. I know my shooting is somewhat unique… and because of the weekly timelapse shoots, I run into the issue more regularly, by sheer law of averages. But I’ve heard stories from other Pentaxians who are just shooting regular, typical photography and run into the issue as well. Not good. Not good at all.

Matter of fact, I started a thread at the PentaxForums for people to report the issue, and in a month’s time, it’s accumulated 74 reports of this same issue. And most of those people weren’t shooting timelapse at all.

Other K3 Users Reporting the Issue

I’m not a kid having a tantrum here. My only hope is that Pentax sees this as the serious issue it truly is and decides it’s important enough to track down, address and fix. I’ve actually recommended Pentax cameras directly and indirectly (through reviews) over the years, and have converted several photographers into Pentaxians, amateurs and professionals alike. I want Pentax to be my go-to work camera. And they want me on their side… especially when I’m one of the few who actually likes the K-01. LOL

A great number of you may never run into this issue… and for that I’m glad.

If you don’t shoot time-lapse or weddings/events professionally, journalism or even birds/animals/nature, it’s probably not an issue to worry too much about… at least in the sense that it will cause you wide-spread problems. If you have to depend on it to get specific shots that you cannot “do over”, and if the camera is getting heavy use, then I’d rethink relying on the K3 until this issue is fixed.

The silver lining in all of this is that as much testing as I’ve done to the K3, I’ve also done to the K5-II… and the K5-II has been rock solid. Not a second of trouble in all the same conditions at all the same shoots. No lockups, no mirror gone cray-cray, no corrupt SD cards or files… not one issue at all. The K5-IIs bodies are proving just as reliable so far. At least we know it’s possible for Pentax/Ricoh to produce a dependable, well performing camera. What is frustrating is that their newest model, with all it’s wonderful new features appears not to be that camera.

I didn’t WANT to give up the K3. In every other way I was truly impressed by the camera and the K5-IIs/K5-II is a step backwards. They have tried to help me, but the exchange isn’t a solution to the problem, only a solution to my predicament at the moment. If it is never fixed, does that mean we’ll all have to worry about the same issue coming up again in their next model? At this point, I’d say that is likely, and that is quite unfortunate.

Below I will share some of the photos I’ve taken for my own enjoyment in the time I’ve owned the K3, and timelapse videos for you to see. I hope you enjoy them. If you’re a Pentax user who has experienced CAMS, please report it to Pentax, even if it only happened to you once. Don’t be silent. If you haven’t had the issue, I hope you never do… and truly, just go forth and enjoy your Pentax K3. But for this issue, there’s a lot to enjoy there.

Follow me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/DangRabbitPhotography

Twitter: @DangRabbit

Google+: www.gplus.to/DangRabbit

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Mar 122014
 

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Brazil 2014

by Colin Steel – His Website is HERE

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Given that Brazil is one of the worlds most famous footballing countries and the massive amount of media attention focused on this years World Cup there, I thought it might be interesting to look at another aspect of this fascinating country by experiencing life in the more rural areas. I also want to spin in some thoughts that I have been having for a while on my motivation to photograph, choice of subject matter and the development of photographic style.

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I have only visited Brazil once and somehow I was not attracted to the main cities and wanted to see for myself what the less publicised Brazil looked like. For an outsider like me I had two cliches of Brazil in my head, firstly the frantic, carnavalistic Rio and of course the jungles of the Amazon with its indigenous tribes. As I said, somehow I wanted to have a look at what I thought would be the more normal but rural Brazil so I headed to Cachoeira in North East Brazil via the entry city of Salvador de Bahia. Armed with my trusty Fuji X20 and a newly purchased Ricoh GR I started to photograph and this is where it got really interesting for me.

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Unbeknown to me, this area of Brazil had historically been a major location for slave trading and I am sure I read somewhere that more slaves were landed here than in North America but either way, there is a massive African cultural influence that is apparent in many aspects of life here from cuisine to religion. It was this religious aspect that made the subsequent photographs interesting for me without consciously realising it at the time.

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I quickly discovered that there was a local religion that I know very little about called Candomble and as best as I can understand it, its a blend of traditional African beliefs and ceremony fused with some Christian elements. The religion is not based on scripts and it appeared to me to be kept alive through chants and dance. I had the very good fortune to be allowed to attend part of a Candomble event and witness the rituals first hand. I must say that despite their concern for privacy (and rightly so) the people I met at the hall were very warm to me although we could not understand each others language very well. I am sure that Candomble has been photographed many times and probably more eloquently than my shots so there is nothing knew in this but I wanted to try explain how the experience shaped how and what I shot for the rest of my stay.

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Whether my interpretation of the Candomble religion is correct or not, it did trigger some thinking in me that I feel is fundamentally important and I wanted to try to share it here. What I found was that the dances and chants had a very spiritual side to them and I was also asked by the people there not to touch anything I came across as it might be there for a purpose to guide spirits. I began to notice many things like animal parts on the ground and somehow I became more aware and sensitised to my surroundings. Why is this important from a photographic point of view? Well I began to photograph things that I would previously have passed by and at the same time I began to ignore subjects that I would recently have photographed because I thought that it might have proved attractive and that other people might have been impressed by. This meant that I was photographing from within myself and only shooting subjects and scenes that had real emotional meaning to me personally regardless of what others may think of them.

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As you can imagine this is pretty challenging to do but I forced myself to not go for shots where I felt no internal emotional or spiritual association and found that I became immersed at times in my own world, seeing things very differently from my previous photographic eye.

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Having started like many photographers obsessed by the technicalities of the art and worrying about sharpness, composition and so on its very difficult to snap out of that way of thinking but I now firmly believe that if you are really serious about using photography as a medium to express yourself and the depth behind our extraordinary lives you have to either let go of the formal concepts or at least use them only at the subconscious level. If you are able to allow yourself to be drawn to things that you need not understand but somehow they trigger an internal stimuli, notion or recognition then you can make your photography personal and I think that is the ultimate step in both satisfaction and making your photography unique to you. In some sense every photograph you take then is actually a capture of yourself. Surely that is a laudable objective.

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When I got myself into this frame of mind I found quite quickly that my photographs became more content dominant. I now believe this to be a very good thing and almost a sure sign that what you are shooting is personal to you in some way. That is not to say that the photographs do not have the other elements of light and form but somehow, as I am sure I remember Roger Ballen saying somewhere, the content becomes the form. To try to explain this a little, in the photo of the dog above, its the light that makes it work but it was the dog that attracted me first and I felt that he had something to say that could not be seen by sitting him down and snapping him. For me there is a real mystery to life and sometimes we have to leave our rational brains behind to reveal other sensory and spiritual aspects.

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I guess going back to the beginning of mankind there are certain deep rooted emotions, fears, loves, desires and terrors that are within us all and they can be triggered in many different ways by sounds, smells, light and so on. What the Brazilian experience has done for me is sensitised me to a way of looking for times when I personally feel a need to respond to something by either looking more closely at it it or sometimes, as in the previous animal head shot, recoiling from it. This immediately alerts me to the fact that there is something that I need to make sense of for myself.

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Quite often you will begin to find that when you shoot personally or privately from within there are relationships between the subjects, shapes and forms that will assist you as a photographer to edit and sequence more powerfully and I certainly found that to be the case for me.

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I began to find that I was attracted to photograph something initially because of a simple shape, line or reflection that interested me and when I began to look more closely other combinations and elements would appear.

One thing I want to avoid here is to make this sound mysterious or revelationary because I genuinely don’t think it is and, in fact, in some ways its the opposite. This approach is simple and strips away nearly all of the mystique of the photographic craft by allowing you to be free in how and what you choose to shoot unencumbered by technicalities.

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I think by now you should hopefully be getting some understanding of what I find incredibly difficult to put into words. I only know that this set of images is as close as I have ever come to showing myself through the photographic medium and I derive a huge amount of personal satisfaction from that. Its nice, but not important to me if other people like the images. I feel in a way that I have been working towards this for the last year or so but somehow it took the trigger of the Candomble experience to show me how to do it.

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One of the nice things I have found about trying to shoot from subconscious instinct and response is that the photos are not at all narrow or constrained to particular subjects or themes and whilst I find myself shooting much less people, my sense of it is that when I do its in a much more sensitive way.

I mentioned at the start the very thorny subject of photographic style and this is something that I have struggled to understand since I began photography around six years ago. I know more and more that I respond to certain photographers and their imagery and less so others. I have also become an avid collector of photo books by the same photographers that I admire and I am beginning to formulate a personal view on style.

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I think its reasonable to say that anyones ‘style’ whether they be actor, fashion designer, movie maker, writer or whatever is in some way shaped by their life experiences and the personal influences that they draw on. It seems to me that I am attracted to photographers who place very little importance on anything other than shooting only things that intrinsically interest them. Whether you could say that they have developed completely individual ‘style’ I am not so sure and quite often we identify photographers not by their style but simply through the fact that we know their photographs or by some mannerism that they frequently use. What I am sure of though is that they photograph individualistically and derive their style not from a camera, film, lens or other mannerism but from the fact that they photograph something of themselves in all of their best photographs whether that be their lust, desires, fears, uncertainties or whatever and that is what makes them compelling for me to look at. I often also find the case that they are best at creating bodies of work and, although they might have a few iconic images, its only when you look at a complete compilation that they make most sense and have greatest appeal, hence the importance of the photo book for me.

