RICOH GR IIIx
A plenty of ingredients combine together when defining a "passionate attitude" towards any discipline. And when it comes to photography, being receptive to cameras is one of the many spices that season such sentiment to the craft. Any camera wakes up curiosity, and that's exactly what happens with the sober GR lineup from Ricoh.
It is interesting how experienced photographers look back at small and compact cameras after several years of working with the so-called "professional cameras". The main reason is because at some point of our lives or our careers, we all photographers want to have a camera with us all the time. Some could see this camera as an alternative to the third generation from the GR models, and some others could define it as the fourth one. Beyond that, these cameras happen to be in several photographer's wish-lists, and we are diving deeper into finding why.
Such an inconspicuous design would only grab the attention of the most curious ones, and considering that both models (GR III & GR IIIx) are modestly expensive ($896.95 and $996.95 each), there's undoubtedly something good behind that simple-looking black body. In short we can say that those underlying elements are high quality images, portable capabilities and fixed focal lengths (ƒ/2.8 28mm equivalent and ƒ/2.8 40mm equivalent respectively). So, focal length is perhaps the main difference between these two.
Ricoh's GR IIIx offers a high quality photography experience with the ease and experience of point and shoot cameras, which is amazing for sure. Also interesting, this camera has slowly gained momentum among street photographers all-over the world, but it could also be a great backup or everyday camera for anyone in love with photography. Whimsically shooting the ordinary with the GR in hand is a democratizing experience only comparable with the ease of shooting with a phone, but with the pleasure and joy of doing it with a dedicated device for it.
Without searching for that moment of brilliance,
Without pursuing the image alone,
The ordinary remains ordinary,
Listen to one’s feelings and capture the present moment.
Every day that passes from a different perspective,
creates irreplaceable moments of the present.
What a beautiful reflection given to us by Ricoh to start our overview with.
Same Honest GR Body, with a 40mm Lens
Ricoh is not exactly famous for constantly renewing their cameras so this somewhat recent update took us all by surprise. Built with several interesting features, this refreshed GR gives us outstanding image quality, swift responsiveness, and as always, excellent portability. The Ricoh GR IIIx comes with a brand-new 26.1mm lens (40mm equivalent in the 35mm format) which enables us to be just perfectly closer to the scenes we are all willing to capture.
Even when 28mm has been the long standard in the GR lineup, these cameras have been closely related with street photography for a long time now. 28mm is a good focal length, although it could be too wide for several purposes. Street photography has a long record of benefiting from 35mm focal lengths, but Ricoh wanted to broaden up the experience to more photographers in the field.
A 40mm lens seems to be the ultimate sweet-spot for a more general photographic use. It is perfect for immortalizing society but also very good for other sorts of photographs of either people or inanimate objects as well. It is a perfect angle of view for a snapshot camera. While focusing on a fixed focal length, Ricoh hasn't compromised image quality at all. And of course, if one needs to get closer, well we can always move back-and-forth to our main visual interests.
Built with a large 24.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor coped with the GR Engine 6 processor, the imaging outlets are all high-quality. Also, the camera comes with a high-speed hybrid autofocus system, built-in shake reduction, and a range of new and upgraded post-shooting functions so you can edit captured images in-camera. And if you feel uneasy about the fixed focal length, there's also a built in crop mode for shooting at visual equivalents of 50mm and 71mm (just like the GR III which gave us the option of shooting at 35mm and 50mm beyond the true 28mm equivalency).
Camera starts fast, approximately 0.8 seconds, and a 3" 1.037m-dot LCD allows the image composition, playback, and menu navigation. And if you like the experience of using a view-finder, you can also get the External mini viewfinder GV-3 (which frankly, at $249.95 feels quite expensive). Also the built-in Bluetooth and WiFi can be used to pair with your mobile device for wireless transferring of your shots to smartphones or tablets.
On the Brand-new 40mm Lens
The newly designed 26.1mm GR lens gives us a 40mm standard angle of view experience which produces images with a natural perspective and a truthful depth sense for a different approach not only to street photography but other genres as well. And for the techies, this new lens comes with high-refractive index low-dispersion 7 optical elements in 5 groups. The aspherical lens elements (which are 2) are high-precision molded glass lenses, optimally placed in the optical construction to suppress distortions and chromatic aberrations, resulting in high level sharpness images.
Also ingenious, the GR IIIx comes with a built-in Neutral Density (ND) filter, which reduces light by two stops for high-contrast and high-resolution images in a variety of scenes and subjects under bright light shooting situations. The nine-blade diaphragm mechanism gives a natural bokeh effect and a truthful sense of depth at open and larger apertures while capturing soothing light beams at closed-down apertures.
Around the Inners
As mentioned above, this mighty-tiny camera comes with a slightly updated 24.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor and the new GR Engine 6 imaging processor. This combo allows the camera to create high-resolution 14-bit DNG or JPEGs frames with a beautiful tonal range, natural color rendering, and high ISO sensitivity from 100 to 102,400. And if you like video, the GR IIIx is also capable of recording Full HD 1080 video at 60p, 30p, and 24p frame rates.
