This is my user experience with the Ricoh GR digital camera.
I'll get this out of the way quick, for all you spec and gear guys out there this is not for you, I do not care about the specifications on paper of a camera, I go out, shoot and see what I get, I form my opinion from that and that alone. So here is a real quick run down on the camera before I dive into the good stuff.
The Ricoh GR is a 16 megapixel compact digital camera boasting an apsc cmos sensor with no AA filter. There you go, now let's get on to how the camera actually performs in day to day use.
The first thing I noticed with the GR is how small and compact it is. It fits into a jacket pocket in a small case or in my jeans pocket without a case, I actually forget its on me most of the time. Carrying a larger camera for a lot of situations can be a bit of a hassle but with the GR it's just there for when I need it. It's always with me (like my iPhone but with way better image quality).
A lot of people might argue that there are other small cameras out there that Can give you the same or similar results (Sony RX100's, Fuji X100's, Leica X1 and X2, Nikon Coolpix A, Fuji x70) and yes this is true but having tried them all, I can truly say that the combition of high image quality, features, controls and size, the Ricoh GR wins out over all of them for my style of shooting (this is subjective and other people may get along better with a different camera). I'll go out on a limb and say it's my all time favourite digital camera and having worked in a camera shop for a good few years, trying most (if not all) current and past cameras this is a pretty bold statement.
HOW I SHOOT THE GR.
Now I shoot a lot in documentary style. When I see a moment I simply just want to capture it. The Ricoh comes out of my pocket, turns on quickly (no I haven't checked it in milliseconds) and it just fires (no lens cap to take off, which annoyed me with some of the other apsc compact cameras). It is a 28mm (35mm equivalent) so great for capturing scenes quickly. Although it's a 28mm lens you can configure a custom button so that it can crop to a 35mm and 47mm lens, you do lose the resolution obviously in this but very useful for when you need it (28mm and 35mm are by far my preferred focal lengths) and not being a pixel peeper I have used both crops to get shots that turned out great. I learned a long time again to stop really caring about overall resolution/sharpness etc and to focus more on the moment and feeling of the shot. So for my personal workflow it fights in perfectly.
After saying all that I can tell you the Ricoh results are sharp with a crazy amount of detail (lack of AA filter helps here). I love the black and white modes in the camera (both the standard and high contrast) and the positive film simulation. It's the only camera that I can trust the out of camera jpegs, I often use them with zero tweaking whatsoever. Nowadays I prefer to keep my computer time to a minimum so getting the shots as close as I can in camera is of high importance to me. The DNG files are really nice to work with as well, great tones and detail. I turn of all noise reduction in camera which keeps all the detail with no annoying smudging at higher ISO's.
One drawback with the Ricoh GR initially is that it was a bit annoying to set up and remembering where everything is. I can set so many different custom buttons that remembering where they all are took a few days. Once you have spent a few days with it the camera quickly gets out of the way and the shooting becomes second nature. I have set my 35mm crop button up where I like it, I have the picture simulation modes on the side of the camera, I have the snap focus button set up and I have the ISO dedicated dial (that is my favourite feature of the camera) it is so simple to change the ISO no digging into a menu. Now I'm not going to say that to get to some other features isn't fiddly but this is all I use and I know exactly where they are, once you are set up it doesn't get in the way of shooting.
The autofocus is pretty good actually. In good light it's more than fast enough for quick street shots. It's always accurate in my tests (which I can't say for a lot of the other cameras I have used). In lowlight it's Focus speed definitely slows down and In really low light it kinda sucks but it will eventually find Focus and be accurate which I can't say for a lot of other large sensor compacts. The Leica X1 and X2 and Nikon coolpix A just wouldn't find Focus. So for most of what I do the autofocus is great and more than capable of keeping up with fast action street and documentary work and as I said I have found it to be very accurate. I use it on centre Focus point exclusively as I do on any digital camera.
As I stated above in good-semi low light the autofocus works excellent and more than capable for fast street work. A really cool feature is the snap Focus mode. This allows the user to preset a distance in metres and when you press the shutter all the way down it will shoot at that distance. I have found it to be so valuable when something unfolds in front of me and I don't have a chance to think. The camera in manual Focus mode is fitted with a really nice distance scale so you can set it to f8 and see what's going to be in Focus either side of that distance (I usually set it to 2.5 metres) and since it's a 28mm equivalent lens you get plenty in Focus for quick street shots but to be honest the autofocus is so good I use that most of the time. It is nice to have the option to zone Focus like I would on my Leica M6 film camera. The exposure compensation is on a dedicated button on the right of the camera, very well placed and so easy to use for quick alterations to exposure on the run.
The cameras ISO performance impressed me a lot. I regularly shoot it at 1600 and 3200 (and not scared to go up to 6400) in black and white mode and up to 1600 in colour. Way better than I expected. Like I said earlier if you turn noise reduction off the high ISO files retain great detail but will get grainy. I find the grain pleasant, the only other digital cameras that I have seen results of detail retention at high ISO is the Leica digitals. No smudged mess. Most the other camera manufacturers (even with noise reduction off) get smudgey at High ISO. I choose detail and grain over soft and smooth any day.
It has a decent macro mode. 10cm I believe. I didn't think I would use it but have found I do regularly. A nice little feature.
A very overlooked part of a camera is the handling. The grip on the GR is really nice. I never feel like I'm going to drop it, and fits my hand perfectly. I find a lot of other cameras are pretty slippy with a crap grip (if any). I can use the GR one handed which is pretty cool only using my other hand to change the picture mode button on the left side of the body. The screen is also decent on the GR. I can see it from all angles and is useable in bright light. I thought I would miss a tilting screen but so far I have not. it gives accurate representation of how the final image will look on a computer screen and you can easily zoom in to check Focus. Can't complain.
The main thing with the Ricoh GR is I have fun shooting it. The end quality is great and I love the look of the files, like I said I can trust the jpegs so much I can use them straight out of camera a lot of the time. In fact I just can trust the camera in general (Focus, exposure, white balance) which is a big deal. Once set up, everything is where I want it and I never have to dig into the menu. It's always on me so I get shots I simply would miss if I had a bigger camera in my bag and it's so small, light and inconspicuous I can get shots where other cameras would give me away, nobody takes it serious, a big plus for street and intimate shots. It's a great camera if you want small size but with great image quality.
I have fun with it, I get creative with it and I love the images I get from it. After all that's the purpose of any good image making tool.
I can highly recommend the Ricoh GR.
Examples from the camera below. Some images have very minimal contrast adjustments but most are straight jpegs out of camera. Most are at 28mm focal length unless otherwise stated.
below: 47mm crop mode
Below: 35mm crop mode
below: 35mm crop mode
Below: 35mm crop mode
Below: High ISO colour
Below: High ISO colour
Below: macro mode
Thanks for reading!