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This takes me back to the earlier point I made that I think if you can shoot from inside then your work becomes more sensible and easier to edit and sequence. I am sure most photographers will agree with me that editing your work is without doubt one of the hardest things to do and we all agonise over the photo we love but that doesn’t fit. Well, while that doesn’t disappear entirely, I have certainly found that despite the diverse subject matter, I can more easily see a continuity in the photos I take and I firmly believe that is because I am responding to internal triggers and trying to search out my spirituality.

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Returning then to Brazil, as you can see, I found the country fascinating and once in the countryside an amazing stream of events unfolded and I found the photography very rewarding. As in every rural community in the world that I have visited people that live off the land tend to be warm and kind if treated with respect and that proved to be the case here as we were continually were gifted lovely fresh oranges or a newly rolled cigar.

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I think I need to begin to wind this up now as I am in danger of repeating the simple message that I hoped to share in this short article. If anyone wants to see the full set in my choice of sequence they can do so here .

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Finally, I want to finish by just saying a little about the opening picture that I feel has a very important role in what I wanted to say here. The photo is of a chameleon who had been caught and was being cooked by some poor local fishermen. Needless to say I found it very sad to see the beautiful creature change unwillingly to the colour of the coals in his death but somehow there was something important for me in this event. I would never have previously stopped to even look at this because I would have been repulsed but that very sensation now made me want to go and take a closer look to see if I could find any meaning in the sad event. I became intrigued by the newspaper that had attached to the lizard in the fire and somehow, even in death there was meaning to this. I don’t think its overly important but the Portuguese words Na Verdade on the paper mean ‘actually …….. ‘ and it did suggest to me something that I can’t fully understand and certainly can’t put into words but that photograph sure speaks to me.

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Dec 172013
 

An Autumn tour in Northern Xinjiang with my Leica M9P, Leica MP and Ricoh GR

by Wilson Chong

For the Han Chinese, Xinjiang used to be called the Western Frontier during the Han Dynasty. It was not until the Qing Dynasty (Manchu) renamed it as Xinjiang (the new frontier). Xinjiang has been and always will be a place where travellers is no stranger to it. One of the most famous traveller of course is Marco Polo.

Xinjiang is a muslim country, the chineswe called it Hujiang, which means Muslim Frontier. Although Uyghur is the majority nationality in the region, the second biggest ethinic group is Han, then Kazahj in the third place and to my surprise the Mongols is not even in the top five.

Northern Xinjiang are mostly populated by Kazakh and they are descendants of the Turkic tribes. Of course you will hear the occasional bombings and sometimes incidents happened, these are mostly concentrated in Southern Xinjiang in the Uighurs region. During my experience this September 2013, I see no troubles in Northern Xinjiang. Although in Urumqi, you will see highten security forces on the streets, there is no much signs of troubles. The security in the hotels are very strict and I would say I don’t feel I was in any danger while I was there even when I walk around in the city during the day. People are very friendly no matter what nationality. However, one word of warning, there are plenty of pickpockets and watch out your travel documents and money.

Urumqi City Skyline - Ricoh GR

PHOTO 1 - Ricoh GR

I joined a tour group which specialised in photo trips in Hong Kong for 13 days. One of the highlight of this tour was house riding 8 hours from Kanas Lake District to the infamous Hemu Village, where it was the old horse route to the village. Also, we got to go to Baihaba, but be warned again, since the village is next to the border of Kazakhstan (well, it is literally next to the border together with the Chinese Army barracks – of course we are not allowed to film or even pointing our camera towards it), foreigners are prohibited to visit. However, two of my friends were able to get it but again this was no guarantee as there were check points.

Horse riding into Hemu Village, Xinjiang - Ricoh GR

PHOTO 2 - Ricoh GR

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Kanas Lake District - Ricoh GR

PHOTO 3 - Ricoh GR

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Baihaba Village, Xinjiang - Ricoh GR

PHOTO 4 - Ricoh GR

Since there was no direct flight from Hong Kong, we went to Shenzhen airport and fly six hours to Urumqi. We only stayed for a day on arrival and one day before we return to Hong Kong. However, if you have more time, I would highly recommend you to explore this city more. This is also where we can stay in a five starts hotel. When we go up North, expect camp style accommodation but is clean and usable. However, the scenery is worth every money and your effort. I would say, it is a trip of a life time.

Lamb Skew – food is no problem while you are there.. - Ricoh GR

PHOTO 5 - Ricoh GR

During this trip, I had a hard time deciding what gear to bring. Should I bring my M Monochrom? However, thinking of the beautiful scenery, I decide to bring my Leica M9P, which I can always convert them into B&W after I return. Then I must bring second camera, The Ricoh GR was a strong candidate because it is compact, the 28mm is ideal for landscape as well as Street Photography, the APSC sensor would give a decent pixel to take quality image. More importantly, I would able to use the Ricoh GR in Urumqi or in situation where I need to be discreet. Bearing in mind it is a Muslim area and I don’t want to offend – However, I was proved wrong, people are nice and will to take photos but of course, the Ricoh GR is quick to use and fast that I won’t regret that I miss any photo opportunity. On an epic trip, I cannot hold back in bring my Leica MP. Why? I like films and during my father’s day, they do it with film and after such a trip, you skills will improve because of the pressure on you that there is no second chance. The film I choice was Fujifilm Fujichrome Velvia 100 taking into account I have to go through custom (ISO below 400?) and I will be shooting mostly in a bright daylight (keeping my figures cross that there will be no rain). So, I packed 40 rolls. Thanks to Japan Camera Hunter Film Case, I save a lot of trouble packing into my backpack.

There will be others trying to get the same shot… - Ricoh GR

PHOTO 6 - Ricoh GR

If you want more of the Xinjiang Photos, please visit my flickr page at:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/wilson888/

Here are some of the amazing landscape in Northern Xinjiang:

 

Hemu Village

 

Sunset at Hemu Village - 135mm f2.8 Elmarit-M + M9P

PHOTO 7 - Leica M9P

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Hemu Village during the day - 21mm f/3.4 Super Elmar-M ASPH + M9P

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This is also where they filmed “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”. Leica-M Summilux 35mm f1.4 ASPH II + MP

Fujichrome Velvia 100

PHOTO 9 - Leica M9P

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WoLong Bay, Kanas Lake District - Ricoh GR

PHOTO 10 - Ricoh GR

People in Norther Xinjiang 

Lamb Skewers are more than 7 Eleven… - Leica-M Summilux 35mm f1.4 ASPH II + MP

Fujichrome Velvia 100

PHOTO 10 - Leica MP

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They used to ride horses… now the Iron Horses, what they say now. - Leica-M Summilux 35mm f1.4 ASPH II + MP

Fujichrome Velvia 100

PHOTO 11 - Leica MP

Anyway, I would thank you Steve for posting my submission and wish you all the best! Looking forward to your reviews, reports and thoughts on photography!

Best regards,

Wilson Chong

Nov 232013
 

The Ricoh GR Tokyo Style by Colin Steel

See Colin’s Site HERE

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Wow, my mind is a whizz just now with all of the exciting new cameras that are being hyped and launched at us in a seemingly endless stream of intense campaigning by all of the big manufacturers, incredible times and I must say I really enjoy looking at all of the shiny new stuff. One of the less highly hyped cameras of recent times that seems to be quietly slipping into the background though as it is eclipsed by the exciting FF, M43 and retro Nikon’s is the good old Ricoh GR. I wrote briefly about it in a recent post from a trip to Brazil where I used it in a limited way but began to respect its small size and easy handling. Last weekend I had the opportunity to make a short weekend trip to Tokyo and I decided to take the little fellow as my only camera as I thought it would be perfectly suited to city shooting on the streets of Tokyo.

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Given that I had only three days in Tokyo I wanted to treat it casually and just enjoy the gorgeous Autumn weather and light, and to catch up with a few friends including the amazing Bellamy Hunt (Japan Camera Hunter) who is the font of knowledge on all things film camera in Tokyo. Before I left for the trip I happened to be having dinner with a few friends in Singapore, one of whom also happened to have the GR and while we were messing around Kevin Y Lee (founder of Invisible Photographer Asia) who is a smashing photographer and very knowledgable camera dude pointed out the High Contrast B&W effect preset and laughingly called it ‘Daido mode’ after the style of the revered Tokyo based photographer Daido Moriyama who also happened to be a Ricoh user. Well, like most serious photographers I am usually totally dismissive of in-camera effects and normally don’t even bother to look at them. We continued to mess around with the setting and against my ingrained bias, I had to admit that the effect was pretty cool for certain subjects and I decided to give it a try for a bit of fun while shooting in Tokyo over the weekend with of course the camera RAW files for my more normal stuff.

