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Me And The GR3

Sometimes you just want a change from the “big” camera. The one that takes great images but weighs as much as a brick and, realistically, has to go in a backpack along with a couple of equally heavy lenses, filters and other bits and bobs.

Of course, the backpack is always on standby, filled with said items and ready to go into the car or simply be hoisted onto one’s back at a moment’s notice. We have to assume here that the camera battery is in a state of full charge and the that the foregoing lenses are going to be up to the task in hand - whatever that might be.

To be honest last year (well, and maybe the one before) wasn’t one in which my creative photographic juices were flowing in abundance. My enthusiasm was at a low ebb and even the thoughts of checking the battery in the long neglected Pentax K1 before pronouncing the backpack fit to go was a job too far. Add to that the vision of dragging half my weight in camera gear to some beauty spot or even just the local park was the stuff of nightmares.

What I needed was a camera I could just take anywhere, without any effort. Perhaps slip it in a (non-specialist) bag or coat pocket and go off on an aimless ramble. Did such a thing exist? What sort of camera would this be classed as?

The answers came from the internet of course. I can’t remember exactly where or how but I suddenly became aware of the much changed world of compact cameras. Cameras I hadn’t looked at or even considered for years and years. As I studied the adverts and reviews it became clear that this world had come on by leaps and bounds.

I discovered the Ricoh GR Mark 3

Suddenly there were new possibilities here. This little wonder would not only fit in a bag or a coat pocket but actually in my trouser pocket.

OK, specs - briefly, because you can look it up if you want.

  • APS-C 24 MP (6000x4000) Sensor

  • 28mm (full frame equivalent) fixed lens

  • RAW and JPEG file formats with option to capture both

  • Built-in selectable 2 stop ND filter

  • IBIS (In-Body Image Stabilisation)

To be honest I’ve taken most of my photos using this camera during the past six months or so since I bought it. It has given me an interest in Street Photography too. I’ve used it for multiple exposures and ICM and it’s the first time I’ve used the “User Settings” dial on a camera to store frequently used settings. I’ve found it useful to use some of the film simulations (particularly b+w) when taking photos. These don’t get baked into the image unless you’re shooting JPEG but it gives you the atmosphere and inspiration whilst taking the shots. If you’re shooting in RAW it adds a small preview image to the file which shows in Lightroom when you view the images in the Library module. As soon as you change to the Develop module though, that preview disappears.

One of the best things about this camera for me is its Snap Focus setting. In addition to using manual or auto focus, you can set the camera to use a zone focussing system. So, for example, you can set the focus to be 1.5 metres. 2.5, 3.5, 5 or infinity and it will be instantly set to that distance when you take the picture. There’s no time lag while it searches for the correct focus. It has a built-in depth of field display on the screen to show exactly what will be in focus given the selected aperture. This is brilliant for Street Photography. Set your snap focus distance and just point and shoot. On a recent town centre “street shoot” I set my aperture to f/8, shutter speed to 1/250sec and ISO to auto. With Snap Focus set to 1.5 meters, that meant everything from 1 metre to infinity was in focus. I was able to take all 700 shots using this setting.

On the downside, it’s not weather-proof. This is probably quite a concern if you’re intent on doing photography in the rain However the camera would have to be that much bigger to accommodate image stabilisation so it’s a bit of a compromise. Some might also say that 28mm is a bit too wide and I’m not one hundred percent sure about this myself. It doesn’t have a viewfinder so, if you’re not happy with composing your images using the back screen, this might not be your cup of tea. An add-on optical view finder is available which slots in the camera’s hot shoe. The Ricoh one is quite expensive but third party versions are available.

Ricoh brought out a new model, the GR 3x not long after I bought my GR3. This has a 35mm equivalent lens. I wouldn’t mind trying one but there’s a rival on the market in the form of the Fujifilm X 100V. This costs about £400 or £500 more than the Ricoh though and it isn’t weather-proof either. However it can be made so with addition of an adapter and a filter.

Watch this space for more on Fujifilm gear because I’m thinking of switching!

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