Inspirations from older cameras: The Ricoh GR Digital III

The original Ricoh GR-Digital was a cult camera that was known for two things: its ability to produce interest B&W JPEGs directly out of camera that heavily resembled Tri-X, and it’s incredibly configurable user interface. A fixed 28/2.5 equivalent was just part of the package. To be honest, I never really got along with this camera; I bought it solely because I loved the way it felt, and hardly used it.

Somehow, I found myself finding the 28mm focal length more and more intuitive as I matured as a photographer, to the point where I would see 28mm frame lines around every scene suspended in midair. The ideal compact was therefore an easy choice – I acquired a Ricoh GR-Digital III in early 2010, and used it heavily – occasionally as a primary camera, too. Although it still produces excellent out of camera B&W JPEGs, its sensor has fantastic tonality in both color and monochrome, and conversions are best done in ACR to make the most of the files.

Suffice to say it’s given me a surprisingly large number of keeper and portfolio-grade images over the years. MT

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Self portrait

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Construction break

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The Number 15 to Trafalgar Square

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Inside your watch

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After the rain

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Untitled

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There is a divergence in the force

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Untitled

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Chinese New Year

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Bulbs

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Stubbornness

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Reflections on people

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Comments

  1. hello, congratulations for images, especially those in BW. I have a Ricoh GR V, what settings should I use on camera for the BW intense?
    thanks

  2. Hi Ming,

    I discovered your site one day as I was researching the grd3. Your images are gorgeous and it is quite clear that you take great care in your imagery. Truly respect your reviews because you go to great lengths to speak about the strengths and weaknesses of,the cameras. I am an enthusiast photographer by night and an creative director by trade and am looking for a good everyday camera. I have the opportunity to pick up a used canon s95 or grd3 locally. With all that I have been reading… I can’t decide which is a better camera with the best iq. Specs seem similar The canon is $200 cheaper than the GR. I am more into street and would also use it for gatherings indoors and out. Not much of a zoom person! Nor trickery either. Would you recommend one over the other? I do like shooting manual because I like the control. Oh, I also have big hands as well. I have never shot with a Ricoh, though am familiar with canon. Any advice would be truly welcomed and appreciated. Thanks Ming.

  3. beautiful pictures! can you share the MY settings you used ?

  4. John Joyce says:

    Picked up a GRD IV a couple of weeks ago, so I’m no expert (I wanted to see the benefits of an incremental approach in product development). However:

    1. The GRD IV most certainly has an image sensor shift stabilisation system. Owing to a poor translation of the Japanese, an urban myth developed that Ricoh had subsequently deactivated it: the initial firmware update said it had been disabled for shutter speeds “less than one second”, when what was meant was slower than one second. This wording has been amended in the latest update. The stabilisation works surprisingly well, in my opinion (for what it’s worth, Ricoh claims up to 3.2 stops in shutter speed!).

    2. The initial firmware in the GRD IV forced a user into a menu dive in order to change the snap focus distance. A firmware update has removed this annoyance: you can now do it through assigning the function to the ADJ lever or an Fn key.

    By the way, your point about over-exposure with the GRD III is interesting. I recall some reviewers suggesting the opposite for the GRD IV. Maybe they had jpegs in mind.

    • 1. Ah – the GRDIII doesn’t have a stabiliser. Didn’t realize they put one in with the IV.
      2. You used to be able to just press the left arrow and rotate a dial to change the snap distance.
      3. I shoot raw wherever possible. Could well be. I’m finding the RX100′s meter all over the place at the moment; mostly saveable with raw, but pretty hopeless for jpegs. The GRDIII was much better.

  5. Max Novalis says:

    I just love that sophisticated, clean, consistent look in your photographs, no matter what camera you use, and would like my photos to look like that. I am looking forward to that DVD to learn your workflow. All the best

  6. Jorge Ledesma says:

    Great article as usual Ming. As a fellow GRD3 owner I can certainly attest to the high number of keepers this little jewel produces. My latest installment in my weekly project is all GRD3 (http://wp.me/p2tZOr-3Gq). Not only do I feel like 007(I’m only kidding) but I recently started using it as you suggest in P mode and shifting up and down the exposure and I must say I’m quite happy. How about those 1cm macro shots as well.

    • Thanks Jorge – did you ever try the IV?