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With the little GR set up to shoot RAW + jpg and in the B&W high contrast (Daido mode :) ) my buddy Jay and I decided to try to stay out for 24 hours and shoot what ever came our way while wandering around Akihabara, Shibuya and Shinjuku. As any photographer who has been there will know Tokyo is a delight for just wandering and shooting as you go and the more discreet your camera the better and I don’t think its any coincidence that the film GR was Moriyama’s tool of choice. Where the modern GR scored big time for me was with the snap focus function, which as I mentioned before, I have programmed onto the function button on the side of the camera and I usually leave it set on 1.5 metres which works well for me most of the time.

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As I said, the use of in-camera effects is usually frowned on by serious photographers and I think for very good reason. However, as I found out, they can be fun if applied appropriately and sympathetically to the shooting context. I thought it might be worth mentioning what I personally consider the pros and cons of this kind of effect. Firstly, I don’t think this particular effect is overly extreme and indeed many great photographers (particularly Japanese) develop, process and/or edit their shots in this way because of the visual impact that it can achieve and from that point of view is a fast and simple way to get that look. Secondly, I very much like the consistency factor that using the strong B&W effect gives and that goes a long way to creating a mood and rhythm to your set or portfolio. Finally, I like to see my shots in-camera and as I am shooting in as close a form to the finished article as possible and I normally have my Fuji’s set up for square and B&W with a yellow filter so that I can see how the light is behaving and how the shots are looking as I take them and when I review them. With the GR I have a small Lumix optical VF that I picked up cheap but I still predominately use the rear screen to frame and shoot. It’s a style that I liken to a gigantic rangefinder and I have come to like it so it makes sense to see the shots on the screen in as close a representation of how you want them to finally look.

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I think the downsides of using effects are pretty obvious. There is a real danger that the shots become cliched (as happened to me with a couple of these..) and that the pre-set becomes dominant at the expense of creating proper emotional effect or mood. On initial viewing some shots can appear very attractive but that can sometimes wear off very quickly after looking at a few shots if the subject matter, light, form and content is not good and the overall effect becomes tiresome.

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Going back to the GR as a camera for a moment, I don’t want this short, fun article to detract from the enormous capability of this tiny titan. I managed to stroll around Tokyo for hours on end without carrying any bags or other encumberancies with this little gem on a wrist strap. It goes without saying that the longer you walk and venture around a city like Tokyo then the more you increase your chances of finding interesting situations and material and, along with some good light footwear I can think of no better photographic tool for city shooting.

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I don’t think there is room in this short post to show enough of the set I created (40 shots) in order to build the full mood and feel that I was trying for but I hope the benefit point I made about consistency begins to emerge at least in a limited way. I haven’t had a chance yet to look at the RAW files from the three days but am keen to do so to see what else is in there as I think the strong contrast obscured some detail that may be interesting.

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At risk of stating the blindingly obvious, this kind of effect works best on simply sturctured subjects and frames and you need to be very careful that you don’t start to miss important shots and details because your screen is showing you a mass of pure blacks and whites with very little real tonal detail.

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Finally on the in camera effect front, I did out of interest try one other mode that my friends had mentioned and it delivered a shot that I like very much and for me captures a little of the essence of Tokyo’s Ginza shopping district. The effect is called positive film look I think and clearly it emulates a nice slide film appearance. To be honest I don’t think I will use these again in any seriousness as I like the output from the camera as it is and I think these effects can make you lazy in your shooting style. Having said that, I can’t deny the fun I had with the ‘Daido look’ setting and it contributed to a fantastic, fun weekend in this endlessly interesting city.

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Well, thats it for this brief bit of fun shooting. I mentioned at the start all of the amazing cameras that are coming our way and, as I said, I am as big an addict as anyone for cameras however, I think its a shame that less well marketed or hyped cameras like the GR will quickly be lost in the stampede, don’t be seduced by the marketing spin, I never buy a camera until I have held it in my hands and got a sense for its responsiveness to the way I work. That is much more important in my book than the sensor size, resolution or tricky features.

Incidentally for any photo book fans visiting Tokyo, the area around Jinbocho station is a treasure trove of used bookshops most of which have photography sections and I picked up a lovely cheap copy of Tarkovsky’s polariods which I can’t put down. Happy hunting if you get a chance to go there.

As ever, safe travels and happy shooting.

Colin

Nov 082013
 

The Three Amigos in the Streets of New York:

Ricoh GR, Sony Rx1, Nikon V1 and 32mm Lens

By Joe Marquez – His website can be seen HERE

On a recent trip to New York, I took the Ricoh GR, Sony Rx1 and Nikon V1 (and 32mm lens) to do a little street photography on the side. The Ricoh GR is the smallest aps-c camera, the Sony RX1 is the smallest full frame camera and the Nikon V1 is most likely the fastest focusing mirrorless camera in the world. Walked around New York in my spare time carrying these three little cameras in a very nice ONA Bowery bag.

Here are my brief thoughts working with each of the cameras and I’ve included a plethora of images for your review.

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Ricoh GR

The diminutive Ricoh GR has the full frame equivalent of a 28mm f/2.8 lens and is widely touted as one of the best street cameras available. I consider its 16.2 MP aps-c sensor a sweet spot for street work. I’ve owned this camera for about a month and it took a few days to get comfortable with the menu system and features. I still have much to learn yet I was able to use the Ricoh effectively on the street.

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For the most part, I set the camera on TAv mode (manual setting of aperture and shutter speed and auto iso) and adjusted aperture and shutter speed as necessary. Very easy, intuitive and important because light in New York City changes often and significantly due to buildings, open avenues, cloud cover and more. I did blow out a couple of shots when I forgot to adjust shutter speed. However, other than my miscues, the camera seemed to consistently nail exposure.

Another feature I enjoyed was every time the camera turned on it would display the function buttons and the assigned customization. Such a small feature but so nice for a Ricoh novice such as myself. And of course the exposure compensation toggle was easily adjustable with my thumb and I used it with no problem.

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I really enjoyed the focusing options on the Ricoh – perhaps its strength. Primarily, I used snap focus between one to two meters but would often override by using the autofocus button. In general I stopped down as much as possible to maximize the DOF however there were situations when I had to shoot wide open at f/2.8.

Image quality from the Ricoh was outstanding. Colors looked accurate, black and white conversions were excellent and there’s plenty of detail in the 16.2 MP aps-c sensor.

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Oh and I really liked the small size of the Ricoh. One day while shooting the New York Halloween Parade (with a Nikon DSLR – my El Guapo) I carried the Ricoh in my pant pocket and used it for a few wide angle shots. Worked like a charm. Also, the camera is so small and discrete people pretty much ignored my picture taking. Thanks Ricoh for keeping the camera so nondescript. Well done.

Overall, the Ricoh was the smallest and most discrete of the three, but simply worked great – the Martin Short of the Three Amigos.

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Sony Rx1

The Sony Rx1 with the 35mm f/2 Zeiss lens is a superb camera and produces amazing images with its 24.3 MP full frame sensor. However, the Sony would be such a great street camera if it simply added a snap focus feature or would not revert to infinity every time the camera slept or was turned off. Of course shooting at f/8 or f/11 alleviates much of the focusing issues, but my intent was to shoot the Sony wide open to get that shallow DOF for a completely different street look than the Ricoh.

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To give me the focusing flexibility I assigned the C button to AF/MF Control Toggle and the AEL button to AF/MF Control Hold. This allowed me to alternate between autofocus and zone focusing. More often than not I would focus to a particular point by holding down the customized AEL button, then release to lock in the distance. This required some extra effort but worked reasonably well. I probably looked silly randomly aiming the camera at different things in different directions to get the zone focusing distance I wanted. And of course every time the RX1 went to sleep the distance would revert to infinity. Ugh.

Overall I was willing to sacrifice the percentage of keepers to get that shallow DOF and lovely out-of-focus rendering from the Sony – so most of my shots were taken at f/2. Occasionally a scene required a greater DOF and it was a treat to hear and feel those 1/3 incremental soft clicks when I turned the aperture ring. Sweet camera this RX1.

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I shot in manual mode (mostly f/2) and auto iso and adjusted shutter speed depending on light. The exposure compensation dial is readily accessible and allowed me to quickly tweak if needed.

Image quality was superb as one would expect from this camera and the shallow DOF shots were just what I wanted.

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If the Ricoh GR is Martin Short, the Sony Rx1 is Steve Martin – the most successful of the Three Amigos.

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Nikon V1 and 32mm Lens

That leaves Chevy Chase. I only took one lens with the Nikon V1 and that is the 32mm f/1.2. This gave me the equivalent of an 86mm super fast lens on a fast focusing camera – all in a package similar in size and weight to the RX1.

As you may be aware I am a fan of Nikon’s 1 System, primarily because it is the fastest focusing mirrorless system available. And despite the small CX sensor, the camera delivers more than adequate image quality for my street photography. Add the 32mm lens to the V1 and now I had a crazy quick rig and an entirely different look than the Ricoh and Sony.

