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
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
Kanas Lake District - Ricoh GR
Baihaba Village, Xinjiang - 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
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
If you want more of the Xinjiang Photos, please visit my flickr page at:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If the Ricoh GR is Martin Short, the Sony Rx1 is Steve Martin – the most successful of the Three Amigos.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I heard from Tony over at PopFlash.com and he said they have 10 GR’s in stock right now, so if you missed the last batch at Amazon, you can nab one here! They also have a Leica X Vario for $2577 but then again, these have been in stock since day 1 but this one is $300 cheaper than usual.
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
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
- 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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:
The full specs of the GR
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.
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.
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 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.
*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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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 pocketand 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.
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.
I soon started to realize this camera had a TON of features that were usable. A built in ND filter much like the Fuji X100swhich 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
and below we have the 35mm crop mode, OOC JPEG, full size, f/2.8, ISO 560, Zero NR
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.
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
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.
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.
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 :)
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!
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
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
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
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:
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I have been asked by 20-30 to review the Nikon coolpix A so I tried it out in a shop and was not impressed. Why? The AF speed is just too slow for my tastes in this price bracket of $1100. The IQ is good it just seems to me like Nikon rushed it together to have something to compete with in the APS-C segment. If a camera does not have snappy AF these days I do not want to own it as it doesn’t excite me one bit. At $1100 the coolpix A is not the best buy IMO. At $700, yes. $1100, no. I’d go with the incredible Fuji X100s for $1299 before I would buy a Coolpix A for $1100. Don’t get me wrong, the Coolpix A has great imaging potential but so does the Sigma DP Merrill series, even more so actually.
The new GR WILL be reviewed by me as it is a camera that excites me and makes me think of the possibilities. A pocket camera with an APS-C sensor, decent AF and a killer lens, all with the GR heritage. Amazing. The lens is a 28mm equivalent and has two aspheric elements and 7 elements total. The GR series has always been fantastic and I am thrilled that it has now stepped up to APS-C. The all black smooth design of the GR brings me back to the old film GR cameras. Sweet.
Take a look at the official video below on the new camera:
B&H Photo has the GR up for pre-order at $796.95, and that is a great price for a camera like this. My pre-order is in because I feel not only will this beat the Nikon Coolpix A but it probably will dethrone my fave pocket rocket, the Sony RX100! My crystal ball is showing me a price redux on the coolpix A soon… :)
Key Features of the new GR
16.2MP APS-C Format CMOS Sensor - I feel 16-18 Mp is perfect.
Hi Steve, I thought I’d share with you the story of my cameras. It turned out quite long, so feel free to post it if you like (I’ll be honored :). Also, English is not my mother language, so sorry for any mistakes.
The Nikon D90
I started being interested in photography about 5 years ago. Having no experience at all, I started doing my homework before deciding which camera to buy. At this time my only experience has been with phone cameras and P&S, and I didn’t even know what a DSLR was. Scanning the universe of the internet taught me about DSLRs, lenses and so on, but it was all theoretical. I never used one, and had to base my decisions about what other people say, having no self preference. Finally, after a lot of hours reading reviews, I got my very own, brand new, Nikon D90 with the a 18-105mm kit lens, a nikon tripod and a small camera bag that fitted the kit.
I remember taking my first shot with the D90 – I was absolutely blown away! I never experienced shallow DOF before, and the quality compared to my old P&S was simply stunning. Soon I started to learn anything I can about this camera. I learned what the Shutter, Aperture and ISO are. I learned about different lenses, RAW, JPEG, saturation, contrast, etc, and the more I learned, the more I wanted a wide-angle lens. It turned out that my favourite subjects are landscapes, and so I bought myself a Tokina 11-16mm. Other lenses came in as well, but this Tokina has been (and still is) my favourite by far. It is sharp, really fast for its focal length (f/2.8), takes regular screw in filters, and most importantly – ultra wide. It’s also worth to note that I quickly found the joy of using primes rather than zooms, and didn’t touch the 18-105 ever since.
I had a lot of my best shots taken with the D90 and the Tokina. They served me well in almost any situation, from long trips to late night shooting (it’s amazing what you can shoot handheld with an f/2.8 ultra wide). The problem for me was that the more I used this combination, the more I suffered. I really liked the shots that came out, but the actual picture taking experience has been a pain. The D90′s interface has tons of features that I don’t use and don’t care about, and together with the Tokina it’s a pig. It’s heavy, big, and doesn’t fit in my bags (I became a hater of dedicated camera bags, and use only “regular”, unpadded, bags). Also the fact that I always carried an extra normal fast lens (either the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 D or the Nikon 35mm f/1.8 DX) with me didn’t help. And so my search for alternatives has began.
