My final Ricoh GR Digital III impressions

2009, Photography

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Ricoh GR Digital III, f/3.2, 1/1250 sec, 28mm equivalent, ISO 100, 0.0 EV

Introduction
Those who regularly visit my blog know that I prefer to use small sensor cameras for my photography. These cameras are much smaller than dSLR’s and therefore easier to take with you. But the most important reason for me is the way they can draw. For me they create instant sketches. It is something I like, I prefer. Of course I can appreciate a beautiful photograph from a larger sensor camera, but I just like black and white sort of sketches and I think small sensors are really suitable for that.

The previous cameras I wrote about are the Ricoh GX100 and GX200, and the Sigma DP1. From all these cameras my favorite camera has always been the GX100 even though it had some technical flaws. But the one camera I always wanted to use was the Ricoh GR Digital. When the GX100 was introduced (nearly two years after the release of the GR Digital I) I opted for the GX100, because of its more versatile lens and the improved speed with RAW photography. The older GR Digital I had writing times of 12 seconds while the GX100 could reach 6 seconds with a fast SD card. But often I thought I still should have picked up the GR Digital I instead.

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Ricoh GR Digital III, f/4, 1/250 sec, 28mm equivalent, ISO 64, -0.7 EV

Why? Because I have photographed so long with the original GR camera, the GR1 (this is a film camera). I loved the handling and the wonderful 28 mm lens. So it should have been the most logical digital equivalent of my analogue camera. Many still think the B&W jpegs are still very special (although that hasn’t convinced me) and I seemed to like color photographs too. In particular with low and mixed light photography the auto white balance seemed to be unpredictable and resulted in wonderful photographs with pretty amazing colors. Some of the best examples I found here from Hong Kong based photographer Nacoki.
But the fact is that I was too rational in my thinking and instead opted for the GX100. Still a wonderful camera and it served me really well (well almost for a year, before it was replaced by Ricoh with a GX200), but……

So when I got in contact with Ricoh this year I requested a test sample of the new Ricoh GR Digital III. I really wanted to know if this camera would still bring the feeling of the glory days I had with the GR1, a camera that became a cult camera, especially in Japan. At Rangefinderforum.com for instance the camera is still being raved by many of its owners or those who had one.

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Ricoh GR Digital III, f/3.2, 1/1000 sec, 21mm equivalent, ISO 100, -0.7 EV

History
So for those not familiar with this camera and the history of the GR series the first GR was announced in October 1996, the GR1. It is a high quality compact camera build with outstanding materials like a tough and light magnesium body. And the 28mm fixed wide angle lens was considered one of the best for that price. The Ricoh GR1 competed with other, mostly Japanese, high quality compact camera like the Nikon 28Ti and 35Ti (Ti referring to the titanium body), Konica Hexar AF, Contax T1/T2 (and later the TvS series), Minolta TC1, and the Leica CM and the Minilux series. All these cameras had sophistaced metering systems that could be found in SLR cameras to get accurate exposures with slide film. And the fixed focal length lenses could compete with there SLR equivalents.

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Ricoh GR Digital III, f/3.2, 1/200 sec, 21mm equivalent, ISO 64, 0.0 EV

Unfortunately though it seems that this niche market is something of the past with the exception of the Sigma DP1, DP2 and the upcoming Leica X1. Some could argue that the current serious compact cameras fill in this niche market, but in my opinion the Ricoh GR Digital is the only camera that currently fulfills that legacy. Not to say that other cameras are not as good, they might well be. But it is just that Ricoh hold truth to the principles of the GR series and to the basics of this particular niche market. And that is a high quality compact camera with exclusive materials and a superb fixed focal length lens. So here I am with the new Ricoh GR Digital III.

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Ricoh GR Digital III, f/1.9, 1/320 sec, 28mm equivalent, ISO 64, 0.0 EV

To start with
Not too long ago I posted my first and rather short impression of this camera. I mentioned that I really liked the finish of this camera. The non-slippery surface together with the usual Ricoh ergonomics makes this camera very enjoyable to hold in the hand. It is lightweight and very durable too. Another great feature of this camera is the new and much faster lens with a maximum opening of f/1.9! That used to be f/2.4 with the previous versions. It is now the fastest lens you can find on any compact camera which is an impressive achievement in my opinion.

I welcome Ricoh to follow the new trend started with the Panasonic DMC-LX3 to decrease the amount of pixels on the sensor. Instead of another sensor with 12 megapixels, they acquired a 10 megapixel sensor.

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Ricoh GR Digital III, f/3.2, 1/800 sec, 28mm equivalent, ISO 100, 0.0 EV

Another amazing aspect of this camera is how you can customize this camera. Many buttons and dials can be reassigned, so you will likely find a set up that matches your style of camera handling. Like the GX200 it can register up to 3 personal settings. And new is the shutter speed mode that was requested by many GRD-users in the past.

The camera can be bought with many accessories like optical viewfinders and an add-on conversion lens. There is a viewfinder with 28 mm matching frame lines, the GV-2, and there is a larger optical viewfinder, the GV-1, that not only has the 28mm frame lines, but also the 21mm that can be used in combination with the GW-2 21mm conversion lens. I have been using this camera with the GV-1 viewfinder and found it a joy to use it. Shortly before finishing this writing I finally got the GW-2 lens too so I could extent my impression of the camera. As a result of the new lens design and the changed diameter for the adapter Ricoh skipped the 40mm conversion lens that was available for the GR Digital I and GR Digital II. I still do hope they come up with a new design.

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Ricoh GR Digital III, f/3.5, 1/200 sec, 28mm equivalent, ISO 100, 0.0 EV

Unfortunately this joy doesn’t come cheap. The camera and accessories will cost you a lot of money. Together with the Leica D-Lux 4 it is one of the most expensive small sensor cameras on the market. But don’t be fooled. The high quality materials and the lens makes this an expensive camera and I think it is worth it (in 1996 I paid something like €490,- for this camera and that is without 13 years of inflation correction!).

I have said it before in the short impression, but I think the LCD screen is a bit too large. The designers had to move the buttons more to the right. Maybe this is still usable for Japanese hands, but I regularly accidentally touched the display or macro button when I walked around with the camera. On the other hand the LCD screen is incredibly sharp and very clear and probably one of the most usable in bright conditions too.

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Ricoh GR Digital III, f/3.2, 1/1600 sec, 28mm equivalent, ISO 100, 0.0 EV

In depth – ouch!
With every new camera released we of course have the anticipation that the camera will be better than the previous one. Now, I can’t compare the camera to the GR Digital II and the original GR Digital I, but I do have my knowledge with two generations of GX cameras. In my impression of the GX200 I stated that the GX200 DNG’s (RAW images) couldn’t be processed in the same way I used to do with the GX100 DNG’s. In particular darkening the luminance of the blue channel resulted in excessive noise and blotches. That seriously limited my B&W conversion techniques. It was most visible with Adobe Lightroom and Adobe ACR, and to lesser extent with Silkypix. Unfortunately the DNG’s from the GR Digital III form no exception. And while the GR Digital III performs better than the GX200 at higher ISO’s the images are quite soft, even at ISO 100. There is more smearing and less detail going on in the GR Digital III DNG’s and even more so with the jpegs. It surprised me, because I had much better expectations with the arrival of the new sensor which is slightly larger and has less pixels. Besides that I am not really enthusiastic about the results from Adobe Lightroom and Adobe ACR for the RAW conversion. I happen to get the best results with the most pleasing amount of details from RAW Therapee. RAW Developer for the Mac does a pretty good job too with the DNG’s (many thanks to Amin Sabet from Serious Compacts for verifying). Even Silkypix, which has often be considered the best RAW converter for the Ricoh DNG’s couldn’t achieve the same results as RAW Therapee. The only issue I have with RAW Therapee is that it is slow and uses a lot of memory.