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In many ways the Nikon is the easiest to shoot because it has the fewest bells and whistles. I set the camera to manual or aperture priority and auto iso. I love shooting at f/1.2 and the greater DOF with the small sensor hides many focusing errors. Focus is set to auto-area, face-priority AF is activated and I simply let the camera rip with its silent electronic shutter that reaches speeds of 1/16,000 sec. So different than the Ricoh and Sony.

Autofocusing is fast, accurate and tracks very well – although not perfectly. If someone walked toward me I raised the Nikon and pressed the shutter. Most of the time the camera found a focus point quickly, but occasionally it hunted before finding a subject or face. Sometimes it missed focus entirely, then latched on in the second or third shot of a continuous sequence.

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The Nikon was so fast I was able to get a considerable number of in-focus shots out the window of a fast moving New York taxi. It could see it trying to lock onto people’s faces standing or walking near an intersection. Incredible little camera and the 32 is just plain special IMHO.

Image quality may be the worse of the three cameras but is perfectly adequate. The metering system is top notch and the small 10 MP files convert beautifully to black and white. The out-of-focus rendering of the 32mm lens is a pleasant surprise and of the three cameras it produced subject isolation the best.

The Nikon with the 32 is larger than the Ricoh, but because of the longer focal length I was able to get some nice close-ups without being intrusive. People in the street generally ignored my shooting with the Nikon and 32 and I believe I was able to get the most natural looking candids of the three.

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Overall the Nikon did a great job on the street and I probably ended up with more keepers than with the Ricoh or Sony. I suspect this may change over time as I become more familiar with the Ricoh GR.

So the Nikon 1 system may not have the image quality of the Ricoh or Sony, but the one strength it has – incredible autofocusing – when coupled with the fast 32mm prime lens makes for a beautifully efficient street rig.

Final Thoughts

You may wonder why I took three cameras and didn’t just use the Nikon V1 and an all-in-one zoom lens (10-30mm) or a couple of primes (10/2.8 and 18.5/1.8). Well, the zoom lens is too slow and even with the 1 System primes, I really wanted a variety of looks and the image quality of the Ricoh GR and Sony Rx1.

I’m not a pixel peeper when it comes to image quality. In particular, street photography is less about image quality and much more about the moment and composition – and of course getting the subject in focus. But all else being equal it’s nice to have that little extra image quality or slightly different look if possible – and he Ricoh and Sony delivered.

Overall, the Ricoh GR is small, discrete and simply made for street photography. The Sony Rx1 is a bit temperamental as a street camera, but the images are so lovely and worth the extra effort. The Nikon V1 and 32mm lens kept producing surprisingly strong street images with the least amount of work.

Why else take all three? Kind of cool being on the streets of New York with the smallest aps-c, smallest full frame and fastest focusing mirrorless cameras in the world – and shooting like the wind. Cough.

 

Sep 132013
 

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The Ricoh GR in Brazil

by Colin Steel – See his BLOG Here

Hey friends, sorry its been a while since I posted anything but I thought some of you may be interested in some thoughts I have on the newish Ricoh GR which I used in a pretty limited way on a recent trip to Brazil. Regular readers will know that I have been shooting 1:1 black and white for a while now and this trip was no different, I used my trusty Fuji X20 and to a lesser extent the X100s for most of the work I did (working on a post on that to follow). However, I also had along with me a newly purchased Ricoh GR and I decided to see how that worked for me as a camera and just for a change, to show the results in a normal format and in colour. As most of you will know, I kind of take image quality as for-granted with modern cameras and of more importance to me personally is how the camera fits the way I work and its overall usability factor. Here are some links to reviews that you might want to look at if the camera interests you at Steve Huff, and, although I much prefer Steve’s real world user style, here is the more thorough and technical DP Review version. I think as you can see here, you will have no problems with IQ and so on and almost all of the reviews I looked at were very positive on the camera overall.

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Just in case anyone is wondering, I stopped shooting colour and 3:2 because firstly, I am very colour blind and had a lot of problems in Lightroom when editing and secondly, I really find that I can fill the frame more interestingly with a square format. These are only personal preferences of mine and I will try to explain the thinking behind them a bit better in my next post on the main body of work from Brazil. Anyway, these colours look ok to me but please bear with me if they are a bit off in any way. All of the shots here have had very minimal adjustments with a mild saturation boost and a little clarity added and that’s more or less it. Enough of the background stuff, what about the camera as a travel partner and photo tool?

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GR, Friend or Foe?

Quite often camera reviews often end with a ‘who is this camera for?’ statement or an extensive list of pro’s and con’s that can often be somewhat amusing. For example I read a review of the GR that had the fixed 28mm equivalent lens as a con, you have to be kidding !!!!!! Surely no one in their right mind would buy a camera like this if they didn’t see that as a distinct advantage for their needs.

The longer I am involved in photography and the more passionate I become about the creative possibilities of its art, the more and more I gravitate towards simplicity and compactness in the cameras that I use and this little wonder ticks all of the right boxes in that respect with a couple of major operational upsides that I will come to shortly. The reason I mentioned the lens comment is that I have tried to show with the photos that I have chosen to show here that this is an extremely versatile camera and much of that is down to its maturity as a product (the GR range has a strong film heritage) the focal length chosen and its overall ease of use.

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From a handling perspective I really love this camera, I attached one of the marvellous Peak Design cuff wrist straps on it and it becomes a highly manoeuvrable and flexible, one hand if I want it, shooting marvel. Let me explain why and also point out where you have to be a bit careful with this as well. The GR is very easily configured to your preferred set up and very easy to control with one hand if you need to – here is what I find works best for me and you might want to try yourself. First up, I set the camera in the Pentax/Ricoh unique TAv mode which allows you to set both shutter and aperture via the front and back control dials and the camera then gets the correct exposure by choosing the ISO value. This is extremely liberating for me as I tend to value a lot of depth of field but at the same time want to make sure that I can maintain a suitable shutter speed for my situation. I also found that ISO up to 6400 was a breeze for this camera although you need to be very careful in colour if you go beyond that. So, all I do is tweak the setting as I move into a new environment. In other words in daylight I would normally walk around with the GR set at F8 and 1/125th as I know this will get me almost any shot I want as long as there is no great movement going on. Indoors in poorer light I simply open up the aperture F3.5 or something and if things are static drop to 1/40 s shutter speed or thereabouts. This is a very simple process that quickly becomes second nature and gives good predictable results. Then the icing on the cake is that I have configured the ‘effect’ function button which is handily placed on the left hand side to control the snap focus distance and I use this as a kind of insurance policy by normally setting it on 1.5 metres so that I know that if I press he shutter straight down it will focus there and my additional DoF via the aperture will get me the shot. I realise as I read what I have written here that this sounds a little complicated but trust me its not, simply try it for yourself and you will see how it frees you up to think about the shot and what you want to say with it. The only catch I have found with this is that you have to be respectful of not shooting one handed unless it suits what you are doing and this is because of the obvious risk of the inherent lack of stability that goes with this style of shooting. Its fine to control the camera with one hand for the settings and so on but better to get as much grip on it as you can when actually shooting. I believe some of the previous GR models had image stabilising in them and its a shame it wasn’t possible to engineer it in here, just be sensible and you wont find it a big deal. Thats it for menus and settings for me, I simply don’t touch the menus again after that initial set up and only apply small variations to the aperture and shutter speeds as I described. Incidentally, I mentioned that the GR is a mature product and it feels just great in the hand, the grip and tactile feel is superb.

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Here is a good example of the one handed approach giving me an interesting angle and there is a strange story to this shot as well. Two of my companions were Brazilian and unbeknown to me this guy that I was photographing outside the tiny Bar Dos Amigos cantina had told them that he had killed a guy with a machete the day before !!! Not sure if this was true or not but he did look a bit sinister and I am glad I was blissfully unaware. As usual with smaller cams though, they are generally much less intrusive and discrete and I think that, as many of you will have experienced, they lend themselves to a more intimate style of shooting.

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As other reviewers have pointed out, I did find that the camera has a slight tendency to underexpose but personally I tend to like a slightly darker tone and the exposure compensation is a breeze being handily located near the thumb grip. You may want to consider setting the AEL/AFL button on the other side of the thumb grip to exposure lock and using that to control metering off of neutral tones if required or to lock on a sky as in this shot above.

I had intended to keep this brief as in all honesty I didn’t use the GR very much on the trip so I want to finish by returning to the lens and its benefits and then looking at what happens when you push the ISO on the camera.

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At 28mm equivalent focal length this is about as wide as I am prepared to go nowadays as I have come to really dislike the distortions that come in with wider lenses. The distortion is here too in the GR but I chose this shot as an example of how decently controlled it is for such a wide lens. You can see the ‘pull’ on the boys eye and face but for me it doesn’t ruin the shot or overly distract me and I think that is a fine achievement by Ricoh and this is a pretty extreme example. Sharpness is something else that I usually take fore-granted in modern kit as I don’t think its that critical for my style but even with my dodgy eyesight this looks sharp all of the way to the edges. Again, this is born out in the techy reviews.