The Zeiss Ikon
IIRC, this search is what had led me to your site, Steve, and your passion about Leica made me spend many hours reading about rangefinders. Unable to afford a digital Leica, I realized I’ll had to use a film camera if I wanted the best possible combination of price, quality and compactness. This was not an easy choice. I never shot film in my life before. At some point, I finally made my mind and decided to give it a shot. I bought a new silver Zeiss Ikon together with three lenses: Voigtlander 15mm, Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f/1.4 MC, and a Zeiss ZM Planar 50mm f/2 (the last two thanks to your reviews! :).
I started by getting a bunch of films like Tri-X, Velvia 50, Provia and more. It was such an alien feeling after the D90, but every time I held this Zeiss with any of these lenses I simply had a huge smile smeared on my face. I can’t explain it. It’s such a unique feeling shooting a film rangefinder.
This part of my story sadly has a sad ending. Before I got a chance at being any good, the only store in my area that developed slides stopped doing it. This was a major problem but I hadn’t given up yet. I bought myself a Plustek OpticFilm 7600i from B&H together with a bunch of tools for home development. I also went to a local store, and got myself a kit of E6 and BW chemicals. Now all I was missing is actually knowing how to develop… :)
The more I learned about E6 (which was my main interest), I realized I’ll have to somehow control the temperature of the development tank, but I couldn’t find a reasonably priced solution. That also didn’t stop me, and I sorta built my own. I took a big polystyrene box and filled it with a mix of hot/cool water until I reached the desired temperature. Now in order to maintain that temperature, I took a big resistor and connected it to a variable transformer. I then threw the resistor into the water and varied the voltage in order to control the heat produced by the resistor. This was mostly a trial and error, but after playing with it for a while I was able to keep the temperature constant enough for about an hour or so.
As you can probably imagine, this setup is far from ideal. I had to keep an eye for too much stuff simultaneously, and more often than not I’d ruin the films. I even got electrocuted at some point. Since the voltage was low no harm has been done, but it’s not something I’d like to do for fun :) That said, what finally made me give up on film was the scanning. It took forever and it wasn’t easy (at least for me) to get good colors out of the scanned files. At some point I found myself finishing a bunch of rolls and simply avoiding developing them knowing it’d take me a full day to get everything done. And that’s for 3 rolls at best.
The Ricoh GXR
At this point I was again looking for alternatives. Lucky for me, I found about the wonderful Ricoh GXR. At that time the M mount module was not yet available, but it has already been announced. Again, following your reviews I decided to get myself the 50mm module and wait for the M mount to arrive. Shortly after receiving the 50mm module I went on a two weeks trip, and took the D90, Tokina 11-16 and the Ricoh with me. During that trip I found myself using the Ricoh much more than the D90 for two main reasons – color and portability. The GXR produced so much better colors and was so much easier to carry. Even though I’m a landscape addict I kept using the Ricoh for these two reasons. Honestly, I had about zero keepers from the 50mm, but it was so much more fun.
Shortly after the GXR M Mount was available, and after seeing a bunch of reviews about it, I got myself one. It was probably the best camera purchase I’ve made. Using it is so much fun and the results are so rewarding that I always want to take it with me. I have three lens combinations that I use. My goto choice is only the 50mm Zeiss. Every time I use it I’m simply stunned by the IQ. However, 50mm f/2 on the crop sensor is sometimes too long for me. For these occasions, as well as when shooting at night or when feeling nostalgic, I pick the Voigtlander 35mm f/1.4. It’s qualities are nowhere near the Zeiss but it has its uses. It’s also the smallest of all my lenses and so if I’m not sure whether I’m going to use the camera or not it’s a nice fit. Finally, there’s my trip configuration. When going on a trip I take the Voigtlander 15mm together with the 50mm Zeiss, and leave the 35mm at home/the hotel. For me these are the ultimate combinations that fit everything I do.
Finally, I’d like to talk a bit about the GXR body. IMO it’s a spectacular camera. It’s incredibly compact and produces wonderful results. It’s by far, the most capable and fun camera I’ve ever seen. There are, however a few things I’d like Ricoh to fix:
1. Take away all the junk menus. When I first bought the GXR it had a few simple menus with all the needed functionality and then some. However it was still focused enough that I could take advantage of everything I needed. Sadly with every firmware update they’ve been cramming more and more stuff into the poor menus and now I can’t find anything. It takes forever to get to the right option.
