Brief update

2010, Photography

Many photographers would love to have smaller camera, but with the image quality of a dSLR. Some efforts have already been made like the cameras with fixed lenses, the Sigma DP1/DP2, and Leica X1. And of course the m4/3’s with interchangeable lenses from Olympus and Panasonic. And today Sony introduced there NEX3 and NEX5 with APS-C sensor and a zoom and prime lens.

But I wonder: “Did they go to far?” These cameras seem all to be about lens mount and huge lenses. In particular the NEX5 is so small that when you use the zoom lens you wonder whether you attached the body to the lens. And there is no electronic viewfinder or hotshoe available, although they have an optical viewfinder for 16mm prime lens.

I guess I am too old-fashioned. I like simplicity, reliability, and prefer dials for shutter speed and ISO, a viewfinder, and an aperture ring on the lens. Some might say, deal with it, you don’t have to use every function on the camera. A good photographer can use anything to make good photographs, but there are also emotions involved. That is why some prefer Nikon, others Canon, or Leica. The camera that doesn’t hinder you and becomes an extention of your hand and eye is often your best camera. If you have that camera I suggest you stop looking at dpreview or other gear head related websites and forums. Take, or better make photographs. Try to understand photographs, the strenght of compositions, be aware of your surroundings and what you intend to say.

And me, I am personally very happen with the Ricoh GR Digital III. I love the handling of the camera and don’t know, but I seem to be the only person in the world who actually prefers the adjustment lever Ricoh implemented since the Ricoh GX100 instead of the GR Digital I adjustment wheel. Having less time for late night editing, I have a family and a busy job, I love the GRD3 B&W jpeg’s. I use a preset in Lightroom for additional contrast, bring the photographs into Photoshop for resizing and little sharpening and I am ready. I don’t have to think when using this camera.

Enjoy your photography, find good light and have fun.

All photographs by Wouter Brandsma

33 thoughts on “Brief update

  1. I’m more and more questioning the appeal of cameras like the NEX-series and the m4/3’s.

    Because of the huge lenses they miss the point & shoot “feel” that compact shooters love. On the other hand, dSLR die hards won’t go for these expensive alternatives with less functions and no viewfinder.

    So who are these camera manufacturers actually targeting at?

    1. I just don’t understand Sony. They could produce a digital Hexar AF, but come up with an APS-C sensor, shutter button, LCD screen and a huge lens mount. I see a purpose for the m4/3’s, the DP1/DP2 and the X1. But these NEX-series? Dunno.

  2. My GRD I broke down a couple of weeks ago (famous lens problem), and I’ve been scanning the reviews all over the net looking for a replacement. Didn’t find it (GRDII is expensive!). Went down to the MediaMarkt to get a feel of a couple of cameras, but none of them felt good like the GRD does. It just feels great and handles even better. I must say though that the Ricoh GRD was and is my only digital camera to this date.

    For the exact reasons you describe, I decided a couple of days ago to send the Ricoh for repair. The risk of the camera breaking down again is worth it, although it probably will happen again some day. Unfortunately.

    Since the GRD broke down I picked up my old Pentax ME Super slr, and it’s a absolute joy to use for it’s simplicity. I would actually prefer it over the Ricoh, if it wasn’t for it’s size and costs involved of processing film.
    If there was a digital version of a camera like that, I’d buy it. No bells, no toys, just a viewfinder, 2 dials and a shutter. Leica comes pretty close, but is way beyond my (and many others) budget.

    I did consider the gx200 and gx100, but I am a huge fan of shooting with a fixed lens. In a way it somehow works for me when I grab my camera. Makes me more creative. It’s why I also like the classic 50mm lens on my Pentax. I have a couple of zooms for the camera as well, but I rarely use(d) them.

    Last thing I’d like to say that I really enjoy your blog and especially your photos.
    Please keep it up!

    Groeten uit het noorden des lands!

    1. To bad you got problems with your GRD1, but wise that you decided to fix it. I would say the GRD3 is a great replacement, but it remains an expensive camera.