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Ricoh GR Digital III, f/3.5, 1/1000 sec, 28mm equivalent, ISO 100, 0.0 EV

Now there are 100% image quality comparisons popping up all over the net and it seems the GR Digital III isn’t the best performer when compared to cameras like the Panasonic LX3 and the Canon G10/G11. If you think these comparisons are vital for your final deciding than that is fine with me, but in my opinion these comparisons makes no sense at all for real world photography. I mean, start making prints to see the differences. And when you just enjoy sharing your photographs online than ask yourself if those 100% image comparisons makes any differences when you post your photographs at a max of 1024 pixels.

While finishing my article Ricoh updated the firmware for the GR Digital III on September 30 to version 1.21. I updated the camera and repeated some of my test. While using the GW-2 conversion lens and manual focus at infinity with an aperture of f/5.0 resulted in soft backgrounds before the update, but had no problems after the update. I also saw strange streaks when I used the magnification feature on the LCD screen for manual focusing, some even mentioned that the magnification turned black. The update resolved this problem.

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Ricoh GR Digital III, f/3.2, 1/320 sec, 28mm equivalent, ISO 100, 0.0 EV

But!
Now I have said that, I should start mentioning that this camera however is so good in many other departments. The lens is very good, even at f/1.9. And the lens can actually give the photographs some shallow depth of field for nearby subjects (up to 2 to 3 meters and closer). The fast lens gives the camera the edge in low light photography and I found the images very usable up to ISO 800, although some will probably like the ISO 1600 performance too. I thought it wasn’t bad, but almost never used it. The noise is rather nicely and unevenly distributed, although there is some vertical banding at higher ISO’s. Since I am not interested in shadow details I found this not an issue for me. Ricoh seemed to have improved the dynamic range too. Both the DNG’s and the jpegs seem to hold more subtleties and the tonality is finer than with the GX200.

The camera has several metering systems, including a multi exposure metering system, center weighted and a spot  metering system. I personally felt comfortable with center weighted, but thought it was good to have spot metering at hand for whenever needed.

Unlike larger sensors smaller sensors do have more light sensitivity. You need to be careful with exposing and it is often best to be on the defensive site. The new sensor for the GR Digital III looks even more sensitive, so at times it is best to underexpose -0.3 to -0.7 EV. to avoid harsh clipped highlights. But be warned anyway. Small sensor cameras have less dynamic range, so it comes down to making choices. Dark shadows and properly exposed highlights, or shadow details and clipped highlights.

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Ricoh GR Digital III, f/2.5, 1/2000 sec, 28mm equivalent, ISO 100, -0.3 EV

But what makes this camera unique is that it is actually a system that can be expanded. The available accessories are all of high quality. The GV-1 viewfinder is very large and bright with clear frame lines that can even be used by those wearing glasses. The GW-2 lens delivers incredible performances and adds a nice weight and balance to the camera. I also liked using the camera with the adapter and hood (GH-2). It makes the camera very easy to handle, in particular with the optical viewfinder, although that won’t make the camera pocketable anymore. To see all the available options check here.

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Ricoh GR Digital III, f/1.9, 1/710 sec, 28mm equivalent, ISO 200, +0.3 EV

Usability
The most important aspect that makes Ricoh cameras distinctive from its competitors is the user interface. The first class hand grip and the easy to reach buttons and dials. I can easily change some settings without even looking.

I already talked about the customization of this camera. And I am surprised to see the efforts Ricoh have made to make this camera special for every owner. Ricoh cameras are regarded as great cameras for street photography, because of the excellent snap mode. When the snap focus is activated, the camera immediately set focus for 2.5 meter which significantly reduces the shutter lag. But guess what? They improved that and now you can set your preference focus distance for the snap mode with options for 1, 2.5 (default) or 5 meter and infinity. You can do this in the menu by changing the snap focus distance, but you can also change it while photographing. Just keep the “up” button pressed and use the front dial to set the focus distance. Quick and easy.

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Ricoh GR Digital III, f/1.9, 1/1620 sec, 28mm equivalent, ISO 100, -0.3 EV

The GR Digital III has two function buttons that can be reassigned to your personal preferences. Even the zoom button can be assigned to three functions including the exposure compensation. And what I also liked was to reassign the front dial to the shutter speed and the rear dial for aperture when using the camera in manual mode. Something that is normally vice versa.

When you use the camera with an optical viewfinder you can switch the LCD screen off. People already marveled the new Leica X1 for having a AF confirmation light on the back that can be seen while viewing through the viewfinder, but the GR Digital cameras have had this for ages. And when you have the LCD screen turned off it can still show your settings when you change the exposure.

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Ricoh GR Digital III, f/1.9, 1/12 sec, 21mm equivalent, ISO 400, -0.3 EV

Sorry for those interest in modern day features like face detection systems and image stabilization. You won’t find it, but don’t be worried either. Your experience will make the difference with this camera. And since the camera has a wide angle lens I didn’t miss the image stabilization. But to be fair and honest, I never use it either for my Ricoh GX200.

Conclusion
I must say that I am impressed with the Ricoh GR Digital III. I have some concerns with the image quality. The images appear softer (especially the jpegs) and processing the DNG’s in many RAW converters causes quite noisy and blotchy results. Maybe this can be fixed with a firmware update, but in the meantime I suggest using RAW Therapee or RAW Developer (only Mac). These issues might be a real problem for you when you mostly enjoy images at 100% magnification, but I find it less of a problem when you print your photographs or when you mostly publish and share your photographs online.

For the hefty price you get a unique camera with an amazing lens. No zoom, so to zoom you need to get closer or take more distance. It brings photography back to the essence in my opinion. You need to think harder and you become more careful with your framing.

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Ricoh GR Digital III, f/3.2, 1/760 sec, 28mm equivalent, ISO 64, +0.3 EV

But you also get the excellent Ricoh support and regular firmware updates until the camera is being replaced by a new one. In fact, the latest firmware usually introduces some newest features of the new camera in the older one too. A bonus you won’t likely get from other manufacturers.

Despite some minor flaws I described above and the fact that the camera has only a fixed focal length lens (28mm while I started to prefer 35mm with my GX200) I will absolutely miss this camera when it is returned to Ricoh. I only used my GX200 for some boring comparison shots, but always had the GR Digital III with me for the last couple of weeks. When I would be in the same position like 2.5 years ago I would definitely and instantly pick up the GR Digital III instead of the GX200.

Alternatives
I have said that the Ricoh GR Digital III is a very unique camera designed and targeted for a very specific type of photographer. While there used to be some vibrant competition in the nineties, things don’t look the same anymore nowadays. The only real competition comes from Sigma with their DP1. This is the only other camera on the market with a 28mm fixed focal length lens, although a quite slow lens starting at f/4.0, but comes with a much larger sensor. As expected this camera produces much better image quality, but comes short in terms of user usability in my opinion. More than any other camera it is a camera to be mastered. It is a much slower camera, and I found manual focusing hardly usable with the mediocre screen. It does however work well with zone focusing and it makes the camera more responsive too. It takes however at least 6 seconds to write an image to the card which I think is very slow for todays standards. Prices did drop enormously, so it could be an attractive camera, and an update of the camera will soon hit the shelves, the DP1s. The DP1s will have some of the improved technologies from the DP2, but I don’t expect a major leap forward.

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Ricoh GR Digital III, f/1.9, 1/15 sec, 28mm equivalent, ISO 400, +0.7 EV

Not quite comparable, but with a fixed focal length are the Sigma DP2 (41mm lens) and the to be released Leica X1 (36mm). Both these cameras have a larger sensor (dSLR size!), but all come at a considerably higher price (the Leica will cost $2,000!).

The only other cameras to consider are some of the better and more advanced serious compact cameras. The first one comes from the same Ricoh house, the GX200. The camera comes with a moderate zoom range, 24 to 72mm, and shares many of the GRD technologies. Read my previous impression of this camera to find out more about it. The lens isn’t as fast as the GR Digital III and it isn’t the best performer at higher ISO’s. I find it really good at ISO 100 and usable at ISO 200. Above it is all a different game.

