It is not always what it seems

2012, Photography
Not really Siberia

Not really Siberia

Things are not always what it seems. I wrote several times about the Ricoh cameras I used, like the GRD3 and the GX200. From a photographer’s point of view these cameras are made for photographers. Some of the best user interface, the customization, you name it. Now these cameras are hard to acquire in most of the world and even here in the Netherlands you won’t find many stores with these cameras. Most reviews are in favor of these cameras although Ricoh’s cameras do use outdated technology, like the older sensors. Ricoh engineers however push their available technology to the max. I love these cameras, not because they are named after a copier. No, they are meant to use as a tool, a good tool.

Unfortunately though I experienced myself that these cameras comes with flaws. Not immediately, but after a while. I bought a GX100 in 2007, had that camera for a year, but could only use it for 9 months. The other months that camera was at the repair service. Dust in the lens, three times. Its replacement, the GX200, seemed to be a good deal. In the 1.5 years I had that camera I never had a problem with it. Although it performed flawless I never grew into that camera. I didn’t like the output for my B&W photography. I briefly had a GRD1, liked that camera a lot, but the autofocus gave problems at some point. The lens was front focusing, even to the point that snap mode didn’t work anymore. The GRD1 was replaced by the GRD3 I liked so much. While I still consider the GRD3 a perfect photographer’s camera I had several problems with it. The camera once stopped functioning and was replaced by another sample. With that camera, which I still have, the LCD screen was replaced (scratched surface), the lens was replaced (AF problem, misalignment and dust), and now the autofocus isn’t working properly. These current problems remind me of the AF problems I had with the GRD1.

I am noticing that I become hesitating of recommending or personally buying a new Ricoh camera. I guess I have had enough problems in the last five years with my cameras. Enough camera stuff too. The above photograph was taken near my hometown in surprisingly cold weather. The beautiful light, the fog, and the snow gave me a brief moment of joy.

Photograph by Wouter Brandsma

43 thoughts on “It is not always what it seems

  1. Wouter: Very nice image and your thoughts on Ricoh cameras are very meaningful to me. Thanks for your frank discussion. If you had to move away from Ricoh, what kinds of cameras would you be looking at? Fujis?

    1. I felt like I needed to say it, even though I realize that Ricoh has been good to me too. And I don’t know Richard. Cameras are expensive and reduces my possibilities considerably. The Fuji X10 and Panasonic LX5 prices are going down. Maybe an LX3. The Canon G15 is too expensive now, but I think it is an interesting camera.

      1. Hello Wouter, sage comments on Ricoh. Having had both the LX3 and LX5, my suggestion is the LX5 prices are going down, considerably and its a great performer, in your hands I’m sure it would be delightful. Cheers and its been a while. I’ll send you a message later on via email.

      2. I have a Canon G15 and an S100 and I must say, while the G15 has a nice new lens, the S100 feels more like a balanced package to me. They both share the same sensor and processor, just the lens differs and the S100 sports 24mm on the wide side as do the LX cameras from Panasonic. If the G15 had 24mm on the wide side, a better or EVF viewfinder and a slightly bigger sensor it would be perfect. I’ve been taking so many images with these smaller cameras that my DSLR kit sat in a drawer for over a year. I sold it all recently and may or may not re-enter that world. You might also consider the micro 4/3 world, another photographer I’ve followed for years uses various Panasonic models in this category: http://wvs.topleftpixel.com. You can hover over his images to see the gear used and you’ll see he’s getting great images out of various Panasonic models.

        1. I still have a Panasonic GF1 with m4/3 sensor. I like that camera a lot, but I do prefer to use a small sensor camera for my daily photography. I feel most comfortable with these small sensor cameras and I just love the small sensor aesthetics. Do these Canon cameras also support square format?

          1. Yes, they support multiple aspect ratios in camera if you want that, and various color filters and black and white in camera if you want that. Both the G15 and the S100 have this ability (it’s no doubt part of the DIGIC 5 processor).

  2. Hi Wouter, great picture, your photo shows some cold melancholia. Regarding Ricoh, I had a GX200 for serveral years. I really enjoyed the small camera, It was always fun to shoot but I was not satisfied with its sensor. Well, I sold my GX200 and brought a used Fuji X10 this sommer. The sensor is great and the user interface and lens is very good. The little Fuji gets my “highly recommended”.

    1. Thank you for the recommendation Markus. Like you, I was really unhappy with the GX200 sensor. It was however my most reliable Ricoh camera. The X10 seems like an interesting camera for sure.

  3. Wouter,
    Never had a problem with my gx100, until this summer when for some reason i cant turn on the camera with the photo viewing button. Apart from that no dust or other issues. I now have an oly epl1 too, which is great for the money but I still love the gx100 and the way it handles. Macros with the gx 100 are unbeatable from a camera of this size. Speed too, really swiftbto,powerup and pns.
    Nice blog Wouter!
    B rgd
    Paul “pollobarca”

    1. Hi Paul, You had that GX100 very long. Pretty slick that it kept working properly for so long. I still miss that camera, but was plagued too much with dust in the lens. I hope all is well with you.

