Almost one year ago (in January/March 2019) Ricoh has released its new generation of GR series camera – Ricoh GR III. This was a further development of a legendary street photography (and not only) camera. With some dramatic changes and technical upgrades.
Pretty interesting step from Ricoh was the continuation of sales of both models at the same time. Both generations – GR II and GR III – are still available for purchase.
Let’s look at some main differences between both models:
|GR II||GR III|
|Sensor resolution (effective)||Sensor resolution (effective)|
|APS-C CMOS 16.2 MP||APS-C CMOS 24.2 MP|
|Image stabilization||Image stabilization|
|N/A||3-axis sensor-shift shake reduction (SR)|
*with sensor dust removal feature
|18.3 mm, f/2.8|
7 elements in 5 groups (2 aspherical lens elements)
MFD: 30 cm (10 cm in Macro mode)
|18.3 mm, f/2.8|
6 elements in 4 groups (2 aspherical lens elements)
MFD: 10 cm (6 cm in Macro mode)
|Contrast detection||Hybrid AF (phase-matching and contrast detection)|
|Still image||Still image|
|RAW (DNG) 12-bit, JPEG||RAW (DNG) 14-bit, JPEG|
|Video recording||Video recording|
|Full HD at 30 fps||Full HD at 60 fps|
1/4000 sec (limited to 1/2000 at f/2.8)
1/4000 sec (limited to 1/2500 at f/2.8)
|No pop-up flash|
|3″ LCD, 1230 K dots|
Plastic (acrylic) screen protection panel
|3″ LCD, 1037 K dots|
Touch sensitive, Wide-view
Glass screen protection panel
|Dimensions and Weight||Dimensions and Weight|
approx. 251 g (with battery and SD card)
approx. 257 g (with battery and SD card)
approx. 320 shots
approx. 200 shots
USB-C with external power bank capability
Overall, the new Ricoh GR III has gained positive reviews. Yes, people were not happy about the absence of 4K video capability. Yes, some fans have been expecting to get weather sealing. Yes, new GR III was flooded with negative feedback due to the lack of pop-up flash. Yes, new model has got the drop of battery life.
But can all those things deter one of the most loyal users? I doubt.
Traditionally, Ricoh GR III is a combination of high image quality, quick snap focusing features and a small rigid body. Probably, the only feature that is really missing there, is some sort of weather sealing. This was one of the most anticipated add-on of GR users. I even had an opportunity to experience this “lack” while conducting the test. Due to a rainy weather I was unable to test the GR III out for longer period. But nonetheless I’d like to say thank you for our local Pentax Ukraine office for giving such an opportunity.
As its predecessor, Ricoh GR III suits more for professional photographers. Obviously, amateurs and non-photographers can use it. But not everyone will “understand the nature” of GR camera.
In my previous review of Ricoh GR II, it was already clear that this is the “street photographer’s dream”. The new generation is not an exception here.
Pocketable size will also assist you with carrying this camera everywhere. It is light, small, just try not to forget that GR III is still in your pocket ))
As well as with the previous GR II, the display of GR III is fixed. Thus, limiting your creative (or discrete) possibilities. But the screen quality is definitely better with the new upgrade. Due to better visibility and viewing angles it is more comfortable to use.
The updated sensor brings you the better image quality. But, at the same time, I’d also indicate that its “image spirit” has also changed. Now it is definitely “digital”, unlike the previous GR II which had some sort of “grainy look”.
Highly probably that Ricoh GR III is using the same (or may be similar) sensor together with Pentax K-3/K-3II and Pentax KP. I will not insist on this, but all the main technical features (like sensor diagonal size, surface area, pixel pitch and pixel area) are the same. With only some minor resolution difference. This, by the way, should guarantee good ISO performance and sharp images.
GR III also brings in in-body image stabilisation – Shake Reduction technology. This feature provides you with dust removal from the sensor. Also it allows you to get better shots while shooting at lower shutter speeds. Ricoh GR III is one of the few portable cameras with IBIS on the market today.
Ricoh GR III continues to offer its creative look filters: Standard, Vivid, Monotone, Soft Monotone, Hard Monotone, Hi-Contrast B&W, Positive Film, Bleach Bypass, Retro, HDR Tone and two Custom options.
GR III provides you with great results straight from the camera. You do not need to shoot in RAW (if only you need or prefer to shoot RAW for some specific results).
