Using a Ricoh GRD III and a Nikon DSLR to photograph streets, people, architecture and anything else that catches my eye.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Ricoh GRD

I have to stress once again that my knowledge of photography is not exactly commanding. I understand the basics of exposure, focal length, depth of field, ISO and white balance. For me, this enough, as I can create the images I need using aperture mode, shutter mode and even manual. I understand the rule of thirds (which is a rule I like to break often). I think I have a good eye for composition. All these skills are things that improve with the years, and I am learning new things constantly. I also know that I have a long way to go, and I look forward to the journey.

One thing I know very little about is photographic hardware. There are so many types of camera out there, and they all have specific uses and enthusiastic users. I can only comment on digital cameras, as I have left the world of film photography a very long time ago.

Up to a few years ago, I believed that the DSLR was the last word in cameras. I was very wrong.

I was becoming more interested in street photography, and have never been keen on waving a DSLR lens around in a crowd. I needed something small but with all the controlability of my DSLR; something which is not so obvious to the target public. After following other photographers' images, and looking into how they worked, I realised that a great many of them had swapped their DSLR for something different. I noticed that a few particular cameras kept coming up: some rather expensive (Leica rangefinders) and some more affordable (Canon S90). These two are just examples. There are now a great many manufacturers entering this area of photography, and the choice is not so easy.  At that time (2008), the camera which finally caught my interest was the Ricoh GRD. 

The GRD is a very small and stealth-like compact, with a super high quality prime lens. The camera has a character all of it's own, producing RAW or JPG images with a very distinct look and feel. There are no whistles and bells on this little baby, but it does have complete control over shutter and aperture control within a highly customizable control set up. Finally, it is beautifully built, and strong, and small!

This was the first version of the GRD, which has evolved over the years, (soon to be GRD4) but managing to look and feel like a GRD. The camera has an incredibly loyal and enthusiastic following, which has been looked after and appreciated by Ricoh over the years.

Take a look at these images, from Flickr, to give an example of the kind of thing that can be gleamed from this little back box.(GRD2 & GRD3 maybe included here) / Tags / grd / Interesting

You can tell if a camera is great when it has a fantastic user forum. The Ricoh Forum is a prime example, which covers all of Ricoh's specialist cameras: Ricoh Forum

For all the geeks and pixel counters out there, the DP Reviews page has all the technical stuff.

I managed to find myself a second hand (but well loved) Ricoh GRD on the mighty ebay, for around £100. This was pretty good for a camera which was £400 new.  At that time, I think many people were trading up from the GRD to the newly launched GRD2.  The camera arrived promptly, and as usual, I charged her up and started shooting away.  My initial results were less than overwhelming, and I started to wonder if I had made a mistake in buying into the Ricoh world.  It really did take a long time before I started to get results which had always come easy with a DSLR.  It seemed that a lot of thought and work had to be put into the GRD to get good results.

I had to start at square one and learn how to use this strange little camera.  I certainly could not get the 'street photography' images I was hoping for.  Instead, I concentrated on capturing still objects, architecture, and places. I found myself taking my Nikon with me aswell, and quite often giving up with the Ricoh.

Here is a very early image, which gave me hope. This was quite heavily vignetted through Adobe Lightroom, which is one of those things I noticed in other people's work.  Photography is all about inspiration and influence.

I had in my pocket, a small but fully manual camera; which I knew would eventually give me the freedom to take my photography everywhere, without something forever hanging around my neck.


Anonymous said...

I like that shot!
And all your reviews :)

Michael Gatton said...

That is a quite nice image, something about the quality of the colors? Dynamic range? Sharpness? Whatever it is, it's nice. I like the vignetting, gives it a dreamy old fashioned quality as well..

Gerry's Blog said...

Good shot bill, but love your review of the GRD. I have been wanting to get a smaller camera to take to work with me and Im still debating over the GRDIV or the X100 .... but your review has me moving towards the GRD.

Bill Wellham said...

Thankyou all!

Gerry, maybe worth waiting to check out the reception of the GRDiv. I suspect it will be great (I want one), but the Fuji does look lovely and has got good reviews too. It's a tough decision nowadays with so many of these great little cameras out there.

Gerry's Blog said...

Yes that is what I was thinking... I don't want to replace my DSLR I want this as a going to work or going out where a DSLR is too big to carry. My only hang up is I don't want to change my shooting style too much and with the GRDIII my style will change. That could be a good thing too, thanks for your input.