Enter Ricoh GR - Exit X100

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Finally coming back to write something after a long time. Feels like a million years. Lot of stuff to write about, more than a year of images & trips, stories & experiences to share but nothing out with words yet. My random share of images does go on and can be checked on my Flickr.

Excited to introduce the new member to my digital family, the RICOH GR. Well most people might say WTF am I talking about (because none of my friends here know about it), what is this brand, why is the GR so exciting for me, what happened to the affair with my beloved Fujifilm X100, what about analog love, where is Nikon, etc, etc...

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What is this brand ? 

RICOH IMAGING CO. LTD or just RICOH to those who know. It’s not a new kid on the block, Ricoh has been around for a long long time and currently owns Pentax Imaging since 2011. And then they do this, and that, and this, and that, blah blah... but I didn't come to write about a company and their shares and plans and stuff. GR has a cult following since film days but their absence in the middle east is the reason that most people are unaware of it's existence and it's capabilities. I have hardly seen any Ricoh camera around this part of the world where I live in, but be assured, its as good as it gets.

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Why is the GR so exciting for me? 

The GR excites me because it is smaller than the X100. Pixel peeping at 16MP, no AA filter APS-C sensor. My field of view changes from 35mm equivalent on X100 to 28mm equivalent on the GR. My preferred focal length is 35mm so I had doubts about getting used to a wider 28mm for regular use. But I realized that with the mobile phone images I take, I have never ever zoomed into any of the shots from my phones and the focal length I get is equivalent to 29mm. Brings me back in the zone and not wandering into unknown territory. Another plus is the size, it might be the smallest APS-C sensor camera around plus very very light weight. X100 feels bigger and chunkier comparatively. I can tag the camera along all the time as it fits my pocket pretty well.

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Taking pictures is stealthy, it is as silent as the X100. While the X100 attracts a bit more attention (because it's goddamn beautiful) than the GR (boring looks), you will only be able to appreciate the design when its held in the hand and used. Ergonomics and single hand operation is the easiest of any such camera. GR knocks the socks off any other camera in this class for handling, I am in love with the grip, the best single hand operation in any camera I have used and thats a huge plus for street photography.

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So it's perfect ? Actually nothing ever WAS, IS or WILL BE perfect. GR has many things that I love and many that I don't. It was the same case when I had the X100 or any other product I have used. I hate it that there is no viewfinder and hope the next version brings it back somehow. For people obsessed with zoom and bokeh this is not a toy for you.

And if you are into video then the bottom line is - GR sucks, so did the X100 and so do I. Video is never a consideration for my camera purchases. It's a killer street photography tool. Unless you don't like the focal length of 28mm you cannot go wrong with the GR. Going with a secondary interchangeable lens camera is like marrying to the system: lenses, filters, accessories, etc. But with the fixed lens compact, it's just you and the camera without much need for any other GAS attack (except maybe thinking of getting another camera). So I would always choose compacts as my secondary tool with fixed lens and good manual controls even though the Fujifilm XT-1 and Olympus OMD offerings tempt me to forever leave the Nikon to rest at home during travels.

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My opnion on the Pro’s and Con’s for this camera.

PROS: Or things that I love in the GR

  • Small & light weight.
  • 300 sec shutter speed direct. No remote required.
  • Built-in ND filter.
  • Snap focus mode.
  • Silent shutter.
  • Time-lapse.
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CONS: Or things that I don't really like

  • No viewfinder.
  • 28mm wide (may not fit everyones needs)
  • Hot pixels at extremely long exposures
  • Battery life. (Like any other compact camera)
  • No sales & service (in my region)
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What happened to the love affair with my beloved Fujifilm X100? 

The GR takes over the space of my old X100, because X100 has been suffering from the sticky aperture problem and from being ok ok, its worse. I will still be using it once its serviced. Why no upgrade to X100S ? Strictly because of the budget and I am more than happy to have given a chance to the GR, while looking at options such as Sony RX100 series. Don't get me wrong my beloved Fuji, I love you to pieces and I am waiting for X200 and what it brings in terms of improvements. What I miss the most in GR from the X100 ? The most favorite viewfinder in the world, that's all. X100 still tops the GR in image quality IMO. Considering the overall image quality, I give it to Fuji for their incredible color rendering and high ISO performance.

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What about analog love?

Can’t get out of analog life as well. Doing the regular rounds of film right now are my Nikon FE, Olympus OM2 and Olympus XA. Film photography is relaxing and I would like to continue shooting film, expanding to developing and getting even more experimental with film as my learning expands with this old school photography. Check out my analog tumblr page for roll by roll contact sheet and selected fav’s from each roll that I run through. It's a new start up and my first 3 rolls of film are posted as of today and hopefully I will keep updating with every single roll of film I shoot in that space. The count has reached about 40 in 2 years so a lots to be updated.

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Where is Nikon?

That FX ain’t going to be off the list yet until maybe I jump on to medium format. That’s still a long road to be covered to arrive at MF destination. But nowadays I use my Nikon gear mostly for commercial work. It still goes in my travel bag but may not have as many shutter counts as the little ones. The small cameras have taken over the big ones in my regular walk around bag. The fact is, none of my smaller cameras can be as good to hold and shoot and take a beating as the high-end DSLR can. And all my little ones are still fixed lens cameras, so the flexibility of interchangeable lenses still stay with my SLR system. And the gorgeous high mega-pixel, unbelievable dynamic range, crazy high ISO performing FX sensors are a class apart but the bulk is not a preference for everyday shooting.

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So coming back to Ricoh GR. Generally famous for its black and white images (I don't know why) and reviewers have ignored it's colour capabilities. I love the in-camera High Contrast B&W effect but have no objections with it's colour images. There are many effects in-camera for colours as well, my personal favourite being 'Positive Film'.

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If Fuji has some film simulation of legendary Fujifilm's, I call the Ricoh GR film simulation as the Kodak rendering. (Makes me feel good) There are other effects like Black & White, B&W (TE), Cross Process, Bleach Bypass, Retro, Miniaturize, High Key & Slight which I have almost never used while shooting except testing it out just to see what results those effects produce and I consider them useless for my need.

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I have so much fun with this camera. It accompanied me to my trip to Nepal recently and I shot 80% of the images from the trip from this little baby while also having my Nikon D600, Nikon FE and Fujifilm XE-2 along.

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Another common association of this camera is with street photography, but don't write it off as being incapable of producing some awesome vibrant landscapes. Look below for some landscapes shot with the GR, trying out long exposures and low-light exposures. The built-in ND filter as well as the 300 sec shutter speed without any remote or accessory is ridiculously cool.

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Above image shot at sunset in Pokhra, Nepal. No tripod, no remote - just keep on a rock, set focus to infinity, 120 sec exposure. And the image below, hand held at 1/4 sec.

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It's not as pleasant in very dark conditions that has lot of shadows as I noticed some (a lot) hot pixels in the shadow areas but its better to capture an image than no image. Not bad considering I just put the camera in my pocket and walked on top of a hill, rested the camera on a wall and got this much of details on a 240 sec long exposure.

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Well that wraps it up for this post. It’s not a camera review or brand bashing of any sorts. I simply love to make images and take the tool that fits my ways. Happy clicking everyone till the next one. Drop by to my new space on Tumblr for images I make with the GR. (And hopefully the next blog post will be up soon, not after a year ;)