Optics and Focusing
GR III has a fixed 18.3 mm lens. With slightly simplified (in terms of lens elements quantity) structure, but better imaging quality to provide higher characteristics for increased resolution.
This is true, because the shots from the GR III are crisp and clear. The lens is capable to deliver its performance both on the streets and inside a studio.
Focusing capabilities have been also improved. Ricoh GR III features the following focusing modes: Auto-area AF, Select AF, Pinpoint AF, Tracking AF, Continuous AF, MF, Snap, Infinity.
In standard modes the focusing is quick. Extra nice feature is the possibility to tap any part of the screen to select desired point for focusing. If you get used to this camera, this feature will be pretty easy to use, even without the need to look at the camera.
Infinity mode traditionally allows you to save time while shooting remote scenes or objects.
Snap focus mode allows you to pre-configure the area that will be in focus. Just select the desired depth (starting from minimal distance) and everything from the specified distance will be in focus. Just try to consider the aperture setting you are using for such shots.
This Snap feature is some sort of equivalent of focus distance scale (DoF scale) available on most older lenses. Street photographers (and not only they) used these scales for many years, trying to pre-determine the lens aperture setting to get the quickest results. You all know that every fraction of a second is crucial in street photography.
For the lens image quality – it is superb. Here we have a real progress from GR II. Even at f/2.8 the lens offers good sharpness.
Here are the samples of a test chart shots at different aperture settings:
For chromatic aberrations, I’d probably say that they are almost not present. Even at f/2.8 on contrasting edges they are hardly visible. Those CA that are present on the shots are easily correctible in any photo editor.
This is also another improvement from the previous GR II, which also demonstrated good results here.
Colors are also great. They really have this Ricoh look. Also, I have not noticed any major color shifts while shooting at different apertures.
As well as its predecessor, the new GR III has built-in ND filter, allowing you to shoot wide-open in bright light when necessary.
Screen & Menu & Controls
Ricoh GR III is equipped with 3″ air-gapless LCD display. With this generation the LCD itself is covered with glass. This choice provides better anti-scratch resistance and better visual capabilities.
Display is pretty bright, with nice colours. Even under bright sun conditions you’ll be able to see the on-screen image and information.
Though the screen looks pretty outdated in comparison with other modern cameras, but it definitely does its job and is pretty enough for GR III.
As far as the screen is touch sensitive, you can not only select the focusing point while shooting, but also navigate through the menu. Using this feature was nice, responsive and easy.
If you are the viewfinder type of a shooter, you can purchase external optical viewfinder – GV-1 (with approx. of 90% coverage) or GV-2 (with approx. 85% coverage). I’ve tried the GV-1. It is nice and clear, with good build quality. But it adds some size and reduces the “portability” if you are going to carry the GR III in your pocket. Also, the front glass element is pretty big and exposed to potential damage (first of all – scratches). It also has some sort of lens coating (not sure about the purpose of that).
One of the drawbacks of such solution (removing the OVF/EVF) is the fact that to make the shot you need to divert your attention and your eyes from the scene. Thus, in some cases you potentially can miss something interesting.
This is OK for some family or travel work, or even for possible studio shooting, but is not appropriate for street photography. Definitely you can get accustomed to use LCD only (or even blind shoot), but nevertheless you’ll need to move your head towards the camera.
Ricoh GR III’s screen is fixed, though many users asked to add some movements to it. Tilting screen obviously could add some better usability and comfort. But I cannot claim that fixed screen is something terrible. You just need to get used to it. And existing GR cameras users already have got used ))
The menu is grouped and well-structured. All the main features and settings are easily accessible.
GR III has received some changes in the structure of control buttons. The overall number was reduced, but the overall usability is still good. You are able to customize some buttons to your personal preference.
Meanwhile, coming with a whole pack of upgrades, the new GR III brings in some drop in quality of control buttons/dials. They are wobbly.
Ricoh GR III allows you to process RAW images inside your camera. All main image adjustments are available: resolution, aspect ratio, color space and white balance, vignette correction, noise reduction and shadow correction.
May be not the most popular feature itself, but sometimes can be really handy if you want to convert your RAW into something shareable.
Ricoh GR III is really a modern camera in terms of connectivity possibilities. Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and USB-C are all at your disposal.
USB is a standard choice – connecting to your computer or laptop to get your images. And, as was mentioned above, charging function for your camera.
Bluetooth will allow you to connect GR III to your smartphone or tablet to download images. And also to connect your GR III via Image Sync app.