2. Somewhat repeating the above, Ricoh please remember we really only need shutter, ISO, exposure control and color control. Actually even color control is usually done afterwards on the computer. Personally, I leave shutter and ISO on auto all the time and only touch the color presets. Fuji seems to get it with their X100 (so I heard), so why can’t you?
3. There are way too many buttons on the body that have useless functions. Really Ricoh, how often do you use the self timer that you need a dedicated button for it?
4. Why is magnification hard wired to a long press on the OK button? It drives me crazy if I do it by mistake and now have to circle through all magnification ratios in order to get back to the full frame.
5. Finally, please add a full frame sensor. It’s such a shame to waste half the area of the wonderful M lenses, but it’s also incredibly annoying to work with the crop factor. Want a fast 35mm equivalent? Have fun finding a 24mm with f/2 or faster. AFAIK the only option is the Leica SUMMILUX 24mm f/1.4 which is way above my budget.
To sum up, I think there are three groups of people: those that only care about the final photos, those that care only about their cameras and their technical abilities, and then there are people like me who care the most about the experience. I may not take the best photos or own the best cameras, but I try to have the best possible experience and simply have fun :) Yours, Ofri Wolfus
Simple Review of the Ricoh GRDIV for Travel Photography by William Jusuf
Since January, Me and wife already planned to have a vacation.. we can’t go for too long.. so we plan 4 days getaway only 3 of us: Myself, wife and baby Daini (she’s now 8 months old).. If you remember , my first post in Steve website is about celebrating Daini’s birth.
The Mission is to enjoy the 4 days and bring baby Daini to meet her Great Grandmother in Bali.. The surprise is.. at my 34th birthday (August 12th), my wife gave me a surprise by giving me a pleasant birthday gift. Ricoh GR Digital IV… on August 14th.
Its a camera that I’ve been thinking (and hesitating) to buy for quite a long time..She knew since I keep looking at it on many site and blog, reasoning myself , yet I don’t have the nerve to pull the trigger. I know I will love it… Since I am more a street people candid shooter (definitely I am not in league of photographer) but since I had GF2 + the 25 and 45 also Nex5 + CZ35mm and Leitz R Summicron 50… I hesitate to add a street pocket cam in a fixed wide focal length.
So.. we left to vacation from 16-20 August.. only 3 of us.. me , wife and 8 months baby Daini… So I must choose wisely, which gear to bring.. Then I decide to pack Sony Nex5N + CZ 35mm and Leitz R50mm (stuffed on the baby stroller, for my baby portrait ).
I decided to force myself to use the Ricoh GRD IV most of the time for its size and simplicity. Imagine I must keep carrying baby Daini in front of my chest… 80 % of my time , I simply use Ricoh GRD IV with 1 hand only..
So here are my Traveling with Simple Pocket Camera…. The story begin. We had a 2 hours delayed airplane… while waiting at the Airport.. I shoot some pictures , all using Snap Focusing. It’s a training for me to measure distance 1 / 1,5/ 2.5/ 5 meter or infinity.
Soekarno Hatta Airport .. using infinity snap in high ISO 640
Noodle lover .. I snap 2.5 meter of this old man really enjoying his noodle
Buddies Chatting.. Snap 1,5 meter of this two old buddies enjoy waiting for the airplane
Then 3 of us waiting in the terminal gate.. for almost 1.5 hours delayed.. Baby Daini get restless , I took her for a walk arround while shoot some photos
Busy with themselves… Snap 2.5 meter of people bored waiting
Up the terminal Gates.. Snap infinity
Tired and Bored.. Snap 5 Meter.. of a man tired and leaning on his wife
Finally .. we take off to Bali. We stay in Pan Pacific Nirvana Tanah Lot and my Auntie Home (alternately). The hotel is one great place ! It is cozy.. very beautiful .. facing the Tanah Lot Beach and Pura Tanah Lot… and great 18 holes Golf. Unfortunately I never shoot any landscape before so I must admit this is my first time using wide-angle to cover landscape.
silhouette of the Lobby… facing the Ocean.. Snap Infinty at Sunset
View from the Sunset Lounge.. Snap infinty
Merica Restaurant .. Snap Infinity
Dinner with sunset.. Snap infinity
Ok enough with the Hotel. We had a tight Schedule and my wife wants to take us and baby Daini to visit the Bali Safari Marine Park. It definitely a great place to takes kids.. takes photos .. with many animals. I keep snapping very fast with the GRD. Learning many ways to hold camera in conventional and unconventional ways. The camera works flawlessly. Just keep it on and sleep after 3 min non use and alway set it on snap mode. Spot focusing. Auto white balance.. Auto High ISO up to ISO 800. Easy.
