Short Ricoh GR Digital 3 impression

2009, Photography

I will post a more lengthly impression of the new Ricoh GR Digital III soon, but I thought it wouldn’t harm to write down some first impressions of this camera. I always thought that my Ricoh GX200 felt like a quality camera, well to be honest it still is, but the GRD is certainly a step beyond that. The camera has a lovely, quality feel with a nice non-slippery finish as a result of the magnesium body. The camera has the typical Ricoh handgrip and all buttons are logically placed, almost logical in fact, but more about that later.
Ricoh GR Digital III
I have never had any other Ricoh GR Digital camera although I have certainly considered it. Eventually I chose the Ricoh GX100 in 2007, because of the stepped zoom lens. Making it slightly more versatile. I still think I should have followed my heart and should have picked up the GR Digital I though. So remember this! Even though many consider reviews by professional reviewers the bench mark for the scientific proof of the quality of a camera, I have learned to be completely in rational with regard to deciding cameras. In the end you are going to take the pictures with it and you will use and push the camera beyond the brick walls and color charts at different ISO’s. Real world is totally different in my opinion.

I still have the original GR camera though, the Ricoh GR1 which became a true cult camera, in particular in Japan. The most distinctive features of the GR series are the lightweight magnesium body, a high class 28mm lens and easy to use handling. And to me, the Ricoh GR Digital III forms no exception.
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From the outside the camera hardly differs from the other GR Digitals. It is only a bit larger to host the slightly larger sensor. And on the rear you will notice the larger 3″ LCD screen with 920,000 dots. Also this third generation GR Digital has no optical viewfinder. Now some say that we should live with that. A fact of life for small compact cameras, but I much rather prefer a smaller LCD screen and a little increase in camera body height to accommodate a nice bright viewfinder. But I guess I am old school. Therefore I requested Ricoh to supply the camera with an optical viewfinder. I asked for the GV-1 viewfinder which is quite large and not only has the frame lines for 28mm, but also for 21mm to match the view with the GW-2 21mm Wide Conversion Lens. Probably due to huge demand in Japan Ricoh doesn’t have the wide conversion lens in stock now, but I hope I will get before I finished testing this camera.

While mentioning the supply difficulties of the GW-2 I should mention too that Ricoh was completely surprised by the pre-sales in Japan. These were much larger than anticipated and was part too of the reason to offset the sale date basically everywhere else. The camera is now on sale pretty much anywhere, although I haven’t seen this camera available in the Netherlands, where I live, yet (mid September).
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Like Panasonic with the LX3 and Canon with the new G11 Ricoh was able to get a new sensor that has less pixels than the previous version. In combination with the better in-camera image engine and the fast lens, this will improve the low light capabilities and high ISO performance. This is an important change in the market of serious compacts and I hope it will be followed by others. But what makes this camera unlike any other compact camera is the new 28mm lens with a maximum opening of f/1.9.  It used to be f/2.4 (thank you Fabian)! An outstanding technical achievement in my opinion.

So, before this short impression ends up being a longer impression I will sum up some of my likes and dislikes with the new Ricoh GR Digital III.

Overall speaking I really like this camera. The feel and the handling makes it very special. In combination with the large and bright GV-1 viewfinder it is a joy to use. I can fully understand why the pre-sales where so high in Japan. Using this camera reminds me picking up the GR1 for the first time when I got it to replace my SLR. For me it still is a cult camera with all the subjective feelings that contribute for me to that status.

The best of all is the new lens. Such a fast lens is a bonus for low light and with the better high ISO performance I have had no problems using this camera at higher ISO’s, even up to ISO 1600. That is something I never did with the GX200, because of all the noise and banding.
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There is no perfection in my opinion and also the  GRDIII reminds me of that. Quality comes at a price and Amazon prices the GRDIII for $699. That sure is a lot of money in my opinion, but it is a cult camera with superb built quality, top materials, and a stellar lens. While some love the new 3″ LCD screen, because they only photograph with the LCD screen. It is just too large for me. To get such a large sensor in the body they had to move the buttons further to the right rear section of the camera. Although they glad fully didn’t change the button lay-out I regularly hit the display and macro button with my right thumb. Something that never happens to me with the GX200.

I leave it for here and will continue evaluating this camera for some time. I hope to post my final impressions of this camera by the end of this month. Interested to read more about this camera? You might want to check out the Ricoh site.

All photographs by Wouter Brandsma

25 thoughts on “Short Ricoh GR Digital 3 impression

  1. Just caught your post Wouter. As mentioned before I’ve been getting to know the GRD3, and more and more I enjoy it. I’m not as into the LCD as Ricoh may think, since I’m more concerned about it getting scratched than anything else, but it is fine. I wish other manufacturers paid as much attention to the “user experience” as Ricoh does. They have it down really well and the camera becomes a part of the photographic flow, not in the way of it. It’s still a small sensor camera, but I really like what I’m getting out of it. I’ll look forward to your further thoughts.