Wi-Fi allows some more options – not only sharing images, but also controlling your camera remotely. Using Image Sync app will allow you all those features. Just keep your camera firmware and smartphone app updated.
Ricoh follows its longstanding tradition of compact GR series. The new iteration had become even smaller.
Ergonomics of GR III’s body is still great. But the buttons and controls layout has been changed.
Magnesium alloy body provides the camera with more than enough rigidity and lightness at the same time. Even despite its small size it comfortably sits in one’s hand.
The only feature that is still missing in GRs body department, is weather sealing. As a street photographers’ camera (mostly), it should not limit you because of outdoor weather conditions.
And I’ve also experienced this lack. When I’ve got a hold onto GR III for testing, the weather was terribly rainy, thus limiting some shooting opportunities.
The lens ring caps has some “design” options also. You can opt for several colour options. I’ve got black (standard) and blue ring caps for my test.
Additionally you can buy wide conversion lens and lens adapter, if the standard lens is not enough for your needs.
The new Ricoh GR III lack the built-in pop-up flash, but it still is equipped with the hot shoe adapter.
You may opt to use any Pentax flash units (AF210FG, AF360 series and AF540 series). With full P-TTL support.
Alternatively, you may use any other third-party flash units or flash triggers, including fully manual.
Previously I’ve already mentioned the lens quality results. But, talking in general, the image quality is superb. Not expected from a such tiny camera.
The APS-C sensor is capable to perform great, giving you great images with good resolution. 24 megapixels is more than enough for different potential usage scenarios.
JPEGs straight off the camera are great. So you can leave just JPEG format in your settings.
In terms of ISO performance, it was also improved. ISO 3200 is not a limit and you can still get good results (obviously with some limitations) till ISO 6400.
Only starting from ISO 12800 you may see colour shifts in shadow areas. But even at this setting the image is pretty good.
I’d prefer not to exceed ISO 12800. Only if you are shooting black and white to get some “grainy look”. But higher ISO setting also bring in reduction of clarity in images.
GR III is capable to shoot video at 1080p@60fps. But, frankly speaking, it is still not good. Especially if you’ll have a look at some competitors.
The video is recorded in crop size to allow the electronic stabilization (the build-in SR is not used for video). And the video recording also falls off completely while moving the camera (panning or other movements).
The video quality even cannot compete with smartphones, I would say. So, let us avoid mentioning video capabilities for this great stills camera.
Here are some video samples from Ricoh GR III.
New generation of GR has got one major loss – reduction of battery life. Depending on shooting style, usage of camera, etc. you can get different number of shots. While conducting my tests the average image count was somewhere near 220-250 shots. Not something terrible, but single battery will not be enough for the whole day of shooting.
To extend your potential shooting time you need either some spare batteries or an external charger (power bank).
Another issue here is the lack of changer. Yes, GR III is supplied without the dedicated charger, so you need to buy one if you prefer to charge from your wall power plug. Charging via USB is definitely a more universal solution, but it also has some limitations.
Ricoh GR III is still a legend, it is still a street photographer’s dream. Leap forward from GR II had really delivered great upgrades, being able to keep the size with increase of image quality and stills performance.
Focusing speed and accuracy were improved a lot. You really can see it. And the add of a touch screen capability makes the focusing easier even more.
The lens, despite loosing some optical elements, has become better in terms of resolving performance and image quality. It has edge-to-edge sharpness and good control of aberrations.
Connectivity options are nice feature, but as for me personally, I cannot imagine using them on streets. May be while shooting in studio, or shooting a family photo to get remote release it is nice, but for other types – I have some doubts.
Its tiny body keeps your “sneaky shooting” away from people’ sight, thus allowing you to stay away from extra attention. Especially if you’ll master the snap shooting experience.
Finally, I’d like to offer you to visit the official GR website at www.grblog.jp to get the latest news, articles from GR users and many more.
Sample shots taken with Ricoh GR III
* all straight from the camera
Ricoh GR III$899.95
IMAGE QUALITY (RAW)9.0/10
IMAGE QUALITY (JPEG)9.5/10
- Image quality and ISO performance
- Great sharp lens
- Good control of image artefacts (CA and flare)
- Small body and build quality
- Leaf shutter
- Focusing (including Snap mode)
- IBIS (with dust removal)
- USB-C port for charging
- Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
- Built-in ND filter
- Battery life
- No charger supplied with the camera
- Poor video capabilities
- Vignetting (can be easily corrected)
- Wobbly controls
- Lack of weather resistance