The cons are the GRD will not wake up several times after going to sleep. I cant figure out how to wake it so I unplugged the battery and it backs online.
Roar.. Dine with me.. Snap 1.5 meter with the camera hold under my waist facing back.. So this shot taken without looking
Watching Cenderawasih bird.. Snap 1.5 meter
Look. White Tiger.. Snap from waist goes up of a kid surprise look at the white tiger
Evi, the Orang Utan.. Snap 1.5 meter
Eat and Eat.. Snap 1.5 meter
How about the high ISO ? It’s a pocket camera with small Sony Sensor (that also used in Canon S, G etc). I usually will limit my self to ISO 400.. but for fun.. I pump to auto high iso 800 with max 1/30 sec shutter time I dine in a Pool Grill. quite dark.. not total dark.. So I can try snap some high ISO shots.
in front of sushi bar
watching the chef
Well. I can see noise at ISO > 400 and it get quite noisy at 800. I always turn of the noise reduction as well as the Dynamic Range turn off also. Everything is simply RAW the way it is. Like the old tricks.. For the high iso shot, I convert it to Black and white :p
The next day while having great lunch at Bebek Tepi Sawah (duck restaurant)… great food and affordable price. Glowing.. somehow the roof shine the sunlight to this 1 cashier.. I simply snap it. We had Sunset dinner at this incredible place called Kama Kandara… watching great sunset … you could swim if you like great food and perfect places to stay also at their private villa.
Pool… Snap at infinity
Sunset at Kama .. Snap at Infinity
Enjoying .. Snap at 1.5 meter
My table view.. Snap at infinity
The next Day.. we have lunch at this great hotel called the Royal Pita Maha. It is highly recommended for the private villa and the best Spa in Bali. It is very harsh light and day. I don’t shoot much since we must climb down to valley and carrying a baby is out of the question for me. We simply had beverages at the top restaurant.
We then went for real lunch at Potato Head Seminyak.. Great place Good food and drink..also great people. The lighting here is a challenge for the small GRD 4 since it’s midday with hot harsh lighting directly to the pool and beach.
Portraiture.. Snap 1.5 meter
Ready To Swim
Click..We’re In Love!
I love this little camera in spite of the many limitation of the camera but also the pure photographic tool function so here’s my 4 days review list of the Ricoh GRD IV.
The cons go first..but I try to live with it
- Small Sensor.. that means.. cant pump it to high ISO .. iso 80 to 400 is very good.. ISO 400-800 is usable.. noise is visible but better if we use BW mode
- Lens is fixed in 28 mm.. So I must learn and reset my view coming from 50-100 mm shooter
- You can’t do crazy bokeh (although I do it with 1 cm macro).. but the results wont come close to DSLR
- the wont wake up problems.. I had this hang Ricoh few times after the camera goes to sleep.. It simply wont turn on again.. Must plug out battery
The Love of this Ricoh GRD …
- Simple straight forward operation with the front wheel and back wheel button.. allow me to use only 1 hand to do all
- Snap focusing, gosh this feature is so nice.. I almost shoot all my photos in snap focusing..
- Autofocus very fast (for a pocket).. almost get focus in blink of eye even in dark condition
- Auto white balance is the best in every camera I ever handle.. it spot on. From almost all the file, I never do anything to the white balance just right
- Skin tone.. gosh I am loving the skin tone … better than my funny color skin tone of Nex and GF2..
- the ergonomic and grip.. I am wearing it whole day.. not even a sore hand.. I could do many maneuver while shooting it
I get sore in my finger after using Nex5N + Leitz Cron 50 for 2 hours..
- Battery capacity.. well I can get +/- 430 shots per charge with all time stand by…
So will this Ricoh replace my Nex 5N + manual lenses or my Micro 4.3 with the great native lenses ??
Yes and No
Yes if I need to go discreetly, not attracting attention and can’t take anything but a Hand phone sized Camera. Yes if I need to go to the street, the unsafe not friendly environment..
