Ricoh GR: A camera that has become a cult object
What is it about the Ricoh GR? It is an unprepossessing little body that could pass for a cheap point and shoot. It is little loved by its owners, Pentax, as demonstrated by the tiny presence it has at photography shows. It’s an also ran.
But the Ricoh GR is a cult camera among those who know about such things. It is the smallest APS-C camera on the market and, at rest, is smooth and pocketable. Despite its compact dimensions and toy-camera looks, it produces excellent results. It is even something of a past-master at black-and-white conversions. Who needs a Monochrom when they have a Ricoh GR in their jeans pocket?
Many people I know, including Fuji guru Bill Palmer, carry a Ricoh GR about with them as a matter of course. It’s a fall-back camera which I invariably back alongside larger, more expensive gear. It’s just there; and it invariably performs when needed.
Others, such as the well-known internet street photographer (and sometime philosopher) Eric Kim, have adopted the GR as their sole photographic tool. He has just made it his “best camera of 2017”. Eric swears by the GR and he’s tried most of the opposition, including Leica. The GR just fits his style and it slips into his pocket. And we all know what they say about pockets and best cameras.
None of this convenience is worth a fig if the Ricoh didn’t take good photographs. But it does. It produces some wonderful stuff, pictures that belie the innocent and rather boring exterior. It possesses a great 28mm f/2.8 lens that is perfectly attuned to the sensor, yet the lens slides back into the body and sits there unobtrusively. It even covers itself with an automatic lens cap, rendering it safe from harm. Competitors, such as the Fuji X100 series have no such protection; and they are all larger than the Ricoh and not really pocketable as is the GR. What’s more, I do not think that the Fuji produces better pictures than the Ricoh; different, maybe, but it is hard to say that they are better.
Over the years I’ve had some great experiences with the GR and, when I look back, I sometimes wonder why I bother with other cameras. True, a fixed-lens with a 28mm focal length isn’t everybody’s cup of tea; but then neither is it when mated with the Leica Q and that’s a camera that also has a cult following (albeit at about ten times the price of the Ricoh). I can definitely see Eric Kim’s point of view on this. It’s a lovely little device that just grows on you.
Sometimes I wonder if there is an alternatively out there, perhaps a camera that looks a bit more interesting than the Ricoh. I’ve looked at the Fuji X70 but, frankly, there isn’t much out there that combines such a large sensor with such a small body.
The big disappointment about the Ricoh is that Pentax-Ricoh doesn’t accord it more TLC. To all intents and purposes the GR might not exist and, to be honest, I sometimes wonder how long it will be in production. If Fuji owned this camera it would be in a constant state of firmware update and its users would feel more cared for.
So, Ricoh, take more care of the GR. There is a huge enthusiast following out there. They are people who appreciate what a camera can do rather than what it looks like or how much it costs. In the GR you have a little belter, just be sure not to let it go.