      I personally think the costs of processing film and getting a decent scanner is tough too, but the best film alternative for the GRD1 would be IMO the GR1. And there are some terrific other compact cameras from the nineties, like the Contax T-series, Nikon 28/35 Ti, Leica Minilux. All small, high quality materials, and good metering, and best of all, a lot of fun to use.

      Hope your GRD1 gets fixed very quickly and thank you for your comment.

      Groeten uit Midden Nederland.

    2. I don’t know if the problem that you have is the same that I had, mine was that the camera collapses when I push the adj button. Well yesterday I fixed it, by now, dropping four drops of alcohol in the adj button. Now the camera works like brand new. I saved 150 euros in repair!

      Congrats on your blog Wouter, in fact I found it looking for a solution for my problem wich I found in a flickr group.

  3. I have to agree. The Sony NEX cameras appear to appeal to no one, and IMO it is not aesthetically pleasing or balanced.

    My hope is that once we get past the newness of the smaller large-sensor cameras we may see one or two “dumb-downed” versions with simpler controls aimed at serious photographers. Then again, I think those days may be over. And like you, I am pressed for time between work and family and to be honest the built-in controls often help save me PP time. Good enough is often good enough.

    The GXR is to me that simpler large-sensor camera that has become fast and efficient for me to use. It is simple enough and I love the way it renders B&W. The GRD3, the same.

    1. Maybe some day I would consider the GXR with the later to be released 28mm lens enough, but I kind of still hope Ricoh will once produce the true GR1 form factor with a larger sensor. And the ultimate camera for me would be a digital Contax G2 or (when we’re talking fixed lenses) a Hexar AF.

      But now, I am totally fine with my current set up. The GRD3 for street, landscape, and what ever I see. And the Canon 10D with my legacy lenses for when I need a bit more focal length.

  4. While I cannot speak to the craft of making better pictures, mostly because that remains very much a work-in-progress for me, I find it rather amusing in hindsight that after having spent almost a year convincing myself to purchase a Nikon dSLR (the D80 or then new D300), I wound up with a Canon 40D almost entirely because it felt ‘right’ in my hand.

    The entire notion of it being an extension of my hand and arm weighed heavily in the deliberative process and in the last 2-weeks of a 52-week reading & research spree I wound up somewhere completely unexpected.

    1. I am a Nikon shooter but bought two 40D’s a few months apart for resale, and have to agree that the 40D’s feel in the hand is fantastic. When I put an old MF Nikkor 24/2.8 on it it felt so great to handle I thought about keeping the 40D both of these times! 🙂

  5. I echo your sentiments, Wouter, with regard to simplicity of design.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if a camera manufacturer actually provided focusing aids in the viewfinder of DSLRs for those of us who like to use manual lenses but whose eyesight is not quite what it used to be 20 years ago.

    Your last shot of the falling rain captures the mood of a wet day in northern Europe wonderfully.

  6. Hallo Wouter,

    Ten eerste wil ik je complimenteren met je website. Het is een waar genoegen om je site te bekijken met je goede commentaren en toelichtingen op het gebied van compactcamera’s, waarbij wederom het bewijs wordt geleverd dat je met deze camera’s ook goede foto’s kan schieten.

    Ik fotografeer zelf met een spiegelreflex, maar ik wil ik graag ook een compact camera aanschaffen, zoals voor vele vanuit een praktisch oogpunt. Ik twijfel zelf tussen de Ricoh GRD III of de Leica D Lux 4. Beide camera’s hebben goede recencies wereldwijd en zijn camera’s met het back to basic principe. Dat spreekt mij erg aan, en dat je de foto’s in RAW kan bewerken, vooral voor omzetting naar zwart/wit geen overbodige luxe. Mijn voorkeur gaat toch uit naar de GRD III, vooral door zijn snelle lens. Ik wil de camera gebruiken voor straat en portretfotografie. Aangezien ik ook in gerenomeerde fotozaken niet echt wijzer wordt, graag jouw advies als kenner op dit gebied. Voor mij is het belangrijk om shots te schieten met ISO 800/1600. Naar mijn inziens scoort de GRD III vooral beter dan de Leica. Daarnaast kan je de foto’s met de GRD III bewerken met Lighroom, dat vind ik zelf belangrijk. Volgens mij kan je dit niet met de Leica D-Lux 4.
    Maar misschien zijn er nog nieuwe releases op stapel, waarvan jij zegt om nog even te wachten met de aanschaf van de camera.

