The Ricoh GR series is synonymous with the street photography genre. We have Eric Kim and Diado Moriami in part to thank for that.
Intrigued by what made these cameras so perfect for street photography, I took to the internet and spent time scouring different blog articles and watching lots of YouTube videos about all the interations of the Ricoh GR through the years.
I decided one day that I’d just have to get one and see what all the fuss was about.
My heart was set on the original Digital Ricoh GR, released in 2005. Their first iteration looks very similar to the latest model and that’s because the design has barely changed since the 35mm Film GR.
The GRD1 hosts a 6mm lens with 28mm equivalent. The sensor is 8.1 megapixels and the LCD display pixel count is nothing to write home about. Despite it’s lack lustre specs by todays standards the camera feels tactile, solid and very ergonomic in the hand.
I took the streets with my little camera and started snapping.
The results in colour are not great. The images are grainy and there are weird colour artefacts.
However when you get those files into Lightroom, convert to black & white and crush the blacks you can get some amazing results.
That ISO grain looks ridiculously like natural film grain.
That why I love this camera. It has it’s limits but it’s those limits that produce some fantastic looking images. You can’t just bump up the ISO when the sun starts to set. You don’t have the ability to hide the background with shallow depth of field. This camera forces you to work quicker and smarter.
When shooting with the Ricoh GRD 1 I set the snap focus to about 1m and the ISO to around 800 or higher to accentuate the grain structure. I barely ever use the digital display instead opting to raise the hotshoe to my eye and use it like a gun-sight to roughtly frame with the wide-angle 28mm lens.
After using this camera for a few years, I believe it’s taught me so much about street photography. It’s allowed me to forget about settings and focus on getting the picture I want.
Imposing limits on my creativity lead me to find new ways of making the camera work and produce images I loved.
The Ricoh is now of course almost 13 years old so youre only going to find it on eBay or other second-hand websites for around $100-$200. They hold their value fantastically.
There is however a great alternative if you want the same functionality but with a higher quality image. Not long after getting the GRD1 I got a new Ricoh GR Digital 16mp camera. This is an APSC sized sensor with an equivalent 28mm lens.
You dont get the same crazy film-like ISO noise, but you do get all the benefits of the GR system. The snap-focus and fast power-up makes it perfect for an everyday carry street photography camera.