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Ricoh GR Digital III, f/1.9, 1/48 sec, 21mm equivalent, ISO 400, -0.3 EV

The closest rival besides the DP1 and the GX200 is the Panasonic Panasonic DMC-LX3. It has a 24 to 60mm lens and a maximum aperture of f/2.0! This is a very popular camera world wide. I tried it and found the high dynamic B&W setting fantastic. I didn’t like the typical Panasonic jog dial and you need to use Silkypix to get the best results from the camera for the RAW files since a lot of correction is taking place on the files. I didn’t like it that the camera constantly reseted itself after the power was turned off. But firmware version 2.0 has just been released and the last used zoom and menu setting will be resumed after you turn the power on again. A great new added feature and it shows the commitment Panasonic makes for this camera and its users.

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Ricoh GR Digital III, f/1.9, 1/1320 sec, 28mm equivalent, ISO 64, -0.3 EV

To other contenders are the very popular Canon Powershot G11 which actually has the same sensor as the GR Digital III. some regard this camera as a brick, but has a pretty old school user interface and a decent lens starting at 28mm (, but f/2.8). Canon’s second camera is the new S90 which shares the same technology as the G11, but has an even faster lens starting at f/2.0 and a very interesting user interface with a lens ring that can be used for several camera changes.

And of course, not to be forgotten, there are some cameras still around there which could be considered obsolete by today’s standards, like the former Ricoh GR Digital II or the even older GR Digital I. Although the latter one is really much harder to find.

In the end though I really have been impressed by the Ricoh GR Digital III and can recommend it for those who are interested in a camera that has some of the best user interfaces and is designed with photography in mind.

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Ricoh GR Digital III, f/4.5, 1/400 sec, 21mm equivalent, ISO 64, +1.0 EV

Other reviews and information about the Ricoh GR Digital III
One of the first reviews posted was on Alpha Mount World by Carl Garrard. Pavel Kudrys at Ricohforum.com is regularly posting some of the tests he is conducting including comparisons with other Ricoh cameras, including the Ricoh GR Digital II. And a new review of the GR Digital III is expected soon by Cristian Sorega who has been using the camera for quite some time. He will be comparing the GR Digital III too to the first and previous GR Digital. And for many GR Digital III photographs you might want to check the Ricoh GR Digital III group.

All photographs by Wouter Brandsma

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121 thoughts on “My final Ricoh GR Digital III impressions

  1. Great review. Thanks for sharing your impressions. I also think that the Panasonic GF1 with pancake lens is an interesting camera. Not a fixed lens but probably also to be considered.

    1. Thank you Marco, but in the article I am referring to high quality compact cameras with fixed lenses. While the GF1 looks like an interesting camera I won’t classify it in the same class. And not only because it has an interchangeable lens system, but also as a result of used materials.

      For the price however some people will certainly take the GF1 into consideration when they compare it with the GR Digital III.

  2. Thanks for sharing, Wouter! Nice personal opinion/review.

    Just love your black and white photos! Wonderful techniques, if you ever feel like sharing a how-to-before-after-kinf-of-post, I’ll be very happy.

  3. The real question is will you miss it after it’s gone? I got a GRD3, shot with it for a week then had to use my DSLR for a week and boy did I miss the GRD3. I am so hooked on the snap focus function that I don’t even want to shoot anything else.

  4. Thanks for the thoughtful analysis. I love the images in this post. I use Lightroom for most of my GRD3 processing because I’ve been using it for a lot of family snapshots (it’s faster), but every now and then I use RAW Developer when I want to really work an image. The GRD3 remains my favorite camera and I wish other camera companies would put such a focus on the user experience and customizability. I hope this category of camera expands.

    Keep up the good work and I hope you continue to enjoy the GRD3.

    1. You’re welcome Andrew. For quickies I used Lightroom too. I am not worried about the extra image quality when the family snapshots are printed at normal consumer size. I use RAW Therapee for anything beyond normal usage.

      Enjoy your GRD3.

  5. Excellent review Wouter!
    I agree with your observations and you basically said everything I was going to say in my review, might have to change it now. 😉

  6. Great review, great camera.

    I think the best part is that if you are serious into compact camera photography, there are a few wonderful cameras to choose from. We have to thank Ricoh, Leica, Panasonic and Sigma for their constant efforts to produce some high-quality photography tools.

    1. I still miss the presence of Olympus and Nikon (I did mention Canon in my list). And Nikon did an outstanding job with the Nikon 28/35Ti in the Nineties. But maybe we are the dawn of a new era.

  7. Many thanks for your review also from me, Wouter. I also like your photos. Just one question: there are lots of remarks, in reviews as well as in forums, and from you as well, that the image quality, especially for high ISO, of the LX3 is the best around, and better than the GRDIII. I have checked many reviews and full size pictures from the LX3 by now and I have to say that I do not understand these claims. Already at ISO400 if not lower values, there is a lot of banding, and not just in underexposed areas and lots of detail is lost. I understand that when it came out, the LX3 was something really special and I believe that it is a good camera. But it seems to me that the new sensor in the Canons and the GRDIII is much better regarding sensitivity. I also have the impression that the “soft” output you get with GRDIII is the price you pay for recovering much more detail in low contrast and underexposed areas, ie that Ricoh went for a more conservative approach in post processing because it had different priorities than other manufacturers. This is not an issue of a “bad jpeg engine” but of different goals. Could it be that the engine is just good at different things? But in any case, regarding the comparisons to the LX3, I cannot see any advantage regarding IQ. What do you think?

    1. Hi Klaus, I have used the LX3 recently, so I was able to compare some photographs. The LX3 isn’t really special at base ISO, but creates pretty good jpegs at higher ISO. I think they have a pretty clever noise reduction algorithm for the jpeg pipeline and the sharpness is clearly there without being to aggressive. I did however think that the RAW images from the GRD3 were nicer (although these are still softer than those from the GX200).

      I do agree with you that Ricoh probably had different priorities in mind with the jpeg engine. Maybe less pleasing for those interested in 100% pixel peeping, but more focused on pleasant looking dynamic range. While Canon and Panasonic went for more sharpness in my opinion.

      There are maybe a few other factors at stake. It is said that Canon and Ricoh both use the same Sony sensor. But Canon likely targets their cameras for a larger crowd than Ricoh. The primary target of Ricoh is still the domestic market of Japan (very enthusiastic photographers with a preference for cult and history), although they want to expand to the West. Canon is more focused to the West, and I think more photographers here relate image quality to sharpness. Canon has probably also more engineers working on the software for their cameras.

      But what is IQ? For me it is pleasing dynamic range and no smearing as a result of noise reduction. For others IQ is all about sharpness and no noise. I like noise, many don’t.

      I give you an interesting example. Back focusing with lenses is something that has always happened. Was it a real issue in the past when we still used film? No, because you could hardly see it on a print. Nowadays people do judge their work more often at 100% and do now notice imperfections with their lenses/system and complain about it (It happened with some Leica M lenses that became a real issue when the M8 arrived). Softness in the corners is the same thing. Need a real issue for real photography, but became an issue as result of the rigorous testing.

      And banding does unfortunately also happen with the images from the GRD3, but isn’t so much an issue for me. I am not so much interested in shadow details.

