Review: Ricoh GR III

First-Look Review: Ricoh GR III

The Ricoh GR III does an excellent job capturing landscapes or cityscapes in normal lighting conditions. The camera also has a 3-axis in-body image stabilizer, which can help ensure that the camera maintains sharp details in your images.

There’s been a holy grail of sorts that camera manufacturers have been desperately seeking for the last few decades of the digital era. They’re looking to replicate the moment when Henri Cartier-Bresson picked up a 35mm film rangefinder in the early 1930s and thereafter traveled with it everywhere.

The camera shot quietly and had a manually focused prime lens. And, of course, Cartier-Bresson would also wait with this film camera for what became known as the “decisive moment”—an instant when he would shoot a candid photo that captured a larger, more profound truth of our shared human condition.

Mind you, it’s not the shared human condition camera manufacturers are after. Instead, they’ve been questing after that small, lightweight film camera but in a digital form. (To date, no one company has really built a successor to that camera.)

But it’s what Ricoh has attempted to do in coming out with its long-awaited update to its GR series camera: The new 24.2-megapixel Ricoh GR III is a compact, lightweight, advanced point-and-shoot that has some very promising qualities. However, it has quite a few drawbacks, too. So let’s take a closer a look at the Ricoh GR III, which is the third iteration of this GR series advanced point-and-shoot.

First Impressions, Controls And Design

For the past few years, there’s been a resurgence in the advanced point-and-shoot market—or, at the very least, camera manufacturers are producing more point-and-shoots with large image sensors, including those with APS-C-sized sensors, high-quality lenses and other advanced features. (Earlier, beginning around 2009, all point-and-shoot sales plummeted since most consumers were choosing to shoot photos and video on their phones and other mobile devices.)

The Ricoh GR III is one such camera that has a large 24.2-megapixel APS-C-sized image sensor. The camera also includes in-body image stabilization (IBIS) and sports a very good quality lens, although it’s a prime lens. In other words, you don’t get an optical zoom lens with this camera, a feature that might turn off some photographers. But it has a nice aperture range, from f/2.8-f/16.

First-Look Review: Ricoh GR III
The Ricoh GR III is quite small and compact. It’s also lightweight and fits easily into most pockets. Yet despite its small size, it comes with a large, APS-C-size image sensor.

I found the touchscreen LCD to be very responsive and work well in most lighting conditions. However, it does wash out (like all LCDs) in very bright sunlight, which is why it’s odd not to have included a built-in electronic viewfinder for such a pricey camera. (If you find you’re shooting in very sunny conditions, you might want to opt to buy one of two extra optical viewfinders, which attach to the hot shoe on top of the camera.)

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The camera includes a variety of physical controls, knobs and switches, which are well labeled and quite responsive. I also found it to be ergonomically a very enjoyable camera to use. It really handled quite well in my hands.

Overall, the menu system, structure and interface were useful but not always intuitive.

Performance And Versatility

Because it’s so small and portable, you can take it with you almost anywhere, although it’s still not as thin as a smartphone. (It does have WiFi capabilities, though, so you can connect it with your phone.) In most lighting situations, the camera performed very well. I also liked that it started up very quickly.  

I was pleasantly surprised at how good the GR III’s image quality was in macro mode. It captured the most subtle details in my face, like the number code that appears on the inside rim of my eyeglasses and the faintest laugh lines below my left eye. (Anyone know a good plastic surgeon?) Plus, the camera has a very capable close-focus capability, whether or not you have it in macro mode.

But one of the weakest spots on the camera is its battery life. I was very disappointed in how quickly the camera lost charge. Ricoh notes that it’s rated for around 200 shots per charge.

Hands-On In The Field, Special Controls And Image Quality

To get a sense of how it would perform in a real-world setting, I took the camera up to the

High Line in NYC, which offers some fantastic views of the city.

I found during my shoot that the Ricoh GR III advanced point-and-shoot was compact and quite easy to use. It was also rather inconspicuous to onlookers, which is why the camera excels in candid scenarios. People just don’t seem to notice small cameras like this.

First-Look Review: Ricoh GR III
With the aperture set on ƒ/2.8, the Ricoh GR III did a nice job in rendering the tablecloth in the foreground in sharp focus while producing beautifully blurred bokeh in the background.

The camera’s 28mm equivalent focal length provides a moderately wide vista without overly distorting subjects on the edges of the picture frame. I also like the camera’s ability to capture really crisp, sharp details throughout this type of shot. I took it with me to shoot at height, but I was a little disappointed at times, particularly when I shot with it using high ISO settings—I felt it introduced too much colored noise into the shot.

The camera captures decent 1080p video at 60 frames per second in bright light. In low light, though, it again could be a bit noisy, but nothing out of the ordinary.

However, I’d like to see it include 4K-resolution video to make it more versatile. And unlike some newer cameras, this model has a limit of capturing video clips of 25 minutes or 4GBs. There are a number of cameras that can now record to the capacity of the memory card, which means well beyond 30 minutes.

Pros, Cons And Bottom Line

Overall, I found shooting with the Ricoh GR III to be quite enjoyable, even though the camera has its share of limitations and was somewhat a mixed bag in terms of quality and performance.

In classic street-scene shooting, in decent light, I found the camera did a superb job. My shots had great detail, accurate color and wide dynamic range. Also, the macro mode really impressed me.

However, in very low-light or night-time settings, the camera struggled a bit in trying to lock in the focus. I also found some images, particularly when I set the camera on its highest ISO settings, had more than what I would consider acceptable image noise.

On the other hand, there were some low-light situations in which I found the GR III did quite well, and I believe that’s due to the IBIS doing its job.

Still, there are some conspicuous features left off this camera, too, which you’ll find on many other advanced point-and-shoots. For instance, it lacks an optical zoom lens and doesn’t come with an electronic viewfinder. It also lacks a built-in flash, although there is a hot shoe, for attaching an external flash , if you need it. You can also buy the Ricoh GW-4 Wide Conversion lens, which turns the 28mm lens into a 21mm equivalent lens. But for both the flash and conversion lens, you’ll pay extra.

It’s hard to justify paying more for some of those accessories when the price of this point-and-shoot is relatively high. But it’s worth considering this camera if you like a sturdy, relatively versatile street camera that includes a really nice macro mode and takes very nice, sharp street photos. And you don’t mind paying the high price for it. 

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