Thursday, January 19, 2017

Why I Still Love Shooting with my Ricoh GR


When I went to Hong Kong in the summer, I announced on my YouTube channel that I wasn't going to take my personal Ricoh GR. It was a tough decision, but I had my reasons (I explain it in this video). People thought I was giving up on my Ricoh GR, that I was a total Fujifilm and Leica convert. This couldn't have been further from the truth. I don't own any Fujifilm or Leica gear, I just review them. Yes most of my videos are about these two brands, but that's because I review cameras, that's my job. My Hong Kong trip was for work and there was no personal time to take my own pictures for myself. That's why the GR stayed at home. A month later I took off to Osaka with my wife to visit my little brother and his family. Guess what? I took my Ricoh GR in conjunction with the Fujifilm X-T2 and XF 23mm f/2 WR. Did I have fun with the GR and was it still a significant photographic tool? Yes and yes!



The main reason, well there's two... okay three things that make the GR great. It's compact, the lens is super sharp, and the camera has a leaf shutter. If any of these elements were taken away, I don't think I would still be shooting this camera. The GR has no built in viewfinder. There's no wifi (mine is the original GR and not the GR II). The AF is sluggish in low light. Manual focus is horrible. The JPEGs are horrible, although I know some guys who have created their own pretty sweet JPEG profiles. The GR is not the easiest camera to shoot with, but I've learned to get around (or ignore) all its weaknesses because the images are so good. Once you learn how to shoot with your particular camera, you own it. That's the most important thing. I've played with other cameras that I thought were horrible, but I've seen others swear by it and make amazing photographs with it (I totally respect the Konica Hexar, but top 1/250th shutter speed?). That's why I'm not telling you to get a GR, only why I love it so much.

Check out my review of the previous Ricoh GR-D IV


Some days I just wanted to walk around and only have a compact EDC slipped into my back pocket. You can't do that with other compact non-ILC cameras like the Fujifilm X70, Leica Q or Sony RX1. Only the Ricoh GR is that compact when it comes to the larger sensor point and shoot cameras. When I take it out at a restaurant or a intimate cafe, nobody bats an eye. In fact, it's 2 dimensional proportion is now smaller than many phablet smartphones. My nephew even enjoyed posing for me when I had the GR versus using the big X-T2. People feel obligated to pose with a bigger camera, losing the naturalness of using a smartphone camera or a smaller point and shoot. That's why I took great pictures in the 1990's when I was shooting weddings with the Ricoh GR-1. It was a back-up to my Minolta 9xi and Maxxum 7, but people were more at ease when I wiped out the diminutive Ricoh GR-1. It's exactly the same with the digital GR. When I took pictures of people in close proximity, it was easier to ignore the GR versus shooting with the X-T2. I even took pictures inside Yodobashi Camera with the GR. I wouldn't try that with the X-T2 or any ILC camera. The look and feel of the GR hasn't changed in 20 years. In fact, I think this year is the Ricoh GR's 20th anniversary isn't it?


When will the new GR III come out? Hopefully this year. It has to. Will it have some sort of image stabilization, a faster lens, or an articulating screen? My guess is probably in-body IS, but that's it. Perhaps an upgraded wifi controller (the GR II has one of the worst wifi controller interfaces). Will I upgrade? Probably not. Why not? Because I just want to make pictures. I don't want a camera that gets in my way. That's why I like iPhone photography. I take my photography seriously, but not my gear. The iPhone and my Ricoh GR allows me to ignore the gear and focus on what's in my mind and what's in front of me. Whenever I review a camera it never feels like my camera, I know I have to return it. I use it like its mine, and perhaps that's why people like my reviews. However, adjusting to a new camera every month takes a toll on your style and your flow. Once I get use to shooting a new camera, I have to drop it and pick up a new one. I need to jump from a Leica M-A film camera to the Canon G7X MK II point and shoot without skipping a beat. That's not easy to do as a photographer. You need to become 'one' with your tool, and I don't really have that luxury with most of my review gear.

Check out the most popular review on my blog, the Ricoh GR II in Hong Kong!


That's why I'm sticking with my Ricoh GR for as long as I can. I've been shooting with it since 1998. I can see the world through this camera, and I have. Switching cameras every 2-3 years will affect my creativity and photographic vision. Yes I can pick up any camera and take decent pictures, but I don't feel like I own the pictures because I haven't made the camera my own (I hope I'm making sense). If there is any camera other than the Ricoh GR that I'd rather shoot with, it would be the Leica M-A, or any Leica mechanical film camera. I like the look, the feel, the shooting style, and mystery of shooting film. It's a format that I think I can spend the rest of my life pursuing and never conquering it. That's important to me. I feel the same way about my Ricoh. I've been shooting with it for almost 20 years, and I'm still fighting with it and trying to conquer it. Yes, I want to shoot with a camera long enough to ignore it, but a tool that I never feel that I've conquered or mastered.  I love that feeling. I'm writing this article more for myself for the near future, to read back to myself once the new Ricoh GR III comes out. Thanks for listening to me write out loud. Happy shooting.

BHT



16 comments:

  1. Went to Japan last month and the GR covers 90% of my street photography , small and compact nobody will notice u , love this camera !!

