Review: Ricoh GR III
Few cameras enjoy the sort of cult following that Ricoh’s GR lineup benefits from. An unchanged formula of stuffing impressive specifications into a compact body, paired with a fast fixed lens has resulted in the various incarnations being adored by street and travel photographers around the world.
The GR II did especially well, with photographers appreciating the 16-megapixel APS-C sensor, discreet styling and no-nonsense menu layout. But as the GR II was launched back in 2015, it’s fair to say the compact camera was certainly due an upgrade.
Enter the GR III, a camera that stays true to the GR DNA, while introducing cutting-edge features that are a must for today’s photographers. Although the the shape of the body is more or less similar (with the exception of no flash on the new model), the dimensions are actually a little smaller than the older GR II, but that’s just the start of the new differences.
Inside the 28mm fixed focal length GR III is an all-new APS-C sensor that serves up 24-megapixels of resolution, which is a big improvement on the 16-megapixels from the GR II and comparable to the resolution from a higher-end APS-C DSLR.
The sensor is paired with Ricoh’s new GR ENGINE 6 processor unit, which enables 14-bit RAW files to be captured and prints with a max file size of 6000 x 4000 pixels.
This is plenty large enough to make prints up to A3 in size with ample room to crop if you need to have a second go at the framing of the image. Also new is an Anti Aliasing (AA) filter simulator that can be set at High or Low to give the photographer a choice over how they want the feature to affect image quality.
You’d expect bigger resolution, but one one of the more surprising new features to the GR II is the Shake Reduction technology, which transitions over from Ricoh’s Pentax DSLR line up and marks the first time such a feature has appeared on a GR camera.
The 3-axis system can deliver up to four-stops of compensation, which is actually really important on a camera of this nature, making it unlikely you’d ever need to use a tripod.
The GR III will mostly be used handheld, and when light levels fall it’s reassuring to fall back on the Shake Reduction, along with the high ISO range (the ceiling is ISO 1024000) and the fast maximum aperture of f/2.8.
Perhaps the biggest leap forward in the way photographers interact with the camera is the touch-screen technology added to the 3-inch LCD – also a first for the GR range. Being able to use your thumb to touch the screen and select an area of the frame you wish to be in focus means that you can effectively use the camera one-handed – an important technique for street photographers shooting on the fly.
In practice, this works well – a heavier camera wouldn’t lend itself to this way of working, but the GR III manages it thanks to tipping the scales at just 257g (including battery), marginally heavier than your average smartphone.
What’s more, Ricoh have managed to make the dimensions marginally smaller at 61.9 x 109.4 x 33.2mm so it is genuinely pocketable. Adding the wrist strap that comes with the camera will reassure the more butter-fingered, who perhaps aren’t used to holding a camera one-handed.
Speed and simplicity are present throughout this camera’s features list. The GR III starts up, projecting its f/2.8 lens that protrudes out on launch, in just 0.8 seconds and the Menu system will be very familiar to those who have used a GR camera before.
If you are new to the system, it’s worth exploring the menu system to unearth features you may not realise are present. For example, the GR III boasts a built-in ND filter, which can artificially extend shutter times to introduce blur into the frame.
Search further and you’ll find the GR III can also be used in a couple of crop modes – including 35mm (where the resolution drops to 15-megapixels) and 50mm (7-megapixels). If the 28mm focal length proves too restrictive, there is an optional wide angle adaptor that will open things up to 21mm.
Also new is the lens system, which features a maximum f/2.8 aperture, enabling users to create a shallow depth of field or increase shutter speed in low light conditions.
Backing up the sharp lens is the all-new hybrid AF system – the first time Ricoh has used both phase and contrast-detection AF points to lock onto subjects.
The AF system works nicely with the touch-screen, allowing you to press on an area you’d like to focus on, and there’s also Face Detection. The GR III keeps the impressive Full Press Snap focus mode from the GR II, which is particularly useful in street photography as you can set the focus at a set distance and click the shutter without the camera needing to focus.
Those wishing to get creative can explore the Image Control modes, which add effects such as Retro, Monochrome, HDR and also two custom settings. These modes are fun to explore, and you can always shoot a RAW file simultaneously as a backup in case you don’t like the effect the Image Control brings.
Other creative options enable the GR III to shoot close-up photography via a macro mode that can focus just 6cm away from subjects, while the interval composite shooting can help you capture star trails and a multi-exposure mode means you can overlay hundreds of exposures over each other.
Battery life is limited to around 200 shots on a single charge, but the camera can be charged and used on the go when connected to an external powerbank thanks to a USB-C port.
When I was out for the day, I got in the habit of plugging in the powerbank when I stopped for a coffee, which gave me enough juice to keep on shooting. Finally when reviewed on screen, I found images taken with the GR III to be sharp and definitely an improvement on the already impressive GR II. The bokeh created when shooting at f/2.8 is decent and the RAW files are packed with data. ❂
Handling ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
The improvements to the autofocus and the addition of the touch-sensitive LCD mean that handling is one of the GR III’s strongest areas. The quick start-up and Snap Focus also mean this is a quick camera to use.
Features ★ ★ ★ ★
Boasting that 24-megapixel APS-C sensor, 3-axis Image Stabilisation and creative options like the built-in ND filter, crop modes interval shooting, the GR III has plenty to shout about. Only the video features will force any grumbles.
Autofocus ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
The hybrid autofocus system is a major improvement on the GR II, locking on to subjects quickly and accurately.
Image Quality ★ ★ ★ ★ ￼
The GRIII is capable of producing images of exceptionally high quality, especially when captured in the DNG RAW file format. The lens is ultra sharp and images look decent all the way up to ISO 12800.
Value for Money ★ ★ ★ ★
Priced at $1350 the GR III isn’t cheap, but is more affordable than other premium compacts.
Earlier GR cameras built a cult following thanks to the camera’s portable dimensions and superior image quality. Ricoh haven’t messed with this DNA on the GR III, but have built upon it by adding modern-day tech such as the touch screen, higher resolution and IBIS.It’s an unapologetically simple camera to use, but that’s why people will love it. It really is a camera you can carry everywhere.