Ricoh GR3 : Go back to work Pentax/Ricoh 9


I was offered a Ricoh GR3 in October of last year. Since then I had hardly used it. It spent more than 2 months in after-sales service because of an overheating problem. Pentax had changed the optical unit without giving more details. What is funny is that I had sent a Ricoh GRD4 some time ago and there too, the optical unit had been changed … Is this the magic repair of Pentax ? The Ricoh GR3 slept peacefully in its box. I was using the Ricoh GR and I didn’t see the point of changing cameras as it did the job very well. I nevertheless wanted to test this Ricoh GR3 to find out how good this camera was. So I shot exclusively with the GR3 for 4 weeks. The problem is that at the end of these 4 weeks, I went on vacation with two cameras: the GR3 and the GRD4. From the first day, I did not hesitate and I took the Ricoh GRD4 to take my photos. It’s not a very good sign when a camera released in 2011 has my preference … It’s true that I love it, but it’s not to say that I’m shooting with a retro camera ! This is simply because this camera is better for what I use it for. I do not do landscape, architecture. I exclusively do Street Photography in addition to documenting the life of my family. Undeniably for these two practices, the Ricoh GRD4 outclasses the Ricoh GR3. Let’s get straight to the heart of the matter and I’ll tell you about the Pros and Cons of the Ricoh GR3. It is not a test like you are used to seeing.

 

 

 

  • Pros :
      • Efficient dust removal system: I had dust problems quite quickly, which in itself is not terrible, but the system which consists of vibrating the sensor works well and I was pleasantly surprised to see the dust disappear !
      • Camera dynamics: It’s quite impressive to recover a lot of information in shadows or bright parts of a photo. There’s no denying it, the 24 MP sensor is great.
      • More efficient at high ISO (gain of ~ 2 stops) linked to the sensor with 50% more MP. Clearly photos usable in color at ISO 3200 and 6400. This was not the case with the 16 MP GR or GR2.
  • Cons :
      • No flash: This is a big negative point for me. With the GR Leaf Shutter, I like to use the flash every now and then. It’s still great to be able to use the flash at speeds up to 1  2000s ! No longer possible with the GR3 which loses this element that many regret …
      • Poorly balanced camera. The GRD4 weighs 215 g with battery and SD card. The Ricoh GR has 245 g and the GR3 weighs 250 g. The GR3 with its small size is very (too?) Compact and you have the impression that it is very heavy even if in the end you can see that it is practically the same weight as the GR. I find it less well balanced and I take less pleasure in having it in hand.
      • Overheating of the camera: The official GRistes do not talk about it. And yet having spoken with one of them, he confessed to me that yes the camera was heating up, but as he often turned it off when he was not using it, it was not too embarrassing for him … Ah that’s for sure, if I turn it off when I’m in the street, it won’t overheat ! My GR3 came back from service because of an overheating problem. The optical unit has been replaced but it is still overheating. I would like to point out that I may live on a tropical island where it is relatively hot. This may explain it, but people living in northern Europe have also reported this problem … I sincerely think it is a design problem on the part of Pentax. I find that after a while this unbearable heat and I turn off the camera to cool it off, hoping that nothing interesting happens while I have the camera off …
      • Laughable autonomy: Finally not refally funny, because the autonomy is really shitty ! You better have some extra batteries to last a day ! However, I removed the touch screen option to save battery, but that doesn’t change much.
      • Poorly design between power and shutter button layout: I happened to turn off the camera while pressing the shutter button! The buttons are practically aligned ! You can see it in the photo below. In terms of ergonomics, it’s not terrible … It even deserves a yellow card.
      • AF less good compared to the GR and especially to the GRD4: I often found myself with an AF struggling despite its hybrid AF supposed to make it faster. I’m not even talking about low-light performance … The 9-year-old GRD4 kicks the pawn … Even the GR who is not a lightning bolt seems to do better than the GR3 …
      • What is the touch screen used for? Who uses this screen on the street? Who shoots or focuses using the screen? At best, it is easier to navigate the menus with the touch screen, but at what cost? Reduce even more the already ridiculous autonomy of the camera?