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    1. I'm glad you're still enjoying the GR!

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  2. I like your point of view. There are a lot of choices in gear out there, find what works and for the most part stick with it. I think that this mindset is what makes you a good photo equipment reviewer, no hype just how practical does it perform in taking pictures.

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    1. thanks, I appreciate it. Yes, I look at all the greats, and most of them stick to one camera for most of their career, and focus less on gear and more about producing great images.

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  3. Hello Take, So nice to have new stuff on your site ! ;)
    You're the guy that made me want to buy a GR. And I bought a second hand GRD IV last october. I was a bit afraid of the changing ( I was shooting with an XE2 ), but since then, the GRD IV is my camera for street. The ISO is horrible but this camera still rocks !
    I'm dreaming of a GR III with a small sensor, weather resistant, better ISO performance and 16 M will be enough for me !
    I know that the GR III won't be like this, but it's my dream GR III ;)

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    1. Thanks for commenting. Ya we all have our dream GR. Mine is the GR21 without the use of an adapter for street, WR optional. The old film GR's had an optical viewfinder, so I'd like one too, although I just don't see where it can go. Perhaps a periscope style like on the Yashica t4 cameras. I still shoot my GR-D IV, but I make sure I shoot ISO 160 and RAW only. The only thing I have to fight is purple fringing, but it's a tight little camera. Thanks again for commenting!

      BHT

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  4. Hi Take,

    I bought a fuji xe2 with 18-55 to replace my Canon 700d with 24mm 2.8

    As much as I really enjoyed the colours and amazing sharpness of the lens but just didn’t quite gel with it. I felt more at home with the canon and its images seemed to have more emotion in them for some reason I cant put my finger on. Anyway on the back of reviews of the Ricoh gr (especially yours) I bought one just before Christmas. Thinking I would replace the canon with the Ricoh….

    Anyway long story short – I have decided to keep both the canon and the GR and will be selling the Fuji. And actually feel good about it.

    The more I get to know the Ricoh, the more I like it and the better the images get. I think this article has cured me from the Gear Acquired syndrome.

    Unfortunately the Ricoh had (a very minor) fall and the flash stopped working ;-(

    Do you think I should repair it? (it was a second hand unit) or invest in the Fuji flash unit ef x20?



    Regards Alan

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    1. Congrats on the GR, and too bad you didn't click with the Fujifilm, but it happens. Not every system is for everyone and every type of photography. As for the flash, it's up to you, but I don't like using the built in flash of any camera. I don't like using up the battery in the camera. I personally like using the EF-X20 flash because although the two AAA batteries aren't great, it's better than draining the in-camera battery. Plus, changing flash power is faster with the external dial on the flash.

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  5. Thanks for the advice. Think I will probably go for the EF x20. Also I have a had a rethink - I might sell the xe2 and the Canon and buy an x100s or T. Or even the original x100

    Decisions....✌🏾

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    1. The X100T is a really nice camera. I know many with it that won't upgrade to the X100F because there wasn't enough incentive to upgrade. The new sensor and processor is great, but if you're happy with what the X Trans III sensor and EXR Processor II can produce, then I would say stick with what works for you.

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  6. Was in Iceland on family vacation in Sept for a week, brought my Fuji Xpro-1 and several lenses, along with my GR for a backup. Fuji was great, but I killed it in heavy rain with 3 days left to go in Iceland. Had to use GR only for the last 2-1/2 days. Got some of my best images of the trip with the GR. Limitations and all that... Best images of the trip were a series of 3am shots of Skogafoss waterfall with only full moon for illumination, using GR on tripod and 20 sec exposures, capturing moon bow across the falls and Big Dipper over the falls. Not bad for a fixed focal length P&S?

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    1. Thanks for your story. For sure, it only proves that your resourcefulness and willingness to try and use a camera for something it's not normally used for is what succeeded here, not the camera. Good on you!

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  7. Would you be so kind to share your camera settings when using the Fuji EF-X20?

    Regards Petar

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  8. Thank you for your awesome reviews of cameras! I have thoroughly enjoyed them. I bought a Ricoh GRII and absolutely LOVE it for still photography, especially street photos and I feel it matches what I photograph the most. BUT, I am going to be travelling for vacation and I am having trouble getting over the desire to own a Fuji X-T20 with the 18-55 2.8/4 kit lens in addition to GRII. I guess I am worried that the GR II with its fixed lens won't give me enough flexibility and I will miss some shots and wish I had a zoom for. I know these things are subjective, but my question is, if you were travelling for personal purposes and could take only one camera, which would it be out of all the cameras you have owned......excluding DSLR cameras? Any other thoughts that might help welcome as well. I am blown away with GR cameras and how do they compare to the Fuji X-T20?

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  9. Hi,I've a Ricoh GR IV and I don't know If it's better buy a new Ricoh GR II.
    What do you think about?

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  10. The same thinking as yourself on this device of picture GR and so authentic and lived... In 1998 during the military junta in Burma I got busted by this dictator the cause I was taking photos of the streets temples of the photos with a leica M6 so never reviewed device more fear in my life... I think with my GR would have been more suited

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