      1. Hi Wouter,

        Thanks for your really detailed answer. It is nice to see that someone is reading my post. This applies for you even more with the review I guess:-)
        I think I agree with your preferences on image quality. Maybe I chose the wrong term, I do not know if it is really banding what I meant. Maybe it’s more smearing. I do not see the point of not having pure, naturally (film-like) looking noise, similar to grain, but replacing is with really ugly smearing which looks totally artificial. I’m just curious: If you look at this image (ISO400, full size, http://www.flickr.com/photos/24082504@N06/3910594208/sizes/o/) you see these artifacts everywhere, on the trees in the corners, very strong on the skin of the persons. Is this banding or just smearing? I did not see things like that in GRDIII images at ISO400 and hardly at ISO800. I am not a fan of pixel-peeping but I just feel that the GRDIII seems to be a really good camera, not only the optics but also signal processing and electronics, and if a small company does well in this area where it is generally assumed that only the big ones have enough resources to be successful, I think they should get the credit for it. It is somehow nice to support an underdog, even more if this is based on actual merits and many people will base their buying decision on such criteria. It is a bit like the megapixel race which now seems to be over. It took a long time until the mainstream opinion changed but now even Canon seems to have changed their priorities in this area. In a german magazine, fotomagazin(.de), they had a comparison of different small “enthusiast” cameras, based on labtests (although they do not explain how they measured what:-), but it is a DCTau test which seems to be serious. They said they were surprised by the low resolution compared to other cameras (although it was still good), but this might be explained by the very low incidence of artifacts. In fact, on a scale from 1 to 6: the artifact mark of the GRDIII was 1.5, while the others were DP2 2.0, nikon p6000 3.5, Canon G10 and Panasonic LX3 4.0. However, I had had this impression myself before reading the review, just from looking at pictures, so I thought there might be something to it:-)

        1. Don’t be worried. I read every comment. The image you tried to refer me, wasn’t there anymore. From other images I have seen in his stream they display pretty good IQ from a technical point of view. Remember that these sensors are so tiny and development has come a long way.

          I know fotomagazin and they always conduct very technical comparisons in my opinion. Too technical in my opinion. Instead I would suggest you to do some printing. Try to find two ISO 400 images. One with some smearing and/or banding that worries you, and another one that you think is pretty good. Print both these images and compare the outcome.

          The other option is to reduce both images to normal websizes like 1024 pixels or 800 pixels. And than observe the images. With digital photography the temptation to view at 100% and judge the IQ is constantly there. And I believe everyone does so, including me. It is just what you will keep as your reality. For me it is printing and websized images. Besides theft it is the most important reason why I don’t share my images at full size on the web. I know people will start to pixel peep and loose thought and feeling of the possible outcome.

          I think the GRD3 is a great camera and it is a joy to use. That can’t be analyst by all those test.

          Gruß,
          Wouter

            1. That is smearing Klaus as a result of the noise reduction. All over the place. It won’t look nice as a very large print, but will do fine as 10x15cm print still. But I see your point too. I haven’t seen such smearing with the GRD3.

              1. Yeaaah!:-) Finally somebody to see this! It’s the same with the G10 and even some DSLRs in low contrast areas. I find it surprising that people do not complain more about this as long as their cameras win resolution competitions.

                1. excuse me for jumping into your conversation — but i see it too, klaus, and why it doesn’t bother more people as well…

                  i am not a pixel peeper, but i do know what i want in my photos and have found Ricoh GRD/GX cameras to leave you more of the real image to play with. whilst they seem to have added some NR to RAW after the original GRD, it is still much less aggressive than other manufacturers do in their RAW.

                  my hope/dream/wish is that some manufacturer has the cojones to allow the user to turn off ALL noise reduction in RAW… sigh.

                2. You know Klaus. This almost looks like the LX2 smearing and I haven’t seen it so bad before with the LX3. Now I don’t know, but either the photographer used noise reduction in-camera or compressed the image before uploading to flickr.

                  1. Cam, you’re right, space is getting quite limited here:-) Thanks to you both for your congratulations. Re LX3: Here is another image from another photographer at ISO400. http://www.flickr.com/photos/34090001@N03/3502349734/sizes/o/

                    It’s similar I would say. Of course we don’t know how they were processed before, but if they are from different people…

                    At http://www.pixel-peeper.com you can find pictures by camera for yourself, but probably you know already.

                    Klaus

  8. great review!

    i know i should not be tempted as i own the GRDII, but the faster lens, ability to set shutter speed, and the lovely new options to fine tune Snap make me drool!!!

    sigh. i visited Marcel again yesterday and kept on thinking, well — it is my birthday… but i controlled myself, alas. i also got to see GR1 for the first time and drooled.

    i honestly think one has to use a Ricoh to understand just how good and intuitive it really is. it becomes an extension of yourself, rather than merely a tool. it is heads and shoulders above the other compacts you mentioned because of its handling, even if there is still too much NR in the RAW files (Ricoh, are you listening?).

    (speaking of RAW…. i just put a few shots from the GRDII through C1 — nice! no profile for the Ricoh so the WB was way off (an NYC subway shot), but it seemed even more could be eeked out of the files.)

    and, lastly, in favour of the Ricoh GR Digital series. i am still a firm believer in the beauty and simplicity of fixed lenses. IMO, 28mm rock the world! i honestly wish more people would give it a go 😉

    1. Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday sweet Wilder, happy birthday to you!!!!!!! Congratulations!!!!!!! And that you may keep the ever on-going youth. And thank you Cam for your comment. But I must really thank you for your support and discussions prior to finishing this article.

      Don’t try the GRDIII! It will seriously ruin your relationship with your M8 and R-D1 😉 The snap mode with preset focus distances and the fast lens is nothing for you! LOL!

      I hope K. doesn’t read this, but go get that camera. Try to sell your GRDII. Or better yet, start taping the name of your camera, before you get the GRDIII and when you get the GRDIII tape that one too. He won’t notice the differences. Tell him the S on the mode dial has always been there. Come on, he thinks Canon and Olympus are doing a good job 😀

      Ciao W.

    1. Thanks Pavel. Some of the photographs were RAW images, some other B&W jpegs. The bird photograph and the photograph with the two girls (including my daughter :D) and the chimneys are original B&W photographs with contrast set to +2 and sharpness to +1.

  9. Hey Wouter – thanks for sharing your thoughts on the compact cameras you highlighted. I know very little about these cameras and I like to read your thoughts as it brings everything into perspective. I get my questions asked even the ones I didn’t know I had 😉
    I do not know much about compacts but I will say that I am a huge fan of fixed focal length lenses on any type of camera. I think it adds a lot to the experience and the photography. I am not sure how to articulate how but it just does. I think the action of moving around your subject makes for better photographs.

    You have some great captures here as well. I think if I did use small sensor compacts this camera would be one that I would select as my tool 😉 Happy shooting…

    1. You should really try such a camera John. Feel the differences with your Pentax. Notice that people react differently too. And Tammi might like it too 😉

      Despite all the available zoom lenses there is still much to be said for prime lenses.

  10. Bravo Wouter, your review is very informative and a pleasure to read and you are a very talented photographer as your pictures show.
    Thanks for sharing.

  11. To be honest i didnt read the review, just looked at the photos, and i really like them, excellent photos…congratulations…

  12. Very enjoyable Wouter,pictures and text.I presume the 40mm lens wont fit,do you think they”ll bring out a new version?……..all the best ,Neil

    1. Hi Neil, Thanks for passing by. The 40mm lens does fit with a step-down ring. Some vignetting does occur, but I personally think it isn’t so bad. You might want to see and read what Pavel Kudrys of ricohforum posted about it.

      I personally don’t think Ricoh will come with a new version (yet). I just doubt it, but I could be wrong. I will ask them though.

      All the best too,
      Wouter

  13. Very thoughtful review, Wouter — and excellent photographs!

    What concerns me the most is what you write about the softness the GRD3 DNG files, even compared to those of the GX200. While I don’t know the latter, I found that GX100 DNG files were much softer than those of the GRD and GRD2 and required much more aggressive sharpening than the latter two cameras, and usually more contrast increase as well. This is a cause of concern because I often like to “beat up” files and push the contrast a lot; and this often means that softer files — like those of the GX100 — have more of a limit as to what I could do with them than GRD/GRD2 files and that ultimately means less flexibility and usually a smaller proportion of pictures that can look like I want them to.

    —Mitch/Potomac, MD

    1. Hi Mitch,

      Knowing your work and how you like to process your photographs I understand your concern. I can’t unfortunately refer to images from the GRDI and GRDII. My experience is that I think that the GX100 DNG files were actually pretty good and even better than the GX200 DNG’s. First of all the GX100 DNG’s can take sharpening really well. Secondly my process technique for B&W conversion has been mostly related to changing the luminance of individual color channels. For instance making the blue colors darker (like using a red filter in front of the camera) and green colors brighter. What I noticed with the DNG’s from the GX200 and the GRD3 is that there is more noise in the blue and red channel (much more than with the GX100) which negatively affected my conversion techniques. I got blotches sooner in the skies and skin tones and banding in the shadows. This also happens with the GRD3 DNG’s.