By the way, all of the shots here were taken using the superb rear screen on the GR and I never once felt that I couldn’t see properly to frame my shots. I have mentioned it in previous posts but I rather like the giant rangefinder effect of being able to see the complete environment while framing. Since returning from Brazil however I did have a bit of luck and found a a Lumix 24mm optical viewfinder used for S$70 and its proving great for when I feel a viewfinder framing is needed. Absurdly the stated 24mm frame lines seem to fit perfectly the 3:2 size of the GR images. I don’t know if anyone else has had this experience but if if you are looking for a cheap viewfinder option I can highly recommend this one.

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I want to draw towards a close with a couple of shots that were taken in near impossible light at what I think was the cameras highest ISO setting. I had to apply quite a lot of NR in Lightroom to these and the they became a bit mushy but I rather think they still just about make it. I am not a purist at all in these matters and prefer the fact that the images have some degree of visual and emotional impact on me that overrides the lack of clarity in the final image. The following shot was taken with flash and unfortunately this one is a bit more mushy but I still like the overall effect and I could probably have gotten away with more in a B&W conversion.

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By the way, I think the marvellous Roger Ballen would have loved this place which was a riverside abandoned sugar cane factory which had been occupied by itinerant fishermen and their families. I would dearly love to go back and try to shoot in a more controlled way, it was an astounding setting.

Which leads me to the end here by mentioning that I have been studying with the very wonderful Ernesto Bazan for a while now and the trip to Salvador de Bahia and Cachoeira was as part of one of his incredible workshops. Ernesto is a dear friend, very fine human being and wonderful maestro so if you enjoy learning and want to develop your style while having a great time, have a look at his amazing schedule.

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Well that’s it folks for this short piece, I sincerely hope that there was something of interest in it and hopefully it will have at least given some ideas to anyone thinking of buying the Ricoh GR. I will round out by saying that I have been carrying it in my bag every day and while I don’t see it unseating the X20 for my personal way of shooting, its definitely a very fine creative tool.

safe travels and happy shooting,

Colin

See his Blog HERE

Jul 292013
 

User Report – The Ricoh GR

By Marc Gabor

A Little History

The GRD is the latest version of Ricoh’s famed GR line of compact cameras. Ricoh first introduced the GR1 in 1996 followed by various revisions including an incredible super-wide angle version, the GR21. These 35mm point and shoot cameras sported fast, sharp 28mm lenses, a slim pocketable body, exposure compensation, selectable aperture and the unique ‘Snap Focus’ feature (more on this later), making them a popular choice for photographers requiring the convenience of a compact camera with the results of an SLR. Among street photographers and point and shoot enthusiasts they have a cult like status for being discreet, fast and producing excellent results

In 2005, Ricoh introduced the first GR digital followed by the GRdII, GRdIII and GRdIV. These cameras retained the key features that made their film counterparts so popular but with the convenience of the digital format. The minimalist styling, intuitive layout and manual controls set them apart from other digital compacts and made them appealing to more serious photographers.

While these were great compact cameras, they were not a substitute for the original 35mm film versions due to the large depth of field of a 1/1.7-inch CCD sensor and 3:4 aspect (instead of the 2:3 ratio of 35mm). The small sensors were capable of producing great images but could not match the resolution of larger sensor cameras.

2013 Ricoh GR

For the latest GR, Ricoh has kept up with the times fitting a large, 16.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor in a body that is only slightly larger than the previous versions. In my mind this brings the camera closer to the original concept because we now have a sensor with the performance of a DSLR in a compact body. Without going over all the specifications I will point out the biggest improvements over the GRd IV.

Increased resolution and dynamic range

Better low light performance

More control over depth of field

2:3 aspect ratio

1080p video

The GR In use

I’ll say this first: if you know what to expect (fixed 28mm, no viewfinder) then I can’t think of anything to dislike about this camera. Sure, if it had a f/1.9 lens, full frame 36mp sensor, a viewfinder, super long batter life, weather sealing, or whatever other features you might want that would be awesome but then it wouldn’t be affordable and it wouldn’t fit in your pocket. Product design is all about compromises and I feel that this camera makes all the right compromises. Image quality is great and it’s easy to use. Nuf said!

In more detail, here’s what I really like:

- Size

It fits in my front pocket. It may not be as compact as say a Canon S100 (my previous compact digital) but unless your wearing tight pants it does fit in your front pocket. That’s a big deal to me because I tend to think if a camera doesn’t fit in your front pocket, no matter how small, then it need a neck strap. If it fits in your pocket it get a wrist strap. Ultimately it’s a different approach. A pocket camera does not need to be worn, it can be concealed which makes you look more like someone without a camera – something I really appreciate when traveling.

- Weight

Although the camera is well built it does have a slightly hollow feel. I don’t mean this in a bad way, just that it’s a little lighter than I expected it to be. Walking around with it in your pocket or bag all day that is a good thing.

- Controls

The way the buttons are laid out, I can change all shooting parameters with my right thumb. The way I use the camera, I don’t ever have to go into the menu (which is well laid out as well) to change anything. Perfect. Literally, ISO, AF, snap focus distance, exposure compensation, WB, ISO, quality, can all be set with my right thumb and other useful settings such as 35mm crop and flash are set without going into the menu. I really like the little up/down +/- button for exposure compensation and find it much faster and easier to read than having it on a dedicated dial.

- Display

Really clear, sharp and bright. Even though I learned my trade on the film cameras with viewfinders, I don’t mind using a screen. I guess I’ve taken enough pictures with an iPhone to be used to it by now. Actually I really like it. I find that it’s easier to shoot from waist level (if your trying to be discreet) or above your head (in a crowd) with a screen. An articulated screen would be cool but I find them awkward sometimes and it would probably make the camera lest sturdy and pocketable.

I like that you can turn the screen off (again using the DISP button, no need to go through the menu) if you are using an external OVF.

The built in level is perfect. I usually keep a spirit level in the shoe of my cameras when using wide angle lenses to keep the horizon straight and the perspective looking natural when using wide lenses. This means that I can get the look of shooting on a tripod without a tripod. If anything I may be relying on it a little to much and need to remind myself that it’s good to have shots that aren’t “perfect”. But that’s me not the camera.

- Customization

Lots of programable buttons and 3 custom presets on the dial so you can really set this camera up to you liking

- Image quality

Not much to say here. The lens is sharp with minimal vignetting and the files are what you would expect from the latest generation of Sony APS-C sensors which is to say excellent dynamic range, low noise, excellent high ISO and great resolution. Images are sharp, with a pleasing look and nice colors. Coming from film I tend to prefer a more “natural” look. I know that’s a really subjective statement but to me that means that while images are sharp, and colors are rich, they are not super crisp and saturated. You can always turn it up in post but it’s good to start with a nice neutral image. I’d say the GR produces images that are very natural looking. I mainly shoot RAW but the JPEGS I’ve shot look good. To put it in perspective, the other cameras I’ve been using are a Leica M9 and Nikon D600 and the Ricoh holds up fine in all but the most extreme situations (for super high ISO the D600 has an edge and colors from the M9 are just different due to CCD sensor).

Other features

- Snap Focus

This is one of the most unique features of the GR and it dates back to the very first GR1. Basically you set the snap focus distance (1m, 1.5m, 2m, 2.5m, 5m, ∞) so that when you press all the way down (no half press to auto focus) the lens automatically focuses at that distance and takes the picture. The result is very little lag making it useful for fast moving scenes and street photography. I use the Fn1 button to set the snap focus which makes it easy to switch between distances depending on what situation I’m in.

I really like all the focus options – Multi AF, Spot AF, Pinpoint AF, Subject Tracking, MF, Snap, ∞. You can also set the meter to Multi, Center, or Spot. All with your left thumb! They really didn’t leave anything out. Auto focus can hunt a little in low light but it’s to be expected. In normall light it’s really snappy.

- Auto ISO and TAv

I usually keep the camera set to P and auto ISO. For some reason the camera won’t go open the lens past f/4 in program mode. If the light is low and I notice the shutter speed is slow I’ll switch to aperture priority and set it to 2.8 and let the camera choose the ISO.

TAv is useful as it allows you to lock the shutter/aperture combo you want with the ISO being the variable to achieve proper exposure. Very useful for street shooting when you know you want to shoot at f/5.6 and 1/250th or whatever your preference may be.

- ND filter

There’s a useful ND filter for shooting in bright light at whatever shutter/aperture setting you want. Don’t use it much but nice to have just in case.

- 35mm crop

One of the biggest limitations of the GR is the wide 28mm field of view. Generally 35mm is a more versatile focal length and is more common on fixed lens compacts. Although it’s no substitute for a 35mm lens I like that you can switch to a 35mm field of view. I didn’t think I’d use it that much, thinking I would rather crop in post but I actually really like this feature, especially for close up shots where I want a more natural perspective. I have programmed the “Effect” button on the left side of the camera to toggle back and forth between 28mm and 35mm so I don’t have to go into any menus to change. My other front pocket camera is my iPhone which has a 30mm field of view (iPhone 4 and 5) and I find this is great for snapshots which is kind of how I like to use the GR. You know when you take a picture with your phone and then you think “ooh I like that let me use a real camera”? Well with GR it works pretty well.

