As most regular readers on this blog know, my “every-day- carry everywhere” camera is the Ricoh GR (or GRII). The GR is exceptional in many ways :It is very compact despite featuring an APS sensor; it comes with an 28mm equivalent fixed focal length. In addition to providing great image quality, its main asset, in my view, is the very-well thought-out user interface combined with a great layout of the camera controls and dials. The first digital version of the camera dates back to 2005 (at the time with a much smaller 1/1.7″ sensor). Since this first GRD, Ricoh has introduced an updated version every other year. Ultimately, in 2013, the GRD was renamed the GR and fitted with the much larger APS sensor. The camera has long been a favorite of street photographers and travelers alike wanting a small carry-everywhere camera capable of delivering high quality files. You can see my reviews of both models here,here and here on this blog.
Despite this success, there have been several reported issues of dust settling on the sensor. I have both GR models and did not notice any problems until recently when preparing my review of the GRII. I set up a test scene to compare the image quality between the GR and the GRII (by the way found a notable difference between the two-more on that in a future article). It is only then that I noticed some dust on my GR which, I had been using for about two & a half years without this issue.
As you will notice in the images, I got TWO dust particles on the sensor. One small round one, similar to dust spot I got on many of my other cameras (Panasonic LX 100 and Olympus Em1 for example) and a rather big “nail-shaped” dust spot. I suspect (without being 100% sure) that it had been recently stuck on my sensor. I thought this was almost a “study case” to show how a small or large dust spot on your sensor can affect your image file.As the images will show this issue is not as big as it sometimes made to be on the forums because it only shows at the smaller apertures. The images show how visible the dust spot is and how the issue gets worse at the camera smallest apertures ( which I would almost never use in normal situations).
In real shooting situations, if you are shooting at distances of 9 feet (3 meters) or more F11 should be plenty enough for large DOF. Anyhow, as regards image quality I would not recommend using smaller apertures unless you have to… and since the GR has a built ND filter, you should be able to stay at larger apertures.
Here are the images with the dust spots at different apertures. In this example you can see that the big dust is right on the white background which makes it both more visible but also easier to remove in post-processing :
First at F16 :
Now F13 :
then F11 :
now F8.0 :
now F5.6 :
and then Finally at F2.8 (full aperture)
As you can see the small round dust spot is never really an issue and gradually disappear. The nail-shaped dust spot is, I think, a rather dramatic instance and is only visible at F5.6 and above.
Of course , should you get multiple dust spots, it may be more of an issue but I would submit that it is not a deal-breaker for me because the issue is not very visible until you get past F8. Since the F4 to F8 are also the best apertures for IQ, that should mitigate the problem significantly.
While I cannot be absolutely positive, I think using the optional GH-3 hood helps.It is only since I got the GRII that I stopped using the hood on the GR. Additionally, it is worth mentioning that I got this issue on other cameras (Only after a few weeks on the Panasonic LX100 and much, much worse). I was also surprised to have this issue on my Olympus EM-1 since Olympus bodies are supposed to have a system preventing dust and debris from settling on the sensor (NEVER had dust issues on my Olympus E1 and E3 by the way).
Based on what I have read on several forums, the most frustrating part for some people affected with this problem on the GR were dealing with the official Repair & after sales workshop chosen by Ricoh in the USA. Looks like people having the same issue in Europe had better options.
The jury is still out if this problem has been somewhat, or completely , reduced in the new GRII model.
That being said , I think none of this should prevent you from enjoying using the GR camera.
the GRII is currently available at $559(here) (virtually the same price as the GR) . I would recommend the GRII if only for the larger buffer.