Ricoh GR Digital III

With Ricoh’s announcement of the Ricoh GR Digital IV two days ago, I felt that it’s time for me to share my experience with its predecessor, the Ricoh GR Digital III. The Ricoh GR Digital series is known for its popularity in Japan. Outside of Japan, it is less well-known.

None of the rave reviews prepared me for the pure ecstasy of using the GR Digital III when I tested on in the store. I wanted one. I was a proud owner of a brand new GRD III the next day.

The GRD III appeals to a niche group of serious photographers. It is lauded for its sleek form and pocket-able size. It fits easily into the front pocket of my jeans, making it the first camera I reach for whenever I go out.

It has a plain matte black finish that makes it more stealthy especially for street shooting. Build quality is superb. It is light and I can shoot with one hand. The dials and buttons are easily accessed with my right thumb and index finger.

If you rely on zoom to aid your composition, this camera isn’t for you. It comes with a fixed focal length that makes you work to compose your shot. The 28mm focal length is ideal for street photography. It also helped me to overcome my fear of getting closer to get the shot I want. And wide angle is very useful when I need to take group shots when I hang out with my friends.

The GRD IV looks to be a step up from the GRD III based on the announced specifications. It will have better focusing and a sensor with vibration control. I like the re-introduction of a phase detection sensor for snap auto focus.

The feature was introduced in the first GRD but was subsequently dropped. GRD III allows you to set a pre-focused distance for snap AF. It requires you to be able to estimate the distance from your subject.

Other new features such as improved image quality and a higher resolution LCD screen do not appeal that much to be. I’m satisfied with the images I’m getting from the GRD III and the LCD does what it is supposed to do.

I would only be swayed to get the GRD IV if the Hybrid AF system is really a big improvement. I’m not that good when it comes to guessing distances and there have been times where I missed the shot because I got the focusing wrong.

Then again, the GRD IV is priced at USD 790 for the black and USD 1,027 for the limited edition white.  That’s a high asking price compared to the USD 460 I paid for my GRD III.

Useful reads:

GRD IV preview

GRD III review by Steve Huff

GRD III review by Wouter Bradsma

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