      My personal experience is that flatter files give more flexibility in post processing, but only when the images are exposed right. I also find it easier to add contrast to flatter images, than to make contrasty images more contrasty. Maybe it has to do with the noise floor in darker and brighter parts.

      But to be fair and honest. I haven’t found the softness to be the major problem. My main problem has been the noise floor in the blue and red channels of the images. But that has also been my concern with the images from the GX200. Maybe something distinctive of the Sony sensors being used (I am not sure, but think that the GRD2 and the GX200 also used Sony sensors since they have some of the same characteristics).

      And you need more careful post processing. Therefore I started using RAW Therapee in combination with Photoshop, instead of just using Lightroom.

      I will try to get back to this subject sometime and demonstrate some of these issues.

      Cheers,
      Wouter

  14. Very interesting, Wouter. I don’t know how to translate your experience with the GRD3 to what it would mean for me because I have never gone into individual channels. With the GRD2 I ended up using Aperture/Silver Efex, which gave me easily the tonality that I wanted. And you’re right, when the exposure is spot-on fairly contrasty files are good, but when more severe adjustments are necessary less contrasty and flatter files are better to start with. I tend now to have the raw converter, in this case Aperture, produce a fairly flat file before going into Silver Efex. Have you tried Silver Efex on GRD3 files? I suppose I should download some GRD3 files and try, but am very lazy in this respect…do you have any GRD3 for download?

    While found that GX100 files are robust and can take a lot of sharpening, I found that generally GRD2 files, for me, brought me a larger proportion of pictures that looked like I wanted them to. For example, I couldn’t imagine that I would get the effect of this GRD2 picture with the GX100:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/malland/2289152354/sizes/o/in/set-72157603989168260/

    —Mitch/Potomac, MD

    1. I use Silver Efex too, but not always. I use RAW Therapee now as RAW converter which does a very conventional conversion with less saturation and creates more flat images. These are great to edit in Photoshop. I will sent you a PM with a GRD3 DNG this weekend.

  15. Thanks for the review wouter. I found your images very inspiring! Re the camera, it would be very nice to get the same but with 35 or 40 or even 50mm lens, lots of people are used to work with this focals from our old slrs… Or lets imagine a mini system based on this camera with a choice of fast fixed focal lens: 21, 35, 50, 100… Well, i think i should sleep a bit more today… By the way, i bought a gx100 a bit influenced by your pictures (imo your collection of pictures with the gx100 is the best on the net) and i’m really happy with it! Is a real pleasure to use the ricoh cameras.

    1. I hope you enjoy your GX100 as much as I did, Jordi. A lovely camera!

      I personally hope for a mini system. Compact camera body and 2 small lenses would be really nice. A 28 and 50 or 40 (both fast lenses of course). I hope Ricoh reads this too 😀

  16. Thank you for this very detailled in depth review Wouter!

    It’s very interesting to read about the different Raw tools you use. How did you find out about the best tool/camera combinations?

    Another thing I’m curious about is the post-processing technique you use. I like the dynamic contrast and softness in your pictures.

    At the moment I mainly use my LX3 to shoot in JPG, the builtin coverter is very good. But I’m considering to shoot in Raw also and do the post-processing in CS3 & Nik Silver Efex. I hope you can find some time to tell me more about your post-processing.

    1. Thank you Piet. It is just trying. And so can you. You mention having CS3 so you have the option of Adobe ACR. Secondly you have Lightroom. Thirdly, you’ve got the LX3 which you get with Silkypix. And RAW Therapee can be downloaded for free.

      It will take more time for me to produce some articles about post-processing, but I might start some series for later this fall and/or the winter. I will think about it, Piet.

  17. A well-written review, Wouter – thank you! I am still enjoying my GRD-2; it’ll be a year old in December. As much as the f/1.9 of the GRD-3 tempts me, I will allow at least a couple of new models to go by before upgrading. Recently, I purchased an E-P1, with a view to completely replacing my Canon dSLR gear. Despite the huge novelty value in having a new camera like that around (not to mention the double novelty value of mounting a bunch of old screwmount lenses on it), I still carry the GRD everywhere and use it every day. It’s just so intuitive and reliable – I know exactly what I’m going to get from it. I cannot imagine ever abandoning it – it’s always with me.

    1. Hi Kai. A year old is still a year young. Even though some feature enhancements are really nice with the GRD3 I still think the GRD2 is still a perfectly fine camera. I guess the strength for the GRD is a perfect camera to have with you all the time.

  18. Hello Wouter,

    i enjoyed your review and pictures very much. Perhaps this tool is my next camera – perhaps,time will tell,so long i take my pictures with my ricoh caplio gx, the first ricoh gx model.

    Best regards, titus

    1. As long as your current camera is still fine and challenges you enough, than there is no need to have another camera in my opinion. But the simplicity from a photographers point of view with a fixed prime lens is tempting.

      Cheers,
      Wouter

  19. Hi wouter,

    Thanks for that interesting read! In fact it is a bit in contradiction from what i concluded myself out of the sample pitures. But, I am fully aware that you as a user have valid point about the softness.. That is a bit of a let down?

    I do agree, more and more, that we should focus on the print or a ‘print size’ view on screen.
    As i am still wanting a good 35mm, or 40mm view compact camera, it is still a toss between a dp2 or…. yes what? a gx100? 200, a newer ricoh, that is on the horizon still? I would prefer not to use a zoom (for better aperture reasons).

    I also had very good experiences with that powerfull Raw Therapee (with canon files), in fact you had to be carefull not to destroy details…

    best!

    ronald

    1. Hi Ronald,

      Probably the contradiction is within the consensus developers have to accomplish. The noise reduction is there with the GRD3, all ISO settings for the jpegs despite camera settings (there is in fact a noise reduction off). But it isn’t as aggressive, but maybe does cause softness. Of course I would have liked to see no noise reduction at all, but what they did now is still better than all the heavy smearing. I just hope they can improve it with a new firmware.

      Waiting is still the best option Ronald. Other cameras will come that will come close to your DP1 IQ expectations.

      Have a nice weekend.

  20. Just want to congratulate you on your work, great stuff.
    I’m a huge fan of compacts, though I use DSLR for most of my “paid” work.
    These lens looks pretty sweet wide open.

  21. I love and hate your pics Wouter. I hate them because now I want a GRDIII too! Did you really buy the camera at Amazon, or do you know a website in the Netherlands (or EU) where I can buy one? All the best Wouter!

    1. Hoi Kees,

      The camera was supplied by Ricoh Europe and I got it for just testing. I haven’t seen any shop here in the Netherlands that actually has the camera in stock. The camera is available at Amazon.com or popflash.com, but still difficult to get in Europe. Even the Ricoh eshop in Europe doesn’t have the camera!

      I will contact my contactperson for more information about the availability.

      1. excuse me for butting in, but i know Marcel has some in stock — i was just there today.

        L’Instantané
        40, Boulevard Beaumarchais
        75011 Paris, France
        +33 1 43 55 02 32‎
        +33 1 43 55 49 32‎ FAX
        ask for Marcel

        He speaks quite good english, but it’s always harder on the telephone — speak slowly… you can tell him a friend of Cam’s sent you.

        (Wouter knows how to reach me if you need a go-between.)

    1. you’re welcome, Kees!

      the more i think about it and touch it at Marcel’s, the more i want it too… it honestly has so many features that i, as an original GRD and GRDII owner clamored for. nad the new lens is breath-taking! Ricoh, more than most manufacturers out there, seem to listen to their customer base.

      if it was my only camera, i would have upgraded in a heartbeat. as it is, i am shooting mostly rangefinders these days, so getting one is not quite as justifiable.

      i am still mightily tempted, however. it’s winter and my coat has the perfect pocket for it 😉

      the more i look at the images from the GRDIII, the more they remind me of the magic that the first GRD had. sigh… this really is a little beauty!

