Like the Leica M series or the Fujifilm X100 series, the Ricoh GR series of cameras has always engaged a most loyal cult following, drawn to a camera powered by a APSC sensor in a truly pocketable size made more attractive by some of the most beautiful black and white renderings.
Ricoh GR II (2015)
Now 4 years after the release of the GR II, which was essentially the 1st generation GR camera with an extra wifi chip (the browser based interface was poorly implemented too) , Ricoh has finally released a true upgrade for the street shooters in the the GR III and I shall share the 5 most compelling reasons for this (advertised by Ricoh) new King of snap-shooters.
the Ricoh GR III in 2019
*This not going to be a spec based writeup like the reviews you can find copied and pasted around the other sites, and if you wish to read the full specs, pls visit the official site here.
1. An upgraded APS-C (23.5mm x 15.6mm) sensor and imaging processor with 24.23 Megapixels with an overhauled AF system.
With the new higher performance GR Engine 6, still images can be recorded either as JPEGs or 14-bit RAW files (GR II had 12-bit RAWs), you get 1080p video recording at 60fps (no, there’s no 4K) and the nice implementation of an innovative anti-aliasing simulator instead of an optical one.
For the 1st time in the series, the GR III uses a contrast and phase-detection Hybrid AF system. The focus modes include Auto-area AF, Zone AF, Select AF, Pinpoint AF, Tracking AF, Continuous AF, Manual Focus, and the GR’s lovely Snap mode (can be changed to focus at either 1m, 1.5m, 2.5m, 5m or Infinity) and Infinity.
In my usage, the significant improvement in autofocus reliability and speed alone makes the single most compelling reason for the GR III, allowing an otherwise aged system to catch up with the modern competitors like the Fujifilm X100F, Sony RX1r2 or Leica Q2 etc. (note that all these other choices are close to at least 2 to 6 times the price of the GR III)
2. A rebuilt 28mm fixed focal length lens with six optical elements in four groups, this new lens setup features the same fast maximum aperture of f/2.8, but for the first time, a 3-axis image stabilisation system and a madly short minimum focusing distance of 10 cm. Throw in a built-in manually adjustable ND (neutral density) filter for good measure and one really gets a very complete do-it-all optical setup.
The built-in flash has been removed (sad), but Ricoh explains that with the 3-axis image stabilisation system and higher wider ISO range now (100-102400), slow shutter speeds and low light shots are compensated with the help of its Shake Reduction System (Ricoh’s name for its image stabilisation system)
3. The compactness of the GR has been further strengthened with the Ricoh GR III at an even smaller size now, measuring 109.4m x 61.9 x 33.2mm, but surprisingly slightly heavier at 6 grams extra, weighing 227g without the battery or SD card. Battery life has dropped, to now a minuscule 200 shots per charge so please get spares.
One gets a very well built camera with a magnesium alloy chassis, wifi and bluetooth connections capability and a touch-screen. There is now a modern USB-C connector for power charging and transfer which is really welcome.
*note: as of 17 Mar, I have not been able to get the wifi transfer of images to work with the app. Anyone who have gotten it to work pls kindly teach me too.
4. Controls and the Customisable ADJ selector and Fn button
Like all street shooter cameras should be, controls should be logical and simple and the GR III gains in this aspect with a main wheel for the main shooting modes which is locked in place until the unlock button is depressed (good job there).
Pressing the Adj. dial inwards allows one to quickly adjust five different settings menus that are commonly used. Press it to alter by default the Image Control, Focus, Exposure Metering, File Format and Outdoor View settings. Even better, the Adj. menu is completely customisable – allowing you to control exactly what you want quick access to, and you also set the Adj. dial to control the ISO speed by pressing left/right. I set mine to adjust for exposure compensation.
In-camera RAW editing are also available, aka – no worries about shooting in the incorrect filters or white balance anymore. The overall menu system is a simplistic logical layered approach with a very good set of adjustments down to the brightness of the LCD to counter reflection under bright daylight.
5. And the last compelling reason, the image quality that has made the GR a cult classic has not only been retained, but is now better, true to Ricoh’s words of that the GR III’s imaging potential is the best it has ever managed to produce and I will be most humble to share some of the images I’ve shot on the GR III in the last 24 hours with it.
- All images (including those of the camera) shared here were photographed by me and edited in Lightroom to my preferences. I worked with the DNG files during my edits.
- Na, no one paid me to write this all. APD – Audio and Photo Distributor (F.E) (the Singapore local distributor) didn’t, and this GR III was bought and paid for by myself.
here we go!
Personally, the new GR III once again delivers what made the GR series great. ISO values from 100 all the way to 6400 are very usable with the higher settings up to 12,800 pretty usable for small prints and monochrome shots. Camera controls, menus, speed and performance are all easily an upgrade over the GR II.
The GR III may not have one drooling over its design lines like the Fujifilm X100F, Olympus Pen F or the Leica Q but it is a street camera – supposed and designed to be discreet and lovely in that it is still all so pocketable.
There are of course things to pick on the GR III for like the lack of 4k video, built in flash and a shorter battery life but this 2019 GR represents the significant upgrade die-hard GR-series fans will love and have waited long for and I am sure this alone ensures that this classic will endure – even with the many camera releases of 2019.
Thank you for reading.
Ricoh has announced that some sets of the GR III may be affected by a wobbly/oversensitive control dial. Hence if you are in the list of listed serial numbers, it may be good to contact your local Ricoh service centre.
Affected serial numbers are:
- 0010046 to 0022290
- 2010043 to 2012044
- 3010045 to 3010544
- 4010041 to 4010230