    Alvast bedankt voor je reactie

    1. Ik ben niet Wouter maar wilde toch iets over je vraag zeggen;
      De Leica dlux 4 is exact dezelfde camera als de Panasonic lx3, welke de helft kost van zowel de Ricoh als de Leica. wellicht is dat ook een overweging.

      Heb zelf onlangs de leica en de panasonic in mijn handen gehad, en ik moet zeggen dat de bedienig van de GRD vele malen beter voelt. Ben zelf in het bezit van een GRDI.
      Ik kan je zeker aanraden om de camera’s zelf eens ter hand te nemen.

      Groet Mats

    2. Hallo Pim, Dank je wel en voel je vrij vragen te stellen. Zowel de dlux 4 (en de LX3 die Mats terecht noemt) als de GRD3 zijn volgens mij momenteel de meest interessantste compactcamera’s op de markt. Als je de voorkeur aan een zoom lens geeft ontkom je bijna niet aan de Leica of Panasonic. Geef je de voorkeur aan een vaste brandpunt en wil je de beste gebruikersinterface is volgens mij de Ricoh echt de absolute top.

      Ik zelf ben heel erg content met de prestaties op ISO 800/1600. Daarbij spreekt dat de lens een maximale opening heeft van f/1.9! En het klopt dat je de RAW foto’s van de GRD3 in Lightroom kunt bewerken (zijn immers DNG’s), maar inmiddels kunnen de RAW foto’s van de LX3 en dlux 4 ook in Lightroom bewerkt worden.

      Vergelijk de prestaties niet met die van een spiegelreflex, maar zie dit soort camera’s meer als schetscamera’s. Zeg maar een kleine camera met ISO 400 tot 1600 film.

  7. Agree with you Wouter. Sony has gone to far with minimalizing the body. I rather have a bigger body, but slimmer lens design. Bigger body is steadier to hold and important to balance long lens.

    I think Ricoh made the best body and interface. Unfortunately GXR performance is not as expected. Anyway, I hope that 28mm f/2.5 and future lens block rock, and they improve the AF performance.

  8. Hallo Wouter,
    Ik was nog het volgende vergeten in mijn berichtje. Ik las in de comments dat je ook met de GDR III JPG B&W kan fotograferen. Wat is jouw ervaring. Ik heb zelf een CANON sprflx en ben niet tevreden met de instelling B&W. Erg flets. Dus ik fotograaf nu in RAW en bewerkt het in Lightroom en dan optie HSL kleuren. Maar het zou mooi als dit met de GDR niet hoeft en alleen maar met Lightroom de constrasten aan te passen. Trouwens het is altijd teleurstellend bij het afdruk resultaat, ondanks dat ik dit altijd bij de betere fotowinkels laat doen. Wederom dank voor je reactie.

    1. Profotonet komt binnenkort met echt zwartpapier op de markt (papier en printproces van Ilford) wat hopelijk veel kan uitmaken. Ik heb daarnaast ook een foto laten afdrukken bij een clublid middels een Epson 3800 en ik was erg onder de indruk.

      Voor wat betreft het instellen van opties bij de GRD3 is er veel mogelijk en kun je prachtige zwartwit foto’s mee maken. Alle bovenstaande foto’s zijn zwartwit jpegs met een preset in Lightroom. Bij de Panasonic LX3 is de dynamic B&W ook behoorlijk goed voor mooie contrastrijke zwartwit foto’s.