      • Nah, I decided not to upgrade because I heard Ricoh switched the way “snap” was accessed and the last firmware also deactivated image stabilization and I was fine with the AF speed of the GRD3 so I decided to stay put and see what’s next in their 5th iteration. My hope, a big sensor with IS, and I’ll be golden. That coupled with my new Canon and the new 40mm and I’m heaven.

        Ming, I’d love to have some insights into your GRD3 processing, I myself, find that the dng’s are very forgiving and quite easily processed. Also have you tried VSCO films, I have, but I would love your insights on that as well.

        • I’m hoping for the same thing – I don’t care about all of the other trick modes, it’s more about usability, image quality, and that gorgeous lens.

          The GRDs never had image stabilisation – how could the firmware deactivate it?

          I process the GRD DNGs in a very similar way to the M8/ M9 files actually – they require a bit of overexposure and subsequent reduction in post to ‘pop’ with tonal richness. That photoshop workflow DVD I keep talking about will be available soon…next week, actually. :)

  7. Superb images as always! It would be awesome if you could post a breakdown of some of the post processing that you do on these images, if you don’t mind. The vibrancy and sharpness is so good in all your pics, I wonder if you have a (relatively) standardized workflow for “developing” them. And I guess, how much time do you spend on each image, or do you filter out hundreds of so-so pics and only focus on the keepers?

    • Thank you. Yes, I have a relatively standard workflow. I’m in the process of producing a DVD after getting a lot of requests…stay tuned.

      One of the advantages of such a standardized workflow is that it’s probably no more than a minute per image (though in the DVD it’s more like 15-20min because I explain exactly what I’m doing and avoid using any keyboard shortcuts or macros).

  8. greggmack says:

    Ming, that “Inside Your Watch” photo is fantastic! Even more so, considering that it was taken with a 28mm lens.
    The double-decker bus to Trafalgar Square also really grabbed my attention. Great photos from a camera that I haven’t even heard about before. Thanks!

  9. Hi Ming. Superb images as always (I eagerly await your imminent Photoshop processing article/DVD). Ricoh should hire you for their new launches. Despite your praise for the GRD III, you’ve mentioned in another post that the Olympus E-PM1 is your current go to pocket rocket. What are your reasons for opting for the Olympus over the Ricoh?

    • The E-PM1 replaced the GRDIII because of its larger sensor size – the GRDIII still has much better usability, and there’s no equivalent lens choice for the E-PM1 sadly. That got supplanted by the OM-D, which is a bit larger, but I think offers the best blend of size and image quality. If I need something that *has* to fit in a pocket, the GRDIII is still my choice – though I’ve got a Sony RX100 on the way.

  10. hello MT, thanks for sharing these great images and your thoughts on the GRD.
    This article attracted my attention as I only recently purchased a GRD IV.
    I have another camera on order but bought the little Ricoh to ‘tide me over’ until it arrives, after dropping my faithful Sony at the beach…
    Well, what a revelation is the GRD!
    I’m finding it an absolute joy to use: fast 1.9 lens that seems to gather up the available light; all the exposure controls readily to hand plus a really fast auto-focus and snap focus if needed. I run it with a view finder and the screen is terrific. All in all, it feels somehow in the spirit of a mini-rangefinder. As you’ve shown here, it produces wonderful images and I’m enjoying producing B&W JPEG images in tandem with RAW which is opening up the world of post-production for me.
    Best of all, I’m finding that it’s a camera that I want to carry with me everywhere.
    Thanks for this great website, MT. Always informative and enjoyable – and I continue to be amazed that you post on a daily basis.
    pete

    • Thanks Pete. The GRDIV is an improvement on the III (obviously) – the biggest difference is focusing speed.

      The camera feels a bit more sensitive than the numbers would suggest; I seldom have to go over ISO 800 – which is the opposite of most compacts, whose sensitivity/ aperture ratings if anything are rather optimistic.

      Trying to keep posting on a daily basis, but it’s getting busy – it might slip to every two days in future, but I’ll try my best not to…

Trackbacks

  1. [...] The original Ricoh GR-Digital was a cult camera that was known for two things: its ability to produce interest B&W JPEGs directly out of camera that heavily resembled Tri-X, and it’s incredibly configurable user interface. A fixed 28/2.5 equivalent was just part of the package. To be honest, I never really got along with this camera; I bought it solely because I loved the way it felt, and hardly used it.  [...]

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