The hybrid AF system blends a contrast-type AF mechanism with a phase-detection-type AF mechanism which ensures high-speed focusing. During autofocus shooting, the autofocus system detects subject's facial expressions and eyes with high precision, focuses on it, and highlights the in-focus position on the LCD display using the AF frame. Interestingly enough, when the camera detects multiple faces, it automatically distinguishes the main subject from secondary ones and indicates this on the focus frame.
And since shakiness is more common in smaller cameras due to our own hand-shake, the Shake Reduction (SR) system minimizes it on three axes, including yaw, pitch, and roll to provide a compensation of up to 4 stops. The result, crisp and sharp images even when taking split-second snapshots or capturing images with difficult low-light situations.
Beyond the Design
Compact and lightweight as you may already have guessed, the GR IIIx is highly functional for everyday usage. On the outside, we find a rigid magnesium alloy frame for enhanced durability while carried in your bag. Also, it comes with several user-friendly features including a short start-up time of approximately 0.8 seconds, control dials conveniently positioned next to the four-way controller, and effortless touch-screen operation. All these features improve handling and allow the users to quickly react to once in a lifetime opportunities.
A 3" high definition LCD touch-screen monitor provides agile, intuitive control of several camera functions such as AF frame shift, menu selection, and image advance/magnification during playback. An outdoor view setting allows users to instantly adjust the monitor's brightness to desired levels for better visibility in difficult lighting conditions. Just take into account that brightness on screen is not the same as the resulting exposure in your shots. A nice pro-tip here is to always rely on the histogram for that matter, so consider using a preview mode with histogram included in the view.
And if you want to get a bit creative without the aid of further imaging processing, the camera comes with a creative image control function, which integrates effect modes into conventional image setting operations. By having 11 basic image control modes, you can easily adjust various parameters such as hue, saturation, key, contrast, and graininess to the desired level. A set of adjusted parameters can also be added as a custom setting to the image control function menu.
For those against creative modes but still acknowledging the convenience of nice results right out of the camera, the GR IIIx has an in-camera RAW editing tool so you can develop on the go by adjusting some parameters like aspect ratio, white balance, and exposure compensation. The camera also lets you retain the adjusted parameters after the initial RAW-data development is completed, making it possible to make minute readjustments of the already developed photograph.
Last but not least, connectivity, our friendly camera comes with wireless functions for easy pairing with mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. After installing the dedicated "Image Sync" app, one can seamlessly transfer captured shots to a mobile device such as tablet, phone or even laptop. With this, you will easily display live-view images on such devices, tweak settings remotely, remotely release your shutter from distance, and upload keepers to social media platforms without skipping a beat. Also, you can send your mobile device's location data to the camera and record the data on captured images. An auto-resize function automatically shrinks the image size before transmitting it to a mobile device.
The GR Concept
Lets close this review by talking freely about the whole philosophy behind making such a camera like the GR from Ricoh. In short, GR cameras offer a shooting style that gets us closer not only to the scenes but the images captured by us.
Just by carrying around this small camera, one becomes aware of memorable everyday details. Such an empowering act could make anyone a more thoughtful creator. The GR's appeal does not rest only with technology advances, and Ricoh longs that more passionate ideas and big dreams get achieved with their cameras in the years to come.
Getting closer to society is the essence of photography, and aesthetic experiences are the ultimate result of the practice behind it. Image quality and agileness are the means to respond to photographers' intentions. From eras to countries, good photographs can appear anywhere; but the feeling they ignite never fades, and even gets stronger with time. Therefore, the most important quality a camera can have is neutrality, and it should seamlessly reside within photographers wholeness.
A photo is a record of light, and for that Ricoh believes that the most important element in a camera is a lens that collects such light. The power to communicate the appeal of an object resides in a photo taken through a good lens. When thinking of readiness to capture a photograph, there isn't much sense in timing each specific task in an independent way. Portability allows this camera to be taken anywhere, button layout for basic one-handed operation, start-up and shut-down speed, extremely short shutter time lag, high-speed focus, inner barrier, and sufficient battery life.
Who Should buy the Ricoh GR IIIx?
We know this camera is pricey so it wouldn't be wise to say that "everyone should buy this camera". But what we've concluded is that from consecrated photographers to new-comers into the craft, there's a common element involved with them, passion. So if you feel the urge of having a camera with you close to you always, then this might be a good option for you. Mobile devices have fulfilled that need in the most notorious ways, but there's something useful about having a dedicated device for your shots. A strange sense of guilt tends to appear when one has a camera and not seeing the world in photographic terms.
So if you consider that taking photographs is an essential activity in your everyday lives, then you should consider this camera, or any other from the previous GR lineup too. Despite being somewhat outdated now (like the GR I & II), the high-quality spirit combined with the easiness of point-and-shoot cameras is present in them.