    2. Hallo Pim,
      Ik ben zelf erg tevreden met mijn Panasonic LX3, die ik naast mijn Nikon D80 spiegelreflex gebruik. En ik moet zeggen dat ik tegenwoordig meer mijn LX3 pak. Met name de eigen filminstelling voor zwartwit is erg verfijnd, waarbij het mogelijk is om zowel contrast, scherpte als ruisonderdrukking afzonderlijk in te stellen. Ik fotografeer bijna altijd in de hoogste kwaliteit JPG. Voor de nabewerking gebruik ik Photoshop CS3 en de geweldige Nik software plugins. Neem maar eens een kijkje op mijn website, dan krijg je een indruk wat er met de LX3 mogelijk is.

  9. Great shots Wouter. I really love the high contrast ‘grainy’ photos you do sometimes. I’m still with my G1 although last week got a Fuji F70 exr as my pocket camera.

    Using my cameras for work purposes is draining my enthusiasm for taking personal photos at the moment, although just had a weekend away in Wales which I really enjoyed and got one or two nice shots along the way 🙂

    My wife really enjoyed using the Fuji and also enjoyed my company better as I wasn’t so grumpy about getting ‘perfect’ shots.

  10. Hallo Wouter, Mats en Pieter,

    Bedankt voor jullie snelle reactie. Goed om onafhankelijk advies te krijgen. Ik raak toch steeds meer gecharmeerd van de GRD III. Ik ga de komende weken nog maar eens een goede afweging maken. Maar het blijft prachtig om met zo’n kleine back to basic camera zulke mooie opnamens te maken. Juist dat er geen zoom op de GRD III zit, wordt er een beroep gedaan op de kennis en kunde van je als fotograaf. Het ons toch vooral om het technische aspect. Ik zal met veel plezier je website bekijken!


  11. I agree that Sony went way over board with the new NEX design and who uses a 24mm lens as their standard prime?

    I really wish Ricoh would make a GRD III with a fast f2/35mm or f2/40mm. The 28 is just a little too wide for my taste, but otherwise it’s a fantastic little camera.

    1. I would personally love to see a larger GRD with an optical viewfinder (just like the GR1 film camera), larger sensor and a fast f/2.0 35mm lens. If Sony is not prepared to produce a digital Hexar AF I can only hope Ricoh will be.

  12. I guess the most interesting thing about the Sony NEX cameras is in that it shows us how small an interchangeable lens camera can be. If Sony or others use this technology to produce a more photographer oriented camera, there should be plenty of room to include your optical viewfinder and all the required dials without making the body much larger than the current Ricoh GRX or Panasonic GF1.

    The 3rd photo is fantastic, Wouter. I love the delicate structure of the flower set off against the dark background.

  13. I totally agree with your opinion.
    I have a small compact camera which I like a lot of this small camera produces b&w photos. I am too tired to follow the gear discussion etc.
    Just enjoy taking picture and happy with the journey…

    Btw, your blog is very good and inspiring me to enjoy the photography.


  14. Dear Wouter:
    I hava read about your article in GRDbook named “GRD 極致的浪漫” . I love your deeply description life.The Book makes me know you more.I love your B&W photos and also expect your photos In the future.

    1. Thank you so much for mentioning. I hope to see the book soon. But mostly I should thank Mookio for her incredible effort to produce such a book and interviewing people all over the world.

  15. Wouter, I wish too they would make a Digi-Hexar!
    For now though, my GRD has died with the lens lock.
    I use my Fuji F200EXR now mostly but seldom do B&W any more, far prefer GRD monochrome jpegs.
    My Oly E410 with 25mm pancake comes close as it does produce in-camera B&W of very very good quality but the 50mm efl is limiting and the Liveview is sloooooow.
    Then I found the m4/3 Olympus E-PL1 and the 17mm f2.8 Pancake.
    The controls do not match the Ricoh for speed.
    But I now have a reasonably fast 35mm efl in a fairly compact body with superb IQ!

    1. I read you got an E-PL1 with the 17mm lens. I am pretty interested in your experience with the camera. Too bad the GRD has died. I tell you the GRDIII is really special, but so should be the E-PL1 and the later to be announced Pana 14mm (a m4/3 GRD killer?).

  16. Thanks Wouter, I may get it fixed, still in mourning.
    Here is one of my first B&W images from the Pen…
    Waitin' for a Ride

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