As it is typical when I get new gear, I try to use it exclusively until I feel comfortable getting around the handling, the menus and the shooting options. The Ricoh GR has a few unique options that set it apart from other cameras and make it especially good for street shooting. TAv and Snap Focus are my main areas of focus at this point.
I am kind of a minimalist when it comes to carrying gear and accessories. It’s been a couple years since I’ve carried a camera bag. My usual setup for an outing consists of one camera a spare SD card and extra battery in my pocket. No flash, no extra lenses, no tripod/monopod and when I can I even dump the neck strap for a wrist strap. There’s no chance of finding me in one of those harness-sling-body-camera-holster-strap things either.
More often than not you’ll probably find me with the setup below: M9, 50mm Summicron an A&A wrist strap, one spare SD card and one extra battery. That’s it. It’s simple and very freeing.
With the Ricoh GR things have just been lightened up a little more.
About that finger strap, I would never use it with a larger body, but for the GR it is absolutely perfect. I get the feeling the GR is all about minimalism and this tiniest of straps adds to that feeling. I’ve never used one before so I’m not sure how most people would wear it, but I find it most comfortable around my middle finger. That frees up the index finger just a bit more. Plus, wearing it around the middle finger takes up a little bit of the extra slack in the string. All in all, it is a great addition to this little powerhouse. For $7.50 it can’t be beat.
Just for kicks, here are a few recent snaps with the GR.
I had a chance a couple days ago to get familiar with the Ricoh GR in Japan, it was great, but I really wanted to hit some familiar streets back in Taipei. Tonight was my first chance to head out and try some street work with the GR.
Tonight’s settings: I shot raw+jpeg with the jpegs set to Black and White in the effects mode. This is a great combination, because the Ricoh puts out some great black and whites, but you still have the option to work with the raw file if needed. By the way, kudos to Pentax/Ricoh for sticking with the DNG raw format. ISO was set to Auto-Hi (custom ISO4000 max). Full Press Snap was set to On at 2.5m.
In general I was happy with the black and white jpegs as a starting point, but I did boost the exposure, shadow recovery and whites in most of the files. I also bumped the clarity in a few of the images to suit my tastes. I am certain you could get more out of the raw images and Silver Efex Pro, but for quick edits the Ricoh’s jpegs are a great start.
I’ve been a fan of Ricoh’s digital cameras for a few years now. It started with the Ricoh GX200. I immediately fell in love with the camera because of a few standout reasons. At the time, and I believe to this day, there is no other compact camera that is as comfortable and secure in the hand as these Ricohs. The simplicity of the menu is something that all other manufactures can learn from and I’ve owned and operated Canons, Nikons, Olys, Panasonics, Sonys and Leicas. The Leica’s menu (M8 and M9) is pretty straight forward too, but there are so few options and parameters to change it would be pretty hard to complicate it. Along with the excellent feel in the hand, the buttons, dials and switches are thoughtfully placed and have excellent feel with positive feedback. Finally, that Ricoh lens is quite stunning. Sharp across the frame, good contrast and very little distortion.
By far the weakest point of my previous GX200 was its sensor. Of course that was years ago and technology has moved on considerably, but even for the time the sensor was lagging behind its competitors in anything but perfect lighting conditions. Thankfully all of this has changed.
A review of the GX200 could easily stand in for a review of the GR in every way mentioned above except for the part about the sensor which is a very, very good thing. I hope that Ricoh knows that ever other aspect of the previous generations was perfect with the exception of the sensor. Ricoh has worked hard to shove a relatively huge APS-C sized sensor in a body roughly the same size as all their previous compact bodies. It makes what was a fantastic line of compact cameras even better.
Subjectively speaking, it’s a beautiful piece of equipment as well. A flat black, textured surface and a rubberized grip with nothing shiny on the camera make in quite the stealthy, unassuming piece of gear. If you’re looking for a flashy camera that says hey look at me this is not the camera for you.
I’ll talk about the performance of the camera in a later piece, but right now I’ll let the photos do all the talking.
Even going into our ninth year in Taiwan I still shake my head in amazement at the sheer number of scooters in Taiwan. Being a scooter owner since the third month of our arrival I see and fully understand the appeal. There’s a three times rule with cars vs scooters. If it’s 20 minutes on the scooter it’s closer to an hour in the car. Parking a car, legally/safely, can be a challenge and adds to a lot of that time, but when you’re on the scooter and you need to park, you turn right onto the sidewalk and take out the key and you’re done. Parked.
The photos tonight are from a quick run to my camera store for a new little toy, the Ricoh GR. I was a GR owner several years ago and have missed it ever since selling it. I’m hoping to put together a user report on the GR over the next few weeks. I will be comparing it to the other cameras in my bag: Leica M9, Sony RX1r, Sony RX100M2 and the Sony NEX7.
Anyway, back to the view from my scooter ride to and from the camera shop.
Summer’s over, we’re back in Taipei and work has started back up. As always, getting back home to see family and friends is unbeatable, but soon reality sets in and it’s back to work.
Not all is lost though. We like what we do and we live in a street photographer’s dreamscape. Taipei’s raw and busy streets are full of interesting sights. One walk down a street a few blocks from our house we call Vegetable Alley could give up a dozens of great shots. It’s only about 4 blocks long, but it never fails to give up some great scenes regardless of the time of day.
When I’m behind the camera one of my favorite subjects to shoot is environmental portraits. It is also one of the hardest things to do. Putting a camera in someone’s face and releasing the shutter can be intimidating. It feels slightly uncomfortable and I don’t want the subject feeling uncomfortable. As a photographer I feel compelled to demonstrate respect for my subject, family, friend or stranger. It doesn’t take much to put someone at ease in front of the camera, sometimes you don’t even need words. Just a smile, a nod of the head and a thank you is all that’s needed.
I’ve known some people that are very skilled at capturing portraits of strangers and I’d encourage you to take a look at their work. One of them, Dave Powell of Shoottokyo, is particularly skilled at grabbing portraits off the street. I’ve shot with Dave in the past and I like his approach, because it’s a friendly non-threatening approach unlike other gorilla tactics that some photographers rely on.
Even though they are personally challenging, environmental portraits will continue to be at the top of my list for favorite photographic genre. The portraits below were taken with a Leica M8 or M9 and a Sony RX1r and were shot at either 35mm or 50mm.