- Flash

To activate the flash you press a little button on the left side of the camera that pops the flash up. I haven’t used the flash much but I like that you have to open the flash for it to turn it on. Nothing worse than having the camera set to auto and the flash going off when you didn’t want it to.

- Macro

You can get pretty close which I find very useful. You are traveling and you want to take pictures of details, meals, etc… Being able to shoot close up is just part of being a good all purpose camera. The inability to shoot close up was probably the most frustrating thing for me about traveling with my M9 (or any rangefinder) so this is a big deal for me.

- Video

I think all cameras this day in age should have video so I’m glad that this one captures nice 1080p HD video. Since I’m not relying on this camera to do video work I don’t mind the limited controls or mono mic (really, who cares if the crappy on camera sound is mono or stereo?). The only thing I wish they had done differently was to offer 24fps. I don’t know how difficult it would have been but considering you can dial in just about everything else, it’s a shame you can’t change the frame rate? Why 24fps? Because it has a more filmic look and because when I shoot video with my DSLR I shoot at 24fps so in case I wanted to mix footage it would make editing easier. Most people shoot at either 30p or 24p so being able to choose would have been nice. In practice though it’s not a big deal at all. I’ve shot some video and it’s totally adequate and actually looks pretty good.

- RAW develop

Another feature I don’t really use but that’s nice to have. If you shoot RAW and you have some time to kill or you want to transfer some pics to your iPad or for whatever reason you want to be able to get JPEGs right off the card then you can develop the photos in camera with good results. You have a few filters and B&W to play with.

- Battery

Battery life is good. I don’t know how many shots or how many hours but for my normal use it works great and I can shoot all day. If I was shooting heavily or traveling I would bring a spare battery but that’s true of any camera. Yeah the charger is lame because you have to keep the battery in the camera. It’s not a big deal though – when you get the camera, just order a third party charger for like $15 on eBay. It works fine and comes with car and euro adapter.

Competition

Nikon Coolpix A is the main competition. That’s a really nice camera and if anything the images I’ve seen from it look just a tiny bit sharper and colors are different, better to some. I think this is probably just the image processor as they have the same sensor. If you shoot RAW this really doesn’t make a big difference. I don’t think the GR is way better than the Nikon but it is cheaper, has snap focus and I like the way it’s laid out. If the price difference is not a big deal for you then I would recommend trying both and seeing which one feels better to you.

The Sony RX100 has a zoom and a smaller sensor and I don’t think IQ is in the same league.

Sony RX1 is 35mm, full frame, not as compact and way more expensive

Fuji X-100 is probably the only other competition as they are priced similarly and IQ is comparable but it’s not a pocket camera and it has a 35mm lens. Still, if you are looking for a compact camera in this price range and are not sure about 35mm vs 28mm and it doesn’t have to go in your pocket then there is a lot to like about the X-100.

Interestingly enough, I don’t think the latest GR makes the GRIV obsolete. The GRIV has a much smaller CCD sensor which has a look of it’s own, which many people like. The cool thing about having a f/1.9 lens and a small sensor is that you can shoot wide open in low light and still have lots of depth of field. I know shooting with paper thin DOF is all the rage now but having a deeper DOF is really useful for street photography, snapshots and close up photography when you don’t want extremely shallow DOF.

Conclusion

I love this camera and it goes with me everywhere. Previously I was using a Leica M9 and while I loved this camera it had too many limitations for professional work (no video, poor low light, 3ft minimum shooting, slow buffer) and some limitations for travel (size, minimum focus distance, no flash, poor low light). If I were rich I’d have kept it. But I’m not so I sold it, got a Nikon D600 for work and the GR as my everyday bring with me everywhere camera. If it’s not in my pocket, then it’s in my back pack or in the center console of my car. I simply can’t think of a better camera to have with you at all times.

Marc Gabor lives in Los Angeles. You can see more of his work at www.marcgabor.com

The Ricoh GR is available at B&H Photo or Amazon

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Jul 192013
 

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UPDATE: SOLD OUT IN LESS THAN 45 MINUTES!

The Ricoh GR is IN STOCK NOW at Amazon and yes, Prime eligible. They have 9 left as of this writing and I know many of you are looking for this camera, so now is your chance. The camera ROCKS, I still have one here with me and it has been impressive. If you want to get one of the nine in stock, CLICK HERE to go direct to the Amazon listing!

 

BUY THE RICOH GR NOW AT AMAZON!

Jun 072013
 

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The Ricoh GR Camera Review – The new large sensor GR arrives!

*A Thank you to B&H Photo for letting me evaluate this camera

Isn’t it nice when you have a camera that is small, well made, easy to use, and gives you superb quality out of the box? A camera with accurate colors, good AWB performance and nice high ISO. How about really nice and hassle free out of camera B&W for those times you want to shut out all of the color in the world. If a camera had all of this, along with a nice big fat APS-C sensor and decent Autofocus with a fast-ish wide angle lens built in I think many of us would jump in! Funny enough, it is usually NOT the big expensive cameras that give us all of this hassle free performance. Nope, this all comes from a camera coming in at $799, and let me tell you, it is a superb camera and tag along companion for your day to day life.

Check out the video below for my thoughts and a full menu overview of the Ricoh GR

If this sounds enticing to you then the new Ricoh/Pentax GR may be just the camera you have been looking for as it has all of these things and more.

The last time I reviewed a GR Digital it was the GRIII and Ricoh GXR. I did not review the GRIV as I felt it was very similar to the GRIII in IQ with a few usability enhancements. The new GR is a whole new ball of wax though as this guy packs an APS-C sensor punch, and it shows. I knew this was the direction the GR series HAD to take in 2013. There was just no other way around it. I am happy to see this camera, I really am.

OOC with the GR at f/2.8

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As I used this GR I thought back and remembered something I talked about in my GRIII review and I will repeat it here as it is all true. 

“But before I get to this review I wanted to talk a bit about what makes me tick as a photographer and why a camera does and does not matter when it comes to getting nice photos. While everyone argues wether camera gear can make any difference in your final output, let me break it down into FACTS right now:

  • Larger sensor cameras WILL give you better IQ than a small sensor camera, especially if printing LARGE
  • NO CAMERA, no matter HOW expensive will make you a better photographer. Time, passion, and practice will.
  • If you know what you are doing and take one shot with a small sensor camera and one with something like a Leica S2, you will get a much better file from the Leica S2. No question on that AT ALL. BUT the photograph will be the same, just with a different rendering.
  • Larger sensor cameras have better ISO performance, more dynamic range and better color. They also have the capability of shooting with limited Depth of Field.
  • The images you create with whatever you shoot will somehow always look like YOUR Images. It’s your style that will get you noticed more than the camera you shoot. Small sensor cameras can even help give you a certain style.

So what I said then before reviewing the small sensor GRII rings true today when writing about the new APS-C GR. Before I begin, here are the full specs of the latest and greatest GR:

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The full specs of the GR

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16 MP APS-C CMOS Image Sensor – APS-C is the way to go!

The GR’s 16.2MP APS-C CMOS image sensor offers low-noise characteristics even at high ISO, super-high resolution imaging quality, color accuracy and a wide dynamic range.

GR ENGINE V Image Processor

The advanced GR ENGINE V imaging engine offers high-sensitivity shooting with minimal noise and fast response times, including fast autofocus and up to 4 fps continuous shooting.

No Optical Low-Pass Filter – THIS IS AWESOME

The omission of the low-pass filter in the sensor design enables particularly sharp details and color-rich images. To balance for lack of the Optical Low-Pass filter, a chromatic moiré compensation function is added to minimize wavy moiré patterns and distortion in certain images.

18.3mm f/2.8 Lens (28mm Equivalency in 35mm Format)

The GR’s fixed wide angle 18.3mm f/2.8 GR lens, equivalent to 28mm in the 35mm format, provides high resolution images with edge-to-edge sharpness and low distortion. The seven element lens design includes two aspherical elements to minimize chromatic aberrations. With its newly designed nine blade diaphragm, the GR lens produces a natural bokeh effect at larger apertures.

3.0″ 1,230k-dot LCD Screen with WhiteMagic Technology – Can see the LCD even in the sun

Featuring Sony WhiteMagic technology which adds white pixels to the standard RGB colors to improve image brightness and visibility, the rear 3.0″ LCD provides composition and playback viewing.

Optional Optical Viewfinders – Bingo!

Two optical viewfinders are available (both sold separately) to enhance composition capability and stability. The GV-2 28mm mini viewfinder and the GV-1 21/28mm viewfinder both attach to the camera’s hot shoe mount.

Full HD 1080p Video Recording

Capture Full HD video in widescreen 1080p resolution (1920 x 1080) with efficient, high quality h.264 compression at 30 fps. Continuous Autofocus remains active with movement as the camera stays focused on moving subjects in the center of its angle of view.

ISO 100-25600

Supported by its APS-C sensor and the advanced GR V imaging engine, the GR offers high sensitivity shooting from ISO 100 to ISO 25600 with minimal noise.