No for Its small sensor just wont give the Shallow DOF , the high ISO and all the big sensor do. No for the look I want from the Zeiss and Leitz lenses. No if I were a pixel peeper and crop fanatic (fortunately I am not)
I know this GRD will taken in my pocket everywhere I go… Just take it out and snap and you are good. I am loving this simple pocket camera as it simply fills my needs for a wide-angle good result fast pocketable photographic tool.
If this looks like a camera you would enjoy you can purchase this camera at B&H Photo Here.
Tokyo, Japan, February 23, 2012—Ricoh Company, Ltd. (CEO: Shiro Kondo) on February 27, 2012, will release the first function-expansion firmware update for the GR DIGITAL IV, a high-resolution digital camera launched in October 2011.
The firmware update incorporates ideas taken from the many opinions and requests we received from customers who filled out a survey when they registered their cameras. The update adds new functions and an increased number of settings that can be adjusted on the GR DIGITAL IV cameras that our customers already treasure, thus improving its performance and ease of use while also giving it the latest functions.
First GR DIGITAL IV Function-Expansion Firmware Update
1. Adds Function for Including Copyright Notice
Inputted copyright information is recorded to the image’s Exif data when a picture is taken. Up to 46 alphanumeric characters can be recorded, and the information can then be checked in the detailed file information on the camera’s playback screen.
2. Improves Auto Exposure Speed
The speed of auto exposure control has been improved, making selection of the proper exposure smoother.
3. Adds Function for Saving Snap Focus Distance at Time of Shutter Release to the ADJ lever and Fn button
The snap focus distance at the time of shutter release can now be saved to the ADJ. lever or the Fn button. The setting can be changed without having to go the menu screen.
4. Adds Function for Displaying Photo Information for Interval Composite Photos
For photos taken using the Interval Composite mode, this function enables a display of shooting times from start to finish, as well as the number of composite images in the detailed information displayed on the playback screen.
5. Adds Floating Black level adjustment function for Interval Composite Mode Shooting
The “Floating black level adjustment” function can be turned On or Off (default setting is on); if set to On, it can reduce noise at high sensitivities.
A new GXR camera unit featuring a 3.5x optical zoom lens (24-85 mm)
and an APS-C size CMOS sensor
Tokyo, Japan, February 2, 2012—Ricoh Co., Ltd. today announced the development and release of RICOH LENS A16 24-85mm F3.5-5.5, the fifth camera unit in the GXR interchangeable unit camera system. First introduced in December 2009, the GXR is a revolutionary interchangeable unit camera system in which lenses can be changed by mounting camera units that integrate lens, image sensor, and image processing engine into a single unit.
The new RICOH LENS A16 24-85mm F3.5-5.5 brings together a newly developed 24-85 mm wide-angle zoom lens, an APS-C size CMOS sensor, and the proven Smooth Imaging Engine IV to create a unit with high image quality, high power of expression, and high flexibility.
Main features of RICOH LENS A16 24-85mm F3.5-5.5
1) Newly developed 24-85 mm wide-angle zoom lens with an APS-C size CMOS sensor with approximately 16.20 million pixels
· This newly developed lens features a 9-group, 11-element configuration. The utilization of three double-sided aspherical lenses as well as high-refraction lenses effectively reduces various types of distortion across the entire zoom range. The result is high resolution and imaging power from edge to edge.
· The configuration of nine rounded aperture blades enables both highly precise aperture settings and beautiful bokeh.
· This camera unit features a 23.6 mm×15.7 mm (APS-C size) 16M CMOS sensor. In combination with the image processing engine Smooth Imaging Engine IV, this image sensor makes it possible to shoot high-quality images with smooth tonal gradations, as well as low noise and high-resolution.
2) Diverse shooting functions and high operability
· Dynamic range compensation reduces overexposure of highlights and underexposure of dark areas. For backlit and high-contrast scenes that cannot be handled with exposure compensation, doing the dynamic range compensation in specific portions of the image makes it possible to shoot the subject at a brightness level close to that seen by the naked eye.
· ISO sensitivity can be set in 1EV or 1/3EV steps.
· With the new ISO bracketing function, the photographer can shoot and record three images with different ISO sensitivities.
· When the new function for maintaining the same shooting settings is set on, by keeping the shutter release button pressed halfway after taking a picture, the photographer can continue to shoot with the same settings (focus, exposure, white balance, etc.).
· The function for recording a JPEG image simultaneously with the RAW image has been expanded so that it is now possible to record only the RAW image. This is suitable for a work flow based on the premise that image finishing is to be done on a PC after shooting. Since a JPEG file is not simultaneously recorded, this option is also useful when the photographer wants to increase the number of images which can be recorded on the memory card.