    I really like the sheep image.

  2. It looks like a great tool, especially because of the f/1.9 lens.

    About LCD vs. optical viewfinder: I’m still in doubt about getting a viewfinder for my DP2. As I wear glasses, a viewfinder doesn’t seem to be very practical. And after working with LCD screens for a few years now, I think it doesn’t bother me too much anymore.
    But the jury is still out on that one.

    1. You make a good point there about wearing glasses and an optical viewfinder. The Sigma optical viewfinder for the DP2 is quite small (just like the DP1) so I guess the frame lines are hard to see.

      My first digital camera, the Olympus C4000z, had a viewfinder too. I kept using it regularly, because of the reflections on the screen. With the GX100 I got my first camera without an optical viewfinder. For some time I thought I would grow into it. But the more and more I used it (and the GX200), the more I missed an optical viewfinder.

      1. It’s funny, because I come from the M6 which really has a gorgeous viewfinder in comparison to everything the compacts give you, but I got used to the LCD quite fine on my GRD II. But with the GH1 with it’s really good EVF, I immediately turned my LCD around to switch it off and allmost exclusively use the eye level finder there.

        I never tried the optical viewfinder for the GRD II because the problem of correct framing.

        1. Except for close ups I find the optical viewfinder pretty comfortable for framing. It might not be 100% accurate, but it feels good though.

          And I did the same thing when I tried the GH1 recently.

  3. I look forward to reading your final impressions. I recently bought a GX200, but I keep feeling that I should have purchased the GR Digital II instead (the GRDIII is a bit out of my price range). Perhaps someday when the price of the GRDIII goes down, I will sell the GX200 (and a few other cameras) to buy it.

    1. Congrats James with your GX200. A wonderful camera and since you recently bought it I can only advice you to use of a really long time. When you find out that you mostly use it at 28mm than you might consider the GRDIII. But when you notice that you use the 35mm more, like me, there is unfortunately no other option available from Ricoh.

  4. When I bought the camera I thought I´d get it with the viewfinder , but just decided to give a try to lcd . The fact is that I´m not missing it at all , usually I shoot very fast and keep walking , sometimes I shoot at hip level , sometimes over my head and some others at eye level and the lcd come in very handy .

    The only thing I found is that using the camera for long time becomes quite hot and my hand sweat , but maybe in winter time I´ll be happy !

    Great photos as usual !

    1. It is exactly how I felt when I bought the GX100 more than 2 years ago. But when I tried the DP1 with the OVF I know what I had missed. I use the same OVF also for my GX200. At times the LCD screen can be handy, but my preference is the OVF.

      I didn’t notice the heat. The GRDIII is not a heat sink like the Sigma DP1.

  5. Great you like the cam. Just one remark, the lens in the GRD2 was f2.4, not 2.8 (assuming you were referring to it in the mention of the new f1.9 lens).
    I hope Ricoh fixed the dust problem at last – then a GRD3 indeed could be a close-to-perfect camera! 😉
    For us blog readers, the most important thing is that you enjoy using it, so we get to see lots of new Wouter photos! 🙂

    1. Thank you for notifying me Fab! My GR1 has a f/2.8 lens. I forgot that the GRDII has a f/2.4 lens. I can’t comment on the dust problems and the GRD3. But I can tell you that I have had no problems with the GX200, so I think that some of the knowledge they gained from previous issues have gone into the design of the new GRD3. I will try to find out.

      1. Thanks Wouter. If some months pass by without any complaints around the web, they probably fixed the issue! I have no intention to buy a GRD3 for now, anyway, just will send in my GRD2 once again … and wait … and hope … 😉

        1. Now this must be case number 2. That is really bad and I hope it won’t happen again. That is like 9 months between the first problem and this one. I know how that feels like.

  6. Hi Wouter, thanks a lot for sharing your initial thoughts. Your blog inspired me to get the GX200 and I still think it’s a great camera. I am also considering the GRD III because I really like to work with 28mm and like the faster lens. Is the built quality really so much of a step up?

    1. The finish of the GRDIII absolutely makes it the number one camera in the Ricoh line up. Make sure to try one in a camera shop when the camera is available and feel it for yourself.

      I hope my blog inspires you to keep using the GX200 (too) 😀

  7. Very well written post Wouter and interesting to read your impressions on the GRD III. The pictures also speak for themselves and it shows that the camera works indeed very well for you or more accurate that you can get the most out of any camera you are using.

    I pretty much agree with your observations so far and look forward to your final impression.

    1. I am halfway writing Cristian. And than yesterday the DW-6 conversion lens arrived (looks great) and want to use that upcoming weekend to get an impression of that too and include that in my impression of the GRDIII. I look forward to your writing too.


  8. Hello, very nice blog! As others have said, you really have a way of only writing what really matters and leaving out the nonsense. Brilliant! I have a GRD II which I adore and I’m thinking of getting a GXR with an A12 and your blog helped me a long way in the decision process. Thanks!

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