High Speed Autofocus System with 4 fps Continuous Shooting – About as fast as the Nikon A

The high speed autofocus system captures crisp subjects in a mere 0.2 seconds, and start-up time is only one second. The GR’s AF Continuous Shooting function captures a series of photos at a maximum speed of four frames per second, allowing capture of fast-moving subjects in sharp focus.

Designated AF & Aperture Preview Buttons

An AF (autofocus) button is accessible with the thumb on the back panel. When the AF lever is set to the Continuous AF (C-AF) mode, you can capture a series of images of a moving subject – all in sharp focus – by pushing the shutter release button while depressing the AF button. An aperture preview button is on the camera’s side panel for quick confirmation of the depth of field before shooting.

JPG or DNG RAW Capture

Capture both JPG and open-standard DNG RAW images. The GR offers a variety of computer-free image processing functions, including in-body RAW-data development to output JPEG format files.

Manual and Automatic Modes

You can set the GR to shoot on fully automatic mode, allowing the camera to determine the optimal settings for each shot or shoot in manual, controlling all settings to you exact needs. Aperture-priority and Shutter-priority modes as well as custom My Settings mode are available also.

Shutter Speed/Aperture Priority Mode

The GR features the original Shutter speed / Aperture Priority (TAv) exposure mode, featured only in PENTAX/RICOH-brand digital SLR cameras. This innovative mode automatically sets the optimum ISO sensitivity based on the shutter speed and aperture selected by the photographer.

Built-in Flash and Hot Shoe Mount

The GR offers a convenient built-in pop-up flash unit with several flash modes, a Guide Number of 5.4 (at ISO 100) and an effective range of 3.3 – 9.8′. In addition a TTL-A (TTL with pre-flash) hot shoe mount for an external flash is provided. The maximum sync speed for an external flash is 1/400 seconds.

Neutral Density Filter

For further exposure control the GR incorporates an ND filter in both manual and automatic modes.

Image Effects

The Image Effect modes allow the user to add a variety of visual effects to create distinctive expressions without the need for a computer. The direct-access Effect button positioned on the camera’s side panel makes selection of one of the nine image effects easy. Effects include: B&W, B&W (Toning Effect), High Contrast B&W, Cross-Process, Positive Film, Bleach-Bypass, Retro, Miniaturize, High-Key.

Macro Mode

Macro mode allows you to capture the details with sharp close-up imaging. Minimum focus distance in macro Mode is 3.9″.

35mm Crop Mode

For that classic 35mm look, use the specialized crop mode to instantly set a 35mm frame ratio crop.

Durable Compact Design

Despite its large image sensor, the GR has a compact and portable design. Its casing is made of a lightweight magnesium alloy, while its exterior design retains the style typical of the GR series. Designed for maximum comfort and operational ease, all control buttons are laid out for easy access with the right hand.

Dual-axis Electronic Level

For high precision horizontal and vertical alignment, use the electronic dual-axis level to make sure your shot is perfectly aligned with the horizon or framed just the way you want it.

Eye-Fi Card Compatible

With Eye-Fi wireless LAN SD memory cards, the user can automatically transmit recorded images to a smartphone, and even select favorite images and resize them before transmission. In the playback mode, the user can also recall the transmitted images on the monitor using the Effect button on the side panel.

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*As always, this review is based more on “real world” use instead of charts, graphs, and all of the techie stuff. When I review a camera I take it out, shoot it for a couple of weeks and judge it by how it performed for me during my time with it. I test for overall build, feel, IQ, ease of use, high ISO, color, etc. If I like it I say so. If I do not like a camera I usually don’t even shoot with it for more than a day or two and I send it back saying “No thanks”. Usually, if you see a review here for a certain camera it means I really enjoyed it.

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Charging, holding, and shooting with the GR

Much like the Nikon Coolpix A I reviewed a couple of weeks ago (and liked) this Ricoh has a built in 28mm equivalent f/2.8 lens, is small and pocketable keeping with the same GR series size and design, and steps it up about 8 notches from the previous GRIV by upping the game with an APS-C sensor. THIS helps take the camera to “superstar status” in the world of compacts. While there are so many excellent compact cameras out today (Sony RX100, Nikon A, previous GR cameras) that can help you create wonderful memories the GR may just be the “ONE” you have been looking for and craving.

For one, the controls on the camera are almost perfect and seemingly made for photographers. It is such a joy to use and shoot and has given me consistent trouble free results. For example, the camera has a jog dial at the top back by your thumb. You can use it to scroll through menu items or push it for instant ISO, IQ, Aspect Ratio, AF or MF modes, and metering modes. It is all right there with a push of the thumb. We also have custom Fn buttons, switches for exposure modes, a rocker for setting exposure compensation or zooming in on a photo, a macro button, flash button and WB settings button. I feel that this thing is the most useful and customizable camera in this segment of cameras. It is beautiful and if you spend time to configure it for your needs, you are all set.

The top of the GR with it’s basic but necessary controls

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In fact there are loads of settings in this camera that allow you to make it your own, even a 35mm crop mode much like what we see on the Sony RX1. This allows the 28mm to become a 35mm by using an in camera crop mode. Pretty cool. (more on that with samples below).

There is a mode dial up top with your shooting modes. I kept it in Aperture Priority as that is how I have shot for 15-20 years but you can choose between A, P, Tv, Tav, M, Movie and custom settings as well. Once you get your settings all whipped up in the easy to understand menu then you are good to go.

I have not had any AF issues, sensor issues, color issues, AWB issues or even COST issues as this camera comes in at a few hundred less than the Coolpix A it is most similar to. After shooting both the A and the GR, I lean to the GR as the winner due to cost, design, menus, control and overall output. The images from the GR may not have the pop, shine or color signature of the Coolpix A (which leans more digital feeling) of the Nikon A but the files look more filmic and less digital. Hard to explain but that is what I feel after shooting with both of these cameras.

The OOC B&W qualities, as usual with the GR cameras is superb. Below are two out of camera JPEG’s shot in B&W mode. The one with the ventriloquist dummies was shot with the “High Contrast B&W” filter that is easily accessible via a button on the side of the camera along with other filters that the camera offers.

The 1st image is in B&W mode, the 2nd in was color converted to B&W and ISO 2500 and the third was in “High Contrast B&W Mode” in camera. The GR Series has always been great for B&W and IMO, can rival what comes out of the Leica MM as far as B&W quality

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When I started shooting the GR my 1st impressions were that it still felt and looked and worked like a GR and those who love the old GR film cameras will feel right at home with this newest GR camera. But before I get too much into the details and image quality let me talk about what is in the box, as you do not get much.

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When I opened the GR I was greeted with the familiar body, which I was happy about. I then found the battery but could not find a charger. What happened? Where did it go? I soon found out that a charger is NOT included but instead a USB cable with outlet is and you must charge the battery while it is in the camera, much like Sony is now doing with their cameras, even the high end RX1. BOOOOOOOO!! How much would it cost to add a small charger where you do not have to have the battery inside to charge? Other than the camera body, battery and USB charger you really do not get anything else. Simplicity all the way around here.

No issues in full sun! This camera has a built in ND filter as well, and I had it set to AUTO. The dog was in full harsh sun but the camera set the exposure perfectly

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So after charging the battery overnight I installed it and just held the camera. Wow. Now this feels like a well made camera. If you have shot with a GR before you know what I am talking about. It is solid, sturdy, buttons all in the right places and the design is all stealthy black (which we pay extra for from Fuji and Leica sometimes). So the GR easily passes the build/feel test with ease. All I can say is that it just feels “right”.

The front of the GR is very basic and stealthy with only the “GR” letters visible. 

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After holding it and testing out the startup time (which takes about 1 second to power on and spit out the lens) I snapped a few test shots with the GR. Being stuck at home all week having to work and write I only had a few things to shoot like my main animal model, my little dog “Baby”. The image above (the one above the  camera) is an OOC JPEG shot in full AZ sunshine and wow, the colors are correct, the exposure is correct and the WB is spot on. This is something my Leica M and Sony RX1 has trouble doing but here is a $799 camera doing it without breaking a sweat. It seems that Ricoh/Pentax has their act together as the images coming from the GR never disappointed me, no matter what the situation. I walked around with it for a couple of days with it in my front pocket and anytime I saw something of interest I pulled it out to snap and in almost any situation, any light, the color was pretty damn spot on. Even this old antique clown under store lighting came out exceptionally nice and store lighting is some of the worst for AWB ever. The GR nailed it.

Some of the toughest lighting for AWB on any camera. The GR nailed it with some very cool and pleasant colors. 

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It was kind of cool to be out without a camera strapped around me as I usually have it. This guy was literally in my front jeans pocket without any size issues. The lens stays in the body until it is powered on and then it pops out. I also like the fact that this is a 28mm focal length as it gives you just enough wide angle to fill in the frame without going to wide. I sometimes have trouble filling a frame with interesting content when using a 21mm or even a 24mm but 28mm is a bit more natural, usually forcing you to get close to your subject.

