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.
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.