· It is now possible to turn ON/OFF the white saturation display that shows areas where bright portions will be rendered white and where color shade gradations will be lost.
· The tilt indicator function has been enhanced. In addition to the conventional horizontal indicator, this function can now also detect camera movement direction tilting.
· Copyright information such as the photographer’s name can be entered and written to the image Exif data. The recorded information can be checked on the playback screen detailed information display.
3) Highly precise focusing
· For the AF area size for spot AF, either normal or pinpoint can be selected.
· A focus-assist function has been included in an effort to raise the accuracy of manual focusing. The photographer can select from two modes and check the focus by strengthening outlines and contrast.
· The shooting screen can be magnified for convenience in focusing. The magnified area can be displayed in the center or across the entire screen. In addition, the image quality for 4x and 8x magnification has been further enhanced. The area to be magnified can be moved using the direction pad.
4) The power of expression that is a hallmark of the GXR series
· Picture settings for image quality and color can be customized with nine levels for easy creation of a diverse range of images.
· My Settings enables the settings for a wide range of shooting functions to be recorded in advance and specified in an instant when needed. For the setting storage, now six patterns can be stored in the body’s My Settings Box and six patterns can be stored in the SD card. This expands the world of photo expression by enabling GXR users to exchange their shooting settings.
· B (bulb) and T (time) can now be selected as the shutter speed in manual exposure mode. With “B,” the exposure continues while the shutter release button is pressed, and with “T,” the shutter release button is pressed to start and end the exposure. For both, the exposure is forcibly ended when 180 seconds have elapsed.
· New scene mode options have been added for the easy enjoyment of a wide range of photo expression. The five new options are soft focus, cross process, toy camera, miniaturize, and high contrast B&W. The photographer can create a unique image by just pressing the shutter release button.
· An image flag function has been added to enable the quick display of specific images from among those in the camera. Up to 20 images can be flagged.
· It is possible to shoot 1280 × 720 pixel HD movies.
* Note: When shooting movies of 1280×720 size, the use of an SD/SDHC memory card with an SD speed class of Class 6 or higher is recommended.
5) New options added
· A newly designed lens hood (LH-2) especially for this camera unit.
· A lens cap (LC-3) that opens and closes simultaneously with the movement of the lens. It does not need to be removed when shooting.
· A wrapping sheet (WS-1) that can wrap the GXR when the camera unit, external viewfinder, and other options are attached.
RICOH LENS A16 24-85mm F3.5-5.5 options
Lens Hood LH-2
Self-retaining Lens Cap LC-3
Wrapping Sheet WS-1
All of the focal lengths in this release are converted to the equivalent values for a 35 mm film camera.
LH-2 and LC-3 are new options being introduced at this time.
Functions when the GXR body is attached
RICOH LENS A16 24-85mm F3.5-5.5 Major Specifications
Approximately 16.20 million
23.6 mm × 15.7 mm ＣMOS sensor (total pixels: approx. 16.50 million pixels)
Focal length: f=15.7～55.5 mm (35 mm camera equivalent: 24-85 mm)
Aperture (f-number): f/3.5 – f/5.5
Focus range: Approx. 25 cm – infinity (from the front of the lens)
Construction: 11 elements in 9 groups (3 aspherical lens elements with 6 surfaces)
Filter diameter: 55 mm
Optical zoom: 3.5x
Digital zoom: 4.0x (3.6x for movies)
Auto resize zoom: Approx. 6.8x (VGA)
Contrast AF-based multi and spot AF; MF; Snap; infinity (focus lock and AF-assist)
Photographs: 1/3200 – 180 s , bulb, time (upper and lower limits vary according to shooting and flash mode)
Movies: 1/2000 – 1/30 s
Metering: TTL metering in multi (256-segment), center-weighted, and spot metering (TTL metering with auto exposure lock)
Mode: Program AE, aperture priority AE, manual exposure, shutter priority AE, target-move function
Exposure compensation: Manual (-4.0 EV to +4.0 EV in increments of 1/3 EV or 1/2 EV), auto bracketing (-2.0 EV to +2.0 EV in increments of 1/3 EV or 1/2 EV)
Based on CIPA standard, DB-90: approx. 400 shots※3
Dimensions (W × H × D):
Camera unit only: 71.4 mm × 70.5 mm × 93.3 mm
(according to CIPA guidelines)
When mounted on the GXR body: 113.9 mm × 74.7 mm × 98.5 mm
（according to CIPA guidelines）
Camera unit only： Approx. 350 g
When mounted on camera body: Approx. 550 g （battery and SD memory card included）
0 °C to 40 °C
90% or less
–20 °C to 60 °C
*1) The picture quality modes which can be set vary depending on the image size.
