Review: The 2013 Ricoh GR (digital V)

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Not long after Nikon announced their 28/2.8, 16MP APS-C super-compact, Ricoh also decided it’d be a good time to launch an update to their cult GR Digital line. Version V has done a Leica and dropped the model number to confuse us (and Google searches for the new model), but gained a near-identical spec to the Nikon – also 28/2.8 equivalent, 16MP APS-C sensor without AA filter (it does have square and 35mm crop options, but you can always easily apply those in post). Neither one has IS. I covered most of the spec sheet in the preview, here. Now I’ve had some (albeit very brief) time with a final production prototype*, it’s time to report back here on how it actually fares in the metal.

*Meaning some things like image quality and focusing behaviour may undergo final tweaks before production versions ship, but apparently they’re pretty close to it. My camera is running firmware 1.11.

4 October update: Ricoh has released FW 2.03 which fixes a lot of issues I had with the initial camera such as program mode stopping at f4 – the update is downloadable here.

A continuously updated set of sample images on my Flickr is here.

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Announcing the Ricoh GR (Digital V)

It seems that 28mm large sensor compacts are like buses. You wait ages and ages and ages…and suddenly we now have no less than three APS-C options: The Nikon Coolpix A, The Fuji X100s with wide converter, and (drumroll please): the brand-spanking-new Ricoh GR.

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Photoessay: The streets of Yangon, part two: the city

In a continuation from the previous photoessay, part two covers a few vignettes of the various urban scenes I encountered in Yangon – again captured with the Ricoh GR1v on Ilford Delta 100, and scanned with the Nikon D800E and 60/2.8 G. Enjoy! MT

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Photoessay: The streets of Yangon, part one: people

For all of the camera-shy people in Yangon, there were plenty of others who were quite happy to be photographed, or were more amused to see me use a little black buzzy point and shoot that clearly still wound film instead of showed something on the back of a screen. I didn’t mind, because the GR1v is a superior photographic tool for this kind of thing – leave it in P, frame up, check the focus distance – or use snap hyperfocal mode – and off you go. Shot on Ilford Delta 100, processed in DDX and scanned with a Nikon D800E and macro lens. Enjoy! MT

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Review: The Ricoh GR1v

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Earlier at the start of this year, I was lucky enough to have not one, but two of the cameras I lusted earlier in my photographic career show up – the Contax T3, reviewed here, and the Ricoh GR1V, which is the subject of this article. My first encounter with the GR1 was in 2001, when I was a student and there was still an independent pro camera store on Oxford’s High street. I was looking for a compact point and shoot and played with just about everything they had to offer, but landed up being seduced by something small and horrible (an APS Fuji Tiara 1010i, of all things). The GR1 (or perhaps it was a GR1v) was the only one that left much of an impression due to the way it felt, and the rather stiff price tag. Later, I recall a time in late 2005 or early 2006 when I visited a local camera store – at that point I was very much in the acquisition phase (not that it ever really stopped) on the hunt for exotic old lenses; the faster the better because I was still dealing with the limitations of the D2H. They had the Ricoh GR-Digital in stock, and the GR1V too – I landed up handling both, once again very much liking the feel of the GR1V, but walking out with the GR-Digital.

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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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Photoessay: Greenwich Park

One of London’s great open green spaces, home to the Maritime Museum (formerly Naval Headquarters), the Royal Observatory, and of course the Prime Meridian – or GMT-0 line. You could theoretically be in two timezones at once here, but curiously the whole of England is still on GMT. More interestingly for the horologically inclined, the observatory houses Harrison’s pioneering marine chronometers – the H-series clocks that made accurate navigation possible at sea through the calculation of longitude. And they still work. The park itself is just a nice place to spend a winter afternoon. MT

Series shot with a Ricoh GR-Digital III

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Photoessay: Piccadilly Circus by night

If this isn’t one of the most recognizable urban spaces on the planet, I’m not sure what is. Piccadilly Circus, London, is a gathering point for both locals and tourists, and all levels of the social stratum. The upscale thoroughfares of Regent Street, St. James and Piccadilly flow into a public square-cum-tube-station-cum-bus-stop-cum-traffic-junction, and mingle with the Theatre District and Chinatown in Shaftesbury Avenue, and the movie hub of Leicester Square.

I didn’t intend to shoot on this trip; I was based in Kuala Lumpur at the time and visiting London for work – to get some very confidential prospectuses securely printed, of all things – and only had a compact camera on me. Still, there are some places where you are compelled to break out a camera – of any sort – and shoot; this is one of them. And having a compact is not a bad thing in security-paranoid London; it just makes you like another tourist. Even better if it’s dusk, and your camera is black and nondescript. Not so good with the small sensor, but hey, there are compromises everywhere. MT

Series shot with a Ricoh GR-Digital III

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Photoessay: The Shipbuilders

Here they build the super-tugs that maneuver and tend to offshore oil drilling rigs and production platforms. Series shot at the Jaya Shipyards in Singapore with the Panasonic TZ3 and Ricoh GR-Digital I. MT

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POTD: Work in progress

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Work in progress. Condominiums under construction at an expat enclave in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Ricoh CX4

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