 

 

I don’t need 24 MP. I think Pentax / Ricoh got it wrong in designing this latest iteration of the GR. They wanted to use the winning recipe of the Ricoh GRD4: phase and contrast detection AF, optical stabilizer, better macro capability. What worked on a small sensor does not give the same result on a larger sensor like the APS-C. The dust removal system is a really good idea. Many people have claimed that the camera should be “Dust Seal”, but that doesn’t mean anything ! It would have forced Pentax/Ricoh to offer a camera with a non-retractable lens. How do you put the camera in your pocket afterwards? Personally, I had dust problems on the GR, GR3 but I never had any on the GRD4. Which leaves me to think that the small sensor is the way I would have liked to see Pentax/Ricoh follow … Instead, we are entitled to more MP, a camera as small as the GRD4, a touchscreen , a stabilizer, an anti-dust system. Pentax/Ricoh has ticked all the boxes of the specs of the cameras with which it competes and has crammed it all into a small black box (hello overheating to evacuate all the heat generated …). This has been the case since 2013. The GR no longer stands out from the competition, apart from the Snap mode.

 

 

So Pentax/Ricoh, get back to work to develop a Ricoh GR4 which I hope will be better than the GR3 … Do I recommend you to buy the Ricoh GR3? If you hang around on this Blog, you know that this is all about Street Photography. From this point of view, I do not recommend buying the Ricoh GR3. If you want APS-C, buy a used 2013 Ricoh GR. This camera is really very good. There are still brand new Ricoh GR2s (released in 2015), but the AF is worse than the GR. But if you want to buy the best GR (digital) series camera yet, buy a Ricoh GRD4 (2011). For this Ebay will allow you to get your hands on often almost mint quality cameras for less than 350 €. I’m not going to detail here everything that makes this camera much better than the newer GRs. I put you some links from older Blogs written on the Ricoh GRD4.

Ricoh GRD4 and colour

Ricoh GRD4 & low light

Pushing the Ricoh GRD4

Ricoh GRD4 : The Iconic Street Camera

One last rant about the Street Edition recently released in limited series … Well, it’s ugly and expensive. How does it stand out? I send you on a video of Tim Huynh. Basically, a little gray on the camera, a removable viewfinder but especially with an orange lens ring (!!!) and a wrist strap with also orange on it … All this justified by the designers of Pentax/Ricoh because we find a lot of orange in the street (traffic cones, orange lights …). Oh my God ! They let the designer intern do this Street Edition ???? In his video Tim says it’s okay to have orange on his camera because he doesn’t hide in the street doing Street Photography. Neither do I ! But I don’t need to draw attention to myself with this disgusting orange ring ! Otherwise, I can buy myself a red clown nose. It will be cheaper … Funny thing, there is also in the box, the original black ring … So what Pentax/Ricoh ? We do not fully assume our more than questionable choice ? The Street Edition should have just contained the original camera with 10 extra batteries to last a day of Street Photography … Yes I’m a little mocking, but when you see the price of this edition, I think my ass hurts. The viewfinder is anecdotal even if it alone costs 230 € (Amazon). Why anecdotal ? If you are designing a camera without a viewfinder, then you would expect people to use it without a viewfinder. Yes, but it can be interesting for landscape or architectural photography … In this case let’s call this series “Architecture Edition” or “Landscape Edition” instead of “Street Edition”. The GR was designed to be used while aiming with the LCD screen. In the end Pentax/Ricoh is much smarter than that and forces us to buy the GR3/Viewfinder GV-2 pack and dress it all up in a Street Edition. No street photographer will be fooled. In any case not me …

 

 

In October 2018, I wrote an enthusiastic Blog at the time when the Ricoh GR3 was officially announced : Ricoh GRIII The Return Of the King ?. It is clear that this is not what I expected from this device. It is even the disappointment that predominates. I’m sure I’m very hard on this new iteration of the GR series, but I don’t think I’m being unfair in pointing out a number of design issues. All I have to do now is take care of my Ricoh GRD4 and GR while waiting for a future GR4 …

 

 

All the photographs were made with the Ricoh GR3 in Reunion Island.

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9 thoughts on “Ricoh GR3 : Go back to work Pentax/Ricoh

  • John Harper

    I hope Ricoh/Pentax read this. Camera manufacturers often claim that they consult with their clients, I wonder who the consulted about this latest model.
    I’m a Leica user, so not familiar with using a Ricoh GR, but seems to me that a viewfinder for Street and a GR is pointless. I use mine sometimes, but then it’s a rangefinder and needed. I watched Tim’s video a few days ago and I did think to myself… why put an orange ring on the lens of a ‘street’ camera? Don’t they say “Discretion is the better part of valour”? Keep discreet on the Street is what I say, no point inviting trouble.