  22. Great Review! One quick question since I’m driving myself crazy between this camera and the Panasonic LX3…

    The lens difference aside (fixed vs zoom), is the camera build quality, ease of use (dials for GRD vs joystick for LX3), and image quality worth the difference in cost between The GRD3 and LX3 (among other advanced compact cameras)?

    1. I personally think it is. I would describe the GRD3 as an honest camera. The lens is really spectacular for a compact camera. And I can’t get used to the joystick interface of the Panasonics. The GRD user interface is really logical to me and I can operate the camera with one hand without looking.

  23. Thanks for the quick reply. I feel the same about this as well, one tends to take better pictures when the camera has a better interface, it seems. I think I can see the GRD3 in my near future.

  24. Thank you for the excellent review Wouter – I have been looking for a digital compact to complement my Leica M4-P (mostly since I no longer have time or space to develop my own film to any great extent) and thanks to your images and your words I have decided upon the GRD III. Really looking forward to getting started with it, can’t wait for my sister to come home from Singapore with a black little box 🙂

  25. Well, I bought the GRD3 two weeks ago and can’t stop taking pictures! It’s one of the few cameras I’ve had that really brings out the creativity (possibly the great control?) Either way, thanks for the review in helping me decide which camera to get. I’ve defiantly made the right choice.

  26. At roughly the same price, what is the better camera? D-Lux 4 or GRD III? I know this is a wide open question. I am a hobbyist photographer (filmmaker by profession). I own a Hasselblad and a Nikon F4. I’m a bit of a luddite with technology but I’m willing to try. I love the idea of the fixed lens. I’m a sucker for “Leica” (although I know it’s really a Panasonic with a fancy dress). I love the B&Ws in this fantastic review, but I wonder if they were manipulated in post production and I don’t know where to begin on post production of digital photos!

    Note: I love to shoot high contrast B&W, cross process and fast color with my film cameras.

    At first I was seduced by my friend’s G10, then the G11, then the EP-1 (and EP-2), and the floodgates opened and I stumbled upon the GRDIII at my favorite camera shop in London. And it’s beautiful. But tonight I was feeling around and found the D-Lux 4.

    Or should I save some money and get an S90 or a GRDII, and wait for the price of the X1 to come down into lower orbit? I love the size of GRDIII. Is it likely to give me the same satisfaction of ‘working’ to get a good shot as with my film cameras? I have a funny feeling this is what might be its greatest selling point.

    Anyway, lots of questions. I hope someone can guide me a little. If you want to talk film (movies), I’ll trade expertise.

    1. That is a wide open question Paul. I’d say: “follow your heart.” Don’t make rational decisions. All the cameras you’ve mentioned are great cameras. There is however a thing to warn you. Since you’re a filmmaker, and you have a Hasselblad and the F4 you’re familiar with using (optical) viewfinders. With the exception of the Canon G11 (and G10) all these cameras don’t have a build in viewfinder. So, you are forced to use the LCD screen for composing. Is that what you want? Or you can get an optical viewfinder and use that instead, but then it makes perfect sense to keep a fixed focal length.

      And my photographs are edited in post production. You can get away with in-camera jpegs, but to get your own look it helps to get familiar with applications like Photoshop.

      1. Thanks Wouter. The problem is my heart says all! But I love that GRDIII because it’s so small and engineered so nicely. I’ll go and touch and feel all in one or two sittings and go with the gut.

  27. Great siteWouter!
    Thanks a lot, as I am now aware of why I should spent
    a lot of money for an upgrade from the gx-100, which I
    used for 1 1/2 years now. This one was in my pockets
    all over the world. I liked the operation a lot, not so
    the image quality, especial the dynamic range and high
    iso performance. As I was always shooting with 24 or 28mm,
    the prime is perfect for me.

    As a last question: how would you describe the fact, that you
    always have to wait for the lens to distract before shooting
    the first image. I tried always to let the lens stay outside, so
    that fast shooting was possible for me.

    Hope to put some images from iran and syria, shot with the gx
    online the next weeks…

    1. Thank you Erik. And when it comes to the retracting lens, I consider that a fact of life. The GR1 in 1996 had it too. Every camera has a sort of delay. I think it is the photographer who should recognize a moment and have the camera ready.

  28. … not to mention your incredibly pictures
    you pull out of that tiny little black baby.
    I know a lot of “photographers” who need
    at least a Full-Frame-DSLR with a 2k-€
    Prime-Lens without being able to capture
    something… that will never have this “charme”.
    Great!

  29. Hi,

    your review had been most helpful and informative to deepen my knowledge about the GRD. You did mention that this camera was probably created for a niche market. So who do you think are the people in mind when Ricoh developed this camera? Because I am no professional in photography, will it not suit me then? Also, because you emphasized so much on the RAW format, does that mean that for people who do no need RAW pictures for ppost-processing, this camera would not be that fascinating?

    P.S I’m a super-amateur in photography and am looking for a compact camera used for travelling and also hopefully for fashion street photography.

    thanks!!

    1. With a niche market I certainly don’t implement that it is intended for professional photographers (even though many professional photographers seem to like this camera), but more the enthusiastic photographer prepared to pay a good price for a very high quality compact camera with a fixed prime lens.

      I also think it produces good jpegs, but for many the RAW feature is a real bonus for a high compact camera.

      Also fashion photographer Terry Richardson currently likes the GRD3 for his personal work.

  30. Wouter, please let me know how you got such a shallow depth of field on the bird photo. I tried the same settings with the macro setting and got nowhere near such a small area in focus. Was this something you added in the RAW conversion process? If so, how did you do it.

    Thanks,

    Charles

    1. Hi Charles, Macro mode, f/1.9 and make sure you get close enough. Nothing was added in RAW conversion. But also see the photograph above of my wife. Even though the sensor is really small and these cameras are usually not known for their shallow depth of field characteristics, you can pull it off. Nowadays I almost always have the aperture set at f/1.9 that, for me, enhances the feeling of depth and can also blur the background to some degree.

      Wouter

  31. Hi, I just love your pics! I’ve got a GRD too which I bought it for not long, I’d like to ask what 21mm equivalent or 28mm equivalent is and what -0.3 EV or +0.7 EV is? please feel free to reply to me, thanks!

    1. In photography we generally refer to common focal length of lenses from the 35mm film system for current digital cameras with the exception of medium and large format cameras. The 6mm lens of the GRDIII is equivalent with a 28mm lens for a 35mm film camera. And EV is exposure value that commonly also refers to 1 stop. Many cameras have a possibility to under or over expose the metering system of a camera. Because small cameras seems to have a tendency for over exposing and blocking the high light, many set in an exposure compensation of -0.3 or -0.7 EV.

  32. Hi,
    thanks for great review of GRD III. I was almost decided to go for D-LUX4 (cos should have better jpeg engine than LX3) but your review get GRDIII into game. I think i can live with fixed lens, only concern for me is that RAW-jpeg post production alchemy. thats not me – I am not fan of software etc. I would like to just take pictures of people around me. You still think GRD III is for me?

    1. I can’t answer your question. After nearly a year I feel very comfortable with the jpegs from the GRDIII, but they still always need some post processing for the look and feel I want. I don’t know about the D-LUX4, but did try the LX3 and I liked the jpegs a lot. In particular the dynamic B&W setting gave superb results.

      I personally think the D-LUX4 is highly overrated. Because it is much more expensive than the LX3 people all seem to see differences, but I believe that most photographers won’t see them. The LX3 is much better priced and feels nicer in the hand. The D-LUX4 is (and this is purely my opinion) a camera for the “red dot believers”.

      The LX3 and GRDIII are both on par and great cameras. When you want to do minimal post processing I think the LX3 might have the edge. In terms of operability and handling I reckon the GRDIII is still the winner, though one of my friends is convinced that the LX3 is more intuitive. It is all subjective. If you have a chance to try both in a store make sure you do it.