      Cheers, Wouter

  4. wouter…i have followed your blog for a couple years now. Really enjoy it. I too have had a gx100, a gx200 and a grd 1 all fail for one reason or another. Like you, I loved the results I got but terribly unreliable. Its a real shame. Bought a used gx200 so we shall see how long it lasts.

    1. If the joy of using these cameras is in sync with proper reliability it would be an unbeatable combination. Unfortunately it doesn’t always seem to be the case. The GX200 was a very reliable camera and many thought it was a mayor improvement over the GX100. It was just the output that let down for me. It had a lot of blotchy noise in the blue channel. And it gave me lots of problems in my B&W photography. The B&W jpegs were not on par with those from the GX100 in my opinion and my B&W conversion technique didn’t work well with the GX200 raw images.

  5. Wow! Thanks for your frank blog post Wouter! Durability has been one of my concerns with my Ricoh GXR lately. However, the only other camera I would consider to replace it to achieve a more durable platform would be the new Leica M that’s weather sealed. But there’s no way I can afford to spend that kind of money on my hobby. I would hope that before too long we would hear some news from Ricoh of the future direction they plan to go. We have no idea that internal challenges the company faces with the purchase of Pentax. But as others have said on other sites, Ricoh has always been hush hush as to what their future plans may be.

    But my concern for my favorite camera’s durability to last is a major concern as I don’t see a suitable replacement for the way I like to shoot now.

    1. A Leica M costs a lot of money and you still have to take into account that misalignment of the RF can occur. And I know you had dust in the lens of your GRD3 too. In fact a Dutch photographer contacted me today with his dust problem and mentioned your last year’s thread at seriouscompacts.com.

      I don’t mind uncertainty about future plans from a manufacturer when it’s current camera is good enough for me. It does become a concern when it think it’s product isn’t durable and reliable enough.

  6. Wouter, I’m afraid I can corroborate your experience. I’ve owned 4 Ricohs, a GR1, GR1v, GRD2 and GRD4. Of these only the GRD4 has been free of problems. All the others have had serious surgery. The GR1v sort of still works, but only on good days. So I agree, gorgeous cameras, best handling of any I’ve ever used, but I’d be very hesitant to strongly recommend them.

    Your photo here, on the other hand, I would recommend to anyone!

    1. Somehow these digital cameras are more pron to problems. I never had an issue with my GR1. In fact, even the small LCD on top is still functioning. And this camera dates back from late 1996. I have an older Olympus C4000z that worked for many years without any problem. Those first digital cameras were made like a brick.

      Regarding the photograph, I used that small Pentax Q. I am still amazed what that camera can do.

  7. Ricoh has always been a very likeable brand, so I guess us (for want of a better word) “serious” photographers really want their cameras to be great. Well, they are great, but not perfect. As you know, I had a GRD3 myself and I never found a sufficient way to deal with badly burned highlights. A problem I never had with other p&s cameras, not even with the less “serious” Ricoh CX3 I also used for a while.

    If I was still shooting digital and money wasn’t an issue, I would probably go for Fuji. Their X-series seem to be the new “photographers cameras”.
    I used a few models from the D-Lux/LX range, and they were most probably the best compacts I owned. It’s hard to take a technically “bad” picture with these cameras – which also can be downside, as it might be not “challenging” enough (if that makes sense).

    1. I guess part of the problem is that Ricoh uses a lot of stock components and then sticks it all together to kind of make it work. Their resources are limited, but the software engineers are very creative even though they maybe don’t get all the information from their suppliers.

      I do agree that I need the challenge too to get good photographs. Important reason for me to stick with jpegs instead of raw. I don’t like the ‘fixing’. Habits I got from using slide film for so long.

  8. I think the weather in that part of continent is very harsh on your cameras. I’d imagine if I had my cameras back in Chicago…god..either the battery dies or the glass breaks. I thought you still have your Lumix GF. It’s a fabulous piece of ‘tool’, I used to own a G3. The sensor/lens/rendering are flawless, perhaps a bit too silky smooth IMO and too DSLRish. But that’s a personal preference.

    Sorry to hear about the stories and how your Ricohs had turned out. Or you’d really go to the GRD IV without a thought. You know, there’s always a camera in your pocket, your phone 🙂

    1. I still have the GF1, Alan. It is just that the GRD3 is my main camera and not the GF1. All coming down to convenience of the size and aesthetics of the images. Thankfully the cell phone has become an alternative, especially in the 1:1 image ratio.

  9. Wouter, is the answer for you not the Pentax Q?

    By the way, I own a S95 and use a S100 on occasions at work. I personally think the S100 is a good video camera with 24mm stablized f2.0 lens but the S95 is a better camera as the output from the CCD sensor (CMOS in S100) is crisper/punchy. The S100 has developed sticky blades after the very short period.