The Mode Dial on the GR – well made, and solid clicks. You can also see on of the scroll wheels, the shutter button and the power button which glows green when on.

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I soon started to realize this camera had a TON of features that were usable. A built in ND filter much like the Fuji X100s which will help you keep exposure good even at f/2.8 in full mid day sun. There is even a crop mode that allows you to get from 28mm to 35mm with the push of a button. I programmed the left side “EFFECT” button to give me a 35mm field of view so anytime I push it, 35mm! This works like the Sony RX1 crop mode by cropping the image to 35mm from 28,mm. Below is an example:

The 35mm Crop Mode

TESTING THE 35MM CROP MODE – f/2.8, ISO 560-640 (used Auto ISO), OOC JPEGS with zero Noise Reduction.

1st shot is 28mm – full size file OOC JPEG if you click it! ZERO NR – f/2.8

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and below we have the 35mm crop mode, OOC JPEG, full size, f/2.8, ISO 560, Zero NR

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I know you are asking already “WHAT the hell is that ear thing”? Well, it is an incredible and pretty amazing microphone I have recently purchased for my videos (I do other videos besides my youtube camera videos. This device has TWO ears and is called the 3Dio Free Space Pro. Hooked up to any video device or Digital recorder with a mic input your sound becomes simply jaw dropping amazing. You can even use a grip handle and set a GoPro up on top of it and have a full HD video rig with amazing sound. I will have a video up soon on my youtube account showing off what it can do…but right now we are all about the Ricoh GR and talking about the 35mm crop feature.

The 35mm Crop continued…

So if you need to get a little but closer to your subject the 35mm crop is useful to have. Some of you will also get a chance to see that the high ISO noise performance of the GR is its one weak area, and possibly ONLY weak area. It is not up to part with the latest and greatest from Fuji or Sony but to me, I kind of like this. Instead of supwer smoothed over images at ISO 1000-1600-3200 we get more of a filmic feel. Mixed with Ricohs colors, the high ISO noise adds some life to the photos much like the Nikon V1 does. Sharp, good color, and some noise at higher ISO to me is better than NO noise at high ISO, as long as the noise does not look all mottled and blobby. The noise coming from the Ricoh looks good.

High ISO

Below is a sample at ISO 1600 in my lowly lit office without a light on. You will see noise but it does not kill the photo in any way. With that said, there are better ISO champs out there, including the Nikon Coolpix A. The A looked good at sky high ISO so if low light is your thing, and you pefer smooth noise free images, the Nikon will be the better choice for you though it is $300 more expensive.

Click the image for a larger size with full 100% crop at ISO 1600. Below that are crops from ISO 3200-25,600

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So there ya go! By 25,600 the color goes wonky and the noise is out of control but ISO 1600 and 3200 is not so bad. Remember, these are without any kind of NR at all.

Auto Focus Speed

The Ricoh GR has decently fast AF speed. I compare it to the Nikon Coolpix A as it is about the same. Not blazing but not slow. On par with the NEX cameras from Sony. I found the AF to be accurate as well and Ricoh even has a SPOT AF mode now that really pinpoints your focus point. This is welcome. As with past Ricoh GR cameras you also have your Snap AF where the camera will focus at a set distance that you set in camera. This is great for street photography where you have an idea of the distance you will be from your subjects. The GR gives you all kinds of focus options from Multi AF to Spot AF to Pinpoint and Tracking. You also have MF, Snap and an infinity setting.

Like I said, this guy is super customizable.

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Buggy P Mode?

Others have pointed out to me that there is a bug in Program Auto mode where the camera will never choose f/2.8 as the aperture, no matter what light you are in. My solution to that is to A: Shoot in A mode and set your own aperture or B: Wait for a firmware fix, which I am sure Pentax/Ricoh will soon do for this. It could be that they feel the lens is at its best at f/4, and while it is, the camera is damn good at 2.8 as well. So this does need a fix.

Colors

I have also heard around internet land that people are not happy with the color of the files coning from this camera. Well, I have news for you…the previous GR series were the same. If you want Nikon colors, go for the Nikon A. The Ricoh has its own signature look IMO, just as the IV, III and previous GR’s did. The color is different from almost any camera out there and again, to me, the colors are more along the lines of what you would get with some certain films. Why try to correct what is really the cameras signature look? Just as Leica, Sony, Olympus, Nikon and Canon have their unique color signatures (well, Leica’s change every camera) so does Ricoh.

Many times I will look at a street shot and know it came from a Ricoh digital just due to the colors. For me, I have zero issues with color but can state if you want more pop, shine and “correctness” the Nikon A is the one to beat.

This is a camera that anyone can take anywhere

This Ricoh GR is truly a camera that you can take with you anywhere. Just as with the Sony RX100, Nikon Coolpix A and previous GR cameras, this one can load up in your front pocket and be ready for any photo situation, even if they are silly snaps from your local mall :)

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Out of the three cameras I have mentioned here, I love the RX100 for its speed of AF and ability to get a shot as well as the handy zoom lens, but I have to admit…the GR and Coolpix A beat it for color, IQ, and overall pleasure in use. As good as that RX100 is, we now have large sensor versions that have improved. Such is life in the camera world as manufacturers always try to outdo each other with the latest and greatest. The Nikon “A” is also fantastic, and built very well. In use though, I prefer this GR for many reasons like control, ease of use, AWB and Color out of camera, the nice JPEGS and the great GR lens. Nikon also has a great lens, same specs, and the race is close but at the end of the day I prefer the GR for me though you could not go wring with either.

Pros and Cons of the Ricoh/Pentax GR – They look quite the same as my Coolpix A set of pros and cons!

Pros

  • Large APS-C Sensor delivers the goods
  • Great color out of camera with a filmic look
  • Small size can indeed fit in your pocket!
  • Stealthy matte black, no shiny here!
  • Image quality is superb, detail is superb!
  • AWB is great, even in tough situations
  • Lens is very sharp, even wide open
  • Controls are all on the outside
  • Macro mode one push away
  • Built in flash
  • Build is nice and solid. Feels great in the hand.
  • No lens cap to lose!
  • ON/OFF is quick, about 1 second.
  • HD video on board!
  • External VF is available!
  • The best control of any camera of this kind
  • Many focus modes such as pinpoint and snap that work well
  • The best GR to date and possibly the best pocket cam ever (to date)
  • New TAV mode where you set Aperture and Shutter and camera chooses ISO is unique

Cons:

  • AF can be sluggish at times in lower light, not as  fast as other cameras on the market
  • No built in EVF or VF at all. Boo
  • High ISO not as good as other cameras like the Coolpix A or NEX, so it can get noisy as the ISO goes up
  • No dedicated battery charger ships, just a USB/Outlet so battery must be charged in the camera. Double BOO!
  • Battery Life on the low side at around 300-340 shots
  • Bug in Program Auto mode that will not allow camera to shoot at f/2.8

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My final thoughts on the Ricoh GR

The Ricoh GR is probably the best pocket cam released to date, from anyone. To me it beats the Sony RX100 ($650), and just edges out the Nikon Coolpix A for me as well ($1096). The Ricoh GR comes in at $799 and B&H Photo sent me this one as they were one of the 1st to ship the new camera.  I am glad I was able to check this one out and now I want one. This is a camera that is solid, rugged and understated but at the same time will reward you with ease of use, reliable use and photos that rival the big guns in the camera world. The large APS-C sensor inside of the GR help it to propel out to the front of the pack and next to the main competitor, the Nikon A, the GR slightly edges ahead for me due to controls, design, and the OOC performance. I love the GR colors and while the Nikon A can be cleaner, smoother and more brilliant with the output, the GR has its own brand of charm with a more muted rich color and a little noisier output that gives you some edge.

My 14 year old Scrubby in his last days – ISO 1000

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The 35mm crop mode, built in ND filter, Snap focus modes, Pinpoint focus and cool B&W modes are more reasons I love this camera. Ricoh stuck with the current trend as well and left out the AA filter so what you get is super sharp results without the worry of blurred of mushy results. The menu system is clean, fast and works well as does controlling things such as aperture, Exposure Compensation and shutter speed. This feels like a real photographers camera, not something some big wig execs whipped up for big profits. With a new Leica X supposedly coming on June 11th 2013, and being LARGER and less pocketable, if at all, as well as rumored to be coming in at $3000+, this makes the GR even more appealing. It just doesn’t get much better in this niche of camera.

What more can we ask for? A great prime 28mm f/2.8 lens that can crop to 35mm, easy controls, rugged build, best in class output and trouble free performance. The GR has it all and at $799 it comes in at $300 less than the main competitor, the Nikon A.

I highly recommend this camera if you want a pocketable solution with big sensor output. I love it but with my recent Leica M purchase, I can not afford to buy one so this review unit will go back to B&H Photo. I thank  them for letting me check it out.

This one gets  HUGE thumbs up from me.

Where to Buy?

The Ricoh GR can be bought at B&H Photo at the direct link below:

B&H Photo – Ricoh GR – $796

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Even more images from the GR!

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