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First impressions of the Ricoh GR? It’s a hit

I spent the past two days walking around with my new Ricoh GR — the first time I’ve had it out for a couple hours with the intention of doing photography, as opposed to taking it with me to the beach or out to dinner. My five-word review: It’s a fantastic street photography camera.

As I mentioned in my previous post about my street photography gear, the Ricoh is my new every-day-walking-around camera. I’m not sure I really needed it — I’d already downsized from a DSLR to the Olympus OMD line, so it’s not like I couldn’t fit my EM5 into my messenger bag. But big-sensor compacts seem to be all the rage these days and I figured it would be nice to have a camera that I could carry around in my pocket, with all due respect to my iPhone.

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The APS-C 16-megapixel sensor in the Ricoh is actually bigger than the Micro Four Thirds sensor in my Olympus EM5 and EM1. It’s a fixed-lens compact with a lens equivalent to a 28mm full-frame view. If you’re looking for a technical breakdown of its capabilities, you should go here. But here’s what I can tell you: it’s super light but not in a plasticky kind of way. The magnesium alloy body is sturdy and feels like it’s built to last. There’s a rubberized handgrip for ergonomics and a 3-inch LCD screen, which is the same size as the one on my EM5. There’s also a built-in, pop up flash.

The Ricoh turns on almost immediately, with very little lag. The controls are pretty intuitive, though I did need to consult the manual a couple times. Besides having a great sensor for such a small camera, it has full manual controls. There are no flower or moon icons on the mode dial. There’s also three spots on the dial for you to add custom presets.

Aperture and shutter speed are controlled by dials that can easily be controlled with your thumb and index finger. ISO can be set via the menu, as can the white balance. There’s a neutral density filter, which I didn’t get around to using, and there are some art filters, such as BW, cross process, sepia and bleach bypass, as well as a tilt-shift effect. I usually don’t mess around with art filters but for yesterday’s walk, I used the BW filter.

I was actually surprised at how much I liked shooting with the in-camera BW effect. [The pictures here were all touched up in post-process.]

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But here’s my biggest (pleasant) surprise in walking around with the Ricoh GR. You’re virtually invisible. I held the camera up to take pictures of people and they hardly gave me a second glance. Here’s why: The shutter is practically silent and, because there’s no viewfinder, you’re looking at the LCD instead of making eye contact with people so there’s a bit of a disconnect.

The biggest hesitation I had about buying this camera was the lack of a built-in viewfinder but, now, I’m thinking there are some advantages of not having one.

Will it replace my Olympus EM5 for street photography? No. At least not all the time. There’ still something much more fulfilling about using a viewfinder and having the camera hanging off your shoulder. But on the many days that I leave the EM5 at home, I’ll have no qualms about heading out with the Ricoh GR in my back pocket.

All images by Joe Newman.

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Joe Newman

I'm Joe Newman, multi-media story teller, non-profit do-gooder, international street photographer, serious poker player, intrepid traveler. Bourbon drinker.

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