The Ricoh GR3 - A brief review

I've borrowed and used the Ricoh GR2 a few times (my mother-in-law happens to have one), and I own a GR1v film camera. But I hadn't tried the new Ricoh GR3 until last Saturday.

Ricoh GR3 (photo: Ricoh Imaging)


Ricoh held their first 'fan' event in Brooklyn so I went along to try it out. A number of senior Ricoh managers were there to answer questions and give a few presentations, and there were plenty of GR3's to try out on a photowalk. A couple of the presentations weren't quite as slick as I'm sure they would have liked, but overall it was a good event and they'd clearly put a lot of thought and effort into the details, from the venue and food to the free 'goody bag'.

It's not easy to assess a new camera fully over just a few hours but the photowalk did at least give time to try the camera on the streets. Initially it feels great in the hand. Very comfortable and very light. As others have said, there is slight plasticky feel to the coating that they use but the body is actually magnesium alloy. The size of the front grip is very nice. It reminds me of the Sony Nex and A6000 series cameras. The back of the camera is also simplified slightly over the GR2, perhaps necessitated by the reduced size but I prefer the cleaner approach of the newer model.

The GR3 looks and feels very similar to the GR2 so I was particularly interested in the differences and the few concerns that I'd read online:


Stabilization

To be honest I'm not really excited by the idea of image stabilization in a wide angle compact camera that I'm unlikely to use for much video work. I left it turned on but in bright sunlight I didn't have much chance to test it's capabilities. It could certainly open up some creative possibilities though, along with the built-in ND filter. It has also enabled Ricoh to introduce a sensor cleaning system, so hopefully dust will be less of a concern than was reported with the GR2.


Overheating The camera I was using certainly got warm in the hand. Noticeable but not uncomfortable or disturbing. That was from constant use over a couple of hours, with the image stabilization turned on. It seems like a non-issue to me, nothing like as hot as I've known smartphones to get sometimes, and if it did become an issue then I'd be happy to leave the stabilization switched off.

Battery Life Yeah, not great. About 200 shots sounds about right. I was on my second battery within 2 hours. But honestly I don't really care. The batteries are small, I'm used to Fuji batteries not lasting much longer, and being able to charge via usb-c is great.


New lens and sensor I've only just started to look through the images and they look very good. But so did the images from the GR2. A few with missed focus but it's the type of camera that takes a little time and practice to get comfortable with some of the settings, such as which snap focus distance to use. So I can't say it immediately looks better, but the jump from 16 to 24mp does bring the flexibility to either crop or use the 'simulated' 35mm and 50mm modes. I know it makes sense to just crop afterwards when editing, but I like to be able to see and compose the frame at the time if I'm using a crop mode.

So it's pretty much all good. The leaf shutter is as quiet as ever. No viewfinder, but that would be a huge change. I suppose a small in-built OVF like the old GR film cameras would be possible but you can always add one to the hot shoe. I tried the tiny GV-2 viewfinder but I don't think I'd use it much. Maybe the larger GV-1 would suit me better.

Maybe it's the lack of the viewfinder, maybe it's the tiny size, maybe it was the situation of intentionally testing the camera, but I found myself photographing differently. Very spontaneously, moving the camera around a lot more (such as out of the window of a cab). It felt very liberating, even more so than the GR2.

The one downside to me of the GR3 is the price. $900 is certainly a step up for a camera like this. That's significantly more than the GR2 and the Fuji XF10 at $500, but it is a better camera. As a street camera it's now closer in price to the X100F which is probably a better all-rounder but not pocketable.


Will I get one? Tempting. Very tempting.

PS. A quick shout out to GR ambassador William Hereford (who I can't help thinking sounds more like he should be based in the English countryside than Brooklyn). One of the best presentations I've seen for a while, beautiful images and with a clear love for the camera.






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Headshot, portrait, street and documentary photographer in NYC and Jersey City

alastair.arthur@gmail.com

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