*2) A JPEG file is also recorded (the JPEG file may be a FINE- or NORMAL-quality file with the same dimensions as the RAW file or a VGA file 640 × 480 pixels in size). RAW files use the standard DNG format promoted by Adobe Systems Incorporated.
*3) For reference only; actual number of shots varies greatly according to how camera is used. We recommend that you carry spare batteries when in use for extended periods.
(Shooting capacity was measured using CIPA-standard parameters. These are only estimates; performance may vary depending on usage conditions.)
B&H Photo just announced they have a few of these in stock. The 50 1.1 Nokton M mount lens by Voigtlander. My review was posted long ago HERE but this has been a highly sought after lens as it is a super fast 50 that performs GREAT. $1049 is a deal for a lens of this nature as the closest lens to it, the Leica Noctilux f/1 usually sells for $7k used.
The Sony NEX-7 with wide angle Leica lenses – A quick test and GXR comparison!
UPDATED WITH A SONY NEX-5n vs NEX-7 COMPARISON for COLOR SHIFT
It’s FRIDAY and I am in the best mood ever today. Why? Well, It’s gonna be a killer Halloween weekend. I love Halloween, and this year I am going to a couple of parties and am planning on bringing my camera along with me. Which one? Probably the E-P3 and Panasonic 20 1.7 due to it’s fast AF. I will not be bringing the NEX-7 because A: It is not mine and B: I have to send it back on Monday to Sony. I have enjoyed my time with the camera and shot with it daily for the last 3 weeks or so and it seems my last ISO comparison between the 7 and 5n stirred up some controversy (and traffic..and some commenters that wouldn’t stop)! Bottom line is that I shot each camera in that test how they were meant to be shot. I was showing what you can expect from each camera when using it and letting the camera choose the exposure. It is what you will get in real life, not scientific testing. Besides, the NEX-7 was NOT underexposed. But anyway….enough of that. The bottom line is that the 5n is a little better at high ISO than the 7, but we all knew this already didn’t we? Besides, who here shoots at 3200 and up on a regular or non regular basis? Not many. I am sure other sites will be doing all of the scientific testing soon so for those who crave that…patience!
LensRentals.com Sponsored this test!
Thanks to LenRentals.com I was able to do some quick tests on the NEX-7 with some wide angle Leica lenses! - Visit LENRENTALS.COM as they rent more than just Leica. They rent Sony, Olympus, Leica, Canon and Nikon – bodies, lenses and accessories!
So seeing that I wear able to get a hold of some lenses for a couple of days today I wanted to post some QUICK shots I snapped with the NEX-7 and these wide angles. I only had these lenses for three days so did not get to shoot much with them at all. I have been extremely busy with this site, e-mail, and personal things as well so I was just able to get out yesterday to shoot and I also brought along the Ricoh GXR M mount module (which I also have to return on Monday to Ricoh..contrary to popular belief, I do not get to keep anything).
But again let me thank LenRentals.com as they were kind enough to send me these lenses at no charge so I could do this test and add to my NEX-7 review. Without their help I could not have done this. So thank you LENSRENTALS!
Onto the Images!
So the images you see below are all quick and dirty test shots out of the camera. They are not meant to be good photos, just test shots that should give you an idea on how these lenses can perform on the NEX-7. Let’s face it. There is no way I can shoot winning photos 7 days a week in Phx AZ :)
One thing to notice in some of the images below and that is that the Leica 21 Elmarit and the Voigtlander 15mm have the bad magenta color shifts on the NEX-7 with the magenta edges/corners. The GXR does NOT do this so this shows how Ricoh got it right when designing their dedicated module, as they should have. It is a dedicated one trick pony module designed to do one thing and one thing right, and they succeeded. The 15 may not be perfect on the GXR but it is miles better than it is on the NEX-7. UPDATE! Just tested the 15mm on the NEX-5n and it is perfect! No color shift. This is disappointing to me and now I am am going to have to slightly alter my “conclusion” in my NEX-7 review. You can see the samples below…
The NEX-7 was obviously NOT designed for Leica glass. You can see that using lenses 24 and wider can get you some nasty color shifts, just like the M9 used to do (and still does with the Voigtlander). But the GXR and 5n are clean. Why the 5n works well and not the 7 is beyond me.