  33. Hi Wouter, a great insightful review, howeverI wish I had read you comments before putting my cash into the GRD3.
    I concur with your comments on softness. I have been using the GRD3 for a year now (in addition to still and previously using the GX100, you kindly told me about the Gradient Map b&w technique I was unaware of when I posted some pictures in the GetDpi forums). I was very surprised with how soft the pictures came out in comparison to my GX100 . I don’t like to spend too much time overall doing PP (mainly due to my eyesight and computers) and found I had to do this too much overall to get the results I wanted. My GX100 on the other hand delivers sharp pictures with minimal PP requirements (although I don’t shoot over iso 400 with it).
    I love the controls and feature set of the GRD however, it’s beautifully designed piece of photographic machinery. I’m now unfortunately selling my GRD3, even though (I thought) it ticked all my boxes. On the bright side, however, it has shown me just how good the GX100 was and still is. I personally rate it as the best compact camera I’ve used. The colour rendition from it is nothing short of superb.
    Many thanks for the great review and wonderful pictures.
    Kind regards
    Matt

  34. hello,

    I’m really impressed with your photos. However I’m just wondering if the photos only had minor post processing? I mean if GRDIII can get it in-camera black and white close to your sample photos? Thanks you for a very informative review.

  35. Wonderful review. I just bought one of these (GRD III) myself! One question: your one color photo is quite amazing. The subject matter is so different from all the others, and you left it in color. What’s the story behind it (if you don’t mind me asking)?

    1. Don’t mind Michael. It is a photograph I took at a Market Garden commemoration in the Netherlands. A large event referring to the massive 1944 defeat against the Germans when they tried to speed up their march to Berlin before the winter of 1944. Usually I shoot B&W, but this time there were colors that matched each other so well and added the nostalgic feelings.

  36. hi there , liked the review.
    Many thanks for that 🙂

    I had a GRD some years ago. I really really loved it.<3
    Unfortunately, one day the lens stopped opening so I got back to my DSLR. I've been told since then Ricoh products were fragile and the Company not very customers friendly.

    Then, i got an Lumix LX3 which was cool and used only at 24mm. But no so cool as my GRD.
    I sold the LX3 for a Lumix GF1.

    Gf1 is cool. I love its pancake 1.7 (40mm on 24×36). But no sot cool as my GRD.

    I don't want to sell the GF1 because its bokeh is quite good at f/1.7, and my wife uses a lot, but it seems I need another compact camera :
    – A more silent compact camera. GF1 makes an annoying CLAC !
    – A good snapshot camera (manual focus)
    – A camera with a quite big dof (small sensor ?) for snapshots
    – A light & small camera for my pockets
    – A light lens and pretty good at high iso

    Do you have any idea 🙂 ?

    GRD III? canon S90? Fuji X100?

    1. Hi Elliot, Small cameras are fragile and the GRD3 can’t be compared to the GRD1. It feels so different. It is a true high class compact. I only once had something of a software failure, but no problems with the materials and lenses of both my GX200 and the GRD3.

      Canon and Ricoh both uses the same sensor for their cameras (Canon S90/S95, G12, and the Ricoh GRD3 and S10 for their GXR camera). They say Canon does a pretty amazing job with that sensor at high ISO, but when it comes to a snapshot camera I think Ricoh is still the king.

      Snap mode for focusing at either 2.5 or 1.5 meter and the camera in manual mode makes it incredibly fast in my opinion. And very quiet too. The Fuji X100 is larger and weighs more and will be fantastic competition for the GF1 with the pancake and the Leica X1.

  37. Many, many thanks for this review, Wouter. I have spent the last 2 weeks trying to find the perfect compact camera and your photos and review – and all the positive comments posted here – helped me make my decision. So…..
    I am the 2-hour owner of a newborn GRD3.
    I LOVE the look, the feel, the dials, the logical, easy menus. I love it, love it.
    But at the moment I am charging my battery so I can go out and PLAY. There was a little power in the battery when I bought it so I was able to shoot 70+ photos. Now I am off to look at them – then I´ll read the manual :-)))

  38. Wouter, thanks for the follow-up on your color photo…:-). I thought I should mention that I now own both the original GRD and the latest version (GRD III). Even though the size and weight of the two is VERY similar, the GRD III is just a tiny bit larger and heavier. Contributing to that slight difference in size and weight is the larger max aperture lens (f/1.9 vs f/2.4) and larger rear LCD (3″ vs 2.5″). If the GRD I is like a 3-series BMW, the GRD III is like a 7-series BMW. The latter is definitely more polished and feels more substantial. The biggest functional difference (to me) is I can now shoot raw without have to wait 3-5 seconds to use the camera again while it records the file to the memory card! This is a major drawback of the GRD I. Even if you don’t shoot raw, there was a noticeable delay with the GRD I as it writes a JPEG image to the memory card. Another addition I like is the shutter priority mode that was non-existent on the GRD I. The only way to control shutter speed on the GRD I is to put it in manual mode…which isn’t always ideal for my shooting. I also like the manual pop-up flash button on the GRD III: easy and intuitive to use. One other addition (GRD III) I’ll mention is the AUTO HIGH ISO setting that allows you to extend the AUTO ISO range all the way up to the maximum of 1600. This is great to have for variable low light shooting…:-).

    1. The GRDIII feels great and is certainly a high quality product. It reminds me so much of the original GR1 which still feels better than the GRDI in my opinion. Enjoy it!

  39. Hi WOuter,
    Am definatly fan of your work too… I ve finally got a Ricoh GRDIII too, and very happy about it.
    I also got the gv-2 VF but I am not really satisfied… Have u ever tried any other ones on it ?
    Ive heard the 25mm voigtlander matches perfectly the 28mm angle, have u heard or tried it on?
    As said, I am a fair fan of your work, and very bad post processor so far ;), wud U have any tips to or tutorial to get close to ur results ?
    And maybe one more question about how to install the new firmware…Do u have to unzip them ? and hoz to install them on the camera… I am not bad photographer I guess but not really good at Laptoping 😛

    Feel free to answer if U got a minute
    Kind regards

    1. Hi Gael, You might want to have a look at the 28mm Voigtlander viewfinder. Importantly to know is that the framelines matches the 3:2 format. And regarding post processing: experiment, experiment, experiment.

  40. Hi! I heard a lot about the Ricoh GRD III and many say it is really good. I am a photography enthusiast. I decided to not jump ahead on a DSLR and I wonder if this Ricoh GRD III is really highly recommendable camera for a first-timer like me?? I really like the reviews I saw in youtube as well as your post and it seems that this camera is worth it.

    1. Is the GRDIII a highly recommendable camera for a first-timer? That is honestly a very difficult question. Have you ever photographed before? Do you understand how shutter speed, aperture, and ISO sensitivity are related to each other. And how it can affect the outcome of your images? Starting with a camera with a prime wide angle lens is probably not something I would normally advice to first-timers. I guess I am still old-fashioned and believe that a camera that can be fully operated manually is still the best to learn and understand photography.

      Maybe a Panasonic LX5 or the older LX3 is better to start when you still want to go small. It has a little zoom lens which can be used with the step zoom mode so you can go for 24, 28, 35, 50mm. etc. That way you can learn multiple focal lengths. While a small compact camera always has the benefit of mostly everything in focus due to the smaller sensor, it can also be a disadvantage. With a small sensor camera you will lever learn how aperture can change the depth of field and how you can use that for creative purposes.

      So maybe when you really want to get serious with this it is maybe better to start with a cheap DSLR, like the Canon EOS 600D/Rebel T3i or a Nikon D3100. Get it with a 28 or 35mm prime lens (especially Nikon is interesting since they have a pretty cheap 35mm f/1.8 lens and due to the APS-C sensor and it’s crop factor it basically becomes a normal 50mm lens). I personally prefer a prime lens over a zoom lens. Even though the zoom lens has the versatility, the prime lens (and in particular a normal prime lens, typically 50mm in 35mm film format or full frame) comes very close to your eyes perspective. First learn the basics of photography and then latter experiment with other lenses to understand how it impacts the outcome.