    Overall I’ve not been impressed with either.

    A friend of mine has picked up a XZ1 now the newer model has come out. Now that has been impressive. Great lens with plenty of glass. Olympus cameras do square format as well as other formats. A XZ2 or X10 would be the only compacts I’d be interested in if I was after one at the moment.

    Jonathan

    1. Interesting suggestion Jonathan. I have always had a weak spot for Olympus. And the XZ1 is currently reasonably priced. I think the XZ1 together with the X10 and the LX5 are the main options. The G15 is still too expensive IMO.

  10. I have used many cameras. All of them have something that is annoying. Let’s see, I tried out a Canon S95, and it was lovely, but my sister took it. Best compact for carrying everywhere. You may not like the dynamic range, but I think Canon did a good job for what it is. No viewfinder, which is sad though. I had a Canon G9, which has the same sensor, but was bigger, but had a viewfinder. Liked it, not loved it. I kind of wish I kept it though anything past ISO 400 was crud. I needed to shoot low light. Sold it. I have a Leica D-Lux 4. Love the lens, hate the lens cap, the small sensor needs to be bigger, and anything past ISO 400 is touchy at best. Lens is nice, lens cap is ANNOYING! No viewfinder, and that’s sad. I have a Sony NEX 5 with kit and 16mm lens. Kit lenses are soft at times, and the AF focus isn’t always accurate, but it has a lovely APS-C sensor, and a tilt screen. No viewfinder. Ugh! (I need a viewfinder!) So, I will be testing a Fuji XE-1 soon. I will let you know what I think. If I could take the lens off the Leica and put it on the Sony, I’d be happy with that combo. All I would need is a viewfinder then. None of these cameras failed me, but I probably don’t shoot as much as you do.

    1. I could ask my parents in law. They have a V1 with the 10-30mm zoom lens. I am however afraid that this camera is too close to the GF1 I have. And I really prefer a small sensor camera. Thank you though for the suggestion, Michael.

  11. P&S digital cameras are not made to last, they are disposable, commodity items even the higher end ones like the Ricoh. Sad fact. You do great work with the Ricoh. Buy another maybe used. I don’t think any of your other options are going to be any more durable but they will probably have a worse interface. To me the GRD series is the only digital I’ve used that gets out of my way enough to work (with the possible exception of my iPhone but takes too long to get to the camera). I still prefer manual film cameras where I can tell every setting with a quick glance and there is no battery or on/off switch but the Ricoh is as good as they get in the digital world.

    1. They Ricoh is unbeatable when it comes to joy and free, liberating photography. No doubt about that. Agreed that digital cameras aren’t made to last, but this can be said about so many products in general.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Mike. It was really spectacular that morning and I was glad I that little Pentax Q with me. I am still surprised how well that camera works. The X10 seems a really good jpeg camera, something I really like.

  12. Hi Wouter, I enjoy your blog!! Years ago, I picked up a Ricoh GX200 with a wobbly lens 🙂 after reading your blog posts. It truly inspired me to move away from Digital SLRs and now I enjoy photography more and more with high-end compacts. I sold the GX200 eventually because of the low higher ISO performance. I now use the GRD 3 and 4 mostly and the Pentax Q when I want a 50mm (well, 47mm) view. I moved away from zoom lenses and my next one might be a Leica X2, so I can get the 35mm covered. I have had no problems with the GRD 3 and 4 so far. I love the GRD series and hope that Ricoh continues this tradition.

    Marco

  13. I’ve just picked up a nikon V1 to replace the Canon S95 my wife has taken over (because of our new baby girl). £215 from digitalrev. Have you considered one of these? What you get for your money is amazing! IMO

  14. Hi Wouter,

    Several years ago I ended up purchasing a GX200 on the basis of your comments and photos and I made a lot of great images with it. Several months ago I bought the GRD IV because I was looking for a Ricoh camera that had better low light performance so I could take better photos indoors. I really think Ricoh finally got things right with this version of the GRD!! It has an amazing autofocus and everything just seems to work! You should really try it out if you have the chance to! For me and other fellow “stroll photographers,” it would be wonderful if Ricoh(-Pentax) would make you their creative director or at least ask you for your input on the design and functionality of future Ricoh cameras…..

    David L.

    1. I am still full of doubts.whether I should get a new GRD, wait for the autumn when the GRDV is released, stick to the GRDIII with it’s flaws or get myself a camera from another brand, Image quality is not really an issue, but reliability is. It is good to learn from you that the GRDIV is really good. From what I hear it seems to be a good improvement.

      And me a creative director? LOL, Except for Ricoh Europe and Pentax Germany I sure don’t think Pentax Ricoh Japan knows about my excistence. Like I said, all I want is a reliable (and preferrably simple) camera. Something that would always work for many stroll photographers. In that regard I still believe the GRD became to sophisticated when you learn how simple the original GR1 was.

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