One other thing I noticed is that the Sony can put out a very sharp image when using 35mm and longer Leica lenses. The GXR is a tad sharper though. The 35 Lux performed wonderfully on the NEX even with the CHEAP adapter I used today that was a bit loose and wobbly. I accidentally left my good one on the 5n at home but it still worked out even though I had a few out of focus shots from the NEX, and IMO, this is due to the wobbly adapter.
OK, NOW the images!
CLICK EACH IMAGE FOR LARGER 1800 PIXEL WIDE VERSION
The NEX-7 and 35 Summilux ASPH at 1.4 – This one was from RAW (Capture One)
Again, the 35 Summilux wide open at 1.4 – focus peaking made this easy along with the tilting LCD (From RAW)
The 21 Elmarit at 2.8 (From RAW)
The 24 Summilux on the NEX-7 (JPEG)
Next three shots…35 Lux once again at 1.4 – (JPEG) – Notice the 3D effect in the Life Cereal shot – The word Cinnamon sort of jumps out when you view the full size image.
Some quick comparisons with the Ricoh GXR
These were all converted from RAW. The GXR has a totally different color signature than the NEX.
This 1st shot was with the Leica 35 Summilux at f/4 – click image to see 100% crop – SHARP!!! (from RAW)
Here is the same scene but shot with the Ricoh GXR and 21 Elmarit at f/4 (from RAW)
Sony NEX-7 with the 21 Elmarit at f/5.6
GXR with 21 Elmarit at f/5.6 (again, from RAW and letting each camera choose the exposure to see how each camera will expose the same scene)
Here is a shot from inside a restaurant/bar with the NEX-7 and 24 Summilux at 1.4 (click image for larger)
Now the GXR, same lens, same aperture – totally different color signature (click image for larger)
Magenta Color shifts – The NEX-7 has them – GXR does not! NEX-5n DOES NOT!
1st shot – NEX-7 with the Voigtlander 15 at 5.6. Out of camera JPEG. This is the color that came out of the camera. Not good.
Now the same lens, same aperture, same OOC JPEG but from the Ricoh GXR
and the NEX-7 with the 21 Elmarit, same scene – still there but not as bad – more evident due to the light sky
and the NEX-7 with the 24 Summilux – still some magenta color shift in the corners
AND ONE MORE COMPARISON BETWEEN THE 5n and 7
First the 5n with the Voigtlander 15 at f/8
and now the 7…disappointing .
So there you go. Some quick shots to show how these wider angle lenses work on the NEX-7. You do get the magenta color shift with the 15, 21 and even slightly with the 24. The GXR does much better here and did not show any shifting with the 21 or 24. The 5n also does wonderfully with no color shift. Hmmmm.
As for shooting these bodies, I did in fact enjoy using the Sony NEX-7 more as I stated before due to its EVF, superb peaking, and body feel/grip, which is just about perfect for my hand. The GXR, in use, was a little awkward in comparison but if you never see the Sony EVF or Peaking I can see someone being thrilled with the GXR in use. But all of the control and ease of use in the world means JACK if the IQ doesn’t stack up. If you are looking for a back up to your M and have been considering the GXR or NEX-7 AND have wider Leica glass, then the GXR would be your best bet. It does indeed work best with Leica lenses in regards to color shifting, and color in general. At the same time, if you just want to shoot an occasional 35 or 50 Leica lens and want to take advantage of everything the NEX-7 has to offer, then the 7 could be your solution. Overall, it is a powerhouse.
Then again, there is the Sony NEX-5n which just may be the one to go for as it has great high ISO performance (best of the three) and has no color shifting issues. Decisions decisions…
If the NEX-7 had the microlenses like the 5n obviously does, then I would call it a slam sunk between the three cameras. One of the reasons I wanted an NEX-7 was to shoot Leica lenses and now it appears the NEX-5n and GXR do a better job in this area. Arg! You can pre-order the GXR M mount A12 Module HERE, or the NEX-5n HERE.
Anyway, here are a few shots with some Post Processing just for fun, something I did not do to the images in my NEX-7 review, which I just updated. PP can add some excitement to any image and the Sony files seem to very robust, especially since all of the images below were taken from the OOC JPEG and then enhanced.
Thanks for reading, coming soon my Ricoh GRD IV review and my Nikon V1 review. Coming down the road, a review of the Panasonic/Leica 25 1.4 Summilux for Micro 4/3 and yes, the Fuji X10.