  41. Hi, Wouter:
    I’m new to your site and blown over by the quality of your work. If I could just get a smidgen of the black-and-white quality you achieve in each picture, I’d be happy.

    But I’m getting old and lazy, and just want to compose and the jpegs straight from the camera–I’m a latecomer to digital photography, and intimidated by the arcana required to persuade raw pictures to sensational heights. If the GRDIII requires the post-shooting effort which you lavish on your shots, is the GRDIII still usable by a person with my aims–pure, unruffled jpegs?

    I’d appreciate your thoughts.

    Best wishes,
    John

    1. Hello John, I personally think the unedited B&W jpegs from the GRDIII are still a bit flat in appearance (even with maximum contrast). But a minimal of contrast bump in a simple editing program can be enough. There is no need to do extensive post processing. And while it may appear differently I usually done with a minute with a photograph.

      If you really want to do know post processing and still want very decent looking B&W jpegs I think you should look for the Panasonic LX5 (or the LX3) with it’s dynamic B&W in-camera setting. And the Olympus XZ-1 seems to do a nice thing with the grainy B&W filter (although you may find that limiting at some point).

      1. Hi again, Wouter:
        I greatly appreciate your comments, and will try the first option which you presented, since I’ve already ordered a GRD III from B&H Photo here in the States.

        But aside from the cameras you mentioned in your second paragraph, do you think that the GXR/(Camera Unit?) would be better in making B&W JPGs? I could switch cameras if I call the company in time.

        Many thanks,
        John

        1. Hi John,

          The GXR with the A12 28mm lens uses the same image engine as the GRDIII, but in my opinion gets a lot better B&W jpegs due to the larger sensor. It has more dynamic range and more gradual tonality. Overall though the GXR is slightly larger than the GRDIII, but still an amazing camera to use.

          I published a new post with an example of an out of camera B&W jpeg from the GRDIII and the same photograph with some minimal post processing in Adobe Lightroom (http://ow.ly/5yd9R).

  42. Just curious if your mention of the XZ-1 means you’ve used one or own one? I currently have both the GRD III and XZ-1. In some ways, the GRD III is like a “subset” of the XZ-1 because the XZ-1 is virtually the same at the wide end (28mm f/1.8 for the XZ-1, 28mm f/1.9 for the GRD III), but then the XZ-1 also goes to 112mm f/2.5. The XZ-1 doesn’t have Snap mode, but I think the auto-focus on the XZ-1 is faster than the GRD III. They both seem to have great optics to me. I think the GRD III is slightly better than the XZ-1 at 28mm, but the added zoom of the XZ-1 lens is very useful and makes the slight quality edge of the GRD III at 28mm acceptable (mostly because it’s not a huge difference). The GRD III is a bit smaller and easier to carry in a pocket, but I can get the XZ-1 into many of my pockets too. I didn’t like the grip on the XZ-1 as much as the one on the GRDs. But once I stuck on a small thin piece of dense black foam rubber on the XZ-1, I found I like it fine now! I will continue to shoot with both for quite some time I think…:-).

    1. I haven’t used one, but my experience with Olympus cameras have always been positive. Even though the lens at 28mm might seem similar for both cameras I still think both cameras are not really comparable. I like the GRDIII for what it is and for what it isn’t. It is highly customizable, but also very simple. The right options, but no overkill.

      I made the remark concerning the XZ-1 (just like the LX3/LX5) for their ooc B&W jpegs if you want to minimize post processing.

      Enjoy both cameras, but most importantly enjoy taking photographs.

      1. I agree that it’s silly to get too caught up in the equipment and forget about the joy and importance of taking the photos! However, I’ve used equipment that has given me disappointing results because it just didn’t work very well or was low quality. Of course, you can play up the low quality (e.g., Holga, toy cameras, etc) and make it into an “art form” too.

        Generally, using a camera seems like a very subjective experience to me…like you have this “relationship” with a piece of equipment and either it’s a good working relationship or it isn’t. When you and a camera work well together, it can be quite exhilarating…:-).

  43. Hello again, Wouter:
    This exchange is developing nicely, isn’t it? thanks in part to Mr G-M’s contributions. Good to know that he’s evenly balanced with a camera for each hip. I would be wild-eyed from trying to remember which menu goes with what camera.

    Yes, I looked with interest at your post-JPG comparisons and there is a wonderful enhancement present in the second version. It’s just better, in the darks, in the clarified middles, all over, isn’t it? I think I’m going to have to bite the bullet and learn at least the simplest methods (along the lines you’ve mentioned) for my own work. Thanks for the inspiration.

    About the GXR with the A12 28mm lens–Is that a fast lens?–I will read up on the camera, since I know next to nothing about it other than the fact that it has separable parts. I would hope that one of the lens modules contains a fast lens.

    And I’d like very much to learn more about individual shots on your site, but don’t know what is meant by the term “exif data”.

    Best wishes,and thanks,
    John

    1. John,

      Wouter will probably answer this–he’s amazingly generous with his time and information!–but if you are on a Windows computer (I’m on one that is running Windows Vista), you can save any of Wouter’s images to your hard drive (by right button clicking and selecting “save image as”) and then view the main EXIF info right in Windows file explorer. I just have to click on the image file while in Windows file explorer and it’ll show EXIF properties right at the bottom of my screen. For example, I’ve discovered that Wouter is taking many of his daily photo project photos with a Panasonic GF1 with a Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 attached to it…;p. If you right button click on a file while in Windows file explorer, you can see even more EXIF info. Image file management programs–like Adobe Bridge, Google Picassa, Adobe Lightroom, etc–also make EXIF info (like Camera make, camera model, f-stop, shutter speed, image title, time and date photo was taken, etc etc) easily viewable as well. Best, Mike

  44. Hi, Wouter and Mike:
    Mike, I appreciate your taking your valuable time to give me entrance to EXIF. Since I have a Mac I had to google and find what to do. I downloaded some items and, presumably, now can make my EXIF at will. I’ll try this soon–but not tonight. Thanks.

    Wouter, my “researches” so far have revealed that this GXR is a pricey article indeed, with the lens module you recommend. I’m afraid I’ll have to pull in my horns and go back to square one and enjoy learning to use and to customize the GRDIII. Then I’ll venture a beginner’s steps for Lightroom.

    I’ll keep trying to absorb the good information you have afforded me today.
    Best wishes and many, many thanks.
    John

    1. I couldn’t have helped you better than Michael! Regarding the GXR I wrote an impression about it with the 28mm lens which you can read here http://wp.me/pa50k-Y5

      And when it comes to Lightroom there are so many tutorials on the internet, just check youtube for instance and search for ‘Adobe Lightroom tutorials’.

  45. Hi, Wouter:
    That’s a great idea!–thanks!–I never would have known that there was such a thing as a tutorial for software applications, so you can see how wet behind the ears I am in computer matters. I’m looking forward to trying this and will report on my progress at some point.

    As for my photographic background: I’ll try to be brief: I had training in the military in photography, and became a Leica enthusiast (my model–I forget the number–had a wonderful f1.4 lens, which is why I look for a fast lens today), and developed and printed my own (film, of course) pictures. Back then I liked Tri-X film, which had the heaviest grain, but recently I’ve become fascinated by the 35mm cinema work of the classic and silent film periods, the French and German films–all of the great ’20s, ’30s, ’40’s international cinema masters, as well, of course, as the great still photographers.

    I’d like to get some of their rangy quality in digital still photography, and without nostalgic adding of a grainy effect.

    To me, Wouter, your work represents this sort of full-range clarity in a quite modern sense, with your own fresh feeling for what can make a picture. Beautiful.

    But I feel like Rip Van Winkle–waking up twenty, forty, years later and finding a new ball game in progress, and am spinning my wheels to catch up with the new times. In this effort, I appreciate all your help.

    Best wishes,
    John

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