    • Jeff Chane-Mouye Post author

      We have a bunch of ambassador called GRists but not sure that they are consulted when it comes to a new camera. I guess that you’re just told to promote the brand on Social Media. What is lackng is real feedbacks on the camera. Critics are important to see what is working and what is not. I think that Pentax has lost their Mojo. The GR3 is a failure to me and I just hope that they won’t follow the example of Olympus giving up on cameras …Since Nikon and Canon have joined the dance on the mirrorless sector, it will be harder for small companies. Pentax has with the GR series, an iconic camera. But if the GR doesn’t stand out as they used to, people could turn their back on the GR series. Pentax should listen to what the consummer want. We ‘re buying and using this camera. People were complaining about the absence of the flash… Well the camera has no flash and people regret that. For the rest, I can’t undesrtand the move to a more compact size. If it’s done correctly it’s fine. But if it brings the camera to oeverheat, it’s a nonsense …I’m pretty sure that they had in mind the Ricoh GRD4 when they conceived this new GR3. But the result is a failure.
      For the Street Edition I think that it’s another mistake. Just good for those so called Street Photographers who want something cool. Street Photography is a cool thing now. People just do it because it’s trendy so this Edition is made for them

      • John Harper

        Trendy doesn’t always correspond to cool. Strikes me this camera is a”fashion victim” and someone should call the “Style Police”.
        Incidentally, I’m not getting notifications of replies so have to keep coming back to check. Is this you master plan to get more visits or are we supposed to check the box marked ‘yes add to mailing list’? I’m already on the mailing list 😉

        • Jeff Chane-Mouye Post author

          Ah ah . Doesn’t understand how this thing is working. You used to get some notofications with my former Disqus plugin but I Disabled it as someone complained about some Captcha thing… What pluggin are you working with ?

          • John Harper

            I use Squarespace and it’s their own system. Still crap though. The person commenting has to click “subscribe by email’ to get a reply notification. I’ve had lots of people say that they’ve subscribed to my blog but aren’t getting any newsletters. They obviously thing that’s what the button is for whereby I have to put a separate box for subscriptions. I asked Squarespace if it could be changed to ‘get a reply notification’ or anything like that and they said ‘we’re looking into it’….that was two years ago!
            You’d think it was relatively simple to do, it’s not uncommon for anyone to have a blog on their website nowadays. By the way, that captcha system you had was a nightmare I agree.

  • Jan Jespersen

    Yes, it has some kind of overheating. You have to turn it on and off quickly again, otherwise it will become very warm. Battery life is very bad. The AF is not that good. I unfortunately agree… Regarding the handling, I find the JJC thumb grip is great. The camera balances very good with that grip. The sensor is nice, but all the 24mp aps-c sensors out there, are. The lens is ok, but not as sharp as the old GR. More like one of the better Fujinon lenses. The old one could compare with at Leica, when it comes to sharpness. I miss that.

    In the first months after buying the GR III, I was a bit disappointed. Could not get the new button layout to work. Missed the old back button focus in manual mode. And the better lens and and actually also the more analog like sensor. That sensor is just like the x-pro1 sensor, very film like. Hard to explain. But now I am beginning to like the GR III more and more. The IBIS is great. I have put that feature on my Fn button. The drive button I have set to Snap Focus. So when using AF, I can switch very fast to the snap distance I have setup. Works well for me. In all I have change the way i operate it. And another thing. The Highlight Weighted metering is great. Normally I shoot manual on my GR, but with the new metering, it is actually save to use Av mode, without destroying the highlights.

    But still have more love for the old GR. Go figure…

    • Jeff Chane-Mouye Post author

      This is a valuable and great feedback on this camera. For sure, 4 weeks are not enough to have a definitive opinion on this camera. But it was largely enough to spot the major issues. To be honest, when I first bought my GR, I didn’t love it at all. But when I had no other choices because my GRD4 broke down, I had to get used to the GR and I came to like this camera. The problem now is that I have a GRD4, a GR. Both of them are working properly. Do the GR3 suffers the comparison… If I had nothing else, it would do the job like any other camera and I would have dealt with its flaws. But it’s not the case. Of course the pics are more crispy, more HD than my old GRD4 but the rendering is too generic. I don’t like also the new button layout,the absence of flash, the exposition compensation button (don’t like to use the wheel for that…). It’s not only about the image. The GR is an entirely different experience. And the experience is not worth it for me for the time. Later may be when I won’t have the choice.

  • John Wilson

    Thank you, you have clarified our options, GR, GRD4,GR 2, in my mind and I think many others. So Street Edition or regular GR3 not in my purchase window, sorry about that cause the size I feel like the GRD4 can’t be equaled.

    • Jeff Chane-Mouye Post author

      For me, there’s no competition at all for street work. GR and GRD4 are good enough and the GR3 adds no value. It makes nice photos but it’s not enough for me. I need to be in symbiosis with a camera and the GR3 as too many flaws for me.
      I’m not a Gear guy. I don’t need the last camera with the latest specs. I just need the best camera for me. This gr3 doesn’t meet my needs…